The Interwebs are Bottomless.

Posted in life after cable by - October 31, 2010

People who know me sometimes comment on the wealth of useless facts I carry around in my head. Sometimes they even go so far as to ask where I find out all the minutiae that spills out of me in nearly every conversation. So here’s an example of how you find out something weird and awesome to annoy people with a la Darington.

It’s 5am and I can’t sleep. As you would expect, that means I’m sitting in front of a computer. I’m listening to iTunes in a pair of dodgy headphones, trying to find slightly obscure songs to seed my Pandora stations with. It turns out, at least for me, that if you pick a weird enough group or song that really moved you Pandora is eerily awesome. Today as I was walking around in the rain, Pandora hit me with about 20 songs in a row that I was glad to hear,and probably would have done more. Twenty songs in a row without pushing that “Next” button is no small feat. Today’s seeds were a song by the Beatnuts and one by Everything but the Girl. I know, but that’s the kind of schizophrenic musical interests I have.

This trolling of my iTunes list brings me to Tanita Tikaram. She had a few hits in the US, at least on college radio. When her debut album “Ancient Heart” came out in 1988, my tastes were running toward singer/songwriters with moody music and vaguely ominous lyrics. I probably still owe the Columbia Record Club for that record.

So, I looked her up on Wikipedia, the way I always do when I remember someone I used to like and want to know whether they’ve got new stuff to listen to. Most of the time, this leads to very little – abandoned fan sites, cookie-cutter discography sites thrown together by disintrested labels – but it turns out Tanita has a blog, and she updates it. Way more than I do. And it turns out she’s still pretty awesome.

So I’m reading her blog, and I come across a fact that is so odd that I will probably be shoe-horning it into conversations for the next few days. Tanita posts songs that she likes now and then, and one of them is a Karen Carpenter song. In her description of the song, she mentions that shortly before Karen’s untimely passing, Rod Temperton pitched her some early versions of songs he was working on. Rod Temperton is a big-deal pop/soul songwriter, but Karen passed on both because they were “too funky” for her. Those songs were called “Off the Wall” and “Rock with You” and both of them went on to perform quite well for a newly solo Michael Jackson. How cool is that? Can you even imagine a version of “Off the Wall” sung by Karen Carpenter? I mean, maybe “Rock with You.” Maybe.

Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” record is the first 8-track I remember buying with my own allowance money, and I listened to it obsessively with my eyes closed, laying on the living room carpet wearing my dad’s dodgy headphones. My memory of that record is crystalline. But somehow, through the magic of hyperlinks, Tanita Tikaram just taught me a new fact about it after more than 30 years that makes me see it in a new way.

I apologize in advance if you’re eating dinner with me anytime soon. This might well come up.

This post was written by MisterDee


  • That is so completely awesome. I would love to hear a Karen Carpenter “Rock with You”.

    • MisterDee

      I would too – I spent a long time trying to imagine how she would have swung it. I ended up with the idea of a sort of slightly squarish bossa-nova version. I still don’t have an idea for how “Off the Wall” would have been Carpenterized.

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