Is the male version of a Diva a Devo?
The prospect of the Reverend Al Green playing at the Ryman Auditorium is a wonderful one, fuses as it does one of the last great Memphis soul singers with the beloved historical center of country in Nashville. But according to this piece in the Tennessean, Green was at odds with his band -- and left the stage after only 63 minutes. The cheapest tickets for the show were $40. I thought the album title was Al Green Blows Your Mind, and not Al Green Blows Your Wallet.
posted by Anon. 2:16 PM
My heart will go on -- but my hard drive won't
You probably heard that many record labels were going to start trying to hit back against CD-pirating by putting embedding anti-pirating protection on the CD itself. Not great. But what you might not have realized is that the anti-pirating protection is designed to not even let you listen to your CD on your computer's CD player -- and instead will crash the computer. This strikes me as lawsuit central, given the potential for damage to be done to the computers. The technology has been premiered on Celine Dion's new album; I know that there's a punchline to be made about anyone who actually purchases a Dion album deserves to have their computer rendered inoperable, but I'll refrain. Here's the scoop from Yahoo News, with thanks to Instapundit for linking me to it.
posted by Anon. 1:59 PM
Take a load off, Fanny
Anthony DeCurtis -- whose own prose tends to often toward the purple and flowery, and whose hosting gigs on VH-1 have always roamed embarrasingly toward gushing -- has a nice piece on The Band in today's New York Times, as commemoration begins for the 25th Anniversary of The Last Waltz -- the Scorsese-directed film of the concert, not the concert itself. That concert always felt over-the-top to me, a celebration of one's self from a band that always seemed to take itself a little seriously, led by a guitarist (Robbie Robertson) who has always taken himself far too seriously. But Van Morrison's performance in it is amazing, and Dylan and Muddy Waters are great fun to watch, too.
It's frustrated me in recent years to watch as revisionism has depicted Robbie Robertson as the main figure in the band. Yes, he was the chief songwriter, but so much of the band's strengths came not from the songs themselves but from the sound -- Levon Helm's unusual vocals, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson's unique instrumentations. Helm has struggled with cancer in recent years that took away his voice; Manuel committed suicide years ago, and Rick Danko unexpectedly died just a year or two ago. Robertson evidentally is healthy enough to appear in Gap ads, as seen last Christmas: Robbie Robertson singing Supertramp. So much for purity.
posted by Anon. 1:17 PM
50 States of Rock and Roll
You thought we'd play it easy first? You thought wrong. Utah? What, we're going to have to go with the Osmonds? I mean, what songs are there about Utah? The Beach Boys did a number called "Salt Lake City," true. But is that acceptable, choosing a Beach Boys song for a state which has no coastline? Of course not.
Utah has the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. A basketball franchise. Ski resorts. And severely underwhelming beer.
And lots of panoramic views of the great outdoors. Which is what Bob Dylan must have been thinking of on "Sign on a Window," a song on his 1970 New Morning. Here Bob sings:
Build me a cabin in Utah,
Marry me a wife, catch rainbow trout,
Have a bunch of kids who call me "Pa,"
That must be what it's all about,
That must be what it's all about.
Not one of Dylan's most complex numbers. But yes, it does talk about Utah. But we're not going to choose that one. Oh, no. (Mostly because I have another song from that same album in mind for another state.)
Instead, when we talk about the outdoors, we may be talking about the mountains. Sure. Or we might be talking about the desert.
The Utah desert.
On a rattlesnake speedway in the Utah desert
I pick up my money and head back into town
Driving cross the Waynesboro county line
I got the radio on and I'm just killing time...
Bruce Springsteen's "The Promised Land," from his 1978 Darkness on the Edge of Town, will be our Utah choice.
The states so far:
Utah: "The Promised Land," Bruce Springsteen
Massachusetts: "Dirty Water," The Standalls
posted by Anon. 6:16 PM
Palmermix has been receiving some addendums from around the globe to our first slot of 50 States of Rock and Roll! Phil in Los Angeles writes:
'For a Massachusetts alternate, I humbly suggest "UMass" by the Pixies. It starts: "In the sleepy west of the woody east/ is a valley full o' pioneers" and it ends "University of Massachusetts, please. It's educational! It's educational!" In between, there's lots of stuff about capitalism and communism and cocks.'
Sounds great! And then from Spain, here is Miguel:
iThe 50 states of songs is a fun idea.
