Friday, October 29, 2010

Game 2 World Series: The Theme Songs

As I was watching game two of the World Series, song titles popped  into my head to describe the action that was unfolding on the field.  The score looks worse than the game actually was for the Rangers.  The Giants had a huge 8th inning, scoring 7 runs to make it looks easy. 

Matt Cain-  Less Than Zero
Giants Pitching - Shut Down
8th Inning - Walk This Way
Texas Relievers - Free Fallin'

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Baba Booey and Casey Kasem

They Call Me Baba BooeyTwo media greats Baba Booey (Gary Dell'Abate) and Casey Kasem come together for this trailer for Gary's autobiography,  They Call Me Baba Booey.  Casey narrates the ad for the book which comes out November 2nd. Gary follows in the footsteps of boss Howard Stern and his co-workers who also penned books, Robin Quivers and Artie Lange.  Some of the funniest Stern moments were Jackie Martling's readings of Robin's book.  It would be great to bring him back to take on Baba Booey.  Fred Norris is the last hold out. He is also the least vocal of the group, except when getting fired up over whether Carol Alt is a supermodel or not.  Will he be the next to pen his life story?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

World Series Tonight, I Hope You Can Watch It

I live in two places.  In one of them we subscribe to Cablevision, which means that if I were on Long Island tonight, I would miss game one of the World Series and most likely the whole series.  Fox has just turned down Cablevision's latest offer according to the LA Times.  Being a big baseball fan, I can't miss the World Series, which means I will be staying in New York City this weekend.  My plans are dicatated by two conglomerates who can't get their acts together.  Having 3 million homes cut out of the World Series is criminal. The FCC spent way too much time on Howard Stern and it seems like they are ignoring this issue.  Isn't it more important that 3 million people get to see baseball then worrying about Howard and Co talking to strippers?

The New York Times has a pictorial on baseball gloves over the years.  It's amazing that the early players didn't have a hand injury a game. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ari-Up Founder of The Slits Dies

Ari-Up founder of the 70's female punk band The Slits died of a serious illness on Wednesday. Her death was reported on Johnny Lydon's website.  He was her step father.  Arianna Forster was 14 when she founded The Slits.  According to the NY Times, she met drummer Palmolive at a Clash concert and they formed the band.  The Slits wound up opening for The Clash.  Whenever think of The Slits, the album cover for Cut comes to mind.  The ladies are clad in mud and loin cloths.  Ari-Up was 48 and had three sons. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

We Are R-A-T-T-L-E-S

Yahoo Kids debuts the new video R-A-T-T-L-E-S, from my favorite furry pop band, The Rattles. It will make Elvis Costello, The Ramones and The Bay City Rollers proud.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Last Play At Shea: Billy Joel's Candid Interview with Howard Stern

'THE LAST PLAY AT SHEA' Theatrical Trailer from D&E Entertainment on Vimeo.

Howard Stern has once again proved to be the best interviewer in media.  He engaged Billy Joel in a phone interview today that was revealing, passionate and funny.  Joel was on to promote the one night (October 21st)  in theaters only showing of Last Play At Shea, which is a documentary he financed about not only his last concert at Shea Stadium, but also takes a look at the history of Shea.  As Darryl Strawberry says so eloquently in the trailer, "Yeah it was a dump, but it was our dump."

It in his interview Billy said Shea Stadium is basically the point where Long Island meets New York City. He grew up a Dodger fan and moved over to the Yankees when the Dodgers abandoned NY.  When The Mets appeared on the scene, he was happy to have National League baseball back.  He's a New York baseball fan. 

When Billy saw the Beatles, he decided he wanted to be a musician.  He even wore a Wells Fargo badge during his performances as Shea, just as the Beatles had done in the 60's.  He said The Beatles were driven in a Well Fargo truck to Shea and the driver gave them the badges which they wore.  Billy describes driving to Shea for the last performance and gets a call from Paul McCartney saying "I'm not sure my flight will land on time to make it to the show."  Billy explained that air traffic control gave Paul's flight clearance to land before others, so Paul could make it to Shea for the show.  The thrill must have been unbelievable for Joel.  It all came full circle. 

