David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Conductors, Crime, Critics

Conductors

• Early in his career, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was too frightened to be a good conductor. In January 1868 he debuted as a conductor at a benefit for the victims of winter famine. However, he was so nervous that he forgot the composition and gave the orchestra the wrong indications. Fortunately, the musicians knew the composition very well, so they ignored Tchaikovsky and played it correctly. For the next 10 years, Tchaikovsky did not conduct. However, when he started to conduct again, he quickly overcame his nervousness and did a good job.

• What if you were in a plane, a storm arose, and you realized that your life could possibly end in a few minutes? What would you think? What would you say? What would you regret not having done? Andre Previn was in a plane with the conductor Sir John Barbirolli when this situation happened. Sir John, dismayed, said, “Oh it’s too awful! I haven’t even done all the Bruckners!” Fortunately, the plane landed safely.

• Richard Wagner was a demanding conductor. Victor Borge’s father played violin in the Hamburg Opera Orchestra when Wagner was guest conductor for his Tristan und Isolde. Wagner kept the musicians rehearsing from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m., cursing them and bullying them — even though they had an evening performance to give. However, Wagner was able to get the thrilling effects he wanted from the orchestra.

• Conductor Serge Koussevitzky sometimes got very angry at his musicians. In one case, he yelled at a musician who stayed silent. Enraged, Mr. Koussevitzky stormed with his Russian accent, “Vy don’t you spik? Vy don’t you say something?” Before the musician could reply, Mr. Koussevitzky stormed, “Silence! I vill have no opposition!”

• Eugene Ormandy was once so displeased that he was ready to quit the Minneapolis Orchestra. He explained why to his manager, Arthur Judson — he had heard some of the musicians call him “a little son-of-a-b*tch.” Hearing this, Mr. Judson simply laughed and told Mr. Ormandy, “Congratulations, you’re a real conductor now.”

Crime

• In 1962, drummer Pete Best was kicked out of the Beatles, who of course went on to become the most successful rock band ever. He remembers how financially impoverished they were back then: They would get paid one day and be broke the next day. Therefore, he and John Lennon decided to rob someone. They jumped a sailor, who fought back. Pete and John then ran away. Pete remembers, “I looked at John and said, ‘Have you got the wallet?’ And he said, ‘No, I thought you had it.’” And so ended their life of crime.

• Manuel Garcia, senior, was a famous operatic tenor. He was so famous that when Mexican brigands held him up during a tour, they not only took all his money but also forced him to sing for them.

Critics

• In a 2008 article titled “The Walking Wounded” in Great Britain’s Guardian newspaper, several critics described the worst reactions that their criticisms had provoked. For example, music critic Robin Denselow says that he was “attacked … from the stage” by singer-songwriter John Martyn although he didn’t recall having written anything especially bad about Mr. Martyn. And later, Mr. Denselow says, musician Kevin Coyle hit him “on behalf of John Martyn.” In contrast, other musicians are much kinder. Mr. Denselow once criticized what he calls “a decidedly substandard early show” by Pink Floyd. The musicians in the group were very kind to him. He says, “They wrote to me, agreeing that they had played badly that night, and thanking me for actually listening.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Buy:

The Paperback

Kindle

Kobo

Apple

Smashwords: Many Formats, Including PDF

Music Recommendation: Jane Don’t — “Bad Boyfriend”

BRUCE’S RECOMMENDATION OF BANDCAMP MUSIC 

Music: “Bad Boyfriend” from the album TAKE …

Artist: Jane Don’t

Artist Location: Montreal, Canada

Info: Jane Don’t is a punk rock trio based out of Montreal, Canada.

Cervane (Guitar)
Sara (Vox / Keys)
Seth (Drums)

Price: $1 (CAD) for track; $5 (CAD) for six-track album

Genre: Punk Rock

Links: 

Jane Don’t on Bandcamp

https://janedont.bandcamp.com

TAKE …

https://janedont.bandcamp.com/album/take

“ The weeks go by, the fourth, the fifth, And normalcy’s become a myth… My energy is out of whack — I want my normal problems back.”

