Archive for the ‘Geeknology’ Category


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Another off-the-beaten-path choice for the feature this week.

Up front, I have to say – I love the Pixies. They were my favorite band in college, and they still hold up today. Black Francis is a guitar god, Kim Deal is his perfect alter-ego, and Joey Santiago and Dave Lovering are crucial to that fantastic mixture of genres that nobody has ever attempted aside from this band.

I added two clips here, to show the different ways that Kim Deal added the perfect touch to a tune:

Where is My Mind?

Without that high-pitched keening sound in the background, this is still a good song, but that backing vocal makes it impossible to ignore – the aggression is cut by that lost wail. Fan-damn-tastic song.


This one turns the tables, as Kim sings lead and BF adds his voice to the chorus. Not really a great moment in backup singing, I guess, but Kim sure was cute in it, eh?

There are so many examples of interesting backing vocals in Pixies tunes. Build yer own.

Happy Thanksgiving. I don’t know how to carve a turkey properly, so “Gouge Away” is sort of my theme song on the 22nd.

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Obviously, there is no point in actually watching the video here. But the song is there, so let’s hear it.

What I love about this song is the juxtaposition between Harold and the Blue Notes. The backup singers are steady and on-point throughout the whole song, gently reminding Harold’s woman that she should know better than to question his fidelity (so a man comes home a little late at night with no explanation, then gets defensive when confronted, so what?). Harold’s voice gets more and more raw throughout the performance, until he’s basically begging the nameless paramour to just give him a break, already. All the while his own personal greek chorus pleads the heart of his case in the background.

Awesome stuff.

Top of my list for next week are The Pixies, with the wonderful Kim Deal doing her thang, or Smokey Robinson and the Miracles – that most reciprocal of relationships in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

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Confession time – I’ve never been a very big fan of heavy metal vocals. They too often sound strained and screechy to me. But Heart is another story entirely. Ann Wilson has a big voice, and it never sounds like she’s forcing out a high note. It’s just full and natural, and it always hits me in a vital spot. You know what I’m talkin’ about, fellas.

Since I’m using YouTube to illustrate my choices, I often have little to pick from. In this case, I had fuzzy late-70’s video where Ann is singing completely without backup, or pouffy 80’s videos with way too much synth in them.

I finally settled on this nice clip, in which Nancy is still mostly just shredding, but adds her voice at strategic moments to sweeten an already impressive note. I imagine hearing it live, the whole place would vibrate like a tuning fork. Amazing stuff.

We’ll probably go back to the soul arena next week, but until then, rock on, and be excellent to each other.

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It may be a little bit unfair to characterize John Oates as a backup singer, but to my way of thinking, he was definitely the wing man in the Hall & Oates partnership. The fact that Darryl Hall gave him equal billing in the act is a testament to his appreciation for Oates’ steady musicianship.

But let’s be honest – Darryl was the face man. He had the better voice, and the frontman looks and charisma, and those qualities made him the leader. Oates happily put the Philly-soul oooohs and aaaaahs in there, and sometimes sang near-duets, as in “She’s Gone” and other classics. But mostly, he was a complementary voice.

I had requests for some sweet Hall & Oates tunes when I announced this post last week, including nolachick’s wish to hear the ultra-smooth “Sara Smiles”, but I wanted something that really showed what Oates brought to the table during the duo’s heyday. So, in honor of Halloween, here’s “Maneater”.

See – classic wingman there. Hall is a pretty boy, and he’s used to dealing with rough trade. He’s almost cocky. But Oates has his back, shouting “Watch Out!” and “She’s a man-EATER!” when Hall starts to drop his guard.

Oates, for your dedicated service as the Defensive Coordinator of the group, we salute you.

(sharp-eyed viewers will also notice smirking Saturday Night Live bandleader G.E. Smith adding his voice to the mix)

I’ll tell you the suggestions for next week, but I haven’t decided which to use yet. I’ve had suggestions for Heart, The Pixies, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, and a few others, and I think I’ve discovered a gem of an example from Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes.

Any others?

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