Results: Ghosts

Rob Law

Attaboy Skip – Ghostbusters Theme

I don’t have many songs about ghosts. So after deciding that a Ghostface song or any song from that fucking Unicorns album would be a copout, I figured I should go with what I know.

Attaboy Skip were a band from Las Vegas, my hometown. They rolled in near the middle of that third-wave ska thing that you either love unrepentantly or still try your damnedest to forget. Largely because of this band, I was in the former camp. I’m not sure what it was: inserting non-sequitur bongo breakouts into their sets? The warm regard for their fans (the lead singer once thanked me personally and another time called me out in front of several thousand people for wearing one of their t-shirts)? Bizarre-ass covers such as this one, the Ghostbusters theme song?

Also, their drummer later went on to play for that other Vegas band, the Killers.

Sohrob Kazerounian

Michael Jackson – Thriller

Ah, ghosts. The millennia old notion of the paranormal, metaphysical spirit that haunts all of us stuck here in the physical world. They range from friendly creatures (casper comes to mind) to those that commit unspeakable (except when spoken of) acts of horror. You might think that the only justification for ghostly obsession with the living is complete and utter boredom with the netherworld. And – you’d be right. The thing is, being dead sucks. Granted, I can’t know this with certainty, but judging by the dumb ghost-y things ghosts do, and the even dumber people they choose to do them to, Hades isn’t exactly the eternal club-med some people make it out to be.

Thats why I’ve chosen the epic ghost song Thriller, by Michael Jackson (ghoulish zombie song really, ghosts are supposed to be transparent no?). In an apparent cluster-fuck of boredom, this zombie collective decides that terrorizing MJs girlfriend is a quality use of time. Moreover, if terror is to be the order of the day, they decide it should come in the form of killer dance moves that ironically, would one day revolutionize hipster (zombie) dance parties.

The confusion over MJ being a zombie or not aside, this song (and video, AND ALBUM) are absolutely awesome. If I had the time, and an old betamax, I would find old videotapes of me at 3 dancing to thriller. No matter. Find me today, and you can still see me dancing to it (and in all likelihood, in just as uncoordinated a manner).

Matt Silver Alex Storer

Concrete Blonde – Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man

Lots of people report of ghost experiences.  Their TV turned off without them touching it, or some dead guy transubstantiated in their mouth.  But rare is the experience of ghost lovin’.  For that, you’ve got to turn to the gothic underworld, or at least its radio-friendly counterpart from the early 90s, embodied by Concrete Blonde and the $20 set they constructed to tell their harrowing tale.

I’ll sum it up for you.  Dark queen Johnette Napolitano is taking a shower, when she sees some weird shit in the fog on her shower.  And when her towel isn’t where she remembered putting it, she deftly concludes that there is a GHOST among her.  Not just any ghost, some sort of otherworldly slut ghoul that wants to peep her naked body and inject some ectoplasm into her or something.  Clearly then, this is a ghost of a Texas Ladies Man.  They fuck during the guitar solo, right when that sepia-toned train (Freud, much?) crashes into Johnette’s crucifix-fingers.  Hot.

At least nobody picked that Indigo Girls song about being in love with your ghost…

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This Week’s Contest: Ghosts

Our incorporeal buddy, the ghost.  Watch as it exists in its natural habitat, scrounging for candy and coming up with rocks.  How will it survive sans candy?  Such questions are irrelevant for the dead.  What is relevant, however, is what awesome music they have spawned.  So bring it, cleffers.

Rob Law is a wannabe songwriter and cult leader.

Sohrob Kazerounian is a feral child currently living and studying in Boston. without access to music in his youth, any attempt to wax poetic on the subject should be taken for what it is – a random assemblage of words which may or may not carry any meaning and (or) significance.

Matt Silver is a Level 23 Mage. He is a tall dark man with a long hoary beard. He is wearing a dusty leather tunic and a hard cracked leather cap. On his feet are a pair of leather boots and his hands are protected by iron gauntlets. He is currently wearing an emerald amulet and twisted root of protection and is wielding an Amber Staff of Illumination.

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Results: Theme Song

James Boo

Don – Are Diwano Mujhe Pehchano

In what is possibly the most tiger-centric gangster entrance in all of film history, a blazing Amitabh Bachchan in his prime, playing a street singer posing as a mob Kingpin, proves that intimidation and charm can be two sides of the same rupee. His eyes, hips, and oversized bowtie are in full effect as he courts the criminal underworld, daring even the most sternly goateed man to doubt his authenticity:

Who am I, who am I, who am who am who am I?

