The Ongoing History of New Music, Episode 771: 60 Mind-Blowing Facts About Music in 60 Minutes

My home office is a mess. Books, press releases, bios, CDs, vinyl, newspaper clipping, magazines–debris resulting from all the researching and writing I do on a daily basis. Most of this material ends up in Ongoing History shows, but there’s plenty of stuff that doesn’t make the cut. Some doesn’t fit with any show topic. Other stuff is outside the general mandate of the program while there are plenty of scraps that can’t quite come together to make up a full program.

It would be a shame for all that fascinating trivia to be thrown away, so I’m going to perform my annual Wikileaks-like data dump with sixty (almost) random facts distributed through the sixty minutes of the program. And just so nothing will get lost, here’s everything you need to know.

  1. In 1981, the UK music industry launched a campaign called “Home Taping is Killing Music.” They complained that people who recorded vinyl onto cassette tapes were destroying the music industry—even if they were doing just for their own use. “If you want to have music on cassette, then buy the pre-recorded cassette!” This did not go down well with consumers or with a lot of bands.
  2. Bow Wow Wow released a song called “C30, C60, C90 Go” on cassette and left the B-side blank with instructions to tape whatever you wanted there. If the music industry only knew what was coming twenty years later…
  3. Caleb Followill of Kings of Leon once developed a serious case of anorexia. He says the only thing that saved him was the munchies he got from smoking pot.
  4. The biggest distributor of music in Indonesia is KFC. The 550 KFC stores across the country sell more than 500,000 CDs a month. It’s such big business that they’ve hired U2 producer Steve Lillywhite to expand the project.
  5. There are people who believe that they’ve solved the mystery of the murder of child beauty queen Jon-Benet Ramsey. They say that she’s alive and actually grew up to become—wait for it—Katy Perry.
  6. On the same sort of subject, Lemmy of Motorhead is not dead, either. He was allegedly a member of the Illuminati and has simply ascended to the level of a “higher master”—whatever that is.
  7. And some believe that Kurt Cobain is still alive. They claim that he’s living and working in Peru under the name Ramiro Saavedra. Nice try, but the theory doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
  8. Here’s another reason Liam Gallagher doesn’t like his big brother. When they were growing up, Noel would move furniture around the house to make Liam believe that ghosts exist. He kept that up for years.
  9. A man in Ukraine wanted to win an iPhone 7 so badly that he changed his name to iPhone 7. His thinking was that the phone cost $850 and the name change cost $2. He says he might change his name back when he has kids.
  10. Several albums featuring music just for cats were released in 2016. I don’t know why.
  11. Meanwhile in Chechnya, authorities have vowed to crack down on what they called “inappropriate drunken dancing” at weddings. This includes anyone who hits the open bar and starts busting out some sexy moves—or if the bride dances. They have a problem with that.
  12. The muck-raking band known as Negativland lost a member named Don Joyce to cancer in July 2015. In the fall of 2016, the band offered pre-orders of their new album, Volume 9. Those who acted fast could get a bonus with their record: two grams of Don’s cremated remains.
  13. Just before Halloween of 2016, a member of the audience dumped a suspicious-looking powder on the orchestra pit of New York’s Metropolitan Opera during the second intermission. The rest of the performance was cancelled, the opera house evacuated and counterterrorism and hazmat units were called. Was this terrorism? An anthrax attack? Spreading of radioactive dust? No. It was just some guy from Texas spreading the ashes of a loved one.
  14. And no, the rumours about David Bowie’s daughter spreading her father’s ashes at Burning Man earlier this year were not true.
  15. In 2016, there was a museum exhibit that featured nothing but artwork displaying worship—yes, worship—of Kanye West.
  16. When Moby made music business history by aggressively licensing his music for everything from TV commercials to movie soundtracks, he took a lot of flack for being a sellout. A former friend, indie film director Paul Yates, offered up a jar of air purportedly containing Moby’s soul. It sold on eBay for $41.
  17. Speaking of eBay, legend has it that some enterprising Radiohead fan scooped out some of Thom Yorke’s toenail clippings which were then also on eBay. I have no idea who bought them. Or why.
  18. Melba toast—that dried up stuff that you eat when you’re on a diet—was named after an Australian opera singer named Dame Nellie Melba back in 1887. It was created or her by a chef (who was also a fan) when she was feeling poorly and needed something for her delicate stomach.
  19. South Korea regularly annoys North Korea by blasting K-pop songs over the DMZ at extremely loud volumes. The North has threatened to go to war over this more than one.
  20. And remember the song “Bust a Move” from Young MC? The bass player on that song is Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers
  21. What’s the difference between a “phonograph,” a “gramophone,” a “record player” and a “turntable?” Nothing. They’re all the same thing. But “phonograph” and “gramophone” were once brand names that eventually turned into regular nouns, like “kleenex” or “aspirin.”
  22. The original phonographs and gramophones were 100% acoustic devices, appearing before anyone figured out how to make electric amplifiers. This meant there was only one way to turn down the default volume of a phonograph or gramophone:  a fabric ball called a “sock” which you had to jam into the acoustic horn of the machine. This is the origin of the phrase “stick a sock in it.
