Jonathan Coulton, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Glee and Whose Baby Got Back?


I heard about the Jonathan Coulton v. Glee thing all day yesterday, last night and this morning.  As usual the Hollywood Reporter account is the best.  Coulton took Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby Got Back and transformed it into a much different composition. Coulton’s radical revision is in the same league of radical revision as The Residents’ The King And Eye in which they (The Residents) wildly re-imagined famous Elvis Presley songs.  Here is one of the tamer re-imagines – The Residents’ version of Don’t Be Cruel.  (I use the word, “re-imagine,” so as to heap praise upon this practice which goes far beyond the normal, reserved arranging one often hears in popular music.  Earth, Wind & Fire’s take on The Beatles’ Got To Get You Into My Life is another example but not as wildly reimagined as those by The Residents or Coulton.)

I have very strong opinions on all of the above, as well as the U. S. Copyright Act that allows some good things to take place but at the same time fails to protect or even recognize other “authors,” such as Coulton.  (Coulton might not be an author of Baby Got Back despite the superb job of authorship he lavished on Baby Got Back.)

There has been so much talk on the Inter-Tubes about the injustice done by The Fox TV series, Glee, to Jonathan Coulton.  Here is what Coulton thinks.

Here is a version found on YouTube of Coulton’s Baby Got Back.  Here is a Glee version of Baby Got Back.  Jonathan Coulton has substituted a “quack” for the F-word in the original Sir Mix-A-Lot.  It is heard at 2.40 into the song.  At the 2.40 mark of Glee, one hears_____?  Are the tempos of Coulton and Glee identical?  Did elements of the Coulton master recording find their way into the master recording of Glee?

This post is unstable, i.e., dynamic, and will be altered one or more times very soon.

How I Hear It – Beethoven & Van Halen


My Nashville trip has been eventful and much longer than expected.  My one week has turned into three.  I need to get back north and as tempting as it is, I won’t quote or paraphrase Paul McCartney and “Get Back.”

When I was learning classical music, and classical music theory (known to many as simply, “music theory”), what helped was comparing classical music to what I knew much better and made more sense to me, namely, rock music or pop music.  The more I learned about music and different styles of music, the more I explored and then compared classical with those other styles  –  first soul/Motown, then jazz, folk, blues, country, world music (although I had been hearing that earlier without knowing I was hearing world music) and eventually hip hop, trip hop, acid jazz and anything else with or without a name.

When I listen to music, it usually reminds me of other music.  When I first heard Van Halen When It’s Loveit reminded me of the opening of the first movement of Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 (as well as a few other rock and country songs).  That is because they share the same somewhat unusual (for rock and pop) chord progression.  There are four (4) chords heard clearly in both, although in Van Halen, the chord progression is heard twelve (12) times, whereas in Beethoven, it is heard only three (3) times.  This chord progression is based on four (4) bass notes from the major scale – the 1st pitch followed by the 5th, followed by the 3rd, followed by the 4th:  1   5   3   4.  Three of these four bass notes are the roots of the chords:  1    5    and 4.  The “3” is the 3rd of the “I chord.”  This chord, therefore, does not have its root as the lowest sounding note in the chord.  It is an “inverted” chord, and there are are far fewer inverted chords in rock and popular music than in classical music.  The somewhat-unusual-for-rock chord progression is  I   V   I6   IV  (pronounced, “One.  Five.  One six.  Four.”)

Van Halen  –  When It’s Love

That     I   V   I6   IV   progression is heard four (4) times at the opening and eight (8) times near the ending of When It’s Love:

I N S T R U M E N T A L     A T      O P E N I N G:

0.00 – 0.09

0.10 – 0.18

0.19 – 0.28

0.29 – 0.38

N E A R    T H E     E N D    O F     T H E    S O N G:

4.02 – 4.10

4.11 – 4.20

4.21 – 4.30

4.31 – 4.39

4.40 – 4.49

4.50 – 4.59

5.00 – 5.08

5.09 – 5.19


The majority of Classical music is not as repetitive, in terms of a singular repeated chord progression, as popular and/or country music.  But the    I   V   I6   IV   progression is heard at the outset of the first movement of Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4.

