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Who created supercalifragilisticexialidocious?

15 Nov


As a child, I can well remember entering some sort of competition run by a milk company. I’m not sure what the link was, or even what the prizes were, but I do know it involved making as many words as you could from the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Now, it would be fair to say I poured my little heart and soul into the task. I literally went through the dictionary word by word, finding ones that matched. And yes, it took as long as you might imagine. So long I actually missed the deadline for entries. And was somehow still surprised I didn’t win.

Anyway, this chunk of history came to mind when I noticed the movie Mary Poppins listed in the TV guide.

I’ve never seen it – and am less likely to do so the more anyone tells me I ‘have’ to – but I do know it unveiled the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. So I decided to find out its origins.

The answer lay in an laist interview with Richard M Sherman, who wrote the score to the musical with his brother, Robert. Here’s the relevant bit…

How did you make up the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious ?

That’s a word we sort of concocted from our childhood when we used to make up double talk words. In the screenplay version of Mary Poppins we wanted her to give the children a gift they could bring back with them from inside the chalk drawing when they came out into the real world. If it was a tangible thing like a seashell or pine cone it would disappear. So we said “Remember when we used to make up the big double talk words? We could make a big obnoxious word up for the kids.” And that’s where it started. Obnoxious is an ugly word so we said atrocious, that’s very British. We started with atrocious and then you can sound smart and be precocious, we had precocious and atrocious and we wanted something super colossal and that’s corny, so we took super and did double talk to get califragilistic which means nothing. It just came out that way. That’s in a nutshell what we did over two weeks. All together you get supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Great explanation. Now, who feels like a spoonful of sugar?

How did the Spice Girls get their nicknames?

12 Jun

As a singer Victoria Beckham makes a great fashion designer. And I’m not just saying that to be snarky.

Just look at her fashion label, which is beautiful, stylish and goes from strength to strength. The praise is well earned and her designs are a favourite among celebrities. As for her singing, well that’s another story.

While Victoria was a founding member of ‘90s girl power group the Spice Girls, you only have to watch one of their videos to see how little of the singing she did. But that’s OK. That’s what Emma Bunton and Melanie Chisholm were there for. Posh’s role was to add a bit of class to proceedings, something I’m sure played heavily into her choice of purple thrones for her wedding to footballer David Beckham, who is famous worldwide for his enormous, err, footballing skills.

Anyway, while watching the video for 2 Become 1 in a nostalgic moment tonight, I started wondering how all five girls – rounded out by Geri Halliwell and Melanie Brown – got their Spicy nicknames of Posh, Baby, Scary, Sporty and Ginger. I figured it was the brainchild of their manager, but turns out it was a bit of inspiration from Top of the Pops editor Peter Loraine, who broached the subject over lunch. As he remembers

I simply said it would be a good idea if they had some nicknames. The girls liked the idea, so I had an editorial meeting back at the office and about four of us started thinking of names. Posh was the first one to be thought up because Victoria looks pretty sophisticated. The rest were pretty easy really because the girls’ characters were already really strong. The names jumped out at us. We laughed the most when we came up with Scary. Jennifer Cawthron, who was also from Leeds, came up with that one because Mel B was so loud and had tried to take over our whole photo shoot. We ran the names for a couple of issues and the first time the girls saw them they thought it was funny. Then the newspapers started picking up on the names and they cropped up everywhere until they were fully accepted by everyone.”

Now let’s watch the video..

BTW, did you know that for their group auditions, Mel C sang I’m So Excited by the Pointer Sisters, Mel B sang The Greatest Love Of All by Whitney Houston and Victoria sang Mein Herr from Cabaret?


Was Mark Wahlberg ever a member of New Kids on the Block?

24 May

Back in my uni days/early twenties, I was known to play the occasional drinking game. You know, the kind where you pick a topic – say a movie or TV show – work out its regular patterns of behaviour and then assign a certain number of shots everyone must do when they come up.

Take the move American Pie for example.

