Monday, August 30, 2010

It's All In A Theme Song

Theme songs are so important, which is why it's hard to see them go by the wayside.  Right now Spike TV is running a Hawaii Five-0 marathon of the original series. The episode airing right now entitled Tiger By The Tail,  guest stars Sal Mineo as a rock star who fakes his own kidnapping. 

The NY Times reports on the importance of the theme song to draw in younger viewers to the new reworking of the series to air in September.

Mr. Schweitzer explained why so much of the campaign was centered on the theme music, written by Morton Stevens, a CBS executive, and popularized by the instrumental group the Ventures.

Research by CBS found that “70 percent of people over 35 were familiar with ‘Hawaii Five-0,’ while 70 percent of people under 35 were not,” Mr. Schweitzer said. “But of the people not familiar, they knew the song.”

“When we asked what was the expectation for a remake,” he added, “people said, ‘I want to see the crime-fighting, I want to see Hawaii, and play me the song.’ ”

The song was written by Morton Stevens, who was the director of music for CBS West Coast.  It was most famously performed by The Ventures.  But perhaps the greatest and most overlooked version is by Sammy Davis Jr with a new title, You Can Count On Me.    It's groovy. 

Episodes of the original can also be watching on cbs.com

Friday, August 27, 2010

And the Emmy Goes To....

Another Emmy show is upon us on Sunday.  There continues to be quality television on cable and the networks seem to have slipped in a few last season.  Sons of Anarchy is conspicuously missing.  The show is well acted and the plots are engrossing.  It's The Shield meets the Sopranos.  Dexter could not have been better and newcomer Modern Family is hilarious.  I think both those shows deserve to win in their respective categories:  best drama and best comedy.

Unfortunately the New Adventures of Old Christine has been canceled, but Julie Louis-Dreyfus deserves the nod for best actress in a comedy. She plays Christine as both deplorable and endearing. She is also one of the few actresses over 30 who hasn't altered her face, making her portrayal that much more believable.  Steve Carell is too good in the office. He's believable also, which is scary. I never thought anyone could fill Ricky Gervais shoes from the original, but Steve has done it.  He hasn't aped Ricky, just twisted the role. He makes me uncomfortable and I laugh.  Matthew Morrison is also up for his role in Glee. I saw him in South Pacific and he was wonderful.  Someone I have a hard time thinking of Glee as a comedy, even a black one.

Tough competition for  best actor and actress in a drama.  Kyle Chandler as the understated and tormented coach on Friday Night Lights is superb.  I would have given him the statue, but Michael C Hall was outstanding as Dexter.  His duel all season with John Lithgow had me riveted.  It was one of the best seasons of a series I have ever seen.  It just kept getting better and so does Hall.    I love Kyra Sedgwick's Deputy Chief Johnson on the Closer. She's given life to the TV cop.  Connie Britton as the embattled school principal on Friday Night Lights  plays it so comfortably.  Her y'alls make me forget she's an actress playing a role.  She deserves the shout out.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Plaids, Glasses, Beards and a Nod to Madonna

Just look at any music website such as Pitchfork and you'll notice if you haven't already there is a style trend in rock.  The look doesn't differ much and it probably doesn't cost much. Gone are the days of hiring a stylist to get just the right look.  Here's the formula:  One or two guys are usually in plaid, one  definitely has glasses. There is a token skinny guy.  75% of the time, someone will have a beard.   The woman either looks ill or is in some select piece of garb that Madonna would have worn circa 1980's. 
Freelance Whales are the whole package. 

The Futureheads have everything but the girl:  plaid, facial hair, glasses. 
Megafaun:  A bearded hat trick and a dog. 
The Hold Steady do not have plaid in this photo, but lead singer does wear it on stage. It should also be noted that Craig Finn went 3 for 3 on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me

Esben and The Witch.  Prints and plaids are interchangeable. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Conversations with Tom Petty

 Most things that I worry about / Never Happen Anyway
- from Crawling Back To You

The book Conversations with Tom Petty was published in 2005, but I was compelled to read it after seeing his recent performance at the Garden. Every musician should have a Conversations with .... book. It's a nice piece of history and a look into the writing mind of an immensely talented musician/songwriter.   The title says it all. This book is solely a Q and A .  The author Paul Zollo, spoke with Tom on different occasions over a long period of time.

I could listen to musicians talk for hours about collaborations, recording and touring.  Tom covers all of this.  His most amusing stories seem to involve Dave Stewart  (who is now writing and working with Stevie Nicks).  Apparently somewhat of a character, he hooks up with Tom because Tom recommended him as a songwriter to a producer. Neither had previously met each other.  Dave takes a liking to Encino, CA and buys a house up the street from Tom.  He installs a studio. They write Don't Come Around Here No More. Dave envisions the video:  he will sit atop a mushroom playing a sitar.  That video is now legend. Another collaborator he cherishes is Jeff Lynne as producer and writer. 

Tom truly enjoys being in the presence of other musicians.  He has nothing but praise and admiration for fellow Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench.  As he says, they can play anything.  After seeing them last month, I believe it.  He's worked with George Harrison, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks and the list goes on.   One of his heroes, Carl Wilson, also happens to be one of of mine.  Growing up, Petty really liked his guitar playing and of course that magic voice. 

