Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Fairy Tales For The Ears

It’s not always easy for a musician to make music the way she/he hears it. If there is a record label behind an artist, the label, as well as the artist have an idea of the kind of record they want to make. Those two camps don’t always agree and the label is usually not shy about enforcing their vision with the artist. Lisa Germano has recorded for major record labels and independent ones. She has never compromised her vision. Listening to several of her records reminded me of that. Her most recent is Magic neighbor. I was spoke with her last week about the record, collaborating with other musicians and Oxfam.

Lisa first came to my attention when she performed violin with John Mellencamp. We worked with her at Side One Management on her debut album, On The Way Down From the Moon Palace. The first single was the wonderfully whimsy and droll You Make Me Want To Wear Dresses.

If it is possible to do a valid remake of Valley Of The Dolls (not sure that anyone can top the 1967 epic), Lisa’s music would be the perfect soundtrack. It has a childlike feel of wonderment, yet the lyrical themes are very adult. It’s lilting, haunting, melancholic and upbeat. It’s very cinematic. It’s visual in an audio format. When told that, Lisa acknowledged that People tell me this often, but I can't say why. I am not influenced by film scores as far as I know. I do love movies and I love when the music fits perfectly. I think my music is more like little stories, maybe fairy tales and those are also visual when you read them.”

Magic neighbor is comprised of fairy tales for the ears. The leadoff track is marypan, a beautiful, yet short musical interlude. Lisa notes that “I've had this little song for awhile and it was even shorter, just one time through …a nice moment, a breath. When recording it, Jamie (Candiloro) suggested playing it through again with the addition of the pedal steel. I'm glad we made it longer. It didn't need to be turned into a song with lyrics, as it felt fine as a melody.”

In another instrumental, the fairy tale-like kitty train, the piano is reminiscent of hearing your music teacher playing piano at a school recital. It’s a song that Lisa often plays on the piano. “Sometimes when I practice, I need a break from my voice. I get tired of hearing it. A simple piano song is helpful for this break.” Lisa loves cats so it’s no surprise that she pays homage to them in this song. “I changed kitty train a bit when recording it since it was reminiscent of my three cats who come rushing into the kitchen all in a row like a train waiting for their breakfast so I made the tempo change like a train: starting and slowing down and starting again.”

While Lisa's music is beautiful, the lyrics and themes do take on mature matter. There is a recurring message in the songs on Magic neighbor of wanting to enjoy the moment and if it’s not working start the relationship over. Women can easily relate to what she’s saying, although may not always heed the advice. Lisa said she doesn’t write with women in mind. She did get some strong male reaction when she released geek the girl several years ago. “I got reviews from men who thought I was a real hard-lined 'I hate men’ woman...which I'm not. At the same time I received more gay fan mail from men who thanked me for this record as they related to it. It was pretty cool.”

a million times is about coming to terms with the fact that maybe the person you’re with is not who your thought (or who you wanted him to be) he was, but living in denial. Unfortunately, too many people have lived this scene at least once.

we fell in love and we were caught

inside this game we call “together”

and it felt good until we found

we had more fun when we were strangers

Besides being lyrically intriguing, a million times also has interesting percussion and guitar. The production is spot on. “I wanted the song to be monotonous as the actions of the lyrics suggest, so it needed to be a bit boring but it also needed a kick to say ‘What? Again? OK’ To emphasize the mundane, Lisa used an everyday item, but it didn’t exactly end up sounding the way she envisioned it. “I did want it to be even weirder, like when the vacuum machine turns on every chorus. I really wanted you to hear that it was a vacuum machine, cleaning the house yet again, but on pro tools since it already had a lot on it, there's only so much space. You can't really tell it's a vacuum. The percussion had to be things in the house to hit, lots of simple things like spoons, glasses, stuff at the home where you keep repeating your actions a million times”

The guitar in simple brings to mind the Kink’s song Lola. Lisa doesn’t have any connection between the two songs, but said “simple just needed to feel heavy because of the self indulgence and the weight that is on your mind and then it needed some irony so the circusy recorders on the chorus could help make fun of this self indulgence. You can look at it easier.”

There doesn’t seem to be another musician out there with such captivating song and album titles ((lullaby for liquid pig, dream glasses off, you make me want to wear dresses, Magic neighbor, on the way down from the moon palace). Many times the titles do not appear in the songs lyrics. “Song titles to me are what the song is about in general. Sometimes it's simple and sometimes it's the same as writing the song, which might need stripping away of a lot of the obvious to get to the heart of the song: what is it actually about. Sometimes the titles don't come until much later for me. Like to the mighty one. It was titled it's a beautiful day, but for me I knew there was some deeper meaning to the song. Do you know how many songs there are in the world called a beautiful day? LOTS. My cat Lou was fighting cancer, as well as people I knew that had cancer... and I was fighting my bad side so I titled it to the mighty one. The song is about fighting your demons and at least trying to take control as much as you can overthings you have little control over except for a huge try. These are the mighty ones and the beautiful day could be just one day.

“Magic” in Magic neighbor is the only capitalized word of Lisa’s song titles. “Every time I see my name or titles of my songs capitalized it just simply feels wrong. It's too big...missing an intimacy for me. But Magic neighbor felt wrong in all lower case. Somehow it needed the Magic to be big because it takes Magic to deal with the horrible unconsciousness that it takes to put two cats to sleep when they aren't even sick, which my neighbor did and how this can lead to blowing up people and fighting stupid wars...boom boom.”

Being a fan of album artwork, she isn’t happy about the digital age making it somewhat a think of the past. “I love a record with artwork to help the whole concept and these days people don’t seem to care about it so much. I want a cd to hold and love. It’s always a gift when people give you their art. Dean (he did the artwork for Magic neighborhood) is a friend of Neil Finn and my friend Tchad Blake. I've known him for years. When I decided to put this record out I contacted him cause his paintings are amazing and make me feel so much. He let me use anything I wanted for free. Check him out : deanbuchanan.co.nz

Besides John Mellencamp, Lisa has played with a list of amazing musician including Neil Finn, Johnny Marr, eels, Sebastian Steinberg and Latin Playboys. I remember getting chills hearing and seeing her and David Hidalgo face off on stage during one of those all too rare Latin Playboys shows. She considers herself “the luckiest person ever” to be playing with these artists. “They are drawn to me which I struggle to understand but which also gives me confidence that there is something to my music when I feel insecure.”

