Category Archives: Video Killed The Radio Star

Rock Legend Ronnie James Dio Dies Aged 67

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Former Rainbow and Black Sabbath singer Ronnie James Dio died earlier today, aged 67, after a battle with stomach cancer.

The first gig I ever went to was to see his own band, Dio, in 1985 at the legendary Glasgow Apollo.

But even by then, RJD had been making music for more than a quarter of a century.

His first single, with the band Ronnie and the Red Caps, was released in 1958. This one, An Angel Is Missing, is from 1960:

When Former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore formed Rainbow in 1975, he hired Ronnie James Dio as lead singer. Dio’s previous band, Elf, had supported Deep Purple on tour for several years.

Here’s Rainbow performing The Man On The Silver Mountain and Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll in, I think, Munich in 1977.

Dio left Rainbow due to musical differences in 1978 and took over as singer with Black Sabbath after Ozzy Osbourne was sacked in 1979.

Here are recordings of RJD performing Paranoid and Iron Man with the band in 1980:

Dio and then Sabbath drummer Vinnie Appice quit the band in 1982 to form Dio, along with guitarist Vivian Campbell and bassist Jimmy Bain.

Here’s a few of the band’s early, best-known songs. First up, Holy Diver filmed in Utrecht, Holland in 1983:

Next up, The Last in Line, filmed at The Spectrum (presumably the one in Philadelphia) in 1984:

And finally, the wonderfully cheesy video for their 1985 single Rock ‘n’ Roll Children:

Ronnie James Dio – RIP.

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Filed under Music, Obituary, Top Of The Pops Thursday, Video Killed The Radio Star

Video Killed The Radio Star: Toyah – Thunder In The Mountains

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You know, the likes of Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera would have us believe they are so original and outrageous and shocking and breaking new ground for female singers.

Truth is, Toyah and her contemporaries were doing it 30 years ago or more. Arguably better. And certainly without the benefit of the modern-day hyped-up marketing spin machine.

Here, from 1981, is the wonderfully overblown Thunder In The Mountains (which has always been my favourite Toyah song).

The appropriately over-the-top, Mad Max-inspired video was directed by Godley and Creme (who you can see performing their own haunting hit, Under Your Thumb, here).

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Back To The Back To The Future – Soundtrack Mash-Up

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Back To The Future is one of the Choob’s top three all-time favourite films. It’s easily the movie I have watched more often than any other.

Now, here’s a thought. On July 3 this year, Back To The Future celebrates the 25th anniversary of its release.

Quarter of a century! Mull that over for a minute.

We are now only five years away from (what seemed at the time) the far-flung 2015 future that Marty McFly and Doc Brown visited in 1989’s Back To The Future Part II (the boffins better get a move on with the flying cars and hoverboards).

Even more scary, it means that the journey back in time from today to the film’s release in 1985 would only be five years shorter a trip than Marty’s original jaunt back to 1955. For those of us who grew up in the 1980s, the 1950s – and the people who grew up in them (i.e. our parents) – seemed like ancient history… so what does that make us look like to kids of the noughties?

On that depressing note, here, to cheer you up, is an excellent musical mash-up (scratch-up?) of the original film’s exceptionally excellent soundtrack, courtesy of Eclectic Method:

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Filed under Movies, Music, Stuff, Video Killed The Radio Star

Video Killed The Radio Star: Dan Black – Symphonies

Here’s a great video that pays homage to countless movie title sequences from the dawn of cinema (well, not quite, but close) right up to date. It references both specific films and genre stereotypes and is really rather splendid for film buffs and general pop-culture geeks.

The video uses the song’s lyrics as titles of the imaginary films presented in the impressively authentic styles of their inspirations. To give you an idea of what I mean, here is a selection of screenshots (click on the image for a larger version):

The song itself, called Symphonies, is okay too. Not outstanding but inoffensive and it starts to grow on you a bit after a few listens.

It’s performed by Dan Black. I have to admit, that’s a new name to me but he is a British artist who, Wikipedia reliably informs me, has been around for a couple of years and used to be in a band called The Servant.

Here is a slightly different version of the video, for a remixed version of the song featuring US rapper Kid Cudi.

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This Too Shall Pass – OK Go’s New Music Video Masterpiece

Remember OK Go? They are the American band whose home-made video for their song Here It Goes Again, which featured the band members “dancing” on four treadmills, became an internet sensation a few years back.

Let me refresh your memory:

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Well, they’ve just released the video for their latest single This Too Shall Pass, again made by themselves and some friends. And it blows the dancing treadmills out the water.

It features the band singing in the middle of a giant Rube Goldberg Machine (think of it like a huge version of the board game Mouse Trap, built out of a variety of junk and everyday objects). Apart from the intricate ingenuity of the machine itself, it’s particularly notable for two other things.

