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by Mike Breen 03.23.2012
Posted In: Music History, Music Commentary at 10:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jim_morrison_penis?

This Date in Music History: March 23

Teens rally against The Doors in Miami and Chaka Khan earns late-career accolades

On this day in 1969, a reported 30,000 people showed up at the Orange Bowl in Miami for the "Rally for Decency," a response to singer Jim Morrison's alleged "indecent exposure " during a concert by classic rockers The Doors three weeks earlier. One of the more infamous arrests in the history of Rock & Roll, an apparently wasted Morrison was reportedly erratic throughout the Miami show; Morrison's people admitted as much, but the evidence that the Lizard King pulled Lil Jim out during the show was never ironclad. Despite tons of photographers in attendance, there wasn't one shot of Morrison whipping it out onstage. (Some in the audience insisted he exposed himself, but others said it appeared Morrison was doing that third grade trick where kids poke their index finger out of their zipper to create the illusion of a penis. Today, it's widely reported that Morrison merely simulated masturbating on stage, which Lady Gaga does every time she goes grocery shopping.) 

The Rally for Decency was organized by local teens from an area church in response to the incident. Conservative politicians took great joy in the event; like the right wing "wedge issuing" of today, it was a great way to keep people afraid of scary popular music and rally them to their anti-counterculture side. Morrison's behavior was indicative of the threat Americans faced if the longhairs were not defeated in the culture wars of the time.

Just like when there's a big GOP rally today and you can be sure people like The Statler Brothers and Kid Rock are going to make an appearance, the "decency" rally drew a who's-who of squares — according to a report that ran in The New York Times, the guest list included Kate "God Bless America" Smith, white-bread vocal group The Lettermen, Mickey Mouse Club member Anita Bryant and actor/comedian Jackie Gleason, whose huge appetite for alcohol was not only well known, but celebrated (the famous quote, "I'm no alcoholic. I'm a drunkard. There's a difference. A drunkard doesn't like to go to meetings," is credited to the former Honeymooners star, who, of course, also made threatening your wife with violence a running gag on his hit show.) 

At the rally, Gleason expressed some wishful thinking, reportedly saying, ""I believe this kind of movement will snowball across the United States and perhaps around the world." Tricky Dick Nixon (another wonderful example of impeccable morals) also expressed support, writing a letter to the teen who headed up the rally that read, in part, "This very positive approach which focused attention on a number of critical problems confronting society strengthens my belief that the younger generation is our greatest natural resource and therefore of tremendous hope for the future." 

Eventual culture war veteran Pat Buchanan (then a Nixon aide) gave Nixon a note during his briefings the day after the rally that showed evidence that the administration's interest was politically motivated. It read, "The pollution of young minds … an extremely popular issue, one on which we can probably get a tremendous majority of Americans" (according to history.com). 

The rally, of course, failed to get rid of the evil counterculture. And the world hasn't ended. (Yet.)

Morrison died in Paris in 1971 while his indecency case was being appealed (according to Rolling Stone, he was found guilty of indecent exposure and "open profanity" after his 1970 trial). In December of 2010, Florida's Clemency Board pardoned Morrison at the request of departing Florida governor Charlie Crist. 

Here's an hour-long concert by The Doors at the Hollywood Bowl. So as to not cause society to crumble once it is viewed, we scoured the footage thoroughly for any intentional or inadvertent penis flashing. You should be safe.

Click on for Born This Day featuring David Grisman, Damon Albarn and Chaka Khan.

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by Mike Breen 03.15.2012
Posted In: Music History, Music Commentary at 09:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
prance

This Date in Music History: March 15

Prince is inducted into the Rock Hall and Lightnin' Hopkins' 100th birthday

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.

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by Mike Breen 03.13.2012
Posted In: Music History, Music Commentary at 09:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
chef_dead

This Date in Music History: March 13

Scientology and 'South Park' kill Chef, plus Common's uncommon backlash

On this day in 1911, pulp fiction/sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard — who would go on to develop the self-help "Dianetics" program as well as found the Scientology religion — was born. Ninety five years later (to the day), one of his disciples, legendary Soul man Isaac Hayes, asked to be released from his contract with South Park (on which he brilliantly voiced the character Chef) following the cartoon's skewering of the Scientology movement. Hayes initially said he didn't mind the pair's satire of his religion, saying they were equal opportunity offenders, but someone from the "church" must've gotten to him, because he gradually shifted that position. Some reports emerged later that Hayes' announcement was written by someone else; essentially "someone quit for him," Fox News reported.

Still, Hayes was granted his release immediately, though creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone brought him back for an episode (with cobbled together audio previously recorded for other shows), essentially to kill his character off. The episode aired a mere nine days after Hayes (or someone representing Hayes) quit the show.  

