Over the years I’ve had a few email conversations with famous people. I once traded emails with legendary White House Reporter Helen Thomas. I got a reply from an email I sent entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in 2005. An email from futurist and biographer Walter Isaacson helped me bust the Einstein Bees story. Oh, and though it’s not email comedian Norm MacDonald briefly followed me on Twitter.
Recently I got on a kick for Howard Jones’s music. Jones was an 80s synthpop god and his music still holds up very well. As does he, since he’s still touring and appears to be happy and healthy. I found Jones’s website and saw that his email address was listed there, with a promise that all emails would be acknowledged:
I know you’re busy but wanted to reach out and thank you for all the
music. Your “Things Can Only Get Better” has been on my mind recently.
We so need its optimism right now.
Sorry I missed your latest US tour but I want to catch you the next time
you come near North Carolina.
Best to you and yours.
Raleigh, NC, USA
I got back this reply two days later:
Very best wishes
While it was a short response, it’s pretty cool that he took a minute to respond to me. Continue reading →
Jimmy Buffett awoke one morning last year in one of his many homes — he can’t remember which one, there are a lot of them — and a panic gripped him in his throat. His new Broadway musical, “Escape to Margaritaville,” was coming along nicely, but something was off.
It wasn’t the music — they’d been careful to include a finely titrated playlist of crowd pleasers. It wasn’t the book — the TV writers Greg Garcia (“My Name Is Earl,” “Raising Hope”) and Mike O’Malley (“Shameless”) managed to strike a balance of goofy, accessible romantic comedy and some deep cuts for the Parrotheads, as his fans are called. It wasn’t the casting, either; Paul Alexander Nolan is a compelling early-Buffett avatar as Tully Mars, a dreamy bar singer at a rundown Caribbean hotel called Margaritaville. And he was happy with the direction of Christopher Ashley, off a best direction Tony for “Come From Away.”So what could it be? The writers were refining the characters and their motivations and he felt pretty good about that. The producers were taking great care with the show experience as well; they had decided to deluge the audience with beach balls at the end, which Mr. Buffett thought would be fun and memorable.
But it wasn’t that, either. He searched his mind and his heart and still, nothing. In the shadow of the early morning light across his bedroom in either Palm Beach or St. Barts or Sag Harbor or Los Angeles or Waikiki or New York, Mr. Buffett realized he needed to find the answer.
This isn’t a new story but it’s one that I found very enlightening on the topic of digital audio formats.
Pono Music’s roaring success on Kickstarter, raising $4.3 million so far, shows that thousands of people believe better audio quality is worth paying for.
The company — backed by star musician Neil Young and selling a $400 digital audio player along with accompanying music — promises people will hear a difference between Pono Music and ordinary music that’s “surprising and dramatic.” The company’s promise is based in part on music files that can contain more data than not only conventional MP3 files, but also compact discs.
There’s no doubt that highly compressed music files, played over tinny laptop speakers or cheap earbuds, leave a lot of room for improvement. But outdoing CD quality? That’s a harder sell.
“Get Free” was the product of three writers and three producers, not to mention a little village of people who work for the record company and the publishers. Probably around a thousand people heard “Get Free” before it was released (that’s not an exaggeration), and virtually all of ‘em knew the thing sounded exactly like “Creep” (these people are sniveling, arrogant, and cowardly, but not stupid). Yet not one of these check-cashing chimps who spend more on sushi in a single day then you make in a week raised a single wasabi-stained finger and said, “So, listen, Lana, how should I put this…well…I have heard that exact melody before.”
(Lana and her sushi-flinging shaven apes could have at least chosen to rip off a song that everyone didn’t know. I mean, people do that all the time. Heck, give a listen to “Airplane Song,” a fairly obscure ditty from 1967 by The Royal Guardsman. Really, listen to it. The Beatles did, and lifted it lock, stock, and barrel for “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” The Fabs knew the first rule of plagiarism: When you steal, steal from someone who is less famous than you.)
For Halloween this year my costume was of my alter-ego: Slash, the Guns N’ Roses guitarist who has a very distinctive look. I ordered the various pieces about a month ago, including temporary tattoos, and was ready to go on Halloween morning, confident that mine would be one of the top costumes at my office.
Only no one else wore costumes. No one! Halloween fell on a Tuesday this year, a day when many of my officemates work from home. It was kinda sad that the office missed a chance to do a proper Halloween day but in all fairness we had had a chili contest the day before, so that was something.
It wasn’t all for naught for me, though. I brought my electric guitar into the office as part of my costume (though it is a cheap Epiphone and not Slash’s preferred Les Paul). Though my guitar isn’t the best, once I got it somewhat tuned up I reminded myself how much fun it is to just pick up a guitar and noodle around with it during the workday. Several times a day yesterday I would grab my guitar and practice bar chords and other stuff, walking over to a nearby conference room to avoid disturbing my officemates.
Tl;dr I won the costume contest by default and I also reignited my love for playing guitar. Not a bad day.
More Tom Petty from his biographer, musician Warren Zanes.
In 1979, I was an undersized FM-generation high-school junior with a voice that wouldn’t change, a stressed single mom, and a bedroom in a rented gray two-family house in which I had to play my stereo low so I wouldn’t disturb all the people living close around me. And then my daily affront at this complete lack of agency found validation when some skinny blond dude calling his album “Damn the Torpedoes” uplifted my evenings with a simple phrase about being cut down to size on a regular basis: “Don’t do me like that.” He wasn’t celebrating humiliation—he understood the condition, which is, foremost, the inability to make the humiliation stop. There was nothing to do except to say to hell with annoying Mom and the neighbors and, in my alarmingly pitched treble that sounded like a radio veering between frequencies, to sing out that ambrosial phrase right along with Petty: “Don’t do me like that.”