Jim Kerr, lead singer for the pop group Simple Minds, has been seeking revenge on film Director/ Producer John Hughes since 1985. That’s the year the Breakfast Club was released and that’s pretty much the year Simple Minds promising career went into the proverbial shitter.
Simple Minds was a very good group, back in the day. They were an experimental art band with some progressive and electronic leanings, and released a string of critically acclaimed albums from 1979 (Reel To Real Cacophony) through 1984’s brilliant Sparkle In The Rain. They were neck and neck with U2 to be the next “Biggest Band In The World”.
Musically speaking Simple Minds was far and above the better band at that point, but they made a critical error in judgment by agreeing to lend a song to John Hughes for a little movie he was working on at the time called The Breakfast Club.
“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” was a HUMONGOUS hit for the band, propeled the movie to box office bliss, and it wasn’t even an original composition! Written specifically for the movie, Bryan Ferry (of Roxy Music fame) was offered the song but quickly, and wisely, rejected it. Jim Kerr almost did as well, calling the lyrics ‘formulaic’ and ‘juvenile’.
But he didn’t, it became a smash (#1), and it ruined their bright future, not to mention alienating them from their old fan base (myself included). In the short term, they actually WERE huge, but with the teenie-bopper set, who are usually on to the next new thing within a week! Simple Minds poster goes down, A Flock Of Seagulls poster goes up!
And of course we all know what became of U2. Bono and the boys steered clear of anything Hughes related (as far as I know…tell me if you know different) and went on to actually BECOME the biggest band in the world.
There were others, too, who as soon as they lent their songs to a John Hughes film were immediately relegated to the “Where Are They Now Files”.
From the Pretty In Pink soundtrack: Psychedelic Furs, O.M.D., Echo and the Bunnymen, and even New Order (albeit in a less dramatic way).
From Ferris Bueler’s Day Off: Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Dream Academy, General Public, and to a lesser extent, Big Audio Dynamite (second album died in the States).
From Sixteen Candles: Madness, Stray Cats, Adam Ant, Altered Images, Nick Heyward, Spandeau Ballet, Billy Idol, Thompson Twins.
All bands poised for global success but cut short in their prime by little old producer/ director/ dream smasher John Hughes!
AND, I didn’t even get into the actors: poor Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Andrew McCarthy and Jennifer Grey! I even think he had something to do with the oh so early and suspicious demise of the wonderful and talented John Candy (appeared in FOUR Hughes films: Vacation/ Planes, Trains and Automobiles/ Uncle Buck and The Great Outdoors!).
OK, the John Candy thing may be pushing it, but the guy is evil incarnate, man!
The fact remains, though, that a lot (not all--Spandeau Ballet were NEVER going to rule the world!) of the afore mentioned bands were great talents and after involvement in a Hughes film they simply...vanished. Or seemed to, anyway.
Although Jim Kerr and SImple Minds continue to put out albums even today, you won't hear about it unless you make a real effort to search them out. And if you do find one and download it to your ipod chances are you'll hit the 'delete' button the next day. 'Cause they, like all the other poor bastard bands who have succumbed to the Hughes curse out there, have never been able to regain that spark, that pre-1984 spark, that made them so promising.
Damn you, John Hughes.
Damn you to Hell!!!
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Well, if it isn’t REALLY a recognized sub-genre, it should be!
I’ve got a bitch of a head cold, I’ve been coughing up phlegm every hour for about three days now, and I really don’t feel like listening to anything ‘happy’. No cheery, dancehall, sunny psychedelia for me, no sir! I require lots of melodrama today; sighing bassoons, aching violins and lone, quiet acoustic guitars. Lyrics contemplating life and death, perhaps some otherworldly musings on what it would be like to be a vampire.
Yeah, that’s the ticket!!
The Goth kids down at the mall know the score with their runny mascara, teased Robert Smith hair and black teenie-bopper bondage garb. Middle to upper class kiddies wanting desperately to escape their privileges and be seen as “deep“ and “contemplative“. They want you to know that they HURT, that they are the true outsiders, and the type of music they listen to is conclusive evidence of that, according to them. And after brooding at the mall for about six hours mumbling under their breaths about what a fascist and unholy thing the mall is, they go home, eat their dinner (bought at the food court) with their folks and siblings and fall asleep to the music of Bauhaus.
So, I’m in THAT kind of a mood today. It’s raining and cold, Christmas is over and it’s a perfect day for wallowing in one’s self pity.
I offer you the perfect soundtrack for such a day as today. Music so gosh-darned miserable one cannot listen to one note without weeping uncontrollably. Music to contemplate existential philosophy or to simply bathe in the sinister-ness of it all.
In the immortal words of Beck Hansen,
"I'm a loser, baby/ So why dont'cha kill me?"
