Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Billy Idol To Tell All

80% of my reading list lately seems to be celebrity autobiographies/biographies.   I just finished the Karen Carpenter story, Little Girl Blue.  Here's another to add to my future list.  It looks like birthday boy Billy Idol will be penning his own story to come out the end of 2011 or beginning of 2012 to be published by Touchstone, a division of Simon & Schuster.  No surprise that the book will be titled Dancing With Myself.  Per Billy's website he wrote, “Life gave me a golden key when I fell in love with rock n roll music.  It was the key to the answer of how to live and achieve your dreams. This world opened up to me with all the good opportunities but also every temptation—the drugs, the booze, the women, the 24-hour around-the-clock excess. And yet you have to write good songs to survive. Life had to be lived to do all that! Now I’m putting it all down in book form—from the heart. I’m going out on a limb here, so watch my back.”  Who  he needs to watch his back?  I'm sure he's getting a nice advance to tell all.  

Perri Lister will more than likely make an appearance in his book as she does in the Hot In The City video.  The site of her being raised on a cross in the final moments of the song prompted MTV to ban the video. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pomplamoose Commercial a 180 From Train

Pomplamoose is in the holiday commercial for Sonata.  I recently talked about the ill-conceived Train holiday commercial for Coke and the Sonata spot is the complete opposite of it.  It looks like Pomplamoose created, shot and edited the spot. It definitely takes a big cue from their music videos.  It's them; it's fun and it gets your attention. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Is Epic Records Hearing A Death Knell?

The Hollywood Reporter has an interesting article on who killed Epic Records. Rob Stringer chairman of the Sony Music Label Group goes on record, yet there are quotes from others at the diminished label.  Amanda Ghost the songwriter (You're Beautiful -hit for James Blunt) is the main focus of the label's demise.  She was hired 20 months ago for the excitement and enthusiasm that Stringer though she would bring to Epic.  According to co-workers she showed excitement by throwing a CD across the room. 

Two of my top 10 favorite albums of all time were on Epic: Heaven Tonight by Cheap Trick and London Calling by The Clash.  It would be a shame to see a label with such a great past go down the drain.  This piece seems to think it's inevitable. 

Censoring the Internet

A post in TechDirt prompted this post.  Yesterday the Senate voted to censor the Internet. The bill they unanimously supported is Combating Online Infringement  and Counterfeit Acts aka  COICA.  The bill would allow seizure of domain names accused of aiding piracy.  No surprise that the RIAA and Hollywood were 100% behind the bill.  TechDirt listed some of the Senators who voted for the bill and some of these are real suprises including my senator, Chuck Schumer, Al Franken and Dianne Feinstein.  There is a bit of hypocrisy here.  While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is chastising China for their censorship of the Internet, our senators are doing the same thing here. 

The following is the email I sent to Sen Schumer today.  If you think this is a violation of the First Amendment, it's time to contact your senator. 

Dear Sen Schumer,
I usually agree with your voting, but am very disappointed that you supported the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act.   I have worked in the music business for over 25 years and I've slowly seen the record companies destroy their own business.  Having them back a bill like this is just one more nail in their coffin and government officials like you should not support their efforts to censor.  They tried doing it with DRM and they will continue to do it, when all they need to do is listen to the consumer and put out quality product. 

Please rethink this bill. Censorship of the Internet is last thing we need in this country.  How can we chastise China, when we're trying to do the same thing here?

Paula Sartorius

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pardoning Jim Morrison

It appears that Florida may pardon Jim Morrison for his indecent exposure conviction.  Governor Charlie Crist is strongly considering revoking the conviction.  Never underestimate the power of a fan.  According to CBS NewsThe issue was brought to Crist's attention by Dave Diamond, a Doors fan from Dayton, Ohio, who wrote the governor last month.  There doesn't seem to be any hard evidence that Jim actually did expose himself.  He alluded it to it from stage.  The alleged incident happened on March 1, 1969 at the Dinner Key Auditorium in Coconut Grove.  Jim was appealing the conviction and decided to move to Paris to get away from it all. He died before his appeal would be heard.  Here is an account from a 16 year old who attended the trial.  Interestingly this is posted on the website for the Washington Squares, a band that was omnipresent in New York in the 1980's. Not sure what the connection is.  Of note:  their photo gallery is great fun.   

