The Forgotten Novelty Songs Surrounding 9/11

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YouTube Screen Capture
I Was Going to Caption This Image, But Then...

The events of September 11th changed absolutely everything about our lives. That days terrorist attacks have become such a cultural touchstone that the weeks before and after it feel hazy at best. Yet, what makes those weeks 13 years ago even harder to fathom is what a uniquely bizarre time it was for popular music. Back when Justin Timberlake was just an *NSYNC member and punk band Sum-41 were topping the pop charts with a hybrid '80s rap-cum-hair-metal sound, the music industry was still making astronomical profits to the point where the summer of 2001 saw a barrage of peculiar novelty songs that wouldn't have fit in any other era. Then, the dour weeks after 9/11 saw the airwaves starved for content that could fit the bleak rebuilding period America was facing. These are the forgotten novelty songs surrounding 9/11.


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Resurrecting the Memory of Sinn Sisamouth, the Cambodian Elvis

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It's hard to explain to Americans the importance of Sinn Sisamouth, the most prolific singer-songwriter in Cambodian history, who was killed sometime in 1975 by the brutal Khmer Rouge. His silky vocals and poetic verses spent more than 20 years wafting over the cities and countryside of Southeast Asia's oldest kingdom, touching people's emotions and heralding a vibrant Golden era of rock and psychedelic-infused music that is only now beginning to be rebuilt.

He's commonly referred to as the Cambodian Elvis, which explains his popularity level. It also sheds light on how, decades after his last recording was made, both young and old Cambodians can still cite and sing his works, often with tears in their eyes.

See also: Members of Legendary Bay Area Band Crucifix Flash Back With 1984

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Why Surf Rock Is Southern California's Folk Music

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Courtesy of the label
Dick Dale, the King of the Surf Guitar
By: Jonny Whiteside
Yes, you could call surf rock SoCal folk music. It's an almost unique subculture, which has somehow managed to survive with all of its complex social codes, vocabulary and rowdy behavior intact -- up to and including last year's riot in the streets of Huntington Beach, AKA Surf City.

While modern corporate life has inflicted an irrevocable homogeneity onto most every other youth-sparked cultural movement (seen the current Ross department stores' "Pretty in Punk" ad campaign?), the archetypal Southern California surf culture remains steadfast, and it is ours alone.

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The Holy Grail of Blues and Soul Concert Footage Has Arrived

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Shout Factory
Sam Moore Performing at The Celebration for Young Americans 1989 Presidential Inaugural Event
This week sees the highly anticipated Shout Factory release of A Celebration of Blues and Soul: the 1989 Presidential Inaugural Concert. Considered lost for almost two decades, the footage of this event has been pieced together from a variety of sources and remastered for finally hitting store shelves some 25 years later. Boasting the once-in-a-lifetime lineup of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Bo Diddley, Dr. John, Sam Moore, Billy Preston, Percy Sledge and more, and filmed with the technological capabilities some of these legends were never otherwise seen with, it's an absolute holy grail for all music fans. We spoke to Howell Begle, one of the show's original producers and the driving force behind resurrecting the event, about how this rediscovered lost gem of a show came to be.

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Why We Worship J. Dilla

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Stones Throw
J. Dilla
February might be the cruelest month for hip-hop fans. Despite being the shortest of the year, it reminds us in rapid succession of losing some of the most promising talents whose lives were cut just short of drastically impacting the rap world. Among those lost in this 28 day span are Big Pun (February 7, 2000), Big L (February 15, 1999) and producer J. Dilla. But while Pun had already tasted mainstream success with "Still Not a Player," and Big L had a well-received debut as well as a strong street single in "Ebonics" under his belt at the time of their deaths, the days surrounding Dilla's death and his career up to that point have been largely drowned out with the accepted statement that he was always one of the genre's best. Now, eight years after his death, his greatness is accepted as undisputed fact. While we're not denying that Dilla is great, it's important to actually analyze why that is, as well as how the life of his music following his death has come to define his legacy.

