Nenes to Nenez 30 Years On

In 2021, Nenez (using their recent romanized name with a “z” instead of a “s”) celebrated their 30th anniversary with the release of the indies album, Gajumaru. Founded in 1991, the group has seen a number of line-up changes, with three of the current quartet joining in 2019. The ever changing line-ups are comparable with groups such as the American all-women trio, The Three Degrees, which dates from 1963 and is a brand that continues to this day. Indeed,
brand Nenez (or Nēnēzu, to use the transliteration of their Okinawan name) has gone through several phases that have transitioned from a world music act of the 1990s to live-house entertainment in their most recent guise.

Unconventional research and writing with Sam Cooke

People who write often think there are rules that you more or less have to follow. Or should follow. I see a lot made of how much time people spent on their book, and their heaps and heaps of research. I guess maybe I should start by saying that the time in which I wrote the book probably didn’t much resemble the time frames of most other writers.

Sam Cooke, singing and what it means to be a singer-writer

Let’s talk about Sam Cooke and singing and what it means to be a singer-writer. Or a writer-singer.

What does it mean to sing?

I know, I know—you sounded sublime this morning in the shower, when you channeled your inner Robert Plant and delivered a knockout “When the Levee Breaks,” or maybe you were Billie Holiday, with a soul-pasting version of “Lover Man.”

The Drum Machine That Helped Open Paul’s Boutique

When you talk about drum machines and Paul’s Boutique, there are two things that even casual listeners can probably hear. The first is that you don’t hear a lot of drum machines on the album. A big part of the record’s legacy is its sampled beats, assembled into intricate, polyrhythmic collages by The Dust Brothers and Matt Dike.

But Matt Dike thought it was less a song than an opportunity. “When I heard it,” he told me, back in 2005, “I knew they were in trouble.”

Sam Cooke In Action: Don’t get caught in the oldies trap!

Macbeth, of course, is a literary oldie. It’s an oldie that still informs our world. Vaulting ambition and all. I mention Macbeth and the idea of relevant oldies for a reason. Sam Cooke is often dogged by the oldies label. Oldies are a genre, right? You hear “Wooly Bully” and “At the Hop” and, yes, Cooke’s “You Send Me,” on the oldies station in the car, and all seems right with the world. These songs are where they should be. You’re having a nice Sunday drive with the windows down in early autumn.

Becoming a Voracious Listener with Sam Cooke

Guest post by Colin Fleming Take the Sam Cooke path and be a VL (Voracious Listener)—it will serve you well in every aspect of life. Hello 33 1/3-ians! I’m back for guest blog entry number two, with this dossier of supplementary Sam Cooke materials. Let’s get to it! Do you remember the age you were when you first got into a given artist or work of art that you care about a lot? I bet you probably do. And you can pinpoint what it meant to you at that moment.…

Talking Tasty in Japan

In my previous post I outlined some of the ways food permeates Japanese food and popular culture. In this one, I dig a little deeper into the connections between food and the Japanese language itself. As I mention in my book Shonen Knife’s Happy Hour: Food, Gender, Rock and Roll, rice has historically been considered central to the Japanese diet and as a food it is loaded with cultural meaning. Indeed, the word for cooked rice, gohan (ご飯), is synonymous with meal. 

Talking Sides

Matthew Restall on the four glorious sides of Blue Moves. You may be unlikely to listen to a double album today as exactly that—a set of four sides of vinyl. And there is nothing wrong with streaming it as a single sequence of eighteen tracks (re-sequencing or editing the album is a trickier issue, as I discuss in my Blue Moves book). But it is worth considering why an album from the vinyl era was assembled the way it was—in the case of Blue Moves, by its brilliant producer, Gus…

Reg vs Elton and Other Contradictions

Matthew Restall, author of Elton John’s Blue Moves, on the many contradictions of Elton John. Contradictions are at the heart of rock and pop music. Its genres and its culture are laced with paradoxes. The personality, career, and music of Elton John are no exception. Here are a trio of such contradictions that particularly fascinate me and are reflected in my Blue Moves book. 1. Name changing is an experiment in alchemy. The intention is for the new persona to replace, even erase, the old. For Reginald Kenneth Dwight, it…

D’Angelo’s Age of “Soulquarius” – Part One

Faith Pennick, author of D’Angelo’s Voodoo, on the role that astrology plays in making music Some people dismiss astrology—the analysis of personality and human behavior based on the “sun sign” under which a person is born. But in the late 1990s, a group of striving, nonconforming musicians came together to share ideas and push each other to higher heights. Christened the Soulquarians, this unofficial collective bore enduring music as its fruit, including D’Angelo’s Voodoo, of which I wrote about for the “33 1/3” series. The Soulquarians were formed by D’Angelo, drummer/co-songwriter…