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

BIlly Joel on Howard Stern

Although he complained about the early hour's effect on his voice, Billy Joel was charming, frank and informative in his interview today with Howard Stern.  Howard warmed up the piano early in the show by playing Twilight Zone.  Billy wanted to take a bathroom break midway through his interview.  Howard was fearing that Billy would leave and not come back, so he instructed Gary to lock all the exits. Not only did Billy return, but it sounded like he was willing to stay all day. He'd love to come back as long as it was after 5pm.   What is Billy up to these days? He is the owner of a motorcycle shop that he does not expect to make any money.  20th Century Motorcycles opened this week in Oyster Bay, LI. 

Here are some interesting tidbits from the interview:

"Laziness can be a terrific ingenuity."  Billy was talking about how Scenes From An Italian Restaurant came about.  He referred to the B Side of Abbey Road.  George Martin took three unfinished songs and pieced them together as one. Billy said he spoke to Paul McCartney about this and that's exactly how that happened.  He also had three unfinished songs and pieced them together for Italian Restaurant

Billy dissected and later played Summer, Highland Falls.  He wanted the music to reflect his ups and downs, his sadness and euphoria.  He played the basic outline of the song which was musical ups and downs and then filled it in to what we now know as that wonderful song. 

Bob Dylan, always protective or over the top, depending on how you look at it, had a guy deliver a tape of the song To Make You Feel My Love that he wanted Billy to cover.  Billy said Bob sent the guy so he could take the tape back.  The song appears on his Greatest Hits Volume lll

There was a brief conversation about forming a one time super group with Sting and Don Henley.  It never got past the talking stage.

Allentown was originally going to be called Levittown, but the lyrics were so boring, he decided to change locales. 

Big Shot was written as if Mick Jagger were singing to his then wife, Bianca.  Billy went to dinner with the both of them and it seemed to him that Mick was over Bianca and her lifestyle. 

A little insight into a prolific career. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Phases of Bettye LaVette

This headline is a bit misleading. It might pertain to her career, but not her being.   There is an intriguing profile of Bettye LaVette in the New Yorker's Nov 15th issue by Alec Wilkinson.  She seems to have done things her way and without compromise. What you see is what you get.  She speaks her mind.  The piece describes an encounter with a fan who happens to be an ex-musician.  When referring to music, she says to him,  "Why do you white guys have to study it so much?"  He says, "I guess I do it for the love." Her response to him, "It's music.  It never saved nobody's life.  We still don't have a cure for cancer.  Honey, if I'm dying of cancer I don't want you to sing to me by my bedside."  This is probably the biggest clue into why it's taken till now for her to receive the adulation that seemed long overdue.  Her life isn't all about music.  Mr Parker asked her if it was true that she didn't listen to music.  She responded that she didn't want to sound arrogant,  but she's not a fan of music.

Bettye killed at the Kennedy Center Honors tribute to Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, which I've already written about. This was most likely her crowning moment, singing a song she originally wanted nothing to do with. She has regrets. Mistake #1 as she called it, was demanding that Atlantic let her out of her recording contract.  This was very early in her career.  Her first record was released in 1962 when she was still a teenager.  The beauty of Wilkinson's writing is that he doesn't judge, he lets her story unfold.  Bettye's brashness is evident.  She comes across not so much as a survivor (despite getting pregnant at 15, her childhood seemed stable), but as a determined individual who goes with her gut.  Alec refers to her Kennedy Center performance as intended.  "I didn't come there to try anything," she told him.  "Whoever else in on that show, they have to die tonight.  I haven't had the opportunity to be adored already when I walk out onstage."  "If I have to rise to the occasion of killing you, I will."  That's determination.  That's honesty.  She performed like she was going to battle.  When she hit the stage, she commanded it.

