Is It Me?…Yeah, I Know…It’s Me…

Whilst waiting for Dexter to roll around last night, I absorbed a good forty or fifty seconds of the American Music Awards.

So now I will impart to you, my adoring public, an entirely and completely unbiased review of the experience. Writing this out will take much longer than fifty seconds, but we must sometimes sacrifice for the common good and promote the general welfare.

This program opened with an R+B singer known as Rihanna. I know nothing of these things. To me, R+B has elements of both a) rythym, and b) blues. The only way that this girl could get those elements would be if they hit her in the forehead,  having been duct-taped to a Predator drone on behalf of a grateful nation.  I realize that constitutes a very expensive fix, but come on, oh please, are you serious, Mother of God, Jesus, Joseph and Mary, on what planet is this called R+B?

Now I might just be another cranky, cranky old bastard ( CCOB), sitting in a dark room muttering at the TV, wearing a Confederate uniform jacket and no pants. What?? Not typical? Only one? No one else? Ok fine, I’ll put the pants on, then…

What??? Just as weird, pants or not? I’ll have you know that I don’t even shoot at the TV anymore…( that’s only because there aren’t any CRTs left around…jeez, I miss that ozony poof noise they used to make) Don’t mention the TV thing, you say? And I might want to contact a lawyer? Sirens? I don’t hear no stinking sirens…

Well, that was fun. But now back to the task at hand. My new lawyer says I should sue for the fifty seconds back, at least. Three minutes, if you count the opening credits. My time is valuable. I’m an important guy. Hell, the time I spend just fixing TVs…

Rihanna had one saving grace. She’s awfully cute, and she was sporting a hairdo reminiscent of a fondly remembered ex, circa 1980-90 something. Pretty damned adorable. So there I was, all warm and fuzzy…pretty good so far.

And she started to sing. Some sort of ballad, just vocal, marginal backup; dry signal, no special effects. Still pretty good so far; I was thinking that that was a fairly courageous thing to do in this day and age.

Until I realized that her pitch was off; and her diction was terrible.  Like she never saw a voice coach in her life. This girl would have been in the back row of any choir in the world. No, she’d be off the riser altogether. JS Bach would just point towards the door and wait until she was gone. Beethoven would have tossed her off the second-story balcony.

By the second verse, the effects mercifully kicked in, and she was saved by the Digitech chip. A little reverb, chorus, pitch correction, flange, slapback echo, phase, maybe a small kitchen appliance, and no one’s the wiser. Dancers appeared, lights flashed everywhere, and it turned into a typical extravaganza. By then, it could have been Frank Sinatra’s niece from Jersey singing the “Ave Maria”, albeit with a digital drum track.

But for those precious fifty seconds… Rihanna showed her true colors. God help us all. God bless us every one.

I want those fifty seconds back. And still almost an hour to go ’til Dexter.

 And there it is, kids. The CCOB Report on the AMA awards, for Monday 11/22/10. Or at least for the first fifty seconds.

Hey, are you going to do anything with that old RCA console TV in your garage? Well, are you, punk?


Published in: on November 22, 2010 at 3:00 pm  Comments (11)  
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Can You Believe That?

It worked, just like Eddie said it would. Amazing.

After arriving early, setting up, running a little sound check, and tweaking a few last-minute problems….. the pre-amp on the guitar itself malfunctioned after only five minutes in. Didn’t see that coming.

Played the whole thing straight up.  A guy with a classical guitar in the middle of a pasture…very pastoral…would make a great oil painting. They pretty much couldn’t hear me, which was fine, because the wind kicked up just enough to keep blowing the music off the stand and into the woods. But now that bears in rural Massachusetts have discovered a packet of Guiliani etudes, I’m sure they’ll be holding guitar studies of their own real soon. The Westport Institute for the Advancement of Hunting, Gathering, Foraging, Classic Guitar, and Hibernation. I’m already pretty good at two of those things…They’ll call it AHGFCGH for short, and that’s what the emblems on their brown corduroy blazers will say…very Haavaad.