It seems that every detail has been covered in this documentary.  Pete Flynn deservedly gets his due.  If you're a Mets fan, I don't have to tell you who he is.

On the non-baseball side, Billy talked about his father who was from Germany and left the family when he was 8.  His father's family lost a profitable business to the Nazis. His dad was a frustrated musician, although Billy said he loved hearing his father play the piano.  He has a half brother who is a musical conductor. 

Howard asked him about his favorite song from his catalog.   He named a few including  Lullabye,  New York State of Mind and Summer Highland Falls, which is probably my favorite Billy Joel song.   Surprising, Billy said his favorite albums are the later ones, from Glass Houses on.  Was his mother mad that he decided to be a musician and skip school?  He said she just wanted him to be fulfilled and happy.  Here is the money point:  Billy said, "I had the fire" which is probably why he was so successful after many pitfalls, including having the Cold Spring Harbor album incorrectly mastered. The whole album was sped up, making him sound like a chipmunk.  Of course no interview of Howard's would be complete without asking about groupies.  Joel said they didn't have those kind of groupies.  The Billy Joel groupies wanted to be the band's friends. 

"Don't take shit from anyone." Howard said the last line he utters to the audience must have been calculated.  Billy was happy that the bullying issue is being addressed. He hates bullies.  To counter the bullies that would torment him on his way to piano lessons, he took up boxing.  His distaste of bullies probably led to him closing the show with that line. 

Howard mentioned he only has 29 shows left on Sirius (I guess the talks to keep him there have ceased) and he wants Billy to come back.   They'll bring in a piano and he'll talk about his songwriting (he writes the music first and the lyrics come later).  I agree with Howard, I could have listened to Billy talk all day. Can't wait for him to return to the show. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Goodbye Mr C

Earlier this week we lost Barbara Billingsly who was most famously June Cleaver, mom to the Beaver.  Tom Bosley, Ritchie Cunningham's dad Howard on Happy Days passed away also.  Mr C was the one who could always put the Fonz in his place. 

The Pain In Living: Colbert, Kennedy and Cash

Stephen Colbert was a guest on The View today.  He was promoting the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.   Stephen questioned Barbara Walters on why he has never been one of the 10 Most Fascinating People of the Year.  I think he convinced her by the end of his segment that he was fascinating.  He spoke about his father and two brothers dying in a plane crash when he was 10 years old (he's the youngest of 11 children) and how his mother was able to carry on with nine kids.  She told him, "If you can accept your suffering, you can understand other people's pain." What an impact that statement has. 

Ironically, Maria Shriver, who was the guest host on this episode of The View said basically the same thing about her uncle Ted Kennedy on Meet the PressHe was the most compassionate,
empathetic man. And I think he was that way because he himself was wounded and he himself knew pain, he himself knew struggle, he knew abandonment. He knew all of the things that pain a human being. And so when he saw other human beings in pain, or where their character was questioned or where they had loss, he was always the first person to reach out. And nobody does that who hasn't felt that way themselves.  But this was a man, you know, who had fought a lot, who had struggled a lot, who had been through a lot, and he understood when other people also went through a lot

Rosanne Cash's memoir Composed takes this full circle.  Her autobiography is filled with pain and suffering.  Losing four family members in a short period of time is traumatic, add to that brain surgery.  It gave her a different perspective on her life, but also revealed how it affected those around her.  She relays very touching moments on how her surgery impacted both her husband and young son.  I worked with Rosanne for 8 years and I've always known her to be both generous, understanding and open.  She is a rare songwriter who is able to convey reality in her songs, which are loosely biographical and always connect on a human level. 