If I have left off your perfect sad bastard album, let me know.
The Cure, Disintegration
Leonard Cohen, Songs Of Love And Hate
Nick Drake, Pink Moon
The Smiths, The Queen Is Dead
The Velvet Underground, the Velvet Underground
The THE, Soul Mining
Tears For Fears, The Hurting
The Sisters Of Mercy (get the Cohen, reference?), Floodland
Bauhaus, Burning Blue Sky
Radiohead, Hail To The Thief
Nirvana, In Utero
Nick Cave, The Boatman’s Call
Mercury Rev, All Is Dream
Joy Division, Closer
M Ward, Transistor Radio
…AND, anything by Kenny G.
...................happy weeping, y'all!
I've been getting some requests from down in Southern California to re-post the BOGUS Band Bio on everyone's favorite boy band from the 70's, STYX. Gotta say, in case Dennis DeYoung or Tommy Shaw's lawyers are reading, that this is a totally fictional account of the bands history. I also wish to disclose at this time that the following piece of fiction is a little "messed up", in more ways than one, and I composed it whilst injesting a large bottle of NYQUIL! You've been warned...
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here...
BLUE COLLAR MEN
The REALLY Unauthorized Biography Of STYX
The name, STYX, derived from a river from Greek mythology that cuts through the very bowels of the underworld, set the stage. One syllable, 4 letters, and it contains an “X”. It would look marvelous on those concert tee-shirts with the black torso and the white sleeves, and it was just mysterious and evil sounding enough to piss off your parents, which earned the band extra bonus points with the kids.
Then there was the band itself. Chuck and John Panozzo, brothers who played the bass and drums respectively, were a powerhouse of a rhythm section, their pounding beats able to wake mighty Zeus himself, especially live.
And James “JY” Young (“JY”, short for “Just Yodeling”, a childhood nickname due to his Swedish ancestry), who became the trickster of the group in the mold of LOKI, the mischievous and off times evil sibling to Helbindi and Byleist, who eventually befriended the Norse God Odin, becoming his blood brother before he murdered Baldr.
But I digress.
Then there is Dennis De Young, no relation to “JY”. The son of famous French Canadian Vaudeville act members Siebel and Francesco De Young, who were integral in making Veronique’s Montreal Minstrel Show a household name during the late 1930’s and 1940’s, little Denier De Young (as he was known in those days) showed an early interest in performing.
Dennis’ first solo minstrel shows involved a unique structure and stock characters, with three distinct parts. The "first part", as it was known (you could buy cylinder recordings of 'an original minstrel first part, if you were so inclined) began with an instrumental processional. The entire company marched in, took their places onstage in a semicircle facing the audience, always playing with broad gestures and choreographed flourishes. "The Interlocutor" (the master of ceremonies, dressed as a dandy) would bark, "Gentlemen, be seated" and the company would play an overture with even broader gestures. Then the Interlocutor, (played wonderfully by Denier) backed up by the 'end men' or 'corner men' (sitting on the two ends of the semicircle), "Mister Tambo" (playing tambourine) and "Mister Bones" (playing the bones--a VERY young John Panozzo) would engage in question-and-answer jokes ("Mister Bones, why did Farmer Jones build his pigpen under the kitchen window?" - "I don't know, why DID he build his pigpen under the kitchen window?" - "To keep his pigs in!") and a few comic and sentimental songs, all brought to a rousing finish with a "cakewalk" or "walk-around". This was followed by a musical promenade by the company, led by Denier of course, with each member stepping forward in turn to do a brief specialty bit, ostensibly trying to outdo each other.
But it was Denier who really shone during these engagements, his friend and fellow thespian John, although wonderful on the bones, was relegated to the background.
They were revered throughout the Quebec countryside and adored by the critics, especially Jacques Verdouche, who said in one review, “Denier De Young, although only four years old, is a wonder to behold. His proficiency at leading his merry pranksters in their quest to enlighten and entertain (and yes, sometimes educate!), is a real treat! Young Denier De Young is one to watch.”
Jacques quickly befriended Denier and the two formed a partnership of sorts. Denier was able, after much debate, to convince Jacques to let John Panozzo and his technical prowess on the bones, tag along.
In 1965, after much critical and commercial success on the traveling minstrel circuit, the two boys won a long playing record at a carnival game at the Boucher County Fair. It was a record by Robert Goulet entitled, ’On Broadway’, and it would change their direction, and yes their lives, forever.
In particular, the song ‘If I Ruled The World’, had a dramatic effect on Denier. Robert Goulet, being a fellow Canadian (Alberta), penned the immortal lines, “If I ruled the world, I would get meself a girl, traipse around in furls, and let all the damsels be free of their babes”. This particular lyric would have a monstrous effect on the success of STYX in the future, and would ultimately lead to their undoing and eventual downfall.
