Friday, December 28, 2007

Picks of the Year

It's that time of year when all the top 10 lists start surfacing. I'm going to mention a few standouts for me.
-I'd have to start with a record and artist I work with, Brandi Shearer's Close To Dark. Haunting melodies and a powerhouse of a voice, make this a top pick.
-I cannot get Girls In Their Summer Clothes out of my mind. Could it be that this Springsteen song from Magic reminds of the Who's Kids Are Alright? It's a great melody. I love hearing it on the radio.
-Bright Eyes' Four Winds is another song I love hearing on the radio.
-This Big Town-ok here is something that is not out there yet, but when it is, people will be listening. It's the brainchild of Michael LaMorte (mini-king, Fictura). The amazing melodies will bring you back to the best of the early Eagles. Michael has a way of making what you hear sound new, but familiar ala Fountains of Wayne.
-The Coast of Utopia trilogy by Tom Stoppard. Who would have thought that three plays based on 6 friends, writers and thinkers from 1840's Russia would be engaging. It was engrossing. Can't wait to see Rock 'n' Roll next month.
-Juno An enjoyable movie with great touches and a not so predictable ending. Nice use of the Mott The Hoople classic, All The Young Dudes. Check out the cutouts of a young Glen Campbell and Bill Clinton on Juno's friend's bedroom wall.
-Speaking of Ian Hunter, his show at The Williamsburg Music Hall affirmed my belief in Rock Music. He stuck to classics: the above mentioned Dudes, Angeline, Roll Away the Stone, I Wish I Was Your Mother, Cleveland Rocks,..... Even though we didn't hear much from his new record, Shrunken Heads, it's a great collection of music and worth checking out.
-Nick Lowe at Housing Works. Just him, his guitar and his wit. Will never tire of it.
-Seems like every book I read this year, came out last year, standouts were The Thirteenth Tale, Never Let Me Go and Team of Rivals. I'm reading Slash's autobiography which came out this year, but so far it isn't as entertaining as I thought it would be. It could be a Lifetime After Dark movie: Kid from broken home goes astray, finds music, girls and drugs and the rest is history.
Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sharing Our Passion

Amoeba Records is putting it's money where the mouth is. I will disclose that I work for them. What other label is so confident of their music that they're will to give it away? Sharing our passion is the Amoeba Records motto. That's exactly what's happening. Starting today at there will be two songs every two week to download free from Amoeba's first two releases: Brandi Shearer and Gram Parsons. We think you'll like what you hear so much that you'll want to buy both records. We kick it off with Brandi's live version of Gram's song Hickory Wind and The Burrito Brothers performance of Close Up The Honky Tonks. Every other Monday visit for another piece of the Amoeba passion: great music. Special Christmas bonus track: Brandi's bittersweet rendition of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. The song originally written for Judy Garland to sing in the movie Meet Me In St Louis. Happy Listening!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Collecting Christmas Music

Collecting Christmas music has become a hobby. I think my most treasured piece is a 45 of I Want Eddie Fisher For Christmas. With lyrics like "I want him here rehearsing, to sing to me in person" how could you go wrong? Betty Johnson recorded it and from what I read, it actually reached # 22 in late 1954. I guess you can't underestimate the power of Eddie. My friend Rosemary gave me the single right after I finished reading his autobiography. That guy lived.

In putting together a compilation of "rock" Christmas music for a friend's party, it really hit me that they way to create a gift that keeps on giving is to write a Christmas song. It doesn't even have to be a mega song, like White Christmas. Christmas Waltz is a song that I kept seeing on CD after CD, Sinatra did it, Barry Manilow did it, The Carpenters did it, Rosemary Clooney did it. I thought it was strange that I never heard it before, so I gave one a listen and realized I had heard it many times and never knew the name of it. It was written by the famous songwriting duo of Sammy Cahn & Jule Styne.

When I was an intern at MTV, the staff used to gather with a musician and do a special Christmas video. The year I was there it was Billy Squire and the song was Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You. Lots of swaying and a complete atmosphere of fun summed up the feeling of those first few years MTV was on the air. All the VJs, including Martha Quinn were having a great time doing this. The woman behind Billy in the Santa suit was my boss, Gale Sparrow. I'd like to think that party atmosphere hasn't left the business. Amid more layoffs at SonyBMG, it seems like it's just a matter of time before the next MTV happens. I will once again try and post the video from YouTube, but it wasn't cooperating yesterday.

Alas, the Christmas compilation will be without I Want Eddie Fisher. I haven't been able to find a digital version of it......

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Junk Mail Courtesy of Dennice Brown

The Christmas season makes the mail carriers jobs that much heavier. It seems we are inundated with catalogs and junk mail. How many credit cards can a person apply for? Dennice decided to save every piece of junk mail from November and here are her results. Does it hit home?

