Believe it or not, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales doesn’t know everything in the hugely popular online encyclopedia he helped create, but he does know a thing or two about music – from the mysteries of the heavy metal umlaut to the mentally stimulating powers of the Blue Man Group. As our Guest DJ, he chooses the “soundtrack to youth,” a prog rock classic and a parody song beloved amongst the Wikipedia community.
For More: www.wikipedia.org
1. Spinal Tap "Stonehenge"
2. Blue Man Group "Rods and Cones"
3. Sesame Street theme song
4. Weird “Al” Yankovic “White and Nerdy”
5. Rush "Tom Sawyer"
DW: Hello there, this is Dan Wilcox from KCRW and I have the pleasure of sitting here with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. Wikipedia is the fourth most visited website on the planet and Jimmy has been named one of Time Magazine’s most influential people for his role in creating and promoting it. We're going to be playing some excerpts of songs that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Welcome Jimmy.
JW: Good to be here.
DW: Why don't we just dive into whichever first one you want to choose.
JW: So let’s first do “Stonehenge” by Spinal Tap.
JW: I'm a huge fan of Spinal Tap since the movie first came out. Of course there's that fabulous scene where they're supposed to be dancing in Stonehenge but it's only like eighteen inches tall because of some kind of prop error.
DW: They had two checkmarks for inches instead of the one.
JW: Right. It's a fine line between clever and stupid.
DW: It is.
JW: One of the reasons that I picked Spinal Tap is that there's this really funny thing about the way they spell the name, over the "n" there's an umlaut, so in Wikipedia we have an article about this concept of the heavy metal umlaut. There are a lot of different metal bands who put umlauts in their names for no really good purpose except that it gives it sort of a tough germanic feel somehow.
DW: And putting it over a consonant makes no sense, right? Over the "n"..
JW: In fact, to print it in the article people didn't know how to write it. Somebody actually made an image of it to put in the entry. But it turns out that there is an "n" with an umlaut over it and it's from a native language in Guatemala. I've just always called on that as one of my favorite articles, that's the kind of thing you wouldn't find in the Encyclopedia Britannica.
DW: Ok, I'm sitting here with Jimmy Wales, that was Spinal Tap with the song “Stonehenge.” Jimmy, what's next for us?
JW: Personal favorite of mine is the song “Rods and Cones” by Blue Man Group. I guess people know, they've seen Blue Man Group. They've done some TV commercials and they have shows in different places, but basically it's these guys and they're all painted blue. They have a band who play really awesome music and then they're performing and doing different tricks and amazing things. What's great about the show is there's almost no words in the show -- the blue men don't speak, they just do these funny things so you can watch it anywhere in the world. I’m a huge fan, I listen to this actually all the time.
JW: To me, I use it in the same way that I would listen to Bach or something, for me it somehow is mentally stimulating music so if I'm doing something, some programming or something like this it's just a nice soundtrack.
DW: Ok that was “Rods and Cones” from the Blue Man Group, I'm sitting here with Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia and what's there next on your list Jimmy?
JW: I reached back into childhood a little bit and I chose the Sesame Street theme song. These songs were the soundtrack of youth, back before I knew anything about rock and roll music. I'm part of that first generation of kids who grew up with Sesame Street. I don't know exactly when Sesame Street debuted, I was born in 1966 so I guess it was just before then or just after then.
DW: I want to say it was like 1969…
JW: Something like that.
DW: Somebody will correct me.
JW: I'm sure we can look it up in Wikipedia.
DW: So, you don't know everything that is in Wikipedia?
JW: I often get email from people with some complaint about some very obscure page and you kind of get the sense that maybe they think I wrote it all myself.
DW: We just heard the Sesame Street theme song right here, this is one of Jimmy Wales' picks, he is the founder of Wikipedia. Let’s just keep it rolling. What's next?
JW: A song that is quite beloved amongst the Wikipedia community - "White and Nerdy," by Weird Al Yankovic. This song actually has a line…you know he's describing himself as a guy who's white and nerdy and he says "I edit Wikipedia," actual line in the song. And so we just thought that was hilarious. I wouldn't quite call it the Wikipedia theme song, but when this song came out that was really -- even more so than being written up in the New York Times or Time Magazine or whatever -- this was kind of a moment when we realized "wow," Wikipedia has really entered the culture in a big way.
Song: Weird “Al” Yankovic – “White and Nerdy”
JW: These days that stereotype is less and less true but it's still pretty true like. We're the kinds of people who are drawn to editing an encyclopedia as a hobby, we like to see more and more people getting involved because maybe we're really good at technology and we will write a fabulous article about the USB standard -- you know, things you plug into your computer or whatever. But we might not be so knowledgeable about theories of childhood development or something like this. That's a different kind of geek than a computer geek, right? That's some mom geeks. We want those people involved as well, so we kind of bristle at this stereotype, but it is really fun.
DW: Just listened to a little piece of music there from Weird Al Yankovic, song is "White and Nerdy," and I am sitting here with Jimmy Wales. Jimmy, what is next from your picks of songs?
JW: Tom Sawyer by Rush. Just a song that I absolutely love because it just rocks.
Song: “Tom Sawyer” by Rush
JW: This is a song… along with all of Rush, I'm a huge Rush fan. At the time that this song came out, I think I was sixteen and had -- for the first time -- my driver's license and a car and I had a cassette of Rush that I bought. So I drove around that summer listening to that tape constantly.
DW: Ok, that was a little clip of Rush's "Tom Sawyer." Jimmy, thank you so much for sharing these songs with us today and joining us on KCRW.com
JW: Great to be here.
DW: This is Dan Wilcox, for a complete track listing and to find these songs online go to http://www.kcrw.com/guestdjproject.
[PLAYLIST GOES HERE]