7 Worlds Collide, The Sun Came Out is a collaborative record spearheaded by Neil Finn. Proceeds from the sale of the record benefit Oxfam. Lisa recorded and wrote Reptile for the album. “I got involved with 7 Worlds Collide back in 2001 when Neil got a bunch of people together to create a band that did some shows before they would break up. It was friends he had met through the years who didn't know each other but knew Neil and it was an amazing experience. We all have been on him to do it again.

Finally he had an idea how to do it but do it differently: get everyone together in New Zealand and in 3 weeks record a record for Oxfam. Everyone on the first 7 Worlds came except for Eddy Vedder, who just had a child. There was the addition of some new friends such as Wilco and KT Tunstall. Everyone came with their families and it was huge and crazy with all the energy around. Since everyone was performing with each other and pretty busy I decided to use Jeff Tweedy's boy Spencer as my main drummer on Reptile. We recorded it with him, Seabstian on bass, Glenn Kotche on percussion and me on guitar and got it in one take. All the kids (Jeff Tweedy and Johnny Marr’s children) were around having fun but rather bored so I decided to have them come in and sing the chorus. It was great fun and I think the songshows this especially with Neil at the end playing a marimba that was in the room. The kids were singing with a big smiles on their faces...good stuff!”

Looks like there be some live performances for Lisa in 2010. “I am planning a 10 or so day tour with Boybrain in Europe at the end of March beginning of April. Philip Selway of Radiohead has made a record under the name Boybrain which should be out early next year. To make the record, he put a band together of people he knew from this last 7 Worlds Collide experience with Sebastian Steinberg from Soul Coughing, Glenn Kotche and Pat Sansone from Wilco and me. On tour it'll probably just be me, Sebastian and Philip doing some of his music and some of mine. 7 Worlds may be at SXSW in some form...still being worked on. If Lisa performs anywhere near you, make sure you get to her show. You'll count your Magic stars.

Friday, December 18, 2009

$500 YouTube Video Nets Director Hollywood Deal

Panic Attack, a 5 minute movie made for $500, has Hollywood opening their pocketbooks. Federico Alvarez runs a post-production visual effects house in Uruguay and is the director. He worked on the project in his spare time according to newslite.tv. He has been given millions of dollars by a Hollywood production company for a bigger project and would work with Sam Raimi says Cinema Blend.

It's all about getting your work in front of people. If you keep it under a bushel, it will stay there. You not only have to build it, but you have to set it free. Reap the rewards later.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Not Exactly What They've Been Listening To

Arbitron has been monitoring people's listening habits for years. Their method was for listeners to record their habits in a book and send it in. Radio stations use this data for everything from advertising rates to changing formats if the ratings aren't there. For the past year, Arbitron has been using electronic monitoring systems called the Portable People Meters and needless to say, there are some results that vary from the old paper diary method.

The NY Times talks about these glaring difference. Men were thought to make up 34.7 percent of the soft rock listeners. Well it turns out they may have been closeted Air Supply fans. The new report puts the men at 40.1 percent of the audience. Taking a blow are the classical music stations. Their market share fell 10.7 percent. Talk radio also had a hit with their audience down 2.6 percent. 80% of talk radio is conservative.

I guess every once in awhile guys need an Christopher Cross fix.

Govt gets inovlved in saving Hollywood from piracy

Is this really where our government should be spending $30 million? According to a post on Cynopsis:

The U.S. government earmarked $30 million in new funding to help track down and prosecute piracy of Hollywood content. The funds are part of the Omnibus Appropriations Conference report, targeted for personnel and programs authorized by last year's bipartisan Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property (PRO-IP) Act and will be divvied up as such: $20 million will be allocated in state and local economic, high tech and internet crime prevention grants; $8 million will be used to put FBI agents on the case targeting IP crimes; and $2 million will be reserved for new Dept. of Justice IP prosecutorial activities. MPAA CEO Dan Glickman released a statement thanking Congress and calling attention to the impact piracy has on industry jobs. The MPAA and RIAA also praised this year's "Operation Holiday Hoax," launched by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and a task force dubbed the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center.

There are so many other worthy causes out there (first and foremost the high number of unemployed people) that our government should be focusing on. If the film industry had taken any notes on how badly the major record labels handled the digital age, they would not be in a position to need $30 million to fight piracy. Note: piracy is not why your industry is flailing.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Vevo: Music Video Content All In One Place?

Universal, Sony and YouTube are partners in Vevo. The two record labels are trying to control how their content is presented (and I'm sure monetized) on the web. They have created Vevo to be the destination for music. A few results are in and they are not promising. Read Fred Wilson's review.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Kinks To Be Celluloid Heroes

NME is reporting that director Julien Temple will be involved in a biopic of The Kinks. The film will explore the love/hate relationship between brothers Ray and Dave Davies. They are the founding members of the band. Screendaily adds that Ray Davis is working with Temple. The film is tentatively titled You Really Got Me.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Royalty Statement Fiction

Tim Quirk, a member of Too Much Joy is also a music industry executive with Rhapsody. He had been trying for years to get an accurate royalty statement from Warner Brothers Records for the records the band released on that label. Although he knew the band was not recouped (paid back all the advances given by the label), he did not see one digital royalty listed. Being that he worked at Rhapsody, he had access to the Too Much Joy account there and was able to see what they were making and what was paid to the label.