I finally got insight into something that stuck me as unusual.  Tom Petty songs are not covered very often.  He's probably one of the best songwriters of the past 30 years and yet hardly anyone records his songs.  In Tom's words, people that play his songs "don't get the voicings of the chords right. And the voicings are what it's all about."  His songs, as straight forward as they seem, might not be that easy to perform. 

Unlike a lot of performers, Tom said he writes best when he's happy. He wants to know how you can write a good song when you're miserable. The last thing he wants to do is write when he's down.  Since the interviews in the book took place over time, there is some repetition of stories. I think an edit would have helped the book flow better. It does not take away from the book.   If you want to explore the work of Tom Petty, read this.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I think every blog, tech or music site has mentioned this song by Cee Lo Green in the past few days.  I jump on the bandwagon!  It's the end of the summer.  The guy no longer has the girl. The music is upbeat.  The message unmistakable.  We've all thought it, if we haven't said it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ted Nugent is Spot On

From Bob Lefsetz

And finally, I asked Ted about the music business, what did he think of that?

He said in 1975, the musicians loved the music.  The promotion man at the label loved the music.  The President of the label loved the music.  The retailer loved the music.  The deejay loved the music.  The people loved the music.  Now, NO ONE LOVES THE MUSIC!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


It's The Rattles record release day.  The Rattles are a band of animals from the swamps of NJ.  This project has been a labor of love for me for the past two years. I am more than excited to see the music available to everyone and the fun and colorful website up.   I will disclose that I am the music supervisor for the project.  I hired the songwriters, musicians and producers to do the music.  It so happens they are two extremely talented people.  I will be interviewing them in a few weeks. The Rattles debut album is Rattle On. 

The Rattles Band wear their music references on their sleeves.  Wavy Lane which you can download for free from the band's website immediately reminded me of one of music's unsung heroes, Mike Nesmith.  He wrote and sang those great Monkees songs Papa Gene's Blues and The Girl I Knew Somewhere.  Different Drum was a hit for Linda Ronstadt.  The innocent and endearing 1-2-3 Count On Me is the sleeper track.  It's sung by Kitty, the band's female drummer.  "Her" voice is so refreshingly charming.  R-A-T-T-L-E-S is the foot stomping, air punching nod to punk and pop:  a little Pump It Up and a little Saturday Night.  Shipwreck In The Sky and Lucky Sam's Banana Stand are both playful and catchy. When you listen to Rattle On, you can't help but think of the other "animal bands",  the already mentioned Monkees, The Byrds and The Beatles. 

Take a listen and I'm sure one of the songs will be stuck in your head, in a good way.  Play it for your kids.  Play it for yourself.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Warner Music is Tracking You!

A piece in Hypebot alerts us to a lawsuit filed in federal court contended that Warner Bros Records website, among other  well-known media properties, including Disney and their music site, have been secretly tracking online users, as well as children, by installing ‘Flash cookies’ on their computers, which quicky respawn after their deletion.

Didn't anyone learn anything from the Sony/DRM debacle?  Would be curious to know how many people actually visit the Warner Bros Records site. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Morning Music: Semi Live

Friday means live music on all the morning shows.  Today it appeared that during a dance number on Good Morning America, Demi Levato lip synced in Central Park. She danced her heart out, but unless there was some weird tape delay and audio problems, the vocal was off from what was coming out of her mouth.  Same goes for Ke$ha on the Today Show.  There were not many close ups of her singing.  You didn't hear one breath from either performer, whether she was dancing with an Indian headdress on or doing Pete Townsend like windmills.  Later on GMA Demi did sing live with the Jonas Brothers.  The Brothers were live for all their performances.  On CBS Train performed and they were live. 

The girls in the audience were have a great time at both Ke$ha and the Jonas Brothers. The crowd was a bit older at Train and there were a lot more males in attendance.   The take away from this:  these women can't sing and dance at the same time and the men don't even try it. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Elektra Records Turns 60

To celebrate 60 years of music, Elektra Records has put together a special website presentation, timeline.  It looks back at the folk roots on into day.  It's audio, video and lots of text.  Founder Jac Holzman had a hand in putting it together. It's worth a look. I have a feeling once you start poking around, you'll spend more time there than you thought you would.

Things I discovered (there is way more than this and I don't even touch on Folk):

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band's first record was recorded three times before Paul Rothchild, the producer thought it captured the band at it's best.

In 1966 Judy Collins was the first person to record a Leonard Cohen song.

In 1967 with the release of the Doors, Elektra is changed forever. It's the big time. 

It reminded me what a great song Alone Again Or by Love is.

The Stooges first record was recorded in a studio apartment in New York City.  It was released during the weekend of Woodstock.

Joel Brodsky photographed a lot of the musicians on the label.

Stewardesses were a core constituency of their fan base.  Referring to the band Bread.

Jim Morrison's idol was Frank Sinatra.

In 1972, Jac Holzman wrote an internal memo to his staff: “I have seen the future of pop music, and it is a band called Queen.”

