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by Mike Breen 04.03.2012
Posted In: Music Video, Music History at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

This Date in Music History: April 3

Madonna and The Coasters create controversy and Social Distortion's Mike Ness turns 50

On this day in 1989, Pepsi dropped Madonna as a spokesperson after complaints about her "blasphemous" video for the single (also used in the Pepsi commercial campaign) "Like A Prayer." The Vatican condemned the video for its imagery of burning crosses and Madonna kissing a black man, while religious groups called for a boycott of all Pepsi-affiliated products. The soft drink manufacturer caved and cut and run from the Pop princess. But Pepsi gave Madonna a nice parting gift — the company was so eager to get away from the controversy that they let her keep her $5 million (yes, million) advance.

Thirty years earlier, another music-related controversy erupted in the U.K. when the BBC decided that The Coasters' song "Charlie Brown" was not fit for airplay. Was it that the Peanuts comic strip was too controversial? Peppermint Patty's sexuality has always been a topic of debate. Were they afraid the youth of England would all mimic Charlie Brown's sparse curly-Q hairdo, essentially killing off the hair-care product industry? Was Pigpen's personal hygiene deficiency deemed a bad influence?

Nope — the BBC was worried about the song because it contained the word "spitball" and they were fearful kids all over would be inspired to destroy society with saliva-drenched missiles. Unlike Pepsi, the Beeb reversed its decision a couple of weeks later, apparently realizing how ridiculous the "ban" was.

Here are clips relating to both controversies. Watch at your own risk!

Click on for Born This Day featuring Richard Thompson, Sebastian Bach, Doris Day and Mike Ness.

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by Mike Breen 04.18.2012
Posted In: Music History, Music Commentary, Music Video at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

This Date in Music History: April 18

Chic bassist Bernard Edwards dies and the "Dean of American Rock Critics" turns 70

Today in 1996, one of the greatest, most influential bassists ever, Bernard Edwards of Disco/Funk group Chic, passed away after contracting pneumonia while on tour in Japan.

My personal favorite bass line is Sly Stone's lick on "If You Want Me to Stay," but it's hard to deny the power of Chic's "Good Times," a Disco-era hit that helped lay the groundwork for Hip Hop. Edwards' bass line from the song is considered one of the most sampled pieces of music ever and it has been mimicked almost as often. Songs that wouldn't exist with Edwards' riff include Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," Hip Hop trailblazers Sugarhill Gang's breakthrough "Rapper's Delight," Blondie's "Rapture," Daft Punk's "Around the World" and Wham!'s "Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)" (hey, they can't all be winners).

R.I.P Bernard Edwards. And thanks for the groove.

Click on for Born This Day featuring Bez, Skip Spence, Grandmaster Caz and Robert Christgau.

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by Mike Breen 05.30.2012
Posted In: Music History, Music Video at 12:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

This Date in Music History: May 30

Ad Rock gets ill (and arrested) and Remy Ma spends 31st birthday in prison

On this date in 1987, a Beastie Boys/Run DMC concert in Liverpool, England, turned into a riot and ended with the arrest of Adam "Ad Rock" Horovitz. The pumped-out crowd reportedly began throwing bottles and cans at the group, which the Boys playfully batted back at them. At first. After just a few minutes, things continued to get out of hand and the concert was cancelled for the safety of all involved. At the hotel later that night, Horovitz was arrested because police believed he was responsible for the beer can that struck and injured a female fan.

Horovitz spent the night in jail and, in November, Ad Rock — 21 at the time — was found not guilty of the charges.

Here's an ancient MTV segment featuring the Boys at Spring Break (to give you a sense of the trio's pre-enlightenment personalities around the time of Horovitz's arrest).

Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 30 birthday include legendary Big Band bandleader and clarinetist Benny Goodman (1909); founding bassist for Punk giants Dead Kennedys, Geoffrey Lyall, better known as Klaus Flouride (1949); Jazz Fusion bassist Dann Glenn (1950); on-again/off-again drummer for The Clash, Topper Headon (1955); singer for Swedish Pop duo Roxette ("It Must Have Been Love," "The Look") Marie Fredriksson (1958); drummer and founding member of progressive Canadian Metal greats Voivod, Michel Langevin (1963); Country star Wynonna Judd (1964); Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello (1964); frontman for Indie Rock icons Pavement, Stephen Malkmus (1966); singer for Brit Pop crew The Charlatans, Tim Burgess (1967); Hip Hop-turned-Pop superstar Cee-Lo Green (1974); singer for Metal band Shadows Fall, Brian Fair (1975); "Freak Folk" poster child Devendra Banhart (1981) and Hip Hop MC Remy Ma (1981).

Remy was born Reminisce Smith and grew up in the Castle Hill Projects in the Bronx. Neighborhood MC Big Pun was an early mentor, putting Remy (then "Remi Martin") on a pair of tracks from his Yeeeah Baby album. It was a bittersweet debut, though; Pun died from a heart attack in 2000 and the album came out two months afterwards. (Big Pun was reportedly 698 pounds when he died.) Another big rapper, Fat Joe, took Remy under his wing and made her a member of Terror Squad. She was featured on the Terror Squad's huge 2004 single "Lean Back," which was a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks that summer. It also earned Remy a Grammy nomination.

Remy's debut solo album, ‪There's Something About Remy: Based on a True Story‬, dropped on Feb. 7, 2006, the sixth anniversary of Big Pun's death. The album was critically acclaimed but didn't sell very well (Fat Joe and Remy blamed poor promotion and choice of singles). She left Terror Squad in 2007.

As a free agent, Remy reportedly received numerous label offers and even a reported deal for a reality show. She had her second album in the works, as well as the debut of the super-trio 3Sum, featuring fellow MCs Jacki-O and Shawnna, when things went really bad for Remy. She turned herself into police after a shooting outside of a nightclub that wounded a woman who had allegedly tried to rob the rapper. The woman ID'ed Remy as the shooter. In 2008, Remy was convicted of assault, attempted coercion and weapons possession. She was sentenced to eight years in prison. In 2008, she married her fiancee, Hip Hop artist Papoose.

Remy — who also has a young son — lost her appeal last June. The earliest she can be released is Jan. 31, 2015. If she has to serve her whole sentence, she won't be out until March 23, 2016.

Despite her jail stint and the limited material released, Remy Ma remains a big influence on established and up-and-coming female Rap artists.

Here's part of an interview Remy did with StreetHeat about her life in prison.

by Mike Breen 04.16.2012
Posted In: Music History, Music Video, Music Commentary at 08:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

This Date in Music History: April 16

Paul McCartney's 1973 network TV special and Ian MacKaye turns 50

On this day in 1973, Paul McCartney and Wings had their very own network TV special, James Paul McCartney. The variety/musical show was a bit cheeky and a bit sappy — in other words, pretty funny to watch now. Paul and Co. do a bunch a Beatles tunes and a bunch of Wings stuff, including the just released "Live and Let Die." Worth watching (or at least skipping through) if you were a fan of Sir Paul's kick-ass mullet, always wanted to hear a drunk Paul sing drinking songs in a crowded pub or wondered how "The Cute One" looks in a pink tuxedo and mustache.

Paul's most recent adventures in visual entertainment contains a bit more star power:

Click on for Born This Day with Dusty Springfield, Akon and Ian MacKaye.

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by Mike Breen 06.11.2012
Posted In: Local Music, Music Video, Music History at 11:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

This Date in Music History: June 11

Hank Williams debuts at Grand Ole Opry and Erika Wennerstrom is born

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.

by Mike Breen 04.09.2012

This Date in Music History: April 9

R.E.M. release sophmore album and Carl Perkins' would've-been 80th birthday

On this date in 1984, Athens, Ga., "College Rock" favorites R.E.M. released its second album, the fantastic Reckoning. The album — featuring the singles "So. Central Rain" and "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville" — was well before the band reached superstar status. The band were pretty big for a cult band, but it wasn't until 1988's Green that R.E.M. became worldwide Rock stars (and only got bigger after that).

