Monday, September 29, 2008

Miserable Day - Better Evening

Mets fans have been pretty forgiving. I think our patience is spent. To quote ex-Mets' Manager Yogi Berra, It's Deja Vu all over again. How does a team fall apart two years in a row, in the same fashion? At the plate, they looked like all life had been sucked from them. Were they aware they were playing for the post season? It was a suckydo ending to the illustrious history of Shea Stadium. For an short time after the game, the Shea Goodbye closing ceremonies made us put aside the debacle of a game. Mets heros of better days entered the field and crossed home plate. Tom Seaver threw the last pitch at Shea to Mike Piazza and the lights at Shea were dimmed for the last time. Anger and frustration for the 2007/8 Mets. Admiration and fondness for the 1969/86/2000 Mets.

Boosting my spirits for one hour, was the return of Dexter: The craftily written and acted story of a serial killer. Brandi Shearer's song Lullabies may have a whole new place in music as the song to repeatedly have sex to. Lullabies: the aphrodisiac, just ask Dexter's girlfriend Rita.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Is Lenka the New Feist

Maybe it's something about using one name. I only listened to one song from Lenka, so it's not a scientific conclusion, but she sounds an awful lot like Feist, especially 1234. You can listen for yourself as she is the hooka of the day.

I decided to listen a little more before posting this and Bring Me Down starts off sounding like the Beach Boys Breakaway and takes a sharp right turn into girlie pop territory. Ukulele infused Don't Let Me Fall brings me right back into Feist territory. Note: strings were arranged by David Campbell who is Beck's father.

Lenka was a teen actor trained by Cate Blanchett in Australia. She now calls LA home and recorded the record in Woodstock. Mike Elizondo who has worked ith Fiona Apple and Eminem produced the record. I like the production, lots of horns and piano. Could be pulled right from a Petula Clark session.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lucinda Williams Protests In Songs

I've been reading a lot lately about the lack or complete absence of protest and energy in songs. The country is in shambles yet no one has written his/her "Eve Of Destruction". It looks like Lucinda has taken up the cause. She is releasing Lu in 08 a week before the U.S. presidential election, as a digital EP with live versions of 3 covers: Bob Dylan's "Masters of War," Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth," and the Thievery Corporation/Wayne Coyne collaboration "Marching the Hate Machines Into the Sun." The lone original track will be "Bone of Contention."

Her ninth studio record, "Little Honey" comes out on Lost Highway on Oct. 14th.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Conversation with Ken Burns and Bob Schieffer

Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business Administration hosted a conversation with Ken Burns and Bob Schieffer. I have admiration and respect for both of these men. The questions started off very basic. We found out that both of them realized in 8th grade they wanted to do what they are doing.

The theme of truth in journalism or story telling and how do you keep perspective in this age of technology was a recurring theme. We live in an era of sound bites, which can get us into trouble. Both said they would rather hear a longer version of the answer and not have to live in a 2 minute YouTube world. Bob emphasized that there is so much going on with technology, but at the core of it all is still good reporting. He said you can’t be objective but you can be fair. He feels that the nightly news is one place where both sides of a story and the facts are presented. The nightly news elaborates on stories the viewers are probably already aware of.

The name Sarah Palin seems to invoke passion and this discussion definitely had its moment. Bob spoke of how he though the press had a responsibility to find out everything they can about Palin. She’s an unknown. The facts about her need to be presented. He pointed out that the press was being unreasonably chastised for chasing the story of her 17 year-old pregnant daughter. It was the bloggers who pressed the issue and it was only after the McCain campaign issued a press release, that the mainstream press covered it. This proves that with so much information out there, whether it be truth or fiction, people have to gather the facts and make educated decisions on their own. You can’t believe a commercial that a politician endorses or creates. Question it. I remember having a button in college that said Question Authority. Chasing another aspect of the Palin nomination, Ken said he thought it was irresponsible on the part of McCain to chose a running mate without vetting her properly and one with a seemingly lack of knowledge on most foreign and domestic affairs. As Bob pointed out, Sarah would be a 72 year-old heartbeat away from the most powerful position in the world.

Bob Schieffer will be moderating the final presidential debate. He said they have been trying for years to get the candidates to agree on a real debate forum and they have finally accepted. He will ask a question, each candidate will get 2 minutes to respond. After both have spoken, they will debate the issue between them. Bob will make sure they stay on point.

