I’ve always appreciated how They Might Be Giants respect their fanbase and labor hard to provide high value for the entertainment dollar. While their music has always had strong appeal to a younger demographic, in recent years They Might Be Giants have released albums aimed squarely at the school-age crowd, such as Here Comes the ABCs, (released as 25 tracks on CD, 39 on DVD) which has gotten a lot of airplay around our house. Note the clever lyric and accompanying animation sequence for “Alphabet Lost and Found“:
“Alphabet Lost and Found” They Might Be Giants 2005
There is a good reason why this YouTube clip was uploaded under the name of “DisneyMusic” — so says Wikipedia:
“While [the album] was produced and released by Walt Disney Records, the band was reportedly given complete creative control over the project, which at the time was very unusual for Walt Disney Records, which had until then followed a strict artist control policy. As a result, the DVD features a variety of puppetry, animation and live action supplied by personal friends of the group, including A.J. Schnack, who directed the TMBG documentary Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns). For guest vocals on a few tracks, they turned to family: John Flansburgh’s wife Robin Goldwasser, and John Linnell’s son, Henry. The music videos that appear on the DVD were also aired (in part or whole) on the Disney Channel’s children’s programming block, Playhouse Disney.”
Sounds like Alvino Rey‘s “Sono-Vox” being employed in the phased backing vocals — or some simulation thereof, yes?
Divya Srinivasan is the artistic hand behind the animation on “Alphabet Lost and Found” — check out the rest of her work at her website, which includes an animation reel and illustration slide show.
Here Come the ABCs would be the successor to No!, their first formal children’s album.TMBG Flexi-Disc Trivia
“Jesse Ed Davis (Comanche-Kiowa) began his work as a leading session guitarist in the early 1960s when he accompanied country singer Conway Twitty. The powwow influences in Davis’s music are both subtle and yet apparent to the trained ear. From his first solo album, Jesse Davis (Atco, 1970), the song ‘Washita Love Child’ contains both lyrical references (‘And I did that powwow thing’) and the combined background vocals of Merry Clayton, Clydie King, and Gram Parsons, utilizing the vocal refrain of ‘hey-ya-hey’ typical of the powwow song style, but arranged by Davis as a standard back-up vocal. The back beat and rhythm of the song are obviously powwow-based.”
The autobiographical “Washita Love Child” – with its driving beat and guest guitar solo by Eric Clapton – seems the obvious choice for the album’s opening track, and yet it would get bumped to the #3 spot:
“Washita Love Child” Jesse Ed Davis with Eric Clapton 1970
Keyboards: Ben Sidran, John Simon, Larry Knechtel & Leon Russell
Bass: Billy Rich & Steve Thompson
Drums: Alan White, Bruce Rowland, ChuckBlackwell & Steve Mitchell
Percussion: Alan Yoshida, Jackie Lomax, Johnnie Ware, Pat Daley, PeteWaddington & Sandy Konikoff
Tenor Saxophone: Frank Mayes
Tenor Saxophone: Jerry Jumonville [solo]
Trombone & Trumpet: Darrell Leonard
Baritone Saxophone & Clarinet: James Gordon
Producer, Arranger & Album Cover Concept: Jesse Edwin Davis III
Cover Painting: Jesse Edwin Davis II
Jesse Ed Trivia That Might Blow Your MInd, If Slightly
~ Jesse Ed Davis released “Sue Me Sue You Blues” in 1972 before the song’s author, George Harrison, issued his own version on 1973’s Living in the Material World.
~ Jesse Ed Davis provided musical support for two artists who would each record distinctive versions of Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” for debut albums released in 1971 & 1973, respectively: Leon Russell (guitar) and Bryan Ferry (backing vocals).
~ In 1973, when Jesse Ed Davis and Iggy & the Stooges shared the same label for exactly one album, Columbia released a “split EP” (4 songs on a 7-inch 33 rpm record) that paired the two artists, bizarrely, for the first and last time.
~ In 1987, the year before his untimely death, Jesse Ed Davis contributed a guitar solo on the closing track “At Last” for Scott Colby‘s Slide of Hand album on respected punk label, SST (Black Flag, Minutemen, Descendents, Bad Brains, Hüsker Dü & Meat Puppets, et al.)
Jesse Ed Helped Breathe Life into the Following Songs:
~ “Doctor My Eyes” — the breakout hit from Jackson Browne’s 1972 debut album.
~ “Heal Your Heart” on Stevie Miller Band’s 1972 album, Recall the Beginning…A Journey from Eden.
The mid-to-late 80s was an interesting time in popular music in that the children of the “classic rock” generation were just starting to come in their own. Ziggy Marley and Julian Lennon come prominently to mind, both having enjoyed hits with “Tomorrow People” and “Valotte,” respectively.
In 1985 my college roommate was a music writer for the school newspaper, and as a consequence of his work covering the contemporary music scene, I and a percussion student from the university were allowed to tag along on a recording session with a musical duo just in case they needed the services of a bass guitarist (which they didn’t) and a drummer (which they did, on one track). The two principal artists were Alex Lasarenko, a classically-trained keyboardist who did a lot of the compositional and arrangement work, and Chris, the vocalist, lyricist & guitarist. Chris, as it turned out, was Chris Otcasek – son of Ric, frontman for The Cars – who was attending art school at that time. The name of this musical duo was Glamour Camp.
I got to watch Alex and Chris work on several tracks that one could describe favorably as “dance synth pop,” which was big at the time on the college music scene. This was my first time getting to witness how the new digital synthesizers were being “programmed” and “sequenced” – terms that had not previously been applied to popular music.
Here is one of the songs Alex and Chris worked on that day – “Number 3“:
Number 3 – Glamour Camp
The opening vocals, as I later learned from Alex, are a native Chinese speaker – as instructed – speaking random Chinese words, phrases, and idioms.
A couple years later, while working as a schoolteacher, I went down to the local record store and was a little surprised to see that Glamour Camp had got signed to a major label (Capitol/EMI). However, to my disappointment their debut album used none of the material from the demo tape that I had heard, nor came close to capturing the dance-synth-pop vibe that struck me as the essence of their initial sound. Maybe their sound had, indeed, changed by that point, but my sense was that Capitol decided to emphasize Chris (and his connection to rock royalty) at the expense of the original musical partnership. Keyboards, for instance, which had been such a big part of the group’s sound, seemed much more buried in the mix on their Capitol debut. At least, that was my youthful, reactionary view at the time: anger at the major label for their heavy-handedness and contemptible need to alter the sound of every artist in their employ simply because they could. I was such a hothead about it, that I actually got rid of my cassette – which I now regret.
Capitol did shell out some dough for a video though:
EMI Japan would make the decision to issue a split 45 in which Glamour Camp would be paired – incredibly – with Carole King!