Said the Guests: Devin Davis
by Devin Davis
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


There is no doubt in my mind that one of the most dazzling talents to hit shelves in 2004 - in a year with debut LPs by the Go! Team, Joanna Newsom, Kanye West and many others, - was Devin Davis. I last wrote about him, ebbuliently, in May, and his jubilant, boisterous indie-pop songs remain fixtures on my iPod. Devin's still selling copies of the independently-released Lonely People of the World, Unite!, and you can download the deliriously-great "Iron Woman" (among others) over at his website.

It's with great pleasure, therefore, that I welcome Devin as a guest-blogger on Said the Gramophone. His picks are fascinating, weird and great. (Dan, you gotta get a load of the Brian Doyle-Murray recording.) Please give him a warm welcome. -- Sean

(Previous artist guest-blogs, in- and out- of the Said the Guests series: Hello Saferide, Edward Droste (Grizzly Bear), Will Sheff (Okkervil River), Brian Michael Roff, Howard Bilerman (producer: Silver Mt. Zion, Arcade Fire, etc.), Damon Krukowski (Damon & Naomi). There are many more to come.)

The Bonzo Dog (Doo-Dah) Band - "Jollity Farm" & "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" / Brian Doyle-Murray - "Stand Up"

Well, I labored long and hard trying to decide on which three songs to choose for this assignment. I knew immediately, however, that I had to include The Bonzo Dog Band. After a little bit of thought I decided to choose two shorter cuts from their first LP Gorilla which are, in fact, presented in this sequence on the album, although I removed the gap between them here for the sake of continuity. The Bonzo Dog (Doo-Dah) Band eventually turned into somewhat more of a "straight-forward" Psych-Rock band on their subsequent albums (penning the song "I'm the Urban Spaceman" with Paul McCartney for instance) but at their beginning they were more of a Dixieland/British Music Hall/Oom-pah/comedy band on acid. They always retained their absurdist comedic elements, but they kind of ditched some of the Dixieland/carnival aesthetic after Gorilla (which, bythe way, doesn't mean that their later records aren't awesome!).

Anyway, the Bonzos were featured in the Magical Mystery Tour film (they are the band at the strip-club), which eventually went on to inspire Ben Gibbard and company to name Death Cab for Cutie after their song of that name. Band member Neil Innes went on to score much of the music for the Monty Python films, as well as appearing as Sir Robin's minstrel in The Holy Grail. In addition to recommending the album Gorilla I also strongly suggest finding one of the bootleg compilations of their short films and TV appearances if for no other reason than to see (band member) Roger Ruskin Spear's performance on his "leg thermin" (a theremin installed inside a female mannequin leg). These guys were nuts folks! The first tune here "Jollity Farm" was written by Les Sarony a performer who had huge popularity during the 1930s. Following that is a hilarious rip on "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" replete with fake audience chatter and a great "thank you track.".. ooh.. so dry.

Next up in my "comedy mix".. if you will... is a cut from the National Lampoon album Gold Turkey featuring Brian Doyle-Murray (a native Chicagoan I might add). The older brother of Bill, Brian Doyle-Murray was one of an astoundingly talented group that worked for National Lampoon. In the back cover photo of Gold Turkey alone are Richard Belzer (Law & Order), Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis (writer and director of Caddyshack & Vacation/Dr. Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters), John Belushi, and Christopher Guest (Spinal Tap), and other alumni include Michael O'Donoghue (Saturday Night Live), and Chevy Chase. The name "National Lampoon" has, in more recent years, been bought out by some "suits" who have taken the once proud franchise of films, records, and radio programs and turned it into an outlet for Girls Gone Wild-esque Cancun Party videos. It's pretty disgusting, but the archives from the late 60's and early-to-mid 70's remain. The frantic pacing of this particular segment always stuck out to me for some reason. His word play is pure genius. He has such a great comic voice too. Anyway,.. it's bad to "analyze" comedy and I realize that this is not "music".. in the traditional sense at least... but I hope that you enjoy it anyway!

