Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Mike Love is Going to Hell

Buried in this list of sad has-beens is proof--proof, I tell you!--that Mike Love is going to go to hell:

Trump has said on the campaign trail that he wants the event to be a gathering of “winners”—and not politicians, like at past conventions. “We’re going to do it a little different, if that’s OK,” he said in Virginia earlier this month. “I’m thinking about getting some of the great sports people who like me a lot.”

Trump frequently credits the endorsement from the chair-throwing Knight for his Indiana primary victory. Tyson and France have publicly backed Trump, and Ditka has voiced strong support for the presumptive Republican nominee.

Separately, third-party groups have booked musicians to perform at venues throughout Cleveland during the July 18-21 convention: the quintessential 1960s-era surfer band The Beach Boys; 1970s-era rock band Journey; Bret Michaels, the frontman of the 1980s-era metal band Poison; 80s hitmaker Rick Springfield: country singer Martina McBride, who rose to stardom in the 1990s; country band Rascal Flatts, who formed in Ohio in 1999; and The Band Perry, a siblings trio known for country pop songs.

Somewhere, Mike Love is railing at someone about this bill. Are the Beach Boys on top? They'd better be. If they're not, you can forget about getting near him for the rest of the summer. You already knew Journey was going to hell, but think about this: why aren't there any movies about the Beach Boys where Mike Love seems like a reasonably human being? And who was worse--Jim Morrison or Mike Love?

Last night I watched the extended conclusion of Oliver Stone's hilariously bad take on The Doors. This was the end of any possibility that he was interested in coherent movie making, up to and including the poor Native American actor who had to appear onstage with Jim in Florida. Morrison was a drunken asshole with a penchant for throwing flowers at John Densmore, but he seemed like a pleasant fellow compared to Love's passive aggressive bullshit. Love is going to hell for what he put Brian Wilson through. But, that's a given.

We're getting a really bad week at Grand Casino Hinckley instead of an actual GOP convention. Man, Trump must really hate the American viewing public.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Noel Gallagher For Prime Minister

Noel Gallagher was absolutely right about the Brexit vote:

Noel Gallagher has said he doesn't think the British public should get a vote in tomorrow's (June 23) EU referendum. 

In a new interview, the musician criticised the government for not doing "what we pay you to do" and said he may be too "busy" to vote. 

Speaking to CBC, Gallagher said: "I like the fact that it sounds like a cereal; a bowl of Brexit! I'll decide to vote on the morning. I might be busy."

He continued: "Do I think we should leave? I don't think we should be given a vote. I see politicians on TV every night telling us that this is a fucking momentous decision that could fucking change Britain forever and blah, blah, blah. 

They'll never make him Prime Minister, but they should. The Brexit decision should never have been put to a vote.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Not Guilty

To no one's surprise:

A Los Angeles jury has decided the band Led Zeppelin did not steal the opening to its classic anthem "Stairway to Heaven." 

The federal jury reached its verdict Thursday, settling a point that music fans have debated for decades but didn't find its way to court until two years ago. 

The trust for the late songwriter Randy Wolfe claimed Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant stole a riff from Wolfe's 1968 instrumental "Taurus" recorded with the band Spirit.

They did not steal the song they wrote. That's the verdict. Several hundred million dollars in royalties are safe, for now. 

How much do you want to bet they look for a friendlier venue to retry this thing?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Jarvis Cocker Was Right About Michael Jackson

Is it possible to read a story these days about the late Michael Jackson and not look away from the screen with disgust and horror? What a sick, sick bastard of a man. I'm not of a sympathetic mind--this man used his vast fortune to discredit victims and abuse children in the worst possible way.

Jarvis Cocker had it right:

In the mid-’90s, Michael Jackson was doing his best to rebuild his career and the public’s faith in him after facing what would be his first child sexual abuse allegations. No one was doubting Jackson’s musical legacy, but his personal one was heavily darkened by the claims of impropriety that began in 1993. Part of his attempt to climb back into a positive light came during the 1996 BRIT Awards. Receiving the special Artist of a Generation award that year solidified that his work would always be beloved, but his performance during the show only stirred more controversy.

The ceremony, held 20 years ago to this day on February 19th, 1996, featured Jackson singing his powerful single “Earth Song”. The performance saw Jackson surrounded by children and adults dressed in the rags of the poor, pleadingly reaching out to the singer as if looking for a savior. Some saw this as Jackson painting himself like Jesus Christ, and the fact that there were all these children running around him just years after he settled a sexual abuse case did not sit well with certain audience members. That included Jarvis Cocker of Pulp.