I am Don, I am Don, I am I am I am Don!

Strings swirl, horns blaze, and an insistent start-stop shuffle puts a dance floor under three and a half minutes of bombastic affirmation. Our hero spins and gestures his way through the South Asian, Latin American and Western influences that characterizes the seamless mosaic of Don’s cinematic score, reassuring the villains of his infamous name and reassuring the audience of his unmatchable Bollywood talent. A theme song with more volumes of purpose cannot be found; the flowers polka-dotting Amitabh’s wescot on their own are enough to say this much.


Nicotina Chevrolet

Velvet Mafia

Pop Quiz – Who/what is the Velvet Mafia?

(a) an underground organization of criminal crooners, led by the Velvet Fog, Mel Torme
(b) an elite group of gays rumored to be responsible for everythingfrom entertainment trends to British politics to the inability of Ab Fab’s Patsy & Edina to achieve professional success, and unofficially headed by David Geffen
(c) a New York City glam rock band headed by a 6’6″ bald drag queen who lived and died in bizzare circumstances
(d) a gay porn

Okay, when you’re ready, scroll down and grade your quiz.

If your answer was (a), you get 0 points.  You are wrong.*
If your answer was (b) you get 90 points.  Your response can be verified by Wikipedia and the urban slang dictionary, which is good enough for me.  The term in this context is mostly a joke, which is why you don’t get the full 100 points.**
If your answer was (c) or (d) you get 100 points.  You are correct!

*Unless you know something I don’t, and there really is such an organization, in which case you get 1,000 points.
**Unless there really is such an organization, and you can convince them to make Not Without Your Daughter posthumously famous, in which case you get 10,000 points.

So this wasn’t your standard multiple choice.  Sometimes there is more than one answer.  And this was the case with this week’s Iron Clef theme.  How can someone pick just one theme song?  There are so many excellent theme songs, from Nerf Herder’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer theme song to the theme song for It’s the Gary Shandling Show (“this is the theme to Gary’s show, the opening theme to Gary’s show, Gary called me up and asked if I could write his theme song…”).  And that’s just in the TV genre!  Then you’ve got film, video games…it boggles the mind.  After a week of soul searching, I finally narrowed down my entry to the Velvet Mafia Theme Song.  But as there are two amazing velvet mafia theme songs, I can narrow no further.

The first is the theme song/intro for the NYC band from answer (c), headed by the previously mentioned giant bald queen, Dean Johnson.  In this song, Dean sings of his willingness to sell himself to the alleged gay mafia from answer (b) in order to achieve professional success “If you wanna cross the bridge, you gotta pay the toll. If you wanna make it big, you gotta play with trolls. So pardon me while I go steppin’ out to Fire Island with David Geffen…” Since Dean was actually a manwhore, and was not exaggerating his willingness to get pounded for personal gain, one must only guess that he either never had the opportunity to meet the powerful queers and make his offer, or they reneged on the deal.  Either way, the Velvet Mafia may never have made it to the mainstream, but in the NYC queercore scene, they were legendary.

Like the Velvet Mafia, the Bay Area based band Mon Cousin Belge is a band with great talent, hypnotic songs, and magnetic stage presence. Also like the Velvet Mafia, MCB is gayer than a handbag full of rainbows.  So when they were offered the opportunity to have one of their songs featured as the theme song for a gay porn made by Falcon Studios, they naturally agreed.  The result is, I would venture to bet, the best porn music ever.  As thanks, the pornmakers played fairy godfather and lent their film equipment and some clips from their movie so that Mon Cousin Belge could make a music video of their very own for the Velvet Mafia Theme Song, also known as “Going Down.”

So which is the real Velvet Mafia Theme Song?  Only the gay mafia knowsfor sure.

Yohan John

M*A*S*H – Suicide Is Painless

What is the purpose of Iron Clef? Is it to prove one’s ability to remember corny, bizarre, obscure songs? Is it to establish one’s pop culture credentials? Or is it just an excuse to share good music? Perhaps all of the above…

At some point a few months ago I downloaded several theme songs from “classic” television shows. Remember Gimme a Break? All In the Family? The Fall Guy? Mr. Rogers? I haz it. These songs are interesting, and induce nostalgia and cringing in equal measure, but I want to choose a theme song that’s just plain good.

M*A*S*H was one of the greatest television shows ever made. Funny, profound, warm, and true. The theme music for the TV show was without lyrics. I heard the original song relatively recently, when I saw the movie (on which the TV show was based). Here’s an excerpt from the lyrics.