Ever wonder how much junk mail you get in a month? Well, crazy Dennice does. I've saved every catalog and piece of junk mail for the month of November. That is only 30 days. Here is what I got. And if you want to know what it looks like, just open my photo (the stack is 12" high - I've added my coffee cup to the photo so you can get the feel of the height of the stack). 113 pieces of junk mail - and here is the break down 11 from Citibank 9 from Capital one 9 from Bank of America 8 from Chase 6 from United 5 from Am Ex 65 other including: 3 return address labels for DR and I; 1 fancy notepad saying Rizzo Family; and 9 blank holiday cards for my own use compliments of the Humane Society and Alley Cat Allies 94 Catalogs - including 7 from Bloomingdale's 4 from ESPN 4 from Red Envelope 4 from Paul Fredrick 4 from Hammacher Schlemmer 3 from Frontgate 3 from Lillian Vernon 3 from Pottery barn 3 Charles Tyrwitt (who?) 2 from Johnston & Murphy 2 from Crate & Barrel (surprised only 2, seems like I get one every day) 2 Fredrick's of Hollywood (might just order from there) 2 from 2008 Calendar Collection 2 from Jos A. Bank 2 from All Posters 2 from NFL 2 from Torneau 2 from Exposures 2 from Harry & David 2 from Sharper Image 2 from Eddie Bauer 2 from Coldwater Creek 2 from WineCountry Gift Basket 2 from Vermont County Store 41 other Now I have to to go and get calling to get off the lists so I am not responsible for killing any more trees. Happy Holidays and Go Green.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Running Down a Dream

Runnin' Down a Dream, the documentary about Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers covers almost every aspect of their career (somehow they skipped over the soundtrack to She's The One-ignoring a favorite, Walls). This is a must see for anyone who:
1. Is in a Band
2. Is in or wants to be in the music business
3. Needs to see a solid example of sticking to your ideals.

The one scene I keep coming back to, takes place in the studio where Tom is producing Roger McGuinn's record. The A&R guy insists that Roger should record what Tom believes to be an inferior song. He nicely says this song is not good and over the course of the next few minutes points out that Roger is rock royalty and how could he ask him to record something lame. The A&R guys suggests writing new lyrics. All of this prompts Tom to ask if the guy is getting a percentage of the song. Tom knows and loves music and doesn't believe in compromise. He comes off as being a hard a**, but fair. We need more musicians willing to go the distance to fight for quality and stay true to their roots. Kudos to TP & his Heartbreakers.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Only 5 Songs In The World

I am listening to Sirius and Meg Griffin is playing Rock Your Baby by George McCrae which sounds just like When You're in Love with a Beautiful Woman by Dr Hook. I've heard both of those songs a hundred times and never realized how close they sound until today. Now I had to search YouTube for Sylvia's Mother. One of the most melodramatic songs of the rock era. "and the operator says....." Things I did not know about Dr Hook and you probably don't either
1. They are from Union City, NJ
2. Band member Ray Sawyer's eye patch was legit and not a prop. He was in a car accident in 1967, the year before the band was formed.

John Hiatt once told me that there are only about 5 songs in the world and everything else is derived. He then referred to his song Slow Turning which he said had the same chords as ROCK in the USA, That's What I Like About You and the list went on......

Saturday, October 27, 2007

30 Rock, The New Mary Tyler Moore

Look at the comparisons:
Mary Richards/Liz Lemon: Both in their 30's, single and had their share of bad boyfriends. Both have caring relationships with their boss and will go as boss' date to an event if asked. Producers with deadlines working on live TV.

Lou Grant/Jack Donaghy: Gruffy exterior, imposing figures, always want the the best for their Mary/Liz. Heart is definitely in the right place.

Sue Ann Nives/Phyllis Lindstrom: Jenna Maroney, Cerie. They say hilarious things, without meaning to.

Ted Baxter/Tracy Jordan: Both are the star of their show. I think it's safe to say they are both kooky.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show is a classic. All the characters were played so well, episodes were well written and expertly crafted. 30 Rock is headed there. Last week's episode in which Jack takes Tracy to the NBC psychiatrist, may rate as one of the funniest on TV. Tracy enters the room by asking the doctor, "Who's crazier, me or Ann Curry?" Jack portrays his version of Tracy's father (as Fred Sanford) which appalls the doctor, but gets to Tracy. Watch the episode on line if you missed it. You'll want to replay it so you don't miss anything. Writing and acting at it's best. Episode: Rosemary's Baby.

Labels Vs Apple

"Warner Music Group may follow Universal's lead and switch to a month-to-month contract with Apple when its current deal expires at year-end, according to The Washington Post. Warner is reportedly in talks with Sony and Universal to launch a subscription music service of its own that would compete directly with iTunes. The potential loss of another major record label, following Apple's highly publicized break-up with NBC Universal, could bode poorly for future iPod sales."

