Happy Birthday, Dad! John Dinwiddie Original Music, Recorded 1971 and 1973

Today’s my dad’s birthday. He left this physical world on Sept. 25 of 2015, so it’s a year of firsts now – first holidays without him, first birthdays, each one with its own meaning. I celebrate the dude. He was a brilliant and unusual man.

In his younger days, John Dinwiddie was an active composer. And only in recent years, some of his pieces have emerged on the Interwebs.

Here’s one of my favorites, “An Avalanche Of Pianos,” played by twenty-one pianists on twenty-one pianos in a Berkeley piano shop in 1971. The KPFA radio crew did an amazing job of recording this, and I’m so glad it’s available to listen to now. There’s a little background info at archive.org about this program, which was performed exactly once. After “Avalanche” is a performance by the same group of Philip Corner’s “C Major Chord”. (Note – there’s some warm-up and intro sounds at the beginning, then they get going)


Also performed live on KPFA but in 1973, this 80 minute set contains several John Dinwiddie originals, including two versions of “Quiver.” (Also hosted with some background info at archive.org)


“Quiver” involves placing glass lenses on the strings of a grand piano and tapping them, causing the lenses to quiver back and forth on the strings as gravity slowly brings them back to inertia. John and his friends used to practice this sort of thing at our home when I was very young, and I was utterly fascinated by the whole affair. I remember asking my mom, “what are they doing?” To which she replied, “they’re having a rehearsal.” Now, I didn’t know what a rehearsal was, it was not yet in my 5-year-old vocabulary. But, at that moment, I decided that I must have a “rehearsal” too! It just looked like too much fun.

They experimented with every parameter of what you can call “music.” It was at the height of John Cage’s obliteration of conventional constraints on musical notation and everything else, and my dad and his friends were in the thick of it.

Here is a picture of John at work on his piece, “Winters,” in which he hung an array of mirrors and attached a small contact microphone to each one. The audience would wander through the structure and tap at the mirrors, the sound of which was sent through some electronic filters and amplified through loudspeakers in the room. And that was the whole piece. This spectacle was, for a time, the dining room in our house.

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I’m grateful and I miss the guy, but, I get the sense he’s doing something unusual and creative and fun, in some form or another, perhaps without the constraints of linear time.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Stopify?

The official position of streaming music companies toward recording artists and copyright owners seems to remain:

“We will try not to pay you anything, for as long as we can get away with it. But don’t worry, we LOVE you!! And someday unicorns will fart money your way, because awesome.”

This has not left many music creators feeling amorous.

Spotify Slapped With a Second Class-Action Lawsuit…

Watching with interest.

Tip o’ the hat to –

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What Madness! A Mashup Of Guitar Solos, from Yours Truly

This is a reel of solos I plucked from various records I’ve played on over the years.

Here are the tracks and albums they are from:

1. “Radiation Boy” – The Uptones – Skankin’ Foolz Unite! – 2008
2. “Psychotic Reaction” (Count 5 cover) – The Fashion Slaves – Check Out The Fashion Slaves – 2011
3. “Write A Song About Me” – Matt Jaffe & The Distractions – Blast Off EP – 2015
4. “Sky High” – HOBO album – 1993
5. “Not From Here” – Stiff Richards – Email EP – 1998
6. “Fell In And Out Of Art” – Stiff Richards album – 1996

Pink Section Cover Story on The Uptones by Joel Selvin

When SF Chronicle pop music critic Joel Selvin interviewed Paul Jackson, Moose Lethridge and myself for his article about The Uptones’ reformation in the 2000’s, we had no idea it would be part of a cover story in the Sunday Datebook. Shortly after the release of our Skankin’ Foolz Unite! CD, there it was next to the morning coffee and we were gobsmacked. Pat Johnson took the cover photo and Katy Raddatz got some fun color action shots of the band in rehearsal in West Oakland. You can read the saga in SFGate. Thanks Joel, and thanks everyone who has enjoyed this long, strange, ska trip with us.

