Saturday, April 10, 2010

Retrospective: The Aristocrats

Neil Young: Old King

Taj Mahal and Toumani Diabate: Queen Bee

The Kinks: She's Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina

Stevie Wonder: Sir Duke

I've mentioned numerous times here that I used to have an weekly web radio show, FiL With Sound. I played a mix of old and new music, and was fond of themed sets (and sometimes themed shows.) It ran for two years, and somewhere in the middle of it, I discovered Star Maker Machine.

I occasionally played songs on the show that I found on SMM, and it helped give the appearance that I had a bigger, more diverse music collection than I actually had. At some point, I decided I wanted to join in on the fun, but not being a writer, I started playing my own version of Star Maker Machine on the show. I would make a four- or five-track set out of songs that fit the previous week's SMM theme but had not been posted. I did some digging through my playlists, and discovered that the first time I did this was on November 18, 2008. The previous week's theme had been "The Aristocrats", so that's what my first SMM set was about.

The songs I picked to play that day were perhaps not the most adventurous of choices, but this was an important step in the journey that lead me to become a contributor here. And really, if there's a better song than "Sir Duke" out there, I've yet to hear it.

Retrospective: I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry

Cowboy Junkies: I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry


This post is dedicated to Paul (a Hank Williams fan of the highest degree), for the vision and start-up of Star Maker Machine - synchronistically, the day Boyhowdy invited me to contribute a guest post (late-October 2008) was the day *after* I had just been laid off from my job of 19 months. SMM was just what I needed... just when I needed it: a validating reassurance of my self-worth - the economy might be crumbling... but if there's one thing I know, it's music... d*mmit (stomps foot!)...

I then made a point of reading back through the archives (starting with the Days of the Week theme, April 2008) to familiarize myself with the contributors, content and style of writing (such an enjoyable time) - however, what I also discovered was that the blog began in another incarnation a few months before that, in early-February 2008...

I adore the diversity of the submissions: the vintage... the techno... the country... the metal... the rock... the rockabilly... the Celtic... the world... etc., in addition to my comfort zone of folk, and I think our strength has been in our differences - our readership honors them all... and it feeds my personal learning and growing process too...

I realize I'm wordy... and I personalize everything... and I tend toward a Pollyanna mindset - however, my love of songs is deep and passionate and fulfilling, as is evident in all of my fellow (and sister) Star Makers as well...

I just wanted to send out my appreciation to those of you who started and evolved the SMM concept... and to those who segued from readers to contributors - whether you still post or have stepped back for one reason or another, your passion for the music is evident... and it is a joy to follow the historical stepping stones... as well as attempt to continue the tradition...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Retrospective: Songwriting

Jeff Buckley: Hallelujah


It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth,
the minor fall, the major lift
the baffled king composing Hallelujah.

My absolute favorite theme to write for, here on Star Maker Machine? No question about it: Songwriting week.

The task was to address the process of song craft - to switch from speaking of sound and sense to attend to the development process from which music springs forth. And man, did it get intellectual in here. Our small hearty band of bloggers took to the task like a pack of starving college professors trying to prove their readiness for tenure. Several of us even emerged with highly specified sub-themes, focusing on a particular aspect or type of the songwriting process; I myself cranked out three lengthy posts on songwriting through adaptation of existing texts, as befits a coverblogger who spends his days teaching communications and culture, and his nights considering the folkways.

There were less posts that week, as it turns out - this was back when we were at it fast and furious, averaging well over 30 posts per theme, but the sheer work it required to crank out the type of depth and detail that the theme demanded resulted in but 17 entries on our logsheet. And the songs are long-gone, of course. But for sheer chutzpah and analytical depth, the writing is not to be missed. Head back into the depths of 2008 for more.

Retrospective: Tangerine Speedo

Caviar: Tangerine Speedo

Oh, what an image and song to be posted not only once, but TWICE. But alas, this was a favorite moment for me. It was September of '08 and the theme was clothing. It seemed harmless enough, until mid-week when there was an absurd amount of female flesh appearing in the pictures that went along with the posts. There were body parts sticking out every which way (due to the songs in question and their subject matter) and even the guys were starting to think it a bit much.

Then an e-mail went out about it, how a few here were starting to feel bad about the objectification going on. Being the only active female participant at that time (I think), I felt it my duty to say or do something, so I countered it with some beefcake action. There aren't many songs that allow for such things, but thank goodness for Caviar's ode to the cabana boy "Tangerine Speedo". The original post for it is here. The whole experience that week was one of encouragement and fun, and it felt good to be a part of that. I was glad I was here to be able to give that other side of the story and have it accepted so graciously.