In his blog, Tim details his experience dealing with Warner Bros accounting. This is a pretty common scenario and I've spoken many time about artists I've worked with who have sold over 1 million units a title and never saw a dime in royalties from the label. Tim points out that the label makes money on many bands that never recoup. Bands usually receive between 10-18% of the retail selling price. That money goes to recouping the advance. The bulk of the money goes to the labels. What Tim doesn't mention is that the labels often bill unapproved expenses to the artist. In most cases the musician's contract does not specify that they need to get approval for spending. Labels can spend tens of thousands of dollars on radio promotion (yes that includes gifts for programmers, giveaways and promotional items), crazy marketing ideas (let's put the band's name on a hot air balloon for $6,000) and dinners with the band. It's not limited to these things, but the spending builds. I've yet to see a truly transparent royalty statement. Tim astutely notes that if they accurately report to the bands that don't recoup, they have to do the same to those that do recoup and that means shelling out more money than they want to. If they can afford it (it's very costly), an artist can audit the label. From what I've heard from managers, there is always money to be found.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Top Ten Lists of 2009

The Top Ten Lists are popping up everywhere. David Dye (longtime host of World Cafe) notes that his list is of the moment. Ask him to list the songs at another point in the year and his choices might be different. I wonder how many journalists and djs look back on their past lists and say "what was I thinking?" Music can endure and it can also hit a momentary chord (pun intended). Sometimes a beat can intrigue, sometimes it's a melody. No matter how, why or for how long the music affects you, it has to be an honor for a musician to see her/his work be singled out from the increasing myriad of music that gets released each year. When Los Lobos released Kiko in 1992, it was staggeringly wonderful to see the amount of people that had it in their top 10 of that year. It was a well deserved crown on an enduring, classic album.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Art From Art

Art comes in many forms. Taking existing art (album covers) and creating new art (coffee table), is a specialty of BugHouse. They are an art and design company based in LA. I probably have enough lps to make 4 coffee tables.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Amanda Palmer Chats with Her Audience

Hypebot has a recap of an Amanda Palmer show at the State Theatre. She came out before the opening act to answer questions from the audience. The crowd was aware of the agenda before they came to the show. It's all about artists connecting with fans. The writer explains that he left the venue just before 1am and Amanda was still at the merch table chatting with them. Dedication + Talent = Great Satisfaction.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Carl Kasell retiring, but Wait, Wait...

Carl will still leave his voice on your answering machine if you answer two of the three questions right on Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, but he won't be delivering your NPR news. The familiar voice will retire at the end of 2009 after 30 years with Morning Edition.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Free Music Websites Can No Longer Exist

I've been reading so much about the high fees major record labels are charging legitimate music licensing websites that play music for free. Wired has summed up the many stories I've been hearing in one article. Ad supported music sites can't keep up with the licensing payment. The piece sites MySpace Music, imeem, MOG (had to implement a $5 a month subscription fee), Spotify (which might not be able to launch here in the same fashion it did in the UK) and Google who are all losing or plan to lose money due to the fees owed the music companies. YouTube is the only licensed, free, on-demand music service that should break even. If these sites shut down, it would narrow the ever shortening playing field to an even more select group of places to hear music.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mariah Carey Takes on the Major Record Labels

Mariah Carey on record labels: “Frickin’ idiots! Big, powerful music-industry executives made a giant mistake, and now we’re all paying the price. Frickin’ idiots!” Read the article in timesonline.

It also talks about her deal with Elle Magazine. You get the issue dedicated to her if you buy her new album, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel. She commandeers the issue. The article states She and her record company, Island Def Jam, part of Universal Music Group, sold the ads (in this issue) for up to $100,000 a page, making far more than the peppercorn Elle was paid to produce the magazine. “I can’t tell you how little money we made on this,” says Carol Smith, the chief brand officer of Elle, ruefully. She also covers Foreigner's I Want To Know What Love Is.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Jody Denberg, the Soul of Austin Radio

Since KGSR's beginning in 1990, Jody Denberg has literally been the voice of Austin. He's leaving the station after 19 years for a charge of the creative battery. He was always a supporter and fan of the musicians I worked with. He will leave a large hole in radio. His fans are numerous, which is apparent from the postings on Austin360.com.

Friday, November 13, 2009

2000 Year Old Man Reissued

Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks created the 2000 Year Old Man 60 years ago and Shout Factory! is reissuing it this month. The two spoke with the NY Times. It's a back and forth with two great friends who still have their comic edge.

Carole King & James Taylor to Tour

The only US date posted so far is the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on May 16th. Tickets go on sale for that show on Nov 23rd. It's a reunion commemorating their first show together in 1969 at the Troubadour. Carole King's website has the full press release.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hypebot plays the game of casting the upcoming HBO movie based on Rolling Stone journalist Steve Knopper's "Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age".

The most amusing of the suggestions is Danny Boneduce to play Edgar Bronfman Jr.

Suing Bon Jovi and MLB: Titles Were Similar

Tech Dirt posted yet another ridiculous claim from a Red Sox fan who is suing Bon Jovi and MLB for stealing his idea. He wrote a song called "(Man I Really) Love this Team" in 2004 and claims he gave it to Red Sox officials. When Bon Jovi wrote and recorded "I Love This Town", which was used by MLB in 2007, he felt he has a claim to it. The songs apparently sound nothing alike and the district court threw out the case. He doesn't stop there, he has appealed and is asking for $400 BILLION. Someone is not grounded in any reality. Another waste of court time, lawyers and money, not to mention tons of frustration for MLB and Bon Jovi.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Sonny Gets His Share

Forgotten gems turn up when you're cleaning. I came across Bonograph: Sonny Gets His Share. This CD pays tribute to the musical genius of Sonny Bono. There are covers of songs he wrote by Flat Duo Jets, Scott McCaughey, The Skeletons, Peter Holsapple and Ben Vaughn. Perhaps the most haunting song Sonny wrote, gets a haunting treatment: You Better Sit Down Kids is performed by What Else featuring Jim Babjak and Dennis Diken of the Smithereens and the latter also of Dennis Diken and Bell Sounds. The pounding of drums accentuates the spoken lyrics. It's driving home the message: hey kids divorce isn't pretty. It's the facts. The narrator/father is blunt, to the point and not mincing words. By the end of the version you might think the father has gone mad. Taking a song and turning it upside down is probably one of the greatest compliments to a songwriter.

