Belgian-Autralian Gotye won three Grammys last night (Record of the Year, Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, Best Alternative Music Album) for his song Somebody That I Used To Know. Born in Bruges he has lived most of his life in Melbourne but has kept close contact with Belgium. His name is actually Wouter De Backer. Gotye is his phonetic spelling of Gauthier which is French for Wouter (Walter in English).
Record of the Year is one of the big awards. Everyone loved this song and its simple but very imaginative video.
The first times one heard the album Pet Sounds and also the song Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys were unforgettable experiences for most. One of the reasons was the never heard before sounds used. These sounds came from the electrotheramin which Paul Tanner invented as a reaction to the Russian invented theremin (used to great effect by Bernard Herrmann for the sound track of The Day The Earth Stood Still).
Good Vibrations was one of the most complex pop singles ever recorded taking months and endless retakes. Brian Wilson later claimed that he spent $10,000 on recording the electrotheremin parts alone. Tanner said of the Good Vibrations sessions: "They were usually very late at night and very long and very good pay."
That would be enough to provide him with a place in American musical history but there's quite a bit more to his career. A trombone player, he was discovered at age 20 by fellow trombone player Glenn Miller and played in Miller's orchestra during its heyday from 1938 to 1942, playing on such recordings as Moonlight Serenade, In the Mood, A String of Pearls, Tuxedo Junction and Pennsylvania 6-5000.
He was also a music teacher at UCLA for 23 years and he co-wrote several books about the history of jazz.
He was the last surviving member of Glenn Miller's orchestra. He died this week aged 95.
In the early Sixties the triple threat of Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Dionne Warwick changed pop music for ever. Bacharach with his smooth music, David with his classic but approachable lyrics and Warwick with her fabulous singing, her timbre, her phrasing, her emotional rendering and that amazing smoky quality to her voice. Not to mention her gazelle-like grace. If Aretha is the Queen of Soul, then Dionne is the Queen of Classic Pop.
I was smitten the moment I first heard their first songs together: Don't Make Me Over, Walk On By and Anyone Who Had A Heart. I was so enamored on their sound that I was sure that I was one of the main reasons they were so successful.
And now, Hal David has died after bringing us so much pleasure.
I wanted to find a live early Sixties version of one of the three above-mentioned songs but couldn't find what I wanted so here is a 1964 version of A House Is Not A Home.
I know this video is almost two years old but I just discovered Janelle Monŕe recently which is why I'm posting it now. I was knocked out by this video so I looked up some interviews with her which sealed the deal. Whip smart and a true artist, her interviews are razor sharp in terms of her focus and so unpretentious. There are true artists and there are competent phonies. Most true artists are incredibly inarticulate when it comes to discussing their art, which is rather endearing. However the competent phonies are never at a loss for words; we get gallons of arty bollocks by the second; a prime example of the competent phony is the ever pretentious and ever programmed Lady Gaga.
Janelle Monŕe is the rare true artist who can cogently, in clean prose, explain herself. No gimmics, no craven attempts to outrage for effect. When she talks about her look, her life, it sounds natural, nothing is contrived. Her recounting of how she got signed to Bad Boy records shows that she's nobody's fool. The video is clever, the concept intelligent, the execution perfect, the dancing subtle but sublime. (The fact that they are probably wearing special shoes doesn't in any way diminish the virtuosity of the dancing).
There's none of the (seemingly inevitable these days) unnecessary bearing of skin, of the look how daring I am defiling of societal icons. Just artistry. She has a brief but essential cameo in Fun.'s mega hit of this year We Are Young.
And her live performances make it clear that she's not just a studio trick.
She embodies Diana Vreeland's maxim: Always stylish never trendy.