Rosanne clearly states her disdain for her album Rhythm and Romance. It took one year to make.  She explains in her book, "At the end of that torturous year of recording, rerecording, mixing and remixing in three cities, with three producers, one executive producer and a lot of fighting, I found that I was suffering from a bizarre kind of trauma."  "I hated the process, I hated the record, I hated Eli Ball (her A and R man) and I did not even want to think about promotion and touring for the record, which for me had become nothing but a painful memory."   I love this record. It shows progression as a song writer.   The album is so easy to relate to.  She wrote I Don't Know Why You Don't Want Me? after being nominated for a Grammy and losing.  The irony is she won the next year for this song.  I can't think of any female I know who can't relate to the following scenario she portrays:

It's the right time you know I feel fine tonight (I don't why you don't want me)
It's the right place I've got my new face tonight (I don't why you don't want me)
I'm in the right mind I've got my new shoes tonight (I don't why you don't want me)
I've got a new dress I couldn't care less tonight (I don't why you don't want me)

Second to No One is an emotional roller coaster,  one only Rosanne can put to music.

I don't know if this can last forever/ Cause I don't know what I can stand
I can love you like a man should be loved/ But I can't love half a man

Fast forward to her Rules of Travel album and the song September When It Comes.  The lyrics reflect a more mature view, but no less revealing. 

I cannot move a mountain now/ I can no longer run
I cannot be who I was then/ In a way,  I never was

Pain brings us closer to our own humanity, closer to the humanity of others. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Genius of Jac Holzman

The best part of Jac Holzman’s job was working with the artists. He loved pairing a musician with the right producer. He said last night at the 92Y’s celebration of 60 years of Elektra Records (Jac founded the label) that finding that perfect collaboration was probably the most challenging part of his job.  He told the crowd that he wanted the label to make enough money so that he could continue to put out the music that needed to be heard.

Lenny Kaye was superb in his conversation with Jac. They have a history.  Among other things, Lenny assembled the Nuggets compilations, which were a packaging of the best songs from the albums Elektra released. 1948 was a pivotal year for both Jac and music.  The 33 1/3 album was now available and this changed the music business, much like digital files have today.  The early 50’s saw the rise of independent record labels.  Lenny and Jac both commented on how similar that era is to today.  Jac’s first release was a John Gruen record with soprano Georgiana Bannister, from there it became the premier label for folk music.  Lenny pointed out that just about every important folk singer was on the label.  Jac commented that he missed one:  Bob Dylan.   Jac still seems to be beating himself up for missing the Dylan train.  At the time Dylan was playing Greenwich Village, Jac felt that New York City was being plucked from all angles, so he took a year and moved to LA to check out the scene there.  He didn’t find the music he was looking for and by the time he returned to New York, Dylan was signed to Columbia Records. 

When John Sebastian (before The Lovin’ Spoonful, he played on a lot of Elektra’s recordings) mentioned to Jac in the early 60’s that they were running out of folk songs to record, the light bulb went off and Jac realized he had to sign folk singers who were recording their own compositions.  Till that point, a folk song in the strict sense of the word, was a tune that was handed down from a generation that lived it.  Now with recorded music, the dynamics changed.  Songs were there to be heard as they were originally written and sung. They no longer had to be handed down to be reinterpreted.  Tom Rush, Phil Ochs and Tim Buckley were the new folk paradigm.  Judy Collins recorded Leonard Cohen songs. Folk music had changed. 

Jac wanted to sign a rock band. He went back to LA and as he told it, he went through the local papers and circled the names of any artists he had never heard of and decided to go see them live.  Love caught his eye.   “What a great name for a band” he told the audience.  Love’s leader Arthur Lee was wearing prismatic glasses, doing a rock version of My Little Red Book.  Jac was sold after seeing them at Bido Lido's in Hollywood.  Arthur wanted $5000 in cash to sign.  The deal was done.  Love was never a huge hit despite being an amazing rock band.  Jac thinks part of it might be that it was a racially mixed band, which meant nothing to him growing up in the melting pot of New York City.  Arthur was instrumental in Elektra’s biggest success. 

