Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Moment in Hollywood

How nice spring. There’s a blizzard outside.. Anyway, I first spotted this following "band" in’s recommendations. It took a while before I checked what it actually was but it seemed like I had just found the most bubblegum-spirited (read: fictitious) band there was. The Wonders was a made-up 60s pop band in the film That Thing You Do! (1996), written and directed by Tom Hanks. I still haven’t had time to watch the film but it must be pretty cool.

The film contains some very, very nice music.. The title track That Thing You Do! was written by Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne and sung by none other than Mike Viola himself. It’s a good track, and the movie soundtrack also includes other melodic treats – from The Wonders as well as other fictitious 60s groups.

There is one thing that bothers me about the song - or rather people's reaction to it. When I listen to it, it sounds like… well, a power pop song from 1996, and that is what it really is. Still, very many people seem to be convinced that it is an accurate representation of 60s pop. On the other hand, what’s the difference? I guess it just confuses me to hear Mike Viola sing a song that fictitiously came out before he was even born.. And I can't fit a time machine into the equation very easily.

Were Beatles power pop? That is one difficult question… While you’re thinking, why not listen to The Wonders!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Heaven Is...

It’s happened again. I’ve become absolutely fond of a new singer. I knew basically nothing about Neil Sedaka before I test-listened to him (like I do to many artists) a few weeks ago. I remember I was actually talking on the phone with my granny while listening to Sedaka’s early hits. It was probably Stairway to Heaven playing when I suddenly noticed a very special thing: this guy had something a lot more interesting in his singing voice than 99,9% of people have! Well, first of all, he sounded very much like Les McKeown (from Bay City Rollers)– a cheerful, melodious, and even slightly nasal sound. I listened to more of Sedaka’s old songs and soon found his amazing lower vocal register, as well as his awesome higher range. As I listened to those absolutely catchy melodies, great songs, and Sedaka singing gorgeous harmonies with himself I was swept away. Then I heard his early 70s stuff.. There was no turning back. I was in love.

Neil Sedaka was born in New York in 1939. He was considered a prodigal child, attended The Juilliard School and became an excellent pianist. Sedaka started writing songs at the age of 13 and singing at the age of 19. He worked a lot with Howard Greenfield in the early 60s writing songs for himself and others. Sedaka’s early hits include Calendar Girl, Breaking up Is Hard to Do, Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen, Oh! Carol (written about ex-girlfriend Carole King), and others.

In the mid-60s Sedaka’s success on the charts decreased, his record contract with RCA ended and was not renewed, and as it became customary that bands wrote their own songs, Sedaka was left with little work in the songwriting sector. However, in the early 70s, ambitious Sedaka revived his recording career as he started working on new material in England with the four guys that would soon become known as 10cc. The collaboration resulted in Sedaka returning to the charts in both UK and US. Sedaka also worked with Elton John in the mid-70s. Sedaka's 70s hits include for example Solitaire, Laughter in the Rain, and Bad Blood.

During his 50-year career Sedaka has recorded music in five different languages, topped the charts with two versions of the same song (Breaking up Is Hard to Do), had a hit record with his daughter Dara (Should've Never Let You Go), and his songs covered by such artists as The Carpenters and Elvis Presley, among other things. People all around the world consider Sedaka a genius and demand him to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Sedaka, who will turn 70 years old on March 13th, still tours (The United Kingdom this summer) and sings with his voice still sounding incredibly beautiful – how is that possible? I guess a piece of heaven on earth just can't possible fade..

Sedaka’s voice is the most beautiful thing I’ve heard in a long time. Now the question is how long.. Will I end up dropping my current #1 favourite singer to #2? I haven’t decided yet but time will surely show me. Somehow it would seem inappropriate to place Sedaka as #2 but I don’t wish to abandon my current #1 just yet. Gee, maybe I just shouldn’t think about these ranks so much..

I love Neil. I can’t stop listening to him, his beautiful voice, and his beautiful melodies. To me Neil Sedaka is the ultimate American pop icon. I love his early pop & roll hits, and I love his later singer-songwriter pop hits (and non-hits). I’m looking forward to getting more of his records, and I even might go to England in the summer to see him live.. It’s silly but I can’t help it. I’m in too deep now..

Here are some picks from YouTube, mostly live performances. It’s just a couple of samples – if you don’t own/know Sedaka’s greatest hits (and preferably more), get/listen to them now!

