On this date in 1972, Les Harvey — guitarist for the Scottish band (which many believed would become huge) Stone the Crows — died on stage when he was electrocuted by a microphone. He reportedly died when he touched the (probably) ungrounded mic and his guitar at the same time during soundcheck (with what many believe were wet hands).
Harvey is a member of the sad club of rockers who died at the age of 27. He's also a member of a smaller club of known musicians who died from electrocution.
Keith Relf, singer for The Yardbirds, died in 1976 at the age of 33 after being electrocuted by an (again) ungrounded electric guitar.
John Rostill was the bassist for the British Pop group that gave Cliff Richard to the world, The Shadows (he was also a member of Zoot Money Quartet alongside future Police guitarist Andy Summers). Rostill was found dead in 1973, electrocuted by a guitar that was (again!) believed to be improperly grounded.
French Pop singer/songwriter Claude Francois — who cowrote the classic Sinatra tune "My Way" and sold over 70 million records in his career — died in 1978 at the age of 39. Francois returned to his Paris abode after recording a BBC special and was standing in a full bathtub when he tried to adjust a light on the wall above the tub. He was electrocuted and died. As far as I know, everything was properly grounded in the bathroom.
Lessons: Bathtubs and electronics don't mix. And always make sure your equipment is grounded before touching anything.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 3 birthday include singer/actor Bing Crosby (1903); early Blues musician and slide guitarist Homesick James (1914); late Funk superhero James Brown (1933); Pop star with the Four Seasons, Frankie Valii (1934); bassist for proto-Garage band The Troggs ("Wild Thing"), Pete Staples (1944); Soft Rock superstar Christopher Cross (1951); singer for Nu Metal band Saliva, Josey Scott (1971); singer/guitarist for Indie Rock favorites Interpol, Paul Banks (1978); and Folk legend Pete Seeger (1919).
Seeger — who will be awarded a "Distinguished Service" honor from the American Academy of Arts and Letters on May 16 — popped up in the news recently in a manner befitting the revolutionary singer/songwriter who penned (or co-penned) standards like "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?," "If I Had Hammer" and "Turn, Turn, Turn!" He also popularized the spiritual "We Shall Overcome," which became the Civil Rights Movement's theme song.
Seeger's social consciousness in song was used once again in a powerful way last week when tens of thousands of Norwegians joined together for a marathon singalong of his song, "My Rainbow Race" (the Norwegian version is called "Children of the Rainbow") as a way to protest/heckle admitted mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik during his trial for murdering 77 people last summer. Breivek had previously dissed the song because it "brainwashed" children into believing that things like cultural diversity and racial harmony are good. He said, in court, that the song was brought to schools by "cultural Marxists."
"The curriculum is stripped of knowledge relating to the codes of honor that have been so important for Europe for thousands of years,” Breivik said. “They put up these songs and propaganda films to get students to despise their forefathers.”
Here's Lillebjørn Nilsen leading the singalong (he popularized the original Norwegian version).
On this day 18 years ago, Kurt Cobain decided he was done with life and ended it with a single shotgun blast to the head. While it's fun to play the "What if?" game with brilliant artists who died too soon — like, "Would John Lennon have followed Yoko's lead to become a Dance music superstar?" or "Would James Dean be doing stereotypical 'cool old guy' roles today if he was still around?" — it is, of course, a pointless exercise.
But crystal-ball wonderings of a person who actually knew the artist? That's at least a little more interesting. Spin has a piece this morning about the vague musings of Cobain's widow, musician/actress Courtney Love, in an interview a year ago with Mark Yarm, author of Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge. Love told Yarm, "We'd probably live on the Upper West fuckin' Side now and have three fuckin' kids. We might even have a divorce, like both be on our third marriage. I don't fuckin' know. He might be a playwright, (or have) his latest show in MoMA." (Read more here and check out the links featuring other Cobain remembrances.)
I like to think the couple would have starred in a really bad Everybody Loves Raymond-type sitcom on CBS. But mostly I wish Cobain would have stuck it out. As they say a lot nowadays, "It gets better."