Beethoven  –  Piano Concerto No. 4, Mvt. I

S O L O    P I A N O:

0.42 – 0.48

O R C H E S T R A    (without piano):

1.00 – 1.08

P I A N O     &    O R C H E S T R A:

11.43 – 11.51

Do these sections from Van Halen and Beethoven sound similar?  They are identical in terms of harmony and bass melody, and chord progression.  This intrigues me but probably very few other people, and I was even warned not to write this post.  Oh well.  I did.  I will not write posts like this often but I love the idea of parallels between music that at the surface should have little in common and I believe that hearing these parallels leads to a better understanding and appreciation of music.  I intentionally avoided explaining the elementary music theory and music theory terms and nouns above because I do not think an understanding of music theory is necessary to hear these specific parallels between Beethoven and Van Halen, and the education/explanation would take too long for a single post.

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Here is the full orchestral score of Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 4, Op. 58.  Thrillingly to me and sadly to some, the printed musical scores Beethoven composed can be copied for free, i.e., they are in the public domain – one does not need to ask the copyright owner permission to use this music because the copyright term has ended.  No one gets paid when one downloads the scores to these excellent compositions.

One of my favorite and most used music website is IMSLP – the Petrucci Music Library.  It should be the first place one visits to study and download music.  (I intentionally left out some details in that last sentence.)

A slew of bagpipes playing tangos in a forest – My Favorite Tangos (Part 1)

I’m loving my vacation in Nashville – my first Christmas not in Massachusetts.  It’s been great to catch up with friends and former students (from here and New Jersey), hike Radnor Lake, see the new stuff in Nashville and launch into some business.  All of my business is also fun, so I keep on “fun-ing,” as Sheriff Andy Taylor once said.

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A question to which I often return  –  what is tango?  Should the question be, “What is a tango?   Is tango a dance?  Is tango music?  Is tango both music and dance?  To me tango is music and the accompanying dance.  To others I’m sure the idea of an “accompanying” dance, meaning the visual subservient to the aural, is offensive.  Music is meant for many as something to accompany dance.  For me it’s music – the invisible art form that grabbed and OCCUPIED me as a child  –  first.  Other stuff – film, video, TV, advertising, ballet, dance, opera, musicals, etc. – is often secondary and there to serve music.  I’ll more often stick with what I think is this contrarian view  –  let the invisible (music) rule and let us serve her/him/it/them.

And as a musician who likes tango but is not an expert in tango, a simple rhythmic figure that tells me, “this is tango,” comes to mind.  When I hear a specific rhythmic pattern that repeats, I think “tango.”  To do a disservice to tango and a deep explanation, the pattern takes place over four (4) beats, numbered, 1, 2, 3, 4.

T A N G O   is  not:

1                2                3                4                1                2                3                4

T A N G O  can be this:

1                2   and    3                4                1                2   and    3                4

T A N G O  can be this:

1                2   and    3                4   and     1                2   and    3                4   and

T A N G O  can be this:

1                2                3                4   and    1                2                3                4   and

And here is an explanation from Howcast of how to (dance) tango.  It states that the tango pattern is

1                2                3   and         4   

Here is a collection of tangos – sort of a HOW TO / HERE THEY ARE collection of tango.

For me, this   –

1                2                3                4   and  1      

 is my favorite tango and the repeated rhythmic figure which I first associate with tango.  I think there are not many examples of tango in rock (music).

Three (3) of my favorite tangos in rock are:

The Beatles  –  Ticket To Ride

The Doors  –  Moonlight Drive

The Police  –  Roxanne

At a future point, I will delve further into more of my favorite tangos (maybe an annotated list with links) and a discussion of that massive tango collection linked to above.  I’d also like to explore the effects of tempo/speed, as well as instrumentation and loudness on our definition and perception of tango.  For example

if a slew of bagpipes play tangos in a forest and no one hears them, is it still a tango?

Other favorite tangos of mine were recorded by Astor Piazzola, Gato Barbieri, Sting (in addition to “Roxanne”), The Doors (in addition to “Moonlight Drive”) and Burt Bacharach.

What are your favorite tangos?  Your favorite tangos in rock?  Are there examples of tango in country?  Jazz?  Urban?  Soul?  (Is there still “soul?”)  R & B?