At any rate, a complete success overall. I was the hero. Have a request for another in December, but I think I’ll do better if I always play outside…don’t want them to hear too much…

Thank you, Mr. Izzard. Who better to advise on human nature, bridesmaids, and bears than an Executive Transvestite?

This Old House…

Well, it’s official. The Rag’s digital residents have  relocated to the Tabor Opera House in Leadville, CO. Everyone thought it a good idea to stay nearby the scene of the action in the novel next door.

Apparently a very busy weekend in Leadville; there was a rodeo, a tour of the Opera House, and even a concert later in the evening; some local-hero folksinger guy. The Rag collective found him quite entertaining, and Bach of course kept insisting that his rules of harmony are being strictly adhered to. And just a few nights before their arrival, a troupe of Denver Ghost Hunters were about the place. Queens Anne and Mary say not to worry about all that; they’ve been chased by ghost hunters for years, and all you need do is drain the power from their camera batteries. That pretty well keeps them under control. Tap on the wall a few times, and they’ll be out of there in no time.

Roland suggests that they hold out for a visit from TAPS, who’ve done very well for themselves with a local cable show that was picked up by the Sci-Fi channel. Local boys ( Warwick RI) making good. Well done indeed!. They’ve got really cool new equipment, and Doc says he might get Jesse and Wyatt to show up for that. The Queens say that Henry would be available too, being open to any sort of promotional event. But they will not have him; they are not on speaking terms, even after all this time. They say that he is forever and always knocking things around in the Tower, just trying to get anyone’s attention. Once a ham…

OK Fine…

Well, it’s all over now but for the crying.

Damned Lakers and their offensive rebounds. It was a good game, though. No honor lost at all.

Have a nice summer break, Kobe. We’ll see you again.

Today at Rag Central; The Celtics will be happy to help out with the Choir, provided that they can stage Handel’s Messiah for December. Bach considers that stuff to be modern jazz. More rules flaunted, and they also want to sing wearing sunglasses ala Roy Orbison. Turns out that most basketball guys have Handel’s Messiah cued up on their Ipods…

Roland remains quite displeased with Kendrick Perkins, and wants to shoot him in his other foot. And it’s not for what you might think…it’s for that horrible, horrible green shirt…

F#m- Dm??

Recipe for most rockabilly and doo-wop music;

Start with a I-VI-IV-V chord progression in any key. Repeat endlessly.

Works for JS Bach. He doesn’t like the stuff, but it adheres to his rules of harmony, so he can live with it. Until a fateful day in the mid-60’s when a typical rockabilly guy went way, way out of the box.

He actually did three pretty innovative things while writing this now- famous-often-covered song. First, he modulated. ( one part of the song was in a different key; unusual ). Then, he modulated back again, to the original key ( unheard of ). Then, he used a chord change that  had never happened before. Typically, a rockabilly thing would go from VI to IV chord. He went from VI to a IV minor.

Bach clawed his way out of his grave. He was a musical icon, and German, for God’s sake; you just didn’t do stuff like that. It was against the laws of…everything.

This little chord change went on to become the equivalent of a musical John Hancock. Decades later, little kids will hear it used somewhere and say ” hey that sounds just like that guy…you know, black suit, sunglasses…Marshall with a 335? ( little kids don’t really say that… they always like Fender amps better…)

Got it yet? The guy was Roy Orbison. The song is Pretty Woman.

See? Now you know why you like it so much!

 P.S.; Remember to say a little prayer for the Celtics tonight…

On the novel front; Glenn has defaulted his turn to Clark. S’il vous plait?

Parlez-vous I-IV-V?


” Bring me a bowl of coffee before I turn into a goat.”

An actual quote from the master, and he apparently meant every word.

If you like ( or are even remotely aware of ) music, and have anything to do with Western civilization at all, then you are aware of  JS Bach. You likely don’t know how, are even less likely to care; but this guy wrote the book for everything you’ve ever heard in your life, unless you’re from the very Far East. Every type of American or European music is either taken directly from his ” rules” of harmony and composition; or, is purposely designed to flaunt them. The stamp of influence is indelible either way.

