About Tyler

Geographer who likes comedy and records and probably you.

Sonic Sunday Special: Baseball and Latin America (Lecture Video Public)

This week would have been the start of the 2020 Major League Baseball Season, which for some, is as good as New Year’s Day. I was looking forward to watching the Nats defend their 2019 title, but sadly we’re going to have to wait for at least a month or two.

In light of these events, I’ve decided to release this video version I recorded of a specialized lecture that I created my World Regional Geography classes about the geography of Major League Baseball and Latin American circulation. I hope you enjoy it, and please don’t be distracted by how I’m still learning where to look when I record these.

ON THE MLB AND LATIN AMERICA (Watch in a Separate Window)

 

Sonic Geography Episode 1 (Free for All)

I did my first Instagram Live DJ set last night, and shockingly, the feed didn’t go down once. Thank you to everyone who tuned in, and if you missed it, here is the audio mixdown and the playlist. It was clearly a directionless free-for-all while I was working out the technical aspects of the “show,” but I’ll still include places of origin and any ancillary notes in the playlist.

Sonic Geography Ep. 1 [03.25.20]

  1. The Housemartins (Hull) – “Anxious” (from NME giveaway 7″)
  2. Ernie K-Doe (New Orleans) – “Mother-in-Law” (Allen Touissant song from a 1986 Minit Records comp)
  3. The Bartlebees (Munich) – “Holidays at the Zoo”
  4. Booker T. and the MG’s (Memphis) – “Hip-Hug-Her”
  5. The Wildweeds – “No Good to Cry” (original, dusty 7″ I found at the Porte du Montreuil flea market)
  6. Gin Blossoms (Tempe) – “Hey Jealousy” (jukebox 7″, dedicated to all the 90’s kids)
  7. The Go-Betweens (Brisbane) – “Right Here” (12″ single)
  8. The Clash (London) – “Bankrobber” (7″ version)
  9. Lord Antics (Montego Bay) – “Split Me in Two”
  10. Ron Holden (Seattle) – “My Babe”
  11. The Jesus & Mary Chain (East Kilbride) – “Everything’s Alright When You’re Down”
  12. The Ambulars (DC) – “Marielle and Ferdinand”
  13. White Murder (Long Beach) – “The Tell-All”
  14. Unrest (DC) – “Make Out Club”
  15. Radon (Gainesville) – “Facial Disobedience”
  16. Pohgoh (Tampa) – “Tired Ear”  (clear reissue LP by New Granada)
  17. Suede (London) – “Hit Me” (from 2x 7″)
  18. Black Kids – “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You” (original 10″ demo version, aka the good one)
  19. The Strokes (NYC) – “12:51”
  20. The Vitreous Humor (Topeka) – “Why Are You So Mean To Me?”
  21. They Might Be Giants (Lincoln, MA via NYC) – “Why Does the Sun Shine?” (7″ version)
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The Vitreous Humor (via Danny Pound’s bandcamp)

Stay-Home Sonic Sunday II: Whatever Did Happen to Your Soul?

When I resolved to start weekly entries built mainly around web clips, I assumed I (and humankind) would have a lot more going on. Fortunately,  the internet is a gift that keeps on giving. Here are some good corners of it:

To wrap this up, I’ll share a song that helped me out a lot earlier this week. It’s the second track (and possibly my favorite) on The Afghan Whigs’ 1965, one of my favorite albums of all time. I was sitting at home for what was going to be the first of an indeterminate number of nights at home, feeling a bit of anxiety, when this came on, and put me in a better place. Hopefully it does the same for you. Talk to you all soon.

 

 

Charter to Offer Free Broadband Access (60 Days)

I was going to wait until my next Sonic Sunday post to put this out there, but our world hasn’t exactly slowed down to crawl as may be advisable. My department chair has sent this link, which I will be sharing with my students, and here, in case anybody needs to see it.

