Friday, January 30, 2009

Neko Makes Her Case For A Good Cause

People Got A Lot Of Nerve from Neko Case's March 3rd release Middle Cyclone is a free download.


What makes this different is that for every blog that posts the download, $5 will be donated to Best Friend Animal Society. $1 will be donated for every user of iLike that adds the song to his/her profile. It's a twofer benefit: it's helping out furry friends and giving your ears a treat. Not only is the song free, it's also good. This offer is only good from January 13 to February 3, 2009. If you have a blog or an iLike account, add the link, help an animal.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Microsoft's newest software is Songsmith. It creates music after hearing a vocal. First came a very creepy commercial that I'm still having trouble believing was created by Microsoft.

Everybody seems to be writing about it, so this commercial was effective.
Now it has spawned a whole new YouTube industry. Isolate the vocals from one of your favorite songs say David Lee Roth's in Running With the Devil and play it back to Songsmith. What you get is a lounge version of Van Halen. Oasis' Wonderwall is a techno mess. Listen for 5 seconds and you must stop it or it will drive you mad. Looking for country-lounge? Creep by Radiohead is your track. One thing this proves: you can have all the toys and gadgets in the world, but without creativity and talent, it just doesn't work.

Radiohead - Creep
Oasis - Wonderwall
Van Halen - Running With The Devil

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tweeny-Bop Girl Group Clique Girlz

The NY Times has an article on the marketing of Clique Girlz, two sisters and a friend from NJ. This time it's not Disney doing the selling or marketing, it's Interscope Records. They are known for marketing James Morrison, Beck, Weezer and Pussycat Dolls. The ex-Disney man, Michael Eisner, who owns Topps-known for it's baseball cards, is making Clique Girlz the spokes-kids for Baby Bottle Pop candy. It worked for the Jonas Brothers, who did not have Disney behind them when they worked with Topps. The article points out that promotions like these were once disdained by the music industry. It depends on the music. When it comes to pop and bubblegum acts, all sorts of promotions happened. Gary Lewis and the Playboys recorded a song called Doin' The Flake, which you could get by sending in box tops from Kellogs cereal.

The most interesting has to be this promotion video for staying in school and getting good grades starring Jim Morrison.

The Monkees and Bugs Bunny told us how to make friends with Kool-Aid.

The Jackson 5 taught us how to spell with Alpha Bits cereal.

Musical acts have been doing endorsements since the beginning of pop music. Today's pop acts will have a greater chance of getting noticed by endorsing candy than by hoping radio will play their latest single. The more things change, the more they repeat history.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lillian Roxon An Unsung Pioneer

I read Girls Like Us last year. It's the story of Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon. I thought it would be a book about their rise to the top, delve into their craft and really dissect what made them successful. What struck me was the main thrust of book seemed to be who was sleeping with who. Hint: James Taylor, Steven Stills and David Crosby are a few of the repeat offenders. Needless to say, I was disappointed. The subjects are all extremely talented women and these stories played up their vulnerabilities rather than their strengths. Realizing what each of them has gone through, it becomes apparent that they are survivors and stronger than the men in their lives. This book did spark my interest when it mentioned Lillian Roxon, who was basically a footnote. I was not familiar with her. According to Girls Like Us she was an influential writer in the music world in the 1960's and early 70's. She was one of the first to write about rock music. Lillian was originally from Australia and she was the inspiration for the Helen Reddy's song I Am Woman. Eye Magazine is born in the late 1960's publishes about 15 or so issues and has offices on MacDougal St in Manhattan. Carly Simon gets an apartment a few blocks away. It seems that everything is exploding in this area of Greenwich Village. Roxon not only wrote for the magazine, but was an early champion of her photography and a friend to Linda Eastman (later on she marries Paul McCartney).