Here, ‘punishments’ were awarded for such acts as … Stiffler swears (1 shot), someone references Stiffler’s mum (1 shot), Jim’s dad tells an unwelcome and too-much-information anecdote (2 shots) or Jim embarrasses himself in a manner that involves his genitals (2 shots for an apple pie, 1 shot for a girl).

Anyway, those days are well and truly gone, but last night I decided the time had come to revisit them. And the inspiration was the New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys concert.

Now, somewhere along the line I have become one of ‘those’ people who help aging musicians continue on well past their prime by going to their concerts. In the last 12 months alone I have done (figuratively I should point out) Motley Crue, Heart, Def Leppard, the Choirboys, Duran Duran etc etc. But none had the sheer enjoyment/satirical possibilities of NKOTBSB.

To clarify, I was absolutely a fan of both bands in their time, although never to the level of obsession they enjoyed among so many girls. And I also have more than a few of their songs on my playlist. However I was more drawn to snap up a ticket by the tantalising promise of payouts.

And I was not disappointed. Which is where the drinking game came in.

Staring bemusedly at the stage while someone called Johnny Ruffo donned a Michael Jackson tribute jacket and grabbed his crotch repeatedly, I began thinking about all the ways boy bands used to entertain their fans – the synchronised dancing, the all-white suits, the falsettos. And suddenly I had all the elements for a great drinking game. Here’s just some of what I came up with…

Matching suits – 1 shot

Synchronised dancing – 1 shot

Synchronised twirls – 1 shot

Hat doffing – 2 shots

Serenading of audience members who’ve been dragged on stage – 3 shots

Matching white suits – 3 shots

Donnie Wahlberg shows off his abs – 4 shots

Backstreet Boys manage to keep a straight face while advising that ‘I want it that way’ – priceless

Tears of emotion – 1 shot

Needless to say I was spot on with my predictions, and would have ended up VERY drunk had my cup contained vodka rather than water. But even sober I thoroughly enjoyed the blast from the past, especially as regular updates kept me reassured Queensland was on top in the State of Origin.

Afterwards, as we wandered back to the car humming Step by Step, talk moved on from the show to brotherly love. Specifically, the question of whether Donnie’s little brother, Mark, was ever in the band. I’d heard someone in the row behind us make the suggestion and thought there was no chance. I mean, I just can’t picture Max Payne singing some of those syrupy lyrics.

But I was wrong. Turns out he WAS in the band. But only for a few months very early on before he apparently grew tired of the group’s squeaky clean reputation and said his goodbyes.

Paving the way, of course, for Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.

Now let’s watch the video for my equal favourite NKOTB song…

What inspired Don McLean’s song American Pie?

2 Apr

A road trip beckoned today as part of an all-too brief holiday through Australia’s southern states.

Fortunately, it wasn’t the kind of horrific trip most of us endured with our parents in childhood when all we wanted to know was ‘Are we there yet?’ Instead, this one was fun. The kind with roadies, stereotyping of small country towns and CD compilations featuring the best movie songs of all time (BTW does anyway know the film that featured Belinda Carlisle’s Mad About You?).

Anyway, one of the tracks that boomed through the speakers was Don McLean’s American Pie – all 300+ minutes of it (or so it seemed). And it took me back to my twenties, when it was considered a badge of honour to remember every word.

It’s a skill I still boast today. And as I sang of jesters and thorny crowns, I got to wondering about the inspiration behind the lyrics.

For half the song I decided they were about the JFK assassination. But my supposing wasn’t enough – I wanted to know the real story.  Yet no clear answers were forthcoming – and that’s exactly how the artist likes them.

In an interview here, McLean had this to say:

“The idea that I had, was that it was about American politics in music running in sort of a parallel trough, if you will. That was a concept in my head. Then I decided to make up a dream using rock and roll and other kinds of imagery to move forward from the death of Buddy Holly right up to the end, and that’s how it came out.”