As Jackson made his way to a crane and was lifted above the crowd’s head, Cocker bum rushed on from side stage. In an act of protest, he began wiggling his butt in Jackson’s direction, and later towards the crowd. Members of the stage performers tried to remove Cocker from the stage, but the wily Brit ran about, jumping up to the top of the sloped platform and zig-zagging between the costumed wretches.

Though the first reaction of many was to knock Cocker’s interruption (he was even questioned by police over concerns he injured children during the fracas), others came out in support of his actions in the days following the show. Jonathan King, a former producer of the BRIT Awards, told The Independent at the time, “I thought Jackson’s performance was appalling and everyone who was there, bar the Sony executives, thought it was appalling too. It was the most excruciating, misguided and unbelievably awful thing I have seen in my life: 99 per cent of the music industry couldn’t believe it.” Others, such as Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, producer Brian Eno, and alternative duo Everything But The Girl, also expressed favorable opinions of Cocker.

Years later, following Jackson’s death, Cocker spoke to BBC 1 about the incident. “He was pretending to be Jesus – I’m not religious but I think, as a performer myself, the idea of someone pretending to have the power of healing is just not right,” Cocker said (via The Independent). “Rock stars have big enough egos without pretending to be Jesus – that was what got my goat, that one particular thing.”

Can you believe that people thought Cocker was being an ass? Nah, he was ahead of his time and right about Michael Jackson. He was no Jesus.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Spotify Loses Money Every Year on Purpose

Spotify loses money because that's what it was designed to do. Here's a rosy earnings statement that is designed to make people think everything is fantastic:

Spotify has confirmed that it has more than 100m monthly active users on its music streaming service today.

Based on its last count, the Swedish company is adding 1.8m users to the service monthly, and 30% of users are paying subscribers. 

The news comes as Spotify overtakes Skype as the most highly valued European startup, worth roughly $8.5bn, according to tech investment bank GP Bullhound. 

But wait--Spotify lost again, like it does every year:

This statistic presents Spotify's revenue and net income from 2009 to 2015. In the most recently reported period, Spotify's revenue amounted to 1.95 billion euros, up from 1.08 billion euros in the previous year. The company's net loss amounted to 173 million euros in 2015.

Michael Robertson explains:

Imagine a new hot-dog selling venture. Let's also say there's only one supplier to purchase hot dogs from. Instead of simply charging a fixed price for hot dogs, that supplier demands the HIGHER of the following: $1 per hot dog sold OR $2 for every customer served OR 50 percent of all revenues for anything sold in the store.In addition, the supplier requires a two-year minimum order of 300 hot dogs per day, payable all in advance. If fewer hot dogs are sold, there is no refund. If more than 300 hot dogs are sold each day, payments to the supplier are generated by calculating $2 per customer or 50 percent of total revenues, so an additional payment is due to the supplier. After the first two years, the supplier can unilaterally adjust any of the pricing terms and the shop can never switch suppliers.

Would this imaginary hot dog establishment be able to generate a profit? Never, because the economics are one-sided. The supplier will always elect the formula that captures the largest amount of money for themselves, completely disregarding the financial viability of the store. If the store miraculously managed to generate a profit, the supplier would simply raise the rates after two years.

Such economic demands may be imaginary for the hot dog business, but they are the stark reality that every digital-music subscription service such as Spotify, Rhapsody, MOG, Rdio, and others must confront. These details aren't well-known because digital music service deals are always wrapped tightly with strict non-disclosure agreements.

The end result? Artists are not getting paid for their work any time soon. Spotify is working the way it was intended. Every year, it loses just enough money to keep artists at bay. This year has been no different than any other year.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

In Praise of Quiet Music

I very much agree with this:

Quietness may be one of the most underrated values in pop music. Look up “the loudest band in the world” and you will be confronted by a history of lusty rock behemoths proudly devoted to blowing eardrums, from Manowar (who achieved a sound pressure level of 139dB during a sound check in 2008) to the Who, Motörhead and, erm, Hanson.

Substitute “quiet” for “loud”, however, and the pickings are slim. There’s Dust, the self-proclaimed “quietest big band in the world”, Norwegian jazz musician Tord Gustavsen’s Trio, once described as “the quietest band in the world”, and an interview with Leonard Cohen’s musical director Roscoe Beck, in which he claims that Cohen’s group refers to itself as “the world’s quietest band”. Then the trail itself goes quiet.