Hayes passed away about two years later from complications from a stroke he suffered about six months after leaving South Park. Fortunately, Hayes' contribution to music was so large, the cartoon mess didn't impact his legacy too much. It still begs the question of what was worse for Hayes' career — Scientology or South Park?

Last year, a former Scientologist revealed a memo he claimed was from a higher up in the church who was "investigating" Parker and Stone, allegedly spying on the duo and their associates to dig up dirt. According to the former church member, the memos also show that the church gave up its investigation after not finding any weaknesses to exploit. The Church of Scientology has been repeatedly accused of such intimidation factors involving critics and former members who talk about the religion.

I, for one, have nothing against Scientology specifically, and wish all Scientologists the best of luck in reaching the highest level of their spirituality and one day meeting the church's alien overlords (or whatever it is they believe). So please don't start spying on me and digging through my garbage. You'll only find discarded debt collection notices, well-used Victoria Secret catalogs and empty beer cans, anyway. Heil, Hubbard!

And let's all remember Hayes as one of the baddest muthas in Soul music history and not the celebrity who was guided/misguided by his chosen spiritual beliefs or that fat cartoon character who falls off a cliff to his gruesome death on South Park. (Though, you have to admit, that "Chocolate Salty Balls" song was the jam.) Here he is in all his glory:

Click on for Born This Day, featuring Mike Stoller, Terence Blanchard and Common.

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by Mike Breen 03.06.2012
Posted In: Music History, Music Video, Music Commentary at 10:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mansonlie

This Date in Music History: March 6

Charles Manson's "debut" drops and Pink Floyd reunited?

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 …

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by Mike Breen 03.05.2012
Posted In: Music History, Music Commentary at 12:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
belush

This Date in Music History: March 5

R.I.P. Punk fan John Belushi, plus The Proclaimers and Scotland's greatest hits

On this day in 1982, comedian John Belushi died from an overdose of cocaine and heroin. Belushi came to prominence as an original "Not Ready For Prime Time Player" on Saturday Night Live, where he debuted his tribute to classic American Rock & Soul with cast mate Dan Aykroyd, The Blues Brothers, and later pushed for the show to feature representatives from the burgeoning Punk Rock scene.

In 1981, after he'd left the show, SNL asked if Belushi would make a cameo. Belushi agreed, but only if L.A. Punk act Fear could be musical guests that week. The band's performance on the show that Halloween was a wild introduction to Punk for many Americans, as the band blazed through the songs "Beef Bologna" and "New York's Alright If You Like Saxophones" in front of a stunned studio audience (who booed when the band announced it was "great to be in New Jersey") and a group of Punk Rock dancers brought in to mosh (Belushi joined the dance team, which also included Punk luminaries Ian MacKaye, Tesco Vee and members of Negative Approach and the Cro-mags). The show cut to a commercial as Fear revved up "Let's Have a War," and the band and dancers reportedly caused $20,000 in damages to the studio (Fear singer Lee Ving later bragged it was more like $500,000). The damage wasn't enough to keep Ving off of TV — a bit actor, Ving appeared on shows like Fame, Three's a Crowd and Who's the Boss in the ’80s.

Clearly, Belushi was a music die-hard. His tombstone reads: "I may be gone, but Rock and Roll lives on."

Here's John Joseph of the Cro-Mags talking about being on the set that fateful night, followed by footage of the performance. And you can check out Ian MacKaye's recollection of events here.


Fear - I Don't Care About You Live On SNL 10.31.81 by stogref

Click on for Born This Day featuring Scotland's greatest hits, including two from The Proclaimers.

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by Deirdre Kaye 03.02.2012
Posted In: Playlist, Music Commentary at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
johnny_cash/mugshot

A Musical Guide to Breaking the Law

If you mimicked everything you heard in popular songs, you'd be in jail right now

As you know, the Bengals aren’t the only celebrities that have been busted for illegal activities. Actors and actresses have certainly had their share of run-ins with the po-po, too. No one, though, is more ballsy about their lives of crime than those in the music industry. They also enjoy broadcasting their vices. While most of the smack is centered around drugs, they’ve also done their fair share of whoring and murdering, too.

Perhaps the most famous murder-boasting singer is Johnny Cash. While, as far as we can tell, Cash never actually shot a man in Reno (or anywhere) just to watch him die, he sure enjoyed singing about it. On “Cocaine Blues,” he notably sings of shooting his woman down, for example.

He’s not the only gun-toting singer, though. In “Murder Was The Case,” the hard-to-hate Snoop Dogg rapped about the allegations that he murdered a rival gang member. On the other end of the musical spectrum, everyone’s favorite space oddity, David Bowie, sang of going on a killing spree in “Running Gun Blues.”

