Category Archives: Identities

Honest: Dire Straits, “Sultans of Swing” (1978)

“Sultans of Swing” was the breakthrough for Dire Straits’ wondrously fresh small-combo sound built around Mark Knopfler sensitively finger-picking his Strat. Weirdly, the song’s subject is a jazz band that plays “Creole music,” with horns “blowing Dixie,” not remotely like … Continue reading

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And Now, a Hook from Our Sponsor

Awaiting takeoff on a recent flight I had no choice but to watch the little screen in front of me once it turned on. It was a United Airlines promo with snippets of Rhapsody in Blue faded in every few … Continue reading

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The Filial Hook: Johnny Rivers, “Memphis” (1964)

Long distance information, give me Memphis Tennessee Help me find a party that tried to get in touch with me Dear Mom, You’re gone these twenty years and more, so I can’t ask you the Hooks question that’s on my … Continue reading

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Autonymous: Big Star, “O My Soul” (1974)

There ought to be an accepted Greek-based word for calling your own name.  How about “autonymy”?[1] Without such a word, how can we designate cases of  athletes referring to their own performance (“I feel like I’m a new Carlos Zambrano”) … Continue reading

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The Auteur Hook: The Honeydogs, “Wilson Boulevard” (2000)

There is a controversial approach to film criticism that looks to a film’s “author” (auteur), usually the director, as the main cause of its meaning and value. Obviously the approach fits some films better than others. Defending auteur theory, the … Continue reading

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The Saddest but Greatest Chorus: The Band, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” (1969)

A musical tone can be appreciated as beautifully smooth (or nicely husky or buzzy) compared with all the sounds that don’t register as musical.  But the most important property it has is its categorical distinction from “background” sound.  Like articulate … Continue reading

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The Who-It-Is Hook: James Taylor as God in Randy Newman’s Faust (1995)

In movies, you bring in Jack Nicholson or Angelina Jolie and you have a substantial persona in your mix, someone with baggage you can play with.  (Angelina Jolie as Grendel’s mother—let Beowulf deal with that!)  It’s a star factor.  Sometimes … Continue reading

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