I was lucky enough to see Nirvana a couple of times before Kurt made that impossible — once at Shorty's, the tiny subterranean club on Short Vine in Corryville, with about 50 people in attendance and once at Dayton's Hara Arena (see: poster above) with … quite a bit more people in attendance. Both shows were memorable. I think I got kicked out of Shorty's because some guy wanted to stab me that night (long story). (Nirvana played a few times in our area in those get-in-the-van-and-go, pre-stardom days, including a show at Clifton Heights bar Murphy's Pub. They were scheduled to play with the great AmRep band The Cows at the Top Hat in Newport but their van allegedly broke down on their way. I remember it well ’cause this local band opened up.)
In Dayton (memorable in hindsight because Cobain would be dead within a year), Kurt thought former drummer Chad Channing (who lived in Ohio then) was in the audience. The band called for Channing to come up and play "School" with them, but he never showed. Turns out, he wasn't there.
The band did play "School" later in the set and dedicated it to Channing. Check out the audio below.
Click on for Born This Day featuring Peter Case, Pharrell and Joe Meek.
On this day in 2002, rapper for the Pop group TLC, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes died in a traffic accident in the Honduras. The star was allegedly trying to pass a truck, but another vehicle was coming the opposite way when she made her move. To avoid it, Lopes swerved off the road. The Mitsubishi Montero Sport Lopes was driving flipped, hit a couple of trees and threw all four passengers out of the vehicle. Lopes died from head and neck injuries; the other passengers survived.
Left Eye was just a month away from her 31st birthday.
Lopes' casket was engraved with lyrics from the TLC hit "Waterfalls" ("Dreams are hopeless aspirations, in hopes of coming true, believe in yourself, the rest is up to me and you"). Lopes gave an interview to MTV News about her first solo album, 2001's Supernova, in which she described her song/poem "A New Star Is Born," which was dedicated to her late father. In the interview, she said, "That track is dedicated to all those that have loved ones that have passed away. It's saying that there is no such thing as death. We can call it transforming for a lack of better words, but as scientists would say, 'Every atom that was once a star is now in you.' It's in your body. So in the song I pretty much go along with that idea. I don't care what happens or what people think about death, it doesn't matter. We all share the same space."
There are a lot of Left Eye remembrances going on in cyberspace today since its the tenth anniversary of her death. Check out word on a new track — and some remembrances from her former TLC pals — featuring Lopes and Bootleg of the Dayton Family here.
Here's a video tribute to Lopes put together by a fan and set to "A New Star," followed by an earlier different kind of tribute to TLC by Cincinnati's own Afghan Whigs (who just announced their first non-festival reunion date in the U.S., scheduled for October in New York City).
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 25 birthday include: Jazz/R&B saxophonist Earl Bostic (1913); legendary Jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald (1917); influential Blues guitarist Albert King (1923); wildly successful songwriter and producer (with writing partner Mike Stoller) Jerry Leiber (1933); bassist for Classic Rock band CCR, Stu Cook (1945); singer for Prog band Marillion, Derek William Dick, much better known as Fish (1958); singer for Synth Pop legends Erasure, Andy Bell (1964); original Jane's Addiction bassist Eric Avery (1965); and the "Father of Hillbilly Jazz," fiddler Vassar Clements (1928).
Clements' improv approach to Bluegrass was a revelation. Putting a Jazz twist on Roots music makes him a spiritual godfather of the whole "Newgrass" movement.
Clements grew up in Florida and taught himself to play violin at the age of 7. When he was 21, he joined Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, recording with them in the early ’50s. Word of Clements' prowess and innovative style traveled and he became an in-demand session player. In 1971, Clements joined John Hartford for the groundbreaking Aereo-plain album, widely considered one of the first "Newgrass" records. Hartford and Clements were joined by Norman Blake, Randy Scruggs and Tut Taylor for the album, which was produced by David Bromberg.