But I digress again.
Jacques, a kind of French Canadian Tom Parker, was also taken by the Goulet LP. It had a more modern sound, probably influenced by the rock and roll bands that were so popular around that time. The concept of rock and roll mixed together with Broadway tunes intrigued Jacques and he immediately called an emergency meeting with Denier and Chuck. They decided to take Robert Goulet’s concept a step further; they would form a Rock and Roll band, and create a heavier Broadway-progressive sound, or BROAD-PROG, as it would come to be known. But they needed a guitarist, and a bassist. John’s brother, Chuck, had played bass guitar in a number of folk bands, most notably the band Snorry Mouth, which was loosely translated for English consumption from Nez Bouche, so he was a natural. But they needed a guitarist, preferably two, for that showy, big sound Denier was looking for.
Enter one James Young and one Tommy Shaw. Lovers since college (they both attended the famous Abraham Lincoln Music Conservatory College for Young Boys in Boston, Massachusetts), and they both played the electric guitar. James Young (heretofore known as “JY”) was more of a journeyman of a guitar player, lacking technical prowess but making up for that with a pure, almost naïve ham handed style of guitar playing. If JY’s style was primitive, then Tommy’s was simply futuristic. Always fascinated by science fiction novels, especially those involving alien abductions and, in particular those involving probing, his style echoed the 'out there' sounds of the Mellotron and would fit perfectly with the bands vision. The two young men were immediatly brought on board.
It was Jacques who suggested that Denier change his name to appeal to a much broader fan base, and thus DENNIS De Young was born!
The name STYX was suggested by Chuck Panozzo, who was an ardent fan of Satan and his ilk, and who was currently reading The Divine Comedy by Dante. Dennis, always the sensitive one, was horrified by the name. He was quoted as saying that it was “a dark, demonic name” and he suggested the name Up With People”, or F.R.I.E.N.D.S. (acronym for Furry Repast In Enoch’s Nature Debutante Surprise).
He was, of course, outvoted 4-1, and the name STYX survived.
The band, bristling with ideas, literally pranced into the studio and quickly recorded STYX and the cleverly titled STYX II. Both were marvelously creative but were panned by the critics. It wasn’t until a forward thinking Boston DJ by the name of Jaunty Joe played the track Lady from STYX II 179 times in a row on his “Tides Of The Moon” radio program that things clicked for the band. Requests poured in for the ballad, and the boys were soon opening for such monster acts as Trooper, Focus and Prism.
The next four years saw the band at their most prolific, recording two albums in 1974 alone (The Serpent Is Rising-- JY and Tommy’s concept album--and Man Of Miracles (Dennis’ ode to himself).
In 1977, they recorded a record that would yield 2 massive FM hits based on the teachings of Dottie Humboldt, the spiritual and tribal leader of the Unarian Society, who believe in past lives and that our solar system was once inhabited by ancient interplanetary civilizations.
The Grand Illusion, based loosely on a shelved play Dennis had written was a masterpiece, but it was Come Sail Away that shot the band into the stratosphere. The immortal lines to this landmark song, appear below:
“A gathering of angels appeared above my head
They sang to me this song of hope, and this is what they said
They said come sail away, come sail away Come sail away with me
Come sail away, come sail awayCome sail away with me
I thought that they were angels, but to my surprise
They climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies
Singing come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me”
Due to the success of The Grand Illusion, STYX began to headline shows. But as is often the case success comes with a price. Dennis formed an addiction to Juicy Fruit gum and developed an aversion to sunlight and Chuck Panozzo grew an afro, decisions that would haunt them for the rest of their lives.
But I digress, yet again.
After touring they once again leapt into the studio and started recording. These sessions, which would come to be known as the ROO SESSIONS, would bring STYX their greatest success in the song Babe.
A lovely ballad in the tradition of Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey, it reached the top of the charts and was played at every high school dance at least once in the night (sometimes 7, 8 times!) during the year 1979.
The next album, Pieces Of Eight, was a misstep to say the least. Jy’s sole contribution, “Queen Of Spades” received particular criticism from both fans and critics for it’s blatant racist overtones. Said JY during this time in Rolling Stone magazine,
“I was going through a weird phase. Tommy and I were fighting and I started dating this young African-American man named Sidney Washington. He was a wonderful gymnast and an even better friend, and I wanted to tell the world about him.”
Sidney Washington tragically broke his neck and died whilst attempting the “Flying Rings” at San Francisco’s 3rd annual Gay Pride Parade.
The band regrouped in the studio for what would come to be known as their Magnum Opus.