In a way, this focus on loudness makes sense: increasing the volume of a song makes it stand out (something the music industry has exploited since the jukebox era) and increases the physical response. There is, according to Music Radar, an organ in the inner ear called the sacculus that reacts to low-frequency vibrations over 90dB and is linked to a region of the brain associated with pleasure, so cranking up the volume makes biological sense.

What’s more, quietness doesn’t always work well with the way we now listen to music. Quiet music demands audio quality and close attention, rather than crappy earbuds and computer speakers that struggle to be heard over the incessant background hum.

To me, one of the ultimate "quiet" albums is I Often Dream of Trains. It is one of many, especially if we're talking about Robyn Hitchcock. In general though, there are great quiet albums out there, all of which are being drowned out by overproduced garbage masquerading as product.

Absolutely Mega

The Stone Roses have kicked off their "residency" at Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England and the verdict is largely positive and upbeat. The sheer spectacle of the live show has Northern England in an uproar (well, probably not, but it sure looks like fun).

Monday, June 13, 2016

Led Zeppelin on Trial

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are being sued because they are alleged to have copied someone's obscure track when putting together Stairway to Heaven. Never mind that the chord shape in question is unusually common, there's no indication that they actually "stole" someone's song. This is not a case where the lyrics or the way it was sung were copied--this is about a chord change similarity between the songs. 

A last minute move to keep Led Zeppelin's music expert from testifying could delay the trial that will determine if "Stairway to Heaven" copied a 1968 instrumental called "Taurus," which is set to begin Tuesday morning.

Attorneys seeking to prove Zeppelin infringed on songwriter Randy Wolfe's work claim when they deposed musicologist Lawrence Ferrara they discovered a massive conflict: he had been hired to evaluate the similarity once before.

"In 2013 he conducted a musicological analysis of the compositions of Taurus and Stairway to Heaven for Plaintiff’s publisher, Hollenbeck Music Co., a conflict that Dr. Ferrara and defense counsel knew about but purposefully failed to disclose," states a motion for sanctions filed Saturday. "Defense counsel misleadingly stated and implied that they had no knowledge about this situation, but in fact they orchestrated the entire scenario and have conspired with Plaintiff’s publisher (and fiduciary) since 2014 to undermine Plaintiff’s lawsuit, including by inducing the publisher to file false documentation with the Copyright Office in 2016 in an effort to undermine Plaintiff’s case."

Wolfe's heirs sued in 2014, seeking not only monetary damages but also that he be credited as a writer on the iconic song.


The last round of exclusions weighed heavily in Zeppelin's favor. In April Klausner ruled that the jury won't hear any testimony about the wealth of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, how bandmembers used drugs and alcohol and it won't actually hear the sound recordings at issue. The only music to the juror's ears will be recreations based on the original sheet music that was filed with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Here are the relevant details:

The court was convinced that the famed British rock band would have had the chance to listen to Spirit’s song (it seems the two bands toured together in America in the late 1960s) and that the two tunes could have relevant similarities in the first two minutes, arguably the most important and recognizable segments of any piece.

Access and substantial similarity between the works are the requirements for a successful copyright case.

The main defense raised by the British band was that the descending chromatic four-chord progression in “Taurus” is commonplace and not original—and so not protectable by copyright. The court found this unconvincing.

In copyright infringement proceedings, this kind of defense (based on the so-called scènes à faire doctrine) is frequent. While it is true that that chromatic progression is a common convention which abounds in music—said the judge—the several similarities between the two songs here transcend this main structure.

It is therefore now for the jury in the upcoming trial to decide whether, having in mind the ordinary and reasonable listener, “Stairway to Heaven” has taken the “Taurus” “concept” and “feel.” In copyright jargon, this is known as the intrinsic test.

Here's the thing, though--Stairway to Heaven is a song that is roughly divided in two parts, and the second part is entirely free of any claim of plagiarism. The lyrics are completely original, unless you accept that they are inspired by literary themes and ideas that go back hundreds of years. And there's no indication that the recorder piece is copied either. How do they think they're going to win when most of the composition is entirely original and when the chord progression found at the beginning is one that is commonly used in other compositions?

When you have a lot of money, get ready to be sued a lot. That's the lesson here.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Radiohead Establish Their Own Network of Record Stores

You know, if I had it in me, I'd open up a record store and try to get involved in things like this:

Radiohead have announced a huge streaming event, releasing a web page with a few intriguing details. 