Of course, you should make a point of
eliminating primarily local bands, as well.
For example, it seems to me that The Bosstones
have about 32 songs that mention taking the
T to Allston. This is a little unfair.i
I hear Miguel's argument, but the fact is that for my own future security I'm going to include local bands. For instance, Oregon is going to be tough enough without being able to draw from Elliott Smith's steady supply of Portland songs.
I also confess that because this list is the 50 States and not the 50 Greatest American Cities, I feel some guilt of choosing "Dirty Water," a song about Boston, over "Roadrunner," a song that explicitly mentions Massachusetts -- and then goes so far as to then say, "I'm in love with Massachusetts."
I feel some guilt.
But only a little bit.
posted by Anon. 12:19 PM
Glad and sorry
Attention, Rhino. Here's someone desperately in need of being anthologized: Ronnie Lane.
Bassist of the Faces, probably the most underrated British band of the late 60s, early 70s, Lane was the heart and soul of that group's fusion of bar band bravado with folk and acoustic influences.
He wrote one of the all-time greats, "Ooh La La" -- which Rod Stewart then refused to sing, leaving it to be sung by fellow Face Ron Wood. (The resurrection of that forgotten classic has alone earned Rushmore's Wes Anderson a place in heaven.) In fact, Lane wrote and sung two of the best Faces songs: "Debris" and "Glad and Sorry." The former was lovingly covered live by Billy Bragg on one of his recent tours (as Ian McLagen, the legendary organist of the Faces, is the cornerstone of Bragg's back-up band, the Blokes), and the latter was covered on the spotty first LP by alt-country supergroup Golden Smog, Down by the Old Mainstream.
Lane had been with the Small Faces before then (which became the Faces after vocalist Steve Marriott left and Rod Stewart and Ron Wood migrated from the Jeff Beck group), and after the Faces folded, he continued his fusion of traditional rock and folk sounds, mostly with his band Slim Chance, and then with Pete Townsend on their terrific album, Rough Mix. If you haven't heard Rough Mix, it's a very, very good album -- I caught Townsend covering "Heart to Hang On To" with Eddie Vedder on Letterman a few years ago -- and Lane's songs on the record, especially "Nowhere to Run," are even better than Townsend's. No small feat.
A couple years after that, though, Lane was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which began a very slow and very painful death, with Lane dying in 1997. His voice, his musicianship, and, perhaps most impressively, his songwriting are all worth celebrating, and while Rhino released a very fine single-disc Faces anthology last year, and while both Rough Mix and Slim Chance discs are still in print, someone should put some heads together and compile a two disc anthology spanning the bands and phases of this much-missed musician's work. Last year's two-disc Gram Parsons' anthology would be a good model to follow.
posted by Anon. 11:40 AM
Free at last!
Well, with more of a whimper than a bang, the Peter Buck trial is over. Was justice served? Was the good name of British Airways crockery defended? You be the judge.
posted by Anon. 7:26 AM
50 States of Rock and Roll:
Where to begin? With Charlie, stuck on the MTA, because they raised the toll on him? Please, save that for summer camp. In my mind, there are only two real choices.
First, Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner." Easily one of the great driving songs of all time. Stop and Shop references. "I'm in love with modern moonlight. Route 128 when it's dark outside. I'm in love with Massachusetts. I'm in love with the radio on." Pretty damn great.
For most other states, that'd be a shoo-in. But this is Massachusetts. Home of Boston. Which is home to, yes, the Standalls' "Dirty Water." "Frustrated women... you know they have to be home at 12 o'clock... well I love that dirty water" -- thump thump -- "Boston you're my home." A case could be made that the Standalls were one of the first punk bands. A case can also be made that "Dirty Water" is one of the fifty greatest singles of all time. I don't know about that. But it's certainly my choice for my favorite Massachusetts song.
posted by Anon. 7:33 PM
50 States of Rock and Roll: Introduction
Posting has been a little infrequent this week, mostly because I had to finish a re-write and get it to my agent. But I'm eager to get some larger posting in for the remainder of this week. Including this new feature I've had in mind.
I was having a conversation with a friend a few weeks ago about geography in songs. I wondered aloud if I could find a song within my collection (or consciousness) that talks about every one of the fifty states of America, or at least makes reference to a city within one of those states. Songs that mention tons of cities -- Martha Reeves' "Dancing in the Street," for example, or Huey Lewis' "The Heart of Rock and Roll" -- don't count. Sound easy? Sure, when you're thinking of Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, California, and New York. Not so easy when you're trying to come up with songs about New Hampshire or Delaware.