Why do the major label get it so wrong? They didn't embrace the future when digital was on the horizon. They couldn't come up with a unified system of selling music on line, so Napster just gave it away. Apple had that solution, people are comfortable with it and now they want to shun the only money they are making from digital. It becoming clearer as to why Madonna took her act to Live Nation. Major labels: look at the big picture, get beyond your short sightedness. iPods are not going away.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Songs about food

These could inspire amazing tunes. Two wonderful edibles that once I have them, I want more: the freshly made Apple Cider donuts from the Milk Pail in Water Mill and the Red Velvet Cupcakes at Two Little Red Hens on 2nd Avenue & 86th St. Another great food must have inspired this song: More Songs about Chocolate and Girls by the Undertones.

The Milk Pail is owned by members of the Halsey family who are basically settlers of the Hamptons. They first saw the donut machine at a fruit trade show 1973. They purchased it and began making their famous apple cider donuts. They add apple cider to help keep them moist and to give them a unique flavor. It's best to get them warm. The minute you enter the stand and smell those wonderful donuts baking, you must have two. Song to note: Little Green Apples (OC Smith). Note of surprise: It won a Grammy in 1968 for song of the year. The same year that Chain of Fools, Dock of the Bay, Hey Jude and Born To Be Wild all made the charts.

I've tried many red velvet cupcakes and nobody has come close to those made by Two Little Red Hens. They are rich, so 1/2 of one is incredibly satisfying. They are also lovely to look at. Beautiful red cake with a rich white frosting. It says there is a hint of cocoa in them. Maybe that's what sets them apart. Brandi Shearer is shown indulging in one (photo courtesy of Gabriel Trujillo). Song to Note: Of course one of the sappiest songs that has nothing to do with food comes to mind, Blue Velvet by Bobby Vinton. There are songs about cupcakes or have cupcake in the title but none that are worth mentioning. Other dessert offerings: Cookie Puss an homage to Tom Carvel by the Beastie Boys and Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie by Jay and the Techniques.

What a menu: Vegetables by the Beach Boys, with help from Paul McCartney. Mashed Potato by Dee Dee Sharp and Hot Burrito #1, the Flying Burrito Brothers, which leads me to plug the latest offering from Amoeba Records on 11/6. A never before heard live recording of Gram and the band from 1969.

Monday, October 15, 2007

It's Blog Action Day

There's a movement to have all blogs unite on a single issue. The inaugural issue is the environment. Al Gore has been in the news non-stop since winning his shared Nobel Peace Prize. Al Gore is the face of saving the environment these days. I met Mr Gore in Nashville at an Earth Day celebration. At the time I was working with Rosanne Cash who was performing. This was my first trip to Nashville and as I was advised, you may not know a lot of people involved in the event or otherwise, but they will know you. It scared me how accurate that was. Nashville is like Cheers-everyone knows your name. Al was the senator from Tennessee at the time and was promoting saving the earth. The initiatives then were recycle, ride your bike, etc. This was about 17 years ago and if we were doing what he suggested then, he wouldn't be winning a Nobel Prize for his work. As posted here weeks ago, it could be as simple as recycling CDs. In New York City, the recycling is not as extensive as it should be. We can only recycle plastic that is in the shape of a bottle, but we can recycle copy paper and envelops, which I'm sure a lot of New Yorkers don't know. I heard on NPR last week that water is the new oil, meaning our water resources are drying up. Don't leave the faucet running, take quicker showers. We're doing our part by putting off washing our car which is in much need of a washing. The rain doesn't clean it. To quote Sonny Bono "It's the little things, that mean a lot".....

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Mets didn't deserve to win, but the fans didn't deserve to lose.

In the blink of an eye, the season was done. The Mets were 7 games up with 17 games to play. The Mets didn't deserve to win, but the fans didn't deserve to lose. We take it the hardest. We have so much invested: mentally, physically and monetarily. This is the first year in as long as I can remember, that I did not attend a game at Shea. It was not a conscience decision. It just didn’t happen. The Mets have an awful home record-so another level of disappointment for the fans. I didn’t hear Tom Glavin’s interview after the show, but according to the Howard Stern show, he was nonchalant and brushed the loss/season off. Even Artie Lange, the biggest Met hater, said he felt sorry for Met fans after hearing his interview. Glavin who pitched a career low .1 of an inning and gave up 7 runs. He was only able to get one out. A brilliant career. A lousy finish. To be down 7-0 before a Met picked up a bat, basically sealed the team’s fate for the year. Well it will be a very long winter for us Met fans. There will be unsettled anger for months to come. Blame can go around, but ultimately the collapse was a team effort.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Brandi Shearer Live From NY