At one point in the late 70's their releases were as diverse as the Dictators, Television vs the Eagles, and Jackson Browne.

In continued into the 80's with Motley Crue, X, The Cars and Peabo Bryson.

Fast Forward to 2010 the label releases Charlotte Gainsbourg, after a few year sabbatical.

A diverse and storied history. Our ears owe a lot to Jac.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rosanne Cash Composed At Barnes and Noble

When I was working in management, I was in awe of two of artists I worked with. I would accompany them on a press day, which essentially meant traveling from interview to interview to performance.    After a day of being asked, mostly the same questions, they were still so eloquent and interesting. They could take a mundane question and transform the answer into not only great sound bites, but also captivating answers.  Both of these artists are artists in the true sense of the word:  they write and perform music (their mainstay), they write prose and essays, they paint.  They are culturally well rounded. They are Louie Perez and Rosanne Cash.  Both have put out new material in the past two weeks.  Louie’s band Los Lobos released Tin Can Trust last week and Rosanne Cash released her memoir Composed yesterday.
Composed: A Memoir 
Rosanne was at Barnes & Noble yesterday as part of their series Upstairs at the Square.  In an interview she talked about the difference between writing music (she uses poetic license) and writing a memoir (it has to be her “truth”).  She read an excerpt from her book about getting an assignment in the seventh grade to write a piece on metaphor and it excited her.  At the time she was writing music for The Wheel, her mother sent her a folder of her artwork and writings from her school days.  In it was this essay on metaphors in which she wrote the line The lonely road is a body guard, which made it’s way into the song Sleeping In Paris, which appears on The Wheel.  She always wanted to be a writer and then she wanted to be a songwriter, not necessarily a performer.  Her love of performing live came later. 

According to Rosanne, the book is organized thematically.  One recollection let to another in ways she wouldn’t have connected the events had she not been writing a memoir.  She talked about The List her father made for her of the 100 essential American songs she should know. This became the inspiration for her latest record The List. Her daughter Chelsea Crowell, a musician, asked her mom to make her a list. Rosanne said she’s still working on it’s as it’s a big responsibility. 

The icing on the cake of an enlightening evening was her performance of Seven Year Ache and two from The List which she performed with the accomplished musician/producer John Leventhal :  Sea of Heartbreak and Girl From the North Country. 

I’m looking forward to starting her book today.  She has an amazing command of the English language and I’m sure this book is sheer poetry.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Incorporating Music Into Advertising

One of my first memories of hearing current music in a commercial was for Teaberry Gum. The soundtrack was Herb Alpert and the Tijuanna Brass' Mexican Shuffle, which became the Teaberry Shuffle for the ads.  Put a piece of gum in your mouth and you'll be doing the Teaberry  Shuffle.  Have a little fun, with Teaberry Gum.   The ad integrated the song so well. It was an instrumental. 

In their current campaign, Target has been smart to use just the instrumental intro to songs in their ads.  The songs such as Tenderness by General Public are not exactly current (it was released over 20 years ago, but still sounds fresh today- nudge, nudge, wink, wink).  Using just the musical intro alleviates the pain of hearing a song with lyrics that are so opposed to what the product is selling, making the song choice inappropriate. 

Friday, August 06, 2010

I'm Defending Katie Couric

There has been so much media time given to the raw footage of Katie Couric from 2008, that you think she said that Sarah Palin's kids are Hitler, Satan and John Wayne Gacy all rolled up in one. She made a statement that I think 99.9% of this country agree with. Where did she come up with names like Trig and Track for her kids? Isn't Sarah the one who should be chastised for saddling her kids with those names? No matter who the parents are, no kids are shielded from other kids making fun of them. Why give kids more ammunition?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Rosanne Cash Composed

Rosanne Cash is an artistic treasure.  She's an accomplished singer/songwriter. She has tackled the book publishing world with a few titles to her credit. She's also written insightful pieces for the NY Times' Measure For Measure blog.  August 10th she releases Composed, her autobiography.  If you are in NY this Tuesday, the 10th, go see her at Barnes & Noble at Union Square.  (sorry B&N, but you don't have a associates program that I'm aware of).  She'll be interviewed and perform a few songs.  Whether you are familiar with her music or not, make it a point to go.  It will be an enlightening evening.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Mitch Miller

Sing Along With Mitch was my introduction to Mitch Miller, the record producer, recording artists, record label executive and TV host. He passed away at age 99.   "Follow the bouncing ball" was the catch phrase on his TV show.  The ball tracked the lyrics, so you could sing along with his orchestra.  We even had some of those records in our house.  The Yellow Rose Of Texas comes to mind as one of those songs I heard  a lot of in the early 60's. This was family entertainment in the 60's sponsored by Ballantine Beer. 

Later on I was surprised to learn that he was an executive at Columbia Records.  People like Rosemary Clooney and Tony Bennett credit him with starting or jump starting their career into stardom.  Mitch was not as welcoming to rock as he was to popular music.  According to Wikipedia, he signed Aretha Franklin, who left Columbia for Atlantic Records where she would score her hits.

Mitch Miller was one of my first music memories.