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.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Julie and Julia: A Movie About Parallel Lives

Julie and Julia is a touching and entertaining movie about parallel lives. One life inspired the other. Amy Adams is charming as the soon-to-be 30 year old Julie. She’s in a happy marriage, stuck in a run down apartment in Long Island City (it is 900 sq ft-as her husband reminds her why they are living there. If you’re a New Yorker, you know that is a detail not to be overlooked.). She’s in a dead end job listening to and trying to improve the lives of those affected by 9/11 and lamenting that she hasn’t used her writing skills to become a published writer. In a duel story, Julia Child, played so well by Meryl Streep (her facial expressions and nuances make the movie), is madly in love with her husband, has moved to Paris, which she fully embraces and is also searching for something to give her fulfillment in her life. They both come to the conclusion that food makes them happy. Julia loves eating it and Julie loves cooking it.

Meryl plays Julia as a bon vivant with just the right touch of sarcasm. She loves life, people and experiences, but is no saint. The scenes of Julia as the only female student at the Le Cordon Bleu will put a smile on your face. Julia became a trailblazer by following her heart and not letting stereotypes stand in her way. She was a very formidable woman at 6’ 2”, so I’m sure a lot couldn’t stand in her way and she probably dealt with her share of prejudices, not only as a woman (the woman who ran Le Cordon Bleu hated her), but as a very tall woman. Julie not only becomes a devout fan of Julia, she converses with her while she’s cooking and dresses as her for her 30th birthday party. Pearls are mandatory.

It’s not easy to depict parallel stories that never intersect on screen, but the pacing and layout of this movie are flawless. Never once did I look at my watch. (Before the movie started I did make note of the 30 minutes of previews and commercials we had to sit thorough before the movie began). It’s a great movie about finding something you like and letting it kill you (to paraphrase Kinky Friedman). There’s a mix of emotions played out over the course of the film: heartbreak, frustration, getting over yourself and sheer joy. It’s life as we know it. Julie Powell blogs about the following incident, so I’m not giving anything away, but there is a dose of reality that grounds the film. As much as I hated the part when Julie got the call that Julie Child is disinterested in her blog, it threw the movie deeper into the real world. Julia was never a shrinking violet, so why would she not be honest in her opinion of Julie’s blog? Of course you want Julie to meet Julia and have a great relationship with her, but how many of you have met your hero and been disappointed? How many of you have been pleasantly surprised? Sometimes the myth is greater than the reality. Whether Meryl’s portrayal of Julia is more myth than reality, it doesn’t matter. She’s thoroughly endearing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Live Brandi Shearer Free on Amazon

As a pre-album release gift, Brandi Shearer has made available for a limited time on Amazon a free download of her EP Live At The Soiled Dove. The EP includes the always powerful I Want You Out from Close To Dark, To LA, which is no longer available on CD and When You Wake Up, which is on the new record (Love Don't Make You Juliet -out Sept 1). had this to say about When You Wake Up: "But sweet as she sounds (and looks), below the surface sheʼs kinda just cruising for a fight—check out the can't-stop-me vengefulness she sketches out over some Tom Waitsian clatter on this tune from her new Craig Street–produced album."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Road Tweets From the Heat

Los Lobos have been playing a lot of outdoor shows in very hot weather.
Check out Louie Perez tweets for the day. I wonder if this will make it's way into a song....

Roadrash- being on tour too long
2:00 PM Aug 15th from txt

Roadhash- backstage catering
2:02 PM Aug 15th from txt

Roadcash- the 6 bucks your wife gives you when you leave town
2:05 PM Aug 15th from txt

Roadstash- contraband stuck under the back plate on a gold top les paul
2:20 PM Aug 15th from txt

Roadlash- what happens to your neck when riding in a 15 passenger van
2:23 PM Aug 15th from txt

Roadbash- when its your turn to be the object of inane humor
2:41 PM Aug 15th from txt

Roadcrash- don't even think about it!
2:48 PM Aug 15th from txt

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Woodstock Memory From One Who Was There

It’s the 40th Anniversary of three days of peace and music and there have been numerous articles, TV pieces, etc to remind you. Being one to jump on the bandwagon, I spoke with my friend Laura Giantonio. Laura has worn many hats in the music business: DJ (in clubs such as the Fast Lane, Hitsville and The Ritz), photographer, band member (The Fabulous Perms) and as a travel agent working solely with musicians and production companies. She attended Woodstock. What strikes me the most about Laura’s recollection and that of others I’ve seen in documentaries is that no one talks about the music as being a front and center part of the experience.

