Friday, April 29, 2016

Okay, Now I Can Die

I don't check Twitter very often, but when I do--and when I find out that Andy Freaking Partridge tweeted back at me--I have to admit that I squealed and passed out. Just now waking up to the fact that the world has reset itself and I have no idea what to do with the rest of the month of April.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Adventures of a Band

Shirley Manson:

It's so difficult now for bands to operate, and we're in a spectacularly lucky position that so many bands don't find themselves in. To survive as a band economically in the climate right now is almost impossible. For a brand-new band with that brand-new start-up engine behind them, they can get heard and they can enjoy a real wave of success. But to endure, to continue as a band, once you've gone past the gate of being a brand-new thing, is so difficult, economically speaking, to say nothing of holding people's attention. The bands that endure are becoming fewer and fewer. We see a culture in which all solo artists or pop artists are getting supported by the systems; all these bands, they come up on a wave and they bob around on the surface for a little, and then they get drowned. It's sad. I've always loved bands. It's always been a sound I've been excited by. And it's getting harder and harder to watch the adventures of a band over a course of time.

It's Working

It really does seem to be possible for bands to come back and have some success. Lush are getting it done live and they're going at their own pace:

Lush have reconvened for their first material in two decades, after the 1996 suicide of drummer Chris Acland effectively ended the band's output. They're playing their first reunion shows this month – including a spot at Coachella – and have just released a richly textured EP, Blind Spot. Coinciding with a new vinyl box set plus a repressing of a previous box set, Blind Spot continues the band's talent for combining surreal, effects-warped guitar-pop with sharp-tongued lyrics.

Having recruited Elastica drummer Justin Welch, Lush's remaining members – singer-guitarists Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson, and bassist Phil King – are easing back into being a band. That means juggling rehearsals and songwriting with parenting and careers. Anderson wrote the EP's four new songs while Berenyi penned the lyrics, meditating on raising a teenager ("Out of Control", the bullying-inspired "Rosebud"), the disorientation of young love ("Burnham Beeches") and a recent dream she had about their former drummer ("Lost Boy").

"It was tricky. I came up with a lot of first drafts that were... not very good," says Berenyi. "But eventually I started feeling better about it. It was like getting the old machinery cranked up."

Every time this happens, it plants a seed for other bands. Slowdive's return helped inspire Lush to make it happen--and it's happening with Ride as well. This is not a bad time to be looking back at the 1990s, I guess.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

More of This, Please

Some enterprising young fellow ought to be rolling tape for this event. An all-star tribute to Big Star warrants some commercially acceptable product, preferably the kind you can hold in your hand and take out of a record store.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Leo Kottke Live

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1800.0"] Yeah, you're supposed to put the phone away and listen... Yeah, you're supposed to put the phone away and listen... [/caption]

Here's how messed up I am.

On March 10 of this year, I went to see Leo Kottke play at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia. And, of course, I didn't write about it. I didn't do anything before or after the show. I just went and saw him play and that was it.

The only reason why I put things on the Internet is to share experiences and enhance some understanding of why we need to elevate art of any kind. I have several blogs embedded here that are designed to draw people in so that they can read about whatever they want and take away whatever they like. So, up front, I apologize for not sharing this experience.

It was selfish of me to go watch Leo play and then not say something about it. I don't know why I didn't put something out at the time, but here goes.

The Birchmere is a great venue for music. The thing is, you're not there just to see a show. You're there to sit at tables and have something to eat and drink and then you can watch the show. I did this years ago in Annapolis at the Ram's Head when I saw the Church--silly me, I thought I was going to watch a band. Nope, I was going to eat the nachos and have a beverage and then watch them play.

And that's what I did at the Birchmere. I drove down to Alexandria and I found the venue and then I somehow killed four or five hours because that's how stupid I am--I had no idea it would be barely any hassle at all to go down there. I did do something smart--I got in line to get my pass to get into the show and that meant that I was near the front. By the time they seated us, I was in the front row--totally worth it, of course. I was seated right in front, mere feet from the stage, and I had my nachos and my beverage and that meant killing another hour or so.

