Who is Stealing from Whom?

I am a bit of stickler for intellectual property respect. That’s a trait, I am proud to say, I have passed on to my children. I glowed when one of them opted to buy the latest Phoenix Wright rather than play the pirated copy that his friend acquired. The Ace Attorney  himself would be proud too.

I get funny looks sometimes when I ask about fair use of stock photo images that I have bought (bought!) … and why would anyone pay $10 per month for Rhapsody when all the songs in the world are just sitting there for free on the internet waiting to be taken? The whole population of Malta (and China? and India?) thinks it a sign of mental illness to pay for anything that can be stolen for free.

As someone who makes a living from intellectual property, I feel a certain solidarity with people whose livelihoods are slowly leaching away into the pirate-infested deeps of the Internet. A couple of deep blemishes tarnish my otherwise squeaky-clean self-image though and I need the world to change a little to help me restore my faith in myself.

Firstly, don’t make it so damn difficult to comply with your rights and regulations. I’m not too good at dealing with bureaucracy. Make it easier for me to do the right thing. Maybe y’all could embed urls or licenses in digital images. Blogging software and browsers could do something smart with them like show attribution info and link back to the copyright owner.

Secondly, and this is the biggie, someone needs to clean up the cesspool in which sheet music swirls – and I am talking about the so-called legitimate sellers here, not the tab sites.

The tab sites are a soggy morass of pirated content with their gossamer-thin chemise of this is for private study only covering their shame.

And my shame.

But they are not the real criminals.

Every now and again, I decide I would feel so much better to pay for a piece of music  rather than download it for free but each time I see the price tag I conclude that the merchants are bigger pirates than the pirates are.

Five bucks for I Just Can’t Help Believing! How can they possibly justify that?

It reminds me of those third world markets where the shops have an outrageously marked-up price for locally-crafted kitsch when the exact same crap is on sale out in the street for a twentieth of the price. They can dismiss the vast majority of the market because one sucker keeps them in rice and beans for a month.

The market for sheet music is a sucker’s market. But, just as iTunes – despite the best efforts of the music industry sharks – made it easier to be moral than to sin, maybe someone out there can bring some sanity to the sheet music business.

Steve? Larry and Sergey? Jeff?

I read, the other day, that, compared to the software industry, the entire music business is relatively tiny. One of the tech titans could buy up the whole thing with spare change the way Russian billionaires buy up English football teams.

How about if a consortium of leading Internet companies – Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Baidu, Amazon etc. – jointly bought the entire music industry, and promised to license its content to anyone on a non-discriminatory basis?

Google Should Buy up the Music Industry

Sheet music on my Kindle or iPad? How awesome would that be? I’d be sending you 99c every couple of hours, Jeff. Just make it easy for me to do the right thing. I’ll pay.

Ride it back out

Here’s another version of Ride a White Swan recorded on GarageBand proper on a Mac with a real guitar, real piano and real microphone.

Ride a White Swan (performed by The Ragged Clown)


This was T-Rex’s first successful single.

It was the first single released after they changed their name from Tyrannasaurus Rex (which no one could spell).

It was released in 1970.

They didn’t have a drummer when they made Ride a White Swan.

Marc Bolan and Co over-dubbed five guitar tracks (I only did four).

It was kept out of the Number One spot by Clive Dunn’s Grandad which will be my next recording.

I have the single (don’t tell Carol).

iPads make iMusic

Like I wasn’t gonna get the new GarageBand for iPad??

It’s pretty good but VERY frustrating. There are tons of bugs and it’s a  little too slow to keep up with any kind of complex strumming. I lost my whole guitar track once and, by the end of the session, the sequencer view thingie was about a bar and a half out of step with the sound. You can see from the screenshot that the bars don’t really line up with anything.

I wanted to fix up some stuff but I decided I should quit while I was ahead. Here’s my first attempt at making music.

Ride A White Swan (iPad version performed by The Ragged Clown)

I can’t figure out how to create a fade. Anyone?

I’ve been practicing Ride a White Swan on guitar and meaning to record it for a while. It’s a simple song but the chord change is pretty tricky. It’s easier to play when you just have to tap the iPad but it doesn’t sound as good as the real thing. I’ll need to record it on GarageBand proper for comparison.

Liner Notes

For the drums and bass, I used the auto-play thingie. TIP: if you use any drum set except the rock kit, it’ll mess you up and you’ll never be able to keep time with it. Keep it simple. Same with the bass. I started with a fancy bass riff but it sounded silly and overwhelmed everything else.

There are three guitar tracks. For the riff, I used the auto-chord selector and then just picked out notes from the chords. For the rhythm guitar, I just banged on the chord name like a chimpanzee. I tried picking out an arpeggio on individual strings but my poor iPad was too slow to keep up.

I played the lead part on the single note setting. This is really well done. You can do slides and hammer-ons and hammer-offs and really nice bends. I couldn’t figure out how to get further up the neck so if your solo has any high notes, I guess you are screwed. Birthday’s coming up so maybe I’ll get the plug-your-guitar-into-your-ipad connector but there is plenty of fun to be had with the so-called smart guitar.

I recorded the vocals with the dreamy effect. Sounds just like Marc Bolan, don’t you think? That’s probably my bronchitis.

I added the keyboards because it seemed a shame not to.

My aim is close

Haven’t recorded one for a while. I’m stuck on a plateau and can’t seem to make progress. I have three or four songs where I can play everything but the solo. This one doesn’t have a solo so it’s good to go. It isn’t quite right, but it’s about as close as I’m gonna get.

