Category Archives: Music

Good Year For Earworms

Today’s guest post is from Linda in St. Paul (West Side).

The Germans have a word for it – ohrwurm, which translates literally as earworm, that phenomenon of getting a song lodged in your head that plays over and over till it drives you to distraction. I fall victim on a regular basis. Often particular songs are triggered by everyday objects or activities, and this is never more true than when I’m working in a garden.

I can’t trim a rosebush without drifting into It’s Been a Good Year For the Roses. It’s usually the George Jones version, though it occasionally morphs briefly into Elvis Costello.

Tending a bittersweet vine is a sure way to conjure Big Head Todd and the Monsters. (“Bittersweet…more sweet than bitter…bitter than sweet…”)  If you don’t know it, you could look it up on YouTube. Consider yourself warned, though – it’s a sticky one, as difficult to dislodge as a ball of burdock seeds.

Buttercups invariably trigger All Shook Up. I explained this to a friend once and she told me I am lucky my mental jukebox goes to Elvis instead of The Foundations.

An especially virulent earworm is Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree with Anyone Else But Me. I cannot even walk past an apple tree without suffering an acute attack.

And then sometimes my brain takes an odd detour and arrives at destination I’m at a loss to explain. I spend a couple of weeks in the summer pulling a vine known as hog peanut. To my knowledge, no one has ever written a song about hog peanut. The song that surfaces from my subconscious to fill the void is the bebop classic Salt Peanuts, with the lyrics adapted: “Hog peanut…hog peanut…” in an endless loop. Can you hear it?

Winter is fast approaching, and the garden earworms will sleep beneath the snow for a few months, to return in the spring. The only thing I have to say is…it’s been a good year for the roses.

Share your favorite (or least favorite) earworms.

Advanced Social Media

Many thanks to the gentle baboons who have kept this blog going for several months and especially the past few weeks while I’ve been distracted by work.

Our Fall Membership drive is underway at Fresh Air Community Radio – we’re in the middle of the second week of fundraising, just two days away from the scheduled conclusion. Just recently I’ve been preoccupied helping friends like the Morning Blend hosts (pictured above) as they try to get listeners to call 612 375-9030 to make a contribution.

KFAI_SignIf you’ve never listened, you should give it a try. The most baboon-friendly show on the schedule is Stone Soup, Wednesday mornings from 10am to noon. I often hear host Pam K. playing music that was, or would have been, featured on the old MPR Morning Show.

But that’s no surprise. Our station has many personalities, literally and figuratively. We are the antidote for anyone fed up with tightly formatted radio. While the most popular stations in town strive for stability by trying to sound exactly the same whenever you tune in, we are like the flowing river. Stick your dial at 90.3 / 106.7 FM and you’ll find that you can’t listen to the same station twice. No matter what you think you’re going to hear, it’s always going to become something else.

KFAI_State_FairSome people look at that and say we’re hanging on too long to an outdated model, suggesting that the volunteer-based grab bag approach to programming where individuals use the medium as a form of self-expression is a hippie artifact. They say we’ve got to step into the digital age and create a coherent multi-platform brand that is consistent and predictable and is tied to something more marketable than the quirk factor.

But I look at the digital age and see an environment where any form of media that’s seen as monolithic and prepackaged is at risk of being overwhelmed by thousands of small-time operators who are creatively and subversively employing the same tools as the big players.  And I don’t think subversive is too strong a word.  After all, we have a broadcast frequency in a major American city, and we routinely hand it over to just ordinary folks so they can be heard.

In that sense, community radio is the original social media.

If we were Facebook, we’d give everyone their own show, and I do sometimes encounter people who think they can walk in the door  at KFAI and have an on-air slot within days.  After all, they have excellent musical taste!  Unfortunately, we’re limited by the number of hours in a day, and new program hosts soon find out having your own weekly radio show is a more demanding commitment than simply posting your thoughts and putting up a cat video every now and then.

But it is an enticing thought.

If you had a radio show, what would it sound like and what would you call it?  

Summer in the Music

Header image by Brian Moen on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons nc-nd 2.0

Today’s guest post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale.

Last week Husband and I had an uncharacteristically active week in the “going out for music” scene. I am usually a slug on summer evenings and weekends; but it seems the planets, the offerings, and ”logistic serendipity” lined up to make this possible.


Last Saturday of July we took the Light Rail Green Line over to the Second Annual (FREE) Lowertown Blues Festival, held in Mears Park, a lovely square in downtown St. Paul near the river.

Although we are in no way blues aficionados, we enjoyed the two bands we heard, “Lisa Wenger & Her Mean Mean Men”, and “Jimmi and the Band of Souls”; also on the schedule were Elvin Bishop and Walter Trout. It was one of the Ten Perfect Days, and the people watching was fabulous – from lots of us old folks to barely-walking toddlers.


Thursday evening found us at the Gingko Coffee House, also in St. Paul for an intimate, warm (the A/C started functioning again around 7:30), and rousing concert by Claudia Schmidt and Sally Rogers.   (Did you know they have now collaborated on three CDs? Or that Claudia now lives on Nicollet Island in Mpls?) What a joy! With two guitars and two dulcimers each, they played old favorites (Spoon River, Lovely Agnes, and the Berrymans’ A Chat with Your Mother) and new material. Claudia’s poem about humidity had us rolling. Baboons were well represented: PJ (who brought her 94 year-old-friend Eleanor), Linda, Lisa, and BiR & Michael.

