A brace of future challenge ideas....

May 24, 2012 12:49 PM

1 - The Great American Songbook. Main parameter - absolutely no rock and/or roll. So at a total guess it's a period roughly between 1920-something and 1950-something. We're talking George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and the like. Although rock and roll songs are excluded, that doesn't mean that a classic pre-r&r song can't have a rock and roll treatment. A punk treatement of "You Do Something To Me" could be....er....interesting..... 2 - a few years back we had a whale of time covering the entire Velvet Underground and Nico album Well............how about doing the same with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' "Damn The Torpedoes"? Or maybe another classic album.......
posted by MajorDundee (43 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Songs inspired by the timeline of the space race.
Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass

Pick a famous scene from a movie and do a new song for that scene: like maybe the training montage from Rocky or the museum visiting montage from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

On the idea of covering a well-known album...I vote for Radiohead's Ok Computer

In the US (sorry), August is national back-to-school month, how about doing educational songs.
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:06 PM on May 24, 2012

the great american songbook idea is a great one - although, i'd probably be tempted more by something from the not-so-great american songbook of that period

like this
posted by pyramid termite at 6:02 PM on May 24, 2012

I'm still jonesing for one song to the tune of another. Example, for non-Radio 4 listeners.
posted by unSane at 6:49 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Or -- how about -- choose a famous novel, Lolita say, and write a song from the musical version.
posted by unSane at 7:05 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Radiohead's Ok Computer
Good God no..... I have a blind spot with Radiohead. Just don't get it, no connection at all. Obviously given their popularity it must be me....... Mind you, some people are like that with The Beatles.

The only reason I cited the Petty album btw is because I picked it up in HMV last week for £3 and haven't stopped playing it since. How the hell did I miss that first time round???

Picking up Unsane's idea re I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue - what we need is a random generator that pairs lyrics with tunes. Given the number of IT experts at MeFi surely someone can lash that up for us??

Anyway - I must get back to polishing my latest turd of a recording (sighs in resignation........)
posted by MajorDundee at 7:36 AM on May 25, 2012

Why does Sting have a carpet beater in that video?
posted by unSane at 7:52 AM on May 25, 2012

Future challenge idea: Songs with the Bo Diddley bass riff.
posted by chrchr at 10:57 AM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

In the US (sorry), August is national back-to-school month, how about doing educational songs.

This one was done last year. Nothing wrong with repeating challenges, of course, but it didn't get much action. (I'm still working on mine.)
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 1:41 AM on May 26, 2012

Why does Sting have a carpet beater in that video?

No idea except that I used to use my Gran's carpet beater as a guitar when I was a nipper and pretending I was John Lennon or whatever.

Forgot to mention aporpos "Lolita" that "Don't Stand" has got have one of the most remarkable lines in pop lyric history. Remarkable in the sense that it simultaneously manages to be incredibly clumsy and irritatingly pretentious, viz "..that book by Nabokov". Every time I hear that it makes me wince. Sting is undoubtedly a top-rate melodicist, but I always thought that as a lyricist he'd make a good postman.... Pity the producer of that track didn't take him to one side and sotto voce say "Look mate, we all know you used to be a teacher and that's highly commendable but don't be a wanker all your life....huh???".
posted by MajorDundee at 3:13 AM on May 27, 2012

Anyway - I must get back to polishing my latest turd of a recording (sighs in resignation........)
Actually this is now looking like it may be the exception that proves the rule - in defiance of science, laydeez an genlemin I give you the world's first polished turd! Smelly but shiny!! Brown, yes, but.....but....see how it sparkles!!! To be uploaded - or is that deposited - as soon as my cold's cleared up and I can do a final vocal....
posted by MajorDundee at 3:27 AM on May 27, 2012

I'm still jonesing for one song to the tune of another.