Alison by The Ragged Clown

Thanks to Tom for teaching it to me (I hope he doesn’t mind that I recorded it – there is a story about Bob Dylan recording House of the Rising Sun and Dave Van Ronk never spoke to him again). Thanks to my children for tolerating a song they dislike so much and thanks to Elvis Costello for giving us a song that still gives me the shivers even when _I_ sing it.

Recording Notes:

I recorded the rhythm guitar twice to give it more depth. I recorded the lead parts in micro-takes because my memory is crap and I can’t remember more than one measure at a time but the rest I recorded in a single take or, at most, two.

The drum track is a loop from Garage Band but the fills are me as is the bass which I played on a keyboard.

I flubbed the opening “oh” because the intro is about half a beat late and it was throwing off my timing. I tried to re-record it but it just got worse and worse so I just went with the first take.

Trading Heroes for Ghosts

Wish You Were Here

(performed by The Ragged Clown)

I got a bit carried away with the overdubs but it was fun. I got most of the parts in a couple of takes – except the last two lines of the second verse. I sang the second verse about 20 times before I realized that I had played the wrong chord at the end. After I re-recorded the guitar part, it was easy.

I didn’t know the solo part in the middle so I made shit up. I fired the drummer.


I have a very special memory. One that I have not thought about for years but it came to me today in the middle of Saving Private Ryan. I don’t think I’ve shared it before.

In my solitude, you haunt me

A long time ago, I had a girlfriend and I used to sing to her. At that period of my life, I was entirely entranced by Billie Holiday and my most favourite song was Solitude and my girlfriend used to ask me to sing it to her. I sang it over and over.

With reveries of days gone by.

Eventually we broke up and she moved out and went her own way but a few months later she called me out of the blue and said she was afraid and asked if she could come stay with me for a few days.

In my solitude, you taunt me

She was having headaches and problems with her memory. We took her to the doctor who sent her to the hospital where they told us she had a brain tumour. It was inoperable but they might be able to treat it with radio-therapy.

With memories that never die.

The treatment didn’t work out and her memory and her headaches got worse and eventually she slipped into unconsciousness.

I sit in my chair

And, filled with despair,

Her parents flew over from Malta and came to stay with me in my little apartment and, one by one, her friends and relatives from all over the world came to join us sitting by Rita’s bedside.

There’s no one can be so sad.

We sat by her bed for days and weeks and months and, every now and again, she would drift back into our life and say a few words before drifting back into the twilight. One day she slept and didn’t wake up again.

With gloom everywhere,

I sit and I stare.

I used to sing to her while she slept her deep sleep – especially when we were alone, just Rita and I. One day, one last time, she spoke to me.

“What’s that song? I know that song.”

“It’s Solitude by Billie Holiday.”

“It’s a beautiful song. My boyfriend used to sing it to me.”

Then she went back to sleep. She didn’t wake up any more.

I know that I’ll soon go mad.

In my Solitude.

I promised that I’d never forget you, Rita. I kept my promise.

I’m praying,

Dear Lord above,

Send back my love.

Sunshine of your Love

Sunshine of your Love

I’m not really sure why they call him Slowhand. My hands were much slower than his. I gave up trying to copy the last two measures of the solo and just made something up.

Sunshine of your Love

Performance by The Ragged Clown

I thought it’d be at least easy to sing. Turns out… not so much.

Greatest Greatest Hits

Rolling StoneWell, I made it through the first 100 and the most striking thing about the list is that they sure like those greatest hits albums at Rolling Stone… and the Beatles. Although, oddly, they didn’t include any Beatles Greatest Hits albums.

By including a greatest hits album, they are basically saying – well, this guy didn’t really have any good albums but we like him…so…here are his greatest hits anyway.

Get rid of all the greatest hits, about half of The Beatles’ albums and all the oddball ones (I am looking at you Captain Beefheart) that they threw in to see if we were paying attention and you’d have a good list of about 40 albums that you really should go back and listen to someday. Maybe tomorrow.

Only four hundred to go.


I pruned the list down for you. I nuked all the greatest hits and oddballs and got rid of some Beatles. 40 fantastic albums remain and here they are. I left them in the original order that Rolling Stone had them.

1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles
4. Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan
6. What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye
9. Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan
10. The Beatles (“The White Album”), The Beatles
11. The Sun Sessions, Elvis Presley
12. Kind of Blue, Miles Davis
15. Are You Experienced?, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
17. Nevermind, Nirvana
18. Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
22. Plastic Ono Band, John Lennon
23. Innervisions, Stevie Wonder
25. Rumours, Fleetwood Mac
26. The Joshua Tree, U2
28. Who’s Next, The Who
29. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin
32. Let It Bleed, The Rolling Stones
37. Hotel California, The Eagles
41. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, The Sex Pistols
42. The Doors, The Doors
43. The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd
51. Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon and Garfunkel
57. Beggars Banquet, The Rolling Stones
65. Moondance, Van Morrison
66. Led Zeppelin IV, Led Zeppelin
68. Off the Wall, Michael Jackson
71. After the Gold Rush, Neil Young
72. Purple Rain, Prince
73. Back in Black, AC/DC
74. Otis Blue, Otis Redding
79. Star Time, James Brown
83. I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, Aretha Franklin
87. The Wall, Pink Floyd
88. At Folsom Prison, Johnny Cash
91. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John
93. Sign ‘o’ the Times, Prince
97. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan
98. This Year’s Model, Elvis Costello
99. There’s a Riot Goin’ On, Sly and the Family Stone
100. In the Wee Small Hours, Frank Sinatra