This is late, in fact a month late, but it made me realize how a great performance stays with you long after the show is over. I still get chills when I think about seeing The Clash at The Palladium, Brian Dennehey in Death of A Salesman and my first concert: The Beach Boys at Nassau Coliseum. Brandi Shearer’s three week residency at The Living Room, culminated in one of those moments. Each show built on a growing power. By the last show in late August, the audience was inhaling every note. Brandi herself seemed a bit surprised that everyone was LISTENING (meaning not talking through the set, which seems to be status quo). The closing number Yes, Yes, Yes brought the show full circle. People have commented that her live show reminds them of Janis Joplin without the screaming. Brandi is not afraid to take a song by the horns and blast it back at you. Heaven is a borderline creepy song, that stays in your being for days. It’s a call for redemption, take me back I’m good now-She means it! Punctuating lines like “I Want To Go To Heaven Like Other Little Girls” and “I want you back,
I always did. And I’m such a good girl now”, Brandi has you guessing about what could she have done to cause such pleading….

Her band of seasoned New York-based musicians added to the excitement, kept the pace going and had fun.

Jim Campilongo of the Little Willies booked ended the shows with his guitar while Steve Elliot picked up middle relief.
Richard Hammond on both upright and electric Bass
Robin Macatangay on acoustic Guitar
Aaron Comess of the Spin Doctors on Drums

The icing on the last night of performances was Brandi sharing her recent obsession with the audience: cupcakes from Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery. She told the audience how much she loves NY, even the subway shutdown due to a storm, 95 degree weather one day and 65 the next. For three weeks, New York City was Brandi’s town.

Download Brandi's Lullabies for limited time, free at

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Release Week - Brandi Shearer

Releasing an album is not just having a musician record a record, then the label makes sure it gets into the stores. There is a whole thing that goes on and one day when I can spend more time on it, I'd like to get into that whole thing. This week Brandi Shearer's record Close To Dark came out. It's the initial release from Amoeba Records, the West Coast record retail people. It's a record we're beyond excited about. Brandi's In Store @ Amoeba Hollywood, 9/1 at 2pm PST will be streamed live on Check out a great performer!

LA Weekly: Brandi Shearer at Amoeba Music

Feeling burned by the near-pathological show-canceling of soul-belter Amy Winehouse? Then the singer you should get to know well is Brandi Shearer. Not only can Shearer stand up for lengths of time without wobbling, she has a heaven-sent, heart-shuddering vocal style that, like ol’ Wino, makes her sound worldly and seasoned well beyond her young years. Shearer’s just-out record, Close to Dark, was produced by Larry Klein (producer and ex-husband of Joni Mitchell, but you knew that) and will definitely appeal to fans of sultry ballads, with an emphasis on swooning melodies. When she delivers the line “My eyes flew open in the middle of the night” over and over, there’s even a ferocity that hints that Brandi Shearer may just be a tad crazy — just as we Winehouse fans like our singers. Starts at 2 p.m. Also at Tangier, 9 p.m. (Libby Molyneaux)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Saving the Planet 1 CD at a Time

It took me awhile to get around to going to GreenDisk's website. They recycle anything techno. One of the best features is the small package under 20 lbs, which they'll recycle for $6.95 and you can print the label and choose the delivery service from their site. There are additional way to recycle bigger items like computers. For $6.95 you can send them CDs, your own mouse, cell phones, etc. Seems like a good idea to me. I have a bunch of CD that are worth nothing and need to be trashed, but why put more hazardous waste into our landfills and our drinking water. For less than a movie, you can do you part.

Friday, July 27, 2007

It's Still Ok To Like Nick Lowe

I still have my purple It’s Ok To Like Nick Lowe button. I first heard about Nick Lowe in the magazine Trouser Press. He was releasing his first record here and I remember him saying I started playing the bass because a monkey can do it and it’s a great way to get girls. I immediately went out and bought Pure Pop For Now People. This started my never-ending musical loyalty to Nick. He performed at the Housing Works Bookshop last Friday. Just he and his guitar and there is nothing better than Nick and his guitar.

He played a few from his recent album, At My Age. Hope For Us All was beautiful. I Trained Her To Love Me is an interesting Nick twist. In this story All Women Are Liars and he is going to train this person to love him, so he can break her heart and get back at all the women who broke his heart. Speaking of heart, the highlight of the evening was his rendition of Heart the song first performed by one of his many bands, Rockpile. It’s one of the all time greats and it can be played fast, moderately or slow. This evening he opted for slow making it touching and poignant. It gave me chills. I worked with Nick during his Little Village phase and there none funnier, more gentlemanly or talented. At My Age is an apt title for someone who just gets finer and finer with age like a great Bordeaux.

Listen to his interview on Fresh Air from 7/24. You can pull it up as a podcast.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dumbing down to the Tween Market

Created bands/singers are nothing new and they completely have their place in our culture. I can make an argument that without them, kids may not develop a love of music. My love for The Monkees exists to this day. I have much respect for Mike Nesmith's songwriting. They made great records that hold up better than most Madonna records do. How could you fail with people like Carole King writing your material?