Charter To Offer Free Access to Spectrum Broadband and Wifi for 60 Days for New K12 and College Student HouseHolds, Etc.

This is not an endorsement of Charter (as we are discovering these days, internet access should not be privatized), but this may be a valuable service to many, so I wanted to pass it along.

Enjoy this whimsical commercial from 1999.

 

The Big Star Paradox

Alex Chilton died ten years ago today at age 59. Here are some words about what he and three other Memphians accomplished in their twenties with a little help from their friends.

Big Star Photograph © Michael O'Brien

Michael O’Brien Photo (C-heads)

Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Radio City, the second (and arguably last) Big Star album. It’s my favorite thing they ever released, and it had me thinking: it’s almost paradoxical how beloved Big Star are. I find it impossible to parse whether Big Star were great because they were unsuccessful in their time. Would it cloud our cultural judgment if “Back of a Car” or “The Ballad of El Goodo” were on the same level of incalculable impact on Western society as the Beatles, Elton John, or Queen? If any of those three artists had been relegated to Big Star’s niche of history, would their music be so lionized? I understand that those are three imperfect examples, but no perfect examples exist. Had the Beach Boys not been in the right time-place when they changed their name from the Pendletons and hopped aboard the surf craze, would whatever they would have created in that alternate timeline (certainly nothing on par with Pet Sounds) possess such heavy caché today?

To add another layer to the paradox, Alex Chilton was a household name to baby boomers. When he died, a majority of the outlets I saw mentioned “The Letter” in their tributes, relegating Big Star – not to mention his influence on the late-70’s New York punk scene and his iconoclastic songsmithery throughout the 80’s – well beneath the fold. But, as the party line reads, Chilton’s decision to join Big Star was informed by feeling washed up by the time he was 20. He wasn’t the only teenybopper who pivoted into an artistic legend, but he managed to occupy such a unique space in both categories; millions more have heard the Box Tops, yet his unsuccessful second act has changed the world almost in spite of itself.

What these layers all reinforce was that Big Star were a generational band. They wouldn’t have reached the heights they did if Alex Chilton weren’t burned out by pop fame by age 18, nor would their songs be such a testament to the power of Memphis if they had blown up and transcended their hometown. One of my favorite anecdotes from Rob Jovanovich’s biography of the band was when a few North Carolina college nerds (who would eventually become the dB’s) took a pilgrimage to Memphis in the mid-70’s and found a despondent Chris Bell working at a fast food restaurant. They talked him into accompanying them to Ardent Studios for a meeting with Chilton. Within minutes, they could tell how little Bell wanted to be there.

I am not entirely sure why that anecdote stuck with me more than anything else from the book, especially since it puts such a tragic din on #1 Record. The album was a legendary flop, and Bell and Chilton grew apart almost immediately as a result. It was the most important thing in the world to the dB’s, but it was barely a footnote in the lives of the people who made it. This recalls what Chuck Klosterman wrote about a Guns n’ Roses cover band in Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: “Paradise City care more about Guns n’ Roses than the original members of Guns n’ Roses care about the song ‘Paradise City.'” It also recalls an interview with Slash I recall seeing a little over ten years ago (perhaps with Larry King, as outlandish as that may seem), where Slash didn’t dodge a question about GnR reuniting but rather gave a perfectly straightforward answer: he and Axl just weren’t interested in trying to recreate the proverbial “that.” It struck me as surprising, since everything I’d heard since 1996 suggested that he and Bill Bailey hated one another. Whether or not they did share antipathy was immaterial; they had moved on, even if their fans hadn’t.

I suppose therein lies another layer to the Big Star paradox: speaking personally, I appreciate the ability to see that meaning-making at work from the level of the fans of an obscure band, rather than the insanely popular band curating their legacy, sometimes bitterly. The former is endearing, and the latter is usually uncomfortable. Thankfully, everything I’ve seen Jody Stephens (the one surviving Big Star member) curate has done nothing to tarnish the band’s legacy. It may owe a lot to the fact that he still lives in Memphis, keeps his drum kit at Ardent, and has no delusions of grandeur.