Anyway, this should be fun. We'll do a different state each day.
More later, including a Daily Record of my favorite 6 foot tall British folk-singing babe.
posted by Anon. 7:20 PM
If it piggybacks like a pig...
The big news in file-sharing comes to us today from the WSJ through blogger Lock Steele. It turns out that file-sharing program Kazaa is a naughty, naughty little file-sharing program.
Lock writes: "Unbelievable is the only word for the news that music file-share program KaZaA has been piggybacking a program that, when switched on (in several weeks' time) will let a separate third-party company use individual PCs' "unused computing cycles" and "unused storage space" for its own purposes."
Uh-oh. Here's the excerpt Lock quotes from the WSJ:
"Millions of copies of the popular Kazaa Internet music sharing program contain software that could soon allow an independent company to take over portions of users' computers and Internet connections. The independent company, Brilliant Digital Entertainment Inc. of Los Angeles, says it will activate the software on users' computers within the next four to six weeks. The aim is to form a broad "peer-to-peer" network that essentially will give Brilliant Digital the ability to use various resources on those users' PCs to perform computing tasks for clients, according to the company's president, Kevin Bermeister. Brilliant Digital began distributing the program, dubbed Altnet, in February with Kazaa Media Desktop, a file-sharing program owned by Sharman Networks Ltd. of Australia that allows users to exchange music, video and other software. About 20 million copies of Kazaa containing this software have been downloaded, Mr. Bermeister said."
As Lock explains, their defense is based on a very dubious "opt-in": by agreeing to the seemingly standard program-install boilerplate you must click to install, you give them a blank check to walk on in and do a little tap-dance on your hard drive whenever they want. Thank heaven I'm on a Macintosh and can't get Kazaa even if I tried! Macintosh should make this their new advertising campaign: "Macintosh: Immune from 98% of the Viruses Out There, and It Turns Out It's Good News that You Can't File Share With Us." Steve Jobs, are you listening?
posted by Anon. 2:37 PM
Here's a piece in the New York Times about portable MP3 players -- which seem to be getting rechristened "portable jukeboxes." Call me a classicist, a purist even, but I can't call anything a jukebox that doesn't involve the plunking of quarters. And if it's a Wurlitzer, well, even better.
posted by Anon. 11:31 PM
Buck stops here?
The prosecutors started having a go of it in the Peter Buck case today. My favorite part of this case -- besides the fact that we get to hear and read the word "crockery" far more than normal -- is the accusation that the REM guitarist tried to play CDs on the flight attendant's trolley containing the food.
posted by Anon. 11:21 PM
I'm listening right now to the Jam's Snap -- well, actually, it's called Compact Snap, a single disc version of Snap that omits 8 tracks to make it "suitable for a single compact disc" -- yet it clocks in at only 64 minutes. So, why couldn't they have filled the CD up to 80 minutes (or at least 74, which was the limit probably when they first released this on CD?) Surely they could have fit in about 4 or 5 of the omitted tracks? This is a large pet peeve of mine, as this happens on several discs released at the beginning of the CD era -- Little Feat's Waiting for Columbus, where they lopped off a couple songs when they brought it to compact disc.
This isn't too far off from Blockbuster's "re-editing" of videos that it markets, for content's sake. (Generally the content in question is considered sexually explicit, but a friend told me recently that they don't just do this for the Showgirls of the world, but even on the video for The Sweet Hereafter!) An enormous violation of artistic integrity.
Anyway, while I'm griping, here's Robert Hilburn's review from this morning's LA Times of Paul McCartney kicking off his tour in Oakland. (I'll resist the "there's no there there" reference.) McCartney seems to be playing the Who/David Bowie game of hinting that this may be the least tour you'll catch him live. One could only hope.
McCartney lost respect from me a long time before writing that "Freedom" song, or before his lawsuit to try to have the songwriting credit on "Yesterday" changed to McCartney/Lennon; I think it was around when he released four different live albums within two or three years -- MTV Unplugged, Paul is Live, Tripping the Live Fantastic, and Tripping the Live Fantastic Highlights. I think he also did that IMAX concert film, Get Back!, the one Richard Lester directed, during that stretch, too.
