It’s been a while since I’ve dusted off this old flexidisc record and played it—12 months, to be exact.
In December, an annual tradition of mine is to listen to “Dinosaur Christmas Song,” credited only to “Coddingtown Center.” For those who grew up in Santa Rosa, it’s truly one of the strangest Christmas songs in existence, telling the story of how the very first Christmas ever took place on the land now known as the Coddingtown shopping mall. It does a horrendous job at connecting Christmas and commerce, but I look at it through the eyes of one like, say, Stan Freberg, who railed against the commercialization of Christmas. Would not even Stan be charmed by the surreal absurdity of the British narrator, the female chorus, and the incessant groaning of dinosaurs in the background?
Many years ago, right when I started at the Bohemian, I decided to try and track down the origins of this record, which I discovered in 1994 at Goodwill for 35 cents. The article took me to Coddingtown in Santa Rosa, Hugh Codding’s main office in Rohnert Park, local commercial recording studios, radio stations, Montgomery Village and more. Read all about it here.
Or, if you’re so inclined, click the player below and be transported to a very strange moment in local history. At this point, after becoming an annual tradition, it’s one of my favorite Christmas songs. Enjoy.
New “ROCK” Night Club coming 2011 $ Guarantee (rohnert pk / cotati)
Date: 2010-12-16, 9:28AM PST
Reply to: [email protected]
Here is the GREAT DEAL~~~ I pay all band members $1.00 per hour. If you have a 10 piece band all you guys make $10.00 bucks an hour. PLUS I supply dinner (chips & pretzels & all the soda for free) This is Guaranteed CASH FOR ALL YOU Musicians: No cover no pay to play///this is a deal of the century. Look for Jaco’s Club coming in 2011.
- it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
1. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening (DFA/Virgin)
2. Yellow Swans – Going Places (Type)
3. Jóhann Jóhannsson – And in the Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees (Type)
4. Robyn – Body Talk Pt. 1 (Konichiwa/Interscope)
5. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor (XL)
6. Standard Fare – The Noyelle Beat (Bar None)
7. V/A – Welcome Home (Diggin’ the Universe): A Woodsist Compilation (Woodsist)
8. The Velvet Teen – No Star (Self-Released)
9. Jack Attack – My Rights Have Been Violated (Self-Released)
10. Jason Moran – Ten (Blue Note/EMI)
11. Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday (Young Money/Universal)
12. Goodriddler – The Strength of Weak Ties (Sell the Heart)
13. Grouper / Roy Montgomery – Vessel (Self-Released)
14. RVIVR – S/T (Rumbletowne)
15. Marco Benevento – Between the Needles and Nightfall (Royal Potato)
16. Hanalei – One Big Night (Big Scary Monsters/Brick Gun)
17. Superchunk – Majesty Shredding (Merge)
18. Hearse – Diagnosed (Self-Released)
19. Sam Amidon – I See the Sign (Bedroom Community)
20. M.I.A. – Maya (Interscope)
21. Evan Parker & John Weise – C-Section (PAN)
22. Daniel Bjarnason – Processions (Bedroom Community)
23. Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma (Warp)
24. Joseph Hammer – I Love You, Please Love Me Too (PAN)
25. Best Coast – Crazy for You (Mexican Summer)
Kim Hill is not a household name, and she likes it that way. But for five years, Hill sang with the Black Eyed Peas before quitting over pressures to go more mainstream; they then found the treachery that is Fergie, who would eventually propel them to become the shittiest group in the universe.
Hill moved back to South Central a while ago and keeps a blog about her neighborhood. I appreciate her insights and thoughts on race, poverty and feminism, but I must admit they’re made stronger knowing where she’s been. It’s a reminder of where the Black Eyed Peas came from, and the type of hopeful thinking they so cynically abandoned. Read it here.
Even if the Wronglers were the worst band in the universe, I’d still want to go to their show this weekend, worm my way up front and give a standing ovation to every song simply because of the group’s frontman, Warren Hellman. Hellman, as many may know, is the lovable billionaire who’s made the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival a reality in San Francisco for over a decade, at no charge whatsoever to the hundreds of thousands of fans who attend the world-famous event every year.
Luckily, the Wronglers aren’t just decent, they’re downright good. But don’t try to tell that to Hellman.
How did you learn the banjo?
