Thursday, May 31, 2012

You Can't Judge A Band's Music By It's Publicity Shot

Here is a clear case of looking at a band's photos and immediately forming an opinion of what they sound like. Point in case: The Struts.
Ok what comes to mind?  They probably listened to a lot of 70's, 80's music.  They are The Ramones meets the Rubinoos.  Well I was totally off the mark. It sounds like they got into their parents Led Zeppelin and Marc Bolan.  First, watch the video for I Just Know without the sound and you'll think not another one of these punk/new wave/indie wannabees.   Someone shot a lot of black and white footage, made it look vintage as if it were shot in a rundown and ramshackle era (which could actually be present day).   

Of Note: Apparently there are quite a few bands around the globe named The Struts. These Struts are from Derby

Friday, May 25, 2012


Apparently I liked the stickers that were affixed to albums (yes vinyl albums).  I found about 25 of them I had saved.  I guess the record labels thought that pushing the British in the band was a good way to sell albums in the States.  Here are 4 of the 25 stickers which are all championing the Englishness of the artist.

The Jam, ?, Adam & The Ants, Heaven 17
These are all from the 1980's.   One stickers doesn't even mention the band or a song, but there are 16 of 'em and they are from England.  This points to my collection of albums, which in the 80's was probably half British.  I know I killed the Heaven 17 record.  My friends and I used to play Let Me Go ad nauseum.  We still can't pass up the opportunity to dance to it.  

Happy Long Weekend.

Lip syncing is left to the last line.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Dark Life At The Top Of The Charts

You cannot be far from a dog or life is meaningless.      
  -Rick Springfield

The title of Late, Late At Night warns us it’s dark once you open the book.  The cover photo is in graying tones.  Rick Springfield’s sporting an El Diablo look.  The memoir opens with the lyrics to My Depression.  Whew. Do not think this is a book written by Noah Drake. This is dark stuff.

Mr D, Rick Springfield’s name for his lurking depression is a constant in the book as I’m sure it is in his life.  He puts in more than his 10,000 hours. Rick finally has success as an actor and musician and meets and marries the woman of his dreams.  He’s miserable with moments of enjoying himself sporadically sprinkled in.  The success hits when he’s 29. You would think he’d be prepared to accept and enjoy it, especially after playing in a cover band in a restaurant just months prior to the release of Working Class Dog.  Depression takes a hold and doesn’t let go.

Gomer & Rick, Animal Fair Magazine 2006
Rick said in an interview that the only time he feels completely free of depression is when he’s on medication or having an orgasm, which may explain his infidelity.  I think he overlooked when he’s in the company of dogs. Rick contemplated staying with a girlfriend because he is way more attached to her dog.  He writes so lovingly about his two dogs.  Ron is the famous for appearing on Rick's album covers. The dog he rescued after Ron passed was Gomer, a constant companion in the studio and in life.  

This is a very candid memoir which I’m guessing was written without a ghostwriter.  It’s very conversational.   He confronts the missteps in his career (turning down a role in The Right Stuff to star in his own movie Hard To Hold) and his life (numerous, numerous, numerous infidelity scenes). Being a fan of his music, I would have loved to hear more about the music. He does address it, but there is more of the sensational stuff, which I’m sure his editor was keen on getting.

I wasn’t drawn to Rick’s cartoon or his first hit single Speak To The Sky, but Jessie’s Girl struck a chord (pun intended).  It’s one of the most recognizable guitar openings.  I’ve always loved Rick’s songwriting. On the flip side of that, poor career choices may have undermined his talent as a songwriter and his talent as an actor. As an armchair quarterback, it doesn’t matter what I think.  He still has a career and does well performing.  Do we need to see one more rose-destroying windmill on his guitar?  I don’t, which is why I’d love to see him perform as a songwriter in the round.  Rick, let’s hear your songs stripped down without the 80’s production. Sit next to some other contemporaries (John Hiatt, Rick Nielsen, Rosanne Cash-that’s a show I would pay good money to see!) and let them all playoff one another.  The keyboards in Rick’s recordings date them. It screams 80’s. Let’s hear the songs for what they are. 

When I managed Vertical Horizon Matt Scannel and I would talk about what a great songwriter Rick is.  Ironically, VH were on RCA Records, the same label where Rick had his hits.  We mentioned to then president of RCA, Bob Jamieson that VH was interested in covering State Of The Heart.  He gave us a look that signaled we’re not going there. As far as I know, Rick and Matt have never written together. There’s no time like the present. 

An NPR Remembrance Of Duck Dunn

Duck Dunn was the bassist for Booker T. and The MG's.  He also played on numerous Stax recordings that are a permanent part of our culture.

This NPR piece by Andria Lisle is a nice tribute to a music legend.

Monday, May 14, 2012

John Irving: One Person At The 92Y

John Irving does not have the patience to be politically correct.  He tells it like he feels it.  At the 92Y last night he read excerpts from his just released novel, In One Person and spoke about the characters, his career, politics and of course as it was mother’s day, his mother. 