Further clarification comes from his website

“American Pie is partly biographical and partly the story of America during the idealised 1950s and the bleaker 1960s. It was initially inspired by Don’s memories of being a paperboy in 1959 and learning of the death of Buddy Holly. American Pie presents an abstract story of McLean’s life from the mid-1950s until the end of the 1960s, and at the same time it represents the evolution of popular music and politics over these years, from the lightness of the 1950s to the darkness of the late 1960s, but metaphorically the song continues to evolve to the present time. It is not a nostalgia song. American Pie changes as America itself is changing.”

Musical aficionados who have studied the song pin meanings to certain lyrics. For example, the jester who sang for the king and queen is rumoured to be Bob Dylan. But this has never been confirmed.

In short, what McLean hopes is that fans find their own meaning and inspiration in the song. And he must be on to something since it remains a classic more than 30 years since its release in 1971.

Here’s a few other American Pie facts…

* It was named as one of the five greatest songs of the 20th century in a poll by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Recording Industry Association of America. The other four songs were This Land is Your Land, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Respect and White Christmas.
* It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003.
* It has been played more than three million times on American radio alone.

And now let’s watch him sing it live.

How did The Rock get his nickname?

30 Mar

As I have already complained written about several times this week, I embarked on a massive spring cleaning project at the start of my current holidays.

Part of this involved loading all my CDs on to iTunes. And while I talked the other day about finding enough Kylie Minogue to make me happy, there was one other disc that really caught my eye – and not in a good way. It was called You Can’t See Me and was released by John Cena, a name that will be instantly familiar to rednecks and young boys as he’s a superstar of the wrestling word.

Anyway, while he seems to have a decent voice I can’t say I found much inspiration in tracks such as Don’t F*** With Us, which I imagine is a sensitive exploration of the human psyche. But it did remind me I’d been seeing adverts for a WWE match-up between Cena and The Rock. And naturally, I then wanted to know how The Rock got his nickname.

Truth be told if my real name was Dwayne Johnson and I wanted to build my action man persona, I would probably change it too. But it seems the reason is actually personal. When he first began pro wrestling, the athlete used the name Rocky Maivia to honour his father, Rocky Johnson, and grandfather, Peter Maivia. This was later shortened to The Rock as befits his charisma and ringside popularity, although he now prefers to go by his real name, especially given how hot he is in Hollywood.

And you know what? That’s more than fine by me. I mean would you want to argue with him?

Did Kylie Minogue’s famous gold hot pants really cost 50 pence?

27 Mar

You know you’re in trouble when you have to hire a mini skip to do a spring clean. And sadly that’s the situation I found myself in today.

Now, in case you think I’m a crazy woman hoarding cats, used tissues and/or tins of Spam, I should point out my trash was 90 per cent magazines as I am obsessed with them and love to read and re-read them.

But every so often I have a brain snap and decide to de-clutter. So out go tabloid tales of Princess Kate, the Kardashians and Ryan Reynolds and in comes a feeling of smug domestic goddess satisfaction.

Anyway, I don’t know if it was something in the water, but while cleaning up I decided to attack my collection of CDs as well. I mean they take up a LOT of space and since I have a neighbour I know would adore them, I decided to upload the tracks to iTunes and bid them farewell.

And it’s here the night turned judgemental.

You see, I am exceedingly well-known across several states (and even continents) for allegedly having uncool music taste. As if it’s somehow shameful to still know the words to Gotta Pull Myself Together by The Nolans.

But as I uploaded and burned, even I had to confess that the lyrics “boom, boom, boom, let’s go back to my room” are unlikely to be uttered in a Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech any time soon.

Then I hit on gold – a stack of Kylie Minogue discs dating back to the early days of her career. When the power ballad Especially For You was just about the most romantic thing this teenage duck had ever heard.


Since those early days I’ve loved everything from Shocked (remember the scandal around whether she’d replaced the title word with another starting with f?) and What Do I Have To Do? to Love At First Sight, although I was apparently the only person in the world not to like Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.

Then there’s Spinning Around, which apparently rebooted her career in 2000, although some of us had stayed loyal. But of course for most people the music isn’t the most memorable part of that song – it’s those hot pants.

