Friday, June 18, 2010

THE #bloglike SERIES PART 2 - SOME VIGIL IDIOCY

I was overwhelmed at the response my first #bloglike series got, so that kinda spurred me on to do some more. While I was too lazy to put together four bloggers again, I did manage to put this little thing together.

This little ditty is #bloglike that legendary fellow who sticks (hehe) to his puns guns - Sahil Rizwan aka the Vigil Idiot - the brilliant movie-spoofer!

(please click the image to view it properly, can't seem to resize it any further)



Hopefully, this will get me a few proposals as well. At last count, the Vigil Idiot has 18, has he explains on his anniversary post here. And we really may have only one crazy Mallu to deal with, as we have theorized here.

Oh, and those of you un-enlightened souls who haven't seen Silsila yet, do the following:

1. Purchase life insurance.
2. Watch this.

Good luck.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

MY TOP 20 BEATLES SONGS

Listening to entire discographies of bands gave me the idea of putting down my favourite 20 songs of each. Bear in mind these are my personal favourites, they may not have:
1. What is generally a favourite (Eg: Iron Maiden by Iron Maiden. Staple at concerts, I think it's rubbish)
2. 'Essentials' of a band (Eg: Yellow Submarine by the Beatles. Forms a part of any Beatles conversation but wouldn't figure musically in my top 30 - by a mile)

Anyway, embarking on this discography-crushing journey of mine, I started off with the guys who're generally considered the baap of everything from modern pop to heavy metal to phsychedelic to punk - The Beatles. Such is their influence and legacy that even today, 47 years after Ringo went 'One Two Three FOUR!' on their first released song, they are still considered essential listening.

Perhaps part of their appeal lies in the fact that they transformed from teeny boppers to well, something more experimental. You can feel it. As you listen to Help! you know one album down, you'll be hearing the sublime Norwegian Wood which is nothing like what the Beatles did before it. The same band that sang Love Me Do to screaming audiences, 6 years later recorded Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds as a studio-only band, reclusive from the outside world. Fooling around with Indian sounds. And all this while one of their members was apparently dead. It was a mind-boggling series of changes.


And, like I read somewhere, the band split up which just added to the appeal and didn't give a chance for their music to corrode. It was 13 albums, 7 years of pure brilliance that lasts to this day. My top score of the Beatles' scores of scores (ech):


20. Norwegian Wood: The first sign of things that were to come. From the sweet lovable pleading-boy music that was the fodder for much of their first five albums, Drive My Car was rather funny, even mildly sexist. But then, kicks in a sitar, of all things, and the greatest opening line ever on a song: "I Once Had a Girl / Or Should I Say / She Once Had Me." And from then, the New Beatles were born. 

19. Day Tripper: More cheeky wordplay from the Beatles. And, oh, that riff. 

18. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds: Okay, let's assume for a moment that LSD had nothing to do with this. Now consider: Marmalade skies. Plasticene porters. Newspaper taxis. Kaleidescope Eyes. Looking glass ties. And you still believe John wrote this sober? When the 'cellophane flowers' hits you with all sorts of effects - you know you've heard probably the first great psychedelic track. PS: The video I've put up is the Rock Band version. Fantastic. 

17. A Day In The Life:  Amazing song. The last real McCartney-Lennon collaboration. Ringo proves that he's one of the best drummers in the world, with those fills. The buildup. The final chord. 'Orgasmic' has been used to describe many things in music, but this segment defines it. 

16. When I'm Sixty-Four: My favourite off Sgt Pepper's. It's so funny. So sing-along. And those clarinets! Plus, it's the only Beatles song to feature the word 'Chuck' in it :P 

15. Please Please Me: Possibly the first ever song about, er, this. You can't help but sing along. Infectious. Beatlemania was not caused without reason. 

14. A Hard Day's Night: The opening clang+chord is probably the most analysed ever in music, and was perhaps the first sign of the Pepperness to come. In any case, remains one of the happiest sing-alongs-to ever. And yet, they can never be called cheesy, even if they try. 

13. Helter Skelter: A response to The Who claiming to have made the loudest, dirtiest song ever. That riff and those screeching vocals will stay in your head long after you've heard it.

12. The Long And Winding Road: Sadly, one of the most ephochal pieces of music McCartney ever created also played a part in the legal disbanding of the Beatles. But what a track. And as you know you're listening to the last Beatles album, bringing the curtain down on their careers, you find multiple interpretations. I can't figure out whether I like the original version or the ...Naked version better. I think I'll tilt towards the latter eventually. 

11. Happiness Is A Warm Gun: The chillingly cute 'Bang Bang Shoot Shoot' against the backdrop of Lennon screaming in a song that is more complicated than it seems. Try to keep time. Aha. Gotcha there, din 'e? Ironically and sadly, the creator was subjected to a warm gun, while McCarney had enough to buy himself love and a lot more. 