I will badly quote Walter Cronkite, but he said news should be reported without adjectives and adverbs. Watching the local news, it seems like it is one big commentary. Both Mr Burns and Mr Schieffer are at the top of their respective games. I think holding on to their truths and presenting both side of a story got them there.

As an aside Bob mentioned that he will be living a lifelong dream which will take place in Nashville two days before the Tom Brokaw moderated debate there. He and his band, Honky Tonk Confidential, have been invited to play the Grand Ole Opry on October 5th with Trisha Yearwood and Kenny Chesney.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Norman Whitfield Dies-Writer of I Heard It Through The Grapevine

Prolific songwriter Norman Whitfield died on Sept 16th.
This from USA Today:

By Steve Jones, USA TODAY

Norman Whitfield knew how to get the best out of an artist, even if the singer hated him for it.
The opening of Papa Was a Rollin' Stone— "It was the third of September. That day I'll always remember, 'cause that was the day that my daddy died" — coincidentally rang true for Temptations lead singer Dennis Edwards, whose own father had died on that date. Whitfield refused to change it, and Edwards' seething delivery set the tone for the stirring tale of paternal abandonment.

It was just one example of how the producer/songwriter steered Motown's sunny sound into darker territory in the late '60s and into the '70s.

Whitfield, who died Tuesday in Los Angeles at 67 from complications of diabetes, wrote and produced some of the label's most memorable pop hits in the early '60s before ushering in an era of socially relevant themes.

Much of what is now regarded as classic soul owes a large debt to Whitfield, who persuaded skeptical Motown founder Berry Gordy to let him stray from a wildly successful formula. His mold-breaking encouraged Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and others to pursue directions that would yield some of their greatest works.

Teamed with lyricist Barrett Strong, Whitfield produced such classics as Gaye's and Gladys Knight & The Pips' I Heard It Through the Grapevine and The Tempts' Ain't Too Proud to Beg.

But his most enduring legacy came with his Sly Stone/P-Funk-influenced shift to the psychedelic funk/soul sound that featured sinister keys, reverberating guitars, moaning horns and haunting strings.

After David Ruffin parted with The Tempts in 1968 and was replaced by gruff-voiced Edwards, the group de-emphasized love songs to deal with poverty, politics, drug abuse and despair.

Between 1968 and 1973, The Tempts took to Cloud Nine, scolded the Runaway Child, Running Wild, warned Don't Let the Joneses Get You Down, partied at the Psychedelic Shack and painted a grim urban Masterpiece. Meanwhile, Edwin Starr raged against War and the Undisputed Truth cautioned about Smiling Faces Sometimes.

Whitfield left Motown in 1973 as artists grew weary of long tracks dominated by heavy instrumentation — and his outsized ego. (The back cover of The Tempts' Masterpiece album was taken up mostly by Whitfield's huge Afro and face, with only a small picture of the band.)

Establishing Whitfield Records, he had his greatest post-Motown success with Rose Royce, who scored a No. 1 pop hit in 1977 with Car Wash and had other classics like I Wanna Get Next to You, Ooh Boy, I'm Going Down and Love Don't Live Here Anymore.

80's Music in Today's Music

Bruises by Brooklyn's own Chairlift is the music behind the recent iPod Nano commercial. I would have guessed them to be a British band as their music is 80's derivative. There is the underlying beat ala Phil Collin's version of You Can't Hurry Love. Thompson Twins and Berlin come to mind. I heard a piece on All Songs Considered which stated that the 80's were the worst time for music. They picked apart songs like Let's Hear It For The Boy, which of course is a very obvious target. Then they proceeded to gang up on Hall & Oates, which is so misguided. The problem in the 80's was not with the music, but with the production. Electric keyboard, drum machine heavy production masked the actual beauty of the songwriting. Say what you will about Rick Springfield, but early on he wrote great pop songs. They will never be timeless because of the production. You can say the same about Madonna. If the 80's were so bad, why are so many young musicians deriving their music from the records of that time?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rights Restricted Music Is Back

Have the labels and studios learned anything over the past few years? An article in today's Hypebot says there is a consortium of the labels and studios who want to, once again, control how you can use what you buy.