Today's Wall St Journal has a article on The Jonas Brothers and the Disney machine behind them. Columbia took a shot with one brother, who was a budding Christian pop artist, found out he had two more brothers that were musical and they put a record out as a trio. It was described as Green Day light. They sold about 62,000 copies, which isn't so dreadful in this day when you figure their biggest champion, the label head, had exited before the release and it wasn't promoted. When Columbia released them from their contract, Disney stepped in. On Disney's label they now have access to the Tween marketing machine behind High School Musical and Hannah Montana.

Here's where the story goes south and why the music industry is in the toilet. They're painting an awful image of their consumers.

Jill Casagrande, the senior vice president and general manager of Radio Disney, says the Jonas Brothers are a rare act that bridges the preteen gender gap. "Boys identify with them," Ms. Casagrande says. "And girls love them because they're cute.

That last line struck me. It says to me that Radio Disney's perception of what girls listen to or make decisions on is guided by superficial things such as looks. Music is such an important part of most kids lives. Why is a woman of this caliber portraying her audience as a bunch of dim wits?

The following reinforces how far records labels will take themselves out of music to sell a record:
"Today one of our main challenges is making music available to the consumer who isn't just looking for music," says Hollywood general manager Abbey Konowitch. The Baby Bottle Pop displays, he says, give exposure to "the candy buyer as well as music buyer."

The Jonas Brothers website is directed to Hollywood Records site. The first thing you see is an ad to pre-order their new record.

Consistently putting out quality records should be a label's first priority. Thank God for indie labels like Amoeba Records, the newly formed label from the West Coast record retailer. Look for quality releases, Brandi Shearer and The Gram Parsons Archive Vol 1 from the label in the next two months.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Live Earth, Not Exactly Live

I was probably not being very “earth conscience” by leaving the TV on for most of 7/7’s Live Earth Concert. I was interested to see the coverage and left Bravo on (didn’t have Sundance or Universal HD where I was). Unless you watched online, the tv coverage was not live. In fact, I saw Shakira’s Hip Don’t Lie at least three times. Once was more than enough. There was a highlight for me and that was Alicia Keys. I guess I haven’t paid much attention to her, but she is a real performer/entertainer.

Other performances of note:
Melissa Etheridge going on way too long and turning what started out as a help the earth sermon into a political rant-this not helping Al Gore’s mantra of this not being a partisan issue.

Jon Bon Jovi saying that he was going to play the National Anthem, which turned out to be Wanted Dead Or Alive. I remember the president using that rhetoric when referring to the capture of Osama (apparently he’s still alive). I guess he is no longer humble Jon.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Kids and Parents Sharing Playlists

I was leaving the gym, crossing the street when a boy about 8 years old had one ear bud in, holding his iPod and turned to his Dad and said "Do you have The Jackson 5 on your playlist?" The father replied, "I do." Are kids now sharing playlists with their parents or is it the other way around? To what extent are parents influencing what their kids listen to?

According to a recent article in the Wall St Journal, parents have no problem shelling out hundreds/thousands of dollars so their kids can learn how to play Stairway to Heaven on the guitar, in a band with their peers. We've all seen the movie School of Rock which was inspired by the Paul Green School of Rock. His schools teach kids to play an instrument and put them in a band setting with other kids. This article profiled a child who is a classically trained flutist. He talked about going to sleep listening to orchestral pieces and his love for classical music. His father "encouraged him" to go to rock school, where it seemed he was less than thrilled to be performing a Jethro Tull song with his new found band members. The School of Rock All Stars open shows for Ween and Bad Brains. A few not so happy concertgoers remarked that they shouldn't have to sit through these kids to hear the band they paid for.

When I was younger my parents record collection consisted of Bossa Nova compilations, Herb Alpert (he’s on my playlist), Lawrence Welk's Elephant Walk (I still love it to this day) and a Danny Kaye record who's cover scared the daylights out of me. I grew up in a neighborhood where the kids were older and that was an influence on my listening. When I was 3, I asked for and got Meet The Beatles for Christmas. That was it. Music became a passion. I played music all the time in our house and my mother really got into knowing the bands I loved and shared my passion. She knew about Debbie Harry before most of my friends did and my parents lent me their Buick Wildcat so I wouldn't miss the Beach Boys at the Nassau Coliseum. I guess what I'm getting at here, is I found rock music through friends and my thirst to hear everything.