Green will be the subject of an upcoming local benefit for Northside's Building Value, Inc. Following BVI's annual fundraiser, ReUse-apalooza, on April 27, Cincinnati rockers Messerly & Ewing will head up a Green tribute concert at the Northside Tavern at 10 p.m. The Messerly & Ewing band will become a Rockestra that night, joined by several local musicians as they play the seminal AltRock album, including Jazz pianist Chris Comer, singer/songwriter Mike Fair and members of The Ass Ponys, Wussy, Seven Speed Vortex and Eagle to Squirrel. The show will also include a raffle of R.E.M. merch and memorabilia, donated by the band thanks to a friend of M&E's from the R.E.M. camp. Keep an eye on M&E's Facebook page for updates.

And since we're talking about two great R.E.M. albums, enjoy a song from both below.

Click on for Born This Day featuring Gerald Way, Hal Ketchum and Carl Perkins.

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by Mike Breen 04.06.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Music Video, Music History, Music News at 10:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

This Date in Music History: April 6

Leonard Bernstein/Glen Gould beef plus Cobra Starship plays for Chardron, Ohio

On this date in 1962, a pre-performance speech by legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein, seen by some as an attack on guest pianist — the almost equally as legendary Glenn Gouldcaused quite a stir in the Classical music world. The concert was to feature Gould performing Brahms' "First Piano Concerto," but apparently the pianist and music director (Bernstein) disagreed on how it was to be performed. The New York Philharmonic concert came towards the end of the orchestra's final season at Carnegie Hall.

The disagreement was largely over tempo — Gould felt the composition should be played very slowly. Before the intermission, the orchestra played selections by Carl Nielsen. Fearful that Gould would not even show up (he was notorious for last-minute cancellations), Bernstein had the Philharmonic prepared to play Brahms' First Symphony just in case. Gould showed, but to prepare the audience for the unorthodox performance, Bernstein took to the podium and delivered the controversial introduction/disclaimer/diss. (Bernstein delivered the same speech at a preview performance the night before.)

Don't be frightened. Mr. Gould is here. He will appear in a moment. I'm not, um, as you know, in the habit of speaking on any concert except the Thursday night previews, but a curious situation has arisen, which merits, I think, a word or two. You are about to hear a rather, shall we say, unorthodox performance of the Brahms D Minor Concerto, a performance distinctly different from any I've ever heard, or even dreamt of for that matter, in its remarkably broad tempi and its frequent departures from Brahms' dynamic indications. I cannot say I am in total agreement with Mr. Gould's conception and this raises the interesting question: "What am I doing conducting it?" I'm conducting it because Mr. Gould is so valid and serious an artist that I must take seriously anything he conceives in good faith and his conception is interesting enough so that I feel you should hear it, too.

But the age old question still remains: "In a concerto, who is the boss; the soloist or the conductor?" The answer is, of course, sometimes one, sometimes the other, depending on the people involved. But almost always, the two manage to get together by persuasion or charm or even threats to achieve a unified performance. I have only once before in my life had to submit to a soloist's wholly new and incompatible concept and that was the last time I accompanied Mr. Gould. But, but this time the discrepancies between our views are so great that I feel I must make this small disclaimer. Then why, to repeat the question, am I conducting it? Why do I not make a minor scandal — get a substitute soloist, or let an assistant conduct? Because I am fascinated, glad to have the chance for a new look at this much-played work; Because, what's more, there are moments in Mr. Gould's performance that emerge with astonishing freshness and conviction. Thirdly, because we can all learn something from this extraordinary artist, who is a thinking performer, and finally because there is in music what Dimitri Mitropoulos used to call "the sportive element", that factor of curiosity, adventure, experiment, and I can assure you that it has been an adventure this week collaborating with Mr. Gould on this Brahms concerto and it's in this spirit of adventure that we now present it to you

Many critics wrote about the intro and viewed it as the conductor's way of saying, "If this sucks, it's his fault." And many took Gould to task for his interpretation of the music (though some musicologists later said Gould's version was a correct reading of the material). Gould, for his part, said he enjoyed the performance and liked that it caused some in the audience to boo. Columbia had planned to release a recording of the performance but backed off given the controversy. Bootlegs spread like wildfire and Sony Classical, years later (in 1998), released the recording with Bernstein's remarks in tact. In the liner notes, Gould is quoted as saying, "Soloists and conductors disagree all the time. Why should this be hidden from the public, especially if both parties still give their all?" Bernstein also didn't seem too bothered by the controversy and he never stopped praising Gould's unique talent.

