Making More Rock And Roll, Deconstructing Sgt. Pepper

Posted in The Beatles, Willie Simpson's Original Music on December 1st, 2012 by Willie

Well, I haven’t updated the ole’ website in a good while, and the reason is because I’m still making more rock and roll. The intention of this humble little corner of internet space was never to be a daily rock and roll blog, that happened more or less organically. The site was created to feature my music, and to that end, my album, which I’ve previewed extensively on this site, is nearly finished. The album in question, which I’ve named Funeral Business, is something I’m growing increasingly proud of. The album art, which the ever lovely Sonia Rapaport created, is the thing you’re looking at right above. Right now I’m collaborating on one last tune with Andrew Lee, and from there, the future promises to reflect the glimmering wonderfulness to be entailed within it. I’m planning a mini documentary movie in the coming weeks about the creation of the record, and a further reflection on my thoughts on rock and roll and what it means to me. Its a flourish of self centered activity that I find rather distasteful, but necessary to further spread the joy this music has brought to me. I want to thank all my friends and family who have helped me along the way here, and I also want to post this incredibly cool video someone made deconstructing the “Sgt. Pepper” song, because it goes against everything in my nature to provide an update without some music. This little video is really fascinating, breaking the song down into its component parts, giving you a sense of how the Beatles created their masterpieces. You will also be hypnotized by those groovy multicolored lines of sonic goodness. Enjoy.

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Ween Breaks Up

Posted in Ween on May 31st, 2012 by Willie

One of the world’s most creative and innovate bands, Ween, has apparently ended.  The band’s lead singer Aaron Freeman, otherwise known as Gene Ween, has announced the end of Ween in Rolling Stone.  The breakup came as suprise to Mickey Melchiondo, Dean Ween, as he sent out this sad message on facebook.

Obviously it seems that the breakup is sudden and unplanned.  Aaron noted that there is no bad blood, but rather its just a time to just close that chapter in his life.  Is this really the end?  Maybe officially, but probably not forever.  I’m sure some reunion concert/reunion record will come down the road at some point.  Whether that’s gonna be in 2 years, or 20, nobody knows right now, but its truly a sad day in the history of rock and roll.  For Ween fans I have two videos.  The first is a short documentary on the guys from 2000, and the second is Aaron Freeman playing “It’s Gonna be Alright,” an appropriately crushing ballad for the occasion.  RIP Ween…


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Bob Dylan, Series of Dreams

Posted in Bob Dylan, Youtube Favs on March 13th, 2012 by Willie

The thing about being a prolific artist with a 40+ year career is that its likely you might release some random epic masterpieces when people are done paying attention to you.  Bob Dylan is such an artist.  His song, “Series of Dreams,” a bootleg from the Oh Mercy sessions, is a fantastic piece of abstract pop.  Given a thunderous production by Daniel Lanois that recalls the late 80s/early 90s peculiar air of serious grandiosity, “Series of Dreams,” is one of Bob Dylan’s best later period songs.  Unlike other songs about his dreamscapes, this one is rather straightforward; a meditation on the elusive nature of dreams that may be meaningless, or may not.  It’s also a sly comment on how people, and even himself, perhaps look too much into his dreams and the lyrics and music they inspire.  It’s also serves as a manly sort of reflection of an everyman looking back at his life and all the dreams he’s dreamt…reminds me as the sort of the song that Clint Eastwood might appreciate.  The video is a beautiful hodgepodge of classic Dylan clips given that universal circle of life 90s editing style, you know, the sort of style that tries to capture and summarize a lifetime worth of moments with a new age touch.  It’s at once both dated and beautiful, and one of my favorite Dylan clips available on YouTube.  Check it out.

