One of my favorite things in life is reading liner notes. The feeling I get when I buy a new record and read its liner notes for the first time is not unlike the feeling young children get when opening gifts on Christmas morning. I love learning every detail about a song I’m listening to - who wrote it, where it was recorded, who played which instruments, who provided background vocals, who produced it, and etcetera.
Michael Jackson - “Off The Wall,” from Off The Wall (Epic Records, 1979)
Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall is among the first records whose liner notes I read and absorbed. This album (my personal favorite of MJ’s) stayed in heavy rotation through my childhood. I remember seeing names in the liner notes like Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, and Paul McCartney and recognizing all of them, but not knowing who Rod Temperton was. All I knew at the time was that the songs on this album that he wrote were among my favorites (and that his surname reminded me of one of those characters from the animated film Charlotte’s Web). Off The Wall (and lots of other records) transitioned seamlessly from music I loved as a child to music I love as an adult.
Heatwave - “Boogie Nights,” from Too Hot To Handle (GTO Records, 1976)
Similarly, Heatwave’s “Boogie Nights” went from being one of those songs I liked to hear on the radio while riding in the car with my mom, to being one of those songs I like to hear while I’m out dancing and drinking. At some point my older, more mature ears got hip to the undeniable similarity of the bass lines of these two songs. When I saw a copy of Too Hot To Handle at a used record store one day, I opened it up to read the liner notes and was ridiculously excited to learn that Rod Temperton, writer of “Off The Wall,” was a member of Heatwave and the same person who wrote “Boogie Nights.”
“No wonder the bass lines to these songs sound like siblings,” I thought. “They share a parent!”
“This strange regional brew — thematic architecture like Randy’s Donuts, the pervasive presence of billboards, the passion for customization in the Latino lowrider world — it’s a strong roadside culture that these trucks are pulling from,” says LACMA contemporary art curator Rita Gonzalez.
Yego Moravia, a professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York who co-designed L.A.’s Keith Haring–inspired “Ride or Fry” Dante Fried Chicken truck, concurs. “It’s no surprise,” he says, “that this vernacular form really first emerged in a place known for its street artwork, whether in terms of graffiti or murals or even supergraphics” — large outdoor ads on the sides of buildings.
Fascinating article on how culture in the city of Los Angeles has influenced design in the world of the food truck movement (the School of Visual Arts professor quoted in this article, Yego Moravia, is an acquaintance of mine).
The Moth is a non-profit group dedicated to the art of storytelling. Based in New York City, they produce story-telling events (here as well as in other cities) and a really awesome podcast that’s become one of my favorites. One of the main reasons I like the podcast so much is that most of the stories are evocative reminders that we’re just ordinary people. We have so much more in common as people than we think!
This episode features Philadelphian jazz bassist Christian McBride recounting a time in his career where he got to work with (and receive approval, praise, and validation from) another musician he looked up to. I laughed, I cried, and I felt inspired. Give it a listen if you want to do and feel the same.