March 20, 2008
Fallen Tenor Giant
I spent the morning with Emily Brecker Greenberg, who I knew as the head of my local school board until I realized she was also the sister of Randy and Michael Brecker, the Brecker Brothers, whose music I've spent about 30 years listening to.
You might know him from the Saturday Night Live Band, or from solos on Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years," or James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, or Billy Joel's "Big Shot." He sat in with every pop star from Aerosmith to Zappa, and we haven't even started with the jazz stuff -- Miles, Mingus, McCoy, Herbie, Chick, Chet, Quincy, Jaco. Only he needed a second name, to distinguish himself from his trumpeter brother.
Emily, 60, grew up in the middle of the two in a musical household in Cheltenham. Dad, a lawyer, was a jazz pianist at heart. Emily played classical piano, but says that by 8th grade she sensed music was not going to be her career. Her teacher was not so convinced, however, and so made Emily wear leather gloves when she played electric bass with her brothers so she would't get callouses that might ruin her ivory touch.
Michael died last January from complications of leukemia. He had a rare blood disorder, and failed to find a proper bone marrow match. Emily made a promise to him, which is the subject of a column next week.
All this is to introduce this piece of music I found on the Web. A tribunte to the 6-foot-4 baby brother Emily called "Mikey." I keep playing it as I try to find the words to start the piece. It's called "Common Grounds," from a performance in Barcelona.
February 23, 2008
Tower Theatre. Saturday Night. John Doe opening for Wilco. Paying some real money for this one. The above version of "Impossible Germany" is from "Austin City Limits," via Aquarium Drunkard, and its pretty much definitive. Gorgeous and alone, face-to-face.
Haven't seen Wilco since a mellow incarnation at the Troc around 2000. Old `97s opened. Found myself upstairs at an after-midnight show afterward, Los Straitjackets in their Mexican wrestling masks, and I remember something about the boys from Marah sending over a Jagermeister after we sent a Slippery Nipple their way. Or was it visa versa? Lotta freaks.
January 23, 2008
Ringo Walks, Dave Stewart Dishes
We love it when a star shucks his handler and speaks his mind without a script.
David Stewart, the former Eurythmic, said this about Ringo Starr's walking off the "Live With Regis & Kelly" set yesterday after a producer ruled Ringo's performance would be too long for the attention spans of the viewing audience:
"Four minutes (3 minutes and 40 seconds, actually) seemed like an appropriate amount of time for a former Beatle. Mr. Gelman apparently felt Ringo's musical legacy should take a back seat to additional banter about the size of Ms. (Kelly) Ripa's derriere."
The song was "Liverpool 8." Before you go hoisting Ringo onto a pedestal for artistic integrity, here's the YouTube video for the song he was to play. That's Stewart on guitar.
The armchair critics are commenting in brutal fashion, for instance:
sanctimonious talentless tuneless bile
Not everyone's so nasty, however:
Hey, he's having fun. And remember Ringo was there to remind us that the Beatles were human....Oh, Yeah it does sound like an adolescent wrote it, but that's what rock'n roll is ultimately about.
Ringo did trim the song for Letterman, but was allowed to go full length for Rachael Ray, that patron of the arts.
January 07, 2008
Downloading Didn't Kill The Rock Star
Did they pay $8 on average, as one Brit company reported? Did they pay closer to $2, as Billboard surmised?
(We paid $9, CD unheard, because we like Radiohead very much, except for Amnesiac, which we forget.)
After all the free pub Radiohead got for being so down with downloading, was this worth it?
Technology Review's Larry Hardesty says yes. But don't expect that the economics of the digital age are going to treat them like Led Zeppelin in the seventies or anything:
It may be that in the brave new world of Internet music distribution, rock bands will no longer generate so much revenue that they can afford to throw TVs out of hotel windows or insist that all the brown M&Ms be removed from the candy bowls in the greenroom. But Radiohead's online release of In Rainbows contributes to the mounting evidence that musicians who build an audience will still be able to make a living doing what they love.