Paradise Theatre, a concept album about the roaring 20’s and the eventual decline of an imaginary theatre (a metaphor for the American experience, in general), was a massive critical and commercial success, yielding the band four massive hits with the driving and sentimental Rockin’ The Paradise, the magnificently
dance-rock oriented Too Much Time On My Hands, the maudlin but oh-so-touching The Best Of Times and the JY penned ode to cocaine Snowblind.
For Styx, its success would spell both their temporary saving grace and ultimate doom, as the creative forces which had already been tearing at the band's core finally reached unbearable levels three years later.
Being replaced by robots was always a fear of Dennis De Young’s, and at the request of his therapist he began writing a concept album, loosely based around his nightmares. He decided to set the story in Japan and called the main character Mr. Roboto. A synthesizer driven affair, JY and Tommy were relegated to the background, while John was replaced with a ZOOM SB246 STREET BOXX drum machine and Chuck was forced (at gunpoint, some eye-witnesses say) to play a LINUX SONIC VISUALIZER V 1.0 synthesized bass.
Although the track Mr. Roboto would see considerable airplay, the album Kilroy Was Here would spell the demise of the classic STYX line up. Tommy and JY broke up, Tommy joining fellow homosexual and animal rights activist Ted Nugent in his ‘Super Group’ The Damn Yankees and JY going on to sponsor Johnson and Johnson’s very popular brand of petroleum jelly, KY. The subsequent advertising campaign, with the slogan “JY’s KY”, was a flop everywhere across North America, except in Hamilton, Ontario where it became a cult success with the steel workers of Defasco and Stelco.
Dennis went on to play Pontius Pilate in a revival of Jesus Christ Superstar (and issuing an album of Broadway show tunes in 1994), and headlines Las Vegas, after dark of course, to this day at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino.
Chuck Panozzo tragically died of alcoholism in 2002, but his Legacy lives on in the form of his son, Frankie Panozzo, who is currently drumming in Walt Disney’s popular attraction about the history of American music, “America Sings”.
John Panozzo is retired from the music business and is currently a gate guard at Wounded Springs retirement community in Naples, Florida.
However, the legacy of STYX remains. Their masterpiece Paradise Theatre recently topped the “Best Albums of All Time” list, surpassing the mighty SGT Pepper by the Beatles and Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys (#2 and #3, respectively), in the influential rock music magazine PUD.
We would do well to remember this band for what they were, an influential BROAD-PROG band with a mighty front man and equally interesting side-men.
In the words of the man himself,
“Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto,
Mata ah-oo hima deDomo arigato,
Himitsu wo shiri tai”
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
I love my iPod.
10,978 songs. 1103 albums.
51.91GB of memory taken up by 30 days, 17 hours, 54 minutes and 42 seconds worth of music (30:17:54:42).
I made the leap into MP3’s a little over a year ago because my wife bought me an iPod Nano for Christmas.
This was especially exciting to me because at that time my cheap-ass-factory-installed Mazda Protégé cd player was starting to really piss me off. If I ran over a pebble on I-5 the disc would skip and default back to track #1. Sometimes it would make a really obscene screeeeeeeeeching noise which sounded something like a rusty nail being slowly dragged across a vinyl LP.
It got to the point where I was desperate enough to turn on the local talk radio station in the mornings where I would begrudgingly listen to the two ‘good ’ol Boys’ spew their "unbiased" sound bites, such as “Gawrsh, ya hear Rush Limbaugh yesterday? He sure is a fair feller, yup. He shore-nuff knows the score!” and “Shore gettin’ all the Libs callin’ in today, must be a full moon”. Worst of all were the jokes, stolen from old sitcoms and regurgitated for your listening pleasure and aural enjoyment!!
Yokel #1: Muh wife just ran away wif muh bestest friend!
Yokel #2: Yeah? You Bitter?
Yokel #3: Yup. Bit him, tewwwww! HARDEHARHARHARHEYUP!
Needless to say, the stations up here have little in the way of solid entertainment choices, much less good music stations (ARE there any more GOOD radio stations anymore? Other than satellite?). So the nano was a godsend and appeared at exactly the right time, just moments before I was going to drive my little Mazda into Shasta Lake out of frustration.
Since the nano has limited space, enough room for about 1,000 3:00 songs, or approximately 800 in my case,
(Pink Floyds “Echo’s” and Underworld’s “Lovely Broken Things” are 16:31 and 28:37, respectively) I chose the items for download very carefully. Only had room for so much, so a lot of quality tracks had to be left off, regrettably. I would fiddle often, removing tracks and adding new ones, changing the playback quality (which also reduces space, by the way!), deleting old albums and adding new ones, etc.
It was fun, but time consuming.