[buy Bonzos stuff / buy Gold Turkey]

Chuck Berry - "Thirty Days" (1956) (originally a single)

One of my first musical memories is listening to my parents' American Graffiti soundtrack, and the first song I ever learned on the guitar was "Johnny B. Goode", so I decided to feature one of my favorite Chuck Berry songs. I got this particular song "Thirty Days" from the Chess LP Chuck Berry's Golden Decade although I'm sure it's available on a gazillion other compilations. I don't know what it is exactly about this song that I like so much, I just love how raw the recording is... the drums sound f'ing incredible.. you can tell that it was obviously cut live with everybody together in one room (it was in fact recorded at Chess Studios in Chicago.. the Chicago connections here seem to abound). Given the historical context of the song, and what came before it, it doesn't even matter how revolutionary he was... the song STILL cooks. I love the call and response gang vocals in the background too... no mics.. just everybody just yelling over the instruments.. it makes my hair stand on end. Ladies and gentlemen this is rock & roll!


John Oswald (aka: Plunderphonics) - "Brown" (1989-1990)

For the final MP3 selection, I chose a track from the Plunderphonics Box Set. As with the Bonzo Dog Band, I knew immediately that I would have to include a Plunderphonics song but to choose just one was a very difficult decision for me... as I consider the box set to be a solid and continuous gem.

If you are not familiar with Plunderphonics (and the reason why I include this track is because of the overwhelming "no" response I get when I ask folks if they've heard of it), it is the project of Canadian composer, musician and "sound-artist" John Oswald. The guy is fucking nuts. I think that his Plunderphonics works are, in my opinion, THE most intensely psychedelic (and arguably psychotic) recordings I have ever heard.

Very simply put John Oswald's approach, in his own words, is taking recognizable audio quotes and presenting them in a varied context, but it goes SO far beyond any kind of "remixing" that I've ever heard. In the liner notes for the box set are the bold typed words "TAKING SAMPLING FIFTY TIMES BEYOND THE EXPECTED." One of the only relatively analogous artists I can think of would be The Bomb Squad (producers for Public Enemy's masterpieces It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back and Fear of a Black Planet), but even the densest moments on Fear of A Black Planet don't even touch the tip of the Plunderphonics iceberg.

Oswald deals with a very interesting psychological phenomenon. His work arguably crosses over into the real of what some might consider "subliminal sound." He uses, almost exclusively, popular music (rock, blues, rap, straight pop.. "the hits" if you will) for the source material and then cuts out tiny bits and then assembles them into insanely dense walls of sound. The fascinating aspect, to me, is how short a snippet of a sound can be and have you still recognize it's source. A great example of this is his piece "Explo" by "Jensen Pox Lesion Blues Corp" (aka: John Spencer Blues Explosion... Oswald creates an anagram for every artist he "plunders") where the blips (all taken from the Orange record) are JUST long enough for you to recognize where they're from, but are weaved together into a ridiculously spastic wall of drums and free form vocal blips that sound NOTHING like the original (you'd have to hear it.. it is hard to describe in just a few words). Insane stuff indeed.

This track entitled "Brown" by "News Orb Jam" (aka: James Brown) I decided on due to it's highly comedic results (most of the Plunderphonic songs are absolutely HILARIOUS!). Here, he uses hundreds of James Brown snippets (many being assorted grunts and screams) taken from dozens of compilation records along with some Public Enemy (who are here sampling James Brown themselves) and some Charlie Parker saxophone. It was also done, I might add, in 1989... just before Pro-Tools and other non-linear recording platforms made stuff like this a lot easier to produce. He did most of it on a keyboard sampler... literally "playing" it himself.

A few years back I made about a dozen Plunderphonic sampler CDs and gave them to all of my friends at Christmastime rabidly hoping to "spread the word." The verdict seemed mixed. Some people consider it to be the most unlistenable music they have ever heard. The CD became known to some as the "party killer" CD.. meaning that if you wanted the stragglers to leave your party at 4 am.. just throw on the Plunderphonics!