December 27, 2007
Chasin' The Trane, VintageTV
I'm off this week, a stay-at-home holiday. Watching sublime stuff like this, from 1958, Miles Davis playing "So What." At about two minutes, Coltrane starts in. Those watching from the wings are so entranced that they almost stop smoking.
November 22, 2007
It's started. WXPN's got some listener's holiday playlist on, and it begins well enough with Cheryl Wheeler's "Driving Home," which is appropriately dreamy, but it moves like a car stuck in traffic. Next comes a version of "Tobacco Road." This is a Southern gothic tale, not my soundtrack.
My personal favorite goes back to 1988, a 90-minute mixed tape called Music for An Expectant Thanksgiving, and it was -- the whole extended family gathering in Connecticut, surrounding my wife who was pregnant with twins.
It was a vibe, not a overly Thanksgivingy or thematic mix -- Richard Thompson's "Waltzing for Dreamers," Bruce Springsteen's "Valentine's Day" ("what scares me is losing you"), John Hiatt's "I Stood Up." Slow, warm, glowing. I'd play it today if I still had the tape player connected.
But that wouldn't be a universal list -- one that you might play at home and serve as your own musical comfort food. It meant something particular to me at the time. These things always do. That made me think, what's the perfect, more-literally Thanksgiving playlist? I went looking.
"Wild Turkey" by David Crosby? "Thank You" by Led Zeppelin. "The Thanks I Get?" by Jeff Tweedy? My musical cupboard is a little bare on this theme.
It wouldn't take long for reinforcements -- "Cold Turkey" by John Lennon, Lightnin' Hopkins' "Long Gone Like a Turkey." But that's a lot of hunting and gathering.
Well, I found a groovous Thanksgiving Playlist -- downloadable for the digital age -- on an MP3 blog called Boogie Woogie Flu.
From that rare Bird that was Charlie Parker to Wm. DeVaughn's one-hit wondrous "Be Thankful For What You Got" to a Yo La Tengo cover of same, it should provide a hearty soundtrack to the TV parades and Cowboys game and turkey with grandma's stuffing. You might blanche at the Redd Foxx and Wm. S. Burroughs, but they're welcome at our table.
Earfarm's got a tasty mix, too -- from Pulp's "Turkey Mambo Momma" to Cab Calloway's "A Good Sauce From the Gravy Bowl."
A day of making turkey and stuffing wound up with this accompaniment:
Be Thankful For What You Got Yo La Tengo
String Bean Jean Belle & Sebastian
Thanksgiving Waves Eef Barzelay
Pecan Pie Golden Smog
Mashed Potato Time Dee Dee Sharp
Thank You (Led Zeppelin Cover) Chris Cornell
A Good Sauce from the Gravy Bowl Cab Calloway and His Orchestra
Sweet Potato Imperial Teen The Hair the TV the Baby and the Band
Turkey Mambo Momma Pulp
Thankful N' Thoughtful Sly & The Family Stone
Carvin' The Bird Charlie Parker Septet
I Thank You Sam & Dave
Surfin' Bird The Ramones
Holiday - (Madonna Cover) Jack Johnson and G. Love
One Big Holiday My Morning Jacket
I'll Be Yr Bird M. Ward
Blackbird Elliott Smith
Big Bird Eddie Floyd
I Hate To See You Baby Doing That Stuff Lloyd Cole
wild turkey (aka. leather winged bat) David Crosby
Be Thankful for What You've Got William DeVaughn
Thank You For Sending Me An Angel Talking Heads
Thank You Louise Ryan Adams
Thank You, Lord, For Sending Me The F Train Mike Doughty
Be Thankful For What You Got Massive Attack
Thank You Led Zeppelin
The Thanks I Get Jeff Tweedy
Thanks A Lot Coffee Creek ( Uncle Tupelo + 1 )
Thank You Friends Big Star
You To Thank Ben Folds
The Thanksgiving Song Adam Sandler
November 18, 2007
Hy Lit: A Musical, Link-Rich Tribute
CALLING ALL MY BEATS, beards, Buddhist cats, big-time spenders, money lenders, teetotalers, elbow benders, hog callers, home-run hitters, finger-poppin' daddys and cool babysitters.