Here's a clip of Bernstein and Gould getting along just fine in 1960, performing Bach's "Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor."

Click on for Born This Day featuring Warren Haynes, Gerry Mulligan, Merle Haggard and Cobra Starship's Alex Suarez.

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by Mike Breen 02.22.2012
Posted In: Music Video, Music History, Music Commentary at 11:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

This Date in Music History: Feb. 22

The Beatles' most famous chords and Sublime's sudden end

On this day in 1967, The Beatles continued work on arguably their best song, "A Day in the Life." After a debate over how to end the track following the huge orchestral build-up (sustained choral vocals were considered, but scrapped), the group decided to simultaneously strike a massive E chord on three pianos and sustain the notes for as long as possible. Adding overdubs (and a contribution from producer George Martin on harmonium), the final resonating notes hang in the air for over 40 seconds on the recording. As the held chords faded on the pianos in the studio, the engineer had to crank the recording level, which picked up some incidental sounds (like a creaking chair and, certainly, something about Paul being dead) from the studio.

That E-major chord that closes the song — and the whole Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, considered one of the best ever — is widely considered one of the most famous chords in Rock/Pop history. Which means that The Beatles are responsible for the most popular opening chord in modern music — the mysterious G7sus4-ish that kicks off "A Hard Day's Night" — and the most notable final chord with the "A Day in the Life" finale.

Below is audio of BTO guitarist Randy Bachman explaining the "Hard Day's" chord mystery (frustrated guitarists should feel better about their inability to figure it out), followed by today's biggest Pop superstar performing that famed final note from Sgt. Peppers.

Click the jump for "Born This Day" featuring live footage from one of the final Sublime concerts with Bradley Nowell.

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by Mike Breen 04.02.2012
Posted In: Music History at 10:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

This Date in Music History: April 2

"War" singer passes away and Zeebra helps popularize Hip Hop in Japan

On this day in 2003, the singer of one of the best known anti-war protest songs, "War," died from a heart attack at his home in England. Born in Nashville and raised in Cleveland, Edwin Starr (born Charles Hatcher) moved to Detroit in the ’60s and eventually started recording for Motown. In 1968, he had his first big hit, "Twenty-Five Miles," but two years later he'd release a song originally recorded by The Temptations (and written by genius songwriting team Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong) that would become his signature.

Motown wasn't keen on letting The Temptations release "War" — a very obvious protest number ("War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothin' ") aimed at the Vietnam War — out of fear that it would alienate the group's fans, so Starr recorded it, giving it a more intense delivery, and it went to No. 1 upon its release in the summer of 1970, where it stayed for three weeks.

Starr embraced his role as outspoken anti-war critic and released the single "Stop the War Now" in 1971 (it was yet another song also recorded by The Temptations, who clearly had dibs on material).

Starr ultimately left Motown, tiring of the more formulaic material they were producing, and moved to the U.K. He recorded several songs with the British group, Utah Saints, including a new version of "War" in 2003, which became his final recorded output. Bruce Springsteen repopularized the song when he performed it towards the end of his Born in the U.S.A. tour. The Boss' version was released as a live single in 1986 and made it to No. 8 on the Billboard singles chart. (Oh, and also in the ’80s, Frankie Goes to Hollywood covered it, though I think just so Holly Johnson could reprise his "Hunnhhhh!" shout from "Relax.")

The Temptations did release a slightly less direct song with societal commentary in 1970 that made it to No. 3, the superb "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)."

Click on for Born This Day featuring Serge Gainsbourg, Marvin Gaye, Dr. Demento and Zeebra.

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by Mike Breen 06.08.2012
Posted In: Music Video, Music History, Music News at 12:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

This Date in Music History: June 8

Huey Lewis vs. Ghostbusters and happy 35th birthday Kanye West

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.)