Was it worth it to sit and wait for hours and hours? Of course it was. For people who have seen Leo, bear with me--this was all new to me. I am not that sophisticated because this was literally the first music show I had attended in seven or eight years.

Leo has no pretensions, and virtually no gear. They put a regular chair up there and they run one lead to the house sound system. That's the lead for his guitar. They set up a microphone. They have a stand there for each guitar. Leo won't leave his guitars out there before the show--he keeps his Taylor 6 and 12 strings with him at all times, and who wouldn't? These are the best guitars on the whole freaking planet. Do you have six or seven thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket? That might get you a top of the line Taylor. I would envision him going to the bathroom with them but that would be ridiculous. He doesn't have straps on them. He walks out with two guitars in his hands and he might nod or raise one of them up to acknowledge the thunderous applause of people who have seen him eight, nine, or ten or more times already. For a newbie like me, this was a strange way to start a show. This is definitely not what you expect of someone who has been doing this for over forty years. He has stripped away every single unnecessary thing and he tunes up right in front of everyone because it wouldn't make sense to switch between seven or eight different guitars.

Leo sits down, keeps one of the guitars on him at all times, and puts the other one down. He plugs himself in and starts playing. There are no roadies, just a sound person in the back. If you look at the photo above, it's just about when he sat down to start playing. He is in constant motion because he moves his feet a lot, so that when he plays, everything is balanced there on his lap. The sound was pristine and clear, as well amplified as anything I've ever heard. It's all in the guitar, of course, and he played instrumentals as his opening numbers. He speaks assuredly, makes jokes, tells stories, and then he feels out the rest of the set. He tells you where he's going and you don't mind the interruptions or the weird fellow who says the same three or four things until Leo, exasperated, reminds everyone that he's the show.

He alluded to being a trombone player. He's the most gifted guitar player of his generation. He sifts through his memory, bringing out tunes and runs and playing song after song. Ninety minutes disappears--no matter how long I had to wait, the show itself was one pleasurable experience.

It's impossible to explain how good Leo is with a guitar. Above all else, the lack of structure to the show means that you get to experience his taste in playing. He is making choices left and right and the show flows through happy accidents and deliberate stops. He is an American master at his craft, one of the finest ever. Expert finger picking and technique, refined for decades and demonstrated for all.

It was absolutely masterful and magical at the same time to watch him play. He brought out songs, ran around with them, and you could see his eyes darting around, looking for the next song to play. I'm hooked. I hope I get to see him again. If he's ever near you, go. It'll leave you dumbstruck for months, and you'll end up fumbling through a review just like this. Really, he's that good and he's entirely about that ninety minutes or so of trying to figure out what to play next. So many musicians never find the courage to abandon everything and just take one or two instruments out and play them for people. There is an entire circuit out there that would give them a forum to go and play if they could just abandon all the tricks and gimmicks and go do what they know and love.

Leo figured that out a long time ago. He just goes out and plays. He takes a few shows here and a few shows there and he just does his thing. And his thing is the best hour and a half you can imagine.


The Vault Where Prince Kept All the Good Stuff

I'm probably in the minority here, but none of this stuff should be released:

one place where those mourning Prince are split is over the contents of his vault. Prince fans have wondered about the vault for decades now, a BBC documentary by Mobeen Azhar heightened curiosity, and Prince’s death makes listeners even more eager to know what’s in it. Recent reports talk about as much as 2,000 songs, going back to nearly the beginning of his career.

Wired describes it this way:

Deep in the bowels of Paisley Park, the recording studio compound Prince built in Chanhassen, Minnesota, lies a room-sized vault. It looks like something you’d find in a bank, with a big wheel on the door and a spinning combination lock only a few people can open. The walls are lined with shelves, organized chronologically and bursting with unreleased recordings. The trove includes funk instrumentals, a rock power trio, jam sessions with Miles Davis. A lifetime’s worth of songs, videos, documentaries, and more.

On one side are Prince friends and admirers who think that the material should be left alone. Prince fought to have control over his career, warring not only with his record companies and music streamers, but famously changing his name in the ‘90s.