Art of Quotation

Wish

The weeks go by, the fourth, the fifth,
And normalcy’s become a myth.
I want to hug, I want to hold,
I want this deadly scourge controlled.
I want to walk amidst a crowd.
I want to lift this morbid shroud.
I sit, sequestered in my home,
And yearn to mingle, travel, roam.
My energy is out of whack —
I want my normal problems back.

ERIKA FINE
Brookline, Mass.

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Music Recommendation: Daddy Issues — “Boring Girls”

BRUCE’S RECOMMENDATION OF BANDCAMP MUSIC 

Music: “Boring Girls” from the album DEEP DREAM

Artist: Daddy Issues

Artist Location: Nashville, Tennessee

Info: Mike D (a fan) wrote, “Some really heavy, thick riffs. Almost sludge metal sounding. They combine pop hooks with that and change gears a lot. Slow to very loud. Lots of indie girls rocking hard. Favorite track: ‘Boring Girls.’”

Price: $10 for six-track album; individual tracks cannot be purchased separately

Genre: Rock, Post-Pizza Rock

Links: 

DADDY ISSUES ON BANDCAMP

DEEP DREAM

David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Concerts, Compositions

Concerts

• Garth Brooks goes to great lengths to keep his concerts exciting. Near the end of a long tour that tired out pretty much everyone except the fans, Mr. Brooks livened things up by offering $500 to any band member who could knock him down that night. A band member asked what that meant: “Impress you with a guitar lick or ….” Mr. Brooks replied, “No, I meant physically knock me flat on my butt.” That night, all the band members tried to knock him flat on his butt, to the delight of Mr. Brooks — and his fans, who that night happened to be Canadian. During the final song, the entire band rushed him and knocked him flat on his butt — and split the $500.

• While Johnny Cash was attending Dyess High School, Charlie and Ira Louvin — aka the Louvin Brothers — performed there. Johnny arrived two hours early, and he saw his heroes arrive. Charlie even spoke to him — to ask where was the bathroom. Johnny saw Charlie eating soda crackers — and thereafter Johnny ate soda crackers. The concert was fantastic, and when the Louvin Brothers drove away in their limousine, Charlie even waved to Johnny. It was a magical night.

• In 1980, the parents of Plácido Domingo celebrated their 40th anniversary. He invited them to attend Mass with him in a church in Mexico City, and when they arrived they found many friends and relatives there, as well as a symphony orchestra, which provided the music as their famous son sang for them.

• Vladimir de Pachmann, a classical pianist, enjoyed performing a joke on stage. He would walk on stage, sit on a stool that was too low, then call for a book to sit on. He would then sit on the book, grimace, stand up, tear out one page from the book, sit down on the book again, smile, and begin playing.

• When giving a concert, Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin used to give the audience a long numbered list of songs. He would look at the list during the concert, decide what to sing next, then announce the number of the song to his audience. (His accompanist must have carried around a huge pile of sheet music!)

• During his career, African-American actor/singer Paul Robeson frequently entertained audiences by singing spirituals such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Early in his career, he sang a concert of 16 spirituals in Greenwich Village — then he sang 16 more spirituals as encores.

Compositions

• Singer-songwriter Baby Dee wrote and recorded a song titled “The Dance of Diminishing Possibilities,” which is described by celebrity interviewer Len Righi as “a Bowiesque cabaret number [that] uses a smashed piano as a metaphor for love let loose and the possibility of rebirth.” In the song, a couple of friends smash a keyboard with an axe on a sidewalk. Bobby Slot and Freddy Weiss, the friends in the song, are real; they were neighbors of Baby Dee when she was young and living in Cleveland, and they really did use an ax to smash a keyboard on a sidewalk. Baby Dee says, “They were bums, guys in their 30s, dumb and harmless,” she says. “They really wanted not to have a piano. That was their dream. So the whole neighborhood got together to make their dream come true.”