She was an early champion of David Bowie. Her writing is still fresh and her suggestions in a 1972 New York Sunday News piece, are very valid today. The subject of how "primitive by-products (we now think of it as merchandise) of the rock business are" comes up in a conversation with Bowie. Who knew Columbia Records put out a Sly Stone doll? Lillian mentions she would buy a David Bowie doll that comes with a few costume changes. Bowie was still unknown in the States and Ziggy Stardust was about to come out. Here is the tell tale sign that Bowie will be around for awhile:

In England, where he is incredibly popular (he's still just an in-group cult figure here but wait till "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust" LP takes off) fans have already designed Ziggy Stardust stationery for themselves.

Isn't that what it's all about? Fans creating their own merchandise? She notes that most rock stars look like dolls and wouldn't you rather have a well-made doll than a poster with a bad enlargement of a photo? She offers advice for a hurting garment industry: Get the musician involved not only with the design of the clothes, but the design of the store also. "Buying and selling is a part of our everyday reality", she quips, so why can't musicians sell wares associated with them. She closes the article with "I'm not kidding, if its good enough for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, why not Ziggy Stardust, Ruby Tuesday, Eleanor Rigby and the rest of the gang?". Why not indeed. The bottom line is that if it's a quality product and it's true to who the musician is, it makes sense.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Inaugural Dancing

Much has been said/printed about Michelle Obama's dress. Not so much has been said about the dancing. Barack and Michelle didn't exactly cut a rug at any of the balls I saw. They could have been tired after an exciting and hectic day. With the adrenaline going, I think it's more a product of my/our generation. We don't know how to dance with a partner. If Heaven 17's Let Me Go is spun by a DJ, I'll be the first one on the dance floor. If it's In The Mood, I can fake something, but I'm just posing. My husband and I took dance lessons about 8 years ago, after realizing we didn't know a Foxtrot from a Waltz. We were determined to learn how to dance together. Turned out there were a lot of singles in the class and they made us dance with different partners, thus mission not accomplished. Michelle leaned on Barack to Etta James' At Last. (We heard the recording and Beyonce's version. Why didn't we see Etta singing it live?) At one point, it might have been during Stevie Wonder's sing-a-long of Sign Sealed Delivered, it looked like Barack was doing the White Man's Overbite. The latter which was so wonderfully demonstrated by Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally. We are the end of the Boomer generation and maybe the end of partner dancing.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pal Joey

On Wednesday I saw Pal Joey at Studio 54. The women steal the show in this production. Martha Plimpton who normally plays the part of Gladys, the night club performer, was not in the performance I saw. Stockard Channing is one of the most solid theater performers. She either chooses her roles well, or can make any role work. As the rich and bored Mrs Simpson, she plays the part with both charm, aloofness and vulnerability. She also looks stunning in William Ivey Long’s gowns. She also has the distinction of singing the musical's most heralded song Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered to her sleeping boy toy, the lounge lizard, Joey Evans. Stockard's voice while not powerful is just right to convey Mrs Simpson's laments. In What Is a Man? she sighs “They’re all alike/They’re all I like."

Joey jumps from town to town to prey on whoever will help him further his career. In this case, he is able to seduce Mrs Simpson into buying a night club and letting him mooch off her. She doesn't exactly see it that way at first. He also has been toying with the emotions of new-to-town, shop girl Linda English, played by Jenny Fellner. Her voice is beautiful and a perfect fit for the girl who may be more savvy than Joey will give her credit for. Her duet with Channing on "Take Him" is both charming and empowering for the women. They both realize he's a cad, but somehow they've been sucked in. Not exactly a new plot line, but with the right actresses, it's fresh again.

Richard Greenberg
, who wrote the wonderful Take Me Out, adapted the original book and it has his stamp on it. He brings out the dark side of Chicago, while not making it bleak.

It's worth mentioning the dream scene, where Joey imagines his new night club, Chez Joey. There is a mighty white and chrome staircase and showgirls wearing enormous flower headdresses (I'm partial to the lily) descend the stage. I'm not sure if you are getting the same mental picture, but all I could think about was that similar scene from I Love Lucy. These women pulled it off with grace and didn't topple. I had to smile.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reasons to Be Cheerful: Serkis To Play Ian Dury In Biopic

Lord Of The Rings star Andy Serkis has signed up to play British punk legend Ian Dury in a biopic of the late Blockheads frontman.