Well, first, don’t assume that I’ve learned it! I’ve always loved banjo music, probably for the worst reasons. I’ve loved listening to Earl Scruggs and those guys, but even worse, I’ve always loved listening to the Kingston Trio. Everybody tells me that I shouldn’t admit that, but I like their music, I like their banjo playing. I’ve always liked this kind of music, and I tried to play it for three or four years. I didn’t play it for about 30 years, and now I play as much as I humanly can for the last 10 years.
I heard a rumor you tried to get Pete Seeger to give you lessons at one point.
What happened was pretty straightforward. I was 28 years old, I thought I was an important investment banker, and it took me a long time to realize that “important investment banker” is an oxymoron. So like most people learning to play this type of banjo—that is, old-time double-thumbing—I thought, “Why don’t I take lessons from Pete Seeger?” I’d bought his book, and what I’d learned so far I’d got from his book. So I started trying to call Pete Seeger, and of course he never returned my call. Finally this guy called me and said, “Mr. Hellman, I am Mr. Seeger’s manager. What do you want?” I said, “I’m Warren Hellman, I’m at Lehman Brothers, and I’d really like to take lessons from Pete Seeger.” And he said, “Well, I’d like to hang up.”
Why did you wait so long to debut your banjo playing at the festival?
First I wanted to have some idea that I could play again. It was three or four years after I started taking lessons again. And we’d formed the band. It just seemed to make sense. By the way, you understand that this is the original pay-to-play. I’m putting on the whole goddamn festival so my band can play for 30 minutes on opening day!
How often do you guys get together to rehearse?
Hourly. Ron Thomason from Dry Branch Fire Squad said, “You guys rehearse more than any band I’ve ever seen or heard anywhere.” I said, “Yeah, but look at how far we have to go!” We rehearse twice a week, sometimes for four or five hours. All the rest of the musicians have gotten really good. All but one. Which is why I don’t even introduce myself when we’re playing.
How does it feel being asked to play shows apart from the festival now?
I keep saying that the best moment of my life was when we played in South by Southwest last year, and the day after we played, I was sitting listening to Buddy Miller when a guy comes up and taps me on the shoulder and says, “Hey, aren’t you with the Wronglers?” I said, “Shit, man, for 40 years I was an investment banker, and not one person ever recognized me anyplace.” The guy said, “Yeah, yeah, that’s fine. What’s your name?” I said, “Man, you’ve just made my life!”
You’re such a hero to all the performers at the festival. Are they still heroes to you?
One of my partners was on a television show a couple weeks ago, where it was him and Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Somebody said, “Does that make you jealous?” I said, “No, but if he was on a show with Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson, that’d really piss me off.” I know this sounds too gushy or too starry-eyed, but I think the nicest collection of people I’ve met in my life are all these performers. I don’t know. Maybe because it’s such a tough way to make a living or something. I was in the nastiest, most competitive business that you could imagine for a lot of years, where not only did most people dislike their competitors, they even disliked the people they worked with!
You’ve been an investment banker, an athlete—both are pretty demanding. Is playing bluegrass just as intense and challenging?
Oh, yeah. I’m 76. At 86 I might be mediocre. But the deeper answer to that is that I really believe that you should have something you do in your life where you’re capable of improvement. I’m never going to run as fast as I did, I’m never going to ski powder the way I did. Everything else, as you get older, you try to preserve what you did, and you can’t. So having really started playing banjo ten years ago, there are signs—not very many—but there are signs that I can improve. Have I bored you to tears?
No! I look forward to seeing you in Petaluma—anything special worked up?
They said to us, “This is a Christmas show, you oughta do a Christmas song.” Of course what they’re expecting, I suppose, is “Silent Night.” But we’ve written our own song. The opening line is “Sweet baby Jesus, if only you knew / Just what your birth would lead us all to.” Do you think we’ll be in trouble in Petaluma with that?
Warren Hellman and the Wronglers with Arann Harris and the Farm Band play ‘The Big Give Back’ on Sunday, Dec. 12, at the Mystic Theatre. 21 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. 6:30pm. $10 with two cans of food; $15 otherwise. 707.762.3565.