  23. “Vinyl” is short for “polyvinyl chloride,” plastic substances developed in the 1920s when scientists were looking for a new material from which to make sewer pipes.
  24. What do you call that plastic thing that you stick into the big hole of a 7-inch single to make it fit on the spindle of a record player? We now call it a “45 adapter.” But back when 45s were introduced, it was called a “spider.”
  25. The price of collectable vinyl has shot up over the last few years. The most expensive record, er, on record, is Ringo Starr’s personal copy of the Beatles’ white album. All those albums were issued with serial numbers. Ringo’s copy had serial number 0000001. It sold at auction in 2016 for $910,000 US.
  26. But hang on: there’s also the Wu Tang Clan’s one-copy-only of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin which was sold for $5 million to Martin Shkreli, that pharmaceutical guy that everyone hates.
  27. Speaking of collectable vinyl, vinyl that is black will wear less than coloured vinyl. The dye causes coloured vinyl to degrade quicker—if you play it, of course.
  28. And no matter how many records you have, you will never, ever have more than Zero Freitas. He’s a Brazilian tycoon who is on a mission to collect a copy of every single record ever made. He travels the world looking for people selling collections and stores that are closing. At last count, he has a warehouse containing more than 6 million records.
  29. Back before he became an actor, Ryan Gosling was offered a spot in the Backstreet Boys.
  30. Axl Rose of Guns’N Roses was so hard up for cash that he volunteered for a medical experiment where he was paid to smoke cigarettes for $8 an hour.
  31. You might remember Mark Everett, the guy behind the band Eels which had some big alt-rock hits in the 90s. His father was Hugh Everett III. He was an American physicist who came up with what is known as the “many worlds theory” in 1957. This is known as “Everett’s Theorem” and postulates the existence of different universes based on everything that can possibly happen. This is the basis of a million science fiction stories. Mark is the guy who found his father after he died of a sudden heart attack.
  32. Before Jack White broke out as a member of the White Stripes, he was an apprentice upholsterer in Detroit named Jack Gillis. He worked with a guy named Brian Muldoon and the two of them formed a band. They recorded a couple of songs together, including a track called “Your Furniture Was Always Dead…I Was Just Afraid to Tell You.” One hundred of these records were randomly placed in furniture they were refurbishing. As far as anyone can tell, only two of those records have ever been found.
  33. Before the band took off, Death Cab for Cutie bassist Nick Harmer earned his money as a garbage man for the city of Tacoma, Washington. “I worked for the recycling and composting program, picking up posts, cans and yard waste. It was smelly, but he really liked the gig because of the satisfaction he got from finished a hard day’s work.”
  34. Rob Zombie’s parents were carnival folk. He left that life when a riot broke out at one stop and all the tents were set on fire. Later, he worked as a production assistant on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. And he also served as an art director for a couple of porn magazines. They had titles like Over 40 and Tail End.
  35. When Radiohead was recording the song “Creep,” Jonny Greenwood tried to sabotage it by loudly scraping his guitar strings before the band went into the chorus. He thought he’d killed the song for good, but everyone else realized that this infusion of anger was exactly what the song needed. They kept it in and “Creep” ended up becoming Radiohead’s breakthrough hit.
  36. The opening of Green Day’s “Good Riddance” (Time of Your Life)” is a mistake. Bllie Joe Armstrong tries to pick through the opening and makes a mistake. He mutters under his breath and starts again. Because the mistake seemed to work so well with the rest of the song, they left it in. By the way, the song is about the time Billie Joe’s girlfriend broke up with him and moved to Ecuador.
  37. Paul McCartney drops the f-bomb in “Hey Jude.” You can hear it if you try at about two minutes and fifty-three seconds into the song just after the phrase “Remember to let her under your skin.”
  38. We might never have heard “Creep” had it not be for a guy named Grady Martin. He was working for country star Marty Robbins one day in 1961 when something went wrong with the pre-amp for his guitar amplifier which made everything go all fuzzy. He liked that sound so much that he formed a company that designed a device that could distort a guitar on command. This accident led to the development of the fuzz pedal.
  39. When he was in high school, Mick Jagger was quite a basketball player. In fact, he was the captain of the squad at his school.  But one day he collided with another player, causing Mick to bite off the tip of his tongue.  From that point on, his once-posh accent became slight more “street,” influencing not only the way he talked but how he sang. Makes you wonder what might have happened to Mick, the Stones and rock’n’roll in general if he had just kept his head up, doesn’t it?
  40. We owe a lot of today’s alt-rock to a piece of sheet metal. On his last day at work at a Birmingham factory, a 17-year-old Tony Iommi had the tips of his middle and ring fingers on his right hands by a slice of sheet metal. To compensate for the injury, he started stringing his guitar with ultra-light banjo strings, which made it easier to form chords and bend strings. And to make it even easier, he began tuning is guitar lower, which loosened up the strings even more. This contributed to the overall deep, sludgy sound of Black Sabbath. That had a very pronounced effect on the development of what was called grunge. Makes you wonder where we’d be without that hunk of sheet metal, no?
