Translator Again Everywhere That I’m Not


Will sent me a little video of the band Translator playing one of their rare gigs back in 2009 at Slim’s in San Francisco. Translator has been a problem for me for almost three decades. In the early 80s, they were really big around here—kind of like American Music Club in the early 90s. But then they more or less broke up, probably for the usual reasons: they were popular but not popular enough to make a decent living. That was bad enough, because they were great live. But it was less than ten years ago that their four albums from that period came out on CD.

At one point, I did manage to get a digitized copy made from vinyl of their first album, Heartbeats & Triggers. It is a great album—one of my favorites. They were literate and funny and combined this with wonderfully expansive music. They were one of the few bands who could do an extended jam without losing control of the musical structure and devolving into narcissism. A good example of this is their underground hit, “Everywhere That I’m Not.” If you are familiar with with the song, you should listen to the live version at Slim’s, where you can hear the audience singing along with it. But here’s the video for it, which is dreadful as most videos of that time, but the song is great:

According to Wikipedia, ten years after its release, “Cry for a Shadow” was mistaken by some people as The Beatles version. It’s hard to imagine anyone making that mistake. I guess it is because it’s an instrumental. As it is, I don’t think it was ever on an album. It was the B-side of “Break Down Barriers” from their second album, No Time Like Now. (The title song is very much typical of them.)

Their third album was just Translator. I think a lot of bands, by that time, just can’t be bothered to come up with a title. But it is an excellent album, although a bit uneven. I remember rather liking “Another American Night” and “O Lazarus,” although it’s been years since I heard the album. And I don’t much remember their fourth album, Evening of The Harvest.

But what’s exciting, and the reason that I’m writing about Translator today, is that two years ago they released a new album, Big Green Lawn. Unfortunately, it apparently hasn’t been released as a CD but just as MP3. And you know me: I’m an Old Man who likes something tangible. I listened to the clips on Amazon and it sounds rather good. So if money ever starts flowing again, I may be forced to buy my first MP3. I did, however, find this sorta music video for the first song on the album, “Soul on Fire.” It is very good:

If you haven’t checked out Translator in the past, I highly recommend doing so. They are a great band with a lot more to offer than most music I come upon these days.

Austerity Is Always a Good Idea Even When it Isn’t

Dean BakerDean Baker has noted a common bit of conservative propaganda, UK Conservatives Redefine Success Downward. What has been going on is that the conservative government under George Osborne has imposed harsh austerity on the country since 2010. Even though the economy was terribly depressed, the government went along with Alberto Alesina’s loony idea that less spending and higher taxes would be good for growth. The results were predictable for anyone but the true believers: the recovery stalled and they had a double dip recession.

After almost three years of this policy not working, the government reversed course. And the economy bounced back substantially. So now Osborne is running around claiming that the government was right to impose austerity on the country. Paul Krugman wrote earlier this week, “If I keep hitting myself in the head with a baseball bat, and then I stop, I will start to feel better; this doesn’t mean that hitting yourself in the head with a baseball bat is a good thing.” And that’s a very good analogy.

Osborne specifically mentioned that last year the UK investment spending rose 8.8%, four times the 2.2% rate in the US. But as Baker pointed out, you can’t just pick a good year and claim that everything is great—especially when it is clearly the result of you not doing the thing you now claim was good. He provided the following graph that in addition to everything else, shows that the UK hasn’t even made it back to pre-crisis levels of investment spending:

UK vs US Investment

This is why it is almost impossible to have political debates: if a government pushes bad policy long enough, things will work out. Often that’s the case when the bad policy clearly doesn’t work, so it is changed. Even after this, the Osborne government claims they are vindicated when the lack of their policies improve the situation. It’s just hopeless.

American Original Tiny Tim

Tiny TimWhere I grew up here in California, much of the milk comes from Clover Stornetta Farms. And for decades, they have advertised using billboards featuring their mascot, a white milk cow named Clo. And these billboards always feature puns. For example, in one, Clo is dressed as a judge and she has quart of milk in her “hand.” The billboard proudly proclaims, “Supreme Quart.” There have been hundreds of these over the years, most of them real groaners: “Splendor in the Glass” or “Claude Moonet” or “No Business Like Clo Business.” But one of them was especially inspired. It was 25 years ago. They had Clo prancing through a field of tulips. And the caption read, “Tip Clo Through Your Two Lips.”

I bring this up because on this day in 1932, Herbert Khaury was born. But you probably know him better as Tiny Tim. But I’m not that interested in his one hit (which reach #17 on the pop charts), “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.” He did far greater work. But even apart from the music, he is really interesting as a historian of Tin Pan Alley songs. I once heard that he had over a thousand songs memorized. That’s an incredible feat, especially given the diversity of the work.

As an act, he doesn’t seem that strange to me. He used the high pitch voice and wore makeup. But if you watch him on Laugh-In, he does whatever is necessary for the joke. I tend to think people like him are the bravest people around. He clearly wasn’t worried that people were going to get the wrong idea about him. He was an entertainer. Ultimately, I think he found an act that people were willing to pay for, so he ran with it.

Personally, I would rather just hear him sing. His first album, God Bless Tiny Tim (Funny title!) is a great album. It is filled with classics like “Livin’ In the Sunlight, Lovin’ in the Moonlight” and “Daddy, Daddy, What is Heaven Like?” In the second song, we can hear his beautiful baritone voice as the “Daddy” part. He sounds a bit like Dean Martin. The whole album is kind of like what The Madcap Laughs might have been like if Syd Barrett hadn’t been crazy.

But that isn’t all. Right before he died, he produced Girl with Brave Combo—the band he always deserved. Of particular note is perhaps the greatest version of “Stairway to Heaven” ever. The title track is a cover of The Beatles’ “Girl,” which is also better than the original. The album really doesn’t have a single loser: “New York, New York,” “Springtime In The Rockies” (sorry, no link), and a wonderful version of “Over the Rainbow.” But just see if you can avoid smiling while listening to this rousing version of “Hey Jude”:

Happy birthday Tiny Tim!