THEN, recently, the wife got a heck of a deal on a REAL iPod! 80 MB of memory! I quickly tossed the nano in her direction, locked myself in the computer room with a bag of Doritos’s, a jug of water and a bed pan and went to work. I was a downloading machine, man! CD in, download, out; CD in, download, out; CD in, download, out.
Repeat 1,000 times.
I didn’t care what I downloaded. I downloaded everything and anything I even remotely liked or used to like. Neil Diamond. The Monkees. Every Beatles album. Pop Will Eat Itself. Super Furry Animals. Elton John. Pink Floyd. The Eagles. The Pixies. The Pogues. The Dead Kennedy’s. The Meatmen . Renegade Soundwave.
You name it, I downloaded it!
A weird thing happened, though. With my iPod nano, I could quickly scan the albums and inevitably find something I felt like listening to, but with this new MEGAPOD it became a lot more work. So I put it on ’shuffle’, thinking that it would be like the coolest radio station ever, you know? But I found myself forwarding songs at an alarming pace.
Nope, don’t feel like that right now.
Nah, heard that one too much.
Not in the mood for electro-jazz-punk at this time.
And the single-song thing ain't working for me either. I really enjoy FULL ALBUMS, to experience the piece as the artist intended, in it's entirety. This is important to me, and I think I have found a solution.
I guess I just need to plan better.
Take some time before I go to sleep at night to plan out the next days album. Analyze, trend and graph, by day of the week and possibly by month, taking in consideration the phase of the moon, and analyze how these variables relate to my listening patterns. Pay close attention to my moods and take the time to input the data into an Excel spreadsheet. If I am diligent and steadfast I should be able to get some pretty good analytics in about 6 month’s time. That means, until the beginning of Q3 2008, I will have to play it by ear.
I shall keep you all apprised of my progress.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
The kids and wife are still asleep, it's so quiet in the house you could hear a mouse fart and I feel the need to post.
One exercise my friends and I used to do to pass the time in rural Canada was to think up STOOPID, unused band names that we thought were funny, and I thought I would share some of them with you. Please feel free to ridicule, comment or post some of your own.
For your consideration:
THE BENIGN TUMORS
VINNIE GERDOUCHE AND THE WET SPOTS
THE ADULT DIAPERS
ENOCH'S FURRY REPAST
CARE BEARS DEATH CAMP
MOFO'S HOLIDAY SURPRISE
JUSTIN CASE AND HIS MERRY PRANKSTERS
THE FAERIE FELLER'S MASTER STROKES
THE TIN MAN'S SHAMEFUL SECRET
EMERGENCY ROOM CHEER
PEEPING TOM AND THE ONE-EYED JACKS
The following exerpt is from Paste magazine, beautifully written by Paste Senior Contributing Editor Geoffrey Himes. It was the opening salvo to their annual Best Of The Year section and I thought it worth sharing. Enjoy!
"It bothers me that Sam Baker’s Pretty World is my favorite album of the year. Not because it’s anything less than an amazing record. No, what bothers me is that Baker’s music has been heard by so few that it’s hard to have a conversation about it. Of course, it’s not your fault that you haven’t heard this selfreleased, poorly distributed gem any more than it’s my fault that I haven’t heard the obscure disc that’s your favorite album of the year.
This is the inevitable result of the music business’s ongoing decentralization. More and more of us are obsessed with our own private discoveries, and fewer and fewer of us connect with the shared experience that puts the “pop” in pop music. Much has been gained by the withering of music monopolies and the democratization of recording, but something has been lost, too.
On one hand, the collapse of the old paradigm—where a few record companies determined what got recorded and what got heard—means that it’s easier for a Texas construction worker to make his own record and for me to stumble across it along some forgotten byway of the Internet. It’s easier for you to discover a Cleveland skatepunk band on MySpace or a bootleg burn of a new rapper from Baltimore.
On the other hand, there was a distinct pleasure in sharing the same music—whether it was Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Prince or Nirvana—at the same time with millions of other people. That’s a pleasure that DIY recording, long-tail marketing and cyber-word-of-mouth hasn’t been able to replicate.
Baby-boomers like to claim that pop music was better in the ’60s than it was before or since. After 40 years of reviewing records for a living, I would argue that there is more or less the same amount of great music in any given year. The only thing different about the ’60s was that more of that great music was prominent on radio, television and the charts. What has changed, in other words, is not the quantity of terrific music but rather its visibility. And today, as a panicky music industry tries to defend the fortress crumbling around it by making ever more conservative choices, the most interesting music is often (though not always) pushed to the margins while the least interesting is set under the spotlight.
Sure, it’s good news that the margins have grown so broad and fertile, but we also need a strong center we can share. Somewhere out there in some dorm room or suburban bungalow or cramped apartment is the person who’s going to figure out how to rebuild that center in this decentralized environment.