I hope you enjoy the first Sunday in 2013  —–

E. Michael

Big Butter & Egg Man, Banana in Your Fruit Basket, Grinding Mill and other carnal songs


I should’ve been shocked but, post-Tea Party, was only mildly surprised to read that in 2013 a Utah school district canceled an upcoming high school performance of “All Shook Up,” a musical that features the music of Elvis Presley.  Elvis The Pelvis was controversial in the mid-1950’s and it seems that some parents in Utah want to keep that shock and controversy alive.  Elvis has the power to still cause hate and fear for anything biological that he might represent or arouse.  These concerned conservatives have succeeded at stopping this immoral, raunchy musical/spectacle  –  surely Utah is cleaner for their actions.  To me this is reminiscent of Tipper Gore’s Parent Music Resource Center back in the 1980’s, but this new Utah group seems more reactionary and antiquated.

There are so many other better targets, I feel, that these conservatives have overlooked, and I’d like to offer a few more songs for their excruciated listening and study pleasure.  These activists should strive to rip out the roots that caused the Elvis problem to grow and yield the frightening crop and moral decay of contemporary society.  (I think Aristotle also blamed bad music for the moral decay of his time.)  Who could listen to Elvis and then want to lead a chaste life and lifestyle?  If these parents work together perhaps they can get millions more to stop singing about sex.

Here are some songs I recommend they pursue.  Somehow these songs are still available for listening and purchasing pleasure (deviance) in 2013.  I hope Puritans and Talibanistas everywhere will labor to learn more music and discover the world of metaphors.  Perhaps they’ll be able to have these and more carnal songs squashed.

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“I want a butter and egg man. Won’t some great big butter and egg man want me?”

Why does this woman sing so emphatically about wanting a man who possesses BIG BUTTER and EGGS?  Is she headed down a dangerous dairy path?  With all that is known in 2013 about a diet high in cholesterol, this song might already be maiming young minds but could the butter and eggs be representative of something more than food?  Is this a tongue-in-cheek metaphor?

Louis Armstrong  –  Big Butter and Egg Man

Memphis Minnie talks to Kansas Joe McCoy about the broken down mill….

“Can’t get no grindin’ tell me what’s the matter with the mill?”

And this was decades before Cialis.  If only this couple could have had our 2013 chemicals, that could have been one happy and functioning mill.

Memphis Minnie  –  What’s The Matter With The Mill

Why would someone write and sing a song about a pencil and its lead, and lack of lead?  Without lead, one can’t write.  Or is all of this pencil and lead talk metaphorical?

“I met a hot mama, I want to love her so bad

I left all the lead in my pencil I had

Now the lead’s all gone, oh the lead’s all gone

Oh the lead’s all gone, this pencil won’t write no more”

Sadly, the man also realizes that, You sure can tell when a man’s pencil is wrong, his mama’s always shiftin’ from home…”

Bo Carter  –  My Pencil Won’t Write No More

The Beatles recorded the John Lennon song, “Girl,” on their 1965 album, Rubber Soul.  Just what is John so forcefully inhaling five (5) tokes/times in the song, at 0.24 – 0.25, 0.54 – 0.56, 1.23 – 1.25, 1.53 – 1.55, and 2.23 – 2.25?  Marijuana?  And what are the Beatles singing at 1.01 – 1.20 ?  I think the lyric is “tit” stated 64 times (foreshadowing Paul’s song, “When I’m 64?”).  I don’t think the Beatles are engaged in metaphors in “Girl.”  This is young and direct.

“tit  tit  tit  tit      tit  tit  tit  tit      tit  tit  tit  tit      tit  tit  tit  tit

tit  tit  tit  tit      tit  tit  tit  tit      tit  tit  tit  tit      tit  tit  tit  tit     

tit  tit  tit  tit      tit  tit  tit  tit      tit  tit  tit  tit      tit  tit  tit  tit     

tit  tit  tit  tit      tit  tit  tit  tit      tit  tit  tit  tit      tit  tit  tit  tit”

That would make this seemingly innocent song, “Girl,” the ULTIMATE song about sex and drugs.  Or if not sex and drugs, a woman’s breast and the increasingly legal soft drug, pot-i-juana.

The Beatles  –  Girl

Finally, Bo Carter sings another song about his brand new skillet, burning his bread, and arranging to add his fruit, in particular, a banana, to her fruit basket.  Surely this song is only about cooking, dairy products and fruit arrangements.

“Now i got the dasher, my baby got the churn

We gonna churn, churn, churn until the butter come

Then I’m tellin’ you baby, I sure ain’t gonna deny,

Let me put my banana in your fruit basket, then I’ll be satisfied”

Bo Carter  –  Banana In Your Fruitbasket

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Wishing everyone a buttery, fruitful 2013    : )