Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Activism In Country Music

John Rich, the country singer was a big supporter of John McCain in last year's presidential campaign. This year he wrote a topical song, "Shuttin’ Detroit Down" (he has is posted on his myspace page) and rushed to include it in his recent offering, "Son Of A Preacher Man." The NY Times points out that country music is an unlikely genre for activism. I would tend to disagree. Having worked with Steve Earle and other alternative country musicians such as Rosanne Cash (listen to "Rosie Strikes Back"), they consistently wrote about the ills of society and made people aware of these circumstances.

John Rich writes

I see all these big shots whining on my evening news
About how they’re losing billions and it’s up to me and you
To come running to
The rescue

I think a good chuck of this country can relate to these lyrics, whether you're a country music fan or not.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Uriel Jones of the Funk Brothers: RIP

Uriel Jones joined the Funk Brothers as a drummer in 1963. A 2002 documentary on these unsung musicians brought to the forefront the power and beat behind Motown's hits. In an ironic notes, last night American Idol featured (in some cases butchered) songs from Motown. Contestants were guided by Smokey Robinson and in attendance was Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown. According to his NY Times obit, Uriel can be heard on on Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” the Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” the Miracles’ “Tracks of My Tears,” Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” and Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” among many other songs.

Mr Jones continued to live in the Detroit area after Motown left and toured with remaining Funk Brothers after the release of the documentary. He died on Tuesday of complications from a heart attack. He left behind a very impressive legacy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Formerly known as Cat Stevens, Yusuf, according to USA Today will be performing in NY, Toronto and LA. It's been 33 years since he last performed publicly. My friend Stephanie saw him over a year ago at a private concert for Atlantic Records and said the show was amazing. His website has a player with Cat Stevens songs, he's selling Cat T-Shirts as well as Yusuf material. No specific venues are listed on his website.

Monday, March 16, 2009


The untimely death of a woman so filled with life, left everyone who knew Abbijane in shock. Abbijane passed away last week from a ruptured aneurysm. Abbi was a clothing designer, but foremost a force of life. She was unofficially know as the mayor of her block on East 19th St. She lived in a wonderful townhouse, where she staged her fashion shows. (Her prior apartment was a lovely space with high ceilings and bright bubblegum pink walls.) Her designs were beautiful and understated. I have a few. They are timeless pieces, made of the best fabrics. Judging from the people who wore her clothes at the memorial, they still hold up and look better than ever.

Abbijane designed my wedding dress. She was so excited about it as she had the best cream colored crushed velvet that would be perfect to accommodate my need of being able to dance in it. She always overestimated my size. Even after taking my measurements, my first fitting was falling off me. She kept saying I forgot how small you are. Abbi was used to designing clothes for people like her: tall, thin and beautiful. She also made a point to say, you can cut the dress down after the wedding and wear it again. I still have the dress, but haven't altered it.

Abbijane had great stories. She told our friend Rosemary that she would never write a book. Too bad, it would have been entertaining. She was a mainstay at the Mudd Club in the 80's and a true supporter of her friends who all seemed to be musicians, artists or producers. Bob Gruen, the photographer was always at her shows. Lenny Kaye was a good friend. Being a David Johnsen fan, Abbi used to humor me by telling David stories. Abbijane never changed, she was ageless as I told her the last time I saw her last year. Her big smile will be greatly missed.

Sirius on you IPhone

Sirius XM Satellite Radio announced it is developing an app for the iPhone. No word on how much it will cost or what it will look like.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Power of Imagery In Music: Los Lobos

When it works, conveying powerful imagery through song is extremely moving. Last night Los Lobos played at Irving Plaza. The band's songwriting team of Louie Perez and David Hidalgo are masters of imagery. In the first of a two set show, the band performed Saint Behind the Glass, which originally appeared on their album Kiko. Kiko is the ultimate example of imagery through song done to perfection.

Louie grew up in East LA. When they were recording Kiko, he told me Saint Behind The Glass was inspired by a statue in his mom's house.

