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Who is Robert Moog?

He was the Steve Jobs of Electronica. Robert Moog created the Moog synthesizer, one of the very first electronic musical instruments. And recently Google’s Doodle celebrated the 78th birthday of this electronic genius with–believe it or not–an actual working synthesizer.


The Google Doodle for May 23, 2012 is an interactive Moog synthesizer.  

A Sound Idea
The Moog synthesizer has drifted in and out of style, first coming to prominence during the time of its creation and greatest use–the 60s and 70s. It was patented in the mid 60s, and then was utilized in classic hits from all kinds of music – from The Beatles classic “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” to The Doors “Strange Days,” which was one of the earliest uses of the Moog synth. 

More recently, app developers and independent creators who learn how to develop iPhone and iPad apps, have made apps that re-create the classic synthesizer. It’s amazing to see this old-school analog technology being adapted in the digital age. More interestingly, how the lower price of the “digital version” of the keyboard has made it more accessible.


Bob Moog at his workbench building another synth. 

The Moog keyboard has been a staple of modern music since its creation and continues to inspire and bring to life great music. Let’s take a look back at some Moog classics:

  • The Doors “Strange Days” (1967) One of the earliest uses of a Moog synth, this song features the moody sound of the instrument (played to perfection by the band’s keyboardist, Ray Manzarek) rolling behind Jim Morrison’s booming voice.
  • The Beatles “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” (1969) The “Abbey Road” album has several Moog songs, but none as amazing as the closing track on Side One, where a building wall of synthesized white noise finally overtakes the song.
  • Pink Floyd “Wish You Were Here” (1975) The progressive space-rock group’s classic ode to loneliness is delivered using the Moog sound.
  • Donna Summer “I Feel Love” (1977) The recently departed Queen of Disco melted turntables with this pulsating romantic song, whose main sound is the Moog (played by keyboardist Giorgio Moroder).
  • Blondie “Heart of Glass” (1979) Blondie charted an international Number One single (it sold nearly 3.5 million copies) with this New Wave/Disco song. It features not only a Moog synthesizer but it’s also the first use of a Roland CR-78 drum machine on recorded single.
  • Coldplay “Paradise” (2011) The band uses a wide range of synth sounds on this track, along with its traditional piano and guitar attack.

Numerous other artists and bands have created tracks with a Moog synthesizer, including musical acts as diverse as the Beastie Boys, Parliament, Santana, Stevie Wonder and The Doors. More recently, artists like Deadmau5 and Alicia Keys have also been spotted using a Moog.

Watch Brett Domino play Daft Punk’s Aerodynamic using the Google synth. 

Living in an Electronic World
Although his invention was embraced by musicians around the world (even today by students eager to learn music production or those who want to learn how to make your own beats), Robert Moog remained humble, stating “I’m an engineer. I see myself as a toolmaker and the musicians are my customers. They use my tools.”

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posted by Phill Powell in Featured and have No Comments

What’s the Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band Ever? (Part 2)

And The Winner Is…
We recently undertook the task of figuring out who was the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll of all time. The conclusion? The Rolling Stones.


The four core members of The Rolling Stones: (from left) Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Ron Wood.

Here are five reasons the “lads from London” are the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band ever:

1. Endurance
July 2012 will mark the 50th anniversary of The Rolling Stones’ first gig (at London’s Marquee Club). In all likelihood, the band will commemorate the occasion with a 2013 tour. Industry analysts are already predicting that a 50th Anniversary Tour will become the most profitable music tour of all time. No other Rock ‘n’ Roll band of this stature has lasted this long. Put in perspective, The Beatles existed for only about 10 years, or just one-fifth the amount of time The Stones have been playing together. The Stones have outlasted the administrations of eight U.S. presidents.

And the band has lived through one technological advance after another; The Stones started out appearing on black-and-white television, then prospered on MTV during the 80s music-video explosion and now have taken up permanent residence online. (The Rolling Stones was also the first big act to broadcast a concert via the Internet, when a 20-minute video was “streamed” in 1994.) Many passing fads have come and gone during this time, yet The Stones remain as steady and unchanging as the Rock of Gibraltar. The group is one of the few musical acts to chart Number One albums in three separate decades—yet more proof of its enduring appeal.


The five-decade writing partnership between Jagger and Richards has created some of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s most durable songs. The pair produces music under the name “The Glimmer Twins.”

2. You Can’t Get Them Out of Your Head
Tune in to any Classic Rock channel and you’ll hear reason after reason why The Stones are our top pick. The group’s signature tunes (and there are many) include “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Brown Sugar,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Start Me Up,” “Paint It, Black,” “Wild Horses,” “Get Off My Cloud,” “Street Fighting Man,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Gimme Shelter,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “19th Nervous Breakdown,” “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” “Angie,” “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It),” “Miss You,” “Shattered” and the list rolls on and on.

Aside from its long string of hit singles (which includes nine Number One smashes), the group has racked up an amazing number of album sales. Among the 24 studio albums, 12 live albums and various compilation albums, The Stones have amassed worldwide sales topping 200 million albums. Beyond that, starting with “Sticky Fingers,” the group had eight straight albums hold the Number One spot on the U.S. charts.

3. The Live Performances
The Stones’ last tour is now considered the highest-grossing tour of all time, earning $558 million. During this tour alone, some 4.6 million fans caught one of the band’s 147 shows. Calculating the total number of people who have seen The Rolling Stones in concert over the decades is probably impossible, but some estimates have claimed the band has played between 2,000 and 2,500 total full-scale concerts, which excludes television appearances and similar gigs. (Another way to think about that total is one show per night, every night…for almost seven straight years.)

In addition, The Stones played the single biggest concert ever, when its February 2006 concert on the Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) was attended by an estimated 1.5 million people. At this point, it’s safe to assume that The Rolling Stones have played Rock ‘n’ Roll music live to more human beings than any other group ever. And each and every audience member has gotten their money’s worth.


The cover of The Stones’ sprawling 1972 epic “Exile on Main Street,” which “The ‘Rolling Stone’ Album Guide” called “the best double album in rock & roll history.”

4. Artistic Achievement
Judging artistic achievement can be tricky, because it’s partly a subjective exercise. Nonetheless, over time a critical consensus is reached about the worth of certain works of art. And among Rock ‘n’ Roll acts, no other outfit can match The Stones for musical masterpieces—not even The Beatles, whose classic works really consist of five albums (“Rubber Soul” (‘65), “Revolver” (‘66), “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (‘67), “The Beatles” which is usually called “The White Album” (‘68) and “Abbey Road” (‘69)).

Meanwhile, The Rolling Stones have made no fewer than eight albums which are now considered undisputed Rock ‘n’ Roll masterpieces: “The Rolling Stones, Now!” (‘65), “Aftermath” (‘66), “Beggars Banquet” (‘68), “Let it Bleed” (‘69), “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!” (‘70), “Sticky Fingers” (‘71), “Exile on Main Street” (’72) and “Some Girls” (‘78). The Stones’ five-year period between 1968 and 1972 is considered one of the greatest creative streaks Rock ‘n’ Roll music has ever seen.

