Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Musicians We Lost in 2010

NPR has a photo wall of musicians that died this year. Click on a name and hear a sample of her/his music. I was surprised to learn that Kate McGarrigle had died in January of 2010.  Not only the mother of Rufus and Martha Wainwright, but a fixture of folk music in New York City.  The McGarrigle sisters will always be associated with The Bottom Line in my mind.  

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ralphie and A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story is one of my favorite yule time movies (only How the Grinch Stole Christmas could top it).  Peter Billingsley starred as Ralphie.  All he wanted was a Red Ryder BB gun under his tree.  The semi-autobiographical story was written by Jean Shepherd.   Jean was also the film's narrator.  Peter has turned the book/movie into a theatrical production running now in Seattle complete with a leg lamp kick line.  

Nightline talked to Peter Billingsley who gave us some insight into the "stick your tongue on the frozen pole scene".  If a bully dares you to to it, pass.  In the movie, it was a fake pole with a hole in it so the actor could stick his tongue in it.  Looked pretty convincing to me. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Why Your Band Can't Get Tour Support: The Label Spent It All On Lobbying

The Music Industry Report tells us that Universal Music Group spent $790,000 in the 3rd quarter to lobby the federal government to vote for a bill that would pay labels for songs played over the radio.  This reminds me of a conversation I had with Los Lobos' new A&R guy at Hollywood Records. The band had just signed to the label after being on Slash/WB.   There were great marketing plans on the table.  The problem I was told about a month before album release, was that the label spent all it's money marketing a flop by Jesse Camp.  There wasn't a budget for Los Lobos.  I'm betting no one even remembers the lanky VJ on MTV who tried to have a music career.  Can you imagine your band has already done all the social networking,  is about to release an album and go on the road, but all the marketing behind it has to be halted because there is no left? The label spent it all on lobbying a cause that would never put a dime in your pockets.  I hope no one has met that fate.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Buy A Piece of This Video

Her Morning Elegance by Oren Lavie has been viewed over 16 million times on YouTube.  As Techdirt points out  Oren is giving his fans a reason to buy. It's a stop motion video which was created by shooting 2096 frames with a still camera. Each of these frames is signed and  for sale starting at $250 for one frame.  1761 are left to purchase according to the HME Gallery website.  The video was storyboarded in animatics.  The gallery has an intro that breaks down the elements of the video.  It is nominated for a Grammy.  The video was originally released as a free download on iTunes in January of 2009. It was downloaded 200,000 times in that first week.

According to his website, he hasn't toured the US since February.   He was born in Tel Aviv. and studied theater in London.  In 2001, he moved to NY directing plays and devoting more time to songwriting.  After two years in NY, he settled in Berlin.  He is the author of funny books for sad children, as his MySpace page states. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Relive The Tom Petty Shows

If you attended a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers show this summer, you were given a code which allowed you to download the band's latest record Mojo for free.  As a Christmas gift, the band sent out an email yesterday so fans could download 8 live tracks recorded on the tour.  Choose your format. Some of the songs included are I Won't Back Down (Charlotte), Breakdown (Bristow, VA) and Good Enough (Philly). 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

“Being rich and famous is hard,but being poor and famous is hell.”

So says Dee Snider.  He's quoted in a NY Times article.  His career has come full circle. He's now appearing until Dec 24th in the Broadway musical Rock of Ages.   It's a role he lobbied for after seeing the show.  During my high school years, his band Twisted Sister were ubiquitous on Long Island.  They played Speaks, Hammerheads, etc.  You name the club, they would have played it. Then they had their biggest hit, "We're Not Gonna Take It". As he says, you have to live a life if you're not Billy Joel or Elton John.  In the 1990's when offers were not forthcoming, he worked in businesses with his brother and his wife.  Dee keeps it going.  He had a short-lived reality show.  The band has been touring. Now he's on Broadway. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Karen Carpenter

Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen CarpenterThere seemed to be two sides to Karen Carpenter’s story.   Both play out in the book Little Girl Blue.  She admits to how lucky she was to be able to sing and perform for a living.  It brought her money and adoration from fans. She loved playing the drums and she loved performing.  On the other hand, according to the accounts in this book, in her mother’s eyes she was always second fiddle to her brother Richard.  The family moved heaven and earth so that Richard could have a music career.  The mother thought that relocating to Los Angeles from New Haven, CT would further Richard’s career.  This may have worked, but it also put the spotlight on Karen, something her mother Agnes would have never predicted.  Towards the end of Karen’s life, she has a meeting with her therapist, mother, father and brother.  Her mother was unable to tell Karen she loves her. 

