The Grey Album

Something that kept me up until the wee hours of the morning were little projects that I would start with the idea of going to bed in a little bit. Midnight would roll around and the next thing I know, the sun would be coming up or my wife would be leaning on the door jamb wondering why I hadn’t gone to bed while she was about to head to work. Projects included tweaking websites, screwing around in PhotoShop or fiddling about with some audio production.

This was partially the reason why I am so tickled with Mashup artists like Girl Talk, DJ Earworm and Danger Mouse. It’s not just the construction part of things that blow me away, that’s maybe 1/3 of the process. What blows me away is the deconstruction of the original tracks.

Take Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album. Getting the Jay-Z lyrics was easy; they were released commercially through iTunes and some other avenues. The Beatles White Album wasn’t. The Beatles music and lyrics are so deep under lock and key that anybody that wants anything to do with them seemingly needs to have body parts offered up at the altar of the record company. This is one of the reasons I applaud Danger Mouse for this project.

Not only did he have to take apart The Beatles tracks and decide which parts to use or throw out, he also had to match the parts that he did keep with Jay-Z’s flow. All the while retaining the integrity of The Beatles original music. It would be easy if he were using the beat from an unknown Iggy Pop track and then distorting it in a way to make it sound fresh. Danger Mouse was playing with The Beatles music, something that people who don’t speak English as a first language recognize.

Was this a huge-selling album? Well, no. While Jay-Z, Paul McCartney nor Ringo Starr had any issue with the release of the album, the record company (rhymes with EMI) took umbrage that someone was making money on one of their properties without permission. The original pressing of the album was for about 3,000 copies…and then the internet got a whiff of the album and the rest is history.

To protest the need to restructure the music industry, approximately 170 different websites offered it as a free download for 24 hours in February of 2004. As part of Grey Tuesday, the album was downloaded approximately 100,000 times.

Public Service Announcement2:45
What More Can I Say4:25
December 4th3:35
99 Problems4:07
Dirt Off Your Shoulder3:59
Moment of Clarity4:00
Change Clothes4:05
Justify My Thug4:13
My 1st Song4:45