During his 50-year career, Clements would go on to become a crucial part of the progressive Bluegrass movement of the ’70s, including appearances on a couple of other trailblazers — the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Will the Circle Be Unbroken and Old and in the Way, featuring Jerry Garcia, David Grisam, Peter Rowan and John Kahn. By the time he passed in 2005 at the age of 77 (from lung cancer), Clements had played with everyone from Paul McCartney, The Monkees and The Grateful Dead to Stephane Grappeli and Woody Herman.
Here's Clements performing with the Del McCoury Band in 2003.
On this day in 1970, a Cincinnati native (whose "celebrity" we do not celebrate locally, Nick Lachey-style) released one of the few albums we will gladly tell you to seek out and download illegally, should you need to hear it. Lie: The Love and Terror Cult, the "debut album" from singer/songwriter/cult leader/convicted murderer Charles Manson, was recorded on Sept. 11, 1967, and released just months before the murder trial of Manson and his "family." A year after the album was released, four Manson Family members (including Manson) were sentenced to death (in 1972, the sentences were reduced to life in prison after California abolished the death penalty in that state).
The album's original pressing reportedly only sold 300 copies, but subsequent reissues (proceeds from which were given to the families of Manson's victims) kept the notorious cult leader's weirdly experimental, psychedelic Folk Rock songs alive for future generations of musicians to cover. Guns N' Roses were the biggest band to ever cover one of Manson's songs. The convicted killer was an aspiring Rock Star who had schmoozed his way into the SoCal music scene of the late ’60s, most notoriously befriending Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson (The Boys' reworked one of Manson's compositions on the 1969 album 20/20).
Other artists covering Manson over the years include Marilyn Manson (no relation) and wacky actor Crispin Glover.
Here's the song GNR recorded for its 1993 covers album The Spaghetti Incident?, "Look at Your Game, Girl."
Click on for Born This Day featuring Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and more …
On this day in 1993, two blissfully ignorant adolescents named Beavis and Butt-Head became instant superstars when their Mike Judge-created TV series began its run on MTV. The episodes "Door to Door" and "Give Blood" were the first to air as a series (the notorious "Frog Baseball" and "Peace, Love and Understanding" shorts debuted on MTV's Liquid Television animation showcase).
Some might argue that Beavis and Butt-Head helped shift the direction of society towards the futuristic Dumpocalypse imagined in Judge's underrated live action flick, Idiocracy. I wouldn't go that far, but it certainly helped along the evolution of "snark," the prevailing attitude in so much modern internet journalism and commentary. Coming in at the dawn of the slackerly, often apathetic Alternative music "revolution," B&B echoed the "Whatever, butt-munch" attitude that thrives to this day. Snark is the language of the internet and we can thank Beavis and Butt-Head's dismissive "critiques" of artists, songs and music videos, at least partially, for helping to sink public discourse to that level.
That said, I love those dudes (as much as one can love fictional cartoon characters). The revival run on MTV, featuring new episodes, picked up right where the old series left off. Perhaps like all those old bands that reunite to capitalize on their growing posthumous fame, the freaky, geeky duo returned to the small screen to capitalize on their notoriety as kings of "Whatever."
Here's a short clip from the most recent season, as the boys stumble upon an abortion protest and get psyched to meet some of the "whores" that apparently hang out at abortion clinics. Rush Limbaugh would approve. Hey, maybe he can join their show when he gets cancelled? Beavis, Rush and Butt-Head has a nice ring to it. (Or would it just be Beavis and Two Butt-Heads?)
On this day in 1981, The Survivors Live, an album featuring Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, was recorded in West Germany. The story goes that the three artists — who all started out together on the trailblazing Sun Records — were touring Europe at the same time and Lewis and Perkins joined Cash at a concert on their day off. The trio reportedly played the concert without rehearsing, performing several of each others well known tunes and covers like the finale, "I Saw the Light," a Hank Williams standard (listen below). The threesome were 3/4 of the "Million Dollar Quartet," named for a legendary recording session in 1956 that featured Perkins, Lewis, Cash and some fella named Elvis Presley (The Survivors name, obviously, a reference to Presley's absence; he died four years earlier).