Of course, Morrissey sang of killing in The Smiths' “Meat is Murder.” But that doesn’t count, because there’s nothing illegal about a steak. Thank God.

A distant third on the list of bad things to sing about are sex crimes. Most disturbing is the personal favorite of nearly every girl who grew up in the
'90's. We all grew up singing with Reba on “Fancy,” but we were quite a bit older before we realized what, exactly, Fancy was up to. Mama Fancy turned her daughter out to prostitute.

Our long-time love affair with sex doesn’t stop at “Fancy,” though. In 1967, The Velvet Underground released one of their more mainstream hits, “There She Goes Again.” Listen carefully — It’s pretty blunt. Sting, always the voice of morality, tried to clean up the streets with The Police’s hit, “Roxanne.” It didn’t work. Of course, sex crimes include more than just street-walking. Sublime’s “Date Rape” is a song about a much more serious sex crime. Only Bradley Nowell could take it full-circle so … poetically.

Perhaps the biggest illegal vice used as song fodder by Rock stars, Country musicians and rappers alike is drug use. Oh, where to begin?! Nearly all of the previously mentioned artists have songs about drugs, but there are so many more to chose from!

“Next Episode” from Dr. Dre, Snoop, and Nate Dogg is almost entirely about smoking weed (and also drinking and the alphabet, both still legal — for now). It also has a pretty catchy last line. It’s safe to say the number of people who know all the words to this song is far greater than number of people who actually partake in its subject matter on a daily basis.

Back in the '90's, AltRock band K’s Choice sang “Not an Addict.” Someone should tell her that the first step is admitting you have a problem. The Beach Boys sing about drugs in “Good Vibrations," yet another song sung innocently by children all over America. And there’s the famous “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix (you’d chastise me if I didn’t mention it).

Let’s face it, “Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll” is a cliche saying for a reason. While we at CityBeat in no way condone partaking in any illegal activities, it’s fun to live vicariously through our friends on the radio.

Once again, here’s a playlist of even more songs about breaking the rules.

 
 
by Deirdre Kaye 02.27.2012
Posted In: Music Commentary at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
madlib-records

A Band By Any Other Genre …

As musical genres become more fragmented, is it time to give them up completely?

Depending on how specific you get with your generalizing, genres can be vague or finite. Generally speaking, one cannot be “in a relationship.” That relationship must be defined. Casual or serious?  Straight or homosexual? Open or monogamous? Films are Rom Coms, Thriller or Family. Nothing, though, has been more categorized than music.
 
Metal is no longer just Metal. It is Death Metal, Post-Metal, Heavy Metal, Black Metal, Metalcore, Doom Metal. A band cannot simply be “Pop/Rock.” They must be, “Psychedelic Indie Folk Pop.”
 
What is “Pop,” anyway? Wasn’t “Pop” short for “popular?” If a band is truly “Indie” (i.e. independent from a record label), it’s probably not getting much air time. How is it popular? Today “Pop” means “fun, light-hearted” and “Indie” might suggest “mellow” or “artsy.” But, if “Pop” means fun and your Aunt Flo really gets a kick out of Chris Botti, wouldn’t that make him Pop? I can’t imagine that the King of Pop, MJ, would be OK with that.
 
What about musicians like Jamie Cullum? The kid plays a mean piano … it’s pretty jazzy. But he covers Radiohead and Rihanna. Why only file him under Jazz?
 
Genres can both help and hinder the expansion of a band’s listener base. In a previous post, a reader denounced my description of The Punch Brothers as Bluegrass. It wasn’t perfect, but it was intentional. To say, “They experiment with traditional Bluegrass instruments” might scare off some loyal Bluegrass listeners who have (somehow) missed The Punch Brothers. Humans are creatures of habit and “experiment” suggests the exact opposite. So, you tell them to listen to “Rye Whiskey.” That’s Bluegrass. They’ll like it.  They’ll buy the album, take it home and give it a whirl. At first “Rye Whiskey” will get the most plays, but as they busy themselves with dishes, bills and laundry, the album will carry on until the end. They’ll hear other songs that catch their interest. They’ll become a fan of the band, not just the song or the genre.
 
As bands become less describable and more eclectic, what would happen were we to do away with the genres completely? Forget splitting up bands and musicians into their vague or distinct genres, just throw them all together and alphabetize them.  Assuming they carry the artist you’re looking for, you’ll still find the album at the record store eventually, right?  (Honestly, it might save you the hassle of looking for The Clash only to find some idiot electronics guy filed it under Pop.)
 
If genres ceased to exist, what would happen to awards show categories? Billboard charts? Radio stations?
 