“Prince always did what he wanted to do,” Sheila E. said. “He had accomplished what he wanted to musically. He worked with whomever he wanted, and if he had wanted those released, he would have released them.”

Just because someone saves their artistic output doesn't mean they want it to be released. Whatever plan Prince had in mind, that plan is now gone along with him. If they can sort out the rights and release material in a respectable fashion, okay, then. I suspect what they're going to find is not the mind-blowing archive people make it out to be. I think it contains the stuff that Prince thought he should keep but not the stuff he wanted people to hear.

He was, famously, cash-strapped for many, many years. The fact that he didn't alleviate his problems by releasing material in the vault indicates to me that he didn't think it would have been commercially viable for him to do so.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Punk Rock Defies History

Movies like this are invaluable. You can't really go to a large American city and not find the remnants of a punk scene. Los Angeles had one of the most important scenes in all of punk--more important than New York City, in my opinion:

Forty years would seem to be plenty of time to canvass and document the history of punk rock, but as is the case with any genre, there are always some narrative holes that need filling. New York City and London dominate much of the discussion about punk’s nascent years, so much so that even the most casual music fans likely have some understanding of CBGB, The Clash, the Talking Heads, and other big-picture genre talking points. Those are important conversational pillars, of course, but there’s plenty of ground to cover between the two cities.

Los Angeles, for one, cultivated its own hugely influential punk rock scene. If New York and England helped lay the foundation for punk’s first wave, L.A. had a large hand in building the subculture that’s kept the genre going through the years. This is the story Tom DeSavia and X singer-bassist John Doe tell in Under The Big Black Sun: A Personal History Of L.A. Punk. Culled from the personal remembrances of roughly a dozen of the city’s most prized punk-rock figures, the book digs deep into the ugly, dangerous, but nonetheless fraternal nature of the burgeoning L.A. punk scene of the late ’70s and early ’80s. From Hollywood over to East L.A. and south to San Pedro and Huntington Beach, Under The Big Black Sun covers the scene’s considerable sprawl, from the sketchy clubs and apartment dwellings to the bands and the drug and booze-fueled chaos that followed them.

The punk scene in Los Angeles was related in large part to the development of SST and hardcore music--something that probably deserves its own separate documentary. In the pre-internet days, labels like SST survived largely because they sent out their catalog as a printed insert with the records and cassettes they sold. Remember looking through those things? How else were you going to get punk records if you lived in the middle of nowhere? Amazing times.

This is definitely worth checking out. But, remember--no one will ever agree on anything with regards to punk music and how it came to be. It's like chasing a ghost, which is an absolutely useless endeavor because ghosts don't exist.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Last Photo of Prince?

If you follow this link, there's commentary that suggests that Prince was riding his bike in the area when this photo was taken before his untimely death yesterday. I used to work in that area (many, many years ago) and it was bike-unfriendly territory. I have no idea what Chanhassen is like now, of course. I don't think I've set foot in the place since 1996 - twenty years? Wow.

Unlike most Minnesota natives, I have no Prince stories. I have nothing to relate to you other than the fact that I really had no interest in him or his music. And what's worse is that I'm a child of the 1980s. There was no one bigger than Prince. I don't buy the idea that Michael Jackson was in the same orbit. Clearly, he wasn't because Prince left an artistic legacy that eclipses that of virtually everyone else. No one would put Bowie in his league unless they wanted Bowie to feel bad about the comparison.

I suppose you can put Bob Dylan there with him, but they were in different versions of show business. You'll read endless testimonies from people moved by what he did or influenced by it and enthralled by it but I don't have any connection to his legacy. The "greats" never moved me and I preferred the eclectic and obscure. Yesterday, I had exactly the same reaction when David Bowie died--none of his stuff really interested me, either. If we lose Paul Westerberg, Robyn Hitchcock, Pat Fish, Julian Cope, Ian McCulloch, Richard Ashcroft, Steve Kilbey, or Noel Gallagher this year, fuck it all.