Irving’s reading of In One Person illuminated the character of town librarian Ms Frost.  You don’t know her until you’ve heard John read her.  (John Benjamin Hickey narrates the audio version of the book, which I’m sure it’s a treat.)  When I was reading the novel, I had an image of a bigger and broader version of the actress Wendy Malick.  Ms Frost becomes one of the many “wrong crushes” for narrator Billy Abbott.  She was the highly regarded wrestling champion of the town, when she was a he.  Billy’s grandmother has only contempt for her. Ms Frost becomes a key figure in shaping the course of Billy’s life. 

Being bisexual, Billy is a true outsider. He is not to be believed by either men or women. He does not belong to any party. 

If you were, like me, at an all-boys’ boarding school in the fall of 1960, you felt utterly alone—you trusted no one, least of all another boy your age—and you loathed yourself. I’d always been lonely, but self-hatred is worse than loneliness.    –Billy Abbott

I’ve seen John speak, read and answer questions probably 5 or 6 times. Each time something else is revealed to me.  Here’s is what I learned at the Y last night:

On his mother: The time period of his life that he thinks made his mother the happiest was when he was wrestling.  He started at 14, which coincided with the beginning of his writing career.  His mother was a prompter in the theater as is Billy’s mother in the novel.  He said that’s where the similarities end, as his mother was the most un-homophobic person he has ever known.  He read the passage from the book that really got to me as I read it.  It references the daily laying out of the clothes by Billy’s mother for him.  When Billy turns 13, she stops the ritual and that is when he believes his mother lost interest in him.  It seemed to me that maybe John lived through something similar in his life. He started off the evening by saying, “If you brought your mother here tonight (pause), I hope you bought her something else.”  His mother would not be happy to be brought to one of his readings for Mother’s Day.

The advantage of writing with hindsight:  In One Person’s narrator Billy Abbott is in his late 60’s looking back.  It starts in the 50’s and then brings him into the 1980’s AIDS epidemic. Irving wrote about the Viet Nam War in 1989’s A Prayer For Owen Meany.  The war ended in 1975.   

Politics in his writing:  He views a political novel as one where the writer is taking a side.  A novel can be a form of advocacy.  He cited The Cider House Rules, Owen Meany, The World According To Garp and In One Person as his 4 political novels.  His most recent goal in writing this book was to broaden our tolerance for sexual differences.  He thought it would be much easier to relate to Billy for having sex with both genders, as opposed to Johnny Wheelwright (Owen Meany) who goes through his whole life never having sex.  It is thought that Johnny was in love with Owen, but never acted on it.

After writing Garp he thought he was done with sexual outcasts. He felt the need to revisit, as we’re still battling sexual discrimination.  Irving’s thoughts:  Shakespeare was more at ease with this than we are today. 

The writing process:  Many submitted questions about his writing ritual, which is to conceive the ending first and then create the backwards road map for the rest of the story.  He said it is a process and nothing that he’s married to, but it works for him.  It wasn’t until after his fourth novel, Garp that he was able to quit his other jobs and concentrate solely on writing.  His mother was not impressed when he told her of his excitement in committing to full-time writing.  Once he had the freedom to write, he struggled with it.  He said he couldn’t work for more than three hours a day on The Hotel New Hampshire.  It was a much more difficult road that he thought it would be.   His next novel, Cider House, was the first of the constructed books.  He had a method that worked for him. 

His advice to writers:  Don’t always write what you know.  How boring!  The thought exasperated him, as did the idea of Mitt Romney as president.

John Irving:  writer, wrestler and forthright.  

Listen to John on the Brian Lehrer show.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Beatles Shocker

I just watch Mad Men.  As I've been reading, I was not the only one who was shocked to hear an original Beatles recording, Tomorrow Never Knows played on Mad Men.  According to the Wall St Journal, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner has been trying to license the Beatles for a few years.  Original recordings are rarely, if ever heard in films or TV.  When Megan gave Don a copy of Revolver and told him to start listening with this track, I thought for sure they would reference the song title and that was it.

The WSJ also goes on to talk about the alleged money paid by Lionsgate to license the track:  a whopping $250,00, yes a quarter of a million dollars.  

Two very smart song placements have been heard on the show. Of course the Beatles, which was a coup and the Beach Boys' I Just Wasn't Made For These Times, which played during Roger's mushroom trip.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Adam Yauch

Even though I knew he was ill, the news from Rolling Stone today of his passing has hit me hard.  I peripherally worked with them. I managed Luscious Jackson, they were on the Beastie Boys' label. 

I thought Adam would rebound.  He is a Beastie Boy.  He was suppose to be around a lot longer.

The Stick Figures of Nina Nesbitt

Glue by Nina Nesbitt is a clever video.  There couldn't have been much of a budget, but it conveys the song so well in it's simplicity.  As she says on her website:  Got bored made a video for myself.  The song is catchy. It's a little bit of a bunch of music you've heard before, which is great. Who wants to reinvent the wheel anyway?


Nina is a seventeen year old Swedish/Scottish singer songwriter from Edinburgh. I don't think she has graced our shores yet.