I wanted to know if it’s true they really only cost 50 pence. And the short answer is, yes. But they weren’t even intended for a film clip. As the star herself told Who: “I wore them for a ‘Nerds, Tarts and Tourists’ fancy dress party – I’ll leave it to you to imagine which one I went as!”

Kylie also revealed she wasn’t necessarily as carefree in them as she appeared.

“I actually wasn’t confident (in them), that’s the crazy thing. I remember feeling quite self-conscious and kept wrapping a robe around me on set and would discard (it) right before the take.”

If only she had known what a phenomenon they would become.

Now watch the film clip.


Is Shirley Manson from Garbage a natural redhead?

9 Mar

Friday. The end of a very long and stressful week. Then suddenly, salvation comes in the form of a press release. Garbage has a new album coming out and I a massive fan. Suddenly I am happy and the countdown to release begins…

In background, I discovered this band many, many years ago while living with a friend who made it his mission to properly introduce me to groups ranging from the Foo Fighters and Smashing Pumpkins to REM and, of course, Garbage.

While some REM of them failed to make a lasting impact, I loved Shirley Manson right from the start – her sass and strut, her rebellious attitude and her ability to just make damn good music. So naturally, when the news of a new album came through, I decided to make her today’s knowledge quest. And the first question I wanted to answer? Is she a natural redhead?

Now, this might seem like a pretty shallow query given her pedigree and talent, but as someone with a good deal of red up top myself, I’ve always felt an affinity with other women whose hair apparently offers fair warning of their temper. Plus, I’ve seen her try a wide variety of shades, most notably that eye-catching blonde do in the video for Cherry Lips.

After a good deal of research, I happened upon this slightly NSFW story, which confirmed without doubt she is indeed a natural redhead. So with a bit of time up my sleeves, I decided to find out a handful of other interesting things about the performer. Here they are. She . . .

* Is a cast member of video game Guitar Hero 5.
* Once modelled for Calvin Klein.
* Dropped out of school at 16.
* Suffers from body dysmorphia.
* Featured in TV show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
* Wrote a song called Sleep Together for the Love and Other Drugs soundtrack.
* Was named after an aunt who was herself named after Charlotte Bronte’s novel Shirley.
* Was invited to join Garbage after producer and muso Steve Marker saw her in the Angelfish video for Suffocate Me.

So there you have it. And in case you’re wondering what my favourite Garbage song is, I can’t narrow it down. Instead, let’s just say there are six that hold court – Only Happy When It Rains, Androgyny, Vow, Why Do You Love Me, Paranoid and Cherry Lips. The latter particularly holds a special place in my heart as I used it to start teaching my nephews about good music from when they were very little and could only manage to sing the “Go baby go” bit of the lyrics. And no, for the record, I did not let them watch the film clip. But you can…

So finally, back to the new album. It’s called Not Your Kind Of People and is due out in May. The first single, Blood For Poppies, will be released on March 20. And this is what Shirley has to say about it: ““The song is meant to feel sort of like an abstract dream. The inspiration came from a story I had read in The Los Angeles Times about the opium trade and also from watching the documentary Restrepo. It’s not literal in any sense whatsoever but it’s a song about disorientation and delusion and the human struggle to stay sane in the face of insanity.” Hear the band reveal the track listing below.

Do crocodiles really shed tears?

2 Mar

I finally got around to doing something today that has been on my checklist forever. And that’s buy the book version of the Hunger Games.

I don’t know why I waited so long as I know for a fact I’m going to love it. But at least now the plot will be fresh in my mind when the movie opens in a few weeks.

Anyway, I never go to a bookstore for just one book – I always emerge with a bag full. And while browsing the specials rack today, my eye fell on a title I immediately knew I had to have – Know It All from DK Books, which offers facts, stats, lists, records and more.

Now, I’m interested in random information at the best of times, and this year-long knowledge quest I’m on has only heightened my curiosity. So I decided that for today, I would open up a random page and find an interesting fact. And luckily I have good aim.