A father is telling his kids that he and their mother are divorcing, a taboo subject in 1967 and still a strange topic for a top 10 hit. Cher took it to #9. Her version is eerie as the lyrics weren't changed to reflect a female singer. She's singing lines like "Your mother is staying and I'm going away." The production is varied. There are musical interludes that sound reminiscent of "Remember (Walking in the Sand)" the Shangri-La's hit, which preceded this song by 3 years. The lines "Say your prayers before you go to bed/Make sure you get yourself to school on time" are sung with urgency and speed. The ending is a blizzard of music: A foreshadowing of the chaos in the family? The staging of Cher's performance on a 1960's TV show is creepy. Why the cuts to mannequins of children? The song begins about 1 minute into the video.

Sonny faced realities in his music. Laugh At Me, his only solo hit (brilliantly covered by Mott the Hoople), was a protest song. "What do they care, about the clothes I wear?/Why get their kicks from making fun." He was famous for his fur vests and if people didn't like it, tough.
"So I don't care
Let 'em laugh at me
If that's the fare
I have to pay to be free
then baby
Laugh at me, and I'll cry for you
and I'll pray for you."

No grudges held. Sonny was too good a songwriter for that.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Boss Divulging All?

The NY Post seems to think so. The Post claims that Bruce Springsteen is quietly working on his autobiography and kept voluminous journals throughout his career.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Dane Cook

I knew nothing about Dane Cook, except that he was a comedian, until I heard him on Howard Stern this morning. Musicians trying to make a name for themselves could take a page from his book. When his career was stalled at age 27, he decided to post video of himself whether it be from a club gig or a unfinished joke on his website and MySpace page. He said he originally had 9 followers and he knew their names. He kept adding to that 9 and at the height of MySpace, he had 2.5 million followers. He's hosting a show at Madison Square Garden tonight and he's made several movies. If you keep at your craft and you're dedicated and consistent, it will happen.

He also talked about his half-brother who is in jail for allegedly stealing what Dane estimates to be $11 million from him while his brother served as his manager. The brother is awaiting trial. Dane's career continues to pick up steam.

Monday, November 02, 2009

You Gotta Love Guster

Guster has been engaging their fans for years. They are on tour performing their Lost and Gone Forever album in it's entirety. They're also giving away tickets via video clues on YouTube or Twitter. They are entertaining. Do they spend late nights on the bus coming up with creative ideas to get fans involved? You Gotta Love Guster!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mojo Nixon Gives Away 1 Million + Tracks

Mojo Nixon gave away his catalogue on Amazon for free. The results are astounding. According to this article in the Wall St Journal, there have been over one million downloads of his songs. He was hoping to get 10,000 download. Great story.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Sleepers haunted me for days when I saw it in its initial release. It's haunting me again since I saw it Thursday at the closing night of Fordham Law's Film Festival. Director Barry Levinson, the book's author Lorenzo Carcaterra and DA Charles Hynes discussed the movie with Fordham's Thane Rosenbaum.

The film is based on Lorenzo's book. It's his life story. He grew up in 1960's Hell's Kitchen which was Irish, Italian (he pointed out that he spoke Italian and didn't learn English until he started school) and Puerto Rican. He and many of his friends came from violent households. DA Hynes said that once you grow up with violence you never forget it. He experienced it in his house at age 5.

The boys were getting into trouble. There was the local priest, Fr. Bobby (played by Robert DeNiro) who had the same upbringing, but was trying to steer these kids in a better direction. Lorenzo and his 3 friends (he changed their names to protect their privacy-but still sees those still living for dinners) play a prank on the hot dog vendor and it turns ugly. They are sent to an upstate NY reform school where they encounter the out of control quartet of wardens led by Sean Nokes (Kevin Bacon as his creepiest). Sleepers is a story of revenge and the families that form from neighborhood ties.

Cartcaterra's story has been challenged as a work of non-fiction. The NY courts have said they have no record of the trial that occurs in his story. The priests that served at Sacred Heart say they never perjured themselves (as Fr Bobby does) and are unaware of the story. The school states Lorenzo only had 14 absent days from school, making it impossible for him to be away at a reform school for over 6 months. Lorenzo still stands by his story.

As crazy and as turbulent a childhood he had, he said he and his friends were well read, far more than kids today. The Count of Monte Cristo was one of his favorite books and plays a part in the movie. He credits Catholic school with rounding out his love for literature. The neighborhood was a family. Kids playing on the streets, all looking out for one another. The West 50's was never a wealthy area, but according to Lorenzo it fell apart with the proliferation of cocaine. I've heard other people mention the destruction cocaine has caused. Nancy Wilson of the band Heart felt the music business took a turn for the worst when everyone started using cocaine. Musicians used to be a collaborative community. Cocaine made it everyone for themselves.

Levinson talked about the greatness of Dustin Hoffman. He wrote an additional scene just so he could see Victorio Gassman (King Benny) and Hoffman interact. Hoffman steals the scene with an ad lib about a drug problem.

Diner, Levinson's directorial debut is one of my favorite movies. I know it inside and out. I can quote it ("I'll hit you so hard I'll kill your whole family", "Do you ever get the feeling that there's something going on that we don't know about?" "You know what word I'm not comfortable with? Nuance."). The ending of Sleepers is so close to the ending of Diner. A bunch of friends gather around a table and reminisce, laugh and enjoy each other's company. The slow motion of the gestures ("Gesture is a real word") is a defining part of both endings. The films turn out different, but they are both about a family of friends. Kevin Bacon and Ralph Tabakin ("Bonanza doesn't look right?") appear in both films.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Soupy Sales RIP

I remember watching the Soupy Sales Show. His cast of characters included White Fang and Pookie. He was famous for his polka dot bow tie and getting a pie in the face at least once an episode. He died last night at age 83. He was a nut, who probably like many other hosts of children's shows (Pee Wee Herman, Uncle Floyd to name two) were not really playing to kids, but actually creating entertainment for themselves. They laughed as their own jokes as much as we did. The nuances went over my head. Could it be long before someone covers Do The Mouse?