5. Consistent Personnel
No major older band still retains its original line-up, but The Stones come close. Three of the original five members (lead vocalist Mick Jagger, rhythm guitar genius Keith Richards and master drummer Charlie Watts) are still active. Even the band’s replacement members have been around for a long time.

Guitarist Ron Wood, for example, has been playing with the group since the mid-70s—more than 35 years. Even “newcomer” bassist Darryl Jones, who replaced original member Bill Wyman, has been with the band for nearly 20 years. Only two members of the group ever officially quit, and Richards has repeatedly stated that The Rolling Stones is a lifetime gig. (“The only way out of this band is in a box,” he once quipped.)


Secret Weapon: Drummer Charlie Watts, seen here on stage and behind plexiglass screens containing that show’s set list.

Keepers of the Flame
Although The Rolling Stones have assimilated other forms of music into its overall sound, at its core the band has remained faithful to its Blues-steeped influences. (The band was named after a song by Blues legend Muddy Waters, as was Dylan’s classic “Like a Rolling Stone” and the magazine “Rolling Stone.”) Even now, whenever he travels, Keith Richards carries Chuck Berry’s entire body of music with him—so obsessed is he with the great early rocker. And like the great Blues artists, The Rolling Stones have always planned to carry on playing their unique style of music even into their senior years. Back in 1972, an interviewer asked Mick Jagger if he could see imagine himself still belting out “Satisfaction” on stage in his sixties. “Yeah, easily” replied Jagger, without hesitating for a single second. And on they roll.

The Debate Rages On
Music lovers root for their favorite bands like sports fans supporting their preferred team. Emotions can run high, because music is precious to nearly everybody. No wonder so many young people want to learn music production and join the recording industry.

What do you think is the greatest band of all time? Oh yeah? Well maybe you’d like to step outside and settle this thing once and for all…

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posted by Phill Powell in Music Production,News Blog and have No Comments

What’s the Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band Ever? (Part 1)

It’s the type of debate everyone has an opinion on – and might even lead to a nosebleed for those really passionate about the subject. Still the question remains: What’s the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band ever?


The Rolling Stones 2006 concert “The Bigger Bang Tour,” the most profitable music tour ever.

Before we answer the question, let’s first define the terms:

Hey, We’re Talking Rock ‘n’ Roll Here!
Don’t be fooled: Rock ‘n’ Roll music is not the same thing as Rock, which is an umbrella term that covers many musical sub-genres. On the other hand, Rock ‘n’ Roll refers to the “original recipe” that occurred when Rhythm & Blues was first mixed with Country. To be precise, Rock ‘n’ Roll is typically 12-bar Chicago Blues, but accelerated and amplified through electric instruments.

The emphasis in Rock ‘n’ Roll is on the beat and that important sense of rhythm is exactly what separates it from Rock music. Put another way, the main musician in Rock is the electric guitarist. The primary player in Rock ‘n’ Roll had better be the drummer…or you should get your money back immediately (because the band probably sucks).

Groups vs. Performers
While we’re defining terms, we should be specific about the type of musical outfit. Remember, we’re talking about Rock ‘n’ Roll bands—not solo performers. A band is a specific type of musical unit, and one that depends on the personalities and interaction of its members. Granted, Elvis Presley almost always had an ace band supporting his vocals, but he’s known as a solo performer. So, for our purposes, we won’t be considering individual performers. (Sorry, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, etc.)


Sure, The Beatles were fantastic…but some of the band’s music is more Pop than Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Why Not <INSERT NAME OF YOUR FAVORITE BAND HERE> Instead?
If our original question had been “What is the favorite all-time Rock band?” the answer would be simple: The Beatles, which has been embraced by each successive generation of music fans since the 60s and which has sold more albums than any other musical act, according to industry estimates. But that wasn’t our question.

We want to pinpoint the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band of all time. And while The Beatles started out playing Rock ‘n’ Roll music, as its career progressed, the band routinely ventured away from Rock ‘n’ Roll and into other sounds (some of them quite experimental). It’s probably more accurate to consider The Beatles the greatest Pop-Rock band of all time, because its sound almost always had a soft melodic edge. Similarly, if we were selecting the greatest Rock band of all time, we might choose a group whose sound carried more sheer electric power, like The Who or Led Zeppelin.

The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band Ever 
Okay, enough discussion. The greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band ever is…ta-daaa!…The Rolling Stones.


The original line-up of “The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band Ever,” circa 1965: (front row) Mick Jagger, Brian Jones; (middle) Bill Wyman; (back row) Charlie Watts, Keith (Captain Jack Sparrow’s father) Richards.

The Debate Rages On
Music lovers root for their favorite bands like sports fans supporting their preferred team. Emotions can run high, because music is precious to nearly everybody. No wonder so many young people want to learn music production and join the recording industry.

What do you think is the greatest band of all time? Stick around for Part Two of our series – we lay out the evidence that proves our claim: The Rolling Stones is the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band of all time.

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posted by Phill Powell in Music Production,News Blog and have No Comments

Who Was Edgar Allan Poe?

“The Raven,” stars John Cusack as one of America’s greatest literary figures. The thriller, set in 19th century Baltimore, involves a string of brutal and horrifying murders, crimes that seem inspired by the shocking stories of a local writer—Edgar Allan Poe.


In “The Raven,” John Cusack plays Poe in a tale of murders most monstrous.

This isn’t the first time Poe has appeared in a motion picture. In fact, the famous writer/poet/critic is featured in Francis Ford Coppola’s experimental horror film, “Twixt.” In that story, the main character (played by Val Kilmer) has an eerie dream in which he visits with a very-much-alive Poe…despite his death in 1849.

Haunted from Birth
So who was this strange little man with the haunted eyes and drooping moustache? In many regards he was America’s first professional writer; before Edgar Allen Poe, the thought of a writer actually making enough money to support himself was laughable. Poe was one of the first writers to make his living completely from his pen.

But it wasn’t an easy life. An orphan at age 2, Poe was dead by 40 (and under mysterious circumstances: found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, incoherent as if drunk and wearing clothes that he did not own). To this day, there is no final verdict on what killed him.


One of the few photographs of the real Edgar Allan Poe, taken about a year before his mysterious death.

During his short life, Edgar Allan Poe experienced much tragedy. He grew up in a foster family where he received harsh discipline. As a young man, he dropped out of the University of Virginia, in part due to mounting gambling debts. Later he was court-martialed out of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point for neglecting his duties.

Years later, after he was steadily making a name for himself as a writer, he published the classic horror poem, “The Raven,” but although the poem made Poe world-famous, there was no such thing as copyright law at the time and Poe only earned $7 for his masterpiece. Shortly thereafter, his young wife died—emotionally scarring the brilliant writer. Within seven years, Poe himself was dead.


In Francis Ford Coppola’s “Twixt,” Val Kilmer consults with Poe (played by Ben Chaplin).