At the urging of Arthur, Jac came early to a Love show to see the opening act, The Doors.  Jac didn’t really get them the first time he saw them, but Arthur’s passion for the band led him to see them a few more times and when he heard them perform Alabama Song, he got what they were doing.  Unbeknownst to Jac, the band had just been dropped from Columbia Records the week before and were leery of record companies.  The band was a fan of the world music albums Jac was releasing on his sister label Nonesuch Records.  They liked that Love was on Elektra.  Jac was very close to signing them when he decided to get into their heads and think as musicians.  What would they want?  He decided it was a full on commitment to release three albums no matter what the situation.  This hadn’t been done before and it worked.  Jac thought like an artist.  He let the artist be him/herself. He was very hands on in the studio, with the artwork and with the marketing, but at the core, he let the musicians make their own music.  

The next step in Jac’s work with The Doors was to pair them with the reluctant Paul Rothchild to produce the record. Jac thought he would be perfect even though Paul did not.  He was someone who was as smart as the band and it probably didn’t hurt his standing with them that he had been arrested for  marijuana possession.  The Doors had never been into a recording studio before making the landmark Doors record in 1967.  As Jac explained it, it took them about two hours to get it and feel comfortable.   They recorded at Sunset Sound where Jim Morrison was enamored by using the same mic that Frank Sinatra used. He was a big fan.

Towards the end of the program two Elektra artists, Jackson Browne and Natalie Merchant took the stage and talked about their experiences with Elektra and then performed.  Jackson started off with My Opening Farewell.  Nathalie sang a song of Jackson’s These Days that she recorded for an Elektra 40th Anniversary record.  Browne accompanied her on guitar.  Her voice is nothing short of a force of nature.  She exudes feeling and it seems effortless.  She’s a natural talent.  One that I’m sure Jac would have signed if he hadn’t left the company years before. 

Jac is truly a music man. He said numerous times how lucky he is to do what he does. His true passion came through when he talked about why he signed an artist. If the hairs on the back of his neck stood up when listening to her/him, the artist was worthy of a record.  He said that there had to be joy in wanting to work with these artists.  Maybe that is really his genius, letting us all in on his joy. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ringo, The Monkees & A Bit Of Pizza

Not sure how I missed this commercial when it aired in the mid-90's, but I thought it was worth posting. Ringo sitting in for Mike?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Handyman Vanilla Ice

House Flipper/Rapper         Photo:  DIY Network
The rapper Vanilla Ice (Robert Van Winkle), known for the song Ice Ice Baby (he sampled the Queen/Bowie song Under Pressure) is now a house flipper.  He's got his own show, The Vanilla Ice Project debuting on the DIY network on October 14th at 9pm.  He's been buying, fixing up and selling houses since 1998.  The first episode reveals his work on a house in Florida.  Read about it here. Who knew?

When he's not renovating, he's touring, with dates in the US as well as South Africa where he's on a bill with MC Hammer. 

Friday, October 08, 2010

Video Alert: Hollerado

  • Made a creative low budget video (song is Americanarama)
  • Shout out to Philadelphia
  • Used one take for the video
  • Must have been rehearsing for days
  • A guy in one of the boxes played a serial killer on Season 5 of The Wire
  • Are from Canada

They are close to 185.000 views and I'm sure this number will increase after the next few days. Word is just starting to get around.  Check it Out.

John, Yoko and the Hongs

On the wake of what would be John Lennon's 70th birthday, The New York Times has an untold glimpse into the life of John and Yoko.  While in San Francisco they were treated by Yuan Bain Hong, a Shanghai-born practitioner of Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture for spiritual and physical cleansing and healing.  He was also the father of two girls who are now 49 and 48.  Yuan and his wife were Chinese immigrants and did not have much money.  John and Yoko sometimes stayed with them, brought them to New York to see him perform at Madison Square Garden and eventually the family allowed them to offer some financial support.  The Hongs were some of the first people to hear the song Imagine as he performed it for them in their home before it was release on record.

Google is using Imagine to honor Lennon's birthday with an animated Google Doodle. 

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

What's Good For The Environment, Is Not Good For The Consumer

Many recording artists make it a point to use 100% recycled products in the packaging of their CDs.  The Rattles debut album Rattle On is packaged that way.  The blog Young Wife and Mom, took note today:   I was happy to find that the CD case is child friendly, made of 100% recycled materials, most of which is paper. No worries about shattered plastic cases.  On the heels of this recognition, I read about a yin to that yang. 

