Desert Island Disks

Whenever I’m in town, I usually hook up with maman on Saturday afternoons for some mother-daughter jamming. We both play flute and piano, trading off so we both get practice on each instrument. We usually work on classical and jazz pieces, and sometimes we enlist my partner Alicia to provide cello support. When we delve into rock or folk music we’ll occasionally let my father join the party to accompany us on acoustic guitar. Over the past few months we’ve been working on piano-flute arrangements for Radiohead songs, as both maman and I find their music fascinating. My old fart father loathes Radiohead, so whenever we go there, he heads for one of the Irish pubs in Nice (yes, we have them) while maman and I get down to business.

A couple of weeks ago, maman and I were trying to work out an arrangement for “Daydreaming” from A Moon Shaped Pool. The piano part is pretty straightforward, so most of the work focused on the flute. Since maman is the more capable flutist, she experimented with various possibilities while I handled the ivories and gave feedback. We decided early on that once the melody was established, she would shift to a combination of double tonguing and whisper tones for her improvisations to reflect the gentle flow of the song and the orchestral feel of the album. While whisper tones are an absolute bitch for me, maman has the discipline and patience to pull them off. After a couple of hours we recorded a credible rendition on Garage Band with some beautifully quirky partials produced by the whisper tones.

Please note that the recording is for personal use only and cannot be distributed because we don’t want Radiohead to sue us.

Maman wanted to hear the original again before we quit for the day, and the album continued to spin while we discussed other possibilities for the piece. About thirty seconds into “Desert Island Disk,” Dad popped in.

“Great guitar—who is that?”

“It’s Radiohead, dude! Gotcha!”

Dad frowned. “I never said they didn’t have talent. I just don’t like the results.” He then paused to listen. “Okay, this song’s pretty good. Nice latin feel. What’s it called?”

“‘Desert Island Disk’.”

“So, what’s on Radiohead’s desert island disk?”

“They don’t say. The song’s about love, loss and change,” I explained, economically.

“Then why the title?”

“I don’t know. There’s a BBC programme where famous people pick eight songs, a book and a luxury they would take with them to a desert island. Maybe that got stuck in Thom Yorke’s head.”

“What does that have to do with love, loss and change?”

“I don’t know, dad—maybe it’s a riff on the getting a new start in life theme.”

“Hey! We ought to do that!”

“What? Get a new life? We just changed continents a few years ago!”

“No—come up with our desert island disks.”

I immediately liked the idea but had to change the rules. “There’s no fucking way I can live on a desert island with only eight songs. I’d go batty the first day and feed myself to the sharks.” It wasn’t difficult to get a family of music lovers to agree to an extended format, so after a lot of back-and-forth we agreed that we’d choose twenty albums. Then I pointed out a problem with the plan.

“There are some songs that are really important to me but I don’t want the whole album.”

“Okay—how many? Eight?”

“No, let’s go with classic British album format—fourteen.”

“No luxuries, no books?” asked maman.

“Okay—one book, one luxury. I’ll go with Ulysses and a vibrator.” As soon as I said that, I realized there was a fundamental flaw in the logic. “We can’t listen to music without electricity, and the batteries in my vibrator won’t last forever. Do we have to go to a desert island?”

Maman pointed out that since this was an exercise in fantasy, we could imagine an island with plenty of solar panels to keep the juice flowing. Sometimes the Spock side of me is really stupid.

Alicia came over later and agreed to participate. Maman put hers together in less than an hour. The rest of us struggled for days; I only finished mine this morning. Even with the expanded format, the process was agonizing. I don’t consider my list a “best of” list, but took into consideration the existential reality of being alone on a desert island, choosing music with long-lasting replay potential. Had I been allowed to bring my partner, the list would have been more fuck-friendly.

So here are my family’s desert island disks, supplemented with explanatory comments.