Calendar Girl ("music video" from the early 60s!)
Calendar Girl (live with Chris and Adam from Fountains of Wayne - great fun! Compared to Neil FoW certainly is "a new group..")
Next Door to an Angel (video may not be the best but the song is perfect)
Laughter in the Rain (so beautiful – I’m speechless)
Is This the Way to Amarillo (with Tony Christie live at Royal Albert Hall)
Solitaire (live, don't know where)

Neil Sedaka's Official Website

P.S. As you already know, Kyle Vincent is Sedaka's next-generation powerpop version! I love Kyle, too.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Beelzebub Strikes Back

Sometimes I just don’t know how I get myself into these things.. It must be the curiosity in me. Also, sometimes you just sort of have to forget about who you are and what your musical preferences are. That way you will find something new – really new, not just another Posies soundalike.

It all began last summer when I was making a project regarding the history of music, focusing on 20th century. The project slowly turned into three and a half hours of me blabbing about the development of music – from ragtime to post-rock - and throwing in sound samples after each blabbing sequence. When I reached the end of the 60s, it was time to introduce progressive rock.. I made my research and found out that some of the most famous prog bands included Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer… and King Crimson.

I was looking for audio material to include in my progressive rock section.. For some reason, the first thing I ended up listening to was King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man. Man, it surely struck me.. Saxophones! (My second favourite instrument after vocals. Someday I will end up becoming a saxophone player. You’ll see..). I couldn’t resist that rich sound, unusual drum playing, and somewhat brooding general feel that was emphasized by a raucous vocal effect. I actually liked the song very much right away.

I didn’t have much time to dig deeper into this specific band at that moment – I still had about 30 other genres to deal with.. I added an extract from 21st Century Schizoid Man, as well as samples from Pink Floyd and The Moody Blues, and continued to my hard rock section.

It was sometime around Christmas when I finally got around to listening to an entire album from King Crimson. I chose In the Court of the Crimson King (1969) because it was the band’s first album and included that Schizoid Man song – it was song #1. After that came something very different: I Talk to the Wind, a beautiful and melancholic song with flutes. The other songs on the album – such as Epitaph and Moonchild – seemed to be parts of a bigger picture rather than separate songs. I guess that’s why the lengths of the songs didn’t seem to bother me at all. Well, to be honest, 12 minutes sounded quite long for one track..

Then, I read a very interesting article about the band in Soundi magazine, and realized I should listen to Red (1974) right away. That was what I did. I listened to it a few times and suddenly I didn’t care anymore if the songs were 12 minutes long, and if there was a single vocal melody in an entire song or not. I started to get the point of this music.. Still, no matter how you see it, One More Red Nightmare is a really catchy song.

Progressive rock just doesn’t seem to work in the same way as traditional pop. It’s a lot more experimental and focuses on creating large sound landscapes rather than trying to be as economic as possible. One of the most distinguishing features of the genre is combining rock-jazz fusion with psychedelic rock. Jazz fusion..?

Well, I haven’t said anything about it yet but I really like jazz – many types of jazz. I don’t listen to jazz very actively yet, but I go to Pori Jazz festival with my dad every summer, I’ve been doing that for about five years now. One of last summer’s most memorable events was seeing 70s rock-jazz fusionists Return to Forever play. It was really fascinating. I was mesmerized by the music, it was really something different – not anything like swing or bebop but it was still jazz.

I really look forward to see what this progressive rock adventure turns into.. I’ve already listened to some Pink Floyd, so it might be a good idea to listen what more they have to say, and perhaps move on to Yes and others sometime.. I want to encourage all pop fans to check out some prog! At some points progressive rock does, in fact, include catchy melodies. Like any melody-oriented type of music, it also aims to express human emotions. It does it in a bit more abstract way, though. There are not as many straightforward words as in pop!

There is so much information about King Crimson that it actually has its own wiki page! There have been almost 20 different people in King Crimson and the band has split several times and got back together. Central figure Robert Fripp is the only original member left in the band. Fripp describes King Crimson as “a way of doing things”. He has made music and toured under several different band names.

Finally, here is an explanation for the name King Crimson (from Wikipedia):
“The name King Crimson was coined by [early King Crimson] lyricist Peter Sinfield as a synonym for Beelzebub, prince of demons. According to Fripp, Beelzebub would be an anglicised form of the Arabic phrase "B'il Sabab", meaning "the man with an aim" (although it literally means "with a cause").”

King Crimson Official Website
Elephant Talk – A King Crimson and Robert Fripp Wiki
King Crimson at YouTube

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Summer, Summer, Summer!

This blog could use some more twee. Although I still haven’t turned into a twee-activist, I can’t help loving Goodnight Monsters to pieces. This music is something that turns winter into summer in a microsecond. And it’s all Finnish music, and I’ve seen the band live. How cool is that?
Summer Challenge (2008) is the second album by Goodnight Monsters. The song material on the album is all first class. First One on the Beach is a perfect organ-beat song – it just couldn’t get any catchier. Drifting is even more charming, there’s definitely magic in the air. These are all perfect tracks, how could I tell which song is more perfect than some other? Listen to them all and be mesmerized. Keep Me As a Secret, April Fooling, Mockingbird, Interflora Overdrive.. Awesome stuff.