The dance starts about 3 minutes into the video.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Musebox Presents Litle Fish

CMJ is happening in NY and The Musebox (bands beware: they are marketing/PR/artist development central) showcased their latest project: Little Fish. They hail from England and are fronted by Juju. She's intense. She's been listening to Patti Smith. The single Darling Dear is a sparse, catchy song augmented by hand claps and a chorus of La La La's.

Emphasizing the intense, JuJu is indestructible in the video.

Nothing can keep her from singing and that certainly transpired in their performance yesterday. When she sings "Am I crazy" and gives you the eyes, hide the knives, she means business. Fire like this is sorely missed in music. Juju sweats, threatens and sings with ferocity. Her partner in Little Fish is the drummer, Nez. On the opening song of their set, his beat was reminiscent of Ballroom Blitz. I thought we might be in for an evening of Sweet (pun intended) sounds. Vocals kicked in and all bets were off. Making it a trio was a hired keyboard player for the evening. Once you see her, Juju won't let you forget her. I would say pay attention, but it's almost impossible not to.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rock Band Beatles Sales

Rock Band sold about 583,000 units during its first month, including 254k for the Xbox 360 and 208k for the Nintendo Wii according to NPD Group.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Los Lobos Rock The White House

In Performance At The White House airs tonight on PBS (8pm on WNET in NY). It's a celebration of the Hispanic musical heritage. The performance took place earlier this week. Los Lobos took part and as Louie Perez from the band says on Twitter "The show at the White House was one for the books." Also appearing are Marc Anthony, Gloria Estefan, José Feliciano, George Lopez, Thalia, Tito "El Bambino", Aventura and musical director Sheila E. Louie went on to say that "Prez Obama was way cool. We felt immediately comfortable . Big hugs from him and his wife." When I managed Los Lobos they performed twice during Clinton's presidency: at one of the first inaugural balls and at a fund raiser in Colorado.

Nick Lowe: A Most Charming, Witty Rocker

There are few musicians who craft lyrics the way Nick Lowe and John Hiatt do. They were band mates in Little Village and have played on each others records. Nick does a great cover of Hiatt's She Don't Love Nobody , a Hiatt. Although their style is different, their similarities were apparent in Nick's performance Wednesday night in New York. They're master storytellers, who tells it like it is.

Has She Got A Friend, elicited a few chuckles with its opening lines:

I'm so glad to hear about
the true happiness you've found and how your retched life has been turned around I can try to achieve joy for your empty nights now at an end but what I really want to know is Has She Got A Friend?

Who else could make the word retched work so well in a song? Well maybe Hiatt who rhymed the word somnambulist in Ride Along (Sometimes that girl she'll slip you a kiss/ But she's just another somnambulist).

Lowe has an understated delivery which could be mistaken as mushy pop if you're not paying attention. He writes unforgettable melodies, but listen for the lyrics because there's always a point. He was amazed that people applauded his performance of I Trained Her To Love Me (I trained her to love me so I can go ahead and break her heart). It's a crazy rant from a serial heartbreaker, who knows he'll end up alone and miserable, but can't help himself.

Classic songs take on a new life with his stripped down arrangements including Heart, which goes from an upbeat Rock Around The Clock to a sentimental ode to love. Without Love, When I Write the Book, Cruel To Be Kind and What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love and Understanding (which becomes increasingly relevant with each decade) are timeless gems.

At the urging of an audience member, he pulled off an impromptu version of Heart Of the City. Another yelled out Marie Provost, but alas he did not take him up on it. She was a winner who became the doggie's dinner, but not part of the music Wednesday night. Nick Lowe is a man for all musical seasons.

Nick played at the relatively new City Winery. You would think a place that names itself that would pride themselves on wine. Ten minutes after being seated and given menus and a wine list, no one came by to take our order. Turns out we were in "bar seats" although the bar was half a venue away. The bartender told me he was swamped and couldn't help me. When I asked if the other bartender could take our order, he shot back "what do you want?" He poured a 3 oz glass of riesling for $12 and emptied prosecco from two different bottles into one glass. Nuff said? Our seats were "obstructed view". They should rename these seats "no view". There are massive pillars just past the stage, making it impossible to see Nick. We had to move ourselves and stand through the set. If you plan on seeing a show there, make sure you have one of the six tables directly in front of the stage or you'll be craning all night. Great performance, subpar venue.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009

ABBIJANE: The Last Show

Last night family, friends, clients and admirers paid tribute to Abbijane at the National Arts Club. Her lasting legacy of timeless designs, beautiful fabrics and attention to quality were foremost in the showing of her last collection, which was completed before her untimely death earlier this year. The clothes were either black or dark gray which meant there was no having to state, as Abbi always did, that her designs "all come in black." Being the downtown girl that she was, it seemed necessary to have black as a basic option.

Abbijane left a mark on people she encountered whether she knew them for a short time or over decades. Penn Badgley (Dan Humphrey on Gossip Girl) had known Abbi for two years. He said that she became his surrogate Jewish mother. Lenny Kaye knew Abbi for decades and honored her by performing an acoustic, group participation of her beloved New York Dolls song Trash.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Keith Urban-Madison Square Garden

Keith Urban plays to the crowd, while in the crowd. Heard hints of Prince, Cheap Trick and The Who in the show last night. All phenomenal performers. Keith holds his own in their company.

He shakes up his arrangements, plays an incredible guitar, is very appreciative of his audience and his crew and looks like he's having the time of his life.

He closed the show by leaving his uber tight band to play while the camera followed his exit through the bowels of The Garden to 33rd St. He proceed to hail a cab, wave good night, shut the door and head west. The crew credits rolled. A surprise ending to a perfect night of music.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

MoJo Nixon Goes Free

Never one to shy away from any topic, Mojo Nixon (real name Neill Kirby McMillan, Jr acording to Wikipedia) is taking the be free attitude to Amazon. For a limited time (approximately 3 weeks) his entire catalog is free. You can download the classics Debbie Gibson is Pregnant With My Two Headed Lovechild, She's Vibrator Dependent and Don Henley Must Die, with one of my favorite lyrics "Don Henley must die, Don't let him get back together with Glenn Frey." Somehow I remember the lyric being "No reunion with Glenn Frey." Same sentiment. This was obviously written before one of the many Eagles reunions. Nixon later praised Henley after he appeared on stage with Mojo to sing the song, "He has balls the size of church bells!"