10. Flying: Surprise inclusion, perhaps? But I just love this instrumental. So peaceful, so calming. And trivia: It was one of only two songs co-written by all four members of the band. Give it a listen. Then again. And again. Soon, you won't be able to get it out of your head. 

09. Eleanor Rigby: Norwegian Wood was to Rubber Soul what this track was to Revolver, and not just track listing-wise. The Beatles were serious about their new musical direction. Yes, McCartney did a 'solo' before, on Yesterday, but this was something else altogether. And hey, where are all the songs about girl-boy puppy love? 

08. Strawberry Fields Forever: Lennon reminisces, Liverpool builds memorial. I wonder if there will ever immemorialize Salmaniya Hospital. Unlikely, no? In any case. I think this is one of Lennon's best vocal performances. He was a master of playing around with time signatures - deceptively appearing simple, the way only the Beatles can make it. 

07. Yesterday: The most covered song of all time, don't you know? Fantastic solo performance by McCartney, lovely background sounds. 

06. Here Comes The Sun: Like someone said on SongMeanings - When you have a band where George Harrisson is the third best composer, you know you've got something. Probably a sign of what was to come in their solo careers. Features on the Bee Movie, as an aside. 

05. Twist And Shout: I believe this is the genesis of heavy metal, growling and all that shit the kids do these days. But Lennon had class. The best cover they ever did. He had a cold, but thank goodness he did. What a scorching performance! And the videos just add to the legend - the first song they performed at a screaming audience at the legendary Shea concert, and the 'rattle your jewelry' statement. Fantastic! 

04. Ticket To Ride: Probably the first song from the first few Beatles albums that a 'metchul' dude would want to play. I'm not much of a chord analyser, but that E major before the F#m on 'She's Got a Ticket To Ride' sounds oh-so-perfect. It's one of those things that make you want to switch off that gawd-awful distortion and stick to an acoustic guitar for life. 

03. While My Guitar Gently Weeps: Whoa, George! Who knew! I mean - he was scared to bring songs to the table pre-White Album. And then, he comes out with this, asks good friend Eric Clapton to do the solo (what, you didn't know that?) and creates a masterpiece. Well done, Georgie. You're placed higher than my favourite Lennon song. Twice. And like a commenter on that video says, probably the most beautifully named song ever. 

02. Hey Jude: Written by McCartney for Julian Lennon to brave through their parents' impending divorce, while John thought it was for him. And some thought Paul wrote it for himself. Don't you just love it how people interpret Beatles songs? A classic, this. And if this is my #2 song, surely, which can be #1 but... 

01. Let It Be: This had everything. That piano riff (by the way, the same chord pattern as Papa Kehte Hain. Just saying). Soulful lyrics. Again, multiple interpretations. The Beatles were just going to break up, they knew it and you knew it (and why? They were still so good, you were crying to yourself). Superb little solo by George. And as the last chord is played and lets off into the raucous 'Dirty Maggie Mae', you know the last epic by the Fab Four has been played.

There you go. I'm no music historian, so I may have got some of my facts mixed up. It's not easy leaving out songs like 'Blackbird', 'Hello Goodbye', 'Octopus' Garden', 'Michelle' and so, so many more. For the Beatles, there's only one thing to do. Start from Please Please Me and work your way down to Let It Be, with the Past Masters thrown in.

Lastly - this brilliant pic. Brought to my notice by my good friend Atchaya.


Oh, and also - the Beatles poster of my ceiling fame:


Tuesday, June 01, 2010

FIVE MEMORIES FROM THE BAHRAIN DAYS

[Warning: Mildly sentimental / nostalgia type post ahead.]

Ah, good ol' Bahrain. I grew up in this neck of the woods. Nothing amazing, of course. Bahrain doesn't give the wow of a Dubai or the oh shit! of a Saudi, but it was a very nice, peaceful place. And on this trip, I see so much more advancement (read: Malls and buildings), but somehow the scenic beauty, the well-spaced out roads and the cleanliness still remains.

I was born in Bahrain back in 1984 (same day I wrote this post. Hyuk) and my parents keep telling me they suspect I was mixed up with some Arab kid. Sadly for them, they didn't gain a world-class opening batsman, but a fairly demented crackpot instead.

A lot has changed since them ol' days. It's not the same feeling that inspires songs of childhood, and at the same time, I walk through those old streets and memories come flooding back. Bahrain never had a 'rustic charm' that was corrupted. I never had an exciting childhood. Yeah, friends, a bit of wall scribbling and all that happened. But Bahrain's not a country where you can run out, make merry with friends, reek havoc, and all that. Not because there were any restrictions, but because it. Was. So. Friggin. Hot, and because there
was hardly any public transport.

