April 22, 2016


I was a fan of Prince's music.  Not the biggest fan, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I think most people my age at last respect the man for his ridiculous string of hits.

But for me, it wasn't the hits that made him the legend he was.  Instead, it was the sheer amount of musical talent he possessed.  He played all the instruments on his first five albums, only creating a band for touring purposes.  Liner notes to his albums show around 40 different instruments, including vocals.  Of course, his vocal range went from ridiculously high falsetto to a baritone that began to impinge on bass.  But his guitar was his true standout skill.

There's a story making the rounds that Eric Clapton was once asked what it was like being the best guitarist in the world, and he replied "I don't know, but you can ask him, he's right over there" while pointing at Prince.

There's no evidence Clapton actually said that, but there's no denying his talent.  But it was sometimes hard to notice the ability behind the flamboyance and self-indulgent behavior that was endemic to his persona.  If there's one thing Prince was, however, it was performer.

Superbowl XLI was a painful one for me, as the Bears lost to the Colts that year, but the halftime show by Prince was jaw-dropping.  According to an NFL Films documentary about the entire game-event-thing, the producer of the halftime show came to Prince and said "I'm sorry, but it's raining."  Prince replied with a casual "Yes, it's raining."  Mind you, the set was made out of a type of tile that was slippery to begin with, and now you've got rain on it as well.  The producer, worried, asked if there was "anything we can do for you?"  Prince's response was "Can you make it rain harder?"  I haven't seen the whole performance since that game, as Prince was virulently anti-digital; he did everything he could to keep his stuff off of youtube, for example.

Having lived in Minnesota, having been to 1st Avenue, the club/concert hall seen in the movie Purple Rain, and other places in and around Minneapolis, one knew that it was always possible that one night he would show up unannounced, play a small intimate concert, then leave, just because he wanted to.  This was just something he did.  Never any rhyme or reason as to where, either... he could show up in Duluth just as easily as St Paul.  I'm not ashamed to say that I took advantage of that one Halloween.

I dressed in a pair of black jeans, black turtleneck, black combat boots, a black duster, black shades, I even dyed my hair, eyebrows and mustache black (somewhere in San Francisco, Vaucaunson's Duck has just died laughing).  I borrowed a fake cellphone and an earpiece from the theatre props shop, and told my friends that I'd catch up with them.  About an hour later, I climbed the stairs leading to a local bar with a stage at the end of it; an acoustic guitarist was playing not overly well.  I walked in, ignored my friends, and stood at the end of the bar as far away from the stage as I could.  Anybody who approached me got the cold shoulder, or a deadpan look from behind the sunglasses.  After a couple of beers, the bartender finally made his way over to me to ask what my deal was.  I quietly said that I was one of Prince's bodyguards... hinting without outright saying it that he was in the area looking for a place to play, and I was scouting this place.

For the next 90 minutes or so, I didn't have to pay for anything... and the beer had stopped, the bartender providing me mixed drinks instead.  At one point, I could see the bartender leaning over and talking to a couple of people at the other side of the bar.  I couldn't hear what he said, but suddenly the were staring at me intently... then they practically ran back to their table, and then everybody there was staring at me.  It took almost no time at all for the message to make it to my friend's table... and they were staring at me, not with eager and hopeful anticipation like the others, but in frank admiration.  To their credit, they did not blow my cover.

All good things come to an end, however, and I eventually made the fake phone ring, "answered" it, said a few words into it, then briskly walked towards the exit.  The bartender looked a question at me, I shook my head, and left quickly.  About a half-hour later, when the rest of the gang showed up for the apres-party, the amount of grief I took was awesome.

Two weeks later, I went back to the place, except I was dressed normally, my hair back to its regular red... but I had the sunglasses with me, in a pocket.  I chatted with the bartender, and it looked like he wasn't sure if he had seen me before, until he asked me flat out.  At which point, I pushed my hair back, put on the sunglasses, and muttered something about Prince.  The bartender stared at me, said "you sunuvabitch!", shook my hand, handed me a beer, and said "when you're done with that, I don't want to see you here ever again."  That was fair... but I left a $40 tip anyway, which was the whole point of going back in the first place.

Prince Rogers Nelson passed away yesterday in his studio in Chanhassen, MN.  He was 57.  His music will live on.