As Mojo's website states, he is still alive, he has a weekly show on Sirius/XM's Outlaw channel daily from 4-8pm EST as well as his political show on channel 104, called Lyin' Cocksuckers, Thursday at 8pm. So, who the hell is Mojo Nixon anyway?
In case you've managed to stumble into this site without knowning who Mojo Nixon is, here are some Mojo Nixon basics:

Mojo is that ugly looking guy in the picture to the left
Mojo Nixon is no relation to dead former President of the United States Richard Nixon
Mojo writes and performs outrageously funny rock and roll songs. Try to imagine Bruce Springsteen without that broomstick up his butt. Think of Jonathan Richman raised in a Tennessee trailer park.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Monty Python Unedited on IFC

IFC announced it will air all episodes from the original Monty Python's Flying Circus starting this month as part of the network's "Python-a-thon" week through the end of 2010. IFC acquired all 45 episodes. IFC's "Python-a-thon" begins October 18-23 consisting of the original six-part documentary Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut) each night at 9pm followed by a Python feature film at 10pm and capped off by an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus at 11:30pm. Additionally, IFC will air all thirteen episodes from season one unedited and uncut through the end of 2009 on Mondays at 730p and Fridays at 11p. Seasons two, three and four will begin airing on IFC next year. IFC's website has clips from the documentary such as the time John Cleese and Terry Gilliam got in a fight on the set of Holy Grail.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Authors Looking Like Indie Musicians

There's a Washington Post article about how authors who don't have the steam of a John Irving or a Toni Morrison are promoting their books. It's a DIY approach, much like musicians have been doing for years. Authors are making their own trailers, sending themselves on a a book tour, selling books from their car and sometimes self-publishing. Musicians and authors have become one person marketing/creative centers. The old adage If you want something done right, do it yourself, holds truer than ever.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Passion for Carvel

Bob Lefsetz who usually waxes poetically about music, used his forum to talk about Carvel. The response from his readers was overwhelming. On his second round of posting comments, he had 34 postings. People love Carvel. It's tied to their childhood. If you lived in the Northeast you have to know Tom Carvel's Cookie Puss commercials. Why doesn't music elicit this kind of passion? I haven't seen this many posts since he talked about Pepe's Pizza in New Haven. When someone of greatness dies, people tell their stories. You don't hear many stories about artists who released a record this year. Is the market over saturated? Are people not paying attention? Is the music passionless?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Lily Allen Saga continues

For those of you who don't get the Lefsetz Letter, he reprinted her reply to his recent postings on her Illegal File Sharing is Bad campaign. I'm assuming he posted it as she wrote it. Is she getting this much attention in the UK?

From: Lily Allen
Subject: Mp3's
Date: September 24, 2009 1:35:56 AM PDT
To: Bob Lefsetz

I think your piece today is a little unfair. I've never said that I side with the majors. And as you state, the website lilyallenmusic.co.uk is an EMI owned website, which I don't run. They own the copyrights of my songs, they can do what they like with them. You claim to have an in depth knowledge of the music industry, and if this is the case you've written a deliberately misleading article. I think that's a little irresponsible. I'd appreciate an apology. I'm not a hypocrite music , I pay for music that I want to listen to. I don't illegally download music and haven't done for about 7 years. Maybe your just trying to get a reaction and for me to publicise your website. That won't work. Besides It's unauthorised file sharing that I have a problem with, not record companies giving away music as a promotional tool. you're piece yesterday was mildly interesting, todays is insulting and I'll be consulting my lawyers on the matter.

My comment on all of this illegal file sharing: Who Cares? It's old news. I managed many bands who were able to sustain a very comfortable living by playing music. None of them ever saw a dime in record royalties from a major label, not even after selling 1.5 million units. Selling records and getting radio airplay were secondary thoughts for these acts. Making good music, keeping fans happy and keeping the live show and its highest level were the most important things. Selling records never put a cent in their pockets. Has Lily Allen received one royalty paycheck from Capitol Records? If not, why does this matter to her? Enjoy the label's marketing money and concentrate on putting out good music.

Lily Allen: FIle Sharing is Bad

This story has been heavily covered online, so much so that Lily might actually become a household name in the States, where so far she's had limited exposure as a musician. She has a blog (which as I am writing, has no posts on it. She says she's putting down site since there has been too much abuse.) where she has been pontificating that illegal file sharing is bad. Other musicians have weighed in on this, including Elton John, who seems to be conflicted on the issue. Isn't she a little late to the table? Hasn't this been going on for years? Other artists like Amanda Palmer, Trent Reznor, Radiohead, etc have been embracing file sharing, twitter, the Internet, etc and having great results.

Techdirt points out that she may be an offender herself, worthy of a fine or being arrested. She has mixtapes posted on her website which contain free downloads of music other than her own. Her response to Techdirt: I made those mixtapes 5 years ago, i didn't have a knowledge of the workings of the music industry back then... There was plenty of time to take them down.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Celebrity Playlist Podcasts

I usually check out the celebrity playlists on the weekly iTunes email. Today I finally discovered a celebrity playlist podcast. I listened to two and they are short and informative insights into a musicians head. This week Keith Urban shares 10 of his favorite songs. In all 10 choices, songwriting played a big part in the appeal of the song. He also cites lyrics. Lyricists are some of the most underrated professionals. Everyone knows Burt Bacharach, but how many people know he had a lyricist/writing partner name Hal David?

Keith on the songs:

God Only Knows-The Beach Boys "Shines as an original way to say I love you." He always loved the bands harmonies, but as he got older he really appreciated the songwriting.

Joelen-Dolly Parton Rhythmatically there is great stuff going on in this song. "The story is fabulous. It's a really hypnotic track."