” And your point?” says the motley assortment of icons that have been habitating at the Rag lately ( and hopefully, a few visiting readers ).

Just a constructive way to pass a little time awaiting the next entry; something that JS would have been all in favor of. An extremely prolific composer and parent, he produced a massive catalogue of works ( both sacred and secular ), and reproduced with wild abandon ( 17 kids ).

So, to quote from my own post title; what is I-IV-V? You have no idea, you say.

Yes, you do. You’ve known this since you were old enough to remember a simple melody, and sing it to yourself. In pre-school, the shower, the car, in super markets ( !! ); while you’re waiting for something better to do, rather than read this dreck ( !! ).  How so? Just watch…

One of the basic building blocks of music ( says Uncle Johann ) is resolution. This means that a melody will start from a certain point, do whatever it will do, and then resolve, by returning to its starting point. If songs didn’t do this, then we would all go through our day feeling as if we had stepped on a tack and just left it there. Imagine a blues or country song that never turns the corner to its last chord change; it can’t complete itself. It just hangs in space. Imagine ” Happy Birthday…To You,” but without the “to you” on the end. You would just be annoyed until further notice; until some little kid ran up to you and sang the ” to you ” bit.  And that’s not bloody likely. 

 Bach was very meticulous, and had rules for every aspect of music. The chords that were used to support melodies followed a very strict structural guideline. So if the chords couldn’t resolve in a logical way, then melodies hung in the air, completely unsupported. Not acceptable. His music was designed to work from cadences, the same way you would phrase a sentence. When it’s done correctly, it just feels right. If not, then you just stepped on that tack again. ( By the way, ” Happy Birthday…To You” is a IV-I, V-I chord sequence. In “C”, that would be Fmaj- Cmaj; Gmaj- Cmaj. The G to C, or V-I change, is the resolution.

Resolve this , you say.

I actually sort of expected that from the likes of you; I’ll politely ignore it, and continue.

Ok; now run and  find a piano. ( or a well-tempered clavier, as Bach would say ). Find ” middle C”.  Now play eight notes, ascending from ” middle C’. (They’re all white keys.) You just played a C major scale. Labeled as such;


The first scale step is the note “C”.  The associated chord is called the ” tonic”, labeled as Roman numeral I. The fourth scale step is “F”, associated chord is the subdominant IV.  The fifth step is “G”, associated chord is the dominant V. So, in the key of C major, the I-IV-V  chords are Cmaj, Fmaj, and Gmaj.

And here is the pivotal point; if you change keys, the note names will all change; but the I-IV-V relationship remains constant. So if you sang ” Happy Birthday” but started from a different note, the key changed. And the note names all changed. But the structure of the thing does not.  So, you, and everyone else, can always sing it regardless of the note you started from. So you see? You’ve known all along. It’s so instinctive that no one even notices, and you never forget it.

This is Bach Rule No.1, and it gives you the key to unlocking any piece of Western music. Anybody’s, anywhere, any style. Any century. Everything. Just listen for phrases, and resolutions.

Here’s a good example. I just heard a ” La Bamba”  cover by Los Lobos. In C major, the I-IV-V chords are C, F, and G.  Now just imagine if they skipped over the V chord. It just breaks down completely. It doesn’t even exist anymore.  And it has to end on a C ( I chord ), or it never resolves. It feels so fundamentally right, that it can’t be altered in any way. I-IV-V, and resolve to I. Once it resolves, it’s over, we can move on with our lives.

So… now that you know a little about  this I-IV-V thing, you’ll begin to notice it, if you listen. It’s everywhere.

Pretty cool for an old guy who looks like a goat, eh?…( Bach, not me… I look like a goat all  the time, got nothing to do with coffee.)  Just for that, I’ll post some examples of I-IV-V songs tomorrow. That’ll teach you.