If you want proof there's something really, really wrong with me, 2016's sad march of death proves it. None of that stuff had any bearing on my life. I guess I move in some sad circles.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Complicated Game

A must-read book on XTC? Sign me up:

“The really annoying thing is, the second I die off, people are going to go, ‘Hey, do you know, they were quite good!’ ” That’s Andy Partridge, the principal singer and songwriter of the late, great, quintessentially British pop band XTC, sounding off in his comprehensive new book Complicated Game: Inside the Songs of XTC. A must for fans, this collection of interviews surveys the inspiration behind and the recording of 30 songs across the band’s catalog, ranging from the buzz-punk of 1978’s “This Is Pop” to the symphonic pastorals of later songs like 1999’s “River of Orchids.”

You can spend hours reading snippets from the Internet or you can digest the whole thing. XTC are an endlessly fascinating band and even their clunkers were better than anything they're making right now.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The End of Art Garfunkel is at Hand

Paul Simon, the music industry's greatest living human rage monster, is going to get rid of this whole Art Freakin' Garfunkel problem once and for all:

Paul Simon has admitted that he is not on speaking terms with Art Garfunkel.

The legendary duo haven't completed an album together since 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', which was released shortly before they split in 1970 although the pair recently played together in 2010. 

But just last year, Garfunkel called Simon an "idiot" and a "jerk" and said he "created a monster" when he became his friend in grade school.

Now, when asked whether the duo would ever play together again, Simon told Rolling Stone: "No, out of the question. We don't even talk.”

He also revealed that the reason why most people come to his concerts is because they want to hear his 1986 hit 'You Can Call Me Al'.

I don't have any firsthand knowledge of what's going to happen to poor Artie but I know one thing--he needs to stay home and hide under his bed with about fifty bodyguards around him at all time. And--did you know--the character "John Wick"is based on Paul Simon?


Monday, April 18, 2016

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

There was a time when music had a huge impact on people--enough to make them want to spend money and break the law and stay up late at night. This is how it was:

Music pirates are boring nowadays. The pirate’s den is a bedroom in mom’s flat. Or maybe that’s a pirate using the free wi-fi at Dunkin Donuts.

That wasn’t always the case. Music pirates once had their own ships, just like their skull-and-crossbones predecessors in the Caribbean. The deejays didn’t wear eye-patches or talk like Jack Sparrow, but before they were done reinventing radio rules, they helped shape the musical tastes during the rise of rock … and even changed international maritime law.

Long before Napster and torrents, the pirate radio stations of the ’60s found a home on the high seas. These renegade outfits operated from a host of different ships that circumvented government restrictions by broadcasting from international waters. At their peak, these stations attracted millions of listeners, who grooved to rock ‘n’ roll tunes ignored by the state-controlled radio outlets.

Technology caught up to society and made music easy to get, easy to stockpile, and even easier to share. And all of that is a good thing. The problem is, we forgot that it was all a business move and that being able to get anything and everything without having to work at it meant that the value of music plummeted and the shared experience went the way of the narrowcasted podcast. You can get it all now--unheard of when people were scrounging for imported records and listening to static and bullshit.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Now You Know What Steve Miller Was Talking About

Really, it's just a scandal that this sort of thing continues to happen:

The 2nd Circuit says it needs guidance on whether state law gives copyright holders performance rights.

On Wednesday, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals avoided handing down a definitive ruling on the closely watched issue of whether owners of pre-1972 sound recordings have performance rights and can stop SiriusXM from broadcasting them without agreed-upon compensation. The federal appeals court wants the New York Court of Appeals to address the issue first.

SiriusXM is fighting putative class-action lawsuits, led by Flo & Eddie of The Turtles, which contend that since federal copyright law protects sound recordings after 1972, it's up to state laws to protect works authored before then. The implications of the argument would theoretically mean that bars, restaurants, sports stadiums and other enterprises lose the right to perform the early works of Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and others.

