Boston’s Barrence Whitfield & the Savages have returned to Cincinnati in a big way this week. The R&B/Soul-rockin’ crew has several local ties, including employing prolific locally-based drummer Andy Jody on the skins. The group also features Peter Greenberg of pioneering Boston band DMZ (as well as The Lyres) and groundbreaking Cincy Garage rockers The Customs (fellow Custom Jim Cole records with the band but doesn’t play live). The Savages recorded two albums in the ’80s; their 1985 Rounder Records release, Dig Yourself, was their last until the group's recent reunion activities.
"I met Peter at The Customs reunion in 2008, drummed for them the following year, which led to him contacting me to record Savage Kings upon the reformation of the original Savages," Jody says about his initiation into the band.
The Savages are in town to record a new album, returning to Ultrasuede studios, where they recorded Savage Kings.
"We decided to record here, partly logistics and partly in tribute to King Records," Jody says, "and it was the same studio where The Customs cut (their trademark tune) 'Long Gone.' "
Last night, Whitfield & the Savages debuted some of the new material at Shake It Records. Shake It, the label, released the Savage Kings in the States; The Customs' "Long Gone" single was the first release on the Shake It imprint.
The Savages will be warming up for recording this weekend with a two-night stand (Friday and Saturday) at The Comet in Northside. Both shows are free and kick of at 10 p.m. (Friday a DJ warms things up and Saturday Customs-inspired local rockers The Long Gones fittingly open the show). Click here for more info on the band. Below is a live clip filmed in Paris last year.
And here's a clip (with performances and interviews) from the band's earlier days when they were featured on the BBC.
My life usually has a musical component, so it's not shocking that my vacations have many musical memories inexorably tied to the trips. I'm sure most music lovers have had similar experiences.
My family went to Washington, D.C., every 4th of July for many years when I was growing up and The Beach Boys always played a free concert next to the Washington monument. These late ’70s/early ’80s gigs are what I've always considered my first concerts. The memories are vague but deeply entrenched. I'll never forgive my folks for not letting me watch opener Joan Jett (at her "I Love Rock & Roll" peak). I was about 11. And I was pissed!
I have many amazing Lollapalooza road trips memories, from the first-tour Cleveland stop in 1991 when fans charged the gates as Nine Inch Nails played an early set to getting seriously beaten by bouncers (then evicted from the premises) after telling them not to be dicks during my trip to Indy for the Beastie Boys/Smashing Pumpkins headlining year (1994). I also had a personal rebirth on a trip to the standalone Lolla in 2007, feeling inspired by seeing Amy Winehouse, Iggy Pop and the Stooges and Patti Smith under the mammoth Chicago skyline.
But many musical vacations aren't concert related, nor intentionally "musical." I vividly remember "Rhinestone Cowboy" being played on the radio nonstop during a trip to Atlanta as a child. If I hear that song now I can think of nothing but being 6 or 7 years old, flopping around in our un-air-conditioned, early ’70s VW bug's cubby hole, the small compartment between the backseat and the engine. We not only didn't wear seatbelts or sit in carseats back then — we were allowed to play in literally the most dangerous spot in the tiny death trap.
I remember an L.A. trip the month the Beastie Boys dropped Check You Head. I played it nonstop on a Walkman and arrived in Los Angeles to discover everyone dressed exactly like Adam, Mike and Adam. I found the summertime wearing of winter hats hilarious. It seemed all based on one music video and an album cover.
That same trip I developed a supernatural bond with Jane's Addiction's Nothing's Shocking and Smashing Pumpkins' Gish. I listened to both several times on that trusty Walkman as I sat alone on a Pacific Coast beach, mesmerized by the moon's reflection on the vast, dark ocean mirror, the sound of waves crashing perfectly in time with the music's hypnotic psychedelics, just figuring my life philosophy out, scared but excited for whatever the future held.
I've had some great odd music-related coincidences on summer trips, as well. As I giddily drove over the horizon on my summer journey to New York City to intern for several months with an editor and caught my first glimpse of the always jaw-dropping skyline of Manhattan, the dance remix version of "Miles Iz Dead" by personal hometown heroes of mine, The Afghan Whigs, just happened to come on the terrestrial radio station to which we were listening. It would be the no-brainer soundtrack selection had it been a scene in the movie of my life.
