Category Archives: music

Homer (not Simpson) and the Kaopectate Kid

The doctor diagnosed young son Leo recently with the stomach flu — which is colloquial shorthand for a condition which isn’t the flu, per se.  (The most recent editor of the relevant article on the almighty Wiki agrees!)

The Kaopectate Kid

Our medical professional then suggested we give Leo some Kaopectate to soothe his stomach.  So, what is the active ingredient in Kaopectate?  Clay.  Yes, modern medicine’s 21st-century response to our son’s stomach flu … was for him to eat dirt.  (Expert biologists will surely argue that clay isn’t dirt per se, but we ignoramuses outnumber them.  ;)  )

I didn’t realize Kaopectate was a real-life product, never having used it in my youth.  The first time I’d heard of the stuff, I was about twenty, and listening to my brother’s copy of The Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight — the fourteen-minute version.  (The song makes Don McLean’s interminable “American Pie” seem short in comparison!)

In Rapper’s Delight — recently rated the 2nd-best hip-hop song of all time by Rolling Stone — one of the MC’s raps about the universal human experience of, um, not enjoying a friend’s partner’s cooking:

“Have you ever went over a friend’s house to eat, and the food just ain’t no good?

I mean the macaroni’s soggy, the peas are mush, and the chicken tastes like wood.”

… a story which eventually culminates with this masterful flow:

“So you bust out the door while it’s still closed, still sick from the food you ate

And then you run to the store for quick relief from a bottle of Kaopectate.”

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Since I’d never seen a bottle of Kaopectate in my life, I’d always assumed it was urban slang…!

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The Sugarhill Gang

While The Sugarhill Gang were the ones who brought hip-hop to a wider audience (among other things, Rapper’s Delight opens with the lyrics “I said a hip, hop, the hippie, the hippie to the hip hip hop”) they were complete nobodies.

As chronicled by Wikipedia’s sources, the Gang were the first to record a popular rap record … mainly because they were the first rappers to record (verb) a rap record (noun).  And that was because most rappers — the better rappers, the artists — weren’t interested in recording.

Instead, it fell to a bunch of rank amateurs — no, make that rank-less amateurs — to bring rap to a wider audience.  Better-skilled, higher-regarded MC’s must’ve been horrified to learn that their art — their art! — was being introduced to white America with legendarily-terrible lyrics like:

“…Like a can of beer that’s sweeter than honey,

Like a millionaire that has no money…”

“…It was the best advice that I ever had,

It came from my wise dear old dad…”

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Rapper’s Delight was probably the first rap song to get censored on the radio as well, with these lines addressed to Lois Lane, in reference to Superman:

“He may be able to fly all through the night,

But can he rock a party ’til the early light;

He can’t satisfy you with his little worm,

But I can bust you out with my super [yep, they went there].”

This was immediately followed by the following example of virtuoso “flow”:

I’m goin’ do it, I’m goin’ do it, I’m goin’ do it, do it, do it.

“Big bank Hank” then brings it all home with the now-cliched lines:

“Just throw your hands up in the air

And party hardy like you just don’t care.”

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Of course, The Sugarhill Gang weren’t the first to put these lines together (the modern variant of which is “wave them around” like you just don’t care) but again, they seem to’ve been the first to record them.  Like bards of old, MC’s probably kept a mental catalogue of stock rhymes, and “hands in the air / just don’t care” proved popular.  Indeed, Rapper’s Delight is so massively long, that it delivers another variant that fell by the catchphrase wayside.  Partway through, Master Gee raps:

“Then you throw your hands high in the air,

Ya rockin’ to the rhythm, shake your derriere.”

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Homer (not Simpson)

The fact that the first rap record was brought out by the marginal, unknown Sugarhill Gang — because no rapper of stature deigned to record themselves — opens the delicious possibility that maybe, just maybe, Homer (of The Iliad and The Odyssey fame) was a third-rate rhapsode in his day.

Back in the day, blind bards would go from town to town recounting their stories, entertaining the masses.  If you were a revered poet, you probably did pretty well for yourself (whatever “pretty well” passed for, in that era) and you probably wouldn’t have the drive or need to collaborate with some scribe on this new “writing” technology.  Indeed, you might take offence that someone else wanted to take your exact words so they could try to replicate your divinely-inspired performances… without you!

But if you were a third-stringer who only ever booked the worst gigs in the barren rock-pile that was ancient Greece (and, what with the austerity measures, future Greece*) well, maybe, just maybe, you might indulge some stranger who came up to you asking if you could recite your story, v-e-r-y   s-l-o-w-l-y, so he could write it all down!  :)

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* Greek car sales in 2012 were about 60,000.  Greek car sales in 2008, were about 260,000.  Ouch.  As Chris Rock would say, they’re way past Robitussin.  Kaopectate, too, for that matter.  :)

Second fiddles (usurping first-fiddle status)

(Originally written April 29, 2012 — part of my Great Upload of 2013)

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Cory Schneider’s replacement of Roberto Luongo as Vancouver’s #1 goalie has been all the talk for the past week or so.  But so solely focused was I on a work deadline, that I didn’t even cobble my thoughts in the extraneous minutes of each day, as I normally do.  (Tea-drinking social caterpillar that I am, I don’t spend much time chatting or on coffee breaks.  ;)  )

So, now’s my chance!