It's been said, wants gone is gone. But apparently some in the entertainment industry failed to get the memo. A group of major film studios and record labels have joined together once again in an initiative called the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem to find a way to control what happens after you purchase a digital album or movie.
"The goal is to create for downloads the same kind of interoperability that's been true for physical products, such as CDs and DVDs...Once you've acquired a file, you could play it on any of your devices -- if it couldn't be passed directly from one DECE-ready device to another, you'd be allowed to download additional copies. And when you're away from home, you could stream the file to any device with a DECE-compatible Web browser." - LA Times
Its called domain based digital rights management. Apple already uses a version of it. Total freedom until you want to share what you bought with a friend...or use it on a non-compatible device.This DRM has a new name and may even be a bit less intrusive. But it's still DRM, and as such faces certain consumer rejection. When will we learn?

This is the reason I don't buy from iTunes-I don't want to be told what to do with the music I buy. Once again, those who are willing to pay for content, will be the ones to get screwed. History repeats itself, yet no one seems to learn from the lessons of the past and they continue to make those mistakes again and again. Dante's Inferno comes to mind.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lack of Radio An Issue for Metallica?

This was part of the Lefsetz letter today. He is so spot on when he says the Metallica record probably won't do so well because there is no place to hear it.

I hope the cornucopia of purchase options for the Metallica CD generates a heap of cash, because I don't expect that album to sell in prodigious quantities after the first week or so. Sales will tank soon. Not because the album is bad, but because there's nowhere to hear it. There's no exhibition in areas where people might be turned on to their sound, whether it be for the first time or once again.

When I managed bands such as Los Lobos and Luscious Jackson, I looked to everything except radio to further their careers. Most of the bands I worked with were not going to get the kind of airplay needed to sell millions of records. Building and keeping a solid fan base, touring, film and TV placements, corporate events, etc were the cornerstone of these bands daily routine. While the bands weren't headlining arenas, it provided a very good living for them. The artists kept their integrity. Now this seems to be the paradigm, when there is no alternative. It wasn't an alternative for these acts or me 10 years ago, which we realized and used it to our advantage.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The ABBA Museum

I had no idea an ABBA museum was planned. It's been delayed. Mama Mia!

ABBA (AP) Opening Of ABBA Museum Delayed 09/11/2008 STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- The opening of a museum dedicated to Swedish pop group ABBA has been delayed. The initial target for the opening was June 2009, but project co-founder Ulf Westman said Thursday the renovation of the building will take longer than expected because it is "more complicated than what was predicted earlier." Westman did not say when the museum might open.

I tried to think of other musicians that have their own museum and only country stars came to mind. I will never forget my first trip to Nashville, besides meeting then Senator Al Gore, I walked into the Barbara Mandrell museum and there on it's own perch was the car that she was driving in 1984 when she was involved in a head on collision. Later this was renacted in the TV movie, Get To The Heart, starring Maureen McCormick as Barbara. Needless to say the car was a wreck. I found it to be a very strange introduction to a musician that I had limited knowledge of. Needless to say, I always think of that car when I hear her name.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More Cowbell

The SNL skit with Christopher Walken as the record producer who tells "Blue Oyster Cult" the problem with Don't Fear the Reaper is it needs more cowbell, is legendary. Will Ferrell is the one playing the cowbell. I bought my husband a Tshirt that says More Cowbell. He gets comments on it. Now there is a website called that allows you to upload any MP3 and add cowbell and Christopher Walken. It takes at least a minute. I uploaded It's Too Late by Carole King. It's pretty funny. It surprised me that the cowbell was in snyc with the song. I'm sure this site will be getting plenty of traffic.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Songs For Sale

A start up called SongVest is holding an auction for "fans" to buy a piece of the writer's share of a song. Traditionally a song's ownership is divided into a publisher and a writers share. Sometimes the writer keeps the publishing other times she/he sells a portion or all of her/his publishing rights to a publishing company such as EMI Music. Usually between the two of them, they decide if or where the song gets placed, such as commercials, in a film, etc. SongVest has partnered with songwriters or their heirs to auction off pieces of the writer's share to raise money for the writer of the song. SongVest would receive 25-40% of the total raised according to an article in the WSJ today. "Fans" that buy a share of the song would receive royalties. It is not clear how royalties are paid out or what % a shareholder would receive. SongVest's banner is Music Memorabilia with Royalty Checks.

