SubscribeStar Saturday: Behind the Songs: By the Light of the Laptop Screen

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Rest in Peace to Marvin Lee Aday, better known as Meat Loaf, who passed away Friday at the age of 74.  I’ll be writing a full obituary about Loaf next week, but I wanted to take a moment to remember his legacy here.  Few musicians have had a greater impact on my vocal and composition than Meat Loaf and his frequent collaborator, songwriter Jim Steinman.  In a series about songwriting, it seemed fitting to acknowledge his influence.  Indeed, today’s song, “By the Light of the Laptop Screen,” owes much to the rock ‘n’ roll-meets-Broadway style of Loaf/Steinman.

Today marks the third installment of the six-part Behind the Songs miniseries for SubscribeStar Saturday.  In this series, I’m going to reveal the stories behind each of the six songs on my debut EP, Contest Winner EP.  I’ll go track-by-track, in order, detailing the inspirations behind these songs.

This week’s tune, “By the Light of the Laptop Screen,” is something of a companion to “Hipster Girl Next Door.”  The two songs are part of what I call my “two-part coffee shop trilogy” (I wrote another song, “Sweet Little Ukulele Player,” that was something of a third part, but I seldom play it, and I don’t think it rises to the level of the other two tunes).

Like “Hipster Girl Next Door” and “Greek Fair,” “By the Light of the Laptop Screen” has becoming something of a fan favorite.  A graduating senior used it (to my delight and, given the lyrics, my chagrin) to accompany his graduation slideshow—while receiving his high school diploma!

There’s also been rich speculation about who this song is about.  Today, I reveal all.

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Midweek Mad Scientist Movie Madness II: Metropolis (1927)

Since the first installment of Midweek Mad Scientist Movie Madness two weeks ago, I’ve watched several more films from Mad Scientist Theatre, a collection of mostly bad, mostly public domain films.  As with any such collection, the appeal is in the handful of renowned classics, and some of the hidden gems.

The first three flicks on the very first disc are all silent movie classics.  I’ve already reviewed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which both debuted in 1920.  I appreciated and enjoyed both films for different reasons, and both were very well done, although quite different, films.

The third film is 1927’s Metropolis, perhaps the greatest silent film of all time.  I took a modern German history course in college, and we were supposed to attend a screening of Metropolis for class.  For some reason, I did not attend, which was very out of character for me (I only missed class twice in college:  a session of Human Geography because my saxophone sextet had its recital that morning, and a rehearsal of the University Band so I could play The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion the night it was released).  I guess we were never tested on it, but when I found out there was a robot woman, I was kicking myself for missing the flick.

Now, some twenty years later, I’ve finally watched this classic of Weimar Germany’s wild cinematic scene.  I wish I’d gone to see it in college!

As with Jekyll and Caligari, you can watch Metropolis for free on YouTube (although, apparently, the film won’t be back in the public domain in the United States until the end of this year):

As you can see, it is a long film—depending on which cut you see.  Apparently, there are dozens of different cuts and restorations, and no one knows for certain which is the “definitive” version.  One of my readers asked me which cut I saw, and I have no earthly idea (sorry, cinephiles).  It’s whatever version Mill Creek Entertainment decided to put on this collection.  I do know the film felt long in parts—although I was glued to the screen for most of it—but it didn’t feel like it was two-and-a-half hours long.

What I can say is that Metropolis is worth seeing, not only because it is an important film in the history of cinema (and the height of German Expressionism), but because it is a good movie with an important message:  the head and the hands must work together through the heart.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Behind the Songs: “Greek Fair”

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This weekend I’m continuing the six-part Behind the Songs miniseries for SubscribeStar Saturday.  In this series, I’m going to reveal the stories behind each of the six songs on my debut EP, Contest Winner EP.  I’ll go track-by-track, in order, detailing the inspirations behind these songs.

Last week’s installment detailed the smash hit, lead-off single “Hipster Girl Next Door.”  It’s my most-requested song, and a pretty catchy tune.

But this week’s tune is, perhaps, my personal favorite from the record, and almost certainly the best song I have ever written.

It’s time to go back to “Greek Fair.”

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Behind the Songs: “Hipster Girl Next Door”

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Today I’m beginning a six-part miniseries for SubscribeStar Saturday called Behind the Songs.  In this series, I’m going to reveal the stories behind each of the six songs on my debut EP, Contest Winner EP.  I’ll go track-by-track, in order, detailing the inspirations behind these songs.

Naturally, that means the best—or, at least, the fan favorite—will be first:  the lead-off single “Hipster Girl Next Door.”  To this day I close 99% of my live shows with this song, which is probably my most-requested tune.