Laura verbalized the feeling and vibe of being there. “It was a party. We all went away to have a party. I was a teenager going to a big festival with a bunch of friends. It was absolutely amazing. It was a love-fest. Everyone was very dirty. You were laying in mud. It was too good to be true. Everyone loved each other. Everyone was smoking pot. Everyone was in La La land. Everybody looked like they had a lobotomy. Everyone smiled at each other. Your parents weren’t around, you were surrounded by weirdos and having fun.”

it was all about a party. Advance tickets for all three days cost $18. Laura still has her ticket some where in her apartment. There is a reprint at of piece that appeared in 1994 in The Times Herald-Record. It’s a blow-by-blow account of how the festival finally got off the ground and then follows through the show to it’s financial aftermath.. This piece explains that the ticket booths were suppose to be delivered to the site, but never make it there due to the backup of traffic on the Thruway. The ticket takers showed up with nothing to do. The gate that was protecting the site finally gave way and the crowd poured in. Some tickets were actually refunded for those who were unable to gain access to the grounds. Not sure how they could verify that as everyone still had their physical tickets in tact, but the promoters refunded 4, 062 tickets.

As I’m sure was the case for most people under 18, Laura’s parents were skeptical about letting their only daughter travel upstate for a three day rock concert. “My father didn’t want me to go, but my mother said all the kids were going. Some kids in the neighborhood were 20, such as Ralph and my parents knew them and to them it was like having a chaperone there.” The TV reports probably made her parents second-guess their decision. “My mother was worried sick. They were showing the helicopters and masses of people on TV.”

Laura grew up in Riverdale. “There were about 20 people from the neighborhood that went. We took an old Voklswagen van that Ralph drove. Others drove too.”
She spent a lot of time at the festival with her friend Lynn Zorman. Laura was there on Friday afternoon before the music started, but wound up with the same fate as all other motorists. “We had to stop the car on the Thruway and walk several miles.” She said they had no idea what to expect. “We didn’t bring a tent. We didn’t bring much”. There were concessions but “you couldn't find anything.” No one really thought about eating. “We were all taking diet pills. We actually stole Larry’s mom’s ups. Nobody cared about food. I was hungry when I got home.”

“The thing I remember most is that there were no toilets. You’d have to pee in the woods, but there were no woods. It was problematic. I had to discard my pants after I peed in them. I rolled my pants up to dry them out by a makeshift campfire. Some guy tripping on the BROWN ACID (she laughs) came wandering over to us, laid down and plopped his head on my pants. He picked his head up briefly and said phewww. I had no idea when he was going leave. I was way too embarrassed to admit they were mine after that, so i left them there. I ended up wearing Ralph’s construction raincoat.”

The bad weather has been well documented and I think it played a big part in the memorializing of the event. “Everyone was very dirty. You were lying in mud. People were jumping off tires and into mud. I ran and slid into mud.”

There were no specific memories of the music. “I remember dancing. I could have been dancing to my own beat. I remember hearing the Who, probably Sha-Na-Na (They performed on Sunday, making it impossible as she left on Sunday morning).

“One of the guys had a car and was going back early so we went back early on Sunday morning. At that point we were soaking wet and covered with mud. Lynn had a blanket throw over her. It was a breeze driving back.. My mom was so happy when I came home early. She threw me in the shower. Lynn ran home to take a shower and let her mom know she was back.” The weekend continued. I had a big crush on Al Cooper. His album I Stand Alone was out then. I loved that song (the title track). .Lynn and I went to see Al Cooper in Central Park that night. I wore a skirt and heels to the show.”

“It was all about a party, having fun and listening to music. This would never happen again. Look at the last one. This was different. There was no racial tension. Everybody was one. It was really cool. Everyone loved each other. It was too good to be true.”

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Les Paul

It seemed like Les Paul would live forever. He died today at the age of 94. In the mid-80's I was working at Modern Travel. We were travel coordinators for The Firm's US tour. Jimmy Page was in town with the band and Laura Giantonio and I were invited to see him sit in with Les Paul at Fat Tuesday's. Les had a Monday night residency at the club. I remember big smiles on both Les and Jimmy. It was like two kids jamming in their living room. When I got my first electric guitar I was pretty sure I wanted a Les Paul. They sounded so good. My guitar teacher convinced me to get the Gibson SG. I don't regret my choice as I think the Les Paul would have been too much of a guitar for me. The SG came out of retirement last year after being kept in pristine condition in it's case for too many years. I hadn't played since college. I remembered one chord. I took piano lessons from ages 5-7. I guess it's true when they say take up an instrument when you're really young, you'll never forget it. Les Paul was always young.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

TechDirt challenged the artists whose files Joel Tenenbaum had shared over the Internet to comment on the case. Joel was sued by the RIAA, who won the first round. A Boston federal jury ordered Joel Tenenbaum to pay $675,000—$22,500 per song—to the major record labels for willfully infringing 30 songs by downloading and distributing them over the KaZaA.

The TechDirt challenge would have no legal ramifications, but it would be interesting. The comments that stood out the most were those that thought so little of the musicians and their work. The tones were dismissive. Some forget that without the musicians, there are no files to download and there are no record companies and there is no RIAA.

Among the songs Joel downloaded were Nirvana's Come As You Are and Nine Inch Nails' The Perfect Drug. I haven't been able to find comments from Trent.

