Friday, April 30, 2010

Promises, Promises

The opening staging during the overture for Promises, Promises sucks you right into the early 60's. Mad Men coutured dancers are spotlighted behind a late night working CC Baxter, played by Sean Hayes. He wants desperately to climb the corporate ladder and release himself from a dead end job. He has one thing his married superiors don't have: an apartment. The married men in his company are not shown in a favorable light and as with the show Mad Men, have no problem hopping into bed with much younger women. They sing about finding a place for 30 or 45 minutes. Nice date?! The younger women don't seem to mind giving out for a quick one in a stranger's apartment.

The story is based on the Billy Wilder movie The Apartment, which starred the always wonderful Jack Lemmon. The film seemed a lot lighter than the play, which has a hint of melancholy. Vocal powerhouse Kristin Chenoweth as Fran Kubelik evokes sadness. She's trying to be a tough cookie, but there is an underlying depression lurking in her soul. The black cloud is lifted in act two. The bar scene with Sean Hayes and Katie Finneran (she won the Drama Desk Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical) as Marge- the possibly still married, slightly inebriated women sitting next to him made me laugh harder than anything since The Producers. Not to give anything away, but she kills when she describes her attire. Sean plays a great drunk. In another scene he tries to position himself in a very mod chair in his superior's office and it seems like he's channeling Dick Van Dyke. His Tony nomination is well deserved.

The music was composed by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for the original play which was set in the late 60's. The music feels more late than early 60's. The 60's was an explosive time for music with all genre being played on the radio. These arrangements sounded very true to the original soundtrack which featured Jerry Orbach. There is no mistaking the songs as being written by anyone else. The centerpiece of course is I'll Never Fall In Love Again. The acoustic duet between Kristin and Sean is very touching and a vulnerable turning point in the play. The week I saw the musical, Kristin was all over TV, singing two of the songs that were added to this production: A House Is Not A Home (Glee), which causes chills and Say A Little Prayer (on Regis and Kelly).

It's an enjoyable production, but it felt like there was a small piece of energy missing from it. I couldn't quite figure out what it was lacking. Maybe it should have been set in the swinging 60's rather than the early part of that era. Maybe the premise is just a bit dated no matter how you stage it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Britain's Rich List

The Sunday Times unveiled it's rich list. Note: this is all in pounds. The dollar is worth about .65 per pound. Simon Cowell exponentially added to his wealth with the success of Susan Boyle's record. It was released on his label. The brothers Gibb, otherwise know as the Bee Gees round out the top 20. An article in the Times reveals that many rockers have not weathered the financial storm as well as some of the other. Elton John's wealth is down by 26% and Tom Jones down 24%. Does that even register on their radar? There is also an accompanying video that points out that wrinkle rockers rule the rich list. Trying saying that three times fast!

Below is the Sunday Times' full "Rich List":

1. Edgar Bronfman & family (1.64 billion pounds)
2. Clive Calder (1.3 billion pounds)
3. Andrew Lloyd-Webber (700 million pounds)
4. Cameron Mackintosh (635 million pounds)
5. Paul McCartney (475 million pounds)
6. Simon Fuller (350 million pounds)
7. Mick Jagger (190 million pounds)
8. Elton John (185 million pounds)
9. Sting (180 million pounds)
10. Keith Richards (175 million pounds)
11. Simon Cowell (165 million pounds)
12. Olivia & Dhani Harrison (160 million pounds)
13. Jamie Palumbo (150 million pounds)
14. David & Victoria Beckham (145 million pounds)
15. Tim Rice (140 million pounds)
16. Ringo Starr (140 million pounds)
17. Tom Jones (135 million pounds)
18. Eric Clapton (125 million pounds)
19. Roger Ames (120 million pounds)
20. Barry & Robin Gibb (110 million pounds)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Band Vs Promoter

This animated piece sums up what most musicians have to deal with to get a gig. I'd say it's a typical scenario about 80% of the time. On a completely different note, why was Mary J Blige singing Stairway to Heaven on American Idol last night?

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Perils of 360 Deals

Bob Donnelly, music attorney, very cleanly explains 360 deals that major record labels are offering musicians. He cautions against them for a number of reasons. In these deals the labels not only take approximately 85% of your record sales, they also want a piece in some cases as high as 50% of the artist's other revenue streams such as merchandise, touring, publishing, etc. If record labels were set up to work these areas, it might make sense, but they are not. The labels staffs are dwindling by the day. The labels also want their % on the artist's gross, not the net! In that case, all touring costs such as crew salaries, per diems, hotel and travel costs would all be carried by the artist, the label would assume none of these costs, yet they could commission on those very costs. Even if the label offers tour support to a musician, they would still be commissioning on the money they "loan". Make sense? I don't see how it does for a musician.

Mr Donnelly noted in the Lefsetz letter that the first paragraph of his Billboard post was left off, so here it is.

