Josh Hornik Blog

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February 28, 2006

Reclining Pig at the Olympics

Don't know if anyone else saw this... I was watching cross-country skiing and they flashed the crowd with all their flags waving like crazy, and what should I see but a Reclining Pig flag in the crowd.

Which is kind of strange since not only were there no cross-country skiiers in the race representing Reclining Pig, in fact Reclining Pig is not even a country at all.

Reclining Pig at the Torino Olympics

Posted by JoshHornik at 05:53 PM | Comments (0)

My future solo project

OK, you might call it selling out to make a cheap album of all covers to trade on the popularity of your band and make a quick buck. But before you attack my future motivations, you should know that all the future profits for this future solo project of mine between Elefoot albums will go to (future) charity. And you can't really blame me for wanting to record Jessie's Girl, can you?!?

Elefoot's Josh Hornik's solo album as Wooly Mammofoot - Puntitled

Posted by JoshHornik at 05:27 PM | Comments (0)

February 26, 2006

Josh's Songbook #1: The Jackson 5 - Who's Lovin' You?

I've been reading the Nick Hornby book Songbook. It's a book of short essays on some of Hornby's favorite songs. Hornby, of course, is a well-known music nut, having written the book High Fidelity, basis for the John Cusack movie, and writing frequent music reviews in between novels. (Incidentally, I usually read books based on reviews or recommendations, but High Fidelity is one of the few I have bought entirely based on browsing a bookstore and finding the write-up interesting. Hmm, why would a story about a guy who enjoyed re-arranging his record collection and making top 10 lists of songs have appealed to me...?)

Anyway, it's an interesting (and easy) read, since Hornby's a good writer, but it is a little disappointing that he seems to prefer to discuss his philoshophies of pop songs in generalities to the specific elements of the songs he chose that make them his favorites. Each essay contains 1 or 2 sentences about a line of lyrics or a solo phrase in the song, but that's it.

But of course it's inspired me to write about my favorite songs, and specifically what it is about those songs that makes them so great. Whether it's the guitar solo in Pink Floyd's Time, the drum break in Aretha's Rock Steady, or the 2-bar silence in Devin Davis' Deserted Eyeland, the best songs all have something - often lots of things - that make them the best.

And so, here's song #1 in the Josh Hornik Songbook:

The Jackson 5 - Who's Lovin' You? from Diana Ross presents The Jackson 5
(sound clip here)
Anyone who knows the song will know right away what 'the thing' is in this song. Michael Jackson, at age 10, recorded one of the greatest vocals ever in pop music. Clear proof that musicality (or, in this case, soul) is something you are born with and not taught. Basically, I have gone hoarse singing along to this song more than any other song in my collection (though all of Judas' songs from Jesus Christ Superstar are close). I have tried to learn every nuance of Michael's performance and match it note-for-note and vibrato-for-vibrato. Once in my college dorm, I finished a spirited version of the song only to open my eyes and find my friends outside my door, having witnessed the whole thing (and laughing mercilessly).

The song was written by Smokey Robinson and recorded first by The Miracles on their first album, but I think Smokey's version is a little tinnier and shallower than the J5 version. For the Jackson 5, the Motown producers smoothed out the background music with strings and classic Jackson 5 background vocals, which help bring depth. But mostly, the Jackson 5 version gains, amazingly, from a grittier, more desperate vocal by 10-yr. old Michael.

The opening is all anticipation. First, a tremendous blues organ riff leading to Michael's entrance, an elongated "wheeeeen" that finally leads into the opening of the song and the addition of drums, strings, a great funky bass and backing vocals. Michael wastes no time hitting the heights -- "When I had you, I treated you..." and on "bad" he hits a high note above everything, then brings it back down to the rest of the song. But you know there's no stopping him from then on.

I have to wonder if Michael Jackson was really that good, or if he just got lucky. He hits blue notes (slightly flat for effect) with perfection, and he seems to improvise the rhythms as well, coming in on the beat for one chorus while holding off for a beat on the next. Logic says that it must have been the producers telling him how to do it -- that no 10-year old kid could have just known to put that grunt, "huh", between "life without love" and "is oh so lonely" halfway through the song. But, cleary, this kid was something special.

The song climaxes with a vocal cadenza, almost unnecessary after 3 minutes of incredible vocals, but still great. But the great thing is that as the song fades out, Michael's still going, still improvising and hitting high notes and putting his soul into it.

Watch any episode of American Idol, then listen to this song, and you will hear the difference between vocal gymnastics for the sake of showing off, and soulful vocals for the benefit of an emotional song.