Even though I don't like to admit it, I am of the age where I could be the parent of a teenager. I hope I wouldn’t shove my music down anyone’s throat, but I have to admit that living in my home it would be hard not to hear Pet Sounds, London Calling, Kiko, Bring the Family or Kings Record Shop a few hundred times. My friend has a 9 year-old daughter; they share Carrie Underwood’s Before He Cheats and sing it together in the car. The daughter has borrowed her mom’s Bon Jovi and Toby Keith CD’s and they’re in her iPod. She solely listens to Gwen Stefani and isn’t yet ready for the Eagles. She does scream turn it off when Bobby Vinton’s Blue Velvet comes on the radio (I must concur).

While researching a project I’m working on, I spoke with a lot of high schoolers. I asked them what they were listening to and I got the same responses over and over: AC/DC, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, etc. maybe a System of a Down thrown in. I didn’t ask if they were turned on to these acts because of their parent’s collection or found it on their own.

I guess the bigger picture here is that
a. Good music has staying power
b. Kids are not afraid to talk music with their parents
c. What is wrong with the music that is out there now, that kids just don’t mention it? Is it not appealing to them? Is it because radio is so consolidated, they can’t hear new music?
Is it just easier to pull out Mom and Dad’s Highway To Hell and rock the house?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

McCartney Mania At Amoeba Music in LA

I don't think anyone but the people who work at Amoeba Music could know what it is like to assemble an in-store performance for Paul McCartney, which is happening Wednesday night. The security issue alone must be daunting. Word is that people began lining up outside the store last night, which is a full 48 hours before showtime. Wristbands will be given out starting at 12:30pm tomorrow. What are those first 150 people to line up like? I'm sure many flew in from other parts of the country. The store will close at 4pm for Sir Paul's sound check and when the doors open, Amoeba will be ready. Recently about 900 people attended a Patti Smith in-store. On August 28th, Amoeba launches their record label, with the release of Brandi Shearer's exquisite Close to Dark. If you haven't been to Amoeba while in LA, you're missing out on a wonderful music experience. Go there and you'll see why music is so important in our lives.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Passionate About Food, Music, etc

It seems like passionate talk about food is surrounding me these days. The Lefsetz Letter, which usually is about music, has been dedicated this past week to music industry people’s entries on pizza. It all started with Bob mentioning Pepe’s Pizzeria which just opened a second branch in Fairfield. Pepe’s clam pizza is one the culinary joys in life. It ranks up there with some of the best meals I’ve ever had dining out, which include Nobu, Danube, Gramercy Tavern, etc. Someone on Lefsetz commented that if people were this passionate about music these days, there might not be a slump in the business. On Tuesday Keith and I went to the 92nd St Y to see a panel on NY Dining: Is It Better Than Ever? Gael Greene, the long time food critic from New York Magazine and Arthur Schwartz who was the Daily News critic for many years were on the panel. The reason for my attendance was the chef Jacques Pepin. He is a class act. The way he spoke about his passion for being a cook, he used that term, and the excitement about food especially in NY made me want to go home, pull out the arborio and start a risotto. The risotto would have to wait as The Shield was coming on the minute we got home from the event.

Apparently there is a rise in enrollment in culinary schools, probably fueled by the Food Network. Apparently tuition is running $30,000 to $40,000 and when students get out they are either making $9 an hour or working under some of the best chefs for nothing. Jacques said you have to love cooking in order to withstand the drudgery of moving up the ranks. He said pay your dues for three years, learn everything you can and you will be successful. Chefs are not what you see on the Food Network. He lovingly described an egg yoke, bread and caviar dish he had at Jean Georges as well as the best Lobster Rolls at the Clam Castle in CT (back to CT again). It just reinforces that there must be passion in life, whether it be your job, your hobbies, your family or friends. Without it, it just ain’t no fun. As Kinky Friedman said “Find What You Love and Let It Kill You."

Things I learned about the NY food industry: 40% of a restaurant's budget used to go to food, now it's about 25-28%, 40% or more is now real estate. There are some restaurants in the Meat Packing district that are pulling in $70,000 a night. Between rent and design, restaurants can now run up a bill of $15 million before one meal has been served. The first 6 months of a restaurant usually have a menu with far more items on it. The crazier combinations are there for reviewers or for a wow factor and these fall off the menu as the average customer won't order them. Other items that prove to be less than popular also leave the menu. Most young diners today do not frequent the same spot, but like to try different places each time.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Four Winds

I look forward to hearing Four Winds by Bright Eyes on Sirius. It reminds me of a British band from the 80's called Tenpole Tudor. There is a little bit of sea chantey feel, which just adds to the appeal for me. Tenpole dressed in Medieval garb for their album covers or were posed with a castle in the background. Ironically, I just realized that their second album, which I believe contained one of my all time favorites, Throwing My Baby Out With The Bathwater, was titled Let The Four Winds Blow. Stay with the Bright Eyes video which you can watch from their myspace site. It starts off with Conor & Co playing before a deadpan, misplaced crowd. I can't image these county fair attendees lining up to see Bright Eyes.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Decline of the Musician Rock Star

