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"'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy"

I think I can get a pretty solid round of hands from readers out there who have suffered from misinterpreted lyrics over the years. As for me -- one of the most malapropism-inclined gents that I know as well as being just generally slow when it comes to parsing out song lyrics -- one of the great joys of the Internet has been the ability to look up song lyrics so that I can sing along with everyone else. And sites like LyricFind.com have been my sweet salvation from terminal embarrassment. Which is why it is sad to report that the MPA (the Musician Publishers Association) has gone the route of the RIAA and stuck their heads up their asses in an attempt to "protect their assets."

Visit LyricFind.com these days and you'll find that most of the links to individual song lyrics come back with this statement: "Sorry, the lyrics are not online right now. You must visit another lyrics site to view the lyrics. Unfortunately, LyricFind.com cannot yet legally display the song lyrics you have requested." The MPA is cracking down on sites collecting song lyrics which have been reprinted without permission (which, when you get right down to it, is about all of them). And, this is the head-up-the-ass part, while they are busy slapping sites with cease and desist orders, they're not doing anything to actually facilitate the legal dissemination of song lyrics.

I'm all for protecting the creative efforts of artists and making sure they get their fair dollar value for their work, but could someone please explain to me just how the artist is losing money by having his or her lyrics available so that I can learn to sing along properly? Frankly, if I knew the words, I'd be inclined to play the song more often. Exactly how does this hurt the artist?

It's All in the Marketing

Apple Computers recently opened their iTunes service, yet another download for dollars Internet-based music delivery service. And, judging from the ways in which the press has been slobbering about it in print, you would think that Steve Jobs and Apple single-handedly invented Pay-for-Play. In the first month that the iTunes services has been available, Apple has reported more then three million song downloads. Most of the material is priced at 99 cents per track and, at this point, this service is only available to Macintosh users.

Which only proves two things: (1) people will pay money for their music, even if they are being overcharged; and (2) if you hype it enough, they will come. EMusic offers the exact same sound quality (128 kbps encoding) at a much more reasonable price ($9.99 a month for nearly unlimited downloads). While EMusic doesn't have the same high profile catalog as Apple, they certainly have a much broader spectrum of music available, not to mention non-platform specific formats. But hey, if you want to drop a buck for each song at iTunes, go right ahead. You can say that you are only getting partially raped by the music industry, instead of a full-press gang bang.

Dressing up the Dead in an Effort to Make Them Look Sexy

And speaking of online music services, Napster isn't dead yet. The online file trading technology was declared illegal by a federal judge late in 2001 and the service was shut down. Roxio, Inc., known for its CD-burning software, bought up the technology and the name from the defunct company and has now purchased the beleaguered Pressplay division from Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group for just under $40 million in cash and stock. Planning on merging the catalog, technology, and existing infrastructure into a viable business plan, Roxio plans on spending about $20 million rolling out Napster "v2" in a subscription-based format. Roxio Chief Financial Officer Elliot Carpenter says that the division will create a negative cash flow until it is widely adopted.

I firmly believe that monkeys will fly out of RIAA Chairman and CEO Hilary Rosen's butt before Napster makes a dime. And I'd queue up to watch too, but I'm too busy downloading music using Grokster, Kazaa, and Soulseek right now.

Tuning the Deaf Ear

Tammie Willis received a master's degree in music composition from Virginia Commonwealth University on May 18th, 2003. The remarkable detail of this graduate is that she is completely deaf. She lost her hearing due to brain damage suffered during a robbery attack in 1994 where her assailant repeated struck her head against a table and shook her. No one was ever arrested. Willis contemplated suicide following her loss of hearing but, after seeing the film Immortal Beloved, about the 19th century composer Ludwig van Beethoven who eventually lost his hearing, she decided there was still something she could accomplish. For her master's degree, Willis composed a four-movement, 12-person percussion ensemble piece.

"The trick," she says about her compositions, "is finding bridges between my imagination and what a hearing person understands," she explained. "I don't perceive melody. The way I've learned to construct music is through text like a poem or story." Her music is primarily rhythmic and her compositional instructors assisted her with issues of dissonance and consonance. Willis plans on seeking further degrees in music theory and higher education, and composition will be a part of her future. "It gives me a chance to pursue my imagination for sound," she says.

Congratulations Tammie, and best of luck in your future musical endeavors.