The actor - who played Gollum in the fantasy trilogy and King Kong in the recent big screen remake - has confirmed he is learning his lines and preparing for filming to start in April.

Serkis tells Cinema Blend, "I'm actually doing a film about the life of Ian Dury ... He's an amazing character, a real poet ... And he was a polio sufferer, so he basically didn't have much use of his left leg or his left arm. He was one of the first disabled punk rockers ever. I'm really looking forward to that".

It's not the first biopic the Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick rocker has inspired - a musical, Hit Me: The Life And Rhymes Of Ian Dury, is currently running in London.

Dury died in 2000 at the age of 57.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rosanne Cash's 1993 Inauguration Story

In the NY Times.

Inaugural Balls

In 1993 I attended 3 inaugural balls. It was Bill Clinton's first term and he was the first president born of the rock & roll era. He was known for his love of Elvis, the sax and had and still does have a great appreciation for music. It was no surprise that sprawled out all over DC were balls with amazing music lineups. While waiting for one of my bands in the hotel lobby to go to soundcheck, I met Lindsey Buckingham. Don't Stop became the official Clinton campaign song. Fleetwood Mac hadn't toured in years, but were getting back together to perform for the President. Linsdsey was blown away by the attention the song got.

It was winter. I was wearing heels. The only way to get around was to walk or run. The roads were like parking lots which meant taxis were not an option. It seemed like every walkway was made of cobble stones (it just seems that way when you're in heels). Will Botwin, Ken Levitan and myself made our way to three balls that night making sure that we didn't miss any of the acts we managed: Los Lobos, Rosanne Cash and Lyle Lovett. The logistic were harrowing. The excitement cannot be recreated. To a lesser degree than today, there was a high level of hope for the new President.

We seemed to arrive at every ball, just as Al and Tipper Gore were also arriving. At each ball, they would stop whoever was playing, from the speakers would come Paul Simon's You Can Call Me Al and then Al and Tipper would dance. I was so sick of that song by the end of the day. One of the balls was in Air and Space Museum. Having free reign of the place during soundcheck was amazing. Yes, we all had our photos taken on the Star Trek set. At another ball, Rosanne introduced me to her dad and step mom (do I need to point out they were Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash?).

There has been much written about how smooth and together the Obama transition has been as opposed to Clinton, who still had not filled out his cabinet by inauguration day. I can relate this to the scheduling of the balls. According to the NY Times guide to the inauguration, of the 10 balls that are happening tonight, 6 are in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. This would make it so much easier for Obama and Biden and those managers who have multiple acts playing. I heard on the news that the performers that played on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, paid for their own expenses. I'm not sure if that pertains to the balls also. In 1992, the artists donated their time, but the expenses were covered. The excitement and energy are truly unforgettable and I can understand why people travelled thousands of miles to be there today.

Monday, January 19, 2009

We Are One: Concert at the Lincoln Memorial

Singing in 20 degree weather can't be easy. Yesterday musicians paid tribute to Barack Obama by performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It's a dramatic and inspiring backdrop. Many of the songs were performed with a choir. Springsteen with acoustic guitar and choir behind him delivered a poignant version of The Rising. John Mellencamp and choir belted out a rousing version of Pink Houses. The only full band performance came from U2. They paid tribute to Martin Luther King Jr with In The Name of Love and followed it up with City Of Blinding Lights.