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Eddie Vedder, Emilio Estevez, Adam Sandler Shooting SNL Promos in 1994

Posted in Fun and Crazy, SNL, Youtube Favs on December 6th, 2011 by Willie

Making a television show is difficult, especially one like Saturday Night Live where all the content is written and produced a week in advance before live airing.  From the looks of this video, making an SNL is a long an tedious process.  Here, they are just making a promo spot, and even though this video is edited to 9 minutes, it probably took well over an hour.  It’s fantastic to watch though.  First you have Eddie Vedder, appearing in April of 1994, a few days after Kurt Cobain killed himself.  Eddie and Pearl Jam did a nice little tribute to Kurt as you can see in the picture above with the “K” on Eddie’s chest.  That’s just a bit of rock and roll history, but in this clip you get to see a nervous and very young Adam Sandler yuck it up with Eddie, whom Adam is clearly enamored with.  You also get to see the oddly detached Emilio Estevez, famous brother of Charlie Sheen, and son of Martin Sheen, interact with these other two icons of film and music.  At one point Eddie asks Emilio, how’s it been this week, to which Emilio replies, “I believe everything’s been good, just fine.”  It was awkward, and Emilio looks like he’d rather be anywhere else then with some long haired grunge rocker and with the jittery nutbar Adam Sandler.  This video is fascinating and revealing, and an awesome time capsule of one of SNL’s golden eras.  Check it out!

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Eric Clapton, Have You Ever Loved a Woman

Posted in Eric Clapton, Youtube Favs on November 14th, 2011 by Willie

The incredible and sweaty bluesman you see in the beginning is Freddie King.  Don’t be confused, this is a Clapton video, but its culled from a never released Martin Scorsese PBS documentary on Clapton’s heroes called, “Nothing But the Blues.”  Well, it was shown, but never released on DVD, one of the mysteries of modern media.  Anyway, this is Clapton at perhaps his most fiery and demonically possessed.  His bends at the 5 minute mark practically bend the whole world, and its the highlight of an absolute rip roaring moment in Clapton’s later career.  The nice thing about Eric Clapton was that the older he got, the more confident he became playing blues, a notion he explains at the end of the video.  To paraphrase George Harrison, when Eric is in the moment, he is so in tune with the music and himself, that he just shines in such a way that’s impossible to deny.  It’s no wonder people compare this guy to God.  Check it out.

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Beulah, Gene Autry, Emma Blowgun's Last Stand, Ballad of the Lonely Agronaut

Posted in Beulah, Youtube Favs on September 23rd, 2011 by Willie

Beulah was formed in a mail room in San Fransisco when Miles Kurosky and Bill Swan decided they both liked the same music, well mostly.  This is the kind of story yours truly can get behind due to own desire to hatch great ideas when I worked in a mail room.  Robert Schneider of the Apples in Stereo hooked them into Elephant 6 when he heard their first demo, and before you knew it, Beulah was one of E6’s shining stars of indie rock.  The thing I love about the Elephant 6 Collective was how they all intermingled with each other and helped out other bands when they recorded and went on tour.  The “collective” part of the moniker was no bullshit, as this was a band of boys and girls who all loved the same music, and all dreamed of becoming rock stars.  They remind me of the way certain underground comedy teams were forming around this time in the mid 90s like Upright Citizens Brigade and the State.  Creative young people in the 90s all saw the value in sharing, working together, and having fun, despite rivalries, which were never too serious.  Beulah is that band, constantly swapping members with Of Montreal, Olivia Tremor Control, and the Apples.  Musically, Beulah has a gorgeous storytelling quality to their songs.  Most of them begin somewhere in the middle, and the music is so energetic and uplifting, that you just go along for the ride, no matter how out of context the lyrical content seems.  The only thing I know about “Gene Autry” is that it was released on 9/11/01, bestowing it’s sweet sadness with even more mysticism.  “Emma Blowgun’s Last Stand” has some of the greatest lyrics you’ll find in an indie rock song.  Lastly, my favorite, “Ballad of the Lonely Agronaut,” I’ve played 1000 times.  I always kept swept up in its tale of American exploration, and its ceaselessly catchy structure.  The song bursts out the gate with an enthusiastic melody that just hooks you instantly.  Also, the line, “gold is coated with gold on the languid hills, where they wait for hours and hours, cool grey ladies from Shirley’s loan us cheer, as they sat for hours and hours,” is so wonderful, and I have no idea what it means, but its been stuck in my head forever.  Beulah broke up in 2004 because their last record, Yoko, despite the best reviews of their career, failed to go gold, a huge goal for the band never reached.  The recording of that album, which featured the breakup of Miles and his long term girlfriend, and three other band member divorces, was dark and difficult, and took its toll on the group’s psyche.  It was a bit of a burnout for one of the most unique and creative bands of the late 90s/early 00’s, but they certainly left a legacy as one of America’s best underground bands with one of the most devoted fan bases.