For my money, nothing tops Whiter Shade of Pale + the Muppet Show theme, as performed by David Mitchell.
posted by dubold at 7:16 AM on May 27, 2012

I think covering OKC is a good idea, partly because it keeps getting voted as 'best album ever' and all that, but also because RH have such a freakin' lock on that particular sound. For example, we've been working on an acoustic cover of High and Dry for a coffeehouse thing we've been asked to do, and there's just no way round it sounding EXACTLY like Radiohead. If you don't do the falsetto thing, it really isn't much of a song, and if you do, it sounds like Thom. And they couldn't play the chords straighter if they tried.
posted by unSane at 6:39 PM on May 27, 2012

I agree it's really, really hard to cover RH without sounding just like them. I've been trying for years. OKC was a life changing (musically speaking) album for me, so it's like a personal Everest to try and reinterpret in a meaningful way.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:34 PM on May 27, 2012

I'd have to sit the Radiohead thing out - I really couldn't be arsed - but good luck with it guys.

Struck me that something like "Hunky Dory" would be interesting......lots of scope there.......maybe another time.
posted by MajorDundee at 1:26 PM on May 28, 2012

I'm not even sure I've ever actually heard OK Whatever, at least not sober (I think a friend played it once at a boozy dinner party). But.........fuck it................ok, ok........ I'll give it a go. But someone will have to say which track because I really don't want to have to sit through the whole dreary bloody thing....
posted by MajorDundee at 2:12 PM on May 28, 2012

I want to hear MajorDundee's version of "Fitter Happier". Bonus: there are no chords or melody to speak of, so GO WILD.

I am also in favor of Hunky Dory. Why can't we do OKC one month and Hunky Dory another month? Too much?
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:35 PM on May 28, 2012

Yeah, I'm all for this stuff. Let's GO.
posted by unSane at 8:07 PM on May 28, 2012

Ok, unless anyone objects I would like to do the penultimate track from OKC - "Lucky".
posted by Doleful Creature at 7:41 AM on May 29, 2012

Oh shit. If it's OK Computer, count me definitely in.Oh, and one rule: no ukulele--no one here is married to Neil Gaiman, so you can't get away with it.
posted by askmeaboutLOOM at 10:02 AM on May 29, 2012

Oh for sure, if someone is making assignments then I don't want to influence that. So, yeah, who's in charge here?
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:03 AM on May 29, 2012

who's in charge? snsranch shurely? Or maybe Matt. Or possibly Cortex.
posted by marienbad at 10:46 AM on May 29, 2012

Oh, I can't stand Radiohead. I do like the repeated guitar figure in Paranoid Android, though.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:28 AM on May 29, 2012

*raises hand*
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:33 PM on May 29, 2012

*raises hand*
posted by unSane at 12:42 PM on May 29, 2012

*raises beer, which is connected to hand*
posted by grog at 5:28 PM on May 29, 2012

I'd enjoy it, but if we could assign tunes earlyish, that would be swell. I haven't got the spare time to kick out a cover in a month, but I ought to be able to do with an extra week or three.
posted by uncleozzy at 3:47 PM on May 30, 2012

Um, i have no way to make music at the mo, only a bass and just getting back into it, so I cant really vote on something i cant be involved in.. Do it, do it.
posted by marienbad at 4:40 PM on May 30, 2012

i'll vote for it and do it
posted by pyramid termite at 4:48 PM on May 30, 2012

(a song, that is)
posted by pyramid termite at 4:48 PM on May 30, 2012

TWF, I'm only a figurehead in the challenge thing at the moment. It's dubold who is de facto challenge meister for the time being -- I just ran out of time to handle it. I'm sure if you ping him it'll be fine.
posted by unSane at 5:36 PM on May 30, 2012

I'm absolutely for it. Like the last time this happened, there's a good chance that not only my assigned track will be done, but the whole album. Unlike VU+N, I adore OK Computer.
posted by askmeaboutLOOM at 7:03 PM on May 30, 2012

askmeaboutLOOM, I totes agree. I'm ready to GO GO GO the moment I get my assignment.