There are quite many fully streamable Goodnight Monsters songs at There are even tracks from their first album The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (2005). Unfortunately, I haven’t listened to it yet (Why haven’t I done that? It must have something to do with those thousands of other albums I’m trying to listen at the same time..), but I definitely intend to check it out at some point. I’ve heard the first album is also really good.

It’s great that days are getting longer here in the north. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the winter darkness too. It’s easier to sleep when it’s not bright all the time.. And before you know it, I will probably be offering you some gothic rock – again - to help adjust to the summer that is soon at hand. At least it helps me..

Goodnight Monsters at
Goodnight Monsters Website

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Just My Style

I hardly seem to listen to any music newer than 1978 anymore.. Maybe it’s just a phase. But I’m 100% sure it’s an excellent phase. The 60s was the golden age of pop, and those days ain’t coming back.. at least in the exact same form.

The first new 60s group I discovered this year was Gary Lewis & The Playboys. This band truly was new to me – I had never heard any of their songs before (apart from covers - they often seem to ring a bell..). I found the band through recommendations, I think. is awesome because it endlessly keeps giving me great 60s music tips. Sometimes listening to those new bands feels like hitting gold right at the first moment! This is basically what happened with me and this band.

Gary Lewis is the son of comedian Jerry Lewis. Gary started a band (The Playboys) with his friends around 1964 and became drummer and lead singer. Although it wasn’t Gary’s intention to take advantage of his father’s fame, father Jerry played a part in launching the band’s recording career. That career soon turned out to be quite successful. Gary Lewis & The Playboys got their first number one hit right after they had performed their first single This Diamond Ring on The Ed Sullivan Show. The next single releases were also successful: Count Me in, She’s Just My Style, Everybody Loves a Clown and a few other tracks all made it to top 10. Gary Lewis & The Playboys continued releasing albums and singles until 1970. Gary also released solo material.

Gary Lewis & The Playboys have lots of excellent and catchy pop songs. The way I see it, The Beach Boys were one of the bands that influenced their music. Also, Lewis has a really exciting singing voice! He was, in fact, chosen “Male Vocalist of The Year” by Cash Box magazine in 1965. Other nominees included Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.

What makes all this slightly weirder is the following section that can be found in AMG. I never even thought about stuff like this before I read it:
“It would be difficult to find a rock & roll star less likely than Gary Lewis, or a less probable chart-topping act than Gary Lewis & the Playboys. Lewis himself was possessed of a limited singing range and didn't have what could be considered good looks, yet with a lot of help he managed to make some exceptionally good (and good-selling) records out of Los Angeles, in the midst of the British Invasion, and teenagers loved him.”

As usual, here are my favourite songs, listenable on YouTube. I picked just a few.. This stuff is pure perfection. But don’t look at the videos! Music doesn’t need illustration. It's a bit strange, however, that one of the few places where you can properly stream full songs from nearly any 60s artist is a place that is meant for videos. So, Gary Lewis and his band are not in the videos that I've linked here. If you’d like to see Gary Lewis lip-synching to his songs, you’ll find those videos easily. [I just wish YouTube wouldn't remove all good music from the site..]

This Diamond Ring
Count Me in
She’s Just My Style
Everybody Loves a Clown
Green Grass
Gary Lewis & The Playboys Official Website (Beware of Gary’s welcoming words – they surely spooked me! Turn your speakers down when you enter the site.)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Happy Birthday ToM!

How embarrassing! I forgot that my blog was about to turn one year old. Now I'm already late.. Still, better late than never, they say.

Thoughts on Melody
was born in Helsinki, Finland on February the 4th, 2008, although the idea had be
en bouncing inside my head for some time. During its first year ToM went through a couple of visual changes, moved its headquarters from Helsinki to Tampere and was decorated with about 80 posts and 40 comments. To be honest, that's more posts and comments than I ever expected.

Even though the actual benefits of the publicity of this blog still remain pretty unclear (people just don't tend to comment on things that much), I'm very eager to continue with this little therapy project of mine. There is always something to blab about..

So, congrats to me and my blabber and big thanks to visitors and everyone who's left a comment! Special thanks goes of course to the artists. This blog wouldn't exist without you! You mean a lot to me.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hypnotized by Ken

Today is the one week anniversary of my first The Disciplines gig. It’s definitely not very rewarding being a Finnish fan of numerous American power pop/pop/indie rock bands when you look at how often they play gigs in Finland. However, sometimes we Finns get pampered big time. Nowadays, Jon Auer or Ken Stringfellow or both, visit Finland almost every year. They seem to have quite many fans in this country – the biggest live audiences in the entire world, I’ve heard!