Tortured Soul…But Productive Life
And yet, in spite of a brutally hard life, Poe achieved some amazing things:

  • He’s considered the father of American horror, as writers like Stephen King have often acknowledged. Many of his scariest works have been adapted for film over the years.
  • Poe is one of the first American writers credited with popularizing the short story as a literary format.
  • The father of the modern detective story, Poe’s famous “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” was the very first ever in which a detective solves a mystery by piecing together clues and using deductive reasoning. (Modern TV shows like “CSI” owe Poe an enormous debt of inspiration.)
  • Poe helped establish the genre of science fiction.
  • A great poet, Poe published classic verse like “The Bells” and “A Dream within a Dream.”
  • Poe was also a hugely influential literary critic, who commented on the work of other writers and poets.

Finally, Poe was a larger-than-life character whose own personal misfortunes seemed to mirror the awful and mysterious aspects of his writing. There are only a few photographs of Poe and he’s never smiling in any of them. Furthermore, there are few if any “happy endings” within his stories and poems. Poe seemed to be as haunted as his imagination, and the public image of a troubled, unhappy artist has stuck with him for well more than a century.

Poe in Pop Culture
Edgar Allan Poe cast a very long shadow and he’s rarely been out of public circulation. This “master of the macabre” keeps turning up in the strangest places:

1. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” The Beatles…Poe is one of the many celebrities and public figures featured on this 1967 landmark album’s equally famous cover. The collage mixes the images of more than 70 figures, with Poe anchoring the back row (between pioneering psychiatrist Carl Jung and Fred Astaire, Hollywood’s greatest dancer).


Even The Beatles saluted Poe; he appears in the middle of the back row of celebrities on “Sgt. Pepper.”

2. “Play Misty for Me”…In the first film Clint Eastwood directed (1971), Clint plays a DJ who has a brief fling with a fan, not realizing that she’s a complete maniac. But he finally gets the point…or nearly does. Played by Jessica Walter (now the mother on TV’s “Modern Family”), the unhinged fan quotes from Poe’s tragic love poem “Annabel Lee,” and it’s never gotten a spookier reading.

3. The Baltimore Ravens…The pro football team (which captured the 2000 Super Bowl championship) needed a new name when the Cleveland Browns franchise was bought and moved to Baltimore. A fan contest was conducted to select the new name. Although other titles were considered (e.g., “The Baltimore Marauders,” “The Baltimore Americans”), the team was eventually named in honor of Edgar Allan Poe and his most famous poem because Poe had lived and eventually died in the northeastern city. Now the team’s three raven mascots share his name; one’s called “Edgar,” another is “Allan” and a third is called “Poe.”


When a new NFL franchise came to Baltimore, a fan contest chose “Ravens” in honor of Poe’s famous poem.

Putting Poe to Work
Edgar Allen Poe would have loved the medium of digital filmmaking—now it’s possible to bring a writer’s vision to life and take audiences even deeper into their world. All it takes is an active imagination and some Hollywood visual effects to help create nightmares that leave a lasting impression on people. Poe would be proud.

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posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Music Legends: The Beastie Boys

It seems like only yesterday that the music world first turned on to three dudes from New York City. But ever since they exploded onto the scene, the Beastie Boys have defied all expectations.


Elder statesmen of Hip Hop: the men called Beastie.  From left: Mike D (Michael Diamond), King Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz) and MCA (Adam Yauch). 

Has it been 25 years already? Originally considered a novelty act, the Beastie Boys have endured and grown musically. Now the men known as MCA (aka Adam Yauch), Mike D (Michael Diamond) and King Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz) are respected elder statesmen of the Hip Hop movement. Recently inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, the Boys have accumulated total sales exceeding 20 million albums and have carved out a lasting musical legacy.

At the beginning, they were just three white guys trying to make rap music – and have fun. The band originally had two other members and the Beastie Boys played primarily Punk Rock, or some variation of it. But they were in New York right at the time when Rap started taking off and they eventually channeled their inner MCs.

In celebration of their recent Hall of Fame triumph, we thought we’d sift through a quarter-century of Beastie madness and salute a handful of their top tracks:

Track: “Cooky Puss”
Album: Some Old Bulls*&% (1983)
Why You Should Listen: In the beginning, there was the turntable. And it was funny. At least it was how the Beasties used it in their ’83 breakthrough single, “Cooky Puss,” a series of prank phone calls overlaid on a Hip Hop beat and mixed with plenty of turntable scratching.

It’s difficult to decide which is more amusing—the goofy sounds of a Steve Martin comedy album being slowed down and stretched on the turntable or the comical rudeness the Beasties display when phoning a local Carvel Ice Cream shop. At first, the Carvel worker mistakenly assumes that the caller wants to order a Cooky Puss ice cream cake. Instead, the Beasties act as if the cake were a real person. “Yo, I said I’m calling you, babeee!” Mike D tells the unlucky worker. “Yo man, Cooky Puss there? I want to speak to Cooky Puss!” (The Carvel worker then hangs up, prompting a hilariously unprintable response from Mike D.)


The early Beastie Boys yukking it up, not long after emerging from the New York club scene with “Cooky Puss.”

Now collected on 1994’s Some Old Bulls*&%, “Cooky Puss” first appeared on an EP with three other songs. As fate would have it, a British Airways TV commercial used a piece of one of the other numbers (“Beastie Revolution”). In what may have been the first lawsuit based on illegal sampling of music, the Beasties successfully sued the airline for $40,000. That sum provided the seed money for the Beastie Boys to rent an apartment in New York’s Chinatown district, where they dug in and worked on mastering the rhythms of Rap and the nuances of Hip Hop. Meanwhile, the group released a series of 12-inch singles which stoked their following within the New York club scene. The Beastie Boys were on their way. And within just a couple of years, they would be world famous.


The inspiration for the Beasties’ first success: Carvel’s “Cooky Puss” ice cream cake.

Track: “Fight for Your Right” (To Party!!!)
Album: Licensed to Ill (1986)
Why You Should Listen: The cover illustration shows the back half of a sleek Beastie Boys jet; the back-cover illustration shows the front half—with the plane crashed right into the side of a mountain. Such humor pervades Licensed to Ill, the first Beastie Boys album and the very first Rap album to shoot to the Number One slot on the Billboard charts (where it remained for five weeks). Furthermore, the album got positive acclaim, even from publications like Rolling Stone, which titled its review, “Three Idiots Create a Masterpiece.”

What made Licensed worthy of becoming the best selling Rap album of the 1980s? For starters, it was brilliantly assembled by Rick Rubin, who is now acknowledged as one of the music industry’s greatest producers. It was also successful in part because people didn’t quite know what to make of it. (Was it a serious Rap album? Was it a novelty comedy record? And why was there Heavy Metal guitar and drums on some numbers?) Furthermore, there was a racial aspect that surrounded the Beastie’s success. At the time, there really were no commercially successful white rappers, although Licensed would inspire legions of white kids to pick up a mic and get their MC on. (One of them was a 14-year-old from Detroit named Marshall Mathers, aka Eminem.)


When Licensed to Ill exploded with sales of 5 million albums, the Beastie Boys became a headlining act.

