For our “music” episode, Canadian comedy legend Sean Cullen joins us to talk about music-inspired riots, castrati, music as torture, Norwegian black metal and backmasking. Plus movies, TV, and Lesser of Two Evils: would you rather be a castrato or have soot wart?

Music: “Cacheevo” by Sean Cullen




34 Responses

  1. Yeah! Legend of Beaver Dam is the best movie I saw last year. I’m really looking forward to listening to this episode now!

  2. The purported riot at the premiere of The Rite of Spring is an urban legend, spread mainly by Stravinsky himself. The folks at the great podcast Scopes Monkey Choir ( ) did a thorough investigation of it last year, even going so far as to reference the French and British newspaper and magazine archives of the time. From what they reported, the crowd reaction was not unusual for a Parisian crowd at the time. Most of the complaints had to do with the choreography, rather than the music, but there was no riot, as the audience happily stayed for the second ballet that evening.

    1. Interesting. I knew it was controversial, but the sources I found seemed reliable. Somebody should perhaps update wikipedia and howstuffworks!

      1. Well, what started the idea to do the episode was the legend being reported as fact on NPR, a usually reliable source. The idea that the music could cause a riot certainly added to the mystique of the piece, so it’s no wonder the legend has persisted so strongly.

  3. I reckon something more annoying that that gitmo music you spoke about would be to constantly cut and change the music mid-song. When I was a boarder (high school), a guy in my grade decided for some perverse reason to make a 90 minute mix tape consisting completely of 4 second segments of songs. It was excruciating having to listen to it! Gladly someone taped over it with silence within a few days.

    1. That cut-and-paste aesthetic can be kind of incredible at times: Hugo Keesing’s “Chart Sweep” ( is a pretty fantastic tour of North American pop music history.

      In other news, Robert Jordan was the guy who wrote those “Wheel of Time” doorstops; the deal-with-the-devil bluesman was Robert Johnson. Anybody with any respect for the guy should not watch the following video:

  4. I thought there was a lot of prestige and status for the Castrati and their families too (and wealth, maybe – not having to be a chimneys weep at least), and they were young enough not to be worrying about sex too much by the time they were “adjusted”.

    That recording of the Castratus (?) singing really didn’t inspire me either – a woman’s voice would have been much better.

    The intermission song, however, was awesome! That gets my vote for this year. (Another survey, anyone?) 🙂

    1. If you enjoyed Sean’s “Cacheevo” that we used in the intermission I would STRONGLY suggest you get his album “I’m a Human Man” (iTunes etc) – my personal fave tracks are “Addicted to Disco”, “Punks” and “Shitstorm.” And if you want to hear his stand up you can’t go wrong with “Sean Cullen Live” – Here is some random stand up:

  5. Awesome episode!

    My favourite movies involving music in a dark and nasty way are the Robert Englund slasher version of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1989) in which the phantom covers his disfigurement with the faces of his victims; Polanski’s DEATH AND THE MAIDEN in which Ben Kingsley’s evil Doctor sexually tortured Sigourney Weaver whilst playing Schubert; and DEVIL’S MUSIC, a mockumentary in which a Satanic-themed songstress turns out to be a literal Lesser of Two Evils…

    btw 18 AGAIN starred George Burns and Charlie Schlatter, not Patrick Dempsey 🙂

  6. oh! about the music torture: the music is played ridiculously loud, like jet engine loud, sometimes two or more songs at once.

  7. That Mayhem album “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” is pretty solid, if you like that sort of thing.

    1. Great show! Sean was an excellent addition to your team. Also wanted to bring up the Disaster Area band, if only fictional. And agree that the intermission song was one of the best. Although have been meaning to commend you on the “I don’t want to die up here” song from the Vlad the Impaler episode. The podcast keeps getting better and bettter. You’ve come a long way since Sharks!

    2. Yeah, I was disappointed there was no mention of Disaster Area, myself. Any band who has to play their instruments from orbit around the planet, or, better, an entirely different planet, for their own protection, has to be considered caustic. I haven’t seen the Hitchhiker’s Guide movie that came out a few years ago, so don’t know if Disaster Area was mentioned there; I’ve noticed that TV and books are rarely referenced in the pop culture segment. The mention of Buffy vs Dracula is the only TV reference i can think of. Otherwise, they seem to stick to movies and comics. If they mined TV, they could easily make the already long episodes even longer (not that I’d complain, but the hosts should be allowed to have lives, I guess).

      1. I blame Joe since presumably he has read the books. I am pretty sure that Disaster Area wasn’t mentioned in the movie since I have seen it twice. As for TV/books, I usually put a few on the list to discuss but by the time we get to that segment we’re already way over on time. Someday we will learn to time manage better. Maybe.