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RANCID – “… And Out Come The Wolves”

“… And Out Come The Wolves” is my favorite Rancid album, and “The 11th Hour” is a collaboration I’ll always be proud of. Tim Armstrong and I wrote it in about three hours spread out over as many days, as the band was deep into the finishing stages of recording. I was surprised that Tim wanted to push one more song through the works, but it not only made the cut but ended up being track #2 on the record. There’s a 20th Anniversary remastered edition that just came out, more on that at Epitaph Records. This album was the soundtrack to my life in late 1995.

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STIFF RICHARDS Infamous “Email EP”!

This record from STIFF RICHARDS features 5 original songs with lead vocals from The Rev. Paul Jackson, and some phenomenal drumming from Tuan Titlestad. On the opening track, “Not From Here” (later covered by The UPTONES), you hear the collision of Bennie Wood’s commanding ska bass style and Tuan’s all-out rock drum approach. That sets the tone for the whole EP and it does not let up. “Halibut” is a personal favorite of mine, especially as it finds Paul channeling Sasquatch, explaining, “Don’t call me Bigfoot.” The set closes with “Bonnie and Clyde” (also later covered by The UPTONES) which was composed in the studio. These songs called for me to go hog-wild on guitar, and I love how it all come out.

Available at iTunes.

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L-R Eric Din, Tuan Titlestad, Paul Jackson, and Bennie Wood. Photo by Victor Hall

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At Last A WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com Definitive Guide

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I get these questions often: “Should I use WordPress.com? Or download the software from WordPress.org and host it myself? Which approach is better?! Help me understand!!”

Thankfully wpmudev.org just published a handy guide that answers this question in neat detail. It’s conveniently titled:

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: A Definitive Guide For 2015

So read up and don’t fret. Go boldly forth into the wonderful WordPress world. Remember, you can always start a free account at WordPress.com to get your toes wet, and then export your juicy content (very easy to do with WordPress) and import it into your new fancy self-hosted install later, if you like. You have freedom. And options. Isn’t life grand? Gutenberg would freak out.

“Check Out The Fashion Slaves” by – you guessed it – The Fashion Slaves!

The Fashion Slaves started as a side project when Emily Jayne was singing and playing guitar with The UPTONES in 2011. We got home from a little tour and she’s rarin’ to go so we decided to make a four-piece rock band. I called Eric Knight whose bass playing I loved in ENGINE 88, and young Pete D’Amato completed the combo on drums. This live album contains one of our earliest performances. Our producer Matthew King Kaufman encouraged us to play the Millard Fillmore High School dance, and sent Michael Rosen out with his mobile recording setup to capture it. The opening cut is our cover of “Psychotic Reaction” which was so damn fun to play as it has two (!!) extended guitar solos, so I went completely nuts right at the beginning of the set. Here’s a video Emily made for the song.

Available at iTunes

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L-R Eric Din, Emily Jayne, Eric Knight, and “On the Beat” Pete D’Amato. Photo by Pat Johnson

The UPTONES – “East Bay Orbits”

This is a compilation featuring each of the six people (so far!) who have performed lead vocal duties in The UPTONES: Erik Rader, Charles Stella, The Rev. Paul Jackson, Moose Lethridge, Emily Jayne, and myself. The most recent recording (“T.V. Guns”) is from 2010,  and the earliest (“Out To Sea”) is from 1983! We did a show in 2011 in which we got all these characters onstage to perform their signature Uptones songs. It was an epic bit of cat-herding but definitely worth it, the show was a blast. That probably won’t happen again, but you can still get the record from iTunes, or order a CD from uptones.com – I think we have like 2 left!

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Aidin Vaziri profiles Matt Jaffe in SF Chronicle

Here’s a nice little write-up from Aidin Vaziri about Matt Jaffe & The Distractions in the SF Chronicle. It’s a local paper so I picked up a paper copy for my wall of course! I love Matt’s songs, and it was really great fun playing guitar with the his band the Distractions, on their latest recordings. See these guys on tour if you get the chance, they’re phenomenal!

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