Aside from great production and an intriguing mix that seems to change its sound with each track, Licensed had attitude—massive, unyielding tons of attitude. And nowhere was that ‘tude louder and prouder than in the classic rock ‘n’ roll anthem, “Fight for Your Right.” Promoted through a hilarious MTV video, “Fight for Your Right” is about a teenager’s defiance of social restrictions and parental authority.

Upon its release the song was already being compared to great previous statements of teenage angst such as Kiss’s “Rock and Roll All Night,” Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” and Cheap Trick’s “Surrender.” Before Licensed, the Beasties had already toured with big acts like Madonna, Run DMC and LL Cool J. After Licensed sold 5 million copies, the Beasties returned to the road as headliners.

In the scandalous tour that followed, there were lawsuits and arrests. At one unhinged 1987 performance in Liverpool, England (the Beatles’ home town), the crowd went completely nuts and a riot ensued…only 10 minutes into the show. The Beastie Boys were now officially a phenomenon.

Track: “B-Boy Bouillabaisse”
Album: Paul’s Boutique (1989)
Why You Should Listen: The term sophomore slump is used in the music business to illustrate what happens to many recording artists who are lucky enough to strike gold with their first album. What do they then do for a follow-up? Few understood this dilemma better than the Beastie Boys. Sure, the group had made a big splash with Licensed to Ill, but was there anything else they could do? The answer would come with 1989’s Paul’s Boutique, one of the strongest and strangest albums that any branch of popular music has ever produced.

Tired of their label (DefJam) and unsure of their next move, the Beasties relocated to Los Angeles in 1988 and hooked up with the Dust Brothers production team. Together they spent 16 months crafting Paul’s Boutique. Now considered one of the touchstones of Rap (as well as a production masterpiece in the same league as The Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), Paul’s Boutique was initially considered a failure, largely because it only rose to Number 14 on the Billboard album charts.

The album contained a couple of moderately successful singles (“Hey Ladies” and “Shake Your Rump”), but nothing like its predecessor. And few listeners knew what to make of it, considering that its densely layered sound was like nothing else that existed anywhere in commercial music. And it was a song cycle that contained few (if any) breaks between the tracks, which made it even more difficult to follow along and know which song you were listening to at any point.


One of the most iconic images in Rap music: the cover shot of 1989′s masterpiece, Paul’s Boutique. As you can see, it was a real clothing store in Brooklyn. (The album even contained a brief radio spot for the boutique.)

A wonderland of cultural references, Paul’s Boutique seemed to draw inspiration and samples from everywhere…Rap songs, Rock music, TV shows, movies, whatever…and contained samples from more than one hundred songs (most of which were cleared for use by their copyright holders, to the tune of approximately $250,000). And because it’s the odd Rap album indeed that includes a sample from Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” Paul’s Boutique remains a piece of music that requires numerous repeat listenings in order to untangle all the lyrics and pop references.

Its odd sonic touches remain endearing, such as the brief hillbilly hayride that opens Side 2 (“5-Piece Chicken Dinner”) and the starting seconds of “3-Minute Rule,” when we clearly hear the unmistakable back-and-forth clip-clop of a ping-pong match.

The album closes with “B-Boy Bouillabaise,” a conjoined 12-minute suite of 9 mini-songs which itself contains 24 individual samples. Among the album’s tracks, this may be the best overview of Paul’s Boutique. Like the album, it’s crammed with pop references and showcases the band’s intense creativity and artistic ambition. Before Paul’s Boutique, many considered the Beastie Boys a fluke. Afterward, most critics were in awe of a musical group that could capture a sound this wild and dense. The Beastie Boys were now artists…and Paul’s Boutique would eventually be understood as the group’s magnum opus.

Track: “So What’cha Want”
Album: Check Your Head (1992)
Why You Should Listen: It’s important to remember that the Beasties started out as a Punk/Thrash band before sliding into Rap and Hip Hop. After Paul’s Boutique stiffed, the group was looking for a new direction—so it went backwards. For their next album the band members returned to their roots and started playing their own instruments again…with Mike D pummeling the drums, MCA mastering the bass and Ad-Rock attacking the lead guitar (as he had done in an earlier band named “The Young and the Useless”). Is there a Grunge influence to Check Your Head? Quite possibly, given that this same period saw the meteoric rise of bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. And the playing has a rough edge that was common to Grunge.


By the time the Beasties recorded Check Your Head, the group was playing its own instruments, as it had when just starting out.

Of course, it’s still a Beastie Boys album and that means plenty of Rap along with lots of Rock. The album’s biggest and best single, “So What’cha Want,” seems more like a traditional bragging Rap, wherein the Rapper calls out the weakness of other MCs. Mighty MCA wastes no time putting all chumps in their place: “Well, I’m as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce/You’ve got the rhyme and reason but no cause/So if you’re hot to trot, you think you’re slicker than grease/I got news for you crews, you’ll be sucking like a leech.”

Track: “Sabotage”
Album: Ill Communication (1994)
Why You Should Listen: Check Your Head provided the rough blueprint for the Beasties’ next album. Like its predecessor, Ill Communication was part Rap and part Rock, along with a few novelty bits and a couple of instrumentals. And although Check Your Head had broken into the Top Ten, by the time Ill Communication dropped in 1994, the group had amassed a sizeable following—enough for the new album to enter the Billboard Hot 200 chart at Number One. And when ticket sales began for the following year’s tour, few were surprised to find that tickets sold out within only a few minutes.


The action-packed music video for “Sabotage” replicated the opening of a 1970s cop show.

While Ill Communication was well-executed with numerous memorable songs (e.g., “Sure Shot,” “Heart Attack Man”), the album’s stand-out track was a three-minute howl of rage called “Sabotage.” Built around a savage one-chord guitar riff invented in the 70s by Rock wild man Ted Nugent, “Sabotage” is Hard Rock with a Rap lyric. By this point, the Beastie Boys had become so free with their allusions that they weren’t afraid to mention a once-famous Jazz drummer who was known as much for his explosive temper as his skill (“But make no mistake and switch up my channel/I’m Buddy Rich when I fly off the handle”). Of course, few members of the Beasties’ audience would have had any idea who Buddy Rich was…but that’s part of the point with the Beastie Boys. They don’t pander to their audience and never really have.

The Beats Go On…
This past summer, the Beastie Boys returned with the long-anticipated Hot Sauce Committee Part Two album. Despite a cancer scare that had temporarily sidelined Adam Yauch, the group came back strong with another wily mix of sounds that leans more toward the group’s Hip Hop heritage (as did 1998’s Hello Nasty). And through tracks such as “Too Many Rappers (Not Enough MCs),” “Here’s a Little Something For Ya,” and “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win,” the group proved conclusively that despite more than 25 years as a performing and recording unit, the world hasn’t heard the last from the Beastie Boys. Not too bad a legacy for three punks from New York.


From bratty punks to respected studio masters, the Beastie Boys have defied time and expectations.