On Friday we ventured out to Lake Harriet Bandshell in S. Mpls for The New Primitives, one of the best Reggae bands around, who play music “composed of ska, rock, Afro-Cuban, Caribbean and Mexican music, a soulful long simmering stew…”.   So much fun to dance to when we all get in their groove, and we always run into old friends there.

What kind of music will get you out of the house for a live concert or festival?

The Community Piano

Today’s guest post comes from Jacque

Several summers ago, probably 2011, but really I am not certain, someone with a community project grant placed a piano on the corner across the street from my office.


The piano was painted light green with colorful patterns and a small mural. It provided intense community interest and activity, attracting people like a magnet attracts metal. There were players who were accomplished musicians playing a concerto from memory, church organists playing traditional Christian hymns, children playing chopsticks, and cool dudes noodling a bit of ragtime. I could hear music throughout the day. The old piano was tinny and out of tune, suffered relentless sun, and washed by watery downpours if someone did not cover it with the tarp connected to the backside.


It was a difficult summer for me because I had chosen to continue my business despite a major problem and set back the year before. Re-organizing the business required working many hours as I transitioned to a new bookkeeper, a billing service, recruited some new therapists, and developed the structures the business required. Looking out my office window to the corner where the piano was positioned was a blessed relief to this drudgery.

To my delight, there is a new old piano on the corner again this summer.

This noon as I walked back to the office from eating my lunch, a girl was seated there, just noodling. I don’t know who thought of this idea of community pianos, but to whomever it is, thanks. It brings such a feeling of communal joy. When people are gathered around it like a campfire, listening to someone play or singing along, everyone smiles as they throw themselves into the experience. Though I may not know the name of the folks gathered there, we are part of the community in that musical moment.

We are communing.

We are community.

What gives you a sense of community?

A Late Great Morning Show Revival

Today’s guest post comes from Sherrilee

At Blevins Book Club last weekend, a small pocket of us were reminiscing about some of our crusty old favorites from The Late Great Morning Show.  Most of us are still Radio Heartland devotees, but don’t hear the oldies but goodies as often as we’d like.

So it’s time for a LGMS revival!  If we pull together a list of titles, Mike will get them organized and we’ll have a rousing couple of hours of songs that elicit some of our great memories from over the years.  After we get the list to Mike, he’ll let us know the date and time.  No guarantee that he’ll be able to find all our titles and I’m assuming we’ll come up with way more titles that can fit into a couple of hours, but I think we should give it a shot.

I’ll start us off with two:  The Mary Ellen Carter by Stan Rogers and Canned Goods by Greg Brown.

What song do you miss from the LGMS?

A Song After the Binge

Header photo via NASA Ice / James Yungel

The hits just keep coming in the climate change parade. Most recently a new NASA study predicted that an Antarctic ice shelf the size of Scotland could collapse by 2020.

Favorite quote from the Washington Post story:

“What might happen is that for a few years, we will have the detachment of big icebergs from this remaining ice shelf, and then at one point, one very very warm summer, when you have lots of melting of the surface, the whole thing will just give way, and will shatter into thousands of smaller icebergs,” says the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Ala Khazendar, lead author of the new study.

My understanding:  While the ice shelf is already in the water and its collapse alone won’t appreciably lift global water levels, it will open up the way for melting land-based glaciers to flow more easily into the sea.

That’s not good.

The ice shelf in question is called Larsen B, which immediately reminded me of this song about the unpleasant after-effects of an unfortunate and ill-advised binge.

We’re melting the Larsen B
with every added degree.
As tall icebergs fall into the foam.
Liquefy snow.
The glaciers let go.
Well, the ice shelf broke up
Submerging my home.

I hope that our fins evolve
As quick as the ice dissolve.
Antarctica wants to flow
over my home!
Soaking the loam.
That is the point of this poem, yeah yeah.
When the ice shelf broke up,
submerging my home.

Like ice cubes to a drunk
we’re hypnotized by each chunk
a prize, Scotland-sized, floating away.
Sea levels rise
You can predict the demise.
The ice shelf broke up
Submerging my home.

Add some lyrics or describe a night drinking with your grandfather.

The Pips Trip

Today is the birthday of Gladys Knight, a soulful singer whose name instantly conjures three more words – “… and the Pips.”

That may be a tough notion for any diva to accept, but if Wikipedia is to be believed, at one point in her early career the entire band carried the nickname of her Uncle,  James Woods.

And yes, that means she was just another Pip.

History could have led anywhere from there.  At least it didn’t turn into “The Pips – featuring Gladys Knight.”

Knight was born in Atlanta in 1944, and gave her home state perhaps the finest pop music theme song of all fifty contenders with this classic.

It sounds odd to say it this way, but the song was created with a different title – “Midnight Plane to Houston.”   Writer Jim Weatherly allowed the change to suit a singer who was actually named Houston – Cissy, Whitney’s mother.   Cissy Houston recorded it as “Midnight Train To Georgia” on her debut album as she tried to de-Pipify herself after singing backup for characters like Elvis and Aretha Franklin.

Why is it that hopping a late plane to Houston sounds excruciating, while catching an overnight train to Georgia is romantic?

One can only imagine what it was like to sing that song over and over and over and over and over again as it became a worldwide hit.  I hope somewhere along the way, Gladys Knight felt a powerful sense of affirmation. After all, having a trio of choreographed “yes men” sing your exact words moments after you say them to thousands of adoring fans is the very thing that leads many corporate CEO’s to strive for that corner office.

What would your backup group be called?