Moi

Albums:

  1. London Calling, The Clash
  2. Monk’s Dream, Thelonious Monk
  3. Kid A, Radiohead
  4. In Rainbows, Radiohead
  5. And Out Come the Wolves, Rancid
  6. The Complete Recordings, Robert Johnson
  7. Odessey and Oracle, The Zombies
  8. The Best of Louis Armstrong: The Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings
  9. Love Deluxe, Sade
  10. Ultimate!, The Yardbirds
  11. A Hard Day’s Night, The Beatles
  12. Between the Buttons, The Rolling Stones
  13. Lola vs. The Powerman and the Money-Go-Round, The Kinks
  14. A Passion Play, Jethro Tull
  15. Hunky Dory, David Bowie
  16. The Best of Muddy Waters
  17. Clues, Robert Palmer
  18. Always, June Tabor
  19. Lady Day: The Best of Billie Holiday
  20. The Definitive Collection, Patsy Cline

Tracks:

  1. “Strawberry Fields Forever,” The Beatles
  2. “Don’t Mess with Me,” Brody Dalle
  3. “I Can’t Get Next to You,” The Temptations
  4. “Celluloid Heroes,” The Kinks
  5. “Only the Lonely,” Roy Orbison
  6. “Arms Aloft,” Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
  7. “Let Down,” Radiohead
  8. “Codex,” Radiohead
  9. “Debaser,” Pixies
  10. “Beeswing,” Richard Thompson
  11. “The Party,” Phil Ochs
  12. “Hello, Susie,” The Move
  13. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” The Rolling Stones
  14. “Severed Crossed Fingers,” St. Vincent

Comments: My list shouldn’t be much of a surprise to my readers. I really struggled choosing between Revolver and A Hard Day’s Night, but I thought I’d need upbeat energy without anyone around to fuck. The most difficult decision was leaving off “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman” by Whistling Jack Smith, but I figured I could whistle all by my lonesome. A year ago the St. Vincent album would have made the list but her latest release, Masseduction, was a crushing disappointment.

Dad

Albums:

  1. Revolver, The Beatles
  2. Sgt. Pepper, The Beatles
  3. Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan
  4. At Fillmore East, The Allman Brothers Band
  5. For Everyman, Jackson Browne
  6. Triangle, The Beau Brummels
  7. In My Life, Judy Collins
  8. Blue, Joni Mitchell
  9. Kind of Blue, Miles Davis
  10. Beggars Banquet, The Rolling Stones
  11. Muswell Hillbillies, The Kinks
  12. Trout Mask Replica, Captain Beefheart
  13. Aqualung, Jethro Tull
  14. Liege and Lief, Fairport Convention
  15. After the Gold Rush, Neil Young
  16. The 12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, Spirit
  17. Are You Experienced?, Jimi Hendrix
  18. The Great Twenty-Eight, Chuck Berry
  19. Pleasures of the Harbor, Phil Ochs
  20. Surrealistic Pillow, Jefferson Airplane

Tracks

  1. “Hey Jude,” The Beatles
  2. “Ticket to Ride,” The Beatles
  3. “All Day and All of the Night,” The Kinks
  4. “Come See About Me,” The Supremes
  5. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” The Tokens
  6. “She’s Not There,” The Zombies
  7. “Like a Rolling Stone,” Bob Dylan
  8. “As Tears Go By,” Marianne Faithfull
  9. “I Still Love You,” The Vejtables
  10. “19th Nervous Breakdown,” The Rolling Stones
  11. “Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” The Four Tops
  12. “End of the Line,” The Traveling Wilburys
  13. “O My Soul,” Big Star
  14. “Maybe I’m Amazed,” Paul McCartney

Comments: I could have identified 98% of the entries without breaking a sweat: Dad really doesn’t care all that much for music released after 1975. The only surprise was the lack of a Donovan track or album. “You’ve ruined him for me,” he explained, referring to my not-very-positive reviews. “And that is something for which you should be eternally grateful,” I replied.