The game of life is hard to play
I’m gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I’ll someday lay
so this is all I have to say.

That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.

No wonder the TV show left the words out!

[Also: Manic Street Preachers did a cover of this song.]

Just vote for the one that’s still stuck in your head.

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This Week’s Contest: Theme Song

Theme songs are there to announce your intention for the world to hear.  And to get stuck in your head for all eternity.  Sometimes you’re happy they’re there, in your head, forever, and other times, well, you don’t feel so good about it.  Let’s see what sort of eternity cleffers want to inflict on you.

Yohan John is an anglophile from India who likes pop, and music that really ought to have been pop, but isn’t popular enough. If there are crunchy guitars and a chorus to sing along with, so much the better. Yohan drinks tea, goes on long walks, and is oddly amused by the words “duck” and “egg”.

Nicotina Chevrolet is a Brooklyn born, California bred, Hawaii living haole studying Community and Cultural Psychology. She was once, and forever shall be, guitarist in the greatest band never known, Not Without Your Daughter.

James Boo is a musician, writer and fried chicken enthusiast.

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Results: Magic

Jeff Blake

Nina Simone – I Put A Spell On You

So much magic in my life.  As much as I wanted to shout out to Mick Smiley’s “I believe it’s magic” song/remix from the Ghostbusters movie (the one where Sigourney Weaver is flashing her pecs at the camera, and growls out a yell that shatters her building’s facade).  His incomprehensible lyrics and lethargic melody only added power to his jam.

But for power, how can I not shout out to Nina Simone?  Although she’s only covering Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, she makes this song hers by giving herself to it completely.  It’s not a happy song–it’s full of desperation, pain, confusion, and ought to scare the shit out of whomever it’s directed to.  I can’t stand versions of this song sung as a happy, romantic theme.  She’s belting out her pain; lady’s in trouble, and it shows.

But then that’s when Nina Simone is best: when she’s singing from desperation, pain, and confusion (for example, on Four Women: “My name is PEEEEEAAAAAACHEEEESS!”).  Just like in real life, if you believe in magic and you want to be taken seriously, you have a difficult line to walk and must avoid falling into the ridiculous–and I think Nina Simone walks that line, partly by sounding so vulnerable and earnest.  As a contrast, listen to Marilyn Manson’s version: he comes awfully close to succeeding, but at the end you can’t take him seriously because he’s all sound and fury, but no power–just one more angry white man shrieking out how depraved he is.  Yawn.

But just to keep everything ridiculous, I’m submitting a video of Nina Simone put to Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, with what appear to be Portuguese translations of the lyrics.  How magical!

Megan Costello

America – You Can Do Magic

America proves the existence of magic for me.  Although it is black magic that brought Sarah Palin to the presidential campaign, I am not talking about the United States of America.  No, I’m talking about the soft-rockers who hypnotize me with their jams.

Affectionately known to me as the Shoop-Ding Song, the 1982 hit You Can Do Magic is not only about magic, it IS magical- first at 40 seconds into the song, and then again at 50.  Shoop-ding! After the first two shoop-dings have got me hooked in the chorus, I just let the magic rush all over me in the warm cocoon of easy listening.

Shoop-ding is the sound of magic happening.  God bless America and their soft rock tribute to the best sound effect ever.

Himanshu Mhatre

FAIL

Had Himanshu managed to submit an entry, it might have gone a little something like this:

Accio Internet!

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This Week’s Contest: Magic

From David Blaine to Harry Potter, magic today is pretty in vogue. More popular than Jesus, but without all that burning at the stake – today’s magic enthusiasts are living large. But aside from that horrible “oh ho ho, it’s magic!” song, what music is there that truly capitalizes on today’s magical atmosphere? We’ll leave it to this week’s intrepid cleffers to unearth the most moving incantations.

Megan Costello is a KALX dj disguised as an architect living in San Francisco. When not cleverly hidden behind her computer, she enjoys dancing on the sidewalk, singing karaoke, and baking in return for favors.

Himanshu Mhatre: “I am a shadow cast by the dying light of melody. To find the light, spot the shadows it casts.”

Jeff Blake is probably asleep right now. He would play bass, but Not Without Your Daughter.

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Results: Commercials

Rich Bunnell

The Brave Little Toaster Soundtrack – Cutting Edge

The retail realm is a harsh mistress to the products it peddles, with one-time technological marvels subject to sudden replacement whenever the Next Big Awesome Thing hits store shelves. That reality forms the core of the 1987 animated film The Brave Little Toaster, in which five old-timey appliances set out into a world that, they soon discover, long ago decided it was no longer in need of its services. Who needs a clunky upright vacuum cleaner when you can just pick up a DustBuster? The hell is the use of an electric blanket when you’ve got central heating? Why toaster, when toaster oven?