My vacation from which I just returned, a trip to the deepest-south Alabama, was filled with several interesting coincidences, all related to a single, singular musical icon, a fascinating man I learn more about every day.
I only connected the dots when I got home. Had my memorial trail actually been evident to me as I journeyed along, I would have explored more, to connect even more dots.
As it stands, it was a fun if inadvertent adventure, even in hindsight. An accidental pilgrimage of sorts.
Gradually, I pieced together evidence Hank Williams spirit-guided me on my recent trip:
1) Drove through Butler County, Ala., and saw signs for Mount Olive, birthplace of Hiram Hank Williams, as I later discovered.
2) Drove past Montgomery twice, where Hank cut his teeth and launched his career.
3) Drove a stretch of highway officially dubbed the "Hank Williams Memorial Lost Highway."
4) Admired the massive shipyards along the bay in Mobile, where Hank worked during World War II.
5) Held in my hands the heavy vinyl version of the The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams (2011) compilation in the building headquarters of the record company that released it (Third Man Records in Nashville).
6) Nearly bought a weird old Hank Jr./Hank Sr. split LP at another Nashville record shop and walked past Roy Acuff's record store (where the above photo was apparently taken).
7) Touched and was awestruck by the grandeur of God's Own Listening Room, the Ryman Auditorium, home to the Grand Ole Opry when Hank performed there (and was later banned for life).
8) Roamed Broadway and the alley beside the Ryman where I am fairly certain Hank once frolicked pre- and post-gigs.
9) Walked by the current Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. Hank was among the first three artists to be inducted in the Hall's first class of inductees in 1961.
10) Returned to work this morning, seated four floors above where Hank Williams recorded "Lovesick Blues," a crossover smash that cemented Hank's status as a superstar, as well as "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and other classics.
There's a piano down there Hank probably played when he was in town. I think I'd like to go down there, tickle those ivories and see if Hank's ghost wants to hang out and chat for a while.
I do believe these are all merely fun coincidences. Maybe it was all subconsciously strung together to help keep my sobriety in check. Hank's a musical hero of mine, but not a role model. He's a cautionary tale; I am an alcoholic who would likely have met a similar tragic fate as Hank's had I not stopped boozing.
Sometimes great vacations can take you down more than just literal new paths.
But if Hank is my life journey's Sherpa, I'm more than ready. I only insist that he doesn't drink while we're driving; that shit's frowned upon nowadays. And it didn't end well last time.
On this date in 1949, American musical icon Hank Williams made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry at the age of 25. It was the beginning of a very difficult relationship.
Even though things soured, Williams' Opry debut was a career-defining moment. The singer/songwriter wowed the crowd so much, he was called back for six encores (the encores ultimately had to be halted so the rest of the show could go on).
Williams' reputation for heavy drinking put off the Opry initially, but as his star continued to rise — boosted by the success of "Lovesick Blues" (recorded at the Herzog studio here in CIncinnati) — the Country music institution finally relented and invited him to perform.
Williams continued to make Opry appearances over the next three years, but he was banished in 1952 for his alcohol-related issues. Hank died just a few months later, in January of 1953 at the age of 29.
Over the past eight or so years, Hank Williams' grandson, Hank III, and other supporters have participated in a campaign to have Williams posthumously reinstated to the Grand Ole Opry. CityBeat also lent a hand, promoting the "Reinstate Hank" campaign during a tribute presented by the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation in honor of Hank's historic recording sessions in Cincinnati (Herzog studios was located where CityBeat and the CMHF headquarters now reside). Check a clip below.
The reinstatement campaign has yet to work and seems to have lost some steam. But click here to learn more about the attempts to right such a ridiculous wrong.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a June 11 birthday include the least hirsute (ironically!) member of ZZ Top, drummer Frank Beard (1949); Soft Rock god with Air Supply, Graham Russell (1950); guitarist/singer of Southern Rock group .38 Special, Donnie Van Zandt (1952); Flaming Lips drummer-turned-guitarist Steven Drozd (1969); and Heartless Bastards singer/guitarist Erika Wennerstrom (1977).