Hammer and a nail
Hammer and a nail
Saint behind the glass
Holds a hammer and a nail

Baby in his arms
Baby in his arms
Saint behind the glass
Has a baby in his arms

Watches me sleep
Watches me sleep
Saint behind the glass
Watches me while I sleep

Coffee in the air
Coffee in the air
Saint behind the glass
Smells coffee in the air

Curtains blowing 'round
Curtains blowing 'round
Saint behind the glass
Sees the curtains blowing 'round

Night upon my head
Night upon my head
Saint behind the glass
Lays night upon my head

Mother don't cry
Mother don't cry
Saint behind the glass
Tells mother not to cry

Louie who over the past few years has liberated himself from the drums and now is in the forefront, sings the song with a lilting passion that is both poignant and soothing. I can visualize this statue of St Joseph (I'm assuming it's him from the carpenter and baby references) perched on a shelf. It's a spring day and St Joseph is keeping watch over the Perez family. In it's simplicity, this song is magic.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Musicians Scalping Tickets To Their Fans

Ethan Smith in the WSJ reports that artists are profiting from selling premium seats with premium prices to their shows on secondary sales sites such as TicketExchange. They are priced and presented as resales by fans and it is a practice used by many top performers according to Joseph Freeman, Ticketmaster's senior vice president for legal affairs, who is quoted in the article. This is essentially scalping by the artists themselves. This is not a new practice, it's just one that has come to the forefront in a piece in the Wall St Journal. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Why doesn't the artist just sell 100 tickets at a higher price and be transparent about it?

The major record labels do not believe in transparency and it leaves me a little sick reading about these artists who now allegedly are playing the same game. Is it necessary to milk the fan for every last dime? Neil Diamond, Bon Jovi, Celine Dion, Van Halen, and Billy Joel/Elton John are all cited in the article as participating in secondary ticket selling.

This practice came to light after Springsteen protested the unauthorized sale of tickets to his show on secondary sites. It's a practice that has been going on for years. I remember repeatedly hearing rumors about Rod Stewart and his manager Arnold Stiefel, selling their tickets to scalpers to make an extra profit. It's disheartening to see these names connected with such a practice. All of the above mentioned have made more money than they can use in a lifetime. Money is the only motivator I can fathom in resorting to this practice, but how much can you have in a lifetime and why do it at the cost to your fans?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

PBS takes on SXSW

SXSW begins today and PBS.org will be covering it. Throughout the duration of the festival, the site will present interviews with the filmmakers, musician and movers and shakers. The site's schedule will be updated periodically.

Monday, March 09, 2009

No Doubt Stands and Delivers

If you buy tickets to an upcoming No Doubt show, they'll give you their digital catalog of music for free. Also included is a cover of the Adam and The Ants song Stand and Deliver.

More details on their website.

Friday, March 06, 2009

YouTube and Universal Deal

According to the Wall St Journal, Google Inc.'s YouTube and Universal Music Group are discussing a partnership under which YouTube would build a new hub for music videos.

YouTube would also provide technology and advertising-sales support to help distribute Universal's video content to other Web sites, people familiar with the matter say.

Is creating a new YouTube hub worth the time and effort? Does it justify jobs at Universal to work on this with YouTube? If there was an announcement that YouTube was setting up a hub for indie artists and they would promote and develop new acts, that would be worthy of a news story. Somehow a major label trying to eek out a few more dollars sounds like tired old news.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Neil Young Defends Warner Bros against YouTube

Neil Young pointed out that YouTube's practices are unfair. Labels have different deals for different compensation. His argument is that it should all be the same across the board for all artists. He said Warner/Reprise is being punished for being the early negotiator with YouTube and now other labels have better deals. Are the indie artists left out of the picture entirely?
Here's the posting on his website.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Dusty the Puppy

Although Dusty The Puppy sounds like a good name for a band, it's an introduction for the newest member of our household. Here she is. What a bundle of life.