On the site's FAQ's. The following is posted for the seller, which seems to cloud the money issue a a bit more:

What charges can I expect if I sell my song through SongVest?
a. Minimum Commission An industry standard seller’s commission between 10% -15% will be applied if your song sells, unless otherwise specified in the contract.
b. Unsold Charge If the bidding does not exceed your reserve price and the song goes unsold, an industry standard charge would normally be applied. This fee is currently being waived.
c. Platinum Award The tangible piece of the sale is a one-of-a-kind platinum album wall plaque. The charge for a double platinum award is $400 and a single platinum award is $300 plus shipping and handling. .
d. Tax Please consult your accountant on any tax related issues.
e. Thompson & Thompson Search If a search is required, the cost to do so will be paid by the seller.

One of the songs that will soon be up for auction is near and dear to my love of music: (Theme from) The Monkees written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. The 60's had such a great run of successful writing duos and Boyce/Hart were right behind King/Goffin and Weil/Mann. I played that Monkees first record so much that I'm surprised I still have it in one piece today. The album cover is a bit tattered. Another Boyce/Hart track up for auction is the theme from Days of Our Lives. Mark Hudson of the Hudson Brothers fame, as well as the father of Kate has quite a few of his songs up for auction.

Of course it makes me think that the writers of these songs are selling as they need the money now. It must be heartbreaking to give up a piece of yourself. I've never met a songwriter who didn't fell like everyone of their songs is a part of them. My first impression was more money people starting a "music company" to extract every dime out of anything they can, then it occurred to me that the writer might really benefit financially in a way that royalties alone might not.

On a design note: SongVest's website looks way too much like Sirius' website.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Baseball Project

Rock n' roll vets Scott McCaughey and Steve Wynn have an unhealthy love for music undermined only by an even more unhealthy love of baseball. The compatriots blend their two passions with The Baseball Project -- Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails.

Scott is not only a nice guy, but a great musician who put together The Baseball Project. Two of my favorite things are music and baseball. I heard Satchel Paige Said today on Sirius Disorder and had to investigate.

Friday, September 05, 2008

No Barracuda

During the Democrats convention I paid a lot more attention to the music as it seemed more prevalent or maybe I was just more curious as to what they were going to use. Chris Willman wrote a piece in EW exploring the use of the songs and how none of them were actually approved by the artist, which seems like a violation of copyright.

Step in Nancy Wilson of Heart, who's song Barracuda was played last night for a second time at the appearance of Sarah Palin. This after a plea from Nancy to stop the association. This was posted on the band's website:

Rock Group Heart Condemn The Use of The Song Barracuda at The Republican Convention
Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart have informed the McCain/Palin Campaign that Universal Music Publishing and Sony BMG have sent a cease-and-desist notice to not use one of Heart's classic songs "Barracuda," as the congratulatory theme for Sarah Palin.
The Republican campaign did not ask for permission to use the song, nor would they have been granted that permission.
"We have asked the Republican campaign not to use our music.

We hope our wishes will be honored."

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Dave Stewart Reveals All

Dave Stewart, most prominently known as one half of Eurythmics, has a book out: The Dave Stewart Songbook: The Stories Behind The Songs - Volume One. He reveals the stories behind the songs he's written or co-written. His interview on Howard Stern this morning was very revealing, which makes me think his book is probably a fun read. He talked about his one night stand with Stevie Nicks. Early in his career he was playing LA and Stevie was at the gig. He approached her and said I want to be your boyfriend. Fast forward to later that night, he's in her house, people are in another room doing drugs, he has no idea where he is, finds a bedroom and falls asleep. Hours later Stevie enters his room and sex insues (with leather and chains, not lace). Unbeknownst to Stewart, Stevie has just broken up with Joe Walsh the day before. Who knew they were an item? Joe shows up at her house the next morning. Stewart is still there and Stevie tells Joe "Don't Come Around Here No More", hence the classic Tom Petty song was born.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Sheild is Back

According to an article in the NY Times we have 12 more episodes left, which is 3 more than I thought they were offering. The first show of the last season had me on edge once again. The Shield is a rarity: it hasn't jumped the shark. I can't say the show gets better as it is consistently great. Everyone's family is in danger. Vic got a reprieve of 30 days to stay at the Barn and Shane is so deep in trouble that the only thing that can help him are Vic and Ronnie. Welcome back!