Though she and her band are currently based in Austin, Tex., Wennerstrom grew up in Dayton before relocating to Cincinnati. As Wennerstrom has grown, matured, changed and become more confident, so has her band's music. After releasing her first two albums, Wennerstrom headed to Texas and retooled the band, adding two different musicians also from our area — Jesse Ebaugh and Dave Colvin — who joined Wennerstrom in Austin. Since then, the Bastards' albums The Mountain (a more earthy, less balls-out effort) and this year's Arrow (a great combination of everything the band does well) have continued the trend of each successive HB album drawing the group higher praise and more fans.
A happy 35th b-day to Erika. We miss you here in Cincy. Below, check out an interview and acoustic session recorded for American Songwriter.
On this date in 1984, the comedy motion picture Ghostbusters opened. It would go on to be ranked on the American Film Institute's list of the greatest film comedies ever at No. 28 (though they did rank Tootsie No. 2, so … grain of salt).
Besides doing boffo numbers at the box office ($238.6 million, which is like double that in today's dollars), the movie also gave us that unforgettable (for better or worse) theme song by Ray Parker Jr. (the rest of the soundtrack included such icons as Thompson Twins and Air Supply).
Like the film, the single was a hit upon its release and caught the attention of Huey Lewis — and every other person on the planet who had heard his 1983 hit with The News, "I Want a New Drug." The song features the same rhythm, similar vocal inflections and melody and, most glaringly, a practically identical bass line, so Lewis' answer to Parker Jr.'s "Who you gonna call?" was "My lawyer!"
To make matters worse, Lewis (as well as Lindsey Buckingham) had reportedly been approached to write the theme song to Ghostbusters, but was too busy with Back to the Future soundtracking. It took a while, but in 1995, an "amicable" settlement was reached.
One of the stipulations of the settlement was that neither party could discuss it (or the case) with anyone (especially the public). But in 2001, Lewis talked about the controversy and lawsuit in his Behind the Music special on VH1. Lewis said, "The offensive part was not so much that Ray Parker Jr. had ripped this song off, it was kind of symbolic of an industry that … wanted our wave, and they wanted to buy it. (It's) not for sale. ... In the end, I suppose they were right. I suppose it was for sale, because, basically, they bought it."
So Parker sued Lewis in 2001 for talking about the case. He claimed that the agreement they had reached was "directly related to (Ray's) comfort, happiness and welfare" and that Huey's statement caused him emotional distress. I can't find info on whatever happened in that case, but it seems logical to assume another settlement was reached. And this time, so far, everyone's kept their mouth shut.
What do you think? I think they both could have been sued by British Synth Pop project M, whose biggest hit, "Pop Muzik," also sounds similar … and came out in 1979! Maybe this legal kerfuffle can stretch into a fourth decade. Check all three out below and you be the judge.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a June 8 birthday include daughter of Frank and artist in her own right, Nancy Sinatra (1940); one of the founding members of Parliament/Funkadelic, Fuzzy Haskins (1941); one of the vocalists for rockers Three Dog Night, Chuck Negron (1942); Ohio native and ’70s hitmaker Boz Scaggs (1944); the singer who made the blissfully craptastic video for "Total Eclipse of the Heart" possible, Bonnie Tyler (1951); Bluegrass (and beyond) guitar great Tony Rice (1951); influential guitarist (with Black Flag) and label operator (with SST Records) Greg Ginn (1954); Rod Stewart fill-in and Simply Red frontman Mick Hucknall (1960); keyboardist for New Romantic superstars Duran Duran, Nick Rhodes (1962); guitarist and founder of The Derek Truck Band (duh), member of The Allman Brothers Band and co-founder of the Tedeschi Trucks Band (with wife Susan Tedeschi), Derek Trucks (1979); fiddler known for her solo work and her time with the group Nickel Creek, Sara Watkins (1981); and Hip Hop musical genius (yes, just because he knows it, too, doesn't mean he isn't one) Kanye West (1977).