First, the video was filmed in a single take (or so they say – jaded sceptic that I am, I suspect there’s a hidden cut at 2:26 when the curtains open, not that it really matters or detracts from the genius of the video).

Secondly, the operation of the machine syncs perfectly in time with the music, with a number of the machine’s set-pieces matching the soundtrack to the note:

It’s a wonderful video. However the timing of its release is somewhat ironic.

To understand why, note that the video for Here It Goes Again at the top of this post is hosted on Vimeo, not YouTube.

And bear in mind that the YouTube-hosted Here It Goes Again video was viewed around 50million times, led to a boost in OK Go record sales and raised awareness of a band who, with the best will in the world, were never going to get that mount of attention purely for their music.

One of the reasons why it spread so fast and so wide was the ability of other websites and bloggers to embed YouTube videos into their own sites and posts.

Unfortunately, when the record companies decided they wanted to cash in on the music videos being viewed on YouTube, some of them removed the ability to embed them.

The reason is that they get a very, very small payment every time a video is viewed on (the amount is a secret, apparently, but it’s tiny, said to be $.004-$.008 per play. However, crucially, the record companies only get the cash when the video is viewed on YouTube’s own site. When the video is played on another site that has embedded it, they get nothing.

In theory, of course, external sites and blogs can simply post a link to the YouTube video and readers will click through to it. In reality, most people who would happily play the embedded video on the external site simply don’t bother to click on a link to go to YouTube to watch it. And how many blogs or websites will not even bother going to the trouble of writing and posting an article in the first place, when they can’t even illustrate it with the very thing they are writing about?

Thus, when EMI removed the ability to embed Here It Goes Again, the number of views it was getting slumped by 90 per cent, according to OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash.

As he says in this interesting article he wrote for the New York Times:

This isn’t how the Internet works. Viral content doesn’t spread just from primary sources like YouTube or Flickr. Blogs, Web sites and video aggregators serve as cultural curators, daily collecting the items that will interest their audiences the most. By ignoring the power of these tastemakers, our record company is cutting off its nose to spite its face.

He makes the point that for the sake of, at most, $5,400, EMI alienated 90 per cent of the people who would have played their video and might, as a result, have bought the single or the album, maybe delved into their back catalogue or paid for a ticket to a gig, and asks whether that makes sound business sense.

Record company bosses have real problems to deal with due to illegal sharing of music online. However, with stupid, petty, short-sighted actions like this, it’s no wonder that so many people see them as greedy, profteering idiots with no understanding of how their own business – or the internet – works.

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Rock Sugar – Where Spinal Tap Meets Glee

It’s an age-old tale.

Boys in heavy metal band on the verge of rocking the planet meet 13-year-old girl. Girl hates boys. Boys  batter a smurf. The private yacht they are all on sinks. Boys are marooned on a desert island with only a pink Hello Kitty ghetto blaster, a case of batteries, the 13-year-old’s 1980s pop music CD collection and 158 cases of schnapps for company.

Ah… how often have we seen that sad story play out?

Such is the legend of Rock Sugar (full legend here). However, for the band, and fans of great music, there is a happy ending.

Twenty years later, the band were rescued by tuna fishermen and now they are back and ready to rock on from where they left off. With a twist.

Two decades of listening to 80s teenybopper music has left a mark – Popholm syndrome, as the band amusingly describe it – and now Rock Sugar is a musical nexus where the heaviest of metal collides with the lightest, catchiest and, um, cheesiest of bubblegum pop.

Okay, so, in other words, stripping away the wonderfully silly back story, we’re essentially in mash-up territory here. Or should that be mosh-up..?

I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of the mash-up – they never improve on the original component parts and if they involves a song I like, it just annoys me to hear it ruined by some idiot playing about with mixing software on his computer.

But Rock Sugar bring something new to the mix. For a start, they are performing the songs, rather than just cutting and pasting other people’s recordings together.

But more importantly, they bring a sense of fun that transforms the mash-up from the dry, soulless technical exercise it essentially is into something… wonderful.

The 13 tracks on Rock Sugar‘s debut album, Reimaginator, are an astonishing fusion of no fewer than 34 songs by rock heavyweights such as Metallica, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Ozzy Osbourne, Guns N’ Roses, Motley Crue and Judas Priest with catchy pop-rock anthems from the likes of Journey, Eurythmics, Rick Springfield, Bon Jovi, Madonna and Queen.

The album opener, which is generating massive internet buzz at the moment, is Don’t Stop The Sandman, which blends Journey‘s Don’t Stop Believing and Metallica‘s Enter Sandman to simply stunning effect.

I know, I know… the Journey song has been hugely over-exposed in the last year or so, from its memorable use in the final scene of The Sopranos, through being massacred in last year’s The X Factor (in the UK) and, most recently, the surprisingly decent version performed by the cast of TV smash hit (and, the Choob must admit, one of my guilty TV pleasures) Glee.