(PS - Besides this song, the first Jacksons album had a bunch of other great ones including the #1 hit I Want You Back and Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, with another unbelievable MJ vocal and more. Highly recommended.)

Posted by JoshHornik at 11:15 AM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2006

Music Nerd Strikes Again

So I just finished a massive alphabetization project on my CD collection. I have a lot of CD's, from The Allman Brothers to Zwan, and it got me wondering...

What are the best 1-2 punches, alphabetically speaking, in my collection? Sometimes I wonder if new bands ever name themselves with the express intent of getting good placement at record stores. Why not name yourself The Bears to get that premier position next to The Beatles?

Anyway, here are my findings:

There are several good, but random combos, like
- Joe Jackson and Michael Jackson
- Pink Floyd and The Police
- Smashing Pumpkins and Jill Sobule
- The Sundays and The Talking Heads
- Stevie Wonder and Neil Young

Like roots?
- Taj Mahal and Bob Marley
How about funk?
- Outkast and Parliament
For the folkies, here's a good threesome
- Abra Moore and Van Morrison and Peter Mulvey

Like newer music? How about
- Ben Folds and Foo Fighters
- Death Cab for Cutie and The Decemberists

The weirdest combo? How about this threesome?
- rapper Nelly and Willie Nelson and Green Day Devo-tribute The Network

The worst?
- William Shatner and reggae-rapper Shinehead

1-hit wonder combos:
- Buena Vista Social Club and Butter 08
- The La's and Ray LaMontagne

Unfortunately, Bob Dylan is bookended by Pete Droge and The Eagles and so, the awards for greatest alphabetical 1-2 combos in music history go to:
#3 Muddy Waters and The Who (with a bonus for Hank Williams following The Who)
#2 The Beach Boys and The Beatles
and, #1, for both having created genres and brought them to the mainstream:
Nirvana and NWA
Nirvana - Nevermind NWA - Straight Outta Compton

Posted by JoshHornik at 01:06 PM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2006

Way More Pretty - Back Cover

OK, I finally found the time to scan in the back cover of my future Elefoot album, Way More Pretty. As you can see, it seems I'll be creating my own label (Reclining Pig Records) and after probably saying for years that someone should cover the Devo song "Girl U Want", I'm finally just going to do it myself with Elefoot. (It rocks, too.)

Saved it big, so you could read the track list...

Elefoot - Way More Pretty - Back Cover

Posted by JoshHornik at 05:00 PM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2006

Reclining Pig sells out again

Well, the sales aren't so good at the Reclining Pig Store, so RP has had to hit Madison Ave again. At least, he's going hip this time, with this new campaign for iPod. Watch for the billboards coming soon...

Reclining Pig iPod ad

Incidentally, if you're wondering what Reclining Pig is listening to, here is his playlist:
Piggies - The Beatles
Lay Lady Lay - Bob Dylan
Porcelina of the Vast Oceans - Smashing Pumpkins
Been Down So Long - The Doors
Lay Down Sally - Eric Clapton
Do U Lie - Prince
Georgia Slop - Los Lobos
How Much I've Lied - Gram Parsons
I Can't Stand Up - Sam and Dave
Take It Easy - The Eagles
Hot Dog - Led Zeppelin
When You Move You Lose - Rufus & Carla
Lean On Me - Bill Withers
Bacon Fat - Taj Mahal
Pretty in Pink - The Psychedelic Furs
Lover Lay Down - Dave Matthews Band
Maggie's Farm - Bob Dylan
Relax - Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Ham 'n' Eggs - A Tribe Called Quest
The Hawg, Part One - Eddie Kirk
To Lay Me Down - Grateful Dead

Posted by JoshHornik at 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2006

Give it up for George Steinbrenner and the NY Yankees

Yes, I hate the New York Yankees (that means you, Johnny Damon), but this is such a great story, I have to give some props to George Steinbrenner. Wouldn't expect it from him, but I liked his quotes, and how great would it be to be this kid?

Steinbrenner invites kid to NY

FYI - I just watched an old Seinfeld episode that included their Steinbrenner character, and I realized that the always-hilarious voice of Steinbrenner (never credited) was none other than Larry David!

Posted by JoshHornik at 12:51 PM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2006

Notes from Watching The Olympics

My TIVO is probably chugging away at this very moment, recording Latvia vs. Slovakia in Women's Curling. It really earns a medal of its own during the Olympics, recording away 10 hours a day -- CNBC, MSNBC, NBC -- you name it, my Tivo's on it!