I read this book back to back with Tatum O’Neal’s A Paper Life, another story of parenting gone awry. (In an ironic note, Karen’s mother’s maiden name is Tatum.  O’Neal was named after jazz musician Art Tatum.)  In Tatum’s case, both parents turn to either/or drugs and alcohol, essentially leaving the children to raise themselves.  In Karen’s story, her parents are very present. Her mother would probably be called a helicopter mom today.  She rules her kids.  No one can make a move without her.  When the duo leaves the house (Karen was already 26 at this point), they both feel guilty.  Ironically Karen spent the last night of her life in Richard’s old bedroom in her parent’s house, although she had her own home. 

At its core, this book is really about the love between brother and sister that was maybe too deep for them to address what was going on around them.  Karen worshipped Richard and felt guilty about recording her solo record. She did it while Richard was in rehab. I remember when she was recording that record.  She spent time in New York.  Phil Ramone produced the album and all I kept thinking was why is Karen Carpenter doing a disco record?  Richard and A&M hated it. It must have felt like a blow to the head. She shelved it.   To listen to that record now, it has production undertones of disco but it isn’t a pull out all the stops disco record.  It was finally released posthumously in 1996, the way Karen had approved it.  Some of the best parts of this book are the discussions with Ramone, the musicians who played on those sessions and how the record came together.  Karen used some of her own money.  Ramone recruited Billy Joel’s band, including drummer Liberty DeVitto, for most of the album.  DeVitto is candid about falling in love with Karen during this time, but he never acted on it. He was married and had no idea how Karen felt about him. 

She stayed in touch with old friends from her neighborhood in New Haven.  She had solid girlfriends in Los Angeles and New York, including Olivia Newton-John and Phil Ramone’s wife Itchy Ramone.  She let Richard handle the Carpenters' career.  At one point she dated Terry Ellis, artist manager and co-founder of Chrysalis Music.  He speaks lovingly of Karen (just about everyone in this book speaks highly of her, which is probably why it was so hard to confront her about her illness).  Ellis was interim manager for the band.  Not wanting to get too involved, he suggested Karen acknowledge her audience and play to them.  He saw their live show and couldn’t believe how dreadful it was.  Richard felt nobody noticed him, although he was the one arranging the songs and making sure every note was played properly.  Their show was known for it’s precise recreation of the albums.  Ellis suggested Richard be introduced before Karen and take his place as the conductor.  Both suggestions greatly improved a stiff live show. 

The saddest part of this story is that Karen basically killed herself, although I’m sure she didn’t think she was doing that. She was trying to control a situation in her life. She had a lousy marriage, which was scheduled to end on the day she died (she never made it to the lawyer’s to sign the papers).  She controlled it by drinking ipecac syrup, which is what used to be given to kids who swallowed poison.  It’s not only a vomit inducer, but it also weakens the heart muscle.  Between that and the medicine she was taking to accelerate her thyroid, there is no way her body could stand it. 

I was fascinated by Karen’s voice. I really took notice when I heard their Christmas record. When they were a viable band, it was hard for me to get past their dated clothes and strange haircuts.  The music was sappy.  Richard Carpenter’s arrangements were exceptional, just not my cup of tea.   It’s easy to speculate on what would have happened if Karen got better before her body shut down.  I’d bet that she would be considered one of the premier singers today and would have been able to sustain a long career. 

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Dexter and the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Although Dexter's sidekick this year is not as brash as Lisbeth Salander, there is a similar thread.  They both wanted and got revenge on those who did them wrong and they will stop at nothing to get it done.  Both are smart about how they operate and they both seem to have fallen in love with the man who is by their side.  Julia Stiles' Lumen is the perfect co-conspirator for Dexter.  Yes it does seem like he has found love quickly on the heels of his wife's murder.  How better to get over seeing your wife in a pool of blood?  Lumen gets Dexter. She's the only person besides his deceased father who understands him. He can be himself with her.  Next week is the season finale.  We'll see how much of Lisbeth is in Lumen.

On another Dexter note, Showtime is renewing it for a sixth season. 

Friday, December 03, 2010

100 Digital Albums at $5 A Piece

Amazon has this $5 special running for the month of December with titles ranging from Rosanne Cash's  The List to The Monkees Greatest Hits to The Very Very Best of Crowded House to Big Bad World from Plain White T's.