Monday, August 10, 2009

iPhone Streaming Live Concerts

According to a post in Cynopsis Digital:

Apple and AT&T pulled off the first live streamed event on the iPhone on Friday - a live concert in from UK techno band Underworld at the Fox Theatre in Oakland, CA. (Click on the "live broadcasts" link to listen to an archived video of the event.) The concert, which AT&T more or less kept under its hat to avoid traffic problems, utilized Apple's new HTTP streaming protocol using adaptive bitrates technology to deliver a steady broadcast under varying network conditions, per NewTeeVee. Akamai and Inlet Technologies helped power the event.

Friday, August 07, 2009

John Hughes Music Quiz

John Hughes is being remembered for his intimate and accurate portrayal of teenagers in his films. He didn't pander to them, he put them in real life situations (ok, not sure if anyone has a Ferris Bueller day). His films are definitely time capsules of the 80's. John died of a heart attack this week while walking on the streets of NY. He retired from directing in 1991, but continued to write and produce (Flubber, Dennis the Menace, 101 Dalmatians, Reach the Rock).

John reshaped the idea of the movie soundtrack and music in movies. He made indie music an integral part of his films. His film Pretty In Pink was inspired by the Psychedelic Furs songs the same name. The Furs re-recorded the song for his film. The original is better.

Below are the titles of films that John either directed, wrote, produced or did all three. I bet you can name at least one song from each film and you probably sang it over and over again.

1. Sixteen Candles
2. The Breakfast Club
3. Weird Science
4. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
5. Pretty In Pink
6. She's Having a Baby

1. The Sixteen Candles soundtrack was a who’s who of one hit 80’s wonder artists. They didn’t necessarily have a hit with the song on this soundtrack, but it probably opened a few ears. This soundtrack is all over the dial musically, but more than half the music was by relatively obscure artists.

Altered Images- Happy Birthday
Kajagoogoo- Sixteen Candles (remember them Too Shy?)
Paul Young – Love of the Common People
Spandau Ballet – True
Oingo Boingo –Wild Sex In the Working Class (They were massively popular in LA would wind up in other John Hughes Films. See #3. Danny Elfman from the band would become one of the leading film scorers in Hollywood)
Nick Heyward – Whistle Down the Wind (Nick fronted the band Haircut 100)
The Divinyls – Ring Me Up (Later on they had a big hit with I Touch Myself)
The Vapors – Turning Japanese
There was also music from David Bowie, Billy Idol, Darlene Love and the Thompson Twins to name a few.

2. Don’t You (Forget About Me), put Simple Minds on the map in the US. It may have been their greatest moment and their albatross as it’s probably all they are remembered for. My first introduction to them was probably the song Promised You A Miracle. Don’t You was written by Keith Forsey, who also produced the track. Rumor has it that Forsey originally offered the song to Bryan Ferry and Billy Idol. I would love to hear their takes on the song. They did have two other semi-hits in the States after that, Alive & Kicking and Sanctify Yourself. The only other known musicians from this soundtrack are Wang Chung. Oddly enough for a soundtrack with only one hit on it, it spent 104 weeks on the Billboard Top 200 and reach a chart position of 17.

3. Weird Science. The title track was performed by Oingo Boingo. See #1. Once again, this 1985 album featured the more obscure musicians of that time, although they would have hits other than on this soundtrack: Kim Wilde, OMD (Tesla Girls), The Del Fuegos, and General Public (Tenderness) to name a few. This album surprisingly did not chart.

4. There was no official soundtrack to Ferris Bueller,but once again, music was prominent. There was the return of General Public (Taking the Day Off) as well as an English Beat remix, The March of the Swivelheads (both bands shared members Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger). Also heard in the movie were Danke Schoen by Wayne Newton, The Dream Academy covering The Smiths Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want, Big Audio Dynamite and the Beatles Twist and Shout.

5. Pretty In Pink was the granddaddy of John Hughes soundtracks. It had the most charted songs including the Psychedelic Furs re-record of the title track, which was the inspiration for the movie. If You Leave by OMD went as high at #4 on the singles chart and Shell Shocked by New Order made the dance charts.

6. She’s Having A Baby had no hits, did chart at #92, but once again another configuration of the English Beat appears. It’s Dave Wakeling soloing on the title track. Another Smith’s song is covered, this time by Kristy MacColl. XTC and Gene Love Jezebel also contributed.

John Hughes films have a place in my heart and ears.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Mariah Carey and Def Jam Put Ads in Albums

Bob Lefsetz said he thought he was reading the Onion rather than Billboard. The headline reads:
The Monetization of Mimi: Mariah CD To Have Ads

The first deal, created for the Mariah Carey release Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel on Sept. 15, is a 34-page co-production with Elle magazine that includes lifestyle ads from Elizabeth Arden, Angel Champagne, Carmen Steffens, Le Métier de Beauté and the Bahamas Board of Tourism.

Is this grasping for income straws?