The ladies really rocked the show. They out rocked the guys.
  1. Mary J Blige's cover of Lean On Me took on steam as the song progressed.
  2. Renee Fleming powerfully interpreted Roger's and Hammerstein's You'll Never Walk Alone.
  3. I was very exited to see Heather Headley perform with Josh Grobman. She has one of the best voices and she hadn't been on my radar lately. Their duet was a beautiful interpretation of My Country Tis of Thee.
  4. Bettye LaVette proves that she just keeps getting better. She blew me away with her rendition of Love Reign O’er Me at the Kennedy Center Honors last month and continued to do so yesterday with her performance of A Change Is Gonna Come. Jon Bon Jovi sang with her.
  5. Beyonce closed the show with America The Beautiful with the days performers joining her on stage for the last verse.
With the exception of U2, it was a celebration of the music of this country, although the lone jazz artist represented was Herbie Hancock. HBO is running it online, watch it. The performers were there because they wanted to be and the passion and pride were evident on every one of their faces. It's good to be an American.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Gary Kurfirst: Long Time Artist Manager Dies

I worked on the same floor as Gary Kurfirst's Overland Productions in the late 80's, early 90's. We said hi in the hallways. He was a loyal manager who worked with everyone from the Talking Heads to Diamanda Galas. I remember the start of Radioactive Records. There was always something new and exciting coming out of their office. Gary died suddenly this week. The best tribute I've seen came from him son which was posted in the Lefsetz letter. I'll excerpt the posting below.


We've never actually met before, but I feel like I have read hundreds of your emails over the years and they were all forwarded to me by my father, Gary Kurfirst. I know he agreed with a lot of what you had to say about the music business and he admired your writing abilities and passion for music. I'm writing to let you know that Gary (aka passed away yesterday. It all happened very sudden, the details of which do not matter, bottom line is he was way too young. I'm not sure why I am reaching out to you, but I feel like I need to make sure that my dad's accomplishment in the music business are recognized and you have a lot of people's attention. He was a true music pioneer, an ole gunslinger back when the music business was like the wild, wild west and crafty kid from Forest Hills, Queens could carve out a living promoting (and later managing) cutting edge acts not because they were popular, but because they were different. I actually got to work with him for most of my adult life. He taught me about the importance of artist development, building the brand and finding acts that did not fit the mold but rather broke it. He believed in artistry and did not sign acts because they sounded like "so and so," he signed acts that were an extension of his creative being, ones that tested the boundaries of modern music and would change the face of music forever. He was not a musician, or music historian and would readily admit that he knew zero about music in general. However he understood how to identify, create and manage unique artists as good as any human being on the planet over the last 40 years. He always stuck to his guns. Didn't care what other people thought and believed passionately that over time the cream always rises to the top. Sometimes that rise took years (see the Ramones & the Talking Heads) and something it happened almost instantly (see Live). My point is that my dad represented a lot of the good that has happened in music over the past 40 years. He started out as a pioneer and morphed into an anomaly and at the end of it all I'm very proud to be his son and only wish that my two boys (Gary's only grandchildren - Lucas 5 & Landon 13 months) got a chance to know him like I did.


Josh Kurfirst

ps: Gary's work history can be found here:
pps: two stories have broke so far and one at

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Paul McCartney on Howard Stern

It seems to be an all Beatles Blog Day at Kudos & Flowers. Howard Stern is the best celebrity interviewer there is. Today's Paul McCartney chat was too short. They just started to get the ball rolling and it was time for him to leave. Howard as expected touched on Paul's encounters with Christie Brinkley, Renee Zellweger and Rosanne Arquette. The first two he said were a Hampton's party and a lunch-nothing more. He didn't elaborate on Ms Arquette. Sir Paul talked briefly about his new album Electric Arguments released under the name The Firemen. He chose the name because his father was a fireman and he also loves to cut down brush and create trails with his chain saw. That must be why he is always in such a good mood. He lets it all out in the woods. He recorded the lyrics on the fly in the studio. The spontaneity works. Highway is a fun, melodic romp with the energy of the first Wings record. I hear a touch of Peter Gabriel in songs such as Lifelong Passion. The album doesn't sound like a bunch of songs that were sitting on a shelf waiting to be recorded. There is freshness to the work. The record was produced by Youth.