Lots of fast-acting words written over the past few days to honor Hy Lit, the pioneering Philly DJ who signed off for good Saturday at age 73.
That little italic precede comes courtesy of John Morrison's obit in the Daily News.
In the Inquirer, Michael Klein wrote that Lit "came of age with rock-and-roll, in an era when disc jockeys talkedlikethis." "A dashing figure with a face for television," the Inky scribe wrote.
But, say you want to hear the man, himself:
My first record was Beyond the Blue Horizon, by Earl Bostic. I played it at Mickey Mouse speed, and then I opened the microphone, and said “Ahh sh-“. Charlie came rushing into the studio, and said, “You’re gonna be great!” Well the phones lit up. My first request was to dedicate a boss record called Tutti Frutti by the golden voice of the airwaves, Little Richard. So I got on the air, copying the hip style of the listener, and said “Here’s a boss record by Little Richard and dedicated to Baldy Bill, from Drexel Hill”. Little did I know that Baldy Bill was a school principal. I’d hear about this later on. As more requests came in I picked up on the listener’s crazy jargon, and slang, and sent it back out on the air with a rhyme.
That's from his bio, written on his HyLitRadio.com Web site.
Hungering for his voice? You can listen in with Bruce, of Some Velvet Blog, who creates a musical trip down memory lane, starting with Lit's speed-talking spoken-word intro to Marah's "Christian Street."
These aren't fresh words, but they're essential ones: Jonathan Valania's 2004 profile in Philadelphia Weekly, which includes this classic scene:
It's January 1964 and WIBG jocks Hyski and Joe "the Rockin' Bird" Niagara, the two biggest names in Philadelphia radio, are knocking back complimentary beverages at a swanky "Meet the Beatles" cocktail party at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. Disc jockeys and concert promoters from across the nation have been flown in to rub elbows and trade japes with the Fab Four. Hyski staggers out of the cocktail party with one thing on his mind: getting the Beatles to Philadelphia.
The next day he calls up William Morris, the Beatles' booking agency, and asks what it will take. Twenty-five thousand dollars, they say. Hyski doesn't even blink. He'll be there tomorrow, he says, with a certified check. Thank you, Mr. Lit, says the booking agent. The Beatles will be on your doorstep Sept. 2.
November 15, 2007
For Richard Stans
I was killing time at my editor's desk, impressing her with some of my favorite opening lines from songs, and quoted Lloyd Cole and The Commotion's near-perfect:
She crossed herself as she put on her fins .....
I mean, is there anything better than that?
Except for the fact that she did not put on her fins, according to a quick search of a lyrics site. She put on her things, which is much less interesting -- so general as to lose all powers to conjure a vivid visual image. But a word that does seem to make sense with the rest of the song, which is called "Forest Flower," and I recommend, still. Even if it is not about some deep sea religious experience.
This led to some of my editor, Avery Rome's, favorite mis-heard lyrics.
Some enchanted evening?
For years she thought it was a song about Sam and Janet Evening.
You know, she said. The Evenings. "I thought 'who are these people?' "
To which I related the "steak can't buy a job" line from Bruce Hornsby's "The Way It Is."
Took a while to realize it was "cuz they can't buy a job." Much less interesting. But more real.
I'm not asking for any "For Richard Stans" goofs here. Don't want to hear about "scuse me while I kiss this guy." But does anybody got anything good and quirky along these lines???
November 06, 2007
That Springsteen "Boycott"
Reports last week that the radio nowhere giant had issued an edict banning airplay of Bruce Springsteen's Magic, CD gained major traction on good blogs across the land. (See here, here, here, for instance.)
It was totally believable, right? After all Magic is shot through with sobering tableaux of soldiers coming home from a messed-up war, and isn't Clear Channel that right-wing company that banned the Dixie Chicks?
That was Cumulus Media, although Clear Channel station managers did, in fact, sponsor many of the pro-war rallies way back in the glory days right after 9-11.