Here's an interesting quote from McCartney: "If I were going to see Bob Dylan, for instance, I'd want to hear 'Mr. Tambourine Man.' So I just thought, 'What would someone want to hear if they were coming to see me?"
That's an enormous error in perspective. Someone who owns Dylan's Greatest Hits and nothing else, yes, may be dying to hear Mr. Tambourine Man and Like a Rolling Stone. But just as I can think of tons of Dylan fans who are overjoyed whenever BD picks a song like "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You" or "One Too Many Mornings" or "Joey" out of his vast catalog, so do I think McCartney's fans would love to hear him make more inspired choices than just "Yesterday" and "Live and Let Die." Hilburn does report that during an 11 song acoustic segment of the show, McCartney did play a couple of unexpected Beatles numbers, including "Mother Nature's Son." That's not quite as random as if he started playing "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)," but it's a start.
posted by Anon. 2:27 PM
The heart of the matter
Alexander Cockburn's writing rarely sits well for me -- I'll take Hitchens in a heartbeat instead, thanks -- but his Counterpunch newsletter website does feature Don Henley's hilarious letter to Hits, one of the larger record industry trade magazines, tearing them a new nostril for their superimposing his photograph in some photos in an earlier issue. I do have to say, though, Don Henley's current role as Artists Rights Freedom Fighter seems a little strange coming from the guy that helped gouge Eagles fans with those amazingly steep ticket prices on the Hell Freezes Over tour. Just a thought.
posted by Anon. 12:18 PM
Sheena is a punk rocker now
First Marcus, then Marsh, now a link to Bob X-Gau's take on the Ramones, just posted on the Voice's site. The best part of this piec is Christgau's description of his first experience of the Ramones -- a nice evocation for all of us who weren't there of what those first days of the CBGBs scene must have been like. A busy day on Palmermix for the great rock critics who started in the late 60s, early 70s. What gives?
posted by Anon. 6:11 PM
In his column this week on Starpolish, Dave Marsh reminds us that, in considering the file-sharing services, for years the recording industry accused radio of destroying sales -- when in fact it encouraged them. Could the same be true for file sharing? "If file sharing ended, I guess the result might be good," Marsh writes. "But who knows what will happen if it continues? That might be better. Neither one is going to get musicians paid any better."
posted by Anon. 10:20 AM
A hunk of burning love
Salon finally posted a new Greil Marcus Real Life Top 10. Go down to the middle of it, for Marcus' great relaying, from Sarah Vowell, of a Peter Guralnick - Camille Paglia panel on Elvis in the 50s, where Guralnick reveals to Paglia that at the end of Elvis' '68 Comeback Special, Elvis' leather pants... um, had to be dry-cleaned. Oh, and Elvis also read Stanislavski.
posted by Anon. 10:15 AM
Archives were down a bit this morning, and Blogger was apparently down, too, so it took me an hour to correct things. Rest assured, if you've just visited here for the first time, there is more than ten days worth of posts for you to explore. I'm going to be out and about for much of today, but I'll have laptop in hand, so I'll likely have new posts to upload once I get home.
posted by Anon. 9:20 AM
Just as naysayers of hip-hop spent most of the eighties hoping that rap would somehow go away, that it would somehow prove to be just a passing fad, so did critics of electronica hope against hope that it, too, would fade into the sunset of the late 90s. No such luck: not only did electronica itself continue as its own genre, it has invigorated and influenced the careers of artists from Madonna to, um, Madonna's brother-in-law, former alt-country crooner Joe Henry.
The major media seemed to be picking Electronica as the Next Big Thing in 1996. They weren't quite right. It turned out that the Next Big Thing, as far as sales went, turned out to be... boy bands and girl ingenues. Electronica has yet to score a gigantic hit, despite the gigantic contracts awarded to the Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, and a few others a few years ago. Moby may have achieved radio airplay, but it was mostly with a song, "South Side," that wasn't very electronic -- that was, instead, a guitar-driven rocker aided by Gwen Stefani's vocal presence in the remix. As electronica continues to grow as a genre, it's becoming more and more clear that it won't soon be the sound of the mainstream or the Top 40 charts (though it may influence the mainstream artists), but instead it will be a niche genre, and one with its own sub-niches -- trip-hop, house, ambient, drum n' bass, and so on.