Bohemian Rhapsody-Queen. "It continues to be mind blowing. A masterpiece."

Nothing Compares 2 U-Prince "He's a genius." Regarding his live show: "You see him and you're like that's what great is." The Song: It's haunting. It gets under my skin."

Jamey Johnson-The High Cost of Living "The Lyrics are not watered down." It reminds him of the rawness he heard in Waylon Jennings records.

Secret Garden-Bruce Springsteen "One of the last great romantics. He has a great way of describing a woman."

Tom Jones' list is more about the music he discovered early on in his career and how some of it developed into relationships with other musicians. Midnight Hour by Wilson Picket and Dance to the Music by Sly and the Family Stone are two songs he heard on his first trip to NY. He brought Dance to his producer as he loved the sound of that record. He and Stevie Wonder did a duet of Superstition on his TV. Dusty Springfield also performed with him on TV and he lists her classic Son of a Preacher Man.

Most of these podcasts are less than 15 minutes. There are snippets of the song choices interspersed in the interview. It's worth a few minutes each week to get a glimpse into what makes musicians tick.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Wino's Label

I can't take credit for that headline as The Sun beat me to it. Amy Winehouse started Lioness Records and her first release is her 13 year-old goddaughter, Dionne Bromfield. No mention if she's named after Ms Warwick. Bromfield has a voice that is more powerful than you would expect for a 13 year-old. The album which comes out October 12th, is filled with 60's covers such as Mama Said, Tell Him, Aint' No Mountain High Enough and according to The Sun, Amy's favorite, My Boy Lollipop. In the brief bits of songs on her preview video, Dionne plays these pop classics rather straight. No surprise arrangements here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

2 Boys From Philly

Todd Rundgren guests on the most recent installment of Live From Daryl's House. In between making sausage are moments of great music. Makes you want to hear a whole album from Daryl Hall and Todd. Being a fan of both of them and respecting them as great songwriters, I never realized how similar they are. Daryl talks about them growing up a few miles from each other and how they must have been listening to the same music. Their styles are so similar in phrasing, in writing and in reaching for the soul in their music. As T Bone Wolk says to Daryl, you could have written Can We Still Be Friends? They play off each other like they've been working together for years. It's actually been 37 years since Todd produced Hall & Oates War Babies. They perform only 6 songs. It should be more. Highlights: Wait For Me, Can We Still Be Friends? and a great version of AWB's You Got It. The band which includes Wolk and Zev Katz on bass is amazing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Those Are People Who Died

My friend Rosemary called this the season of the corpse.

We just lost Jim Carroll, who died of a heart attack at age 60. Most famous for the song "People Who Died", he also was the author of the autobiographical "Basketball Diaries". Jim was a peer of Patti Smith and took the same career path as her. Both were poet/writers turned musicians.

Mr Dirty Dancing, Patrick Swayze finally succumbed to pancreatic cancer, which he fought so hard to overcome. There is massive celebrity use of Twitter today, as they post their thoughts and condolences.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Trent Reznor, Ear Buds and a Compromised Listening Experience

Much continues to be written about Trent Reznor. When his contract expired with Interscope, he put out his own music and was hugely successful. He took the record companies to task for not embracing new technology. He continues to do so in this weeks New Yorker. The most telling quote comes at the end of the article. Trent notes, “Walk into a Best Buy and everyone’s obsessed with the highest possible resolution for their TVs. 1080p versus 1080i resolution, hundred-dollar HDMI video cables . . . yet everyone still walks around with those terrible quality white iPod ‘earbuds.”

Most digital music files lack the quality of vinyl or CD. Highs, lows and dynamics are lost. Musicians, producers and engineers painstakingly mull over every track to get just the right sound and yet it's not a part of the listening experience for many people. Sub par headphones and compressed files: Could this be why people are turning away from paying for music? Is the listening experience compromised?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Recording Industry, Japanese Gov't Work To Break Your Mobile Phone If You Listen To Unauthorized Music

This is a post on TechDirt. Could this really be happening in Japan? Has it gotten that far out of control?

from the how-nice-of-them dept
You would think that the entertainment industry might look back at its rather long history of failed attempts to stop technological innovation from interfering with their business models and realize the sheer futility of trying to stop people from doing what they want to do, and could have learned that embracing what technology allows is a better path. But... that never seems to happen. Apparently the recording industry is now so worried that unauthorized file sharing on mobile phones is the next big threat, that rather than working on ways to use that to their advantage, they've teamed up with the Japanese gov't (note: not Japanese consumer electronics makers) to develop a system to break mobile phones if users are caught listening to unauthorized music.

Think of it like an automated "three strikes" plan for your phone:
Details are scarce, but apparently the system would consist of a central database which contains information about music which is authorized to be downloaded. This system would be responsible for verifying that cellphone users weren't downloading illicit music. Those that do would be sent warning messages.

But of course, simple warnings aren't enough for the music industry. The report claims that the music capabilities of cellphones could be disabled for persistent infringers.
Once again, the entertainment industry would prefer to break any new innovation rather than learn to adapt.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Dennis Diken and Bell Sound: Pure Pop for Now People

I love the irony in the title of Dennis Diken with Bell Sound’s new album, Late Music. I’m assuming it’s twofold. There are songs that should be listened to at night, such as the lounge-like “Lost Bird”. On the flip side, this album has been nearing perfection for over 10 years. Dennis gave me a cassette (remember those?) that contained a few songs, which have made their way on to this album. A few years later another configuration made it into my hands, this time on CD. The project was called Sleeping Giant. I got chills the first time I heard “Standing In That Line” and I relived that same feeling listening to the final version of this great collection of songs.

Dennis, best known as the drummer for the Smithereens is a great historian of rock/pop music so it will surprise no one that musical references are worn on the sleeve. Listening to this album brought me back to songs that I hadn’t heard in awhile, which is the beauty of Late Music. They’re not reinventing the wheel, just rearranging the spokes and taking it for a ride. Put the top down and turn it up.