The song is silly (but catchy), and it was before anyone told me about the unwritten "no songs since the millennium" rule, so it wouldn't have made the cut happening now, but oh, it was a funny week. Most of the sexy lady pictures and posts have since disappeared, so sorry to those who might try going back for an eyeful, you'll have to settle for beefcake.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Retrospective: Burning Hell

R.E.M.: Burning Hell


Although I visited Star Maker Machine from day one... my first post here didn't come until July 9th of 2008.

I was a little scared when I was told that my first week was something called "Hell Week." I had a brief flashback to my college days and wondered what sort of horrors would be foisted upon the newbie in his first week on the team. Then it was explained to me that "Hell Week" was merely the theme for the music that week and not some hazing ritual designed to make me "worthy." I felt a lot better.

That week, I chose to submit the song "Burning Hell" from the R.E.M. b-sides compilation Dead Letter Office. That post was the first thing I ever wrote for a blog (although I think it was actually posted after my first post at my site). I had no idea what I was doing, so I just followed the templates provided for me. I couldn't believe how simple it was.

That post gave me the courage I needed to finally get up off my butt and start my own site. I don't know that I ever would have started A Fifty Cent Lighter & A Whiskey Buzz if it wasn't for Star Maker Machine. That's why my initial post here was also my favorite moment*.

Today, I'm re-sharing that original R.E.M. song along with a cover by Patterson Hood from an R.E.M. tribute album.

*A close second to my favorite moment was this post by bowhowdy. That was the moment that really let me know that I might actually be doing something right with this whole blogging thing. The fact that another contributer here had such nice things to say really stopped me in my tracks. To boyhowdy, I want to say thank you again.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Retrospective: The Dutchman

The first thing I wanted to celebrate in my history with Star Maker is the folk-blogger sub-group. Not that we have ever given ourselves a formal title, and certainly not one so clunky. But there are three of us, and when we want to post folk music here, we often check with each other to see who will take the song. And we often find that it was a good thing we asked. In considering what song to post for this, I saw only one option: The Dutchman. Let me explain.

Michael P Smith: The Dutchman


It all began when Susan joined us. She and I quickly discovered that anything by Joni Mitchell was a duplication risk. Later, we added Dar Williams, and sometimes Tracey Grammar to the list. But during Silly Songs week, I posted a song by Steve Goodman. I had always assumed that Goodman had written The Dutchman, and blithely said so. Susan set me straight in the comments. The song is actually by Michael P Smith, and later that week, Susan introduced me to his work by posting The Princess and the Frog. That song has become a favorite in my family. So, even though The Dutchman was never posted before on Star Maker, it is my first choice for this theme.

Steve Goodman: The Dutchman


Alert readers will have noticed that I said there were three folk bloggers here. The third is Boyhowdy. If you have ever visited his own excellent blog, Cover Lay Down, you know that he specializes in folk cover songs. (If you haven’t visited there, you really must do so as soon as you finish with this post.) So, now that I know that Steve Goodman’s Dutchman is one of the greatest folk covers in history, it seemed all the more appropriate to start this week with the song. Boyhowdy and Susan, thank you so much for your friendship. I can’t wait to see where it takes us next.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Retrospective: Looking For The Heart Of Saturday Night

Tom Waits: Looking For The Heart Of Saturday Night


My first post on SMM was as a guest on March 8th, 2008. I had no idea what I was getting into! As time has passed I have been surrounded by bloggers who are much better writers than I am and who have much deeper music libraries than I do. But, even though I feel outclassed most of the time, I cherish my opportunity to occasionally contribute here. I'm so happy to have been a part of something so positive, open-minded, and spirited. Thank you, Paul, for the initial invitation to join.

It may be so obvious that it doesn't even need to be said, but my favorite moments from my time here have been when I have been introduced to music and artists who I had previously either not known about or who I had ignored.

I knew a guy in high school who was really really into Tom Waits. I hated that guy! Because this particular Tom Waits fan was such a distasteful human being, I never gave Tom Waits himself a chance. That all changed on April 11th, 2008 when Paul wrote about Waits here on this blog. I found the song he posted to be so compelling and so beautiful that I immediately began the process of filling out my own Tom Waits collection.

I'm so glad to have been introduced to him as an artist. He is one of my favorite discoveries of the last several years.

Thanks for the introduction, Paul - and thanks to all of my blogging colleagues for Starmaker Machine.