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 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.
On this day in 2003, Iggy Pop reunited The Stooges to perform at the 2003 Coachella festival in California. Well, as much of a "reunion" as possible — original bassist David Alexander died in 1975. But you can't do much better than Mike Watt (Minutemen, fIREHOSE) as a substitute. Pop re-teamed with guitarist Ron Asheton and drummer Scott Asheton for a few tracks on his Skull Ring album, which led to talk of playing some shows (joined by Steve Mackay, who played sax on Fun House).
Like the Pixies, the reunion seems never-ending. The original reunion shows usually stuck to material from the group's first two albums, but eventually they added material from Raw Power (which featured James Williamson on guitar and Ron Asheton on bass) and the band's mixed-reviewed new album, The Weirdness.
In January of 2009, Ron Asheton died of a heart attack. He was 60. The remaining Stooges issued a statement saying, in part, "We are shocked and shaken by the news of Ron's death. He was a great friend, brother, musician, trooper. Irreplaceable. He will be missed."
Then they replaced him. By May, the group had announced plans to keep going with former guitarist Williamson rejoining the band. Pop told NPR, "Although 'The Stooges' died with Ron Asheton, there is still 'Iggy and the Stooges'."
The group picked up reunion-touring that November, adding more Raw Power material to their set. In 2010, after a lot of clamoring from fans and even just those who understood the influence of Pop and Co., The Stooges were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
I saw the first Stooges reunion a couple of times and Pop and the band, while perhaps not as "dangerous" as they once were, still put on a great live show. It would be hard for Pop not to at this point, though it should be interesting to see how much longer the seemingly bulletproof 65-year-old can keep prancing around, shirtless (of course), on stage like a 25-year-old. Is 70 too old? 80? Will Pop keep throwing himself around the stage and working out until his veins protrude from his skin when he's 90? He certainly doesn't show any signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Here's a bit from the historic 1970 Iggy & the Stooges show here in Cincinnati at the ol' Crosley Field (yes, it was broadcast nationally on TV). Read all about the event here, from a 2010 CityBeat feature story on the 40th anniversary of the Cincinnati Summer Pop Festival.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 27 birthday include: legendary Rock drummer (John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Carly Simon, Elvis Costello) Jim Keltner (1942); Soul singer/songwriter ("I Can't Stand the Rain") Ann Peebles (1947); lead singer for the Soul group The Main Ingredient ("Everybody Plays the Fool"), Cuba Gooding, Sr. (1944); singer/songwriter/guitarist for Beatles-approved rockers Badfinger ("Come and Get It," "No Matter What"), Pete Ham (1947); vocalist with New Wave group The B-52's, Kate Pierson (1948); original KISS guitarist Ace Frehley (1951); Scottish Pop star Sheena Easton (1959); former Belle & Sebastian singer/cellist Isobel Campbell (1976); frontman for Fall Out Boy and solo artist Patrick Stump (1984); and America's countdown king, broadcaster Casey Kasem (1932).
And now, a long-distance dedication (to be read it in Kasem's voice):
When I was a youngster, I was addicted to your American Top 40 syndicated radio show. I'd listen every Saturday, just as I'd watch the morning cartoons (which you were also a part of, as the voice of Shaggy on Scooby Doo, as well as Robin on my must-see TV of the time, SuperFriends, among other shows.)
In a few years, my musical tastes would develop and I became less and less interested in most Top 40 music, so I didn't listen as much. But I'd still pop in every now and then, to check and see how my favorites, like Men at Work or The Police, were doing that week. And, if I was lucky, you'd throw in a fun fact or two about the artist behind the next song you were going to play (like, "… and that gas-station attendant was none other than Sheena Easton").
As I grew older, I also listened to commercial radio less and less, and I lost touch with my old friend, though I loved the clips of you losing it while recording your show. Earlier today, I noticed on Wikipedia that you officially retired from your radio shows in 2009 (and, apparently, you were still voicing Shaggy until that year as well). I felt bad that I thought you disappeared from the radio in 1986. So, Casey, could you please play Killing Joke's "Eighties" for my old pal, you, on his/your 80th birthday?
Oh, and YOU keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.