• Avant garde composer John Cage once created a music piece titled 4’33” in which the pianist sat at a piano for exactly four minutes and 33 seconds without playing a note. The music consisted of the sounds that the audience heard while the pianist was not playing.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Buy:

The Paperback

Kindle

Kobo

Apple

Smashwords: Many Formats, Including PDF

David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Children, Concerts

Children

• Rock goddesses have kids, too. Pat Benatar was a major 1980s rock star and continues to play today. Her songs such as “Heartbreaker” are on Guitar Hero, and lots of children — and adults — rock out to them, including her two daughters, Haley and Hana. Of course, kids can ask embarrassing questions, and Haley and Hana sometimes ask their mom this question about the Spandex pants she used to wear on stage: “How did you get into those pants?”

• Jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams was blessed with perfect pitch — she could identify any note and any key after hearing it. In the third grade, she heard her teacher hum a song, and she said that she could identify the key. Her teacher was skeptical and tested her by playing a note on a piano. Mary Lou immediately identified it.

• When Stevie Wonder was young, he sang in a church choir — until he was expelled because a church member heard him singing rock and roll.

Clothing

• Luisa Tetrazzini (1871-1940), a coloratura, was singing Lucia di Lammermoor in Puebla, Mexico, on a stage flooded because of a rainstorm and a leaky roof. To keep from ruining her dress, she held it a few inches above the water. This displeased a woman in a box, who commented on the shocking display of a lady’s ankles. Ms. Tetrazzini walked underneath the woman’s box, then improvised her own words to the music of the opera: “Madam, you are shocked, very shocked, I know it, yes I do. But do you know the stage is soaking wet and our dresses all are spoiling, yet just to please you I am ready, perfectly ready, to let my dress drag through the wet and be completely ruined if you, dear Madam, will promise to buy me a lovely new one.” This gave the audience a laugh and kept the critic quiet for the rest of the performance.

• Pianist Richard Goode was far from dressing with splendor, although at times he tried. He once ran the hot water in his bath in an attempt to steam wrinkles out of his tailcoat. Unfortunately, he forgot to stop the bathtub, and an hour later the ceiling of the apartment underneath his had collapsed. On another occasion, he put his newly washed white bow tie in a toaster oven so he could dry it. Unfortunately, he singed the bow tie, so he tried to cover up the singed places with talcum powder.

• Musician David Broekman used to know someone with the unconscious, but annoying, habit of picking lint off the suit of the person he was talking to, so Mr. Broekman used a small paint brush to paint a dot of white on his suit. Sure enough, the man with the annoying habit tried to pick off the piece of “lint” from Mr. Broekman’s suit.

Concerts

• Jazz pianist Oscar Peterson was discovered in a very Hollywood-movie fashion. In his native Montreal, Canada, Mr. Peterson was playing in a small club. Producer Norman Grantz heard him, liked what he heard, and invited him to play at Carnegie Hall with the band Jazz at the Philharmonic on September 19, 1949. Mr. Peterson did exactly that. By the way, unlike Mr. Peterson, not every musician is competent. Gioacchino Rossini was once forced to work with a very poor contralto whose competence was limited to singing B-flat notes. Therefore, Rossini composed an aria that required her to sing only B-flat notes; the orchestra carried the melody. The aria was successful — the contralto received a standing ovation.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Buy:

The Paperback

Kindle

Kobo

Apple

Smashwords: Many Formats, Including PDF

Music Recommendation: The Southern River Band — “Second Best”

BRUCE’S RECOMMENDATION OF BANDCAMP MUSIC 

Music: “Second Best” from the album RUMOUR & INNUENDO

Artist: The Southern River Band

Artist Location: Perth, Australia

info: “There’s not a whole lot happening right now, what with the COVID and all. As soon as the world opens, we’ll re-commence taking it over. In the meantime, if you’re willing and able — please consider purchasing some Southern River Band merch from our shop.” — Southern River Band Website

Price: $1 (AUS) for track; $10 (AUS) for 8-track album

Genre: Rock

Links: 

