Tronicbox takes us back to the 1980s

Recently I stumbled across a YouTube channel that has taken remixing to a whole new level.

TRONICBOX picks all your favourite tunes from the present day, or very recent past, and reworks them into nostalgic Eighties hits, and quite frankly, they’re superb.

My first encounter with TRONICBOX, who hails from Canada and describes himself — or herself, who knows? — as “a musician, gamer, and software developer from Saskatchewan Canada”, was when a version of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know popped up on one of my many online feeds. Take a listen.

Instantly it threw me back to my youth. Everything about it made me smile, from the hilarious cover shot to the production itself, replete with punchy disco drum sounds, the most kitsch electric piano you can imagine and the type of pulsing electro bassline every Eighties kid bounced to back in the day. Add to that wailing guitar solos you might hear in a Rocky training montage, and what you’ve got is a pretty perfect work of art.

The original — a duet with Kimbra — was, of course, a massive hit in its own right, and the genius of this remix wasn’t lost on Kimbra herself when she posted this to her Facebook page.

 

When I heard TRONICBOX’s equally magnificent rejig of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, I had to share this stuff with the world. This time, it’s not just the tune that will give you happy little goosebumps, but the video as well. Having been a fitness instructor in my deep, dark past, I could relate even more. It’s also a lot rockier, which I like. This is Europe meets early Bon Jovi with a bit of Journey tossed in for good measure. Impossibly good.

The remixes keep coming, which is good news. Katy Perry has been morphed into a Jane Fonda for her remix, while her hit Firework is transformed into a disco funk number Chaka Khan would have been proud to perform in her heyday.

Whoever TRONICBOX is, I hope he/she sees this. Please say hi, and keep us posted on what’s coming next because so far, I’m blown away by your skills. Thank you, from the bottom of my nostalgic heart. This stuff is just too good to be true.

Here’s a cheesy version of Justin Bieber’s Baby to sign off. The sax solo is magnificent! And that pic!! 🤣

A million reasons why Lady Gaga is my hero

So what did you think of Lady Gaga’s half-time show at Superbowl LI? Personally, I thought it was magnificent.

Predictably I got some smart-arse comments on the post, a couple of laughs, but that’s OK. After all, we all have different tastes, and one of the many things Gaga encourages us to celebrate is our diversity. So laugh it up. I couldn’t care less.

Here’s what I posted.

“Anyone that thinks Lady Gaga’s half-time show wasn’t political has either got their head stuck up their arse, or simply doesn’t understand her genius.”

I wasn’t looking for likes or laughs, to be honest. My sentiment was largely in response to a tweet a old colleague of mine had shared on Twitter — presumably in its support — which suggested Gaga had no message in 2017, and that Beyonce’s less subtle effort of 2016 was braver and more meaningful.

I took issue with this. To me, Gaga’s performance packed with political rhetoric, and was flawless in its execution. Here’s why.

The opening
Atop the NRG Stadium, and backed by 300 drones that lit up and hovered miraculously to create the United States’ flag, Gaga sang excerpts from two of America’s most patriotic songs, starting with God Bless America before rolling seamlessly into This Land Is Your Land. She then quoted from the The Pledge Of Allegiance before theatrically diving into the packed arena. What’s so cool about that? Well, it’s no secret that America is more divided than ever right now. What brings Americans together more than anything? Usually patriotic tunes and the star-spangled banner, and a reminder that despite what some people might say, there is a lot to celebrate about the country. It just needs to be focused on a little more.

The first songs
After belting out a small segment of Poker Face — pausing after the first-line reference to Texas as a nod of respect to the Houston location — Gaga moved into her anthem for those on the peripheral, Born This Way. If that wasn’t a middle finger to all the bigots, racists, homophobes and so on that have crawled out of their holes to celebrate the more extreme messages being bandied about by Donald Trump and others, I don’t know what is.

“No matter gay, straight, or bi / Lesbian, transgendered life / I’m on the right track baby/ I was born to survive,” she roared.

“No matter black, white or beige / Chola or orient made / I’m on the right track baby / I was born to be brave.”

Magnificent.

From middle to end
After Telephone, which didn’t feature an appearance from Beyonce as some had predicted, Gaga went into positivity mode with Just Dance. “We’re here to make you feel good,” she said after that one. “You wanna feel good with us?”