And that person is going to change the course of pop music forever."
Friday, December 14, 2007
Guess what, folks? My Canadian contact just sent me an NME ALERT which stated the following:
"Kula Shaker have announced the US release of their first album in nine years.
'Strangefolk' is due out Stateside on February 19 via Cooking Vinyl USA.
It's the band's first album since 1999's 'Peasants, Pigs And Astronauts', and was produced by Sam Williams (Supergrass) and Chris Sheldon (Foo Fighters, Pixies).
The US version features a slightly different tracklisting than the UK versions released last year, which includes the bonus track 'Persephone'."--NME
I have the date booked off work already, have bought my $15.00 I-tunes gift certificate and have the 27 digit redemption code memorized!! I'm ready, BABY!
Kula Shaker frontman Crispian Mills has been in exile for a number of years due to a 'sticky' paternity suit with former Spice Girl Geri Spice; but HALLELUJAH, the baby ain't his, it turned out to be Lou Gramm's (Foreigner's former lead singer). Which MEANS that Crispian is now free to return home to his beloved England and record the long awaited follow up to the critically acclaimed and afore mentioned "Peasants, Pigs and Astronauts". You may recall that the title track won a Grammy for
"Best R & B Performance" in 2000.
Fans like me have always hoped (nay, PRAYED) that the mighty Shaker might reform and release yet another masterpiece of sonic brilliance. And now our prayers have been answered, and on February 19th, 2008 I will be in my den with my earphones, my ipod and a large pack of Twizzlers revelling in the musical wonders of this great band. Don't worry, at the advice of my friend Dave I will be posting a "COUNTDOWN", kind of like a Kula Shaker Advent calendar, periodically until the 19th Feb.
NOW if only FOCUS would reform, I could die a happy man.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Sunday, December 9, 2007
As a friend of mine from Canada likes to say, “Sorry, laudy mama, I gotta ramble!”
After the latest cash-in travesty that is the SECOND Sex Pistols reunion tour I am officially deleting them from my I-pod. Please bear with me while I do this. If I don’t do it immediately I run the risk of their songs infecting other, more HONORABLE tunes in my library. Sorry ‘bout this………………………………..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, that feels MUCH better.
But not good enough.
In order to completely exorcise the Pistols I need to come clean on my own safety pinned past. All right, let’s just get this out of the way: I was a punker. Yes, I owned a tattered leather jacket, knee high Yugoslavian army boots, torn jeans and an ‘EAT THE RICH’ tee-shirt. I had buttons with anarchy symbols on them. I spit a lot. Sneered at people. I even published a monthly newsletter in high school called ’The International Anarchist News”, which had less to do with the actual ideology of anarchy and more to do with weird, terribly written and totally fictional fake ’news’ stories. I am, however, extremely proud to say that I never, ever, adopted a phony English accent.
And then there was the music. Growing up in Canada we believed that the English punk bands were the TRUE punkers ( boy, does that sound STUPID now…I can feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as I write this!), the ones from impoverished, squalid neighborhoods replete with race riots and class warfare. The Pistols were de rigueur, of course, but there were others: The Exploited (loved their Mohawks!), The Clash (gotta say right here: still great!), 999, the Buzzcocks, GBH, Crass, The Damned and Sham 69, to name but a few.
The local hardcore punk scene in Canada was fairly vibrant, especially in a little industrial town aboot 30 minutes from Niagara Falls called Hamilton. I had a friend named D. Hawthorne who rented the top floor of a three story house in a not-so-nice neighborhood. His place was always filthy; dirty dishes in the bathtub, piles of smelly clothes scattered aboot, piles of D.O.A and Asexuals records in and out of their sleeves, overflowing ashtrays and a veritable cornucopia of empty liquor bottles. “D” was a true punker, only did things he wanted to do and didn’t care what people thought of him. He was a great guy, very intelligent. I used to crash on his couch after a night of drinking and pogo’ing to a local punk band called the Forgotten Rebels. Surfin’ On Heroin was their big ‘hit’ you may remember.
No? Oh, well.
We came back to his pad after a night of drinking and slam dancing to the great Vancouver band SNFU to find the lead singer of the Rebels, an amiable chap named Micky DeSadist, chewing on a chicken bone straight from ‘D‘s‘ garbage tin.
Micky is the fashionable one pictured at the top of this entry.
So we chatted for a while, talked about his band’s newest release, and then he skittered back into the night like a paranoid sewer rat.
What a cool, punk rock thing to do, I thought. Hungry and homeless, what a wonderful role model!
I had a friend, though, who REALLY WAS a rebel, and here is one of aboot a million stories I could tell about him.