I was a typical Mallu kid from the Gulf - parents mildly well off (not all of us are stinkin' rich, as goes the stereotype. Very few are), had my fair share of class topping, gadget aspirations, 'resling' discussions, uncomfortable visits back to Kerala every two years, the works.

Innocent days, those, and I'm going to attempt reliving a few of the things that made my 16 years, for whatever they were worth, worth it.

01] Young Times: How do I explain Young Times? It was not just a magazine. It wasn't just a collection of articles and syndicated comics. It wasn't just a mix of weird alien illustrations and ''more than cute'' pictures which made most of us realise we had hormones. It was a freakin' phenomenon. Posters. Poetry contests. Uncle Malik's Stampgram. Caption Contests. Cover stories. Game reviews. 'Resling' reviews. Music reviews. Seemingly cooler magazines came. But they fizzled out.


We grew up with the damn thing. Through Bret Hart's career. When the internet came (''Here's a search engine that shows you how much time your search took. A useless but interesting feature'', reviewed a friend way back in 1998). When Sega Mega Drives were the rage. When the cricket revival of Mallu Gelf Youngsters in the late 90s happened. Slowly, its readers went abroad. Some studied in the US. Some built careers in India, far removed from Otto and his antics. But when the news slowly trickled in that YT had stopped, there was shock and mourning. We wouldn't have read it, sure. But entire generations were missing something. A friend.

Thank you, Young Times. For everything. For giving Tuesdays meaning.

02] Chips Oman: Innocuously tucked away behind all the Pringles, Lays and Bugles was the unchanging dark-blue-and-red, sparsely-filled pack with the time-tested image of a peeled potato being sliced into chips. Pay a miserly 50 fils, open the pack, and let the wave of chilli-nitrogen hit you. It didn't have the class of a Lays, sure. If Lays was 'Dance of Death', Oman Chips was 'Charlotte the Harlot'. Raw, sinful and simple. And today, close to 20 years after I had my first pack, the thing still retains the same colour, form and taste.



03] Slam Books: Who hasn't filled in one of these? These were the pre-cursors to blogs, questionnaires and strangely, Twitter - where you had to fill in the answer to a common question in a limited space and in that space show future readers how funny / sarcastic / cool you were. I remember reading many legendary entries, and also got introduced to a certain four-letter word through one of these. Nowadays, of course - kids are spoilt with off-the-shelf slam books with pre-filled questions. Takes all the fun out of customized questions and inside jokes, of course - nothing beats the effort that goes into a 200 fils notebook with handwritten questions on every few pages with margins neatly drawn. This blog would probably have been non-existent if it weren't for the writing skills honed during those slam book days, so now you know who to track down and shoot - my 7th standard classmates.

04] WWF: The fucking pulse of a generation from 1995 to 1998. Sticker books. Rumours from friends' cousins in the USA. Video tapes of events two months back, which were 'recent' to us. That half hour broadcast every Wednesday night. Mom tsk tsking. Dad tsk tsking when Mom was around, and asking who the good guy was when she was away. Looking forward to trips to India because 'Prime Sports showed newer matches'. Attempting to recreate piledrivers with victimized pillows. THAT match between Shawn and Bret. Pen-drawn tattoos which our vests concealed. Awe when a friend showed off his poster (cousin from US, again), innumerable caricatures in the back of notebooks. Eventually, we all grew up, realised the whole thing was staged and found other heroes. But in those 3 years, 'dubleyoodubleyooeff' was THE shit.

05] Collectibles from chips: If you're telling me you're a Gulfie in the late 90s and DIDN'T buy certain chips just for the heck of getting free cards or stickers or tazos, you're shitting me. Heck, I remember this one abominable thing called 'Corn Chips' - the worst thing ever to be put in a nitrogen-flushed plastic pack, but was a rage all through 1997 because they gave a free card along with it - and the card could be anything from a still from a Mortal Kombat game to a movie noone had heard of to - the most prized of the lot - a WWF superstar. The richer of the lot used to buy 10 packets during recess, eat one packet, dump the rest and go off to trade their cards. This led to underground mafias in card trade, prized collections of oil-stained cards at home, and eventually a raid at our school and the banning of the brand of chips from the canteen. It was mad stuff. A similar rage happened with Tazos which came with the more palatable Lays and Cheetos range. There were many other promotions - Coca Cola and Pepsi were famous for their collect-these-five-ringpulls-and-win-prize contests. But for sheer craze and passion, nothing beat these collectibles.


Of course, there are many other icons - Helix Geometry Set, Tamagotchi, Inoxcrom pens, Croky chips, Sun Top, Channel 3, and many more. But these five will always stand out for me and bring in that tinge of nostalgia.