The Olympics are great, aren't they? At no other time would I even think of watching speed skating -- it's a little like watching paint dry (in clockwise circles). Though I have to admit, if the networks would ever show Curling or Biathlon at any other time, I'd watch it. They said that Biathlon is the #1 sport on TV in Europe -- sounds aprocryphal to me, but if it's true, I can see why -- that's exciting stuff, watching those targets turn white.

But, of course, there are a few complaints -- mostly about the ridiculous TV coverage. First of all, the opening ceremonies. The ceremonies themselves are always absurd, and there's nothing better than hearing Bob Costas attempting to make sense of complete randomness -- "The man on stilts in the Groucho Marx costume juggling 5 clubs in the Olympic ring colors represents Perseverance". But can we stop inviting the news guy? Do we really need Brian Williams proving how much he knows with his NEWS 101 tidbits on each country in the parade of athletes? "Poland -- they're still mourning the Pope. He was a skiier, himself; Germany -- we actually went to war AGAINST them back in the 1940's..." Insipid and contradictory, since the whole point of the Olympics was to forget all of the geopolitical conflict and get the world together. And while we're un-inviting people, please never invite Mary Carillo anywhere. How did a lame tennis announcer get such a big role at the Olympics. No one even watches tennis, and those that do can't actually like Mary Carillo.

Speaking of TV announcers that don't make sense, is there anything stupider than using ex-athletes as commentators in sports they never played? "For more information on the intricacies of waxing your cross-country skis, let's go down to ex-high jumper Dwight Stones. And coming up, ex-gymnast Tim Daggett previews the ski jumping."

And about these sports...
Things have gotten a little out of control. Short-track speed skating is the worst sport I have ever seen. Not only does it just seem stupid that it's so easy for a gold-medal favorite to catch a skate and be out of the race, or get DQ'd for a questionable move, but it's also really boring to watch. They skate around in circles for 9 laps, then on the last lap they try to win it. Yawn.

Ski Jumping is always cool, and I have to admit, cross-country skiing is really exciting. I really appreciate the way the skiiers completely collapse as soon as they cross the finish line. The short-track speed skaters could learn something about trying hard from the cross-country skiers.

Now, about these "extreme" athletes. OK, the snowboarders did pretty amazing things on the halfpipe, and it's always good to see USA win, but can we just agree not to interview these guys? I don't want to hear how an Olympian is "stoked" about his run, or "tripping" about the pressure. At least pretend to take it seriously, guys. And wear a real uniform -- ski pants falling off your ass is not bringing honor to your country.

However, I will give the moguls a pass, because it brought us Kari Traa of Norway. She won the silver medal, which is impressive enough, but more importantly, she is the best-looking Olympian I've seen since the ultimate skating cutie, Ekaterina Gordeeva (Click to see the picture I had up in my high school locker in 1988). More Kari Traa, less Michelle Kwan, please!

Silver on the Slopes, Gold in the Ms. Photogenic competition: Kari Traa

Posted by JoshHornik at 12:05 PM | Comments (1)

February 09, 2006

Another Elefoot Album

The hunger for more information about my future band Elefoot has been overwhelming. So I jumped back in the time machine to search for more Elefoot music. Score! I found the 2nd Elefoot album, "Way More Pretty" on vinyl in a used record store. Will try to scan in the back cover soon, but for now, here's the front.

Elefoot's 2nd album - Way More Pretty

PS - don't forget, you can still get Elefoot shirts here.

Posted by JoshHornik at 09:16 PM | Comments (0)

February 07, 2006

My future band's first album

I hopped in my time machine again for a short trip to the future. While there, I saw my future band Elefoot's first album "Disremember Me Not" in future Tower Records. Album of the Year 2010?

Unfortunately, they seem to have figured out digital rights management in the future, so I can't upload any of the songs, but I can tell you they rock! And I do have the track listing:

1. Disremember
2. When I Say Go
3. A Backpack in My Rucksack
4. Domestic Policy
5. Ella Had It Right
6. Wintergreen
7. Not So Jonesin'
8. Instrumental
9. Yes Yes Yes I Said Yes

While I love the single Disremember -- power pop at its future best -- I have to say my favorite song is the anthemic set-closer Yes Yes Yes I Said Yes. It's 8 minutes long, building from a slow acoustic opening to a driving, almost symphonic climax (thus the Joyce allusion, I guess) at the 5-1/2 minute mark, before an extended coda that could have stood alone as one of the better songs on the album. Great stuff. Can't wait til I write these songs.

Good news! I bought some Elefoot T-shirts and brought them back with me. They are for sale at the Reclining Pig store.

Posted by JoshHornik at 11:44 PM | Comments (1)