The film’s musical numbers repeatedly underline this bleak reality, ranging from a B-movie vamp crooned by pawn-shop Frankensteins to a Don Henley-esque plea for help sung by junked cars on their way to being crushed into cubes. Toward the film’s end, our heroes encounter their technological successors, who employ the language and aesthetic of commercials to rap to them about how much more suited for the modern world the next generation truly is. The comforting part is, beyond all of the endless references to the “edge,” to a 21st-century audience, the phrase “I’m micro-solid state, and that’s no static!” is fifty times more dated than a toaster could ever fear to be.

C. Shaw

Modest Mouse – Gravity Rides Everything

To my mind, the appearance of this song in a Honda Odyssey commercial early in this decade was really the beginning of a massive movement within advertising to recruit indie (meaning “cheap”) song licensing for their commercials. The benefit to this gamble is obvious: they come cheap, and if a band makes it big, the car company or whoever can claim some of the credit for breaking out the artist and use this as a recruiting tool for future song rights. And if the band doesn’t make it big, who cares, no one will remember that ad in a month anyway.

From a music perspective, this is not quite so positive – thenceforth comes the indie backlash. For Modest Mouse after 2002, it went:

1. Be an awesome band with a devoted cult following
2. Have your song in a Honda commercial
3. Appear on the OC
4. Release a new album (Good News for People Who Love Bad News) to chart success (!)
5. Get modest (pun intended) reviews, and be seen as rich asshole sellouts
6. Release another album (We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank); collaborate with other NPR-whore sellouts (James Mercer of The Shins); get kind of bad reviews but sell lots of copies
7. And now you’re basically Metallica. Good luck getting a positive review in Pitchfork ever again.

This all misses the point – the song and the album it came from are incredible. In particular, Gravity Rides Everything sounds like nothing else in the Modest Mouse catalogue. The singing is reserved – it almost sounds laid back, as much as Isaac Brock’s wacky lisp and general craziness can possibly resemble relaxation. But when the sliding atmospheric merges with the acoustic foreground, it really sounds like everything will “fall right into place,” as the optomistic lyrics suggest.

Of course on the surface, it seems ridiculous to begrudge an artist a few dollars for an ad placement, and I used to argue about this with people all the time. But after “This is Our Country,” I would like to, ahem, begrudge the shit out of John Cougar Mellencamp. With a hammer and sickle. It’s just too bad that the indie backlash had to hit such a great band.

Vishal Trivedi

Regina Spektor – Music Box

If you’re an Iron Clef reader, you probably know that I don’t mind watching an artfully done commercial. But I admit that I had decidedly mixed feelings when I first recognized the strains of Modest Mouse’s “Gravity Rides Everything” in a commercial for the Nissan Quest minivan… Auctioning off your song for a TV commercial is pretty much the apotheosis of sellout behavior. Do you really want your bitchin’ tune to be forever associated with some product or brand you have absolutely no relation to and care nothing about? On the other hand, I understand the motivation. If you’re lucky enough that your art can pay the bills, why not let it? It’s not like Modest Mouse wrote the song with Nissan in mind. And even if they had, writing a good jingle is an art form in and of itself. Who hasn’t had a cleverly annoying jingle stuck in your head at one point or another? [I’d link you one of Vonage’s pernicious “Woo-hoo, woo-hoo-hoo” ads, but I think just this mere mention might be sufficient to ruin your afternoon] But I like Nissan all right and it wasn’t a bad commercial so it didn’t really bug me. Still, I was somewhat more disappointed to hear one of my favorite bands, Hum, get chosen as the soundtrack for a Cadillac commercial. Come on, I wanted to implore the band, Cadillac is for old people. And besides, the ad kinda sucks. I suppose this is something we’re going to have to get used to though, as people of our generation begin to grow up and inflict their tastes and aesthetics upon the marketing world. Already I’ve heard Lush, Minus the Bear, and Explosions in the Sky play as outro music for NPR programming. I guess I’d rather hear Hum abused than have to listen to the bloody Eagles or Rolling Stones everywhere I turn. Is it hypocritical to say that it only bothers me when the actual ad or product doesn’t live up to the song? Maybe.

However, this one totally does:

Yes, I believe they’re wearing items from the JC Penney catalog.

This vote is for sale.

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