Dad’s choice of book was Dostoyevsky’s The Devils, and his luxury a case of 2007 Heitz Cellars’ Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

Maman

  1. Schubert, Symphony No. 9 (The Great), Wolfgang Sawallisch
  2. Masterpieces, The Duke Ellington Orchestra
  3. In the Court of the Crimson King, King Crimson
  4. Days of Future Passed, The Moody Blues
  5. Kid A, Radiohead
  6. A Love Supreme, John Coltrane
  7. Flute Concertos, Jean-Pierre Rampal
  8. Hejira, Joni Mitchell
  9. Rosa Mundi, June Tabor
  10. La Question, Françoise Hardy
  11. Dvorak, 8 Slavonic Dances, Rafael Kubelik
  12. Mahler, Symphony No. 9, Herbert von Karajan
  13. Boîte à Bonbons, Jacques Brel
  14. The Indispensable Django Reinhardt
  15. Platinum Collection, Edith Piaf
  16. Out to Lunch, Eric Dolphy
  17. The Golden Flute, Yusef Lateef
  18. Thick as a Brick, Jethro Tull
  19. Stand Up!, Jethro Tull
  20. The Art of Segovia, Andrés Segovia

Tracks

  1. “Question,” The Moody Blues
  2. “Comme un Garçon,” Sylvie Vartan
  3. “Que C’est Triste Venise,” Charles Azvanour
  4. “Billie Jean,” Michael Jackson
  5. “Lucky Man,” Emerson, Lake & Palmer
  6. “Pigs (Three Different Ones),” Pink Floyd
  7. “Eleanor Rigby,” The Beatles
  8. “Never Comes the Day,” The Moody Blues
  9. “Blue in Green,” Miles Davis
  10. “Japanese Folk Song,” Thelonious Monk
  11. “Si C’est Ça,” Françoise Hardy”
  12. “White Rabbit,” Jefferson Airplane
  13. “Inner City Blues,” Marvin Gaye
  14. “Me Ama Mô,” Simone

Comments: Maman’s collection will last the longest, as she included a few box sets. Clever girl! The one that really blew me away was “Billie Jean,” as I had no idea maman took Michael Jackson seriously or even liked him a little. “Thriller has some very inventive arrangements,” she said, trying to bullshit me. “Come on, maman, truth!” She gave me a stern look, then a smile started to crack the mask. “The music seizes my body and forces it to dance!” I promised her a review in the near future.

Her book is a collection of Maupassant short stories and she decided to take her pet Papillon along as her luxury.

Alicia

Albums

  1. Something Else, The Kinks
  2. Urban Hymns, The Verve
  3. To Bring You My Love, PJ Harvey
  4. Senderos de Traición, Héroes de Silencio
  5. OK Computer, Radiohead
  6. Rodrigo, Concierto Como un Divertimento, Julian Lloyd Webber
  7. Some Girls, The Rolling Stones
  8. Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, Arctic Monkeys
  9. A Night at the Opera, Queen
  10. Sam’s Town, The Killers
  11. You Could Have Said It So Much Better, Franz Ferdinand
  12. Love Deluxe, Sade
  13. Bach, Six Unaccompanied Cello Suites, Yo-Yo Ma
  14. Sea Change, Beck
  15. Rage Against the Machine, Rage Against the Machine
  16. Superunknown, Soundgarden
  17. The Argument, Fugazi
  18. And Justice for All, Metallica
  19. Get Your Wings, Aerosmith
  20. A Boy Named Goo, Goo Goo Dolls

Tracks

  1. “I’ll Never Find Another You,” The Seekers
  2. “Come As You Are,” Nirvana
  3. “Everlong,” Foo Fighters
  4. “Dream On,” Aerosmith
  5. “Hush,” Deep Purple
  6. “Angeline,” PJ Harvey
  7. “You Really Got Me,” The Kinks
  8. “Brand New Cadillac,” The Clash
  9. “White Wedding Pt. 1,” Billy Idol
  10. “Heroes,” David Bowie
  11. “Girl U Want,” Devo
  12. “The Best of Jill Hives,” Guided by Voices
  13. “Hide and Seek,” Imogen Heap
  14. “Bodysnatchers,” Radiohead

Comments: Although she plays classical cello beautifully and reveals to the world a consistently sunny disposition sweetened even further by excellent manners, her musical tastes triangulate around hard rock, progressive, metal and just fucking angry. I really didn’t take her seriously as a potential partner until she told me she likes her music rough and raucous. Alicia is much more into the early sounds of the 21st century than I am, but she has persuaded me to include a few of her favorite tracks on our fuck playlists. The attachment to early Kinks dates back to childhood; the Seekers’ tune and “Everlong” are “our songs.”