The latest turn in The Posies story was Ken Stringfellow starting a band called The Disciplines with Norwegian musicians who had played in a band called Briskeby. Well.. Norway, that’s geographically very near to Finland! Norwegian-American The Disciplines already played in Helsinki a couple of years ago, and now, in January 2009, it was time for a three-gig Finnish tour that also included shows in Turku and Tampere.

I really can’t complain. Seeing a power pop god like Ken Stringfellow perform in my hometown, 5 kilometres from my home is absolutely cool. Also, Stringfellow is the most enthusiastic and devoted live performer you could ever imagine. At Klubi his performance was filled with wild energy, quite sensual dance moves, and inventive activities that he used to make the audience participate. Ken ran singing around the venue while the audience got tangled in his very long microphone wire.. He encouraged everyone to jump up and down with him, and some people got a chance to sing a bit of lead vocals. Ken also hypnotized the entire audience. That was the most unusual gig moment ever but it surely was great fun! The encore was AC/DC’s Highway to Hell with Ken’s own made-up lyrics (“I’m going down to Tampere!”). It was an unforgettable gig. Feedback from other people who had witnessed the gig included stuff like “the best gig I’d ever seen”..

After the gig I got a chance to purchase Smoking Kills (2008), The Disciplines’ first album, from Stringfellow himself. It’s a good modern rock album – melodic like you could expect from Ken. And of course there are some power pop songs, too.

Extra points go to Finnish warm-up act Agent Kooper who come from Turku. Their 70s retro-rock sounded great. This was the 2,33th time I saw them, and it was definitely the best gig so far. They performed some new songs too. Those songs were quite epic!

The Disciplines at MySpace
Agent Kooper at MySpace

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Pre-Listen to My First Band’s New Album

I encountered domestic My First Band last fall when they performed live at Lost in Music festival. I enjoyed the gig very much and liked the band’s sound. Their first full-length album will be released on February the 11th, and the band is now offering a one-week pre-listening opportunity at MySpace.

The album is called You Look so Bored and it contains the current single Why Do You Treat Me so Bad. At MySpace you can also watch the video for the song. My First Band has appeared on Finnish television and radio, which has surely spread the word and made people pay attention to the band. The album will only be released in Finland for now.

Check out the music if you don’t mind melodic, synth-flavoured pop-rock. I intend to listen to this album carefully. You can also join the band’s Facebook group for latest news. Most of the information is in Finnish.

My First Band at MySpace

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Love Grows (You Know the Rest)

Tony Burrows is the man. He is Britain’s Ron Dante, and probably a lot more. He was a studio singer in the 70s and scored countless hits as lead singer in several bands. He sang in Edison Lighthouse, White Plains, Brotherhood of Man, The Pipkins, and that’s not even all. Once he performed in Top of the Pops as the lead singer of the three first mentioned bands – all of which were guests of the very same TOTP episode, and it resulted in Burrows being banned from the program since the TOTP makers thought the watchers might think it was some sort of a fraud. This didn’t, however, stop Burrows from performing with The Pipkins in the show a few weeks later.
Lately I’ve been listening to quite a lot of Edison Lighthouse, a wonderfully melodic pop group with lots of strings.. Edison Lighthouse – like other Tony Burrows bands - only existed in recording studio and television. That is, in fact, the official recipe of bubblegum success. But anyway, who cares about the fact that Edison Lighthouse wasn’t a real band? It’s the music that counts. You can fool people with many, many ways but you just can’t forge a good song.

Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) sold millions, which is of course a good thing. Good songs should be noticed! I never had heard it myself before I heard a cover version of it by Freedy Johnston about a year ago. As you might guess, Edison Lighthouse and probably every other Tony Burrows band, too, have been labeled “one hit wonder” which isn’t very nice. Edison Lighthouse and others actually have several hit-worthy songs.

In the early 70s record company Bell released numerous singles that were credited to Edison Lighthouse, and other singles credited to Tony Burrows. Most of these singles can be heard on Edison Lighthouse's Best of collection, that nicely seems to be out of print. Luckily, there is YouTube..

I wish more people knew about the greatness of Tony Burrows bands! The situation might not be all bad, though. In Finland, for instance, probably everyone is familiar with the Finnish version of Tony Burrows single Every Little Move She Makes (Elämältä kaiken sain), performed by Pepe Willberg, but I'm not sure if hardly anyone has heard Love Grows.

Finally, here are some of my favourite Edison Lighthouse/Tony Burrows songs. Don’t mind the videos (or lack of them), just listen to the music! I picked the ones that had the best sound quality. While you listen to them, I’ll just move on to White Plains.. And the other bands.

Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) (YouTube)

Every Little Move She Makes (YouTube)
Find Mr. Zeebedee (YouTube)
In the Bad Bad Old Days (The Foundations cover, YouTube)