He loves being a dad to his youngest. He hangs out in the Hamptons in the summer so the paparazzi can invade his privacy. The Beatles were originally going to call Abbey Road, Everest. He gets along with Yoko. The biggest shock of the interview came from Robin Quivers, not Paul. She officially threw her hat in the ring and said she was available to date Paul. She cited being a vegan as a mutual bond. I think Paul thought Howard put her up to it.

Victor Spinetti's Hard Day's Night

Victor Spinetti performed his one man show, A Very Private Diary! at the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts. His acting career has taken him from regional theater in his birth country of Wales to a Tony Award for Oh! What A Lovely War to the Return of the Pink Panther. He is probably most recognized in this country for his roles in A Hard Day's Night, Help! and Magical Myster Tour. His show recreates celebrity encounters from his illustrious career. Stories of Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Tallulah Bankhead, Warren Beatty and of course The Beatles are all conveyed in his eccentric, endearing manner. During the height of Beatlemania, Victor had a large fan club. While on route to the Bahamas with the Beatles to shoot Help!, the plane had a stop over at JFK airport to refuel. No one was going to leave the plane until an announcement was made asking for Victor Spinetti. They asked if he would please leave the plane to say hi to the hordes of fan looking for him. So he got out and waved to the crowd. Needless to say, The Beatles gave it to him when he got back on the plane.

He also recounted the visit by John and George to ask him to be in A Hard Days Night: George Harrison, said, "You've got to be in all our films ... if you're not in them me Mum won't come and see them--because she fancies you."

What I remember most about Victor was the amazing mohair sweater his character Richard, the TV director wore in A Hard Day's Night. Rosemary Flannery, being more pop culture aware than I am, found an interview in which he said the sweater was his own. So much for a wardrobe budget. The acting skills of Victor and the participants in A Hard Day's Night should not be overlooked, as it's a gem. The movie was improvised and apparently so was the wardrobe.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bad Design is a Bad Sign

The Mets have once again held the bar way too low. This is the inaugural stadium patch that will be on the Mets' uniforms this year. I could have done better with a Sharpie and piece of loose leaf paper. The web is aflutter with criticism, Yahoo compared it to the Domino's Pizza logo. The best thing to come out of this is The Sports Hernia's alternative versions of the logos that were rejected by the Mets. Follow the link and make sure you scroll to the bottom. Who designed this patch and how much were they paid?

  1. The NY Post reported rusty pipes and leaks coming from the front of Citifield.
  2. The stadium is now being referred to as Taxpayers Field as taxpayers money is bailing out Citigroup.

Music Video Games Sales Were Down in 2008

Hailed as a growing revenue stream for musicians and labels, the music video game sector might not be living up to it's expectations. Variety reports that Rock Band sold 809,000 units domestically and Guitar Hero World Tour sold 1.5 million units.

According to here are the numbers:

Music remains the biggest-selling games genre and, according to NPD Group, brings in 16 percent of all gaming revenue. But music games overall saw a six percent drop in revenue despite some high-profile launches. Now with sales are slowing, revenue from extra tracks to play along to is of huge importance even though the cash is split with music publishers: at the cost of about $2 each, Guitar Hero players have bought 25 million tracks while Rock Band fans have paid for 30 million. Sales data for December is out on January 15 and will show how all the big titles did over Christmas.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Biggest Selling Vinyl Record of 2008

Hypebot posted this graph which has Radiohead bookending the top 10 selling vinyl records of the past year. If anyone is thinking about waxing poetically on the comeback of vinyl, just look at the numbers and think twice about the impact. As I've written before, vinyl does not make a dent in sales number. In Rainbows sold 25,800 copies. Rolling Stone's article proclaims that vinyl sales almost doubled in 2008 and that "vinyl is still experiencing a renaissance". I would hardly call this news. With more layoffs at labels and more artists releasing records on their own (Radiohead), vinyl sales will not help music's bottom line rebound. When it does and it enables artists to make a living making music, then it's news.

Quote of the Day from Bob Lefsetz

"A Palm is like a Haircut 100 record. A hit once, but no one even wants to go to the reunion show."