A new type of record label contract has come to be known as a "360 deal" (as in "360 degrees in a circle") since it seeks to make the label a participant in revenue streams from every quarter of an artist's career. In his popular music industry blog, Bob Lefsetz wants to know why artists would consider such a contract. With typical humor, he writes: If you're contemplating a major label deal and your success is not based on terrestrial radio play, and you don't make pop music, YOU'RE A FUCKING IDIOT!... But where were the attorneys? Oh, I know they were afraid of pissing off the labels, not eating themselves. Are they interested in their clients or THEMSELVES?


Friday, April 16, 2010

Record Store Days

Tomorrow is the annual Record Store Day. Go to your local record store, if you still have one and purchase some music. Record stores are a dying breed. Gary Calamar a DJ on L.A.'s KCRW as well as music supervisor for TV shows such as Dexter and music journalist Phil Gallo collaborated on a book, Record Store Days: From Vinyl to Digital and Back Again. USA Today has a nice piece on the writers and the book. Gary worked at Licorice Pizza a now defunct LA record store. He's lived the record store life. There is a forward from R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, who met bandmate Michael Stipe at a record store.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Saying Goodbye To Betty

This season of Ugly Betty was probably it's best. After ABC shuffled the show around in different time slots, it lost its audience and ABC canceled one of the better shows on TV, while renewing the painful to watch Cougar Town. I was a fan, but had no idea when Betty was on and missed it most of the time. I wound up watching some of those lost episodes online.

The series concluded last night with Betty being Betty. She's a positive, take charge, driven woman. She "glammed" up this season. She lost her braces, started wearing less flamboyant clothes (no ponchos), higher heels and straightened her hair. In the finale, Betty accepts a job in London with much trepidation. She's leaving her family and a job she knows.

Betty has always been about risk taking so it's fitting that she makes the move. She takes on London to Generation X's "Ready Steady Go". In the song, Billy Idol praises the presenter (Cathy McGowan) of TV show of the same name and points out icons of British pop. McGowan was a fashion trendsetter in the 60's. In some respects, Betty is a bit punk rocker/trendsetter. She moves to the beat of her own drummer. Her clothing is thought provoking and although working for a fashion magazine, she shuns trends, perhaps creates her own. She fights for what she believes in.

The last few minutes of the show beautifully closed out the series. She bumps into her ex-boss in what I think is Trafalgar Square. They make dinner plans. Macy Gray's "Beautiful In The World" is the soundtrack. The graphics read Ugly Betty. The Ugly fades leaving only the bold red of BETTY.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Malcolm MacLaren

Malcolm McLaren who managed the Sex Pistols and left a line of controversy in his wake, died at age 64 of cancer. His first endeavor to put him on the map was a clothing store he opened on the King's Road in London, with his then girlfriend Vivienne Westwood in 1971. The shop was frequented by people such as John Lydon otherwise known as Johnny Rotten.

The Guardian quoted Mr Lydon: "For me Malc was always entertaining, and I hope you remember that. Above all else he was an entertainer and I will miss him, and so should you." Comments on the web range from calling him an Entertainer to Rock & Roll Swindler to asshole. Interesting legacy to leave.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Gang Of Four For Sale

The latest band to fan finance their next musical endeavor is the Gang Of Four. They are offering many items stated on their pledge page: We’re offering weirder and more wonderful options to a limited number of GO4 aficionados. What about taking a helicopter trip to this summer’s Glastonbury Festival with us? Or you might enjoy a listen to our first ever gig (recorded in Leeds in May 1977), provided to you on a cassette inside a Walkman individually decorated by Andy and Jon. A private view of an exhibition of GO4 art combined with a gig in London’s ICA this June are just some of the other possibilities.

£950 will get you that one-way helicopter trip with the band. No tips on how to get home though.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Opening Day

The excitement of Opening Day! No matter who your team is, they are in it on Opening Day. It's a level playing field. Opening Day is like the start of a tour. The team/band is refreshed, rehearsed, ready for the crowds and feeling confident. The laundry is all washed, there is air in the tires and everyone is in a great mood.

The Mets won today behind great pitching from Santana and a big offense which started with David Wright's two-run homer in the first inning. As Bart Giamatti said "The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again....."

Dusty in Carl Schurz Park showing off her jersey.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Apple Buys EMI

This was the headline on today's Lefsetz letter. It took me a minute to ponder why Apple would want EMI, then I realized it's April 1st. EMI will probably end up a lot worse than having Apple take over. It makes no sense for Apple, but the move would probably save the hanging on by a thread music company.

EMI will sink (or be turned over to Citigroup) if it doesn't receive about $200 million by June 14. It's new executive chairman Charles Allen rejected offers from Sony and Universal yesterday for the right to license (not own) the music for 5 years. Read more at the Telegraph.