It was only on the news today that police fear a woman in the Northern Territory has been taken by a croc. So how appropriate the spread I turned to had information on whether crocodile tears are real. Here’s what the book said …

“If you shed ‘crocodile tears’ people think you are faking it. That’s because crocodiles ‘cry’ while they are eating their victims. But it’s not because they are feeling remorse; as they swallow down great lumps of meat, their jaw muscles expand and contract. The pressure created by the moving muscles squeezes tears out of the crocodile’s tear glands.’

In short – real tears, no sorrow. No wonder they say you should never smile at a crocodile. And now a few pieces of FYI . . .

* A crocodile can hold its breath underwater for an average 10-15 minutes 
* It can swim up to 30km/h
* It has roughly 68 teeth, which are constantly falling out and being replaced

Now let’s finish with a chorus of Crocodile Rock. The cool version from the Gnomeo & Juliette soundtrack.

Where did Lady Gaga get her stage name from?

1 Mar

In less than 12 hours from now, tickets go on sale for the newest batch of Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta concerts in Australia.

Now, you might think this isn’t a big deal. After all, she sounds like a classical musician (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But if I were to share with you the name she’s better known by – Lady Gaga – you would suddenly see my point. And probably my determination to claim a seat.

In background, I must confess I missed out on most of the early buzz surrounding one of the world’s most strangely dressed women. And if I ever gave her a thought, it was probably along the lines of “Who the f**** wastes a perfectly good steak on an outfit for an awards show?”

But I was finally converted to fandom with the double team strike of Paparazzi and Bad Romance. They are awesome songs. Just awesome. And they finally inspired a proper appreciation for the kind of eccentricity and talent so often squished in what can be a one-size-fits-all society.

Anyway, through plenty of revealing interviews, I knew a lot of interesting stuff about the Poker Face-d one, such as why she’s only tattooed on one side of her body (it’s at the request of her father).

But I’d never really paid attention to the inspiration for her name. Given the word ‘gaga’ I assumed there would be a Queen reference in there somewhere. And there was, via a producer called Rob Fusari. I found an explanation straight from the horse’s mouth in Flybe Magazine via

“My producer, Rob Fusari, was the first to really bring out both my theatrical and pop elements. I was in theatre for many years, but I was also a pop vocalist. When I auditioned for pop, record labels would say you’re too theatre. And when I auditioned for theatre they’d say you’re too pop. When I met Rob, I discovered David Bowie and Queen, and the more theatrical Beatles records. One day, I played Rob a song called Again Again, and he said, “God that’s so Queen! You’re so Radio GaGa. Very theatrical”. And he started to call me GaGa when I’d come into the studio. When we were getting ready to really start performing, I decided that I’d been playing under my real name for so long I wanted a new way to reinvent myself. So I said, what about Lady GaGa, because Gaga is sort of crazy and Lady has such connotations. I went to a private school but now I was living in this trash glitter environment. So, for me, it was the perfect description of who I had become.”

And thus the legend was born. Now to indulge in a Bad Romance.

How do you get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?

25 Feb

Every so often when I’m flicking through a tabloid magazine I come across photos of a ceremony to induct a celebrity into the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The most recent, just this month, was a ‘humbled’ and ‘grateful’ Jennifer Aniston, whose career only seems to be going from strength to strength. But some of the rolecall she joins are just puzzling. I mean, no disrespect, but who are Rod La Rocque and Klaus Landsberg?

Anyway, with about 24 induction ceremonies held annually, I wondered how stars got a guernsey. And the process is this.

Nominations are judged once a year in the categories of Motion Pictures, Television, Radio, Recording and Live Performance/Theatre. Once a star is chosen a fee of $30,000 is payable for the creation and installation of the star, as well as walk maintenance.

They then have five years to schedule their ceremony. Here’s some other facts I discovered…

• Anyone, including a fan, can nominate a celebrity for the walk, as long as their management agrees.
• Dead stars can’t be nominated for the posthumous award until five years after their passing.
• The stars themselves are made of terrazzo and brass.
* The idea for the walk came from EM Stuart, who was volunteer president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce in 1953.

Find out more here.