The trio would get together one last time for a recording. The 1986 album Class of ’55 also featured Roy Orbison (who, coincidentally, would have turned 76 today).
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 23 birthday include early Boogie Woogie piano pioneer "Cow Cow" Davenport (1894); Rock legend Roy Orbison (1936); violinist for the ’70s version of Prog aces King Crimson, David Cross (1949); musician/writer/producer (Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin) Narada Michael Walden (1952); late, longtime Def Leppard guitarist Steve Clark (1960); stylish former bassist for Interpol, Carlos "D." Dengler (1974); and singer and guitarist for Icelandic Post Rock group Sigur Ros, Jónsi (1975).
Jónsi provides the bowed guitar and falsetto vocals for Sigur Ros (among other things), which has been an internationally acclaimed band for the past decade or so with their enrapturing, cinemascopic sound. The band's new album, Valtari, is due May 28 and, this July, Sigur Ros is embarking on a very brief North American tour.
If you are unable to make it to one of the nine North American dates announced thus far, this Friday you will be able to experience an artsy, quality approximation of the Sigur Ros live show right here in Cincy. Earlier this month, as part of the auxiliary programming related to its current Spectacle music video exhibition, downtown’s Contemporary Arts Center welcomed in award-winning singer/songwriter Feist and music video director Martin de Thurah for a special screening and talk. This Friday, the CAC welcomes another music video auteur, Vincent Morisset, who will present a screen of the widely acclaimed black-and-white Sigur Rós concert film titled Inni (Morisset also made the Sigur Rós flick Heima.)
The movie screens at 6:30 p.m., followed by a discussion with Morisset about the Sigur Rós projects, as well as his stunning music video work, including Arcade Fire’s riveting “interactive” video, “Sprawl II.” The screening and chat are free to attend with regular gallery admission ($7.50; free for members). Click here for more details.
Below, you can check out the trailer for Inni and also register to win a signed Inni poster (the drawing for the winner will be done at the screening). Just enter your email address below.
By now, thanks to Facebook mostly, most of you have heard that one third of the legendary Hip Hop trio Beastie Boys — Adam "MCA" Yauch — died this morning in New York City after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 47 years old and leaves behind a legacy to be proud of, with his crucial contributions to music, video and activism.
In an eerie coincidence, Northside club Mayday tonight has a scheduled dance party hosted by DJ Mowgli called "Run DMC vs. Beastie Boys," featuring music by both historic crews. The music starts at 10 p.m. and there's no cover. Something tells me there will be a little extra Beasties love from the DJ in light of today's events.
Below is the press release about Yauch's death from the Beastie Boys' longtime publicists at Nasty Little Man.
On this day in 2004, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted a fairly heady class of artists, welcoming Traffic, ZZ Top, The Dells, Jackson Browne, Bob Seger, George Harrison and Prince. Prince was inducted by Alicia Keys and the notoriously shy singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist gave a slightly humbled (for Prince, at least), short speech of acceptance (he couldn't resist mentioning his efforts to get out of his contract with Warner Bros. — at least he didn't paint "Slave" on his face again). Below is his speech from that night (from rockhall.com):
"Please be seated. Thank you Alicia ... thank you Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it’s definitely an honor. I don’t want to take up too much time, but I would like to say this. When I first started out in the music industry, I was most concerned with freedom. Freedom to produce, freedom to play all the instruments on my records, freedom to say anything I wanted to, and after much negotiation Warner Brothers Records granted me that freedom and I thank them. Without any real spiritual mentors other than artists ... whose records I admired ... Larry Graham being one of them ... I embarked on a journey more fascinating than I could ever have imagined. But a word to the wise. Without real spiritual mentoring, too much freedom can lead to the soul’s decay. And a word to the young artists ... a real friend or mentor is not on your table. A real friend and mentor cares for your soul as much as they do the other one. This world and its wicked systems becomes harder and harder to deal with without a real friend or mentor. And I wish all of you the best."