Singing the Townshend song must have inspired her most recent record, Interpretations, in which she covers the British songbook.  She hated the British Invasion, as it took over the radio and knocked she and her fellow R&B musicians off the charts.  With new arrangements, she has clearly come to terms with the Brits.  It's another phase in her career, one that seems to put the spotlight on her. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Holiday Train Wreck

Hypebot is spot on.   They describe the new Coca Cola commercial, which uses Train's song "Shake Up Christmas":  (the spot) totally derails a perfectly good holiday moment. The song is a very odd choice for a Christmas ad. Train's lead singer Pat Monahan was quoted in Reuters as saying, "I think of what I did with 'Shake Up Christmas' as a 'how can I help'" spread some happiness."   The commercial is cluttered and noisy. His idea of spreading happiness is lost in the mix.

Here's a Christmas ad that got it right.  I managed Luscious Jackson when they performed "Let It Snow" for a Gap ad.  It's fun, it's grabs your attention and the ladies are all wearing Gap.  Kudos to Sparkle Beauty Studio for making the ladies shine. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Good Karma from a Bad Bad World

Bad Bad World from Guster on Vimeo.

Guster engages their audience and therefore, they have a very loyal fan base.  The band recently asked fans to submit a video (in their quest to create 12 videos from 12 directors for the 12 songs on their album Easy Wonderful -they just accomplished that goal.) for the song Bad Bad World.  Guster crowned director Nora McCormack at Soft Shell Productions, the winner.  She randomly gave pedestrians in Portland, ME $10 and asked them to find a way to change a stranger's life with that money.  The resulting video renews your faith in humankind. As the band said "Nora, you made us weep, and you made us want to be better people."

These times are strange
I can feel it in the night
I'm standing in the dark
Holding up for the light
And here I'll remain
Til the great sun shines
Standing in the dark
Waiting up for the light 

Watch the video, listen to the song.  It will put you in a good mood.  

Monday, November 08, 2010

Barnabas Collins Is Back

I used to rush home from school to watch Dark Shadows. If memory serves, it came on after General Hospital at about 4pm.  Do we need a film version of it?  The show was so campy, so who else better to play the main vampire Barnabas Collins (originally played by Jonathan Frid) then Johnny Depp.  No surprise that Tim Burton is directing.  Will Kate Jackson be making a cameo?

Friday, November 05, 2010

What To Do With EMI?

Andrew Dubber has an interesting take on what to do with EMI's assets on his site Deleting Music.  He is suggesting the British government buy the assets from Citigroup at a fire sale price and nationalize the archives.  He argues that in the hands of the wrong people, the archives could be partially destroyed or lost.  He has a point. How many pieces of film or tape have been lost through corporate buyouts, mishandling or just plain negligence.  There is a trove of our past in those EMI archives.  I would love to be the one working on an archival project like that.  There is always the thought:  How much more stuff can they find that hasn't already been released?  I think we'd all be surprised what would be unearthed if someone had the respect for the music and the insight to archive and digitize the catalog.   I love the Beach Boys and I'd be happy to hear or see something I've never experienced. Let's hope it gets in the right hands.

Yesterday Citigroup won a legal dispute in New York against Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd. over the U.K. firm’s 2007 acquisition of music company EMI Group. Read more at the WSJ.

Monday, November 01, 2010

An Argument For Happy Birthday

Should the song Happy Birthday To You be in the public domain?  Ben Sisto at freeculture.org thinks so. He meticulously documents the copyright history of the song.  Ben points out that the song is a derivative work  using folk song lyrics and combining them with the melody to the song Good Morning To All written by and copyrighted to Mildred Hill in 1893.  The original lyrics to GMTA were written by her sister Patty Smith Hill.  Warner Music currently owns the copyright on Happy Birthday which expires in 2030.  As techdirt mentions, the song generates about $2 million per year.  I thought that Paul McCartney had the song in his publishing arsenal, but it turns out it is in the hands of the Patty and Mildred Hill estate.  McCartney's MPL does own the rights to the Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire).  Would love to know what that generates in royalties each year.