As a happy 35th birthday present, we offer something we know West will appreciate — free publicity (and calling him a genius — that counts as part of the gift, too!). In return, I expect a pair of Air Yeezy II sneakers for MY birthday.
Here's "Mercy," West's latest video (another thing he is especially good at making) for his track with 2 Chainz, Big Sean and Pusha-T. (It says "explicit," but just for a couple of salty words here and there; mildly NSFW. I guess. I mean, I don't know where you work.)
On this date in 1988, Bob Dylan kicked off his current tour. That's right — when Dylan picks up his touring schedule on June 30 in the U.K., he will be entering the 24th YEAR of his "Never Ending Tour."
The "Never Ending Tour" was a nickname that first popped up during an interview for Q Magazine with writer Adrian Deevoy. Deevoy asked Dylan about touring and how he seems to go from one trek to the next without much of a break.
"Oh, it's all the same tour," Dylan replied. The interviewer asked, "It's the Never Ending Tour?" to which Dylan said, dismissively, "Yeah, yeah."
The tour that started on this day 24 years ago in Concord, Calif., (with Neil Young sitting in on guitar!) was originally called the Innerstate 88 tour. Now, as a sort of ongoing joke, fans and writers refer to all of his touring under the "Never Ending" umbrella.
Crotchety Dylan reportedly doesn't like the tag. He wrote in the liner notes to World Gone Wrong that, while there WAS a Never Ending Tour, it did end — in 1991 when guitarist G. E. Smith left the band. In 2009, Dylan told Rolling Stone, "Critics should know there is no such thing as forever. Does anybody call Henry Ford a Never Ending Car Builder? Anybody ever say that Duke Ellington was on a Never Ending Bandstand Tour? These days, people are lucky to have a job. Any job. So critics might be uncomfortable with my working so much. Anybody with a trade can work as long as they want. A carpenter, an electrician. They don't necessarily need to retire."
Chill, Bob! I think "Never Ending Tour" is rarely if ever used in a derogatory term (except maybe by Dylan's pencil mustache wrangler).
That June 7 date was far from the first time Dylan and Young played together. Check out the audio from a jam between the two geniuses from 1975.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a June 7 birthday include Steubenville, Ohio favorite son Dean Martin (1917); Welsh sex god Tom Jones (1940); Cincinnati native and one of the more powerful men in the music biz, L.A. Reid (1956); lead singer and guitarist for "College Rock" superstars Violent Femmes, Gordon Gano (1963); Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro (1967); and all-time American music great, Prince (1958).
Prince Nelson Rogers is 54 today and he's one person you would not be blowing smoke ass-ward by saying he looks to be in his early 30s. Prince is not only responsible for some of the best songs of the past 50 years; he's also released at least three instant-classic albums — Purple Rain, 1999 and the masterwork Sign o' the Times (which is in my personal Top 10 all-time greatest albums).
Tomorrow night at Mayday in Northside you can celebrate the Artist Formerly Known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince's birthday. The club is hosting a Prince dance party — DJs playing all Prince, all night long. For free. Sounds like heaven.
Here is one of the many stand-out tracks from Sign, the rocking and righteous "The Cross."
Today is the 40th anniversary of the release of one of Rock & Roll's greatest albums, David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. The concept album based around the story of an alien rocker who's come to spread hope five years before the end of the world (but gets sucked in by the earthly treats being a Rock God brings) reached No. 5 on the U.K. charts, but only made it to No. 75 in the U.S. Rolling Stone called the album the 35th best album in the history of humankind on its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.
All 11 songs on the album are amazing and about half our bona fide classics, including "Ziggy Stardust," "Suffragette City," "Starman," "Moonage Daydream" and "Hang on to Yourself."
The concert film/documentary Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars came out the following year, directed by the great D.A. Pennebaker. The film captured Bowie's surprise announcement that it was "Ziggy" and the band's last show. Just before playing "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide," Bowie says, "Not only is this the last show of the tour, but it's the last show that we'll ever do." Some thought Bowie himself was retiring (including several U.K. newspapers), but he was only retiring the character.
Here's the film — one of the best concert docs ever — in full.