I, however, think that it is one of the most enjoyable and uniquely amazing things I have ever encountered. There is so much great stuff on the box set; a vast array of popular music that gets "torn to shreds" if you will... (Metallica, Michael Jackson.. who sued Oswald for his reworking of "Bad".. The Beatles, The Doors, Dolly Parton, and Carly Simon to name a few, as well as swing standards, and orchestral music). Anyway,.. I've gone on too much here I think... I just hope that you enjoy this track, and if you do.. I highly recommend picking up the box set, as this one track certainly does not do the collection as a whole the slightest bit of justice.

[buy 69/96]

Best regards to you all,

-Devin Davis

[Devin lives in Chicago, IL. Having returned from a recent tour of the Western U.S. and a trip to NYC for CMJ, Davis is currently working on new songs and playing shows (both with a band and solo acoustic) in support of Lonely People of the World, Unite! While working on his next album, Devin has plans to record and release an album of acoustic versions of some of the songs on Lonely People as well as some favorite covers played during his solo acoustic sets.]

Posted by Devin Davis at October 13, 2005 8:31 AM

You've converted me. I'm going to buy Plunderphonics right now, as I may have just scared my entire apartment by laughing so loudly at the last bit of Brown. I'm really selective about the albums I purchase (limited income and all that), so that's saying something right there.

I also very much enjoyed the Brian Doyle-Murray stand-up. Your sense of humor and mine most assuredly match up.

Posted by A. Nakama at October 13, 2005 10:36 AM

great post devin and i LOVE your record. one of my very favorites of the year.

Posted by george at October 13, 2005 11:56 AM

brian doyle-murray is fantastically talented. i have listened to it three times in a row and am more impressed (read: amused) every time. that + bonzos = great choice.

thank you for making 'lonely poeple' - no matter what i am doing, when it comes up on the playlist, i turn it up. on the desert island top 5, hands down.

Posted by lucy at October 13, 2005 12:03 PM

Man, I love Devins album. And on top, I bought it because of said the gramophone. So, here we are together, almost full circle, like a strange loop or something. Not that I am of any importance, but this is a trilogy, religious like, father son and holy ghost. We work together, musician blog and audiance...
Can we expect some live Devin in Ireland is what I want to know? Beyond the religious ramblings.

Posted by Robert at October 13, 2005 5:05 PM

wow, yeah, that Brian Doyle-Murray is great. I had no idea he existed. now I'll never forget.

Posted by dan at October 13, 2005 9:18 PM

golly gosh
i played you on the radio at the start of this year and am going to have to play you again. i haven't heard a song as catchy as "Iron Woman" all year long and i've been a-listenin' and a-listenin', believe you me. Langhorne Slim's "In The Midnight comes close, but not quite. great selection of tunes by the way. someone else recently posted some Bonzo too. oh yeah, and the Plunderphonics box set, amazingly enough, sits amongst the limited number of box sets at my local Wellington, NZ library. the guy at the library has some pretty good Canadian taste i must say. he also got the Simply Saucer cd in. the same library has a book featuring a chapter on the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (they feature on the cover too). I will get him to order in your album Devin. together we will unite the lonely people...

Posted by baz at October 15, 2005 2:41 PM

"If you don't give me no consolation
I'm gonna take it to the United Nations"
Ahh, the idealistic '50s.
And I'm definitely going to start calling the internet the "world wide hoodoo".

Posted by chris at October 16, 2005 10:03 PM

nice blog devin. theremin in the mannequin leg. that was amazingly funny. and re: Devin has plans to record and release an album of acoustic versions of some of the songs on Lonely People as well as some favorite covers played during his solo acoustic sets... please include your eddie money cover. you never do it anymore!

Posted by cecile at October 17, 2005 10:28 AM

You can play a Moog theremin at the Museum of Science and Industry right about now. I kicked it a bit...

Posted by Eric at October 20, 2005 5:28 PM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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