Put up on the 'A Moon Shaped Pool' website, the page features a large map with a title of 'Live From A Moon Shaped Pool'. The description reads:


To me, it makes obvious sense to try to tap into a network of similar record stores and try to organize everyone for promotional purposes. To stream the music into select stores--not a bad idea. You can count on increased traffic in and out of the stores if you're also offering physical product or a guaranteed slate of releases, similar to what they do for record store day.

It would be a good idea to continue to organize and establish a network like this so that other bands can promote releases in this way? What record store is going to say no to Radiohead? Who's going to say no to a chance to increase foot traffic through the store? Once you establish this network, look at sales--do they make a difference or are people going to your online store to buy your music?

Selling vinyl is still problematic because there are only a handful of pressing plants in the world and they are working overtime to keep up with demand. We're a couple of industrial accidents away from having little or no production capacity in the entire world. 

I mean, open a record store or build, from scratch, a vinyl record pressing plant with modern technology? Where would you put your money?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Stone Roses Beautiful Thing

Sexy, slinky, sly--those are all words that describe the new song by the Stone Roses, called Beautiful Thing. It features a chugging beat, a lyric that is more sophisticated than their All For One single, and virtuoso guitar parts that'll confound the kids because they're not used to hearing that sort of thing anymore. Good God, the drums are astounding. Imagine the last twenty years with five or six full length Stone Roses albums on top the their first two and you'll feel the loss that I do. Where have they been, why couldn't they keep making music, and why is this so good?

This is the complex, deeply introspective flip side to All For One that shows that the time the Roses have spent in the studio has been marked by the kinds of stretching out and improvising we will likely find on other tracks, should they surface, in the months ahead. Get ready for a hot mess of an album--a sprawling assertion of different styles and textures that will blow minds and leave people shrugging. 

Beautiful Thing is going to drive people crazy because no one is making music like this anymore. No one is jamming and improvising at this level and no one can program a drum machine to sound like Reni. There's a fuck you groove to this that will bring back memories of the days when the Roses would drop a single and dare you to listen.

It is safe to say that whatever new music comes from this version of the Stone Roses is going to feature them as they are now and not as some retrofitted nostalgia act. It will be the continuation of the band following Ian Brown's extensive solo career, John's recordings on his own, Reni's ideas, and Mani's impressive time spent holding onto the bottom of the sound of Primal Scream. 

Another great song, another chance for people to scratch their heads and bitch, another glorious moment in the summer of '16.

Brian May Wants Donald Trump to Stop Using Song

Donald Trump only picks songs that talk about winning, but Brian May updated his GeoCities page to say nuh-huh, no way, bro.

Wait, Brian May has a GeoCities page? What? How can that be?


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Axl Rose is a Fat Son of a Bitch

This made me laugh:

This is a problem first realized by Barbara Streisand in 2003, so much so that it became known as ‘The Streisand Effect‘.  After the singer attempted to suppress and remove aerial images of her Malibu home, views of the photograph exploded.  More importantly, interest in the photograph went from virtually zero to a viral surge in traffic.  “It is an example of psychological reactance, wherein once people are aware something is being kept from them, their motivation to access the information is increased,” the Wikipedia entry for ‘Streisand Effect’ describes.

Now, 13 years later, Axl Rose is falling into the same trap.  But this time, there’s an internet population about 10 times the size, with ubiquitous, high-speed access and massive social media.  And instead of zero interest, the extremely unflattering picture of Rose has exploded into a very unflattering meme.

The photo, from a 2010 show in Winnipeg, Canada, shows an overweight Rose belting out a song in a picture anyone would prefer to erase (the photo is the second one down, here.)  Over at Meme Generator, the photo has become the basis for the ‘Axl Rose Fat‘ meme.

I'm at the point where I just don't care anymore, and neither should Axl Rose. The Internet is what it is. You can't stop anything anymore so have fun with it, ya fat bastard.

We're all fat.

The whole world is fat.

We're one stack of pancakes away from oblivion. We're all just one cookie away from debauchery and madness. We're one pint of ice cream shy of being a tub of goo making a grunting noise on a toilet that was never designed to accommodate the horrible loads it has to process day in and day out. We're a pair of pants away from defeat. We're one sammich shy of a howling sound coming from the next room.

We're not living off nuts and stolen berries and running thirty miles a day. We're a comfortable, rarely happy people and we eat too much meat and we don't know what a potato is anymore. The only thing we ever really know is that we're terrified that someone will discover a tenth of the secrets we keep from ourselves. All of humanity is a deviant, self-flagellating mass of cells and water that is one mishap from becoming a bloated, gaseous corpse.

We're shuffling, confused, undersexed bags of flopping, bubbling fat and we're all going to die soon, so relax.