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January 28, 2016

The Most Eagerly Anticipated

The year is 1994.  Our Hero, horribly damaged by his failed expedition to grad school, has found himself a job where his (at the time) nigh-on encyclopedic knowledge of music actually has a use: he's a shift nabob in the music department at BigBlueBoxStore.  For once I'm going to brag about myself here: we were easily the best music store in town, and I was arguably the main reason why.  Between my radio experience, my personal collection, and a willingness to listen to anything except Country (and even some of that, too!), I could help just about any customer find something they'd like.  The other members of the music department would always come to me if their customer had managed to stump them on a song title... "Hey, Wonderduck, the song goes 'Juliet, the dice were loaded from the start...', who is that?"... and chances were pretty darn high I'd get it right. 

Remember, kids, this was before Google.

Or the internet, really.

I had been hearing rumors from various radio and music trade pubs (Billboard used to be the cat's meow, lemme tell ya!) that there was a movie coming out based on a comic book which sounded promising, but it was the soundtrack that had those of us in the music department drooling.  There was no way the purported lineup could be real.  Stone Temple Pilots, Pantera, Rage Against The Machine, MLWTTKK, Henry Rollins, the Violent Femmes, and The Cure?  And there's no way Nine Inch Nails could really be part of it.


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January 11, 2016

A Starman Falls To Earth

David Bowie died of liver cancer late Sunday night, two days after he turned 69.

During a musical career that spanned nearly 50 years, he managed to change musical styles practically as often as he released albums.  From glam to funk and soul to blues to electronica to rock to new wave to industrial and back again, one never really knew what you'd be hearing when you popped in a new Bowie disc.  My first real exposure to his work came in his "new wave" period, with the 1983 album, Let's Dance

In many ways, Let's Dance is both the best and worst way to be introduced to Bowie.  It's easily his most accessible work, being unabashedly pop-flavored... and it and 1984's Tonight are rather unlike the darker, more thoughtful work he produced before and after.  Ironically, the short movie/music video for "Jazzing For Blue Jean" off Tonight earned him his only Grammy out of 10 nominations. (he was given a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2006).  I went into my next taste of Bowie's music thinking he was a slightly lightweight musician.

This is many things, but lightweight pop is not one of them.  David Bowie is very much like weather in the Midwest... if you don't like it, just wait a short time: it'll change.  But along with his music, the other thing that Bowie was known for was his ever-changing personae.  From Ziggy Stardust to The Thin White Duke to the Scary Goatee Guy to Elder Rock Statesman, again he changed from hither to yon constantly.  At one point in his life he gave an interview where he basically said that "David Bowie is the costume, the thing onstage is the real Me."  In his later career, after he married supermodel Imam and "settled down", he more or less stayed in the Statesman mode.  All the while, he stayed impeccably dressed.

He collaborated with artists like Queen, Mick Jagger, Nine Inch Nails, Peter Frampton, Tina Turner, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bing Crosby.  Countless artists covered his work.  Countless fans adored him.  I am not particularly a huge fan, to be honest... I own a couple of his CDs, know many of his hits, but beyond that?  There are many others who will write more about him in the coming days, more eloquently and with more knowledge than I can.  This, I admit.  None of this denies the fact that I know that he was a true Rock Icon, and with his passing the music world is greatly diminished.  I also know that he is the musician behind one of my favorite songs of all time.

It felt like David Bowie was immortal.  We know now that wasn't true, to our sorrow.

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August 08, 2015

Failing Twice

I've started two separate posts today.  The first was a true story about a time I impressed a date with my singing ability, and the second a humorous attempt to ask if any of my readers had a spare mp3 player they weren't using.  The first didn't... couldn't... capture the awesomeness of the moment, and the way I was going about the second just made me cringe (as does the need to ask).  So I've written about 1000 words today that nobody will ever see, and I think that's for the best.  So instead, I'm just going to post the music videos I was using in the posts because I like the songs.

Here's the one that I sang in an empty beer patio.

She knew I was a theatre guy, but she wasn't expecting me to have a singing voice.  Or to use the entire area as my personal stage... Vauc, it was the Olympic's, if you're curious.  In any case, it was a perfect night, and sometimes the heavens align just right.  Vocal magic ensued.