Alicia chose Story of O for her book and her favorite dildo (actually, it’s mine, since I’m the one who straps it on) as her luxury. She’s hoping to figure out a way to attach it to a palm tree and back in for some doggy-style memories.

Join the fun! Let’s hear about your Desert Island Disks!

20 responses

  1. This post has what is possibly the greatest closing lines to any post I’ve ever read….I love your partner and your family!! You are missing absolutely nothing here in the U.S. of A…..

    Like

    1. Aww, thank you. If I didn’t have to write introductions and endings I could write three times as many reviews—those are the parts that are real struggles for me. And yeah, the news from the USA is consistently alarming, so when I say I thank my mother every day for French citizenship, I’m not exaggerating. She’s getting sick of me telling her that, but I mean it with every fiber of my being.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You asked for it, but hope you can forgive me reversing the rules in that I’ve opted for 14 albums and 20 singles as I’ve always been more of a 45’s man. No doubt this would look a bit different if I compiled it tomorrow, but… all these are listed in original order of release, not preferential as that would be impossible to do.

    ALBUMS
    Pink Floyd – Piper At The Gates of Dawn
    Simon and Garfunkel – Bookends
    The Beatles – White Album
    Frank Zappa and The Mothers – Uncle Meat
    Scott Walker – Scott 3
    Phil Ochs – Rehearsals For Retirement
    King Crimson – In The Court of The Crimson King
    Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs
    The Move – Shazam
    Love Sculpture – Forms and Feelings
    The Pretty Things – Parachute
    Miles Davis – Get Up With It
    Kevin Ayers – Rainbow Takeaway
    Portishead – Dummy

    SINGLES
    The Shadows – Apache
    Jill and The Boulevards – And Now I Cry
    Geoff Goddard – Sky Men
    Del Shannon – Keep Searchin’ (Follow The Sun)
    The Beatles – We Can Work It Out
    The Zombies – Just Out Of Reach
    Yardbirds – Happenings Ten Years Time Ago
    The Misunderstood – I Can Take You To The Sun
    The Who – Pictures of Lily
    The Pink Floyd – See Emily Play
    The Rolling Stones – We Love You
    The Kinks – Autumn Almanac
    The Pretty Things – Defecting Grey
    Earth and Fire – Maybe Tomorrow, Maybe Tonight
    Wizzard – See My Baby Jive
    Babe Ruth – Doctor Love (a B side, but…)
    Kirsty MacColl – They Don’t Know
    Soft Cell – Torch
    Propaganda – Duel
    The Bristols – Turn It On

    Like

    1. Rules are meant to be broken. Interesting list! Surprised to see Syd Barrett represented so well, and the absence of post-Syd Pink Floyd speaks volumes. Dad’s always on my ass about Zappa so I’ll probably have to get there someday. I’ve never heard The Misunderstood, so hurray, I have something to explore! I wasn’t expecting to see Radiohead, but very surprised to see no PJ.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, Syd is my number one hero and inspiration! I don’t dislike some of what the Floyd did after he was booted but once they get to “Atom Heart Mother”, I’m bored to tears and can live without everything after that!

        The Misunderstood… that single was a bit ahead of it’s time, a great moody dynamic slice of psychedelia and the band had a very curious history. PJ? No space in the limits of the lists and albums wise, would be a toss up between “4 Track Demos” and “Songs From The City”

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  3. More love than I wold have expected for Tull. Somehow Benefit got left out.

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    1. Two flutists in the family! Nearly all Tull albums from Stand Up! to Songs from the Wood were considered, but I had to make some hard choices.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I loved Tull growing up and got to see them on the Warchild tour – the one with the jockstrap 😦

        I think I would take Living in the Past. Double album!

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  4. The one that made me smile was “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” by Pink Floyd on your mom’s list. That’s a pretty difficult Floyd track–angry and heavy and long. I don’t see anything remotely similar to that one on her list. I like your choice of “Beeswing” by Richard Thompson–a nice obscure track. I seem to have the most in common with your dad. If I was born the same year he was (instead of in 1966) my lists would probably be very similar to his.