On this day in 1994, the MTV Movie Awards paid tribute to The Beatles with a special performance by the band that recorded the Beatles songs (or rather, the songs The Beatles covered in their early days) for the soundtrack to the film Backbeat.
As seen in the clip below, the band included Hamilton, Ohio's Greg Dulli of the recently reunited Afghan Whigs, Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum, Don Fleming of Gumball, Mike Mills of R.E.M., Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and Dave Grohl, in his first performance since Kurt Cobain's death just three months earlier.
The best part of this may be Dulli and Moore wrestling mid-song.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a June 4 birthday include Jazz singer Morgana King (1930); Mexican-American Country, Rock and Tejano musician/singer Freddy Fender (1937); Mamas & Papas singer turned actress Michelle Phillips (1944); late guitarist with Paul McCartney's Wings, Jimmy McCulloch (1953); New Jack Swing/R&B vocalist Al B. Sure! (1968); Canadian-born, British-based Electronic musician/DJ Richie Hawtin (1970); Soul/Funk artist Nikka Costa (1972); Dave Matthews Band bassist Stefan Lessard (1974); and R&B comebacker (and co-founder of "family band" DeBarge) El DeBarge (1961).
DeBarge is one of those celebrities who have unfortunately had to deal with public attention and scrutiny while attempting to overcome his addiction to drugs. He death with ensuing legal problems, cleaned up and made a highly-touted, Grammy-nominated comeback album in 2010 appropriately titled Second Chance (his first in almost 20 years).
DeBarge's triumphant return included a set at the 2011 Macy's Music Festival in Cincinnati. He also sang with Chaka Khan during her set.
DeBarge has struggled since the release of Second Chance, returning to treatment — he told Atlanta radio station V103 that friends 50 Cent and Babyface (who co-produced the comeback album) intervened and insisted he not give up and return to rehab. And, just this past March, he got arrested for "suspicion of possession of drugs for sale." (The case was dropped because the judge said there was not enough evidence.)
He's clearly still fighting his demons. And so are some of his family members. Just about a week ago, an arrest warrant was issued for brother Mark DeBarge for drug possession charges in Hollywood.
Hopefully they'll all get things worked out before it's too late. El DeBarge reportedly met with Whitney Houston at a party two days before her untimely passing. That has to be a wake-up call.
As long as he's musically on point, fans will continue to give him second, third, fourth or more chances.
On this day in 2000, Scottish Indie Pop giants Belle and Sebastian made their first appearance on the British show Top of the Pops. With a gorilla (see video below).
Some of the band members also almost made their first appearance in jail after reportedly breaking onto the set of hugely popular BBC soap opera Eastenders following a few too many drinks at the "BBC bar," according to the NME.
According to reports, a security guard saw them and called police. Luckily for the musicians, the show's host and producer happened by as they were being busted and convinced the guard they were guests of the BBC.
A B&S spokesperson told NME.com, "I think they were quite lucky. It's not the sort of thing they'd usually do and they almost got into real trouble over it. They'd just been celebrating a bit too much as they'd had such a wonderful time on the show."
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a June 1 birthday include legendary Big Band leader Nelson Riddle (1921); Gospel singer Marie Knight (1925); white-bread Pop singer Pat Boone (1934); Bluegrass great Hazel Dickens (1935); Faces/Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood (1947); half of Country duo Brooks & Dunn, Ronnie Dunn (1953); Depeche Mode's Alan Wilder (1959); The Cure bassist Simon Gallup (1960); drummer for The Smiths, Mike Joyce (1963); Pop singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile (1981); and Canadian singer/songwriter Alanis Morissette (1974).
Though Morissette never recaptured the superstardom of her ’90s, Jagged Little Pill days, she has remained consistently active professionally. Overall, she's managed one of the more interesting careers in contemporary music, going from child actress (as a cast member of Nickelodeon's You Can't Do That On Television) and young Pop star (she toured with Vanilla Ice in 1991!) to angst-ridden Grunge-era idol, occasional actress and fascinating dater (she was linked to Full House actor Dave Coulier and hunky future ScarJo beau Ryan Reynolds and is currently married to an obscure rapper named MC Souleye).