There was a great restored Victorian house/ turned pub in Hamilton, can’t recall the name, that we used to frequent because they served great draught beer and allowed us to ‘rent’ out the top floor for private parties. We would rent and haul our own sound system (on which I would blare my famous mixed cassette tapes--God, I‘m getting‘ old), and they would supply our very own private bartender who would serve very strong and very cheap drinks.
During one of these parties another true punk friend of mine, one P. Crowe, got fairly smashed and ended up on the very precarious third story roof with his 6-pack of Molson Canadian Lager (’P‘, if you‘re reading this: WAS it a six pack, or was it hard liquor? I can‘t be sure). Crouching there like some demented spiky-haired Gargoyle, ‘P’ decided it would be a good idea to throw some of the bottles (or glass) down to the street below. Problem was, there were people down there, sitting on the patio and trying to enjoy a quiet cocktail. I can only imagine their horror as they hear the glass explode at their feet, look up, and see my friend leering down at them, all glowing red eyes and demonic laughter. Needless to say the patrons grab their babies and loved ones and scatter, but not until one of them calls the cops, who quickly pull my friend off the roof and probably save his life.
Then there was the time I, and my friend Dave and his lovely bride (then girlfriend) witnessed ‘P’ Crowe tumble down a flight of stairs with a large Vodka and OJ and land head first into our sectional sofa. ‘P’, always aware of his priorities, never spilled a drop. Simply magnificent. A true punk rocker!
More blog entries on 'P' will be forthcoming, I can assure you!
I still listen to punk rock, but with a different ear. I appreciate the anger, and the fact that most of the songs still fill me with adrenaline when I hear them, but the politics, although probably heartfelt at the time, feel dated and a little silly. When the Dead Kennedys come on my ipod,though, I still sing along to the lyrics.
But not the Sex Pistols.
So, anyway, I think I’m done ramblin’ for the night.
Thanks for reading.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Over at my friend Philbert's masterful site "INTESTOONS" (right rail, click on it!), there is an interesting discussion going on about the best albums released in 2007. I, of course, had to put in my two cents as well as many others.
Each year in December I do this, and each year I usually struggle to find 10+ REALLY GOOD albums.
BUT...I can usually name a good 20+ OLDER albums that I have either been introduced or re-introduced to by friends, or discovered by chance, that are excellent. For those that I haven't heard before I usually end up wondering how the hell I missed them the first time around, and the others are favorites I used to like long ago and have had a sudden 'urge' to listen to again.
So I offer up to y'all my list of re-discovered gems NOT released in this calendar year. Of course, this is just a partial list:
THE ZOMBIES, ODYSSEY AND ORACLE
XTC, WASP STAR (APPLE VENUS, VOL #2)
THE WONDER STUFF, NEVER LOVED ELVIS
THOMAS DOLBY, THE FLAT EARTH
MOBY GRAPE, MOBY GRAPE
THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, FLOOD
THE THE, MIND BOMB
A3, EXILE ON COLDHARBOUR LANE
THE BAND, MUSIC FROM BIG PINK
BELLE AND SEBASTIAN, DEAR CATASTROPHE WAITRESS
BEN FOLDS, ROCKIN' THE SUBURBS
BIG STAR, #1 RECORD/ RADIO CITY
CHINA CRISIS, WORKING WITH FIRE AND STEEL
DEATH IN VEGAS, THE CONTINO SESSIONS
THE DOORS, THE DOORS
FRANK ZAPPA, HOT RATS
GOMEZ, IN OUR GUN
THE HOUSEMARTINS, THE PEOPLE WHO GRINNED THEMSELVES TO DEATH
THE SMITHS, THE QUEEN IS DEAD
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Dan Snaith, the man responsible for the one man electronic experiment Manitoba (he was forced to change the name to Caribou thanks to a lawsuit brought "aboot" by one 'Handsome Dick' Manitoba), was born in Dundas, Ontario Canada to two mathematics professors.
After some critically acclaimed EP's and two albums as Manitoba, he released the Milk Of Human Kindness as Caribou, and to tell you the truth I was a little underwhelmed. Although sonically impressive, I felt it lacked cohesive tunes and focused a little too much on the production, which overwhelmed the entire album.
So needless to say I was a little reticent to give this one a listen. With little to no expectations, I put it on the other day while driving and from the first track, Melody Day, I knew this was going to be different.
The songs (and it needs to be stated that these are indeed SONGS, first and foremost), are brilliant, with definIte echoes of mid to late 1960's first rate psychedelia complimented by modern sounds and crisp, state of the art production techniques. The whole album has a much more organic sound quality to it which makes this his most accessible (although I highly doubt you'll be hearing this one on commercial radio) disk to date.