There are numerous reasons why “Standing In That Line” is a perfect pop song. It brings to mind the “lost” Beach Boys hit “The Little Girl I Once Knew”. Forgotten by most, maybe because of the simple lyrics, but it was a preview of where Brian Wilson was headed as a musician and producer. His next project was Pet Sounds. What makes “Little Girl” such an achievement are the expanding layers of vocals, breaks of silence, hooky chorus and interesting timings. There is a lot going on and it’s orchestrated so beautifully. The line ‘”She’s Not The Little Girl I Once Knew” is the red flag that things are changing for Brian and look out here comes the confessional Pet Sounds. Early on “Standing In That Line” proclaims, “I was found, but now I’m lost”. Sound familiar? Sound like a mantra for today? “Standing” comes out of the gate and grabs your attention with the opening guitar, which quickly leads into a swell of instruments carried by the pounding of drums. Dennis explained that this full blown-production was actually “cut on a four-track cassette.” In come the vocals (lead vocal Pete DiBella), which echo the power of Carl Wilson and the innocence of Brian Wilson. There are bridges and breaks and a short, but soaring guitar solo. This song is a gem.

“Long Lonely Ride” gives a sly nod to the other drumming Dennis (Wilson) by mentioning a Two-Lane Black Top (Wilson starred in a 1971 movie by that name with James Taylor). Noted lyrics: Eat My Dust, Chew My Leather. In the obscure reference department: There’s a musical piece in the song that immediately brought me back to the Boyce-Hart song “Where Angels Go Trouble Follows”. In the movie of the same name, there is a dance scene in the gym. The band is playing the song and when they get to the above referenced part of the song, the scoreboard flashes numbers showing the girls beating the boys.I warned you it was obscure. “Fall Into Your Arms” could have been a track on Dennis Wilson’s solo album, the recently reissued Pacific Ocean Blue. It has the same beautiful vulnerability.

Take the best of The Beau Brummels, The Standells, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the soundtrack to To Sir With Love (note the Mindbenders "Off and Running"), Peter and Gordon and you’ve got “I’ve Been Away”, “The Sun’s Gonna Shine In The Morning” and “Let Your Loved One Sleep”. All modern day classics. The album closes with the “Ain’t That Peculiar”-feeling, “Tell All The Fools”. Background vocal courtesy of The Honeys (Brian Wilson’s ex-wife and mother of 2/3 of Wilson Phillips, Marilyn Wilson_Rutherford, Marilyn’s sister Diane Rovell and Ginger Blake).

Late Music glows. Turn it up. Take it in. Enjoy the ride.

Dennis collaborated with Pete DiBella. and producer Dave Amels. Special guests include Andy Paley, The Honeys, Jason Falkner, and members of The Wondermints.

Dennis Diken with Bell Sound’s Late Music is available September 29th on Cryptovision Records.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ellie Greenwich: The Songwriting Leader Of The Pack Dies

Ellie Greenwich stands out as one of the greatest songwriters of all time. She died yesterday in Manhattan at the age of 68. Along with songwriting partners Jeff Barry (her husband at one time) and sometime collaborator, Phil Spector, she penned a string of hits that is staggering. She was also a stellar arranger and producer. Like Carole King, I think these women were unsung when it came to what they brought to the table, not only as songwriters, but as arrangers and producers. Early in her career she recorded a few of her songs under the band name The Raindrops. I think her song legacy and what she meant to other musicians will stand as a tribute to what she gave to this world.

"She was the greatest melody writer of all time," Brian Wilson told The LA Times on Wednesday.

"Those songs are part of the fabric of forever," said songwriter Diane Warren

“Ellie Greenwich was one of the most important people in my career.” Neil Diamond

Songwriting Credits:
Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts
Today I Met the Boy I’m Gonna Marry
Da Doo Ron Ron
Then He Kissed Me
Hanky Panky
Leader of the Pack
Chapel Of Love
Be My Baby
River Deep Mountain High
Out In The Streets
All Grown Up
Baby I Love You
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Do Wah Diddy
Gee Baby Gee
Girls Can Tell
Don't Ever Leave Me
Hold On Baby
I Can Hear Music
I Wanna Love Him So Bad
Look Of Love
Maybe I Know
People Say
Take Me Home Tonight
The Sunshine After The Rain
Wait 'Till My Bobby Gets Home
Why Don't They Let Us Fall In Love

Producer Credits:
Cherry, Cherry
Kentucky Woman
Solitary Man

Vocal Arranger
Chain of Fool
Girls Just Want To Have Fun (contributes background vocals also)
Evil Woman -yes the ELO song
Baby I'm Gonna Make You Mine
The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Background Vocals:
In the Flesh
Man Overboard

This is just a partial list of her accomplishments. For full list, see her website.

Thanks for the wonderful melodies!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Return of the Amazins

Saturday was a bright spot in a rather dim year at Citi Field. The 1969 Mets were back together to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their World Championship win. The pitching was so deep on that team. It was great to see Nolan Ryan reunite with his teammates after so many years. You gotta love Yogi!

The 1969 Mets were a big deal in my house growing up. They got me excited about baseball. Tommie Agee was my hero. I still have and use the world champion glasses my parents got from filling up the gas tank. Eight gallons purchased got you a beer mug. Photos from Citi field are courtesy of my brother Al Sartorius, a season ticket holder. The Mets are still a big deal in my family.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Greatest Female Guitarists

Elle magazine is celebrating the 12 Greatest Female Guitarists. The recently release documentary It Might Get Loud focuses on the guitar work of Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White. Obviously missing from this film is a female contributor, so Elle come in.
The list varies from Joan Jett, to ex-band mate Lita Ford to Nancy Wilson. New comers such as Orianthi are mentioned. She was slated to tour with Michael Jackson. I saw her perform with Carrie Underwood at Madison Square Garden and she stole the show from Carrie.

Being that I own a Gibson SG, it was interesting that so many of these women are shown performing with the SG. I've worked with a lot of women and most of them are very self depreciating when it comes to their guitar skills. They shouldn't be. They all add so much to music. Note: Rosanne Cash, Brandi Shearer, Gabby Glaser and Jill Cunniff.