I've already spent several hours trolling youtube for obscure Radiohead covers. Found the reggae "Radiodread" album, and of course the well known Hard'n'Phirm bluegrass medley...but my new favorite is this big band cover of Paranoid Android
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:19 PM on May 30, 2012

oh, I like the idea of the random assignment. I'll do a version or two of that first, then the whole album. We did, after all, give you lot three Femmes Fatales. And a raping of Andy Warhol.
posted by askmeaboutLOOM at 11:24 PM on May 30, 2012

Oh, and just to clarify, I don't want to rape OK Computer. I want to make sweet love to it, and make a new baby with it.
posted by askmeaboutLOOM at 11:37 PM on May 30, 2012

I've reached out to dubold but not heard back yet.

I think it's a great idea. I'm in, send me my assignment.
posted by dubold at 1:37 AM on May 31, 2012

I'm still uncertain that I'll be able to deliver on this one due to a genuine aversion to Radiodead - but, hey, a challenge would do me good sooo....bring it on!

Also - not really acceptable for people to pick tracks they want to cover for the reasons TWF has stated. You have to play the card you're dealt - and that's all part of the fun. Personally I wouldn't know whether I've been dealt an ace or a 2, although continuing the poker analogy it's tempting to rename my allocated track either "One-Eyed Jack" or "Suicide King" - both of which, from my ignorant position vis a vis old Radiothingy, would seem apt (they always seem to be wallowing in existential angst).

Apropos of nothing - brilliant documentary last night on BBC 4 about the wonderful John Cooper Clarke. For those who can't access BBC iPlayer, look out for excerpts on YouTube. This is one of his very finest (you have to recite it at lightning speed in a Salford accent, natch):

Evidently Chickentown

The fucking cops are fucking keen
To fucking keep it fucking clean
The fucking chief's a fucking swine
Who fucking draws a fucking line
At fucking fun and fucking games
The fucking kids he fucking blames
Are nowehere to be fucking found
Anywhere in Chickentown

The fucking scene is fucking sad
The fucking news is fucking bad
The fucking weed is fucking turf
The fucking speed is fucking surf*
The fucking folks are fucking daft
Don't make me fucking laugh
It fucking hurts to look around
Everywhere in Chickentown

The fucking train is fucking late
You fucking wait you fucking wait
You're fucking lost and fucking found
Stuck in fucking Chickentown

The fucking view is fucking vile
For fucking miles and fucking miles
The fucking babies fucking cry
The fucking flowers fucking die
The fucking food is fucking muck
The fucking drains are fucking fucked
The colour scheme is fucking brown
Everywhere in Chickentown

The fucking pubs are fucking dull
The fucking clubs are fucking full
Of fucking girls and fucking guys
With fucking murder in Their eyes
A fucking bloke is fucking stabbed
Waiting for a fucking cab
You fucking stay at fucking home
The fucking neighbors fucking moan
Keep The fucking racket down
This is fucking Chickentown

The fucking train is fucking late
You fucking wait you fucking wait
You're fucking lost and fucking found
Stuck in fucking Chickentown

The fucking pies are fucking old
The fucking chips are fucking cold
The fucking beer is fucking flat
The fucking flats have fucking rats
The fucking clocks are fucking wrong
The fucking days are fucking long
It fucking gets you fucking down
Evidently Chickentown

* a brand of washing powder. Speed = amphetamine sulphate.

Now...if the challenge had been to put some of JCC's poems to music, I'd have been busting down the door to get in....
posted by MajorDundee at 9:41 AM on May 31, 2012

Ha! Well if others are up for it here's a link to JCC's official site with loads of material to choose from...

One rather personal (and perhaps a bit prissy) caveat though - JCC is one of the few genuine talents to have survived from the glory days of British punk, so......let's treat the material with the respect it and its author deserves huh? And if anyone by any outside chance makes any commercial gain from a track make sure JCC gets his full due - he's not a wealthy man.
posted by MajorDundee at 10:07 AM on May 31, 2012

I love John Cooper Clarke. I can recite Beasley Street by heart. Incidentally, there is no such place as Beasley Street but it's supposed to be based on Camp Street, in Salford.