The use of the term Rock Star is now applied to everyone except musicians. While watching the Mets home opener today, Gary Cohen and Ron Darling, Mets announcers, said there was such excitement in the air at Shea and the Mets are beyond players and are now Rock Stars. The first non musician reference to Rock Star that I can remember hearing repeatedly and still here is President Bill Clinton. Ok Clinton can play the sax, but that is secondary to his life as a politician. I've met him and he is charismatic. Barack Obama is called a Rock Star. He is a well spoken politician, which by today's media standards, deems him a Rock Star. I've seen Prince and Prince is a Rock Star in every way. He may be the last of a dying breed. I have not heard the words Rock Star applied to a musician in a long time. Is that because there are so many musicians out there now, finding an audience big enough to make you a Rock Star is out of reach? American Idols have massive audiences but is there a Rock Star among them? Don't think so. Where are the Jimmy Pages, the Jim Morrisons, the Janis Joplins, the Stings of the future?

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Shield -TV Crack

There is no better block of television than FX's The Shield (back this Tuesday April 3) and when those 10 episodes are over, Rescue Me kicks in. I am a late comer to The Shield. Christmas of 2005, my friend Dennice got the first season on DVD, which was the start of her addiction. She then rented all available seasons over the break. I never want to get into new shows as I think I already watch too much. Dennice lent me her season one and my addiction began. The Shield is TV Crack. I joined Netflix just to watch it and when they didn't have Season 5 (it wasn't out yet), I went into withdrawal. I wouldn't look at anything on the net that might give away one piece of the plot for the already broadcast season 5. The DVD just came out, but luckily iTune had it up before then and I've been downloading a few shows a week. TV just doesn't get any better. Forget about the Sopranos, which has lost a lot of it's shine the past few seasons. The Shield has the best writing and acting. The show is violent, so it's not for everyone. These are cops you know you should hate, but they get the bad guy and that really is their goal anyway. If they have to play dirty to make a few bucks to send their autistic kid to a special school, so be it.

Forest Whitaker is beyond creepy as Kavanaugh, the IAD cop who will go to any extreme to nab Vic for killing a fellow cop, for which he was already cleared. After watching him, I will never accept gum from anyone I barely know again. This show has me emotionally drained. I'm up to episode 7 which I hope to watch tonight. I will catch up before Tuesday. Dennice is insisting that I watch the final episode with her, which means it must be outstanding. Season 6 will be 10 episodes. According to the series creator, Shawn Ryan, Season 7 will start taping in June and when that airs, that will put an end to my addiction. Most people don't even know what channel FX is on their cable system. Make the channel a favorite and watch continuous good drama from now until the end of the summer.

PS for those who watch the show, I just found this little piece of trivia, CCH Pounder plays Claudette. The CCH stands for Carol Christine Hilaria.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Willie Nelson Spring Water? All Night Chemists more SXSW

The last time Len, Brandon and Andy played SXSW was with Thisway. With over 1500 bands and 16,000 people descending upon Austin, the conference has grown by leaps and bounds. 6th Street, the home of one music club after another, makes Ludlow St look small in comparison. Police close the street off to all vehicles and music can be heard coming from every doorway and alleyway too. ANC played a tight set the first night of the festival at the Troubadour. The band benefited from good sound and a great performance. Everyone agreed that they were the best vocals and performance that were heard that evening. Apparently bad sound and ultra volume were rampant among most of the clubs the first night.

24 hours earlier the band booked a show on the just assembled Willie Nelson Spring Water Solar Powered Stage. Willie and Spring Water seems like an oxymoron, but you have to admire his commitment to helping the earth. The stage was set up, like so many other stages in a parking lot, 2 doors down from the famed Waterloo Records. Watching people hang their heads out of passing cars to hear the music, just summed up the fact that anyone, anywhere could hear music in Austin last week. You could listen to free music from 11am to 2am and probably get free food and drinks if you hit the right parties.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

All Night Chemists @ SXSW

The skies were finally bled dry and the masses hit 6th St last night. Two great live acts graced the same stage last night @ the Troubadour: All Night Chemists played a great set (Open rocked as always) before the Benjy Davis Project closed the evening. Benjy hails from Baton Rouge. Clowns was a standout. Great song!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Soggy SXSW

It started raining at 1pm and let up for about 15 minutes. This was enough time for me to make it back to the hotel after grabbing lunch at Nueva Onda. Besides myself & Brandi Shearer, having dinner at The South Congress Cafe was David Byrne. Tomorrow is the official start; my first show is Brandi @ Moonshine Patio 303 Red River @ 1pm. Also checking out The Cliks at 4:20pm and All Night Chemists @ The Troubadour Saloon 305 E 6th St, 11pm.