So this Springsteen report?
Great conspiracy theory. But you can't dance to it.
The report came from Fox News' Roger Friedman, who quoted "sources" for his scoop. He left politics out of it. Blamed age. Here's the report:
Bruce Springsteen should be very happy. He has the No. 1 album, a possible Grammy for Best Album of the Year for "Magic," an album full of singles and a sold-out concert tour.
Alas, there’s a hitch: Radio will not play "Magic." In fact, sources tell me that Clear Channel has sent an edict to its classic rock stations not to play tracks from "Magic." But it’s OK to play old Springsteen tracks such as "Dancing in the Dark," "Born to Run" and "Born in the USA."
Just no new songs by Springsteen, even though it’s likely many radio listeners already own the album and would like to hear it mixed in with the junk offered on radio.
Why? One theory, says a longtime rock insider, "is that the audience knows those songs. Of course, they’ll never know these songs if no one plays them."
"Magic," by the way, has sold more than 500,000 copies since its release on Oct. 2 and likely will hit the million mark. That’s not a small achievement these days, and one that should be embraced by Clear Channel.
But what a situation: The No. 1 album is not being played on any radio stations, according to Radio & Records, which monitors such things. Nothing. The rock songs aren’t on rock radio, and the two standout "mellow" tracks — "Magic" and "Devil’s Arcade" — aren’t even on "lite" stations.
The singles-kinda hits, "Radio Nowhere" and "Living in the Future" — which would have been hits no questions asked in the '70s, '80s and maybe even the '90s, also are absent from Top 40.
What to do? Columbia Records is said to be readying a remixed version of "The Girls in their Summer Clothes," a poppy Beach Boys-type track that has such a catchy hook fans were singing along to it at live shows before they had the album. Bruce insiders are hopeful that with a push from Sony, "Girls" will triumph.
I’m not so sure.
Clear Channel seems to have sent a clear message to other radio outlets that at age 58, Springsteen simply is too old to be played on rock stations. This completely absurd notion is one of many ways Clear Channel has done more to destroy the music business than downloading over the last 10 years. It’s certainly what’s helped create satellite radio, where Springsteen is a staple and even has his own channel on Sirius. ...
I read this and started steaming. Then a little voice started whispering somewhere in the back of my head, "ah, is this actually true?" Not according to Clear Channel.
The radio behemoth, which owns six Philly stations, issued a news release the other day in response to the Banned in the USA rumors.
It quotes airplay stats from Mediabse that show Clear Channel is playing more "Magic" songs than any other radio group in the country. It owns "only 8 percent" (it's words) of the radio station in the U.S. and in the first days after the record's release, it was responsible for 21 percent of the airplay those songs received.
It doesn't say what has happened since the first few days, so if anyone has heard the songs on 104.5 fm please call our listener line.
One Clear Channel chap I talked with said he had not heard any such edict banning late-model Springsteen songs. He mentioned Some Clear Channel stations had sponsored sneak previews of "Magic" when it came out last month.
November 01, 2007
The woman behind Obamagirl revealed
If you fell in love with the young lady who fell in love with Barack Obama - then felt hurt when it came out that she was just lip-synching someone else's words - maybe you want to see the real deal in person Friday night.
What if I told you this is the same velvety voice you heard but didn't see in the "My Box in a Box" parody of the truly inspired Justin Timberlake skit on Saturday Night Live?
They are one in the same -- a Philly native and Temple senior named Leah Kauffman. She's appearing in her own flesh at The Manhattan Room, 15 W. Girard Ave., Friday at 9 p.m. She 's the backroom talent hired by Ben Relles, the Wharton grad who created the satirical BarelyPolitical.com. That Philly-run site has been acquired by NextNewNetworks, a new-media company founded by Herb Scannell, who was president of Nickledeon. A lot's been riding on Leah's pen and vocal chords. Now we get to see the face.
So how hideous must this girl be?
You can see Leah, herself, dissing Ann Coulter on this new video that attacks the bellicose blonde blade's recent comments about Jews and heaven. Not so hard to take, as my people would say.