To begin with, award shows would be a lot shorter. Instead of “Best Rock Performance” or “Best Pop Song,” can other, perhaps more meaningful, awards to be given? You could do the best of solo artists and groups. Or you could throw in things like, “Most Digitally Popular” and base it on YouTube and Spotify listens.  How many bands spent their entire year touring and selling out venues across the globe?  What about if “Best Solo/Group Performance” awards went to the musicians who sold out the most shows to the most fans? Would having less awards be a crime? Does Lady Gaga really need another trophy for someone to polish? Probably not.
 
What about radio? The first time I was in the mood for some Country and someone threw some Kanye into the mix, I know I’d immediately regret the genre ban. I’d be equally flummoxed if I were in the mood for Rock and Sugarland popped on after Nirvana. Without genres, we can’t have radio stations that specialize in generalizing our music. That change might open a few minds to some new music.
 
In the long run, though, we like to compartmentalize things.
 
Banning genres would also negate nearly half of the Billboard charts.  On the surface, this seems like an excellent idea, but we’d run into issues with smaller artists. There are certain acts that will never break into the overall Top 200. They may, however, do well on the World chart or the Independent chart. In a genre-less world, those bands would have to fight even harder for accolades and fans.
 
To quote Steve Carell (incorrectly) quoting John Lennon. “You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not.”
 
I had big dreams of banishing genres. But they just aren’t practical. As sick as I may be of the ever-more-obscure labels and subgenres bands put on themselves, they’re a necessary evil.  Music has, for a long time, been a very segregated art. As bands try to clearly define themselves with new labels, all they’re doing is breaking down the walls finite genres can create and bringing in new, diverse fans. And that’s not a bad thing at all.
 
Besides, three-hour award shows aren’t really that horrendous.  I’ll sit through a million Taylor Swifts if it means I get to see Paul McCartney and Dave Grohl rock out to “Golden Slumbers.”
 
*Jim Pelz from the local group Hickory Robot was kind enough to answer a few of my long-winded questions about a musician’s view of genres. This blog would have come to a very different conclusion without him. Check out his band. We call it Bluegrass, even if he doesn’t.

 
 
by Mike Breen 02.24.2012
Posted In: Music History, Music Commentary at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
arrested-development

This Date in Music History: Feb. 24

Grammys over the years and George Harrison's guitar collection? Now there's an app for that

There have been several Grammy Awards held on this date. Here are a few highlights from three random Feb. 24 ceremonies:

1982's 24th Grammy Awards were big for Kim Carnes' one-hit-wonderful "Bette Davis Eyes," which won the Record and Song of the Year trophies. John Lennon won Album of the Year posthumously for Double Fantasy. Fun ones: Orson Welles won the Grammy for Best Spoken Word, Documentary or Drama Recording (?) for the radio version of Curt Siodmak's novel, Donovan's Brain; Sheena Easton was Best New Artist; and former knit-capped member of The Monkees, Michael Nesmith, won Video of the Year for Michael Nesmith in Elephant Parts, a collection of music videos and comedy sketches that helped further set the table for the creation of MTV. Watch Nesmith put his madcap Monkee skills to work all those years later:

Click the jump for "Born This Day" featuring George Harrison's new iPad app.

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by Mike Breen 02.23.2012
Posted In: Music History, Music Commentary at 11:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
woody_guthrie_nywts

This Date in Music History: Feb. 23

'This Land Is Your Land' turns 72 and Aziz Ansari turns Kanye jokes into an artform

On this day in 1940, American music icon Woody Guthrie wrote his most famous song and one that has become embedded into the DNA of American life, "This Land is You Land." The Folk music legend and notorious fighter for the social causes of the poor and working class is said to have written the song after hearing (a few too many times) Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," which he felt was too hyperbolic. Just like Roxanne Shante's "The Real Roxanne" was written as a response to U.T.F.O.'s "Roxanne Roxanne" (OK, maybe not JUST like), "This Land" was Guthrie's "answer song." Guthrie recorded the future standard five years later, but it wasn't until the ’60s Folk revival that the song really took flight, as everyone from Bob Dylan to The Kingston Trio covered the tune. Though "God Bless America" may be the song still sung at baseball games, "This Land is You Land" has endured as one of the greatest pieces of American art, a reflection of what many of us believe our country is all about — "We're all in this together and lucky to be on this wonderful little chunk of dirt, so shut up and quit being so selfish, jerk-ass!" Or something along those lines (maybe I read too much into it).

The song is still common at protests and used in political contexts. Bruce Springsteen closed his acoustic concerts in support of Barrack Obama in 2008 with a version ("Yes We Can" chants added), while Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello serenaded the mass of humanity at the Occupy Wall Street protest in NYC with the song (lost verses and all) this past October.

Here is one of the great "contemporary" versions — a rendition by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, who give the song a sweet vintage Soul makeover:

Click the jump for "Born This Day" featuring Aziz Ansari, the Mark Twain of Kanye West jokes.

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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)
 
 
crash

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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