Monthly Archives: June 2013


This past Friday, I went on a solo date to the Angelika Theatre in Soho to see 20 Feet From Stardom, Morgan Neville’s documentary about background singers. As a female music-fanatic I knew I’d thoroughly enjoy a film featuring Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, and the Ikettes, but I was completely unprepared for the emotional exorcism that took place as I watched the film. Years of emotion poured out of me. I was shaking like a leaf, sobbing uncontrollably. When the movie finished, I waited until the theatre emptied out so I could make a dash for the exit without being seen in such a state.  It was probably the first time I had heard music spoken about in a way that I could truly understand. The music conversation is almost always expressed intellectually, with little room for those seeking less analytical ways to explore and enjoy music. It’s hard not be disheartened when you witness first-hand just how far removed the music industry–record labels, music journalism, record collecting–is from the actual music. And perhaps that’s why the ladies of 20 Feet From Stardom, speaking with such feeling and passion, affected me so severely. Whether … Read more

Twenty Feet From Stardom

I’m just about to dash off to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade this sunny Saturday in NYC, but wanted to check in quickly to urge all of you to PLEASE GO SEE TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM, Morgan Neville’s tremendous and moving tribute to the oft-over-looked background singers like Merry Clayton, the Blossoms and Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, and the Ikettes. It’s a good thing I saw it solo, as I couldn’t stop sobbing, and had to leave the theatre with my sunglasses on : ) Anyway, I shall write lots more about the film next week, but just had to implore you all to see it ASAP, as it’s making the rounds in US theaters this week!  Screening details can be found here.  Let me know what you think!xo-Sheila


A couple months after gushing my heart out over Herb Lester’s impeccably designed, pocket-sized travel maps, an invitation from Mr. Lester arrived at my doorstep, asking if I’d like to prepare a guide to Miami (my go-to destination for many a frigid January). I RSVP’d with a capital “HELL YES!” and promptly set sail for the Floridian coast to more closely investigate both the familiar and the new. It is a spectacular city, an ideal spot for lovers of archictecture, art deco, mid-century modern, and preservation. It’s also home to a large population of Cubans and Haitians, whose restaurants serve mouth-watering sandwiches, stews, and juices made from fruits you’ve probably never heard of. Record collectors will be thrilled by Yesterday and Today’s Records, where you could spend all day flipping through LPs and 45s (all in excellent condition, by the way). I am tempted to divulge all my Miami secrets, but I shall instead direct you to Herb Lester’s site, where you can purchase the Miami guide, so very beautifully designed and illustrated by Javier Garcia. 

The Pleasure-Enhancing Music Experiment: The End

Friends! I apologize for the disruption in the “Pleasure-Enhancing Musical Experiment.” A few days into the experiment, I realized that my initial plan to re-discover the joy of unearthing new music via a very structured, limited musical diet did indeed reignite the thrill of discovery (success!), but on paper, I thought the experiment just turned into a rather dull list of record reviews (fail!). I’ve also learned that I’m quite terrible at sticking to a set schedule and structure with Cha Cha Charming (as I’ve clearly demonstrated with the very un-weekly “Record of the Week”). I’m still trying to feel my way, and perhaps am realizing that I get the most joy out of writing freely about whatever takes my fancy at the moment. So to hell with structure and consistency! There, I feel better already.  Thanks to all of you who have asked about my cat Pumpkin. She’s still in quite a precarious situation with an infection that seems to be immune to most anti-biotics. I’ve decided to try some fairly far-out treatments, as I think I’ve pretty much exhausted the traditional routes. Hopefully the “cat whisperer” that I’ll … Read more

The Pleasure-Enhancing Music Experiment: Day Five

Or “How I Plan to Discover New Songs on the Internet + Not Let it Kill My Love of Music”……Five new songs (no more, no less), five days a week, for 30 days. Thursday June 13th 1. From The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits…….Don Shirley Trio: Waterboy (Cadence, 1961)I’ve never heard anything quite like this, nor did I expect to be so taken by such bizarre, idiosyncratic arrangements. LOVE! 2. From Lost in the Grooves….Graham Gouldman: The Impossible Years (RCA, 1968)Despite my obsession with 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love” and Graham Gouldman’s compositions for little-known Brit girls like Little Frankie (“Happy That’s Me” is some fine perky folk-pop), I’ve never given his solo material a proper listen. BIG mistake. If “The Impossible Years” is anything to go by, The Graham Gouldman Thing LP must surely be a masterpiece. LOVE! 3. My own curiosity….B.J. Thomas: Eyes of a New York Woman (Scepter, 1968)I think I’m more excited to have stumbled upon this site––than I am about the song I discovered on it. Any lover of lists will be mighty pleased by the selection of top 100 song lists, and their peculiar organization into food, cars, cities, … Read more