Mike B. from Ohio
On this day in 1960, Rockabilly idol and Rock & Roll trailblazer Eddie Cochran died while on tour in the U.K. at the age of 21. On the night of April 16, Cochran was in a taxi when it blew a tire and crashed into a lamppost. Cochran was reportedly thrown from the vehicle when he dove on his girlfriend, songwriter Sharon Sheeley, to shield her and went out the car door that had been flung open. He died in the hospital the next afternoon. Also in the car was fellow rocker Gene Vincent, who survived the crash but suffered serious injuries.
It's hard to overstate how influential Cochran was in the development and increasing popularity of Rock & Roll. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Rockabilly Hall of Fame, Cochran is responsible for such indispensable Rock staples as "Summertime Blues" and "C'mon Everybody," and influenced and/or was covered by artists like The Who, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, T. Rex, Hendrix, Rush, The Sex Pistols … pretty much the entire first decade of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees. Legend has it that Paul McCartney elbowed his way into John Lennon's The Quarrymen because his future bandmates were dazzled that he knew the chords and lyrics to Cochran's"Twenty Flight Rock."
It's rather stunning that someone who didn't live to see 22 could have such a profound effect on music. Here's a bit of Cochran featured in the 1956 film The Girl Can't Help It.
Click on for Born This Day featuring Redman, Maynard James Keenan, Liz Phair and Don Kirshner.
Today marks the 60th anniversary of what is widely considered the first Rock & Roll concert, DJ Alan Freed's deliciously monikered "Moondog Coronation Ball." The concert (co-produced by local record store owner Leo Mintz) was another testament to the underrated importance of Ohio in the development of Rock & Roll, taking place in Cleveland at the Cleveland Arena, which hosted hockey and basketball games (it was demolished in 1977). Freed, of course, was the great Cleveland DJ (and "King of the Moondogers") who was crucial in the popularization of Rock & Roll, introducing both the genre's name and the music to the world through his radio program on AM station WJW.
In an era when segregation was very much prevalent in society, the Moondog Coronation Ball drew attention for its unsegregated bill, featuring both black and white performers, as well as welcoming both black and white fans to attend. (Freed's black fans were reportedly shocked to discover at the concert that the DJ was actually white.) The popularity of this new-fangled Rock & Roll music became apparent the evening of the show when wwaaaaayyy more people showed up for the concert than the arena could accommodate. The arena held just under 10,000 people, but 20,000 turned up, partly due to additional tickets being accidentally printed. Fans stormed the gates, overcrowding the arena and leading the media to call it a "riot" (adding to Rock & Roll's reputation for being "dangerous," which only made it more popular). The Moondog Coronation Ball is still held today, though the excitement level, of course, is a little more muted.
Read more about that historic concert from the BBC (which declares that the Moondog event "laid the foundations for every rock gig that followed, from Woodstock to Glastonbury") here. Here's a clip from a documentary about Freed (the concert is discussed at around the 4:30 mark) by fellow DJ Frank Allan. (Be sure to check out this excellent site maintained by Freed's family about the legendary music man.)
Click on for Born This Day featuring DJ Premier, Solomon Burke, Deryck Whibley and Son House.
On this day in 1995, Rap star Eazy-E died. The N.W.A. cofounder got sick in late February and went into the hospital from what he believed was an issue with asthma. He was told, instead, that he had AIDS. Less than a month later, he released a public statement announcing that he had been diagnosed with the disease. He died from pneumonia a month after being admitted to the hospital at the age of 31.
The coverage of Eazy's death wasn't like when most famous Hip Hop stars die too young, nor did it approach the level of coverage/impact Magic Johnson's AIDS announcement had a few years earlier. Perhaps it was Eazy's polarizing career, in which he managed to make many enemies, including his pals from N.W.A. Perhaps it was the tales of how he was merely the "money man" in N.W.A., allegedly providing a financial base from his drug/gang activities for the group (and Ruthless Records) as long as he could be a member and his "solo" album (essentially an N.W.A. album, with writing and production contributions from the whole crew) came out first? Maybe it was the back-and-forth beefs with Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and their collaborators, which led many to side with Eazy's foes?
Though he never addressed how he contracted the disease, many assume it was through unprotected sex (Eazy had seven kids with six different women, so his promiscuity and hetero-ness is hard to doubt). Did Eazy's death have a positive impact as a cautionary tale for fellow artists and fans? It's hard to gauge, but the suddenness and unexpectedness of Eazy's passing certainly scared the hell out of a lot of people, including fellow rappers who knew it could have easily been them in his place. There hasn't been another major Rap star who has (at least publicly) acknowledged they are HIV positive since Eazy's death.