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One really feels for Schneider, who put up astounding numbers (1.31 GAA! .960 save percentage!) but got two losses in the three games he appeared in.  It’s a bit like Dominik Hasek’s performance in ’93-’94 (1.61, .950) when the Devils beat his Sabres in seven, in the opening round.  Since Devils’ goalie Martin Brodeur went three playoff rounds and only faced twice as many shots as Hasek, you can roughly guesstimate that Hasek was 50% busier than Brodeur each night — and still almost pulled it off.

Schneider’s rise to #1 status triggered a few items in the quirky relational database that is my brain, about understudies making it big.  Gloria Gaynor’s disco anthem I Will Survive was actually the B-side of the record, until DJ’s decided it was better than the now-long-forgotten A-side (“Substitute”).  What’s a B-side?  A “throwaway” song which wasn’t good enough to be on the album, so got dumped on the back side of a vinyl record single.  ;)

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A case with more cultural impact was when Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers got eclipsed by their opening act… the Jackson Five (featuring a young Michael Jackson).  Perhaps despairing of ever making it in music, Vancouvers’ co-founder Thomas Chong drifted for awhile before embarking on a series of, ahem, counter-cultural movies with Cheech Marin…

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And on the business side, William Wrigley made baking soda.  His chewing gum started off as a freebie giveaway in baking soda tins, at least until demand for the gum exceeded demand for the baking soda, and he decided to focus on that instead.  (Funnily enough, the baking soda itself had started out as a freebie giveaway with soap, which was Wrigley’s original business before he’d switched to baking soda!  Who knows?  In an alternate universe, “Ivory” might be manufactured by the conglomerate of “Proctor, Gamble & Wrigley”.)

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Moving back to hockey, everyone’s familiar with the freewheeling, “firewagon hockey” the Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers played in the 1980’s.  The all-offense all-the-time style was actually brought to North America by the Winnipeg Jets in the 1970’s, back when they were part of the World Hockey Association.  The Jets paired a couple Swedes (Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson) with the aging-but-still-great Bobby Hull, and built their team around the European game.  They won three WHA championships, including the last-ever one in 1979, against an Edmonton Oilers team featuring Wayne Gretzky, which coach / GM Glen Sather was savvily building around the same model.

In a twist, the WHA championship was called the Avco Cup, named after a division of Textron, a conglomerate whose carbon fiber materials division Ballard bought, eleven years ago.  So there’s actually a (very tenuous) Ballard link to all this!  Cool, eh?

[note: I was working for Ballard Power Systems, when I wrote this, primarily for work colleagues]

“Call Me Maybe” follow-up is a Major Second song…

I heard Carly Rae Jepsen’s new song Curiosity on the radio yesterday, and was fascinated that it’s a Major Second song.  By which I mean the song undergoes a key change upwards partway through — and to use the musical term, the key change is a “major second”.

If you purchase the song (like I did :) ) — or simply hear it on the radio — you can listen for the key change at about 2:10.

Regrettably, I can’t tell if it’s a Four Chord song.  :)

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Like the Four Chords, the “major second” key change is part of every musican’s toolbox, and is generally used to give songs an uplifting extra “push” two-thirds of the way along.  Vaguely like the seventh-inning stretch in baseball, I suppose, or the twenty-minute tea break in cricket.  :)  The fact that Ms. Jepsen used it, is perfectly fine; indeed, she uses it pretty effectively.

Other notable Major Second songs in my iTunes collection, or which otherwise come to mind, include:

– Diana Ross’ Chain Reaction (at roughly 3:00)

– Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody (3:15)

(I’m presuming Mariah Carey has used it too, but don’t know many of her songs)

– Michael Jackson’s Heal The World (4:30 in my version, which stretches about 6:30 long)

– and also his You Are Not Alone (3:45)

– Shania Twain’s Any Man Of Mine (2:45)

– Oasis’ Hey Jude tribute, All Around The World (4:45)

– Kylie Minogue’s Your Disco Needs You (2:45)   (only the bridge)

– Taylor Swift’s Love Story (3:15)

– and personal favourite Pet Shop Boys’ gay anthem-turned-basis-for-soccer chants, Go West (3:30)

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The last mention, however, has to go to Aussie comedy trio Axis of Awesome, with their masterful How to Write a Love Song (2:30 and then again at 2:50!)