This is only news to me because I had cynically decided Nicki Minaj’s record would be terrible about eight months ago. I knew the formula, or so I thought: artist puts out a few mixtapes, gets a couple high-profile verses, scores big with critics for something that sets them apart and then goes to record a proper album that crassly exploits those distinguishing features or somehow manages to make them sound completely unoriginal. At least that’s how I thought it might play out.
The first time I heard Nicki Minaj, I was fairly blown away. Then I looked her up and found this. The title of every song she’d guested on thus far sounded like a headline from Penthouse Forum. This brings up age-old issues about feminism in rap and the need to use sex as a foot in the door to get the real issues across; most realize swiftly that sex can be used instead of it using you, especially in the pursuit of sales and page views. When “Bed Rock” hit, I knew that Minaj had just built a career on the line “I think it’s time I put this pussy on your sideburns” in the same way that Ke$ha got famous by waking up and feeling like P. Diddy.
I also decided that her record would be terrible, because there would be too much money thrown at it, and that usually ruins everything. And though Pink Friday sounds plentifully funded, it doesn’t strip Minaj of her basic character—or, I should say, her multiple characters. She still ends lines by spewing like a barking dog (a la guess who’s playin’ Freddy), she still inhabits a persona for two seconds before abandoning it (British aristocrat, southern belle), but the varied production of the songs means that she doesn’t have to overcompensate with a scattered delivery.
Yeah, the thing’s fuckin’ filthy. It’s also hella clever and fun. Without Googling, I hear samples from “Video Killed the Radio Star,” “Don’t You Forget About Me” and “Scenario.” Eminem is an idiot on “Roman’s Revenge”—really, “no homo” in the year 2010?—Rihanna’s uber-inspirational on “Fly” and the production on “Did it on ‘em” lurks addictively. Not to mention that “I’m the Best” is an outstanding way to start an album: verse one humble (“I made a couple mistakes”), verse two trailblazing (“I’m fighting for the girls that never thought that they could win”) and wrapped up with a choice lift from Beyoncé (“all my bad bitches, I can see your halo”).
Oh, shit, and people in Japan don’t speak Thai. But that’s okay, and old Barbie World news anyway. The record’s still good.
I heard from quite a few people about a short piece I wrote on Grouper a few months ago, and though I’ve expounded on her music plenty, I’ve always been equally enamored with her artwork. ‘Divide’ is a book of Liz’s drawings that just came out via Root Strata, and it’s a fantastic collection of everything I love about Liz’s art: fine lines and finer ideas.
Some art I enjoy because it seems effortless, but more often, I love swimming through the process. Following Liz’s meticulous detail is like poring through ancient government documents: There’s a lot of hard fact there, but it requires lateral sight to place in understandable context.
‘Divide’ comes with a DVD, which I’ll watch after the book sinks in. In other words, 2023. You can order a copy here.
If you’d have asked me two days ago, I would say that I can think of no possible way to ruin “Teach Me How to Dougie” by Cali Swag District, an essentially perfect song.
Girl Talk has a broader thought process than I, apparently.
Here you’ll find a track-by-track breakdown of all the samples that serve to render hip-hop songs palatable to those who remain enamored with the diminishing effects of the mashup craze birthed by real vinyl DJs and co-opted by the laptop brigade—including “Jane Says.” Sigh.
Here’s the thing about the Beatles and iTunes deal expected to be announced tomorrow. Much is being made about old copyright issues surrounding the “Apple” name, and how how it’s a big kiss-and-make-up story.
But what it comes down to is this: The Beatles catalog on CD for years was one of the most criminally un-remastered catalogs in all of music. When you bought ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ in 2008, its sonic quality was based on rudimentary standards in CD mastering from 1986.
When the Rolling Stones’ remasters came out in 2002, it set a precedent for the Beatles—not just aurally, but financially. The Stones remasters sold like crazy, and the Beatles took notice.
In September 2009, to great jubilation, the Beatles finally remastered their back catalog. The remasters were only available on CD, not iTunes, and as expected, they broke sales records for CD reissues. In 2009, the Beatles sold over 3 million CDs. For a time, the money rolled right in.
Now, over a year later, sales of those remastered CDs have fallen back to normal weekly figures. How else to jolt sales again? Move to the next medium. Of course—iTunes.
There’s no kiss-and-make-up story. It’s just the Beatles strategically timing the release of their music on newer platforms for maximum profit. Sorry to be cynical, but that’s really the beginning and the the end of it.