The second one was this:

The room I work in has somewhere around 100 people in it, and the background noise of 100 keyboards alone is enough to drive someone mad.  Earplugs don't work... all I can hear then is my own breathing, which is distracting as hell.  Most people have mp3 players or some variant thereof, but I can't currently afford one that can shuffle.  So if any of The Pond Scum has a spare mp3 player you're not using and would be willing to send me, let me know in comments.  I'm ridiculously embarrassed to ask, but there you are.  My brain does dredge up songs that it'll replay in memory, and this was one of them recently.  So was this:

Some years ago, an argument was posted at one of them there news aggregate sites that Eminence Front was the quintessential '80s song.  I disagreed, believing that Phil Collins' In The Air Tonight holds that title.  But I listen to Eminence Front a helluva lot more.

Anyway, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.  If you're curious about the first story, I can try to make it interesting enough to post.  If you're able to help out on the second, you'll have my undying gratitude.  And if neither works out, at least you've got these songs.

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July 30, 2015

Best Thing I've Seen All Week

So a few folks in the city of Cesena, Italy, decided they really, really wanted the Foo Fighters to come play there.  They called some friends.  They practiced a bit.  This is what they ended up with:

1000 musicians, 350 of them playing guitars.  The drummers looked like they'd drilled together for a decade, not a few hours.  I'm not ashamed to say that there were some tears in this duck's eyes while watching the vid.

No way the Foo's say no to this... not after featuring it on their Facebook page.

EDIT: Dave Grohl said yes!  In Italian, no less.

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May 15, 2015

The Thrill Is Gone

We lost one of the true legends of the music industry today.  BB King, best known as "The King Of The Blues", passed away at his home in Las Vegas at the age of 89.

Mentor to other guitar heroes like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Buddy Guy, he also inspired countless number of blues performers and fans worldwide.  Like many rock fans my age, I was introduced to him via the band U2, who featured him on the Rattle & Hum song "When Love Comes To Town," which they wrote specifically for him.

More recently, he hit the radio waves once again with his collaboration with Eric Clapton, "Riding With The King."

As it turned out, BB King hated to sing while playing Lucille, his guitar, so he had a unique call-and-response style to his songs.  That's clearly heard in "The Thrill Is Gone," of course, but I'm fond of the tribute song he wrote for his guitar as well.

More than that, he had a distinctive sound to his playing, in a way that almost no other guitarist did.  Silky smooth but with a hint of dirt to it.  Drop him in a group of guitarists, and you'll always be able to tell which was him.

For music fans of all genres, the loss of BB King is immense.  He will definitely be missed around The Pond, and around the world.

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March 14, 2015

The Video Is Pretty Decent, Too.

While we're waiting for the Australian Grand Prix to start, I wanted to drop this in your lap.

When this first began, I just started grinning.  By the end of it, I was ready to listen to it again, this time with the volume turned waaaaaay up, cigarette lighter ignited in my hand and my head banging.  So I sent it to friend GrayDuck, my brother in feathers, to see what he thought.  His response was similarly enthusiastic, if totally incoherent from excitement.  So now I share it with you.  Enjoy.

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February 02, 2015


I'm just going to leave this here.

This too.

Yes, that's the group that provided music A number of people in the Kuricorder Quartet were part of the group that provided music for Azumanga Daioh.  Performing John Williams' Imperial March.  I suck.

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January 21, 2015

Getting Away With It

In the final year of the 1980s, two of the biggest bands in Britain if not the world were imploding. 

The Smiths were a band that sounded like their songwriters were constantly on the edge of jumping off the highest building in Manchester.  This resonated with listeners and critics both, and they were hailed as "the most influential British guitar group of the decade."  They eschewed the keyboard and synth excesses of the time, instead concentrating on an echo-and-minor-key guitar-based sound.  Despite independent success unlike any seen before, the band split in 1987 from internal pressures.

New Order was formed from tragedy.  When the lead singer of Manchester-based "post-punk" band Joy Division hanged himself on the verge of the band's first North American tour in 1980, the survivors reformed as New Order.  Throughout the '80s, the band mixed what we'd call "alternative music" now and electronic dance music to create a critically acclaimed and influential sound that left major fingerprints on modern techno.  However, the various members all had audio interests that wouldn't fit the band's style.  Side projects were common, with a resulting loss of time for the main group.  Stumbling to the end, New Order broke up in 1993.

But in 1989, lead singer Bernard Sumner was wanting to add more synth programming to New Order, and was rebuffed.  He took to the recording studio alone, intending to make an "anonymous" album of whatever he felt like, but came to a discovery early on: he hated working alone.  Picking up the telephone, Sumner called Johnny Marr, the ex-guitarist of The Smiths, and asked for his input.  The two created a track, entitled "Lucky Bag", all loops and electronic drumkits, and called themselves Electronic.  If it had stopped there, Electronic would have been an interesting non-entity, a footnote in music history if that.  But of course it didn't... I wouldn't be writing about it if it had, right?