    Here are my 20 albums:

    The Beatles–Rubber Soul
    Pink Floyd–Meddle
    Steely Dan–Aja
    Led Zeppelin–Physical Graffiti
    R.E.M.–Murmur
    Neil Young–After The Gold Rush
    Felt–Poem Of The River
    The Kinks–The Village Green Preservation Society
    Dire Straits–Dire Straits
    Radiohead–OK Computer
    Yes–Close To The Edge
    Galaxie 500–On Fire
    Belle and Sebastian–The Boy With The Arab Strap
    Roxy Music–Avalon
    Nick Drake–Bryter Later
    Bruce Cockburn–Dancing In The Dragon’s Jaws
    Nilsson–Harry
    The Who–Who’s Next
    The Band–Music From Big Pink
    The Rolling Stones–Sticky Fingers

    And my 14 songs:

    The Cure–In Between Days
    Mojave 3–Some Kinda Angel
    The Cars–Touch and Go
    Bob Dylan–Visions Of Johanna
    The Velvet Underground–Rock And Roll
    Elf Power–Jane
    The Go-Betweens–Spring Rain
    Television–Venus
    Al Stewart–The Year Of The Cat
    Can–Moonshake
    Big Star–O My Soul
    Brian Eno–The True Wheel
    The Replacements–I Will Dare
    Van Morrison–Saint Dominic’s Preview

    Like

    1. Ooh—great lists! Aja, Village Green, Who’s Next, Sticky Fingers . . . man, I should have made it 50 albums. Very eclectic songs list, too!

      Like

    2. p. s. “Pigs” is a big, dramatic song, almost symphonic—hence my mother’s attraction.

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  5. After hesitating for awhile and not happy at the thought of breaking your rules (not the first), have decided I can’t resist the temptation of weighing the relative merits of the music I love. Which is, as you’ll see, wide-ranging, can’t possibly restrict to rock & pop. Hence the decision to opt for 2 x 20. Please excuse my indulgence. I fully expect complete agreement on about one half of my choices and a lot of head-scratching for the rest!

    ALBUMS

    THE BEATLES: Rubber Soul
    BOB DYLAN: Blonde on Blonde
    THE KINKS: Something Else
    THE DOORS: Strange Days
    JEFFERSON AIRPLANE: Surrealistic Pillow
    NEIL YOUNG: Rust Never Sleeps
    PROCOL HARUM: A Salty Dog
    ROLLING STONES: Between the Buttons
    STEVIE WONDER: Songs in the Key of Life
    TRAVELING WILBURYS: The Traveling Wilburys Vol 1
    RADIOHEAD: OK Computer
    CESARIA EVORA: Any!
    PAUL SIEBEL: Woodsmoke & Oranges
    LE MYSTERE DES VOIX BULGARES: ditto
    HENRY PURCELL: Dido & Aeneas
    GEORG FRIEDRICH HANDEL: Suites for Keyboards (K. Jarrett)
    FRANZ LISZT: Annèes de Pélerinage/Suisse
    GUSTAV MAHLER: Symphony No 9 (or 10)
    ART BLAKEY & THE JAZZ MESSENGERS: Moanin’
    MUDDY WATERS: Live at Newport 1960

    TRACKS

    MARTHA & THE VANDELLAS: Dancing in the Street
    CHUCK BERRY: Roll Over Beethoven
    THE BEATLES: Girl
    FOUR TOPS: Reach Out
    BOB DYLAN: Like a Rolling Stone
    ROLLING STONES: Jumpin’ Jack Flash
    SIMON & GARFUNKEL: Sounds of Silence
    JEFFERSON AIRPLANE: She Has Funny Cars
    THE YARDBIRDS: Happening 10 Years Time Ago
    NEIL YOUNG: Like a Hurricane
    PROCOL HARUM: A Whiter Shade of Pale
    THE PRETENDERS: Message of Love
    MICHEL POLNAREFF: Lettre à France
    CESARIA EVORA: Sodade
    RADIOHEAD: Paranoid Android
    THE DOORS: When the Music’s Over
    THE KINKS: Sunny Afternoon
    ABBA: Dancing Queen
    SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON: Help Me
    DAVID BOWIE: Where Are We Now?
    KING CRIMSON: Starless & Bible Black

    Oh, damn. That’s one too many. Never could count! (but which one would YOU leave out?!)
    Thanks for listening.