Making Beats Like the Beasties
The Beastie Boys have long been able to come up with fresh and complex beats, and use those rhythm tracks in interesting ways. Today music production is an elemental part of all forms of mass communication and is used in everything from TV commercials to the latest chart-topping album. If you’re still wanting to learn how to make your own beats and take you rightful place among the next generation of musicians and music producers, why not start now? Music production is a multi-million dollar industry, and music production summer camps like the one sponsored by The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus can get you on your way.

The Music Legends series pays tributes to influential artists, music personalities and styles of music. If you have an artist or type of music you’d like us to showcase, let us know via the comments.

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posted by Phill Powell in Music Production,News Blog and have No Comments

World’s Wildest Web Cams

Before smartphones, web cams streamed video feeds across the Internet. In 1994, Lou Montulli (a Netscape employee) hooked an SGI indycam up to an SGI Indy workstation to take pictures of fish:

Fishcam


“Nemo! Nemo? Nemo!!!!”

Netscape was building these things called “web browsers” and “web servers.” Taking pictures of fish and posting them to the web seemed like a good idea. The camera produced a 640 x 480 pixel image. It took almost 20 seconds of CPU power to capture an image, add overlay text and post it to the web. The image was updated once a minute.

Fishcam broadcasted live images of the fishtank to something called the World Wide Web. Fishcam was the second live web camera to  broadcast on the web and is the oldest camera site still in existence. The original Netscape tank was a 40-gallon oceanic (or salt-water) tank. A year later it was replaced by a larger 90-gallon tank. In 1996, Netscape took the webcam offline.  In 2009, Lou Montulli re-started Fishcam with a 600-gallon tank. Today’s Fishcam has a resolution of 2560 x 1440 and it posts images faster than once a second.

Live Las Vegas Wedding Chapel


Viva la Vegas!

Interested in wildlife of another type? They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but not with this live cam around. People go crazy in Las Vegas and get married at all hours of the night, and this cam puts you in the thick of the festivities. Now the next time you’re up grabbing a late-night snack, why not log on and check out the 3:45 am wedding ceremony of Bob and Lydia from Detroit?


Keep an eye out for the Beatlemaniacs.

Abbey Road Web Cam  It was the setting of one of the most famous album covers in rock ‘n’ roll history and now there’s a web cam that lets you revisit the famed London intersection (the “zebra crossing,” as it’s also called) where the four Beatles crossed the street in single file, as captured on the cover of 1969’s Abbey Road. The Beatles recorded more than 90 percent of the band’s music at Abbey Road Studios, and now you can check out who’s crossing Abbey Road at any given moment. Hint: Expect to see scores of tourists, who now regularly flock to the site from around the world—one of the most iconic in all of popular music.

Loch Ness Monster Cam Millions of years ago, what is now known as Scotland’s Loch Ness was part of the seas, and many theorists claim that the Ice Age sealed off the lake…and kept any previous creatures within those boundaries. For nearly 100 years, visitors to the boggy lake have remained on the look-out for what may be the most famous resident of Loch Ness—a serpent-like, sea-dragon creature that could be a modern form of plesiosaur. What was that ripple you just observed on the water? Loch Ness Monster cam lets you continue the visual search for “Nessie” while you wait for your fast-food order or sit through a car wash.


This computer might have a bug in it.

Cockroach Cam  The official mascot for the Univ. of South Carolina is the gamecock, or super chicken, but lately the school may be getting known more for another form of animal life being webcast from the Columbia, S.C., campus. Known scientifically as gromphadorhina portentosa (which is Latin for “big, ugly and loud”), the web cam is devoted to showing the daily routine of numerous specimens of giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroach. Why would you want to visit this web cam? We can’t answer that for you, but if you find yourself becoming emotionally attached to the hissing cockroaches, feel free to drop by Room 706 of USC’s Coker Life Sciences Building and meet the “stars” of this cam. Just don’t expect autographs.

Revolutionizing the Internet
Web cams are just one of the Internet’s many revolutions. Aspiring web designers are always looking for the next best thing; the first trick is mastering the basic skills of web development. Computer camps like those run by Digital Media Academy provide the core foundation needed by designers of all types of web sites. Learn the basics of web design and you could build websites that make Internet users take notice — without taking pictures of fish.

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posted by Phill Powell in News Blog,Web Development and have No Comments

Total Recall Remake & The 5 Most Anticipated Movies of 2012

With just a couple of months left in 2011, moviegoers are already looking toward 2012. And why not? 2012 looks to be a banner year for big-screen blockbusters. Not only do superhero fans have The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man to look forward to, but sci-fi fans are anticipating the remake of an Arnold Schwarzenegger classic too.

1. The Avengers (May 4, 2012)

Featuring a comic-book store full of A-list actors, fans are counting down the days until The Avengers premieres.

What do you get when you take the world’s hottest superheroes and assemble them for a film? The Avengers, of course! This spring, Marvel Studios will release a superhero action flick that has been in development for years.

Written and directed by Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog), The Avengers will bring together the superhero talents of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner),  and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) as agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.


On the set of The Avengers with Robert Downey Jr., Joss Whedon, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans.

The superheroes are assembled to defeat the extraterrestrial invaders led by the super villian Loki, who has come to earth to destory it. The first film to be distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, The Avengers is the culmination of years of groundwork by Marvel Studios. Even the actors know the importance of the film in the Marvel movie mythos and stepped up their game too: Actor Jeremy Renner took archery lessons for his role, while actor Chris Hemsworth maintained his two-chickens-a-day diet for his Thor psychic.

Shot in locations around the country like Albuquerque, New Mexico, Cleveland, Ohio, and New York City, the film promises to blow audiences out of their seats. Need more proof? Check out the official Avengers movie trailer.

2. The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3, 2012)

If  The Avengers doesn’t satisfy your appetite for Marvel superheroes, The Amazing Spider-Man will.

Spider-Man is no stranger to movie screens, especially after a trio of well-reviewed, record-breaking, big-budget action flicks, which starred Tobey Maguire as the world’s greatest swinger. Now Sony, the studio behind Spidey, are hoping to reboot it for a whole new generation.

The Amazing Spider-Man stars Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and this time around Marc Webb is directing the film. The rest of the cast includes Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Sally Field as Aunt May and Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben.

Garfield, who made an appearance in costume at Comic-Con 2011, is a longtime fan of the comic book; his turn as the web slinger is hotly anticipated by not only screaming 16-year-old girls but by longtime Spider-Man fanboys. Mainly because, like The Avengers, this film will return to the roots of our favorite web-head and will focus more on Parker’s high school experience. Accordingly, the grumpy Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson will not appear in the new movie.

Someone who will be making an appearance, is Marvel Comics genius Stan Lee, who probably created (or co-created) more big-name superheroes than any other comics giant. SPOILER ALERT: “Stan the Man” will have a cameo in the new film as a librarian plugged in to his earbuds and is oblivious to a battle between Spider-Man and arch foe, The Lizard. The Amazing Spider-Man will be released in 3D and IMAX 3D.

3. Total Recall (August 3, 2012)

Collin Farrell takes over Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role in the new Total Recall.

Easily the most anticipated sci-fi flick of 2012, the much-rumored remake of the 1990 sci-fi/thriller Total Recall casts Colin Farrell in the role of Douglas Quaid, originally played by Arnold Schwarzenneger.

