Saturday, April 26, 2008

Does your shoe have a boy inside? What a funny place for a boy to hide! Does your shoe have a dog there too? A boy and a dog and a foot in a shoe. Well, the boy is Buster Brown. And the dog is Tige, his friend. And they're really just a picture but it's fun to play pretend. So look look look in the telephone book for the store that sells the shoe, with the picture of the boy and the dog inside so you can put your foot in too. Buster Brown Shoes!

I'm not quite sure what precipitated the conversation, but my mother and I were trying to figure out the Buster Brown song. It was used by the shoe company as I remember in the early 60's. Apparently in 1902 Buster Brown and his dog Tige made their debut in a Sunday comic strip in the New York Herald, so I'm sure they made their way into the shoes long before the 60's.

The internet is either a great source of reference for people like me with pop trivia on the brain or takes us away from the matter at hand. I found the lyrics to Buster Brown in seconds and also stumbled upon another pop culture website where you can waste away hours. TV Land has posted trailers for 1000 movies from the 50's to the 90's. I of course couldn't stay away from Beach Party with that wonderfully joyous song Beach Party Tonight sung by Annette and Frankie. Here's the link and happy clicking.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Passing Strange

REFRESHING is the word that keeps coming to mind when I think of Passing Strange, the new Broadway musical I saw this week. This production was originally developed at The Public Theater. It's a collaboration of Stew: the Narrator, book, lyrics and co-composer, Heidi Rodewald: co-composer, bass, vocals and Annie Dorsen: director. I had heard about this play during it's inception as Bill Bragin, who at the time was Joe's Pub's beating heart, was also involved. Because of his persistence in getting the word out, I bought tickets. Passing Strange is a powerhouse of a performance. The four piece band act as a guardian surrounding the actors on stage. I use the term actors loosely as their performance goes way beyond just acting. They dance, sing, gyrate, jump, pontificate-it's all there. It was the Broadway debut for Rebecca Naomi Jones. She's amazing. Also outstanding were Daniel Breaker as the young Stew and De'Adre Aziza. The music is so finely integrated with the show that you don't realize the musicians have been playing for about 90% of the time.

Stew discovered the phrase "Passing Strange" while reading a comic book version of Othello. It has come to mean stranger than strange. Strange can be good. Great show, great energy, refreshing !

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Record Store Day a Success?

Looking at the week ending 4/20 Soundscan, I was realizing that it included Saturday's Records Store Day sales. The number of physical music purchased was up slightly from last week, but continues to take a dive from the abysmal numbers of last year. Overall albums were up 1.9% (+ 141K units) vs. last week and down 8.1% (- 659K units) vs. week 16 of 2007.

Digital albums were up 1.6% (+ 19K units) vs. last week and up 33.9% (+ 306K units) vs. week 16 of 2007. Not sure that digital units being up 34% from this week last year is reason to open the champagne, as last years numbers were not exactly overwhelming. It does show there is some willingness to still purchase digital albums. Digital tracks on the other hand, were down 3.6% (- 731K units) vs. last week and up 30.4% (+ 4.5MM units) vs. week 16 of 2007.

Mariah Carey came in with impressive numbers: 464,000 units sold. 10 years ago, first week sales probably would have translated to an easy platinum record. The surprise has to be the Juno Soundtrack. Still holding it's own at #12 with close to 12,000 units sold. Rounding out the #19 and #20 spots on the album charts are American Idol loser and winner, Daughtry and Jordan Sparks. Daughtry is closing in on 4 million records sold. WOW!

Monday, April 21, 2008

WNEW Where Rock Lives Again

This weekend I found an old T-shirt that had the WNEW-FM logo on the front and on the back, David Johansen live at the Bottom Line. Two great (New York) music institutions of the 70's, 80's and 90's: WNEW and the Bottom Line. WNEW has been revived on HD radio as well on online. Norm Winer, the longstanding Chicago radio guru is the "ringleader" of this revival.

For those of you who grew up listening to WNEW and having it be a big part of your life, you'll have fun navigating the site. Right now there's Led Zeppelin interviewed by Scott "Things from England, English Things" Muni. The DJs were knowledgeable, had the inside track and were there to let you in on it. I felt like part of a community. I even participated in a few bike-a-thons in Central Park they sponsored. It's nice that I can still listen to Dennis Elsas, Pete Fornatale and Vin Scelsa on WFUV and Meg Griffin on Sirius (as well as Vin there too). You never know if you're recollections are accurate, but in my mind, I recall a few defining moments: Pete Fornatale playing the entire Pet Sounds album one Easter, Scott Muni announcing that Elivs Presley had just died, filming in Super 8 a portion of the Central Park Beach Boys shows with Brian Wilson. There were countless times I relied on WNEW to find out anything about music, whether it be upcoming shows going on sale, a new release date, why Randy Meisner left the Eagles.... It was a big part of my life and my love for music. It's nice to have an old friend back.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Records Store Day April 19th

Tomorrow is Records Store Day. Hundreds of independently owned music stores across the country will celebrate “Record Store Day.” Please visit a record store and buy something.