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The Olivia Tremor Control, Love Athena, Memories of Jacqueline 1906, Black Foliage (Itself)

Posted in The Olivia Tremor Control, Youtube Favs on September 20th, 2011 by Willie

The oddly named Olivia Tremor Control hail from Ruston, Louisiana, and are probably the most beautiful thing ever to come out of that place.  Along with Robert Schneider’s Apples in Stereo, the OTC were founding members of the Elephant 6 Collective, the group of like-minded psychedelic  enthusiasts who sought to re-inject the world with the sort of pure kaleidoscopic bliss not heard since 1967.  Fronted by the songwriting team of Bill Doss and Will Cullen Hart, Bill and Will churned out two timeless records of 90s indie rock, possibly the best ever, with back to back double albums, Dusk at Cubist Castle and Black Foliage.  These records are monuments to their ability to carve beauty out of sound.  Filled with fragments, song experiments, and some of the greatest psychedelic pop songs ever, the two records weave together in a gorgeous cacophony of sonic splendor.  If you’re the kind of person who loves the Beatles “White Album,” and always wondered what the  Beach Boys completed Smile would sound like, just buy, download, or steal the OTC’s records immediately.  The band never released any official music video that I know of, so you’ll have to do with straight up still youtube videos as samples, but my preview is going to glide you along OTC’s chronological history.  The first song, “Love Athena,” is from their earliest days, appearing on compilation records California Demise and Singles and Beyond.  It is the great white whale of underground psychedelic pop rock, filling you with feelings of nostalgic love for perfect lost days.  I kind of hate how they mumble some of the greatest lyrics ever written.  Just check out the chorus, “Shining like Athena in a silver suit of armor, Her love is like a nail and now I’ll bring down the hammer, Sprouting like a flower on a hill top where I’ll find her, Where I’ll plant a seed and watch it grow into the streaming light of love.”  Unbelievable poetry.  The next song, “Memories of Jacqueline 1906,” is from Dusk at Cubist Castle, and is just a perfect rock and roll raga.  I have no idea what the song is about, but its basically like a lost melody the Beatles might have churned out in early 1968 when they were meditating in India.  That introductory electric and acoustic guitar part is so perfect, my God, just play it!  Last is the song “Black Foliage (Itself)” from the epic Black Foliage record, (itself.)  Hah.  This song is just a masterpiece of sonic architecture, with sounds rushing in and out, all orbiting around a melody and words so dark and beautiful.  I love how the song keeps crashing into itself like ocean waves at midnight.  All this stuff is hard not to describe abstractly, so I really suggest you get right to work and listen to these tracks, then get everything they’ve ever done.  Before  I go, if they are reading this, I just want to thank the Olivia Tremor Control for creating some of the greatest music of all time, and inspiring me to make music as well.  From one Willie to a Bill and Will, you guys are the best.