Not a lot of info has been released about the film, but that still hasn’t stopped fans from speculating about why Ethan Hawke makes a cameo. The original film was well ahead of it’s time, from full-body X-ray video machines to wall-sized televisions; the technology alone made it a cult classic. The latest version will continue that trend, with a futuristic look at a nation-state called New Shanghai. The film also stars Bryan (Breaking Bad) Cranston, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale.


On location in Toronto, Canada, this futuristic police cruiser gets a little help chasing down Quaid. 

What won’t be appearing in the new version, which will be directed by Len Wiseman, is the planet Mars, which was the main location of the original movie. Instead, this Recall will take place on earth in nation-states called “Euromerica” and “New Shanghai.” As before, the plot will involve a factory drone (Farrell) who comes to believe that he’s being used as a spy, although at this point we don’t know much more than that.

4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (December 14, 2012)

Martin Freeman plays Bilbo Baggins in the prequel to The Lord of The Rings.

It’s time to return to Middle Earth with director Peter Jackson and the characters you fell in love with in The Lord of the Rings. Hobbit Bilbo Baggins must journey to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim a treasure taken by the dragon Smaug. Bilbo is joined by a group of dwarves, while appearances by new/old friends, Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Frodo (Elijah Wood), and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) will keep fans riveted to the screen.

The film itself is eagerly awaited for several reasons, in part because it was in limbo while producer Peter Jackson and the rights were sorted out in a high-profile Hollywood drama. Director Guillermo del Toro (HellBoy, Pan’s Labyrinth) will helm the film.

5. The Dark Knight Rises (July 20, 2012)

Batman takes on Bane in the latest Dark Knight saga.

Following hot on Spider-Man’s heels in July is Batman – that is, Christopher Nolan’s version of the caped crusader. In what many have said may be the final chapter in Nolan’s Batman series, Batman takes on Bane, another comic-based villain.

With an estimated $250 million budget, The Dark Knight Rises is rumored to be best of the bunch. Two new characters are introduced: Anne Hathaway plays Catwoman, Tom Hardy plays the unstoppable Bane, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays John Blake. The formula must be working, because this is the first Batman trilogy to have the same director and actor (Nolan and Bale, respectively).

Making Movies Super
What other movies can we look forward to in 2012? How about a Star Trek sequel, the 23rd James Bond film and Men in Black 3? Movies are still greatest America’s cultural export, and next year’s crop of blockbusters reflect how important digital filmmaking techniques have become to modern cinema. Learning to use powerful editing software such as Apple’s Final Cut Pro is key to getting a foot in the door at today’s hottest film studios. Creating comic book characters isn’t easy either, and neither is digital filmmaking, but the crop of 2012 films listed here seem ready to take on the challenge. What do you think? Are you looking forward to these films?

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posted by Phill Powell in News Blog and have No Comments

The Best Beatle Movies & DVDs

Music fans regularly discuss The Beatles and their legacy. They were – and many would argue, still are – the most-beloved pop/rock music group in history. For some fans, their favorite Beatle album is Abbey Road. For others, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club and Revolver get high praise.


Within months of The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the group was charting four songs in the Top Ten.

Still others debate what was The Beatles’ best performance or best music video, or what was their best film. The outstanding catalog of work (The Beatles also made five movies) makes it hard to pick a single song or movie, or DVD, but since we’re professed Beatlemaniacs we thought we’d try anyway:

Top Three Beatle DVD’s
The best Beatle DVDs cover the initial rush of Beatlemania that swept over America in early 1964. While it may seem strange to focus on one era, considering their massive catalog, there is a valid reason: Later-period Beatle movies were mostly bizarre comedies and psychedelic romps that were often difficult to follow. Still, each Beatles video cited here captures the infectious energy the band originally generated, while each is from a different cinematic angle:

1. The Four Complete Historic Ed Sullivan Shows Featuring The Beatles (1964)
Why It Tops The List: The Beatles’ Ed Sullivan performance is one of the most famous television broadcasts of all time.


The Beatles share a candid moment with host Ed Sullivan.

If you really want to witness how The Beatles upended American entertainment, you need to watch the original Ed Sullivan shows, which made the band an international phenomenon. On this two-disc collection, not only do you get The Beatles in all their mop-top glory (with the most appreciative studio audience in broadcast history), but you also see the “normal” TV acts that usually populated American variety television…an assortment of comics, singers, jugglers, impressionists, etc. In addition, you even get some of the original network TV commercials that ran during the original historic broadcasts. This is living history.

2. The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit (1990)
Why It Tops The List: This behind-the-scenes documentary captures the moment when pop culture took over not only America, but the world


In this AP Photo, The Beatles meet reporters at Kennedy Airport in New York City on February 7, 1964, after their arrival from London for their first American tour.  The band (from left to right): Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and John Lennon.

NYC erupted when the Fab Four landed at JFK Airport. This movie captures that moment in a fascinating documentary. The filmmaking Maysles brothers had unprecedented access to the band members, following them around as they remained shut-ins at their hotel, which was then under siege by thousands of crazed teens screaming as if they were being boiled alive. Best moments: The boys break free and head to a dance club where they shake and shimmy with the rest of the crowd: “There’s the Peppermint Lounge crammed to the limit with continental hipsters and transistor sisters all razor-cut and Fabu-lashed, moving and grooving to the Push and Shake,” wrote critic Ronn Spencer.

3. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
Why It Tops The List: This crazy, backstage comedy featuring the antics of the Fab Four is considered a cinematic classic.


Paul, Ringo, John and George run from frantic fans. The chase was real and director Richard Lester used it in the amazing opening of A Hard Day’s Night, which perfectly captured all the energy, the fun and the excitement. This was Beatlemania.

Made quickly and with tremendous energy – as Beatlemania was still very much happening - A Hard Day’s Night follows the band on tour on England, in much the same sense as The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit follows the group around New York. Add bright, punchy jokes, some of the greatest tunes in Rock ‘n’ Roll history, and a ridiculous sub-plot of Paul watching over his mischievous grandfather, and you’ve got A Hard Day’s Night. Now considered one of the inspirations for modern music videos, director Richard Lester’s quick cutting, visual wit and marriage of image and sound make A Hard Day’s Night play fresh even now, almost as if it was made just a few weeks ago.

The Rest of The Beatles on DVD
From this point forward, reviewing the rest of the Beatle movies requires some degree of patience. The plot lines get weirder, the visuals become more psychedelic (as was all the rage back then) and the stories become harder to follow. These films also take place as the band is becoming more of an introverted studio band and less of a touring group. Consequently, gone (for the most part) are the lovable, cheerful mop-tops who charmed the world just a few years before.

Help! (1965)
Why Watch It: For the songs, The Beatles and John Lennon’s glasses.


The Beatles in Help! on location in Austria.