  8. A little more on the Disco Riot – there was a documentary about the rise of House music in the US (which was basically a direct offshoot of the disco/gay scene) and one of the early House DJs interviewed (can’t remember his name right this second), was at the riot, and said the huge response was basically about hate in general, not of the music – attendees were tossing Marvin Gaye and other black (but not disco) albums onto the pile. It’s still talked about as a bit of a big joke, but it was basically a giant stew of ugly. Sadly, the comedy take will likely survive the test of time. (glum)

    1. Yeah, that was my understanding as well, that it was your classic populism run amok at the end of a decade and a half of some tolerance for people that weren’t white, male, and straight. Not that it was an indicator of an impending shift in politics, or anything …

  9. I have some problems with the book Men who Stare at Goats (I’m not bothering with the fictionalized movie), but it makes one great point at the end. By choosing stuff like the Barney song, it makes it all but impossible to point out that these activities are torture, they just become a big pop culture joke. One of my problems with this is of course that Ronson is doing the exact same thing with a book entitled “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” taking activities that are torture, linking them somewhat tenuously to far goofier 70s era programs (the basic premise of the book is following a small cadre of special ops guys with hippie leanings who in the wake of Vietnam were allowed to experiment with New Age warfare techniques, and then fast-forwarding to the 1990s when we find that some of their limited successes with psychological warfare have been turned into torture of prisoners, and it isn’t even that convincing a link), and giving the whole thing a ridiculous name. This name appeals more to a “This American Life”-style BoBo human interest story sensibility than something more sinister, and then turns into a fictionalized comedy starring Obi Wan Kenobi and George Clooney.

  10. The “Men who stare at goats” film was certainly ridiculous. The book left you with a feeling that a lot of it might, in fact, be true, but the film was just a stupid story, nothing remotely credible, which then meant it was just weird rather than either entertaining or informative/revealing.

  11. I have to say that I am not a fan of Sean Cullen. I don’t really enjoy his stand-up. This is said will all due respect to him, of course. I thought he was fantastic on your show, however, and he made me laugh out loud repeatedly, which he normally is not able to do. Definitely get him back on the show at some point.

  12. Speaking as someone who had to endure the disco era, I will confirm that the hate for disco, at least for a teenager/young adult at the DiscApocalypse, was valid and justified, but maybe not for the music per se. Growing up in Edmonton at the time, there were 2 kinds of music available on the radio, Disco and country – despite over 20 stations broadcasting. My generation could not help but feel the station programmers were deliberately torturing us. When a “Rock” station plays nothing but Bee Gees, Donna Summer, Patti LaBelle, and Wacko-Jacko 24/7, one can only assume that the DJ’s, managers, and owners had a major hate-on for the younger generation.

    As a mature adult, I can appreciate the talent and sounds (of some of the artists) of disco, but only because I have had a few decades to recover from the PTSD. I still hate disco in general, and scramble to turn down the volume when most of the “classics” get aired.

    Disco STILL sucks!


  13. I was a little late on this one, but I recommend looking into The Eugenics Council as a caustic musical performance. The group often threw explosives into the crowd (including some duds and some with ultra-long fuses to throw people off) and there’s also a story of how the band attacked the lead singer in the middle of a live show, critically beating her until she was hospitalized. She rejoined the band after release.

  14. You mentioned the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” movie with the Bee-Gees, Peter Frampton a.o. reinterpreting famous songs by the Beatles. I haven’t actually gotten around to watching that one yet, but I just wanted to say that I quite enjoyed the 2007 movie “Across the Universe” directed by Julie Taymor—a much less campy musical built around a total of about 30 different Beatles’ songs. Most of the songs are performed by the principal cast who don’t have a ton of name-recognition, but who *can* at least sing significantly better than Ewan MacGregor could in “Moulin Rouge” (or Paul Sorvino in “Repo: The Genetic Opera”, a wonderfully caustic movie where Anthony Head from Buffy shows off his own vocal skills). A few of the songs in “Across the Universe” are performed by notable stars who made cameos (Joe Cocker, Eddie Izzard and Bono). The soundtrack is available on iTunes, but make sure you check out the “Deluxe” edition which has all 31 songs.

  15. The man who murdered Euronymous, Varg Vikernes, still records music to this day and writes his crazy “I’m not a Nazi – I just hate people who aren’t me” crap at

    I listen to black metal, a lot of them pretend to be satanists, but some of the actually are Nazis. Which makes it difficult to enjoy otherwise decent music.

  16. this is real music torture.
    this piece was actually used in a short story as a broadcast played to make prisoners contemplate suicide.

  17. I listened to this episode in the car and specifically visited this page to see the promised video of Joe doing karaoke, but it doesn’t seem to be here. There is one video that says “this video does not exist” when you try to play it, so that could be it. Either way, I’m very disappointed. 😛