It is rich with gorgeous harmonies (even some 'la la la la's' thrown in for good measure!), creative drumming (Dan IS a very accomplished drummer, after all), and boundless energy.
I have listened to this album 5 times so far, trying to find a track that is not a stadout, and I come up empty every time! This, in my humble opinion, is one hell of a great record and possibly the best release in 2007.
But be warned that this is not an album you can preview in 30 second snippits on itunes. It needs to be consumed whole, in one sitting preferably, to really get it.
So, if you still have family members asking you what you want for Christmas, tell them Andorra by Caribou.
You will not be disappointed.
(Stand out tracks include, BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO, the following: Melody Day, After Hours, Eli, Sandy)
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
From about 1966 onwards, “pop” music magically, almost overnight it seems, turned into “rock” music, and we can all blame Brian Wilson.
Everyone knows 1966 was the year the Beach Boys released the magnificent Pet Sounds (a Beach Boys album in name only, of course; this was Brian’s baby and Brian‘s baby alone), the Beatles released Revolver and Dylan released Blonde On Blonde. All of a sudden this new “rock” music was being taken seriously by critics and fans alike, and albums were no longer simply a collection of singles, but rather singular artistic “statements” worthy of dissection and discussion.
Pet Sounds was actually conceived by it’s author as a serious portrait of a young man’s emotional and physical trials and journeys. Now, whether he succeeded lyrically and thematically is an altogether different discussion, but there is no denying that the album has a certain musical unity connecting the individual songs.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, it inspired Paul McCartney and his cronies to write Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Not unlike Pet Sounds, it was a concept album in name only, with only the first two songs (the title track and With A Little Help From My Friends) and the title track ‘reprise’ book ending
10 totally individual and different tracks which had nothing to do with Paul’s original, albeit abandoned, storyline.
But the Beach Boys inspired other bands to take the concept a step further also; the Mothers Of Invention released Freak Out! (a quite inspired and sardonic statement about rock music and the state of America at that time) and The Kinks released Face To Face (Ray Davies’ first real serious and successful attempt at his now commonplace idiosyncratic character studies of ordinary people).
As the 60’s progressed the concepts became tighter and storylines began to come to the forefront, but it wasn’t until the Who released Tommy, according to most critics, that a band successfully composed a complete story based concept album. Everyone knows the storyline, so I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say that it’s success was a huge leap forward for the concept album as a viable commodity, and would open the floodgates for the decade known for concept albums, THE 1970‘S!
(Some other concept albums of note from the 1960’s include The Who’s The Who Sell Out and SF Sorrow by the Pretty Things).
Pink Floyd successfully recast itself from a quirky, psychedelic band in the 60’s to a stadium filling MEGA BAND in the 1970’s with a classic stream of concept albums starting with The Dark Side Of The Moon (1973) and ending with their last album, the Final Cut (NOTE: I refuse to acknowledge that Pink Floyd even EXISTED after Roger Waters left the band!).
Aqualung (Jethro Tull), The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (Genesis), The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust (Bowie), Eldorado (ELO), Bat Out Of Hell (Meatloaf--ok, this one’s debatable), 2112 (RUSH) and Quadrophenia by the Who, are all pretty good examples of concept albums released in the 70's.
But one cannot talk about concept albums in the 1970’s without mentioning YES. Virtually every one of their albums is considered a concept album, and the most notorious of them all is Tales From Topographic Oceans. Featuring only one “song” per side (albums, kiddies! ask your mommy...), Tales is an overblown pretentious beast of an album, and has been described by some critics as “one of the worst examples of progressive rock's overindulgent nature”.
Even though it was panned by the critics (and many YES fans also, actually), it didn’t kill the concept album. No, that happened at the beginning of the 1980’s, and the band responsible for it‘s demise?
Yep, you guessed it: STYX!
Kilroy Was Here, a science fiction rock opera about a “future where moralists imprison rockers”, and featuring ridiculous visuals (google “KILROY WAS HERE PHOTOS” and try not to laugh your ass off! Go on, give it a go…) was not only a major contributing factor leading to the death of STYX but also led to the concept album being discredited by music fans and critics across the globe.
It wasn’t until the late 1990’s that the concept album made a comeback, scraping and clawing it’s way back to life after almost two decades, and just like we can trace the birth of modern rock concept albums to Brian Wilson, I believe we can blame the resurgence of this genre on Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins and his Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness album. After that album received much critical and popular acclaim, it once again opened up the door for bands such as the Mars Volta, Nine Inch Nails and The Streets to indulge in their pretensions.
So, that being said, what’s your opinion on concept albums? Got any favorites? Think they suck? Love 'em to death? I’d love to hear your thoughts….