Primarily a secret-agent spoof (remember, the film was made in James Bond’s heyday), Help! has some great numbers in it (like the title track and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,”). It also has a plot that’s more tangled than a game of Twister, but it features some interesting bits of Beatles trivia, including the first appearance of John Lennon on film wearing his trademark round granny glasses. (Recommended, with Reservations)

Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
Why Watch It: There are some great songs, but with a confusing and psychedelic plot, it’s a movie only a Beatlemaniac could love.


John Lennon as a spaghetti-shoveling waiter is one of the highlights – and low lights – of Magical Mystery Tour.

The soundtrack ain’t bad, but the plot (featuring a bus tour of oddball characters and Beatles) was (and maybe still is) too far out for public consumption. Some of the images—such as John Lennon costumed as a mustachioed waiter serving spaghetti literally by the shovelful—are amazing, but often too surreal. This film was one of the few Beatles projects that bombed with both critics and fans. (Not Recommended)

Yellow Submarine (1968)
Why Watch It: It’s an animated classic. Although sadly, currently it’s out of print and unavailable.


John, George, Paul and Ringo’s animated counterparts. The band didn’t even lend their voices to the characters. 

One film later, The Beatles returned to form with this charming animated feature. Yellow Submarine is an eye-popping presentation that took existing Beatle themes (such as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the title track) and spun them into a wondrous, pop-art excursion. The film is still as entertaining as it is colorful and Yellow Submarine is being remade by Robert Zemeckis as a 3D computer-animated release. (Highly Recommended)

Let It Be (1970)
Why Watch It: It showcases The Beatles’ last public performance and their squabbles, which would ultimately permanently separate the band. Also, currently out of print.


The decision to release Let It Be as a film was based on financial reasons. The Beatles spent so much money on the project that their accountants informed the band they couldn’t afford to bury it, as much as the Beatles wanted to.

The Beatles were always light years ahead of the contemporary culture; here the band anticipates today’s reality TV obsession by creating the first portrait of a four-way divorce ever filmed. Let It Be is supposed to capture the taping of the next-to-last studio album, and it does that. But it also recorded all the ugly in-fighting that was taking place within the band as it started heading toward complete meltdown. You’ll hear great songs if you can stand wading through all this painful bitterness, especially the impromptu rooftop jam that would mark the group’s last public performance. (Highly Recommended)

The Beatles Anthology (1995)
Why Watch It: It’s the comprehensive and final word on all things Beatle.


The Beatles through the years.

There is one mega-DVD package to rule them all. The Beatles Anthology was made with the extensive cooperation and many interviews with the three remaining Beatles of the time – Paul, George and Ringo. It’s a five-disc documentary that starts at the very beginning, back when the four lads were starting out. From the band’s Liverpool origins, to its rugged apprenticeship in Hamburg, to the extraordinary early recordings, to worldwide celebrity and critical acclaim, all of the important themes are covered in depth. For dedicated Beatle fans who want a good ten-hour overview of the world’s top pop band.  (Highly Recommended)

Following in The Beatles’ Footsteps
The Beatles’ creativity knew no bounds. Not only did they dominate and revolutionize popular music, they also triumphed in the world of film. In addition, they were visionary in their approach to blending the two.


Even in later years, The Beatles still championed the use of new technology. 

Music and film have been fused together for years now and both media are constantly overlapping in today’s global entertainment marketplace. If the Beatles were still around today, you’d see them using some the technological tools now available to create powerful music and films. Thankfully, unlike the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, technology is considerably more accessible and cheaper. Today all you need is a computer and a little direction to follow in The Beatles’ footsteps.

For teens and kids, computer summer camps like Digital Media Academy can teach both music production and filmmaking. In some cases, music and filmmaking summer camps and programs are combined for the best of both worlds. The Beatles would certainly approve.

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posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Famous Steve Jobs Quotes: His Life Experience in His Words

Steven P. Jobs, technology innovator and co-founder of Apple Inc., transformed computers, cell phones, music and movies. Jobs’ passion, brilliance and vision inspired a generation and will influence future generations. His legacy and impact is massive. As Apple said in a company statement, “The world is immeasurably better because of Steve.”


Steve Jobs died Wednesday, October 5, 2011.

For decades to come, people will talk about Steve Jobs and how he changed not only technology, but the world. Here, Steve Jobs himself speaks about life, work and the future:

On Life:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

- Stanford University commencement address, June 2005.

On Running Apple:
“We’ve never worried about numbers. In the marketplace, Apple is trying to focus the spotlight on products, because products really make a difference. Ad campaigns are necessary for competition; IBM’s ads are everywhere. But good PR educates people; that’s all it is. You can’t con people in this business. The products speak for themselves.”

- Playboy interview, 1985

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

- BusinessWeek interview, May 1998

On Computers:
“The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it into a nationwide communications network. We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people – as remarkable as the telephone.”

- Playboy interview, 1985

“Picasso had a saying: ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal.’ We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas…I think part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians, poets, artists, zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world.”

- 1994

“I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. Humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing about a third of the way down the list. That didn’t look so good, but then someone at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of lomotion for a man on a bicycle and a man on a bicycle blew the condor away. That’s what a computer is to me: the computer is the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with. It’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.”

- Interview for the documentary “Memory and Imagination,” 1990

On Relationships:
“We’ve kept our marriage secret for over a decade.”

- Jobs’ answer to interviewer Kara Swisher asking about the “greatest misunderstanding” in Jobs’ relationship with Bill Gates. (May 2007)

On Product Design:
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

- BusinessWeek interview, May 1998

On Business:
“My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That’s how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.”

- 60 Minutes interview, 2003

On Death: 
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

- Stanford University commencement address, June 2005.

Steve Jobs’ achievements and legacy will never be forgotten. As a member of the great pantheon of technical innovators, he will live on as an inspiration to others…wherever minds aspire to create better lives for us all.

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posted by Vince Matthews in Apple,News Blog and have No Comments

How The Beatles Changed Music

The Beatles were many things simultaneously: they were the most famous celebrities of their day…the best songwriters of their age…and, ultimately, the most beloved band of all time. And one more thing: The Beatles were also the most creative single force to ever hit popular music. The band influenced generations, and the group still continues to have a profound impact. The Beatles not only changed the way music was being made, they forever changed music.


The fifth Beatle: Producer George Martin (center) worked on all but one of The Beatles’ albums.

Through ceaseless inventiveness, The Beatles set musical trends that are still being followed. They never rested on their achievements, constantly stretching the boundaries of pop music. There is a chartable creative progression that begins with the first Beatle album and ends with the last. It should also be noted that The Beatles were assisted greatly by studio wizard George Martin, who produced every Beatle album (except Let it Be) and helped the band with their various sonic experiments.

Trying to list The Beatles’ various creative achievements would take forever, but we can zero in on five songs that demonstrate the band’s technical mastery.

I Feel Fine (Beatles ’65, 1964)
How It Changed Music:  The first intentional use of feedback in a pop music recording. 


Filming the video to accompany “I Feel Fine,” Ringo plays exercise bike. On the record, he employs a rhythm that can be traced to Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say.”

In 1964, the idea of musicians actually trying to get their instruments to produce distortion was radically new. And although The Beatles certainly didn’t invent feedback and weren’t the first to incorporate it into their live act (The Who or The Kinks probably have that distinction), The Beatles were the first to release a single that featured feedback.