Monday, March 12, 2007

SXSW Revisited

Tomorrow I'm off to Austin for music's biggest conference SXSW. I haven't been to it in over 7 years. Last time I went there were about 800/900 artists/bands. This year there are over 1500. It's almost doubled in size. I'm looking forward to seeing some great music: All Night Chemists, Brandi Shearer, Patty Hurst Shifter, Ari Hest the list goes on, eating good food and seeing many people I just don't see on a regular basis.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Jam All Over

I was a big Jam fan in their heyday. I DJed in college and Town Called Malice became a favorite song to play. It was the ultimate seguer (note: you could segue almost any song into and out of it). It got people dancing, even though they had no idea who The Jam were. Malice was a great conduit to bridge songs like To Hell With Poverty and Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While) or Uptight, which of course would work it's way into Really Saying Somethin' by The Velvelettes which had to lead into It Ain't What You Do It's the Way That You Do It (Fun Boy Three's introduction of Bananarama to the world). It probably broadened The Jam's fan base. You can't help but get sucked in the minute that song starts. It's political and I think angry, but it's disguised as a perfectly constructed pop song.

As Paul Weller was closing three nights at Irving Plaza in New York (I believe one night was dedicated to the songs of The Jam), the remaining two thirds of of the Jam: bassist Bruce Foxton and drummer Rick Buckler were announcing they are reuniting for a tour without Paul called "From the Jam: Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler." They will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Jam's debut In the City. As of now, there are only UK dates planned.

Record of the Day featured Little Man Tate. This band wears its Jam badges on it's sleeve. It Must Be Love was described as having charmingly juvenile lyrics and the melody is catchy, catchy catchy. This is among a pack of songs coming from the UK recently, that have justified my belief that songwriting is making a comeback. There's more music on their MySpace site, including the wonderfully titled, Man I Hate Your Band. Worth a listen.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Response to Sequencing

A friend and former music writer from Houston, Sandy Adzgery had the following to add to the discussion on sequencing:

Your bit on albums and the order of songs made me think about XTC's "Skylarking" -- Todd Rundgren used his "continuity concept" to "marry" certain songs as Andy Partridge told me at the time... It doesn't work on a CD, because there is a real break that is noticeable, and the US wanted "Dear God" on the album, which they had decided didn't fit... But that is an element of music making (along with album art and worthwhile album notes) that are a thing of the past. CDs may still use art, but an album cover was a REAL piece of art!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Adding to Previous Entry via Courtney Love

When the judgment came against, the RIAA sought damages of $150,000 for each major-label-"owned" musical track in MP3's database. Multiply by 80,000 CDs, and could owe the gatekeepers $120 billion.

But what about the Plimsouls? Why can't pay each artist a fixed amount based on the number of their downloads? Why on earth should pay $120 billion to four distribution companies, who in most cases won't have to pay a nickel to the artists whose copyrights they've stolen through their system of organized theft?

The above is actually an excerpt from a piece Courtney Love wrote for Salon in 2000 that was sent to me today. It plays into my previous thoughts and it seems as timely as ever.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Does the Artist Share in the Revenue?

Google is in the news again, this time involving a month long test of it’s video advertising system. It has Warner Music and Sony BMG as partners in this test. They will share in advertising revenue generated through AdSense, which will pay every time an impression is generated when their music videos are viewed. I’ve been reading a lot about this and there seems to be no mention of what happens to the money the record labels receive. Is that money shared with those artists whose videos are being viewed? I’m guessing that since this is a new model, these provisions were not written into artists’ contracts. As an artist manager, I want to know that my client is receiving his/her fair share of profits generated by their art. I will continue to look into this.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Listening to an album from start to finish has become passe lately. In an iPod culture there is shuffle, which means songs, not necessarily grouped the way there were meant to be played. iPod is more like Top 40 radio of yore. A great album consists of great songs performed not always by great musicians, but certainly those with a passion for what they are doing. The average listener probably doesn't think about why Caroline No is the closing track on Pet Sounds or why Brand New Cadillac follows London Calling. There is an art to sequencing an album properly. When vinyl was king, an artist could split their work into two sides, essentially having two opening tracks. There is only one track to lead off a CD and one lead track for the iTunes user to hear. Sequencing is still very important to many musicians and listeners. That lead track sets the tone for what the listener is in for. That song hopefully signals a Pandora's box of musical gems. The listener should be taken through a journey of highs, lows, middles and it all should sound seamless. The New York Times had an article about the lost art of listening to an album. Their claim was that most people hear whole albums in concert these days, such as Lou Reed performing Berlin from start to finish or Brian Wilson recreating Pet Sounds. The piece hit home as All Night Chemists are preparing their sophomore album. Much thought and agonizing goes into putting the right songs in the right place. It looks like the first two songs are set. More hours will be spent on making sure the rest of it falls into its destined place, making this a total body of music - so one day it can be performed in it's entirety on a stage in front of many music loving fans.