In November 2014, New York federal judge Colleen McMahon followed a California judge in giving Flo & Eddiea significant victory and one that was unsettling for satellite and terrestrial radio operators. She sympathized with the defendant by writing that the "accepted fact of life in the broadcast industry for the last century" was that nobody was paying royalties for public performance. The judge added that common-law copyrights do in fact confer such benefits.

The case then went up to the 2nd Circuit, but technically, what's required is an interpretation of New York law. As such, the 2nd Circuit today certifies the following question for the state appeals court: Is there a right of public performance for creators of sound recordings under New York law and, if so, what is the nature and scope of that right?

The decision today takes no firm position, though it does express at least some skepticism.

"With no clear guidance from the New York Court of Appeals, we are in doubt as to whether New York common law affords Appellee a right to prohibit Appellant from broadcasting the sound recordings in question," writes 2nd Circuit judge Guido Calabresi.

The courts aren't taking a stand because, far too often, the judiciary has ruled in favor of record companies because they're the ones with the expensive lawyers; many artists can't afford the sophisticated legal representation necessary to "win back" control of their art. The law is based on precedent, and an expensive legal team can out-hustle anyone making peanuts. That's not to say that artists haven't won over the years--they certainly have. But the law overwhelmingly favors anyone who can tie up proceedings for years.

As a matter of sheer decency, Sirius XM should pay for the music they play regardless of copyright law. In the case of vintage recordings where there's no one who can be paid, apply those funds to a general artist fund to be distributed evenly.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Black Keys Are Assholes

The best thing to do in this case is to say nothing. The Black Keys should not have stepped on the story of Steve Miller's rant against the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They should realize that, while profane and impolite, Miller's remarks were remarkably honest and well informed. He was punching up, which is what you're supposed to do. The music industry has stolen money from Miller for decades. The music industry has treated artists as if they were mere afterthoughts. Many artists--Miller included--have been expected to show up at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony and shut up and play in order to generate a spike in sales that, ultimately, benefits the music industry and not so much the artist.

Well, the Black Keys are the self-licking ice cream cones of fake blues music. They are like two prison-issue masturbation toys who have to make everything about themselves. They didn't even have the good grace to refrain from speaking ill of another artist:

"Pat and I were both definitely disappointed, to say the least... It's almost like [Miller] doesn't have respect for the younger generations and how hard it is in the business today."

Auerbach continued to say that Miller later made "a very mild attempt" to talk to the band but "it was disingenuous". He added: "It almost made it feel worse... Honestly, the most unpleasant part was being around him... [Black Keys drummer] Pat [Carney] and I both regret it".

"I hope that when I'm in my twilight years, I can look back and be grateful to the people who have appreciated me and to be able to give back," Auerbach said. "Because music is about sharing and passing on inspiration and that was his opportunity to do that; not just lashing out in a way that was just completely unfocussed."

First of all, Miller was pretty focused. He said there was one person in particular that he wanted to strangle. I have no doubt that Carney and Auerbach have been ripped off while trying to make a living in the music industry. There's a pretty good chance that they could learn something from a guy who has been trying to make a living in an industry that systematically rips people off--maybe the guy who's been doing this for forty or fifty years knows something, okay? Instead, they decided to punch down at an artist who is simply trying to highlight the self-evident hypocrisy of giving him an honor that should have come with a lifetime of being able to make a decent living from music. Maybe there's a lesson that can be learned from one of these old Seventies dudes. How much do you think Miller made on royalties when Napster and iTunes and everyone else were ripping him off? How much do you think he gets right now from Spotify?

Second, it was about Steve Miller and, for a brief time, he was on the stage. This was his honor. He chose to use his moment to unleash hell on the scandal that is the music industry. He owned his moment and he made it his own because shaming the music industry means someone, somewhere will get a little savvier about what's happening and push back. He gave fire to people who need it and support to people who are going to need it when they're losing their livelihood because of a contract signed 26 and a half years ago. You were there because you said yes when someone asked you to speak before him. You should have said your piece and gone about your business. No one was there to see you.

