‘The counterrevolution was prepared via vinyl’

Here’s how General Gandhi begins Jacobin’s “The Yacht Rock Counterrevolution”:

I cannot satisfy culpability to the degree required by an American court of law, but here are the facts of the cabal’s first – and most insidious – plot.

The weevils descended on New York City’s once-esteemed Radio City Music Hall on February 25, 1981, and, in a night of untrammeled soul-pillage, proceeded to sweep nearly every Grammy category. Seat-fillers, CBS viewers, stagehands – all could only watch in ashen-faced paralysis, as if witnessing a savage domestic battering at the Thanksgiving table. Syrup-spittled songster Christopher Cross, whose criminal odor still crowds the nostrils of his victims, took home five Grammys, including “Song of the Year,” “Record of the Year,” and “Best New Artist.”

It was the apogee of “yacht rock,” the ineluctable, smooth sound then dominant in southern California. Slick production, highly melodic music, and clean vocals were the hallmarks of the genre. Thematic concerns ranged from personal ads to margaritas. Even groups that should’ve known better, like Fleetwood Mac in their “Mirage” incarnation, began to feel the influence. […]

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Conspiracy of Beards makes NPR’s “Weekend Edition”

We’ve shared gigs with Conspiracy of Beards, the Bay Area men’s community choir with a repertoire of Leonard Cohen songs that will bring tears to your eyes. We’ve gone to their shows and they’ve come to ours, so we know whereof we speak. We’ve even shared a member (we’re thinking fondly of you, Honey Bunches of Hall ‘n’ Oates)!

They just told Facebook that their long-awaited short National Public Radio profile is up. Don’t waste any more time here, just go and listen to them. But if you feel like lingering, check out that lovely video up above of them performing last March at The Make-Out Room in San Francisco.

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You don’t have to be a star, baby, to be in our choir

As the wind gently blows upon the sails of our summer, we call out to our lost soul mates of soft rock to come join us in sweet song …

If you have a yearning for expressing the soft rock in your soul and sharing it with the world, you are invited to meet with us Tuesday, September 18th, in Berkeley, California. In our 5th season, we have been singing in glorious harmony the songs of Bryan Adams, Journey, Air Supply, Chicago, Fleetwood Mac and the like. While we are more casual than your average church choir, we do expect commitment and enthusiasm. We rehearse (almost) every Tuesday eve from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at our lovely abodes around the bay, and perform in snazzy outfits once or twice a month.

This is not an audition! This is a chance to get to know us and sing with us, and see if we’re a good fit. please prepare to just be your fabulous self, sing along with us … and a fancy snack or tasty beverage wouldn’t hurt. 🙂

If you are feeling our cry of love, and you too love breezy sunsets, flamingos, croquet and Richard Marx, please send us an email and we’ll forward you the deets.


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The belle of Eight Belles

The creative class here largely consists of refugees who came in search of affordable real estate and a leaner, slower way of life. Like Phillips, they cling to a pastoral mentality. Oakland’s new bohemians like to stage house concerts and pickle things in jars; they grow vegetable patches, wear flannel shirts, and render their garages into blacksmithing studios. Their tastes are antithetical to the fast-paced, electronic party music that proliferates in San Francisco — here, “lo-fi” and “low-tech” are the new normal, and country music is enjoying a quiet renaissance.

That’s from “A Country Home for Jessi Phillips,” Rachel Swan’s East Bay Express article about the Oakland Soft Rock Choir alumna.

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John Cage turns 100

We had a lovely practice yesterday at Dreamboat Manny’s place! (If you’re thinking you’d like to attend a practice and see about joining up, drop us a line on the contact page.)

Preacher Teacher’s return was an auspicious one, not just because her fellow soft-rockers who continued to meet for weekly practices during the summer (we’re looking at you, Tenille Diamond, Barenaked Stevens, Heather Feather, Rumour and Monica!) missed her. As it turned out, a Preacher Teacher conversation with one of Manny’s friends reminded us all that today is legendary contemporary classical music composer John Cage‘s centenary.

Recommended reads about him come from the New Yorker, National Public Radio and the Los Angeles Times. Though Cage was no soft-rocker, we can sincerely appreciate his contributions to expanding music’s horizons, and we recommend you do likewise.

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Eternal flames, summer songs and karaoke ambition

Billboard Adult Contemporary (chart) number-one single August 21, 1982 – September 4, 1982

We’re more amused than we should be by these three articles, perfect for a bit of diversion during the last few hours of the Labor Day weekend, which we hope was as restful for you as it was for us. Click any or all of the links below, read and tell us what you thought:

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Soft rock of ages

Perhaps this year’s second most interesting article indirectly related to soft-rock music was published in today’s New York Times Magazine. (The first, for our money, is Eric Harvey’s Pitchfork essay “The Quiet Storm.”) It’s one of what will be many welcome beats in the countdown to this fall’s 30th anniversary of the release of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” (We found it through this Atlantic Wire post noting Daryl Hall and John Oates’ role.)

Once you get past the absence of Toto, and the “stimulus-package” description (not just for the  comparison to be made between it and a more recent high-profile one, and related political context to be teased out), there’s lots of food for thought about the landmark album as Jackson’s best, the pop-chart arms-race competition he and Prince gave each other, and the present and future prospects of one Adele Laurie Blue Adkins.

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Once upon a time in a city by the bay

… there was a choir. In it, people came together regularly to sing songs of a certain vintage.

Some loved the songs for their novelty of arrangement and sense of style, or just for their glorious mouth-feel, appreciative of an especially ornate melodic filigree or a particularly angular rhythmic passage.

Some loved the songs for their ability, under the right circumstances, to transport people both backward and forward in time.

Some sang the songs aloud when alone or in company to win lovers or amuse acquaintances (or, from time to time, the other way around). From practice to performance, from one side of the bay to another, the songs and the voices that carried them were all that mattered.

As time passed, some wandered brief distances away but they could still be heard and answered whenever a call arose on the wind, while others slipped in and out of visibility and even disappeared over the horizon.

Still, the songs they sang continued to connect their singers. And so the choir continues to gather and sing to this very day.

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