Looks like the pundits who said she’d been warned off politics were also brilliantly mis-informed.

Million Reasons was the penultimate number, a song all about searching out the best in everything and of course featuring the line “If you say something that you might even mean, it’s hard to even fathom which parts I should believe.” Fake news, anyone? Just superb.

Now I can’t be sure that Gaga’s chosen closer, Bad Romance, was in any way a reference to Trump and his wife Melania’s relationship — I like to think it maybe was — but by this point she was decked out in gridiron shoulder-pads, ready to do battle with any shit the world can throw at her, or any of her little monsters — the term she uses lovingly for her millions of fans.

I’m lucky enough to have seen Lady Gaga live, and I maintain it was one of the best shows I’ve ever witnessed. If you were to look at my musical tastes generally, she is not someone you’d expect me to pay money to see, but it’s her ability to bring social issues to the forefront without aggression or animosity that I admire most.

I remember that night in Sydney, before playing Gypsy, she delivered an impassioned speech to the many LGBTQ members of the audience, showering them with love and the belief that they matter. It was as touching a moment as I’ve ever seen at a musical performance, and trust me, grown adults were crying by the time she finished, and I wasn’t far off it myself. She then massively uplifted us all with the joy of the song Gypsy, which celebrates a world in union. That was the one big track I felt she could have also thrown in at the Superbowl.

But I’m being picky now. My love for Gaga has only grown more as a result of her half-time heroics, and I’m more than happy to put my paws up and scream it from the rooftop of any stadium you want to place me on. Gaga rules, end of story.

Mary Poppins goes death metal mad, but Gaga’s better

Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins

Overwhelmed by the metal … Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins (YouTube)

I stumbled across a Twitter post the other day which was a still of Julie Andrews in The Sound Of Music, speech bubbles coming from her mouth with “The ace of spades, the ace of spades” written in them. Of course I laughed, thinking of her singing the seminal Mötorhead track of 1980.

Never for a moment did I think I’d ever actually get to see Julie Andrews do a death metal version of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. But, thanks to the genius editing of Andy Rehfeldt and his YouTube channel, here it is for your own enjoyment.

Rehfeldt has created a number of similar works for his channel’s sub-playlist Metal Versions, including songs by Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and more modern artists including Adele and Coldplay. Carly-Rae Jepson’s Call Me Baby is particularly funny.

But when it comes to Julie Andrews covers, let’s tip our hats to Lady Gaga, whose quite brilliant Oscars medley of her musical efforts will live long in the memory.

It begs the question: is Lady Gaga the most talented female musician of her generation? I’d argue she’s certainly up there. She proved in this performance that show tunes, Broadway theatre, any musical genre is not beyond her capabilities. Her jazz with Tony Bennett is magnificent, and having seen her live in 2014, I can confirm her pop is off the chart.

Julie Andrews herself certainly appeared to be appreciative of the effort, given the heartfelt hug she delivered to Gaga at the end of her Oscars show. Would Andy Rehfeldt receive similar love for his work? I reckon he would. Julie’s a wonderful woman, with a great sense of humour. Not that I know her – I just imagine she would be laughing with the rest of us at his effort this week.

My year in live music – 2014

Happy 2014 with music

It was another packed live music schedule in 2014 for me. All up, almost 30 dates, including three festivals and a multitude of artists. Here is my top five, a summary of the next best, and the full list of gigs attended.

No.1 Elbow

Sydney Opera House, Sydney NSW, 26 October

A simple equation here: one of my favourite bands of all time plays one of my favourite venues of all time. How could it fail to impress me? Answer: it didn’t. In fact it brought me close to tears a number of times. This show was breathtaking. I’ve seen Elbow in every conceivable setting, from small club to festival, but the majestic Sydney Opera House could be the ideal venue for one of Britain’s best musical exports. The pace of the show was perfect, Charge kicking things off just enough to get toes tapping, with The Bones Of You doing much the same. The Night Will Always Win showcased Guy Garvey’s stunning vocals like never before, highlighting a central core of down-tempo loveliness to melt the toughest of hearts. The Birds acted as the first stanza of a build-up to a tremendous crescendo, including Grounds For Divorce and, of course, another unforgettable encore of One Day Like This.

I cannot put into words the brilliance of this show. It’s an absolute lifetime highlight, a memory that will always burn bright and never be a fading ember.