How It Happened: It was all due to a happy accident in the studio, when John propped his Gibson acoustic/electric against a switched-on amplifier. The guitar erupted with feedback, which stopped Lennon and McCartney in their tracks. The uniqueness of the sound impressed Lennon so much, he instantly asked producer George Martin if they could somehow use feedback in the recording. The producer suggested tacking it onto the front of the song and the rest is Rock ‘n’ Roll history. On the final master, John plucks the A string on his guitar. The note at first stings, then buzzes and finally dissolves into an ear-piercing wail. A million bands may have incorporated feedback into their sound, but The Beatles were the first to put it on record.

Eleanor Rigby (Revolver, 1966)
How It Changed Music:  Rock songs don’t always need to have happy endings – or traditional drums and guitars – to become hits. 
eleanor-rigby-england-45

Each song on the album Revolver has a unique, fully formed sound, but none more distinctive than Paul McCartney’s “Eleanor Rigby.” A grim song about alienation (“Ah…look at all the lonely people!”), “Eleanor Rigby” tells the story of a lonely woman (who eventually dies) and a lonely minister (who presides over her burial). The song was a shock to Beatle fans that were used to upbeat love songs from the Fab Four. This was a song with no happy endings. Nonetheless, despite the somber subject matter, the song spent four weeks topping the British pop charts. More than 60 pop artists have covered the song since then.

Revolver marks the point when The Beatles stopped being a live performing act and became a full-time studio band. Aside from the general exhaustion of touring, The Beatles were becoming more ambitious about their music and had already mastered conventional multi-track recording techniques. Individual songs were being crafted with more time and creative techniques. In recording “Eleanor Rigby,” McCartney’s genius was to suggest the use of an eight-piece string section. In fact, none of The Beatles actually play instruments on the recording. Instead, the song is driven by its churning cello, mournful violas and stabbing violins.

How It Happened: There was a real Eleanor Rigby, who worked as a scullery maid in a Liverpool hospital and died in 1939. As teenagers, Lennon and McCartney hung around near a cemetery bearing her tombstone. It’s been suggested that McCartney absorbed the name subconsciously and used it years later when penning the song. By the way, “Father MacKenzie” started out as “Father McCartney,” until Paul feared that people would think he was describing his own father.

Tomorrow Never Knows (Revolver, 1966)
How It Changed Music:  Experimentation is good: Part One.


Backward beats: The Beatles usher in their psychedelic period with “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

The Beatles were still a unified force in 1966, but Revolver demonstrated the individual gifts of each Beatle. Paul scored high marks with “Eleanor Rigby,” while George Harrison contributed one of his best songs (“Taxman”) and drummer Ringo Starr sang lead on the innocent anthem, “Yellow Submarine.” As for John Lennon, he added the album’s closing track – a stunning piece of early psychedelic music called “Tomorrow Never Knows.” The lyrics, inspired by The Tibetan Book of the Dead, were strange enough (“Listen to the color of your dreams”) but the song itself sounded like virtually nothing the band had recorded up to that point.

How It Happened: To give Lennon’s chanting vocal the desired “sound of a guru on a mountaintop,” producer Martin ran the vocal track through a Lesley spinning speaker, a type of speaker that produced an odd, wobbly sound. John’s vocals were also doubled by using an Automatic Double Tracking (ADT) system. Meanwhile, Ringo used a unique drum pattern for his rhythm tracks and his drums and cymbals were recorded and played in reverse, as was Harrison’s sitar. The Beatles also gave the song an added layer of weirdness by adding 16 six-second-long tape loops of various sounds (most of which were played in reverse), which producer Martin interspersed through the song. The resulting final track was an amazing, riveting piece of music that predicted the band’s next stage: psychedelia.

Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967)
How It Changed Music:  Experimentation is good: Part Two.


John Lennon points to the poster that inspired “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”

Things were getting pretty crazy in groovy 1967, and that influence colors the album that many critics regard as not only The Beatles’ best album, but the best Rock album of all time. Sgt. Pepper is loaded throughout with one innovation after another, but “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” capably demonstrates the band’s daring musical experimentation. The song’s lyrics, which tell of an upcoming old-style circus event, were inspired by an antique music-hall poster that Lennon had acquired.


Lennon used direct quotes from this 124-year-old circus poster.

How It Happened: Much of Lennon’s lyric was taken word-for-word from the original handbill. For one musical passage within the song’s middle eight bars, a collection of different pieces of audio was gathered. Each tape contained a different type of carnival music. Producer George Martin, unhappy with their attempts to find one signature carnival sound, had all of the tapes cut into small pieces, which were then thrown into the air and onto the studio floor. The studio engineer then randomly picked up the pieces of tape, which were re-assembled in precisely that order to create a flowing montage of circus sounds.

I Want You (She’s So Heavy) (Abbey Road, 1969)
How It Changed Music:  Simplicity can be a lot deeper than you think.


Even though the foursome would soon part company, The Beatles were still in-step when recording the band’s final masterpiece, Abbey Road.

After the dense, multi-layered psychedelic rumble that The Beatles pioneered during the Pepper era, most of Abbey Road (which was the last Beatle album recorded, although Let it Be would be released after it) was marked by a simpler sound that didn’t seem to rely quite so much on audio “tricks.” But even at their simplest, The Beatles’ music contains multiple levels. And that was certainly the case for “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” which took a simple blues-type song and stretched it out to nearly eight minutes

How It Happened: Songwriter Lennon answered criticisms of the primitive lyric (“I want you…I want you so bad…I want you…I want you so bad it’s driving me mad”) by saying that it was an urgent love song that required a simple lyric. (Lennon used the example of a drowning man, who doesn’t scream, “Excuse me, but could you please possibly throw me that float and save me?” when “Help! I’m drowning!” is more to the point.) Then there are the song’s special effects, which were tacked onto the building instrumental that dominates the back half of the song. The bizarre sound of an increasing, howling wind (created by Lennon playing a Moog synthesizer) was grafted onto the song, with the white noise becoming louder as the song’s thundering chords repeat over and over.

The end of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is also technically interesting, because there really is no ending, per Lennon’s idea. The instruments keep hitting the main theme over and over (with the wind SFX now up to hurricane force) and then the song just unexpectedly goes silent. No final chord or drumbeat: just pure silence. An amazing and unexpected finish to a song that was more complex than originally judged…and one of the very last Beatle songs to be mixed by the group itself.


Even The Simpsons have paid tribute to The Beatles with this Abbey Road parody.

Creativity on Tap
The Beatles’ music still shines decades later, thanks to the careful craft that went into every Beatle recording. Each member of the band quickly became a master of the audio studio arts. Their early music shows The Beatles’ progression as audio producers who were bent and determined to give the world a new kind of sound.

The Beatles’ legacy lives on. The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus can help teach you how to become a music producer. And thanks in large part to The Beatles, audio production continues to attract creative and musical people of all ages.

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posted by Phill Powell in Digital Music Production,News Blog and have No Comments