Yesterday, Morissette (unwittingly or not) became a spokesperson for the "attachment parenting" movement, which came to wider public attention recently when Time magazine ran its infamous "grown woman with apparent pre-teen attached to her boob via his mouth" cover. On The Billy Bush Show and Good Morning America, she spoke about her dedication to breastfeeding until her 16-month-old son says "When."
"I'll stop (breastfeeding) whenever he wants. I know some children who have weaned naturally at two, some kids wean naturally a couple of years later. I mean, it's up to every child," she said on Good Morning America.
She also said, "I think it affords the child, when he grows up, to have a lot less therapy to go to."
Because breastfeeding your second grader isn't going to cause any emotional issues, right?
Alanis is clearly not worried about the damage a 7-year-old could inflict on her humps, her humps, her lovely lady lumps.
On this date in 1976, British Rock legends The Who performed a concert at the Charlton Athletic Football Ground in London that was one for the record books. The Guinness Book of World Records, in fact. The records-keepers deemed The Who's concert the loudest ever, with the sound measuring 126 dBs about 100 feet from the stage. Unprotected exposure to noise over 110 dBs for longer than a minute is said to increase risk of hearing loss immensely. (Click here for more dB danger talk.)
AC/DC cracked The Who's sound barrier in 1980, reportedly reaching 130 dBs during its Back in Black tour, though it was not recognized by Guinness. The Metal band Manowar received the Guinness record for a 1984 performance (129.5 dBs). Other acts that some have claimed broke the record include Motorhead (130 dBs), Electronica band Leftfield (137 dBs) and, in 2009, KISS (136 dBs). Manowar reportedly hit 139 dBs during a soundcheck in 2008.
What's the loudest concert you've ever attended?
Here's a recording of the first song from The Who's record-setting set in 1976.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 31 birthday include Ohio native and Country singer Donald Eugene Lytle, bka Johnny Paycheck (1938); Folk singer with Peter, Paul and Mary, Peter Yarrow (1938); the greatest Rock drummer of all time, Led Zeppelin's John Bonham (1948); member of German Electronic pioneers Kraftwerk, Karl Bartos (1952); Disco singer ("Turn the Beat Around") Vicki Sue Robinson (1954); masterful fingerstyle guitarist Tommy Emmanuel (1955); yet another later-period Kraftwerk member, Fritz Hilpert (1956); Canadian one-hit-wonder and noted wearer of sunglasses when the sun goes down, Corey Hart (1962); late schizophrenic cult music hero Wesley Willis (1963); Fall Out Boy drummer Andy Hurley (1980); hit-making rapper Juaquin Malphurs, who you know better by the ridiculous stage name Waka Flocka Flame (1986); and Hip Hop pioneer Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels (1964).
D.M.C. was originally drawn to DJing, but after he and pal Joseph "Run" Simmons teamed up with DJ Jam-Master Jay, he decided to be an MC. (His "D.M.C." moniker was a play on his initials and nickname, Darryl Mac, and also stands for "Devastating Mic Controller.) Run-DMC released its first album in 1984. The trio, of course, went on to become one of the greatest acts in Hip Hop history.
In 2009, Run-DMC was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the second Rap group to be allowed into the hall (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were first; pals Beastie Boys were inducted this year, making three Hip Hop acts in the Hall.)
It was recently announced that the much anticipated Hip Hop Hall of Fame's museum will be opening in midtown Manhattan in 2014. The exact location has yet to be announced (it's expected to be revealed in July). The Hall will be similar to Rock's Hall, featuring memorabilia and exhibits related to the last 30 or so years of Hip Hop.
The museum has been in the works since 1992. Like the Rock Hall, the Hip Hop Hall began inducting members before they had a brick-and-mortar museum to put them in. The awards ceremonies had been broadcast on BET, but the program was halted in 1997, after Tupac and Biggie were murdered. The Hall of Fame Awards' induction ceremonies are set to return in November, to be broadcast from the Apollo on TV-One.
Run DMC is, of course, in the Hip Hop Hall of Fame. They were inducted in 1996:
All of this museum talk gives a whole new perspective on the trio's classic 1984 "King of Rock" music video.