Third, it's too easy to go after a guy who hasn't had a hit in a while. It's too easy to sit back and go after Miller because he's not a current draw on the concert scene. He's a guy who had a lot of success but ended up being abandoned by the industry. You don't piss over people like that. You don't punch down at an artist who's had hard times but has maintained some level of dignity and integrity. You reach down from whatever perch you're on and elevate someone like that because, hell, there's a word called karma.

Man, I hate these guys. I don't have a lot of love or sympathy for Jack White, but, damn. You can see what he was getting on about with regards to the Black Keys. You can come away with an appreciation for anyone who calls these guys out for what they really are. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Everyone is Making Money Except For Musicians

Same old, same old:

A massive rise in earnings from streaming services helped reverse almost 20 years of declining global music revenues last year as money from digital formats overtook physical sales for the first time, trade association IFPI said on Tuesday.

Streaming revenues were up 45 percent in 2015 thanks to the growth of smartphones and licensed quality subscription services as overall global music proceeds grew 3.2 percent to $15 billion, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry said in its annual report.

Revenues from digital delivery now made up 45 percent of total earnings compared to the 39 percent share from physical sales, it said.

"After two decades of almost uninterrupted decline, 2015 witnessed key milestones for recorded music: measurable revenue growth globally; consumption of music exploding everywhere; and digital revenues overtaking income from physical formats for the first time," said IFPI Chief Executive Frances Moore.

"They reflect an industry that has adapted to the digital age and emerged stronger and smarter."

IFPI said digital revenues had risen by 10.2 percent last year to $6.7 billion which had helped offset the decline in the sales of CDs and other physical formats.

Streaming had grown to such an extent it was close to overtaking the sums earned from downloads, with an estimated 68 million people now paying for a music subscription.

However, the IFPI warned there was a "fundamental weakness" behind the improved revenues because the record consumption of music was not resulting in a fair remuneration to artists or record labels.

Emphasis, mine.

Listen, it's great that all of these companies are able to make money by giving away music for free. The last sixteen or seventeen years haven't taught anyone anything. This is more of the same, packaged with new technology, so that the people who make smartphones can breathe a sigh of relief because they don't have to put 300 gigabyte hard drives into those things. They can make a higher profit because the technology of streaming music only affects two people--the ones who have to expand their network to handle the increased traffic and the artists who aren't getting paid.

Steve Miller Cuts Loose

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is just like the Grammys--it's not about artistry. It's about celebrating business decisions made decades ago that have continued to enrich a handful of people at the expense of artists. Steve Miller made music in the 1970s that has elevated him to the level where they couldn't keep him out of the Hall of Fame anymore. And when he attended the ceremony, he came face to face with the man who made millions from his music and screwed him over. 

This was his reaction to it all:

He’s made a billion dollars off my work over the last 50 years and the motherfucker just came over and introduced himself tonight. That cheery little thing. You know he won’t do any contract work, he won’t clean anything up, he won’t get anything done.

This whole industry fucking sucks and this little get-together you guys have here is like a private boys’ club and it’s a bunch of jackasses and jerks and fucking gangsters and crooks who’ve fucking stolen everything from a fucking artist. Telling the artist to come out here and tap dance.

I came out here for my fans. I came out for the people who take it seriously. And if the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame wants to be taken seriously, they need to put their books out in the public. They need to fucking become transparent. They need to stop lying. They need to stop all the bullshit and they need to clean it up and they need to expand it. They need to include a lot more people. And the most important thing is the fucking board of this organization really needs to enlarge their gene pool. I think you understand.

Next time, don't show up. Next time, say no to the corporate bullshit. Next time, take a pass on the bump in sales and the free media coverage and walk away. 

If the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame calls, have the integrity to tell them to go fuck themselves. Or, better yet, do what Miller did and piss all over their self-congratulatory nonsense and say it to their faces. You can be rest assured that, next year, no one will be allowed to cut loose like this.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Standing Up to Bigotry is a Radical Left Position?

There are so many things wrong with this that I'm just going to tackle one aspect of it:

Bruce Springsteen has been criticised by a US congressman for canceling a concert in North Carolina.