So, what inspired this catchy little sendup of the early 2010s hipster subculture and 1950s rock ‘n’ roll?  And why do fans love it so much?

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Midweek Mad Scientist Movie Madness I: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1920) & The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

For Christmas I received a couple of box sets, each containing fifty films from their respective genres.  The first collection I cracked open, Mad Scientist Theatre, consists of, well, fifty films about science and scientists gone wrong (or mad, I should say).

I’ve decided to write reviews of the films from these collections throughout the course of the year semiregularly.  Son of Sonnet is taking a bit of a hiatus from writing for the time being, so these midweek reviews seemed like a good way to fill the void his pen has left.  I don’t plan on writing these reviews every Wednesday, but maybe once or twice a month.

Also, I’ll be making the meat of these reviews for subscribers only.  That’s not to cut out my lovable band of regular readers, but to further sweeten the pot for existing subscribers.  I thought about doing these posts for $5 and up subscribers, but as of this past weekend, I finally have a subscriber at the $3 level.  Because I think she will enjoy these oddball film reviews, I’m going to make them available starting at that level.

That said, I will still provide a substantial portion of these reviews for non-paying readers, as their energy and enthusiasm in the comment sections really keep the blog alive and fresh.

So!  With that lengthy preamble out of the way, the first two flicks on the first disc of Mad Scientist Theatre are both silent films from 1920:  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.  You don’t need Mad Scientist Theatre to watch these films, either, as they’re both in the public domain (indeed, they’re both 102-years old, which is wild to contemplate—film is a young medium, but it was around and commercially viable a century ago).  You can view both on YouTube:

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (with the original color tinting, which is not on the Mad Scientist Theatre collection):

These are quite different films, but each interesting in their own way.  The themes and situations explored in each are eerily prescient for those of us living through our own “Roaring Twenties,” with all this decade’s excesses, licentiousness, and absurdity.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Happy New Year: Looking Back at 2021 and Plans for 2022

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Happy New Year!  Hard to believe we’re in 2022.  I still look back nostalgically 2012, which I consider a pretty banner year for yours portly.  That was ten years ago, and a lot has changed in that time.

2021 was fairly eventful, too, with a number of firsts for yours portly.  I was elected to Town Council (twice), wrote a book, hit 1000 days on the blog, got a dog, and made some great friends.

So, what does 2022 hold?  How will I build upon the groundwork of 2021?  And will I keep blogging every single day?

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Christmas Concert 2021 Review

After two weeks, I’ve finally written a post-concert review for my school’s 2021 Christmas Concert.  I didn’t intend for it to premiere on Christmas Day, but there you go!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Two weeks ago, on 10 December 2021, my music students at the high school had their big Christmas concert. This was the first live Christmas concert since 2019, and only the second live concert since The Age of The Virus shut everything down.

This concert was important for another reason: it was a bit of a redemption from the infamous “Corporate Christmas” concert of December 2019. That concert was marred with technical problems, over-programming (the Drama teacher at the time insisted on adding Christmas skits to what is an already-bloated event), and scheduling issues.

So, the hidden agenda for the 2021 Christmas concert was to wash clean the bad taste of the 2019 concert. Fortunately, I’d say we succeeded.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: The History of Electrock

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With the release of Frederick Ingram’s new albumInitial Exposure, I’ve decided to look back at some of my musical compositions, and to explain the history behind them.

Next Saturday is Christmas, so I will probably take that day off from posting, then do my usual end-of-the-year retrospectives and New Year’s predictions, but after Christmas I plan on dedicating six Saturdays to doing a track-by-track analysis and explanation of the songs on Contest Winner EP, my only record consisting of my vocal work.  I get asked about the origins of those songs quite a bit, so I’m going to give exclusive, behind-the-scenes details to subscribers (and, if I can figure out how to do it, some free download codes).

Today, though, I thought I’d give a brief history of my Electrock series of albums, specifically the three main releases in that series:  Electrock Music (2006), Electrock II: Space Rock (2007), and Electrock EP: The Four Unicorns of the Apocalypse (2012).

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Post-Concert Analysis is Coming

Yesterday’s Christmas concert went well, and I’m relieved to have it done.  I’m blessed to work with some super talented kids, and they are very dedicated to our Music Program.

I’ll be writing up a full analysis of it, as well as a gig I played with my buddy John last night, for SubscribeStar subscribers.  I should have the posted sometime Sunday afternoon.

For now, though, I am celebrating Christmas with my girlfriend.  We got each other some LEGO sets, so we’ve been building those this afternoon while watching TV and generally chilling out.

See you soon!

—TPP