Here is a nice homage to Eazy by his daughter E.B. Wright (an aspiring Pop/Rock artist) from XXL magazine's site.
Click on for Born This Day, featuring Diana Ross, Kenny Chesney, Steven Tyler and James Iha.
On this date in 1990, singer/songwriter Tom Waits won a lawsuit against Frito-Lay. Waits sued the company claiming they approached him about using one of his songs in a commercial; when he declined, they found a soundalike to sing a tune very similar to Waits' "Step Right Up." He was awarded almost $2.5 million and was one of the first artists to successfully sue a company for using a soundalike.
It was not the last time Waits would battle the advertising world. In 1993, he sued Levi's after they used a cover of his song "Heartattack and Vine" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Levi's pulled the commercial and ran a full page apology in Billboard. In 2006, he won a suit against Volkswagen-Audi, which, like Frito-Lay, originally approached Waits about using his version of "Innocent When You Dream" for a Spanish commercial. He — as always — declined and the company tried to run a cover version instead. Waits received an undisclosed settlement. In 2007, Waits also settled a suit with Adam Opel AG, a German car company, on similar "soundalike" charges.
Hey advertising world — yes, he has a beautiful singing voice (?!) but maybe it's time to look for artists who won't sue your pants off to use in your adverts? Just a thought …
Waits is steadfast in his refusal to have his music co-opted to sell product (he famously said, "If Michael Jackson wants to work for Pepsi, why doesn't he just get himself a suit and an office in their headquarters and be done with it"), but did do voice-over work for a dog food company once in the early ’80s.
Here's Waits on the ’70s talk show parody Fernwood Tonight singing "The Piano Has Been Drinking." Hey, that'd make a great commercial for Steinway Pale Ale. (If it existed …)
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 8 birthday include the most legendary of legendary Blues musicians, Robert Johnson (1911); TV-turned-Pop-turned-Folk-Rock star Ricky Nelson (1940); the co-captain of cheesy ’70s Pop act Captain & Tennille ("Love Will Keep Us Together"), Toni Tennille (1940); former Glam Rock star ("Rock and Roll, Parts One and Two") Gary Glitter (1944); Jazz pianist Keith Jarrett (1945); singer with Funk kings Earth, Wind & Fire, Philip Bailey (1951); Talking Heads/Tom Tom Club drummer Chris Frantz (1951); Van Halen drummer Alex Van Halen (1953); Blur drummer Dave Rowntree (1964); Canadian singer/songwriter Martha Wainwright (1976); Blues Rock guitar phenom Joe Bonamassa (1977); and the man responsible for remarkable music videos for The White Stripes, Radiohead and The Chemical Brothers, French filmmaker Michel Gondry (1963).
Gondry won an Academy Award for co-writing the screenplay for Jim Carrey's second best movie (behind Mr. Popper's Penguins), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (which he also directed). Gondry has also directed flicks like The Green Hornet, Dave Chappelle's Block Party and Be Kind Rewind, but Gondry is the rare filmmaker whose shorter works seem to be equally (if not more) acclaimed.
Gondry has done extensive work in TV commercials — his "Drugstore" clip for Levi's is the most awarded commercial in history according to the Guinness World Records folks (though it never aired in the U.S. because the plot revolved around buying condoms. God forbid!).
But it's the field of music video that first brought Gondry to the film world's attention. In 2003, along with directors like Spike Jonze and Mark Romanek, he was part of a DVD series consisting of different volumes featuring one specific director's music video work. Here's a partial look at the "tracklisting," to get a sense of his rich music-videography: "The Hardest Button to Button," "Dead Leaves & the Dirty Ground" and "Fell in Love with a Girl" by The White Stripes; "Let Forever Be" and "Star Guitar" by The Chemical Brothers; "Army of Me," "Hyperballad," "Human Behavior" and "Bachelorette" by Bjork, "Deadweight" by Beck, "Around the World" by Daft Punk and "Everlong" by Foo Fighters.
Gondry's work features heavily in the current Contemporary Arts Center exhibit, Spectacle: The Music Video, a retrospective of the history and artistry of musical film clips. It's safe to say that, in the world of music video, he's like Scorsese (crossed with David Lynch and Salvador Dali).
Click below for a trio of lesser known clips from the director.