Here is a case of a big corporation, Frito-Lay a division of PepsiCo being eco-friendly by packaging their Sun Chips snack in a biodegradable bag.  According to today's Wall St Journal, Touted by Frito-Lay as 100% compostable, the packaging, made from biodegradable plant material, began hitting store shelves in January. Sales of the multigrain snack have since tumbled.  Apparently the bag is too noisy for consumers.  Has this country gone mad?

The company has been trying to find a less noisy bag and will revert to non-degradable bags for each line of Sun Chips except the Original.  "We chose to respond to the consumer feedback but still want to show that we are committed to compostable packaging", says Chris Kuechenmeister, a spokesman for Frito-Lay.  Apparently consumers posted videos mocking the noisy packaging and complained on social networking sites.  Aren't their bigger issues to get all fired-up over?   The Atlantic has a an interesting take on the issue.  

CDs may not be around for much longer, but while they are still here, artists will hopefully continue to make the packaging as environmentally friendly as possible.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Life is too short to be spent in the company of morons

When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man is the perfect title for this memoir from Jerry Weintraub written with Rich Cohen.  It reads like Jerry is talking to you.  My guess is that is exactly how the book was written. Rob Cohen profiled Jerry for Vanity Fair in 2008 and it would follow that this book expanded on that piece. There are just too many stories to fit in a magazine article. 

From his beginnings in the Bronx, (he was born in Brooklyn, likes to claim he’s from there, but moved to the Bronx at a very early age.  The book cover is a photograph of him on the Brooklyn Bridge)  he joins the military, works in a men’s clothing store in Fairbanks, Alaska and takes acting classes in New York.  Part of his instructions included a dance class taught by Martha Graham.  James Caan was in the class with him. Jerry wouldn’t put on the tights and left the class.  He realized he wasn’t an actor or a dancer.  He became an NBC page, worked for a few weeks in the mailroom at The William Morris Agency, where all big careers seems to have started and that’s the beginning of his entertainment career.  When he started his own agency he was managing the Four Seasons, Kimo Lee a sword dancer and acrobats.  Some of his best stories revolve around putting a show together, such as the one in Las Vegas called a Night in Hawaii. 

At age 26 he convinced Elvis Presley’s manager Col Tom Parker to let him promote an Elvis  tour.  In three weeks, he was a millionaire.  In 1968, Frank Sinatra calls him directly. He was impressed with what he did with Elvis and wanted Jerry to do the same for him. 

His first film venture is Robert Altman’s Nashville.  The two things that come to my mind when I hear Jerry’s name are Concerts West or Jerry Weintraub Presents, which is how he promoted his concerts.  The other is the movie Diner. It’s one of my top 5 favorite movies.  In this book, he recounts talking to Barry Levinson who wrote the screenplay. Every studio turned down Barry to produce the film. Jerry loved the script and said let’s make it.  Barry explained that no one wanted it.  This does not deter Jerry.  Barry says ok, but I have to direct it.  Jerry perseveres and the movie is made.  He says that casting was critical to the film being a hit and Diner launched many successful careers. 

There are two anecdotes in the book, that I think sum up why Jerry is so successful.

  • John Denver needed a new manager around 1970.  He had decided to go solo and had released one or two solo recordings to no notice.   John was making $70 a show (Jerry considered that nothing.  I know musicians who would love to be making that now!)  performing at clubs in Greenwich Village.  Someone suggested Jerry see him.  There was a small audience for the show Jerry attended.  “He made a connection immediately.  It was one of those moments you dream about as a manager.  Spotting the kid who will become a star, who is a star already, even if the world does not know it yet.”  Jerry made sure the world knew who John Denver was. 

  • “Work with the best people.  If you have the best writers, actors, distributor and fail, there is even something noble in it; but it you fail with garbage, then you are left with nothing to hang your spirits on.”  He was referring to why he made Nashville.  He continued, “Besides, life is too short to be spent in the company of morons.”