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November 24, 2014

Music! Nonstop!

A week or so ago, I get this e-mail from by brother in feathers GreyDuck talking about having "introduced someone to the Yoshida Brothers the other day."  I had never heard of these people, but I trust GD's taste in music to approximate my own pretty well, so I looked 'em up.

Yoshida Brothers - Rising

Who knew you could shred on shamisen?

Yoshida Brothers - Storm

I'm thinking this was from the soundtrack to the Spy Hunter video game.  If it wasn't, it should have been.
Yoshida Brothers - The National Anthem

I've never been a fan of Radiohead, but covers like this could convince me.

There was once a time in my life where the very concept of listening to "world music," no matter how funkified or Americanized it was, would have appalled me.  I guess that's fallen by the wayside, huh?

Thanks, GD!  Good stuff here.

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October 08, 2014

Something Really Completely Different

It's been pretty grim around here of late, and for good reason.  To lighten things up a bit, let me introduce you to my latest music/video obsession: World Order!

The music is catchy, but its the dance moves that makes the group stand out.  As an added bonus, their front man, Genki Sudo, is a retired mixed martial arts / kickboxing fighter.

As you can imagine, their live show appears to be quite impressive.  To the point where I've found myself weeping tears of amazement and regret.

If I hadn't failed in grad school, I could have been doing lighting designs like this.  Or not.  Who knows?  There were tears, let's leave it at that. 

Ben-To! Ep09 is forthcoming ASAP.

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August 02, 2014

Saturday Night Tunage XX

It's time!  It's time!  Get your greasy little faces up next to the speakers because it's time for everybody's favorite music break, Saturday Night Tunage featuring DJ Wonderduck!

Yeah, you know you've missed it.  Yeah, you know you need it.  So I'm here for your musical edification, bringing you the best tunes from the 80s, 90s and... um... more 80s?  Something like that, because (cue old man voice) today's music is all crap!  CRAP, I tell ya.  Get off my speakers, you whippersnappers before I hit ya with my tonearm.

Kids, ask your parents.  Parents, make fun of your kids.
Not one of the good ones with the diamond-tipped London Decca cartridges, but a cheap one.  I had a Decca cartridge once, I'm not sure how I found it (probably through the radio station), and it sounded soooo sweet, and dug such a big trench in my 12" singles...  Y'know what?  Let's just get to the music, whaddya say?


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February 18, 2014

Spudboys Has A Sad

Everybody had a first "favorite band."  The position of favorite band changes as ones musical tastes evolve... it's just the way of things.  Long before Joe Jackson or ABC, years before Bryan Ferry or the Gear Daddies, decades before the Foo Fighters or Nine Inch Nails or Caravan Palace or Daft Punk or Dire Straits or the Clash, there was the band that wore flowerpots on their heads.

DEVO was certainly my first favorite band.  They looked weird, they sounded weird, and they didn't give a crepe about not being cool... which, to a hyperintelligent duck trapped in a world he never made, was awfully great.  Time marched on, and I started to actually listen to DEVO's music, and realized it was deeper than it first appeared... and while they became something of a synthband, in the early days they were very guitar-centric.

Bob "Bob2" Casale had a lot to do with that, what with actually being able to play and all.  His style was hardly smooth... in fact, it's very nearly the definition of what punk guitar should be... but he could sound herky-jerky while still being technically skilled.  It's weird to call DEVO "punk", but it's hard to call Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! or Duty Now For The Future anything but.  After that, they became New Wave, synthpop, legendary, then simply themselves in a way that few other bands can ever claim.  Along the way, Bob2 wound up as a skilled engineer and music producer.

Bob Casale passed away today at the age of 61.  It seems very strange that members of my first favorite band are passing away.  It's a beautiful world we live in, I suppose, but it seems less so now.

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December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve Tunage

It's Christmas Eve.  For the past few weeks, the only music I've been able to play at the Duck U Bookstore has been... you guessed it... Christmas music.  I am not ashamed to say that I'd rather gut myself like a fish than do that.  Which means it's time for a special CHRISTMAS EVE TUNAGE with DJ Wonderduck!!!

There won't be ANY Christmas music in this one, oh no!  Just great rockin' good times in an attempt to crush the holiday music out of my brain.  Let's not wait, let's just do this!  TUNAGE!!!


