Sing a song of eiderdowns

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 26, 2014 05:12pm | Post a Comment
It's blustery and breezy in Los Angeles today. A barely measurable amount of precipitation fell which inevitably resulted in chaos on the county's concrete freeways. I climbed out of bed at 5:30, an act made almost Olympian due to the combination of pre-dawn darkness, drops and drizzle, and the warmth offered by my eiderdown. 

Little Nemo in Slumberland
Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland

An eiderdown (according to the Collins English Dictionary) "a thick warm cover for a bed, made of two layers of material enclosing a soft filling" and thus not necessarily stuffed with the epidermal growths of the Common Eider for which the garment is named.

Eider Ducks
Eider duck female and chicks (with their eider down intact -- source: Thomas Reich)

As I fried hashed browns and veggie bacon in a wok and brewed coffee in the French press, my thoughts returned to eiderdowns, and to the songs which have celebrated... or at least mentioned them. "It's an eiderdown kind of day," as they say.

Live Concerts From Prisons and Mental Institutions

Posted by Billyjam, December 16, 2013 08:08am | Post a Comment

The Cramps Live at Napa State Mental Hospital(1978)

In Bay Area rap history there are several instances of artists rapping live from jail - perhaps most notably the late great Mac Dre rapping over the phone from Fresno County Jail back in the early nineties and X-Raided at that same period rapping over the phone on series of occasions that would finally be released as the 1995 album Xorcist (in later years the still incarcerated rapper would get smuggled in recording gear to record albums). But there are also many instances of artists performing for inmates at jails and prisons, as well as other institutions.

Of the performances in mental institutions perhaps the best (and the best known) is from when The Cramps, in June 1978, did a live show from the California Mental State Hospital in Napa. Also performing were San Francisco's wonderful post punk act The Mutants. It was when the pioneering psychobilly gods had just had just finished up recording Gravest Hits - to be released the following year that would include the track "The Way I Walk" that they are captured performing in the Napa hospital concert clip above care of Target Video.

The great Leonard Cohen also did a series of free concerts about forty years ago in mental institutions but without much media attention at the time. According to Sylvie Simmons' bio I'm Your Man Cohen performed, like the Cramps, at Napa State Hospital as well as at Henderson Hospital (in the UK), and at an unnamed facility in Montreal (Canada). Reportedly he booked these shows "without fanfare" and on his own dime, reportedly telling a reporter a few years later that he was drawn to mental hospitals because he had "the feeling that the experience of a lot of people in mental hospitals would especially qualify them to be a receptive audience for my work." Cohen later commented, according to Simmons, that “I’ve always loved the people the world used to call mad.”

Continue reading...

10 Holiday Albums That Don't Suck

Posted by Billy Gil, December 12, 2013 10:38am | Post a Comment

10 Holiday Albums that don't suck

If you’re like me, most Christmas music makes you want to stab yourself in the eyeball with a sharpened candy cane. Luckily, since everyone and their mother has attempted a holiday album (I mean, most of them are X-mas-centric), there are some gems in the mix.


The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album/Christmas With the Beach Boys

beach boys christmas albumThe Beach Boys and Christmas music go together like Christmas and getting drunk. It’s an obvious choice, sure, but this album also wins because of the originals, which they put just as much effort into as their regular classics. “The Man With All the Toys” kicks enough ass to be listened to all year round.



A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector

a christmas gift for you phil spector cd amoebaSome would say the greatest Christmas album of all time, featuring classic productions by Phil Spector, with The Crystals, The Ronettes, Darlene Love and other Spector favorites. Every other version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” sucks compared to this one.

Continue reading...

The Stamp in Black: Johnny Cash to be Honored with New Forever Postage Stamp

Posted by Billyjam, June 4, 2013 01:47pm | Post a Comment

Johnny Cash StampTurns out, contrary to those famous Chuck D/Public Enemy lyrics I once believed applied to me, that some of my heroes do in fact appear on some stamps since tomorrow (June 5th) one of my longtime musical heroes Johnny Cash will be honored with the release of a limited-edition Johnny Cash Forever stamp. And in celebration of the new Man in Black stamp tomorrow in Nashville there will be a big First Day Of Issuance Ceremony at the Tennessee city's Ryman Auditorium with be family and friends of the late great country music legend to be either speaking or performing including John Carter Cash, Carlene Carter, Larry Gatlin, Jamey Johnson, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Roys, Marty Stuart and Randy Travis. The USPS sponsored event is free and open to the public and starts at 10:30am but doors open a little earlier at 9am to sell the collectible stamp. The musical legend's son John Carter Cash said, in a prepared statement, that “It is an amazing blessing that my father Johnny Cash be honored with the issue of this stamp. Dad was a hard-working man, a man of dignity. As much as anything else, he was a proud American, always supporting his family, fans and country. I can think of no better way to pay due respect to his legacy than through the release of this stamp.”

Continue reading...

Music History Monday: December 17

Posted by Jeff Harris, December 17, 2012 10:30am | Post a Comment

David bowie hunky dory
To read more Behind The Grooves, go to








Remembering jazz saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. (born in Buffalo, NY) - December 12, 1943 - December 17, 1999.

On this day in music history: December 17, 1955 - Musician Carl Perkins will write the rockabilly classic "Blue Suede Shoes." The song is inspired by a story told to Perkins by his friend and Sun Records labelmate Johnny Cash. Cash tells him about a black airman referring to his military regulation shoes as "blue suede shoes." Not long after that, Perkins is playing a dance and from the bandstand he'll see a couple dancing and he'll hear the man say "uh-uh, don't step on my suedes!" After the show, he will begin writing the song on his guitar laying down the chord progression when the lyrics start coming to him. With no other paper around, Perkins will begin scrawling the words down on a brown paper potato sack. Two days later, on December 19th, Perkins and his band will record the song at Sun Studios in Memphis. It will be released on January 1, 1956. Initially radio stations begin playing the singles' flipside, "Honey Don't." DJ Bill Randle at WERE in Cleveland will flip the record and begin featuring "Blue Suede Shoes" on his nightly radio show. By the end of January, the record is a hit in the Cleveland area and begins to spread to other cities. Within another month the single is a national hit, simultaneously climbing the pop, country, and rhythm & blues charts. Tragedy will strike on March 22, 1956 for Perkins when, while traveling to New York City to make a television appearance on the Perry Como Show, he and his band are involved in a serious car accident. The singer and his brother sustain serious injuries. Fortunately this incident does not stop the record's momentum. "Blue Suede Shoes" will spend three weeks at #1 on the Country & Western chart, peaking at #3 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart and #2 on the Rhythm & Blues chart, selling over a million copies. Carl Perkins recording of "Blue Suede Shoes" will be inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1986.

Continue reading...
<<  1  2  3  4  >>  NEXT