To quote Paul McCartney
There’s nothing as glamorous to me as a record store. When I recently played Amoeba in LA, I realised what fantastic memories such a collection of music brings back when you see it all in one place. This is why I’m more than happy to support Record Store Day and I hope that these kinds of stores will be there for us all for many years to come. Cheers!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The End of Music As We Know It?

3 events have occurred in past few weeks that make me think it might be the end of music as we know it.

1. Bob Dylan wins a Pulitzer Prize
2. Keith Richards appears in a Louis Vuitton Ad
3. Led Zeppelin: The Ride is unveiled at the new Hard Rock amusement park in South Carolina.

This is a roller coaster and it's movements are choreographed to Whole Lotta Love. It takes some clicks to find the rides, but photos of it are there in all it's glory. There is mention that it begins as you enter a huge silver starship that takes you right into the cover of the first Led Zeppelin record. I couldn't read any further.

To ape REM: Is this the end of the world as we know it? It might be a prophesy. Their latest record debuted @ No. 2 with sales of 115,000 copies of its ''Accelerate''.

Another Reality Show-Another Teen Idol

Don't know how much more the American public can take of the reality show barrage. Just read about casting for MTV's latest bid: Teen Dream from the executive producers of America's Next Top Model. They are looking for the next female superstar, if the market hasn't already been exhausted. Not only do they want the daughters, but they want the mothers too. I think Howard Stern hit the nail on the head when he said people love American Idol not to hear people sing, but for the humiliation factor. What could be more humiliating than a teen girl being followed by camera with her stage mom omnipresent? If you fit the bill and want to be the next Teen Dream (what an archaic title-Is it 1955?) or have your daughter wear the crown, details are below.

Producers are seeking talented young women and their mothers who are looking forward to showing off their daughter's talents. Open casting calls where mothers and daughters must appear together will happen in Los Angeles on April 18-19; Orlando on April 25-26; Miami on April 27; and New York on May 3-4. For complete information regarding these casting calls and what is required to bring, send an email to

Friday, April 11, 2008

Artie update

According to the blog Artie did make it to Amesterdam on the same flight as Teddy.

In case you were not aware, there is now a great show on Stern 101 Friday mornings. Jay Thomas has become the defacto Friday morning host, and will now carry a regular show on the Stern network. In his first show as a permanent Friday host, Jay Thomas had the good fortune of being able to deliver some additional news regarding the Artie Lange saga that unfolded yesterday.

Artie is indeed in Amsterdam. The news was confirmed with a live call from Jason Kaplan of the Strern Show as he sat at an Amsterdam cafe. Kaplan confirmed that both Artie Lange and Teddy made the trip. Kaplan has not yet seen Artie but has placed a couple of phone calls to him.

Robin Quivers, a Stern how staple, called into the live segment of Jay Thomas’ show and offered additional insight, and is in fact on the air as I write this piece. Shuli, also a member of the Stern Show staff, and frequent participant with Jay Thomas added a bit more information on Artie. In a text message, it was confirmed that Artie was on the same plane with Teddy. At one tense moment as Teddy boarded the plane, he had to pass by Artie who was seated in First Class. The pair exchanged glances. Teddy says that he and Artie have not spoken, and Teddy stated that he is making it a point to avoid Artie during the trip.

So, we have some news on Artie, and the news that the Friday morning dilemma for Stern fans has been solved. Jay Thomas is a wonderful talent who hosts a regular afternoon drive show on Sirius Stars 102. His regular afternoon show will continue, and now he will entertain listeners on Friday mornings. With the addition of Jay Thomas on Fridays, and Vinnie Politan having a regular morning show, the morning drive situation at Sirius is far better today than it was a month ago.

Kudos to Sirius for addressing the morning drive issues in the programming line-up, and we all hope that the Artie situation comes to a reasonable conclusion that addresses Arties issues, maintains the show people love, and lets fans get back to great radio.

Artie Leaves Stern Show - No replays

We've all heard Artie threaten to leave the show before. Yesterday a fight with his assistant escalated into a brawl. Artie closed with I love you, but I'm out of here. Those Sirius fans wanted to catch the replay couldn't. Sirius always replays that days show for the duration of the day: not so yesterday. We heard a show from 4/7. Stern is not live on Fridays and they are on vacation next week. By the time they get back, it will be not be fresh in anyone's mind. A lot of fans speculating that the incident was scripted, mostly because of when it occurred-right before a break. Jason Reitman, the director of Juno had the unfortunate timing of being the guest to come on right after this. He even offered to come back another time. Everyone seemed shaken. In fact it took Robin screaming at the top of her lungs to get the fight to break and she's in another room. I was going to direct you to YouTube to listen, but the clips have just been pulled.
Something's happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear.....