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September 13, 2013


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August 13, 2013

The Nightmares Have Begun

The stress of work is leaking into my sleeping brain, causing nightmares beyond telling.  This one, though, is at least a little humorous.  The other night, I dreamt that I was the only person in the world who remembered a particular song from 1992, and I HAD to preserve that memory, no matter what. 

Now, the way I learned about this song in real life was interesting enough.  I was home from Grad School, and had a few bucks free to spend on stuff.  I had become the unofficial master of the mixtape for just about any party held by the theatre department, owing to my ginormous cassette collection, supplemented by a small but growing assortment of CDs.  Add in the collections of the two roomies, and I had a ridiculously eclectic range of music to play with.  There was only one problem: none of it was new.  I jumped on my folks' computer (a 386, maybe) and swear to god, connected to Prodigy.

THAT was cutting edge back then, folks.  Anyway, I headed to some of the message boards to ask for help... mostly for dance music.  I got a few good song titles back, including the track involved in my nightmare. 

Oh yeah, remember that?  The nightmare?  I woke up from it, thinking I REALLY WAS the only person in the world who remembered the song.  I stumbled into my living room and started going through my CDs, trying to find the maxi-single... and I couldn't find it.  The boxes in the closet didn't have it either.  Actually desperate now, I called up yourfaceinatube, hoping beyond hope that someone else out there knew the tune!  As it turned out, I need not have worried.

In fact, it was rather stupid of me to have been half-scared out of my wits; this was actually a Billboard Hot 100 hit, back when that meant something, and I KNEW that.  Of course people weren't going to have forgotten it.  Still, nightmares aren't supposed to make sense, are they?

And now, just in case something really DOES happen and everybody else forgets "Love U More" by Sunscreem, it'll be here.

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July 20, 2013

Saturday Night Tunage XVII

Oh no!  Look out!  It's another installment of Saturday Night Tunage with your host, DJ Wonderduck!

It amazes me that I've managed to go seven months since the last one of these, or at least that's what the search feature says, but it does appear to be true!  I do believe that I've deprived you, my faithful readers/listeners, for much too long.  What you believe, on the other hand,  is up to you!  I make no promises that these songs haven't been featured before, but I don't much care... I like 'em all the same!  With all that out of the way, let's get on with the tunage!


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May 14, 2013

Simply Amazing

How is this video not being hailed as one of Humanity's Great Accomplishments?

It's worth watching in HD... go ahead, I won't mind
In my lifetime, we've gone from grainy black-and-white video of Neil Armstrong's small step that the entire world watched... to a Canadian mission commander in a more-or-less permanent space station orbiting the Earth, just shortly before he returned to Earth in a Russian capsule, singing a song originally recorded by a Brit a month before that first moon walk.  And it's all in glorious high definition video.

When did the world get so blasé about stuff like this?  How did we let it get so jaded?  What's wrong with us???

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December 22, 2012

Saturday Night Tunage XVI: The Christmas Edition

Hello, everybody!  DJ Wonderduck has returned with a special holiday-themed edition of the world's famous SATURDAY NIGHT TUNAGE!

Okay, locally famous.  Locally known?  Not despised within the confines of this blog?  Whatever.  It's a whole post of the few Christmas tunes I can stand to hear after having to hear them over and Over and OVER at the Duck U Bookstore... and no schmaltz, either!  Let's get right into the musicing!


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December 05, 2012

R.I.P. (In 5/4 Time)

After 91 years of insane time signatures, legendary jazz musician Dave Brubeck took five today.

He wasn't the first jazz artist I was a fan of.  Heck, he wasn't even the second or third, and to be honest, while I loved "Take Five", both the single and the album, I thought he was a gimmick.  "Oh, hey, watch me play songs in a completely bizarre time that nobody other than beatniks and jazz critics can comprehend."

If you needed proof that I was an idiot when I was young, too, there you go.  Yeah, he could follow beats that would make strong musicians weak and weak musicians want to be somewhere else in a hurry, but on top of that was always a masterful melody.

It's hard to believe that "Take Five" hit #25 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1961.  Times have changed so much... musical talent isn't much appreciated anymore.  But I'll tell you this: guitar god Chet Atkins decided to take a shot at the song and declared it the most difficult piece of music he'd ever played.

...and the most entertaining. 

Dave Brubeck.  He was an artist, a pioneer.

He'll be missed.

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