But Rock Sugar’s version will make you look at the song in a whole new light. In a good way.

The official video has only been up on YouTube for about six weeks and already, through only word of mouth, has just smashed through the 200,000 views mark. Here it is, see what you think:

Great though it is, Don’t Stop The Sandman is really just the curtain-raiser to the album. You can stream all the tracks on the band’s official site, and most are also up on YouTube too, so I won’t go through them all.

However, here are a few that I think are particularly awesome (I’ll leave you to work out what’s been mashed together).

First up we have Prayin’ For A Sweet Weekend:

Next, Shook Me Like A Prayer:

And finally, Dreaming Of A Whole Lotta Breakfast:

There are countless ways this could have all gone horribly wrong and been an embarrassing mess – but it’s hard to imagine how it could possibly have turned out better.

And that is surely a testament to the fact that the band have genuine musical talent to back up their high-concept idea. Yes, there is a gimmick inherent in their music – but there’s nothing gimmicky about their inspired choices of songs to combine, the technical genius of their arrangements or the quality of their recorded performance.

If the live experience matches the studio effort – and early live reviews suggest that they are even better live than on disc, then this band may just be THE next big thing.

In the title of this post I jokingly compared Rock Sugar to the ever-entertaining Spinal Tap. But that’s perhaps unfair, because Tap are all about spoofing the self-important pomposity and excess of heavy metal. Rock Sugar is no spoof.

If Rock Sugar share any characteristics with Spinal Tap, it’s that their tongue is firmly in cheek and they are making rock music fun again.

The album is currently only available from the band’s website for $17. Adding international shipping of $8 makes it a slightly pricy proposition for those outwith the US – $25 or £16 – but well worth it, for my money, to get in at the ground floor because they deserve to be huge.

Rock Sugar might just be my new favourite band. Because pop rocks!

Incidentally, lead singer Jess Harnell has apparently had a colourful career. In addition to being in a few bands, including Loud & Clear, he’s a somewhat prolific voice-over artist. He has lent his voice to many animated TV shows and videogames.

Most notably, he starred as Wakko Warner in the fondly remembered 1990s Animaniacs cartoon series and also voiced two of the Transformers in the two recent live action movies. Oh, and he’s been the announcer for America’s Funniest Home Videos for over a decade.


Filed under Music, Stuff, Video Killed The Radio Star

Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day: Smallville

I’m not much of a Superman fan. Even though (like Art Brut) I’ve always been more of a DC Comics fan than a Marvel fan (I used to be a major reader/collector of comics but for the past decade, I’ve somewhat lapsed), I always preferred The Dark Knight to the Man Of Steel.

Similarly, I can take or leave the Superman movies (with the notable exception of brilliant Superman II) and I have always largely avoided the TV incarnations.

Not counting the various animated shows, in my lifetime there have been three TV series based on the character: Superboy (1988-1992), Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-1997) and now Smallville, which began in 2001 and is currently airing its ninth season.

Superboy pretty much passed me by completely and, despite the popularity of Lois & Clark at the time, I was never that impressed.

When Smallville started, it seemed a bit too much of a soap opera – and besides, who needed yet another Superman show? So I watched the pilot and then gave up.

However, over the years, I’ve heard many reports about how the show has developed and improved as it has gone on.

And, more interestingly for the eternal fanboy in me, I have also noted with interest the increasing trend towards incorporating into the show elements not only of the established Superman comics mythology but also elements of the wider DC Universe (albeit often heavily modified from the source material).

So, when the Sci-Fi channel in the UK started showing Smallville from the start back in November, I decided to give the show a go. It’s airing five nights a week and we’re up to the start of season three – and I have to say that overall, I’m enjoying it.

Yeah, it’s a bit schmaltzy at times and the over-reliance thus far on Kryptonite-influenced storylines can get a bit tiresome but I’m still watching. I’m sure that seeing it nightly without long breaks between seasons, instead of weekly, stretched out over years, makes it easier to forgive the weaknesses but still, there’s some good stuff in there.

Allison Mack as Chloe is a close second in the Choob’s list of best things about Smallville but for my money, top spot has to go to the relationship between Clark Kent (Tom Welling) and Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum).

The show’s “twist” of having the pair start out as friends makes for some fantastically painful pathos. The series is, in a sense, a tragedy, since we know that ultimately, Lex’s dark side will win and the pair will end up mortal enemies.

Anyway, I’m sure all this has been said back when the show first started so, without further ado, here is the reason we are really here today- the show’s theme tune.

The song is called Save Me, performed by Remy Zero from their 2001 album The Golden Hum. Since I’m only up to season 3 in my viewing, I’ve gone for the opening titles that were used for seasons 2 and 3:

And here is the music video for the full version of the song:

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