No.2 Austin City Limits

Zilker Park, Austin TX, 11-12 October

I wrote at the time about my affection for this weekend. Austin City Limits proved to be one of the best music festivals I’ve ever attended. I saw so many bands I couldn’t list them all here, but highlights included Poliça from side of stage (thanks Craig), a blissful Broken Bells set, the best Phantogram performance I’ve witnessed with Sarah Barthel sexier than ever, an introduction to the insanely infection Avett Brothers, running from Skrillex to Eminem and struggling to believe I was on planet Earth, A supercharged Lorde set and, of course, another flawless Pearl Jam show to close an epic weekend. There was more, but all you need to know was this festival was the dog’s nuts. Even the security staff were cool, the beer was amazing, and Austin’s convoy of fabulous food trucks kept the energy levels tip-top.

No.3 Gladiator and Sydney Symphony

Sydney Opera House, Sydney NSW, 3 April

Ever since seeing a documentary about John Williams conducting a live performance of E.T‘s score for the movie’s 25th anniversary, I’ve always wanted to watch a film with the soundtrack performed live while I view. This was my opportunity, and it was a quite magical experience. Gladiator is a flick I hold dear to my heart, and in large part owed to the sublime score crafted by Hans Zimmer. To hear it – and indeed see it – played out before my eyes while the film loomed over the Sydney Symphony Orchestra was an emotional experience. The detail of every scene popped that little but more as a result, every intricate note  and the finale, which always makes me tear up,  had me a blubbering mess. I was touched deeply by this one, and reminded once again of the special place music has in my soul.

No.4 Lady Gaga

Allphones Arena, Sydney NSW, 31 August

Not since my teens have I really touched the uber-pop stadium artists, but a birthday surprise for my better half took me back into that territory. It was a place I enjoyed as a kid, seeing Madonna several times at Wembley Stadium among others. Lady Gaga was every bit as impressive and memorable, but perhaps more talented in the music stakes. Madonna writes a great tune, performs it brilliantly, but is a flawed singer. Gaga, on the other hand, has sensational vocal chops and the theatre she creates is enormous. The dance floor crowd, which included us, was afforded the opportunity to roam around and under the stage to view from multiple angles, and the air of happiness and hope Gaga created was wonderful. Do What You Want was a hip-grinding riot while Gypsy was an utterly uplifting and triumphant finale, and the band, as most in this genre tend to be, was a collection of absolutely superb musicians. This show as an unexpected joy to behold in every way.

No.5 Asgeir

Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW, 23 July

We fell in love with Asgeir Trausti thanks to a guy in a bar in Iceland in 2012. We watched a YouTube clip of him and were beguiled by his unique voice and songwriting. Upon the English release of his album In The Silence, the rest of the world cottoned on to his unwavering talent. Seeing him perform in English was a treat. He has the voice of an angel, silencing the normal hubbub of the Metro Theatre. It was mesmerising, beautiful, heart-breaking, absorbing. A flawless performance by a man that is somehow still just 22 years of age.

Three more of the best

Highasakite at Oxford Art Factory was a delight, highlighted by some awesome wardrobe choices and an undeniably cool frontwoman in the gorgeous Ingrid Helene Håvik. Biffy Clyro blew the roof of The Factory Theatre and a topless Simon Neil gave the ladies enough heart palpitations to light up the New York power grid while perspiring to the extent that it’s a wonder a flood warning wasn’t issued by the local authorities. His energy levels are ridiculous. Howling Bells performance at Oxford Art Factory was something of a nostalgic trip back to my early days in Sydney. Waikiki was the band then, but Juanita and Joel Stein have matured significantly since then and created a new sound that was played out with gusto back in their hometown, from where they’ve been missing for some time having relocated to the UK. Come back again soon, please.