Southern River Band Website

https://www.thesouthernriverband.com/home

Southern River Band on Bandcamp

https://thesouthernriverband.bandcamp.com

RUMOUR & INNUENDO

https://thesouthernriverband.bandcamp.com/album/rumour-innuendo

David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Children

Children

• Kimya Dawson became famous after several of her songs appeared in the hit 2007 movie Juno. After the movie made her famous, she started creating an album titled Alphabutt for children. Her humor, as shown when she was a member of the anti-folk duo The Moldy Peaches with Adam Green, can be crude and can involve bad language. She thinks that all of her albums are “child-appropriate, but not all parents agree — a lot of kids who like my stuff say, ‘I wanted to take your CD to show and tell, but my teacher doesn’t like it when you say ‘f**king c*ck.’” For that reason, she felt obliged to make what she calls “a show-and-tell-friendly album.” In 2008, her daughter was two years old, and Ms. Dawson was thinking of starting a curfew-friendly tour: “I’ve been thinking about doing a tour called ‘The Nine O’ Clock Curfew Tour,’ where I don’t play any shows that end after nine. This staying up ’til 11 stuff is bullsh*t.”

• Laurie Anderson was forced to study violin when she was a child — it was not a pleasant experience. She says, “I had a teacher who said, ‘If you don’t put your fingers in the right place, I am going to put nails where they [your fingers] shouldn’t be and you’ll prick yourself.’” Ms. Anderson, of course, composed and recorded “O Superman,” figuring that 100 copies of the song would be enough to meet what she thought would be a limited demand. However, British deejay John Peel played it on his radio show, and suddenly demand skyrocketed. She says, “One day, I got a call from London with an order for 20,000 copies of the single, immediately followed by another 20,000 by the end of the week. I looked at the cardboard box of records, which had almost run out, and said, ‘Listen, can I just call you back?’”

• Long ago, singer/songwriter Billy Bragg made a music video for a song called “The Boy Done Good” with some of his nieces and nephews. During a visit, a niece mentioned the video, and Billy’s son, who was a toddler when the video was made, wanted to see it. So Billy spent a week looking everywhere in his home for the video, including getting out a ladder so he could look in the attic. Finally, he gave up and telephoned his niece to ask, “Where did you see the video? ’Cause I can’t find it anywhere. Have you got a copy?” She replied, “Duh, Uncle Bill, it’s on YouTube.” Perhaps unnecessarily, Billy says, “I felt such an idiot, such an old guy.”

• For one of his televised Young People’s Concerts, conductor Leonard Bernstein presented Benjamin Britton’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. He needed a child to narrate, and he settled on the young son of his friend Schuyler Chapin: Henry. Henry did a fine job, and he grew up and taught music to young children at a school in New York. Once, he showed his pupils the Young People’s Concert that he had narrated. The children liked the program, but one girl asked, “Who was that nerdy kid who spoke the words?” Henry confessed that he had been the nerdy kid, and the children applauded him.

• When Beyoncé and fellow Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland first heard a song of theirs — “No, No, No” — on the radio in her car, they stopped the car, jumped out of it, and started singing the song and running around the car. When Beyoncé’s younger sister, Solange, saw them, she was shocked at first. But when she was close enough to hear the song, she joined them in running around the car. Beyoncé remembers, “She dropped her bag and books and started running around the car, too. It was a really cool experience.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Buy:

The Paperback

Kindle

Kobo

Apple

Smashwords: Many Formats, Including PDF

Music Recommendation: The Embrooks — “It’s Time You Realized”

BRUCE’S RECOMMENDATION OF BANDCAMP MUSIC 

Music: “It’s Time You Realized”

Artist: The Embrooks

Artist Location: London, England, UK

Info: The Embrooks cover The Morloch’s 1966 power-pop-punk song. 

Price: £1 British Pound

Genre: Rock, Garage

Links: 

The Embrooks on Bandcamp

https://theeembrooks.bandcamp.com

“It’s Time You Realized”

https://theeembrooks.bandcamp.com/track/its-time-you-realised

BRUCE’S RECOMMENDATION OF BANDCAMP MUSIC 

Music: “It’s Time You Realized”

Artist: The Embrooks

Artist Location: London, England, UK

Info: The Embrooks cover The Morloch’s 1966 power-pop-punk song. 

Price: £1 British Pound

Genre: Rock, Garage

Links: 

The Embrooks on Bandcamp

https://theeembrooks.bandcamp.com

“It’s Time You Realized”

https://theeembrooks.bandcamp.com/track/its-time-you-realised