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?