The Pleasure-Enhancing Music Experiment: Day Four

Or “How I Plan to Discover New Songs on the Internet + Not Let it Kill My Love of Music”……Five new songs (no more, no less), five days a week, for 30 days. Wednesday June 12th 1. From The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits…….Hot: Angel In Your Arms (Big Tree, 1977)A fairly unremarkable soul ballad from what Billboard describes as an “interracial female vocal trio from Los Angeles.”  2. From Lost in the Grooves….Sam Cooke: Lost and Lookin’ (RCA, 1963)Reviewer Kris Kendall recommends listening to Sam Cooke’s Night Beat album as a whole, rather than singling out one song. But upon hearing the achingly beautiful  “Lost and Lookin’,” I’m reminded that I’m seriously missing out on staggering male talents like Sam Cooke. I’m ashamed to admit that I own not one Sam Cooke record, but that’ll all be changing now that I’ve heard this. LOVE! 3. My own curiosity….Chvrches: Gun (Virgin, 2013)The latest single from Scottish trio Chvrches (pronounced “churches”) isn’t breaking new ground with its chiming synth pop and beats you’ve surely heard before. But what they lack in originality is made up with the sweetest pop melodies, a punchy chorus, and an ending … Read more

Blondie’s Parallel Lines Tribute in London

This Thursday June 13th (tomorrow!) writer, journalist, and girl-pop champion Lucy O’Brien will be joining former Lush guitarist Miki Berenyi to pay tribute to Blondie’s Parallel Lines LP from 1978, as part of the Idler Academy and Rock’s Backpages monthly album club. The vinyl LP will be played in full, and followed by a discussion with O’Brien and Berenyi. I’ve attended a couple of very fine events at the Idler Academy (rosé wine tasting and a talk on the history of gold), and I’m gutted to be missing this one. For full details, visit the Idler Academy’s website. 

The Pleasure-Enhancing Music Experiment: Day Three

Or “How I Plan to Discover New Songs on the Internet + Not Let it Kill My Love of Music”……Five new songs (no more, no less), five days a week, for 30 days. Tuesday June 11th 1. From The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits…….Dave Edmunds: I Hear You Knockin’ (MAM, 1971)Yes! To discover such rawkin’ records is precisely why I’ve embarked on this musical journey. I know far too little about ’70s glam + power pop, but this makes me wanna discover more! more! more! And search out the Smiley Lewis and Gale Storm versions that came before.  2. From Lost in the Grooves….Sagittarius: Musty Dusty (Columbia, 1968)Reviewer Andrew Hultkrans suggested beginning with “My World Fell Down” off Sagittarius’ Present Tense LP, which I already know and adore. So I thought I’d try out “Musty Dusty,” which Hultkrans very aptly describes as “an unbearingly cloying lullaby to the singer’s childhood toys.” It’s unlikely I’ll find an occasion where I’ll want to hear this again, but I’m most intrigued to hear the rest of the album. 3. My own curiosity….Empire of the Sun: DNA (EMI, 2013)If I’d been asked to pick my favorite song of the 21st … Read more

The Pleasure-Enhancing Music Experiment: Day Two

Or “How I Plan to Discover New Songs on the Internet + Not Let it Kill My Love of Music”…… On Friday, I wrote about how the internet’s been messing with my pleasure in discovering new music. While the 24-7 availability of the world’s music catalogue should in theory please the hell out of a music obsessive like me, it’s actually done the opposite. It’s killed the thrill of the chase, the mystery, the intrigue, the anticipation that builds from reading/ hearing about a song and finally getting to listen to it. Every time I log onto facebook, twitter, e-mail, I get bombarded with so much music that I don’t even know where to begin. It’s all just a click away, yet I have little desire to listen. Judging by many of the comments and e-mails I’ve received in response to my piece (thank you kindly!), I’m not alone in my inability to manage such mind-boggling access. So rather than let it lead to total paralysis, I’ve decided to follow a strict musical diet in hopes of the “less is more” approach reviving my zest for discovery. The plan is five … Read more

How I Plan to Discover New Songs on the Internet + Not Let it Kill My Love of Music

Music journalist Sophie Heawood wrote in the Guardian recently about wanting to free herself from the clutter of her music collection, and promptly disposed of her life’s worth of CDs, LPs, and tapes. She believed the internet, home to nearly every single piece of music ever recorded on the planet, would provide a far greater listening experience–the freedom to listen to anything you wanted, anytime. Instead she found herself listening to only Rihanna, streaming on Spotify, and soon realized that the internet actually killed her love of music. Fairly shocking for someone whose life was defined by music.  It turns out her relationship with music is a bit more complex than the very black and white physical format versus digital debate, but I can empathize with the overwhelming choice available on the internet as a whole lot less liberating than one would expect. The idea of being able to listen to any song I wanted, whenever I wanted would’ve prompted an ecstatic fit from an 18-year-old me, but in reality, it’s proven to be more overwhelming than thrilling. And the attempt to listen to so much just makes me wanna run to my safe and … Read more