I'm choosy when it comes to electronica. I might enjoy Basement Jaxx's aural collages in a party, but as soon as I put Remedy on at home, it feels cold and incomplete, like watching Rocky Horror on video. Massive Attack's Protection, with its mellow trancing rhythms, is more likely to be played at my apartment, but there I feel like the music is dying for breath and spark. When the music is all atmosphere, pretty soon you start to choke.
One electronica album that I've greatly enjoyed, though, is Tourist, by St. Germain, alias composer/producer Ludovic Navarre. Navarre expertly fuses jazz and house music: live trumpet and electric guitars are sampled next to electronic beats and rhythms, even samples of Dave Brubeck's piano and John Lee Hooker's voice.
The albums' jazz cred is top-notch -- it was released not on an electronica imprint or a pop label, but on Blue Note. The rhythms are hypnotic, while the piano, vibes, and guitar are beautiful. The result is a lucky dichotomy: a jazz album infused with the freshness and edge of electronic currents, and an electronica album grounded in the humanity and the improvisation of jazz.
And just as this album expertly blends two genres, so does it also prove to be a record fit for two audiences. It's a 60 minute album that often displays the vigor of a great party record, then minutes later shows off the smooth and sleek contours of a record tailor-made for more intimate interaction. Hey, you can't depend on Al Green all the time.
posted by Anon. 12:53 AM
Nuclear family, minus bats and pigeons
The hit of the TV mid-season has been, of all things, a reality program. But unlike most reality programs, which turn ordinary people into psuedo celebrities, the Osbournes instead turns celebrities into psuedo ordinary people, as it documents the day-to-day life of Ozzy Osbourne, his wife, and their two teenagers in Beverly Hills. If you've been living under a rock and haven't even heard about the MTV show, then here's a nice piece in the NYT to bring you up to speed.
posted by Anon. 7:30 PM
Happy opening day. In honor of the beginning of the regular season of my favorite sport (which is run by a cabal of my least favorite team owners), a quick bit on baseball music.
John Fogerty's "Centerfield" would be a much more enduring song had Fogerty not made everything in his music then sound so electronically manipulated. The hand-claps in "Centerfield" are a perfect example.
Then there's Buffalo Tom's "Summer," from their very fine Sleepy-eyed, featuring the couplet: "All my heroes gone today/Mick and Keith and Willie Mays." That's about the end of the baseball references there.
Van Morrison's "Bulbs," off of Veedon Fleece, is one of his best, and it starts off with "Kicking off for center field; talk of being down for the game."
Bob Dylan's "Catfish," available on the Bootleg Series, is his paen to Catfish Hunter leaving "Mr. Finley's farm" when he left the A's for the Yankees.
Percy Sledge has a trademark weeper in "Out in Left Field." (There's also a song that Peter Paul and Mary used to sing also called "Left Field." Different song.)
You, of course, have "Mrs. Robinson" with its Joe DiMaggio bit -- you could do the original Simon and Garfunkel version, or opt for the Lemonheads' quirky take on it. Then there's Billy Bragg and Wilco's recent "Joe DiMaggio's Done It Again," written by Woody Guthrie.
And then, possibly the best baseball rocker of them all: Chuck Berry singing about "around for third and headed for home is a Brown-Eyed Handsome Man."
posted by Anon. 4:30 PM
In Mexico, pirated CDs make up 61% of the total CD sales in the country, according to a story in today's New York Times. And Internet radio broadcasters are going to have to start paying royalty and music licensing fees, too, as reported in this story. Then check out this piece by the prolific Kelefa Sanne on the current state of the charts.
The LA Times reports on Buffalo Daughter and the current Japanese pop scene. My hometown paper -- and former employer of my mother -- also has a big story on Eazy-E, the member of NWA who became a Republican Party supporter before dying of AIDS in 1995, and his strange legacy. And a positive review for Michelle Shocked's first record as she attempts to emulate Aimee Mann and Ani DiFranco's self-label success.
posted by Anon. 11:19 PM
Okay, one more post, because it's Easter. Here's my favorite gospel compilation. Yes, Mahalia Jackson is on it, but if you've never heard Marion Williams or Dorothy Love Coates, you've been missing something special in your life.
posted by Anon. 9:56 AM
A packed day today -- mass, brunch, taking my grandmother to a play, and then dinner and a movie -- is going to prevent many posts today. I just started the morning by listening to Shane MacGowan and the Popes' "The Church of the Holy Spook." Now that's the way to ring in Easter.
posted by Anon. 9:44 AM