On this day in 2003, proto-Rock & Roll singer/songwriter Hank Ballard died after a battle with throat cancer. One of the under-heralded heroes of the development of Rock & Roll, Ballard's career is inexorably tied to Cincinnati, where he recorded for locally-based King Records (as well as the related Federal imprint). Ballard was a member of early ’50s Doo-wop grope The Royals, which had an R&B hit with the Federal single "Get It" in 1953 (despite it's alleged "sexually-suggestive" lyrical content).
The group became The Midnighters and landed a No. 1 R&B hit with Ballard's "Work With Me, Annie," another risque tune that was banned by the FCC from radio play. In 1959, the group became "Hank Ballard and the Midnighters" and moved to the King label proper. A 1959 B-side written by Ballard was covered by Chubby Checker and became a No. 1 smash on the Pop charts in 1960 and again in 1962. The song and accompanying dance (said to have also been developed by Ballard) became an international craze. The book Behind The Hits: Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll called the song's success "a major turning point for adult acceptance of rock and roll music."
Despite having one of their songs co-opted and turned into a cultural phenomenon, the early ’60s did bring Ballard and the Midnighters several Pop chart hits, including "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go" and the Grammy-nominated "Finger Poppin' Time." Ballard began a solo career in the late ’60s (despite support from James Brown, it never fully took off) and performed with a version of The Midnighters off and on until the year before he died. In 1990, Ballard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (without his Midnighters).
The footage is a little rough, but here's a cool clip of Ballard from 1989 performing "Work With Me, Annie" on one of my favorite live-music TV shows ever, David Sanborn's Night Music.
Click on for Born This Day, featuring Lou Reed, Chris Martin and … Dr. Seuss?
On this day in 1984, arguably the greatest concert film ever made, Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense, premiered. The film was directed by Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, a trio of Neil Young documentaries) and shot during three concerts at Hollywood's Pantages Theater in December of 2003. Along with being a compelling piece of art in itself, the movie was also groundbreaking in that it was the first made with all digital audio.
The film was also noteworthy due to Demme and the band's avoidance of concert movie cliches. The audience was barely shown; no color lighting was used onstage; there were no fast edits, behind the scenes footage, interviews or close ups of intense guitar soloing; and crew members are shown shuffling set props and equipment on and off the stage (instead of the usual "It's all magic!" approach).
Here's a song from the flick, "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)," from the Speaking in Tongues album (which was the record the band was touring when the film was shot).
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 24 birthday include: Jazz tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson (1937); singer/actress Barbra Streisand (1942); legendary producer (Bowie, T. Rex, Sparks, Thin Lizzy) Tony Visconti (1944); drummer for classic rockers CCR, Doug Clifford (1945); bassist for New Wave/Pop group Blondie, Nigel Harrison (1951); Punk trailblazer with The Damned, Raymond Burns, better known to the world as Captain Sensible (1954); singer/bassist for ’80s rockers Knight Ranger, Jack Blades (1954); drummer for The Cure (1984-1993), Boris Williams (1957); singer for underrated "really AltCountry" band Tarnation, Paula Frazer (1963); bassist for eclectic rockers Faith No More, Billy Gould (1963); Pop superstar (and American Idol's primary "success story" testimonial) Kelly Clarkson (1982); singer for Pop/Rock band All American Rejects, Tyson Ritter (1984) and Alt music pioneer with Bauhaus, Tones on Tail and Love and Rockets, David J (1957).
Born David John Haskins (his younger brother, Kevin Haskins, was also drummer in Bauhaus, Tones and L&R), J — like Peter Hook of New Order/Joy Division — had a very distinctive sound, which is rare for a bassist. Never one to rest on his laurels, J seems to be in a consistent state of creativity, releasing records and recording with numerous collaborators outside of the Bauhaus/L&R realm. Late last year, J released his latest solo album (the first for him in eight years), Not Long for This World, and staged the premiere of his avant-garde play, The Chanteuse and the Devil's Muse, based on The Black Dahlia murders.
J — who also wrote and sang several Love and Rockets songs (including the hit "No New Tale to Tell") — has benefited greatly from Kickstarter, the website that helps artists find funding for projects via fan contributions. Both the play and his latest solo album were funded with Kickstarter. (As if that wasn't plenty on his plate, around the same time, J also staged the one-woman show he wrote and directed, Silver for Gold: The Odyssey of Edie Sedgwick. Check out J's site for a look at/listen to more of his recent projects.)
Here's J's Kickstarter video for Not Long, as well as the track, "Spalding Gray Can’t Swim."