North Carolina's new laws require individuals to use bathrooms corresponding to their biological sex, which some have deemed as discriminatory towards trans people. The laws also impact on local government's ability to pass anti-discrimination laws.

Springsteen released a statement explaining that he had pulled the band's gig in Greensboro, North Carolina on Sunday (April 10) because of this recently-passed Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, North Carolina Republican congressman Mark Walker called Springsteen's boycott "disappointing" and said "Bruce is known to be on the radical left and he’s got every right to be so, but I consider this a bully tactic. It’s like when a kid gets upset and says he’s going to take his ball and go home."

It is probably going to come as a shock to Congressman Walker, but there are plenty of people who oppose ignorance and bigotry who are not on the "radical left" of the political spectrum. This is a complete and utter misunderstanding of the issue and the correct position to take. You're not radical left if you oppose bigotry. You're just a decent American. Criticizing Springsteen for taking a fairly common sense position on a soon-to-be-rescinded piece of legislative incompetence is proof that there really is a wave of intolerance spreading through the Southern states and through what we call "red" states in America.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Neil Peart is the Fourth Best Drummer?

Rolling Stone is as useless as you remember when it comes to ranking things:

When Neil Peart auditioned for Rush in 1974, his bandmates heard in him a chance to embrace their die-hard Who fandom. "We were so blown away by Neil's playing," guitarist Alex Lifeson recalled in an interview earlier this year. "It was very Keith Moon-like, very active, and he hit his drums so hard." Ironically, Peart's great contribution to rock drumming would turn out to be the exact aesthetic opposite of Moon's: the most precise and meticulously plotted percussion that the genre has ever seen. As Rush's high-prog ambitions flowered in the mid-to-late '70s, Peart revealed himself as both an obsessive craftsman and wildly ambitious artiste – traits that also surfaced in his fantastical lyrics – using esoteric implements such as orchestra bells, temple blocks and timpani to flesh out his baroque parts for songs such as "Xanadu" and "The Trees." As the band's music streamlined in the Eighties, through transitional masterpieces such as Moving Pictures and on to a more pop-oriented sound, so did Peart's playing; he began tastefully incorporating electronic percussion and looking to mainstream innovators such as Stewart Copeland for inspiration. Rush's recent work, such as 2012's Clockwork Angels, features some of Peart's best work on record: a stunning unity of brains and brawn. Meanwhile, despite his recent retirement from touring, Peart remains perhaps the most revered – and air-drummed-to – live sticksman in all of rock, famous as the architect of literally showstopping set-piece solos.

Ginger Baker, Keith Moon, and John Bonham are all better? Please.

If you compare the bodies of work, Peart's output, in terms of albums recorded and gigs played, outclasses every single one of them. He has played to more people than all three of those drummers combined. He has influenced countless drummers and he has, effectively,  retired from the music business with his integrity intact.

He has even completely reinvented himself--taking late-in-life lessons to refine and improve himself when no one else would bother with such introspection. Twenty-five years ago, this is higher than Peart would have been ranked, probably. The problem with this list is that we're well past the sell-by date on Rolling Stone's influence in the popular culture. This is a nothing post because their opinion--and mine, of course--really do not matter, but oh well.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Also-Rans Pay Tribute to David Bowie

This is awful, I know, but it has to be said:

A sold-out Carnegie Hall audience joined a children's chorus in a singalong to David Bowie's "Space Oddity" Thursday, a sweet end to a tribute concert that turned into a memorial through some bizarre timing.

Jakob Dylan, Michael Stipe, the Flaming Lips and Heart's Ann Wilson were among the artists who joined Bowie's former collaborator Tony Visconti and other musicians who had performed with the late rock star.

In real life, David Bowie would have been disappointed that the biggest stars of the day did not turn out to fellate him in public. Where were the truly beautiful people from the fashion industry? Where were the biggest bands? Where's Adele? Where's Beyonce? Where is (insert name of sufficiently awed megastar with huge sales)?

Bowie was the supreme elitist of the music industry. These also-rans would have depressed him. Having Bob Dylan's kid and some drug band show up to pay tribute would have meant an early ride home for him.