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Miguel Happoldt's Un-Twisted History of Skunk Records

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Courtesy Miguel Happoldt
Miguel Happoldt on stage with Perro Bravo
The name Mike "Miguel" Happoldt probably doesn't mean much to the average Sublime fan. Not even when you throw out a reference to Skunk Records, the label made famous by the band's iconic releases 40 oz to Freedom,Robbin' the Hood, and 1996's landmark self-titled album. The label itself is a bit of a mystery, one that's even further diluted by uncredited Internet lore and bands who have hi-jacked the label's logo over the years for their own purposes. It also probably doesn't help that Happoldt, founder of the label and longtime friend of Sublime's late frontman of Brad Nowell, is one of the most low key dudes on the planet.

After the death of Nowell in '96 and the dissolution of Sublime--the label's main bread winner--the band's label head and producer basically let go of the reigns until the mid 2000s when he began to fight to reclaim the revive Skunk and reclaim its legacy. After 25 years of creating a sound synonymous with his Long Beach stomping grounds, Happoldt is celebrating his persistence with an anniversary show at the Observatory, featuring artists and bands who've been an integral part in his life as LBC's most underrated musical mastermind. "This show isn't about people's perception of Skunk Records," he says. "It's about basically me trying to do music a certain way against the grain for 25 years. I realized that if they're confused, that's not my problem. I'm not confused. Far from it."
We recently caught up to Happolt-- who now fronts his own band, Perro Bravo--to retrace what he says is the the real, un-twisted history of Skunk Records.

See also: Brad Nowell's Son Just Turned 18. He Talks About Playing His Very First Gig


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Local Graffiti Artists' Exhibit is a Shrine to Hip-Hop's Real Heroes

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Courtesy Shucks One
A tribute to late great B-boy Frosty Freeze
It's tempting to look at the spray-painted handiwork of Kenos One and Shucks One and call the two "taggers." You might see their bold, 3-D lettering, deft line work and portraits blasted on walls, rest stops and bus benches as projects done solely for the glory of giving society the finger. But for these men and countless others like them, the art goes deeper than that, and their dedication to it is anything but transitory.

"I don't even like that term--'tagging,'" Kenos says, carving up a monstrous wet burrito while sitting next to Shucks on the patio of Taco Mesa in Costa Mesa. "It's more like an old media term. I call us 'writers.'"

As nighttime closes in, they're taking a brief break to enjoy a hot meal. Then it's back to work on some lingering masterpieces before their inspiration runs cold.


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Flowchart: Should I See This Old Band?

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Mike Brooks
Television and/or your local championship bingo team.
By: Kiernan Maletsky
Rock & roll is less than sixty years old, remember, so the idea of multiple generations of active bands is still a fairly new one. But as big-ticket concerts and festivals become prevalent, more and more people are going to get the ol' band back together for another shot. Still, it's a risky proposition, seeing a band you had in your cassette deck 25 years ago. We don't want anyone's precious memories tainted by a subpar relic, so we've made this handy guide to help you decide whether to go see that old band.

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The Music of "Animaniacs" Turns 20!

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Wikimedia Commons
The "Animany" and "Totally Insane-y" Animaniacs.
It's been a historic year for anniversaries, among them is Steven Spielberg's immortal "Animaniacs" cartoon recently turning 20. Yes, this year marks two decades since the Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister) began escaping from the watertower to wreck havoc on the Warner movie lot. While the show's given countless memories of celebrity skewering, social irreverence and general absurdity the generations of children since, another important aspect of the show is its original music. Largely composed by Richard Stone, who took home four Emmy awards during the shows run and died of pancreatic cancer in 2001, the music of "Animaniacs" managed to transcend the realm of children's programming and wind up in classrooms, allowing kids to laugh and learn at the same time. It is with great anvils that we look back at our top five favorite songs from "Animaniacs."


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The Top Five Songs from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

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Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

If you were a child in the '90s, chances are good that the key to your happiness lied in three powerful words: "It's Morphin time!" Although it's been twenty years since Mighty Morphin Power Rangers first aired, there's a good chance that the phrase still conjures up fond memories of dinosaur robots, teenage melodrama and dubbed Japanese footage.

Despite the stream of imitators that followed in the show's wake, no other series was able to duplicate the energy and atmosphere of the beloved kids franchise. One of Power Rangers' most unique elements was series composer Ron Wasserman's all-rock score. Incredibly, each episode boasted original music. Here, we pay tribute to those six teenagers with attitude that kept Angel Grove safe for so many years with our five favorite songs from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

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