Bob Lefsetz is referring to Elevation Partners investments in Palm and how Elevation is the only thing keeping Palm alive. This was spurred by Bob's review of an op-ed piece by Bono in the NY Times. The article is Bono's stream of consciousness writings on Frank Sinatra.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Jacko To Give Macca Back his Beatles Publishing

I'm a few days late with this, but According to the Mirror:
  1. Michael Jackson believes he is dying from a genetic lung disease
  2. Is now confined to bed or a wheelchair
  3. According to his will, Paul McCartney would inherit his portion of the Beatles catalogue
  4. He is disheartened by his falling out with Paul.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell On Success at the 92nd Street Y

How is success measured? Malcolm Gladwell thinks we abuse the word "genius" and bestowing it on people is giving them too much credit. He believes (and goes on to credit his theory in his latest book: Outliers) there are many factors that are involved in a person's success and given the right cultural environment, work ethic, a sprinkle of fairy dust talent and date of birth, you have the advantages to succeed. He used numerous examples throughout the interview: Bill Gates, The Beatles, two Canadian hockey teams, KIPP Academy and J Robert Oppenheimer.

Robert Krulwich, host of Radiolab, interviewed him and was a perfect choice to challenge Gladwell on his theories. Their dialogue on the use and vocal emphasis of the word "love" was highly entertaining. Gladwell is the master of looking at a situation (he spoke passionately about the merit of Affirmative Action) and turning it upside down. He gets you thinking. It's been said there are two sides to every story and then there's the truth. We have Gladwell to show us the third side.

The Stooges Guitarist Found Dead

Ron Asheton a founding member of the The Stooges was found dead in his Ann Arbor home after an associate called police to say he had not been heard from in days. No official cause of dead has been announced. Foul play is not suspected. Ron along with his brother Scott, Iggy Pop and the deceased Dave Alexander released their first record in 1969. Ron's MySpace page is filled with fans thoughts and thanks.
Read his obit on NME's site.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

iTunes New Pricing

The ho hum announcement at Macworld Expo was that iTunes will now be DRM free and songs will be variably priced. This is what Apple negotiated with the major record labels. DRM free comes way too late and who is going to want to pay MORE for a track when it can be downloaded for free. The labels will now charge $1.29 for a new song, .99 for those selling well and .69 for older tracks. In a time where everything is being sold at a discount, the labels decide to jack up the price. I'm shaking my head.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Stax Revue on PBS Tonight (if you're in NY)

In today's NY Times:

The black-and-white concert footage of “Sweet Soul Music: Stax Live in Europe 1967,” to be shown Monday (tonight) at 8 p.m. on WLIW (Channel 21) in NY and nationwide on PBS in March, is a chance to see Stax’s soul men at their youthful peak. The tour lineup was Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Eddie Floyd and Arthur Conley, backed by Booker T & the MGs and the Mar-Keys. The revue was videotaped for television on April 7, 1967, in Oslo. (The PBS special is a shorter version of a DVD, “Stax/Volt Revue: Live in Norway 1967,” which is available from the Stax Museum in Memphis,

Song List
“Philly Dog” - The Mar-Keys
“Green Onions” - Booker T. and the MG's
“Sweet Soul Music” - Arthur Conley
“You Don't Know Like I Know” - Sam and Dave
“Raise Your Hand” - Eddie Floyd
“Soothe Me” - Sam and Dave
“Hold On! I'm comin'” - Sam and Dave
“Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)” - Otis Redding
“My Girl” - Otis Redding
“Shake” - Otis Redding
“(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction” - Otis Redding
“Try A Little Tenderness” - Otis Redding

Friday, January 02, 2009

Brandi Shearer on Daytrotter

Brandi Shearer visited the Daytrotter studio for a live session during her tour last year with Kate Walsh and Quincy Coleman. There are 3 new songs: Animal, I Just Want You To Love Me,

When You Wake Up
and a beautiful version of Night Singing Bird which is also on her EP First Punch. You can download the tracks from the Daytrotter site. Interesting title to the piece: The Endearment Of An Ashen Animal.