    Like

    1. Great list! The only song to cause an eyebrow to raise was Abba’s. I love the Annèes de Pélerinage, especially the Pastorale and Au bord d’une source passages in the first suite. People tend to be mesmerized by Liszt’s intensity but they fail to appreciate how difficult it is to manage the left-hand parts while you’re right hand is a blur AND cope with his endlessly shifting dynamics. I can’t believe I didn’t include my album of Bulgarian folk music—what was I thinking? Maman is the Mahler fan in the family, but I trust her judgment—I’ll probably get there someday, but since I started the blog I haven’t done any further studies of “classical” music, sticking to things I learned in my teens when I play with maman. Last year I’d resolved to do a review of Schubert’s Great C-Major but couldn’t find the formula for translating it for a audience with no background in music theory and who get irritated when I use an adjective like “ostinato” to try to describe what’s going on in a pop song.

      The only artist I’m not familiar with is Paul Siebel, whom I gather is a songwriter other people made famous. I’ll have to check him out! Evora would make for a very interesting review, and even if no one was interested in my review of Angélique Kidjo, to hell with it.

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  6. What an article! This is essentially how I came up with the idea of my blog: albums and songs I’d bring me to a desert island. Since I’ve got some time off from my studies, I’d gladly write a new post! Thanks for the inspiration! Hope all is well.

    Like

    1. Thank you! That’s a great angle for a blog—it gives you a clear focus so you’re not rummaging around for ideas. I’ve got you on my Reader, so I look forward to hearing your list, post-by-post!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! I’ll keep you informed. Later tonight, I plan to write a couple of reviews. Take care!

        Like

  7. Do you know Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time? I just got turned on to it. Amazing piece of music, with an amazing story (it was written and first performed at a Nazi POW camp). I’d definitely place it on my desert island LP list. There’s a great version on YouTube that shows the score as it goes along. I found it mesmerizing.

    Like

    1. Only superficially. I haven’t listened to much “classical” music since starting the blog but maman keeps me posted on what’s going on and played the piece during dinner one evening about a year ago. I’ve bookmarked the video on YouTube, did a quick take on each movement and it’s the perfect argument for going YouTube Red—there are ads between each movement! WTF! I should have some quiet Sundays in March so I’ll carve out some time to listen to it properly then. Thanks!

      Like

  8. Gosh, was hoping for the odd bit of feedback to my post — if only to have a go at my pretense of offering a consensual list demanding agreement. Just a bit of playful provocation, of course, no such thing is possible (though I sometimes wonder if a kernel of musical excellence — at least in the genre of rock music — can’t be identified. I suppose that’s what (in part) you’re trying to do with this site.
    (the current fashion for relativism is all well and good, but “nous laisse souvent sur notre faim”, as the French expression goes.)

    What can I add? I gave myself more than my allotted numbers, but could have added the Byrds’
    Eight Miles High, for example, or any number of songs from the likes of Gershwin, Berlin, Weil and
    Fats Waller, amongst others. And more especially Bernstein’s score for West Side Story, a milestone in the annals of popular music.

    Finally, thanks for letting me play your game. For years I listened to the original series of Desert Island Discs on the BBC and always fancied the chance to do likewise.

    Like

    1. You should never expect feedback from me on a Saturday. The morning is sleep-in time, the afternoon is music time and the night is fuck-my-heart-out time!

      Cheating in this exercise is expressly allowed. It’s hard, even with the expanded format. So much of what I want to listen to depends on my mood at the moment, so I tried to get as much diversity in the mix as possible but I think I could have done a better job—especially on the orchestral side.

      I have a review of Michael Jackson’s Thriller coming up, and found an interview with Quincy Jones where (among other things) he comments on the lousy musicianship you find in most rock music: http://www.vulture.com/2018/02/quincy-jones-in-conversation.html All I can say is “sigh.”

      Like

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