  41. Brian Eno, the famous producer and creator of ambient music, is very upfront about the fact that he ha a very large collection of porn. It’s high-end, artistic porn, but porn nonetheless. And he directed small-time porn films back in 70s in the years after he left Roxy Music.
  42. We all remember the well-respected film critic, Robert Ebert. But before he became famous, he was hired to write a screenplay for the Sex Pistols entitled Who Killed Bambi? Before that, his only other screenwriting job had been to write a softcore porn film called Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
  43. You know the part in the South Park theme song? Kenny is actually singing something very, very foul. No one’s bothered to censor it because you can’t make what he’s singing, anyway.
  44. You’ve probably heard this before, but in the years before she became a rock star, Courtney Love supported herself for a while by working as a stripper. Her places of employment included Nude Nude Nude Century Lounge by LAX, a spot called Jumbo’s another called Seventh Veil. Some of the money she made went into buying an early incarnation of Hole their first van.
  45. Marilyn Manson will only have sex with the lights off. And he needs to have his pants or ankles around his ankles because he has this phobia about the house catching fire and needing to escape the flames. Somehow I find that hard to believe.
  46. It is said that Mike Ness of Social Distortion can perform a certain act upon himself. Let’s not go there.
  47. Kid Rock was once subpoenaed to produce a glass sex toy in a sexual harassment lawsuit involving an employee of the Insane Clown Posse organization.
  48. On a related note, it is said that Trent Renzor once had a very large collection of dildos. There’s also something in the story about candles, but again, we won’t go there.
  49. And Reznor also suspected of making a sex snuff film. In 1989, a farmer found a large balloon tied to a portable video camera. When police looked at the footage, it appeared to show a man being thrown from a building. They turned it over to the FBI who launched an investigation. After six months, someone realized that this was raw footage from a music video shot for the Nine Inch Nails song, “Down in It.”
  50. What is the longest piece of music ever written? It’s “As Slow As Possible” by the avant-garde performer, John Cage. A performance of the song began at a church in Germany in 2001 and if it is played per his instructions, it will run for 639 years, finally wrapping up in 2640. Then we can get to work on the extended dance remix.
  51. Have you ever had a health issue that involved getting a CT scan? Then thank the Beatles. Not only was EMI a record label, the parent company was also an industrial research company. The money from all the Beatles hits helped fund research that allowed the company to invent the CT scanner, which was released to the public in 1972. The engineer behind the project, Godfrey Hounsfield, went on to win the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1979
  52. As far as anyone knows, there is only one domestic recording artist in the history of Antarctica. It’s a group formed by two scientists at the South Pole. They’re called “Nanocyborg Uberholocaust.”
  53. Dark Horse Brewing of Marshall, Michigan, was all ready to get a big endorsement from Nickelback, who were prepared to sing the praises of their beer and feature it in a video. It would have been tremendous exposure for the brand, but the brewery said “Thanks, but no thanks” because the employees hated the band so much.
  54. Megadeath is actually a unit of measurement as well as the name of a metal band. In military parlance, a “megadeath” is equal to one million deaths caused by a nuclear explosion
  55. The Smiths almost reunited in 2008 when Morrissey and Johnny Marr met for a pint in a pub. They left that afternoon promising to talk about it more—but they never did.
  56. Everyone uses the f-word in lyrics these days, but who was the first? As far as anyone can tell, the first deliberate use of an f-bomb on record was a song called “CIA Man” by The Fugs from 1965.
  57. On that same topic, there was 2008 event called the “Festival of the F Bands.” It featured performances by Holy F and F-ed Up from Canada and F-Buttons, who are from Scotland. The location of the event was a real place named F-ing, Austria.
  58. Think about the video for the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight”.” You know the two people who fly to the moon in the video? Their names are Tom Kenny and Jilly Talley. They provide the voices for SpongeBob and Karen Plankton.
  59. In the 1920s, there were experiments with steel tape machines. These machines contained large spools of tape that ran at five feet per second. If the tape broke while in motion, it could slice through just about anything like razor blade. No wonder these mechanisms were operated inside safety enclosures.
  60. And finally, a fact about the Offspring. When they got together in the 80s, the group was made up of three high school buddies and the school janitor. That was Noodles. Why did they bring this adult into the band? Because he was the only one old enough to buy beer for rehearsals, of course.

The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:

We’re still looking for more affiliates in Kamloops, Kelowna, Regina, Saskatoon, Brandon, Windsor,  Montreal, Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton, and St John’s and anywhere else with a transmitter. If you’re in any of those markets and you want the show, lemme know and I’ll see what I can do.

 

 

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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