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Jody Stephens’ drum kit at Ardent Studios (Memphis, TN), July 2011

I felt the need to write all of this because (1) Big Star formulate a key part of any curriculum I compose about the strange (after)life of American Popular Culture, and (2) it’s a question for which I genuinely want to get other music fans’ perspectives. The Big Star Paradox dictates that it’s impossible to judge the band solely on their music in 2020, but no amount of post-whateverist academic thought changes the fact that I nearly cry whenever I hear “What’s Going Ahn.” Whether or not Big Star had ever become famous in their time, nothing can change how their music was just so, so, so, SO good. RIP Alex Chilton, ten years gone today, as well as to my fellow UTK attendee Andy Hummel, who died on July 19 of that same year.

Your “Stay Home” Sonic Sunday Spiel

A week ago, when I was writing about the Replacements, I couldn’t have anticipated we’d be here. I don’t have a whole lot to say about the ramifications of this moment in history that’s any better than what Mike Davis wrote (see my previous entry).

Considering how COVID-19 inspired the cancellation of multiple major sporting events, including March Madness, the next few weeks are going to help shift into focus just how necessary many of these “unalienable” institutions truly are. South By Southwest and Coachella both cancelled, and as obvious as the lost revenues will hurt many individual artists and (yes, some) vendors, both events were unquestionably bloated and appeared to have been teetering on the edge of sustainability for years.

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The euphoric experience of seeing New Order in a giant tent at midnight with thousands of other people wasn’t enough to cancel out how there are so many things wrong with this picture. (Coachella, April 2013)

To be fair, I’ve only been to Coachella once and I’ve never made it to SXSW, but the former presented a brutal overuse of already-constricted resources in California’s low desert, and the latter… well, I have many friends who’ve enjoyed attending it, but most of my Austinite friends and musician friends (who actually work or play at South-By) hate it. Mega-events like these represent the late-capitalist culmination of generations of corporate commodification of pop culture. As Simon Frith put it over three decades ago,

The rock era – born around 1956 with Elvis Presley, peaking around 1967 with Sgt Pepper, dying around 1976 with the Sex Pistols – turned out to be a by-way in the development of twentieth-century popular music, rather than, as we thought at the time, any kind of mass-cultural revolution. Rock was a last romantic attempt to preserve ways of music-making… that had been made obsolete by technology and capital (‘Music for Pleasure’ 1988, p. 1).

Cut to: A scene I think about a lot. When I was 18, I stood in the back of the crowd at the Warped Tour Main Stage, watching Henry Rollins scream about how some corporation had the nerve to charge $4 for a soda. Nearby, a young kid grabbed a Gatorade from an ice barrel, and the middle-aged vendor screamed “Hey! Put it back, you little shit.”  Corporate America had co-opted youth culture (again, in another vein), and they were making it increasingly clear that they would only tolerate the youth so long as they kept their cash flowing. It astounds me when people (mainly my age and older) wonder “why kids today don’t care about rock music.” Moreover, I can’t help but imagine that experiences like those accelerated Rollins’ departure from the music business.

As festivals got increasingly abundant, expensive, and bloated, I always wondered where the tipping point would be. Well, here it is. A lot of pundits thought it came in the form of the failure of the Fyre Festival, but (hilarious as it was), that fiasco didn’t appear to result in Goldenvoice and LiveNation stepping back and taking a long, hard, look at what they were doing. All Fyre Festival did was prove that rich idiots were still able to sell snake oil to other rich idiots.


I do not want my propensity to excavate silver linings from the most dire and ahistorical of situations to make light of how the COVID-related halting of certain institutions has already profoundly impacted millions and will likely hit millions more. It is why I will end this post with a series of links to check out to help support those in financial or physical need this month. However, I hope more than anything that those who stand to benefit from this in any way (even in terms of valuable lessons learned), do.