Prince's performance during the tribute to Harrison (who had died just a few years before his solo induction) was much ballyhooed for his stunning guitar solo, a reminder of just how multifaceted the eccentric performer's talents really were/are. Check the clip below.
Click on for Born This Day featuring would've-been 100-year-old Lightnin' Hopkins.
On this date last year, somebody paid $10,000 for a T-shirt. An Australian man purchased a 1979 Led Zeppelin concert T-shirt on eBay for that amount, making it the most expensive concert T-shirt ever sold. (Though I bet The Eagles got close on their various, outrageously-priced reunion tours in recent years.) The shirt appears to be a "back stage pass" from the concert.
After the sale, Denver weekly Westword posted a story on its blog counting down the next 10 most costly shirts purchased. From their research, they deemed a James Brown shirt with a bad caricature of the Godfather of Soul and the words "I'm Black and I'm Proud," an early Nirvana shirt featuring a parody of John Lennon's Two Virgin's album cover and a "Metal Up Your Ass" Metallica shirt as the next most rare, each going for $1,000.
Currently, the most costly concert shirts available on eBay are a 1976 Stones shirt (yours for $7,900), a 1973 Who concert "staff" shirt ($4,691.82), a different Zep shirt (from, I believe, the same concert as the one that cost 10 grand; $3,949.21) and a Johnny Thunders shirt from 1984 ($3,909.72).
Here are a couple of Ohio tunes written in honor of those crucial concert souvenirs. Early Hamilton, Ohio, Punk band ChemDyne and Columbus' Watershed both had songs called "Black Concert T-Shirt."
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 11 birthday include legendary songwriter ("God Bless America," "White Christmas") Irving Berlin (1888); one of the greatest white Soul vocalists ever with The Animals, Eric Burdon (1941); drummer and founding member of The Allman Brothers Band, Butch Trucks (1947); producer and founding member of avant-garde Pop group the Art of Noise, Gary Langan (1956); original MTV VJ Martha Quinn (1959); and frontman for one of Cincinnati's all-time greatest Rock bands, The Afghan Whigs, Greg Dulli (1965).
Dulli — born and raised in Hamilton, Ohio — is currently gearing up to begin performing once again with his Whigsmates John Curley (still living, working and playing music in Cincinnati) and Rick McCollum (now living in Minneapolis). Tickets for the group's first show in 13 years — May 23 at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City — go on sale today at noon. According to the band's website, the fan pre-sale sold out and there are "a very limited number of tickets" left. The band will warm up for the show on May 22 with a performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Will the Whigs merely do a reunion victory lap then go their separate ways again? It's unclear so far, but in interviews with Dulli, he seems very inspired playing with his old pals again. In terms of a possible new Whigs album, he told the website www.thisisfakediy.co.uk, "I am going to keep the book open and keep the possibility, all possibilities available. We're going to see what happens, and react to what happens, but right now it's wide open. Yes, maybe, maybe not, we'll see. I hate to be ambiguous, but in this particular case, I think it's best." (He also said re-issues of the band's back catalog are "definitely going to happen.")
Raise a glass and wish Mr. Dulli a happy 47th birthday. Here are a few clips of Dulli's extracurricular activities during his days with the Whigs to help you celebrate:
• In 1994, Dulli sang John Lennon's parts on the soundtrack to Backbeat, a film about early Beatles bassist Stuart Sutcliffe. On the soundtrack he was part of a band that included Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Mike Mills (R.E.M.), Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum) and Foo Fighter/ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. Here they are doing a song originally made a hit by Cincinnati-born music icons The Isley Brothers.
• Dulli teamed with Grohl again in 1995, playing guitar on his debut album, Foo Fighters. Grohl played all of the instruments on the album except for a guitar part on "X-Static," which Dulli provided.
In 1999, Dulli recorded a cover of "Dixie Peach Promenade (Yin for Yang)," a tribute to late Moby Grape member Skip Spence and his cult classic album, Oar.