The full list

(Sydney venues unless otherwise stated)

January

6 – Bonobo – Metro Theatre

17 – Chi Udaka – Seymour Centre

26 – Big Day Out – Sydney Olympic Park (acts seen: The Naked And Famous, The Hives, Primus, The Lumineers, Arcade Fire, Pearl Jam)

February

2 – Laneway – Sydney College Of Arts (acts seen: Vance Joy, Frightened Rabbit, Run The Jewels, Daughter, Haim, Lorde, CHVRCHES, The Jezabels)

24 – Biffy Clyro – The Factory Theatre

March

5 – Phoenix – Hordern Pavilion

9 – Flying Lotus – Sydney Opera House

12 – Kate Miller-Heidke – Syemour Centre

April

3 – Gladiator and Sydney Symphony – Sydney Opera House

17 – Morcheeba – Metro Theatre

May

3 – Russian Circle – Manning Bar

13 – The Naked And Famous – Metro Theatre

25 – St Vincent – Sydney Opera House

July

19 – The Preatures – Metro Theatre

Here's @isabellamanfredi of The Preatires, rocking the Metro. Super-charged!! #livemusic #music #sydney #awesome

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23 – Asgeir – Metro Theatre

24 – Phantogram – Metro Theatre

28 – Tune Yards – Oxford Arts Factory

August

31 – Lady Gaga – AllPhones Arena

September

5 – Biffy Clyro – Enmore Theatre

12 – Howling Bells – Oxford Art Factory

13 – Sci-Fi Classics – Sydney Opera House

18 – Highasakite – Oxford Art Factory

19 – Saskwatch – Manning Bar

October

11-12 – Austin City Limits, Zilker Park, Austin TX, USA (acts seen: Poliça, Interpol, Phantogram, The Avett Brothers, Lorde, Eminem, Skrillex, Broken Bells, Pearl Jam)

17 – Trombone Shorty And Orelans Avenue, The Belmont, Austin TX, USA

Trombone Shorty. Personally, I think this is the best "talk" of #SFSummit. @tromboneshorty #livemusic #music

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26 – Elbow – Sydney Opera House

30 – Cibo Matto – Oxford Art Factory

November

7 – The Les Murray Band – SBS Courtyard

Why music is the most wonderful thing

If you’re a music lover, like me, then you know its power. You understand that feeling you get when you hear certain songs. Memories are sparked, sometimes curling your lips into a smile, and other times filling your eyes with tears.

I have a number of key songs in my life. I couldn’t possibly list them all, but chief among them is Carole King’s You’ve Got A Friend. It’s one of my earliest memories of music. Featured on her Tapestry album, released in 1971 one year before my birth, all I picture when I hear this song is my Mum, singing it softly to me as I lay in bed as a little kid, dozing off to sleep and feeling arguably more comfortable than I’ve ever felt since.

There are songs that remind me of past romances, both good and bad, dear friends at home and afar, family members alive and past, playing drums for the first time, learning guitar with my Dad, who taught me Wild Horses by The Rolling Stones and sang terribly as we covered Queen’s I Want To Break Free together, somehow blundering through the lyrics amidst uncontrollable giggles.

It’s fair to say that music defines me in so many ways. It’s always the first “friend” I call upon in times of need. I can sit for hours listening to it and it’s one of the few things I’ve ever discovered that I can genuinely say I love.

So it was with extreme interest, and a fair dose of delight, that I discovered Alive Inside via a friend’s post on Facebook; a documentary centred on this very topic, although pertaining to the effects of music therapy on the elderly, particularly those who suffer from degenerative diseases such as Alzheimers.

Social worker Dan Cohen and neurologist Oliver Sacks describe the way that patients “awaken” when music unlocks memories. Watch this trailer for a startling example of that in Henry.

You’ll have heard in the short an interviewer ask Henry what music does to him. “It gives me the feeling of love, of romance. I figure right now the world needs to come into music, singing. You’ve got beautiful music here.”

He knows the feeling I described earlier, even through the muddled mind he now possesses.

That’s the raw power of music right there.

Maria Judkis, writing in The Washington Post, asks her readers: “Will Lady Gaga or Skrillex be able to provoke such an emotional response from an Alzheimer’s patient in 60 years?”

Personally, I don’t think that’s a question that needs to be asked. For some, the answer will most definitely be “yes”. But let’s not assume music-related memories can only be triggered by classic tunes, seminal numbers performed by the supposed demigods of the music industry. Some of the most appalling compositions can spark something in your mind that makes you smile and recall a moment in your life. Again, raw power demonstrated.

Alive Inside opens in New York next week on 18 April 2012. I’d love to be there to see it. I’m sure it will give many of us hope that even in our darkest, most depressive states, music can light the way to better times, or at the very least a memory of them so we can once again, even only momentarily, feel “alive inside” once more. Just remember, as Carole sang all those years ago, in music at least, “you’ve got a friend”.