Bang Your Head, Sesame Street Style

The United States Psychological Operations Company is utilizing heavy metal music and songs from children's programming (notably Sesame Street and Barney) in its on-going interrogation techniques with Iraqi prisoners. Sergeant Mark Hadsell, of Psychological Operations Company (Psy Ops), told Newsweek magazine: "These people haven't heard heavy metal." Two of Sgt. Hadsell's favored tools to "bludgeon" the incarcerated with are Metallica's "Enter Sandman" and the theme song from Sesame Street. The songs are played non-stop for long periods of time.

Amnesty International is hovering in the wings, concerned about the use of prolonged exposure to music and other methods of psychological distress. A spokesperson for the organization says, "It is a very difficult line to draw between what constitutes discomfort and what constitutes torture -- that line will vary for individuals and it would depend on each particular case...This is an issue that seriously concerns us. If there is a prolonged period of sleep deprivation, it could well be considered torture."

"In training, they forced me to listen to the Barney 'I Love You' song for 45 minutes. I never want to go through that again," one US operative told Newsweek.

45 minutes? I'd claw my eyes out and tell them anything they'd want to hear after three minutes. Which is just another of the reasons why I wouldn't survive in the armed forces. Torture? I think the guy who wrote the Barney song should have to listen to it for four days non-stop. That would cure him of any desire to pen such saccharine pap ever again.


R.I.P. June Carter Cash. June, wife of legendary country singer Johnny Cash, passed away on May 15th, 2003, of complications following heart surgery. Married to Johnny Cash since 1968 (when he proposed to her during a show in London, Ontario), they performed and toured together for many years and won two Grammy awards for their duets ("Jackson" in 1967 and "If I Were a Carpenter" in 1970). After a quarter-century hiatus from the record business, June released an acoustic album in 1999 entitled Press On. The record was essentially a musical autobiography and resulted in her latest Grammy award. She was 73.

R.I.P. Noel Redding, who passed away on May 11th at his home in Ireland from unknown causes. Noel was the bass player for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. A guitarist before he met Jimi Hendrix, he joined the band in 1966 and played on three seminal records -- Are You Experienced? (1967), Axis: Bold as Love (1967), and Electric Ladyland (1968) -- before departing from the band. He performed for a number of other bands following his term with Hendrix, including Fat Mattress, Road, and the Noel Redding Band. His most recent record came out last year on Track Records and was a live recording which included several Hendrix-penned tracks. He was 57.

Thieves Aren't Scum (When They're Stealing Your Stuff Back Mix)

Lemmy's hat has been returned. The lead singer of Mötorhead was recently reunited with his trademark chapeau (which had been missing for nearly a year) during a Seattle stop on the band's latest tour. An unnamed fan "saw it at a party in Portland (Oregon), and when no one was looking, nicked it back", Lemmy recently told Reality Check TV's Edward "Ace" Annese. The hat still had all of its accoutrements on it, much to Lemmy's delight.

And, One More Michael Jackson Story

Just when you think you've heard all the "Wacko Jacko" stories...Michael Jackson recently popped up in the offices of California Representative Elton Gallegly (R-Santa Barbara). It turns out the reason for Michael's visit was to inquire as to why Solvang didn't have any fast food restaurants. Located about 140 miles north of Los Angeles, Solvang self-proclaims itself as "the Danish Capital of America." The quaint village does have a Subway, but no other prefabricated artery buster of a restaurant. Michael, apparently, was really hoping to find a Taco Bell and, while the quaint Dutch-like Solvang couldn't satisfy his urge for a delicious cheese pizza or chicken soft taco, he managed to feed the need in nearby Buellton.

The truly strange bit is that Michael's costume du jour was a red-and-blue Spiderman mask. It would seem that such a disguise isn't the sort of thing that prevents one from entering the offices of an elected official in California. Really. I'm not making any of this up.

Slave Wear

Coin toss whether we end with a note about our favorite masterfully marketed lesbian pop duo t.A.T.u.'s recent hijinks at the Eurovision contest or a brief mention of the current activity on the Britney Spears front. Toss comes up "heads" so we go to www.gottahaveit.com to check in on the auctions of Britney-wear. Auctioning a number of actual costumes which she has worn for some of her notable performances, the Britney Spears Foundation is hoping to rake in a sackful or two of cash from the wallets of freaky, sweaty middle-aged men who have devoted way too much of their time to watching Ms. Spears -- would you check out how much her green bra from the "Slave 4 U" performance at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards show is going for?

There will be no dropping coin on the "harem" outfit for me. I spent all my cash on Go-go Tea. Can you blame me?

Quote of the Month

"One of the things that worries me is (being perceived as) a novelty act. I compose music because it's an expression of what I think, what I feel and what I believe." Tammie Willis.

-Mark Teppo
Senior Editor

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