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The Apples in Stereo, I Told You Once

Posted in The Apples in Stereo, Youtube Favs on September 19th, 2011 by Willie

When I was 17 years old, I first heard Her Wallpaper Reverie, a sort of mini Apples in Stereo LP, and I was blown away.  It was the first time I’d ever heard anyone from the Elephant 6 Collective, and they were making the exact sort of music I was missing in the world.  In my mind, I pictured front man Robert Schneider as a young, handsome, and skinny punk rocker, a new symbol for the pop world to rally around.  Little did I know he was a portly balding redheaded nerd with glasses.  The resurrection of neo psychedelic pop would have to wait for a more photogenic rock star to emerge, but goddamn did Robert and the Apples know how to make songs.  Obsessed with the Beatles and the Beach Boys, Robert and his band of merry rockers cut some of the catchiest and well recorded rock and roll of his generation, all in relative cult like obscurity.  His one problem were his lyrics, which ran the gamut between childlike and stupid, and often ruined the gorgeous creative gems he would cut with silly irrelevance.  This in no way stops the band from being great, or fun, but in my mind, holds them back from being anything really daring or meaningful.  It’s kind of a harsh criticism, because the music Robert was making was so beautiful, that the lyrical content should be considered an afterthought to his overall concept of bringing true psychedelic pop back to life.  His accomplishments in this field influenced a ton of great bands including Of Montreal, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Olivia Tremor Control, all groups found on the E6 roster.  The song below, “I Told You Once,” from 2010’s Travellers in Space and Time, is another example of Robert’s insane ability to write perfect pop music with flawless mathematical precision.  This song, and all the songs from the album, are heavily influenced by ELO’s Time, the only ELO record I’ve ever listened to coincidentally.  Time was a pompous, overblown, snyth rock explosion, and not for anyone but serious pop music nerds.  The fact that Robert of the Apples sites this as a major influence endears me to no end, and is proof positive that even the most inane cultural artifacts all have their worshipers.  All this talk about the Apples and E6 is taking me hard and fast down memory lane, so expect more of this stuff all week.

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They Might Be Giants, Particle Man

Posted in They Might Be Giants, Youtube Favs on August 12th, 2011 by Willie

I only know two songs by They Might Be Giants (not counting the Daily Show theme).  I posted the “Istanbul” song yesterday, so today I’m posting “Particle Man.”  This song was also famously featured on Tiny Tunes, but due to the dreadfully horrible and arbitrary copywrite laws enforced by youtube, I can’t post that original video.  (Well, I could, but the audio would be removed, thus taking away all the fun.)  Luckily, I can post something just as good.  The two Johns were on techtv at some point playing their classic, and showing off the amazing stylophone.  What is a stylophone?  Well, its some kind of futuristic computerized music instrument played with a stylus pen.  It’s best seen and heard to fully understand. The looks on John Linnell’s face are priceless, and the song is an amazing piece of catchy insano-rock.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

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They Might Be Giants, The Four Lads, Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

Posted in Fun and Crazy, They Might Be Giants, Youtube Favs on August 11th, 2011 by Willie

I had no idea that They Might Be Giants didn’t write this song!  It turns out that the Four Lads, in 1953, came up with this incredibly catchy and insane song.  It was a top ten hit and a certified gold record.  Imagine that!  I learned all this from hearing a tape of Bob Dylan’s satellite radio show “Theme Time Radio Hour,” where he spun the original record.  Thanks for the heads up Bob because like most kids who grew up in the 90s, I first learned about the song from Tiny Tunes.  I remember being absolutely mesmerized by the song, and relished every time a repeat of that episode would come on.  The song, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” speaks for itself.  It’s one of those rare tunes where the lyrics communicate 100% of the songs idea without a trace of ambiguity.  I love songs like that.  The more modern incarnation comes from They Might Be Giants’ 1990 record Flood which I thoroughly recommend picking up.  As a bonus I’m also including a live performance of the song TMBG did in 1990 for MTV Europe. It’s equally spellbinding and hilarious, especially when the host asks them if the Four Lads had any other good songs, and John Linnell replies in a complete deadpan that “No, that was their only good song.” Too funny.

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