Far from crazy pavements -
the taste of silver spoons
A clinical arrangement
on a dirty afternoon
Where the fecal germs of Mr Freud
are rendered obsolete
The legal term is null and void
In the case of Beasley Street

In the cheap seats where murder breeds
Somebody is out of breath
Sleep is a luxury they don't need
- a sneak preview of death
Belladonna is your flower
Manslaughter your meat
Spend a year in a couple of hours
On the edge of Beasley Street

Where the action isn't
That's where it is
State your position
Vacancies exist
In an X-certificate exercise
Ex-servicemen excrete
Keith Joseph smiles and a baby dies
In a box on Beasley Street

From the boarding houses and the bedsits
Full of accidents and fleas
Somebody gets it
Where the missing persons freeze
Wearing dead men's overcoats
You can't see their feet
A riff joint shuts - opens up
Right down on Beasley Street

Cars collide, colours clash
disaster movie stuff
For a man with a Fu Manchu moustache
Revenge is not enough
There's a dead canary on a swivel seat
There's a rainbow in the road
Meanwhile on Beasley Street
Silence is the code

Hot beneath the collar
an inspector calls
Where the perishing stink of squalor
impregnates the walls
the rats have all got rickets
they spit through broken teeth
The name of the game is not cricket
Caught out on Beasley Street

The hipster and his hired hat
Drive a borrowed car
Yellow socks and a pink cravat
Nothing La-di-dah
OAP, mother to be
Watch the three-piece suite
When shit-stoppered drains
and crocodile skis
are seen on Beasley Street

The kingdom of the blind
a one-eyed man is king
Beauty problems are redefined
the doorbells do not ring
A lightbulb bursts like a blister
the only form of heat
here a fellow sells his sister
down the river on Beasley Street

The boys are on the wagon
The girls are on the shelf
Their common problem is
that they're not someone else
The dirt blows out
The dust blows in
You can't keep it neat
It's a fully furnished dustbin,
Sixteen Beasley Street

Vince the ageing savage
Betrays no kind of life
but the smell of yesterday's cabbage
and the ghost of last year's wife
through a constant haze
of deodorant sprays
he says retreat
Alsations dog the dirty days
down the middle of Beasley Street

People turn to poison
Quick as lager turns to piss
Sweethearts are physically sick
every time they kiss.
It's a sociologist's paradise
each day repeats
On easy, cheesy, greasy, queasy
beastly Beasley Street

Eyes dead as vicious fish
Look around for laughs
If I could have just one wish
I would be a photograph
on a permanent Monday morning
Get lost or fall asleep
When the yellow cats are yawning
Around the back of Beasley Street

posted by unSane at 11:25 AM on May 31, 2012

I put dibs on Beasley for the June challenge. I think it's a great idea. Just take a bit from one of the poems rather than the whole thing if you want, I think.
posted by unSane at 11:25 AM on May 31, 2012

I'll probaby go for something more song-like in structure - I'll provisionally bag "Hire Car" unless something else takes my fancy.

Some of you - unSane for sure - will be well aware that JCC did put quite a few of his poems to music way back when under the steerage of the late Martin Hannett via The Invisible Girls (featuring various Factory alumni). Not, in my view, particularly successfully. So there's not a great deal to compete with on that particular score.

But that serves as its own warning..... Successfully putting strong material like this to music is actually a lot more difficult than it seems, primarily because the poems have a powerful personality, have their own "music" in a way and certainly are very strongly rhythmic. They're not lyrics - and there's a world of difference between poetry and lyrics. Anyway enough of my dour finger-wagging - probably one immediate thing is not to try to copy JCC's delivery......a totally different approach may open up as a result......

This is a really cool challenge - the full cigar to The World Famous!!
posted by MajorDundee at 1:24 PM on May 31, 2012

Yeah. that video I linked to is JCC with the Invisible Girls on the Old Grey. I quite liked that version although it took a bit of the edge off what JCC was like live (I took my second ever girlfriend on our first date to see JCC at the Albert Hall, along with Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Alan Ginsberg!).
posted by unSane at 2:25 PM on May 31, 2012

Many of his poems scan, to me, like a very particular kind of punk music, the sort that teeters somewhere between studded leather jackets and airbrushed denim, veering occasionally to calf-length cargo shorts with Doc Martens.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:10 AM on June 1, 2012

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