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Live Nation Scooping It Up

According to the NY Times, Live Nation is now signing Jay-Z for a $150 million dollar deal. He was president of the record label he was on. He now signs with a tour promoter. JayZ is not know as a road warrior.

The deal includes financing for his own entertainment venture, in addition to recordings and tours for the next decade. The pact, expected to be finalized this week, is the most expansive deal yet from Live Nation, which has angled to compete directly with the industry’s established music labels in a scrum over the rights to distribute recordings, sell concert tickets, market merchandise and control other aspects of artists’ careers.

As it's been stated, it appears Live Nation is just bulking up the assets to sell it again. Nothing like regifting. As Bob Lefsetz said, who do you want to be in with Michael Jordan or the hottest young basketball player. He also points out that when David Geffen started his own label he signed Elton John, John Lennon and Donna Summer. Not until he signed a new act, Guns N Roses, did he start printing money. Three veterans now signed to 10 year deals with Live Nation. Jay-Z wil be 49/50 years old when the deal expires. Madonna will be 60/61 and U2 will be close to Madonna. I'm not throwing stones as I could have gone to school with Bono. I just know that touring is not for the faint of heart. The older you get, the less important it is prove yourself or take on the road. We'll see if Live Nation gets the big payday. We'll see if it's worth the money to these acts.

South Pacific @ Lincoln Center

I don't know how you can go wrong with the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Last night's performance of South Pacific at Lincoln Center was a completely enjoyable evening. The play hasn't been revived on Broadway since it's debut in 1949, when it ran for 5 years. Kelli O'Hara was sensational as Ensign Nellie Forbush. She brought a nice sensitivity to the character without making her sappy. Her voice is outstanding. I also saw her in The Light in the Piazza (written by Richard Rodgers grandson). Matthew Morrison, who was also in Piazza, portrayed the conflicted Lt Cable. Matthew seems to be popping up in everything from TV-As The World Turns to movies-Music and Lyrics to theater. He and Kelli team up on the song My Girl Back Home. The song was originally written for the play, but was cut as Mary Martin did not want to duet with Ezio Pinza, the original Emile. She was afraid he would overpower her. It's a beautiful addition to the play. Last but not least, Brazilian opera singer Paulo Szot, Emile, has credits stacked high in the opera world. How does one get a voice like that? Some Enhantent Evening took on a new poignantcy. There are a few YouTube postings on him.

The play is set in the South Pacific during WWll. Old prejudices dies hard. War is surrounding them. Love is in the air. Even with lyrics like "I'm as corny as Kansas in August, I'm as normal as blueberry pie", the songs are not dated. Later on in I'm In Love With a Wonderful Guy, the lyrics bring it to a place anyone can relate to "And you will note there's a lump in my throat, When I speak of that wonderful guy!" The show opens tonight. Go see it and be prepared to be humming the songs in your head for days.

Trivia: James Michener who wrote the book the play is based on won the Pulitzer Prize. This was his first book and was written at age 40.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Apple to sell tracks for 15 cents a piece

As reported in today's Lefsetz letter:

And starting April 15th, all Universal tracks at the iTunes Store will
be fifteen cents. Steve (Jobs) wanted the price to be lower, rumor has it as
low as nine cents, but he couldn't convince Marty Bandier and the rest
of the publishers to lower their share, so fifteen cents it is.

Keep reading his post today.... but remember it's 4/1!!!

U2 latest to sign on with Live Nation

U2 is one of the rare acts today that doesn't need the music industry to survive. They might not sell as many records as they used to (no one does), but they can sell out any tour they put on sale. They must sell lots of merchandise. In other words, they do not lack for financial resources. An article in the WSJ yesterday laid out the terms of what Live Nation will be handling for U2. The monetary compensation was not announced.

Live Nation will not have a stake in the band's recorded music or publishing. They will be promoter of record for tours for the next 10 years, handle merchandise and the band's website. For the same portion of her deal, apparently Madonna was paid $70 million by Live Nation. As WSJ points out, this deal keeps the status quo. Live Nation or it's predecessors have produced and promoted every U2 tours since 1997, a subsidiary, already manages their website and deals with their merch.

I scratch my head as to why U2 made this deal. Is it a monetary windfall? Does that even matter to them? The ability to control your own destiny, the ability to go where you want, when you want seems to be synonymous with U2. After the debacle of their fan club members, who paid a minimum of $40, not being able to buy choice seats for their tour, you think they would want to rethink the whole thing, not make a 10 year deal. Do they want want to be beholden to a behemoth?

Live Nation is acquiring at break neck speed. They own merch companies, website/fan club administers, recording contracts (Madonna)-but no label, as well as being promoters. They are starting an in-house Ticketmaster type service. Is Live Nation becoming an otopus with a few too many arms? Are they spreading themselves too thin? Are they the future of the music business?