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."
On this day in 2004, Frank Black, Kim Deal, Joey Santiago and David Lovering put their differences aside to honor their legacy and make a shit-ton of cash, reuniting for a Pixies reunion tour that recently completed its seventh year. The first show back was at Minneapolis' Fine Line Cafe, where they opened with "Bone Machine," the first song on the group's first full-length, Surfer Rosa. The band has mixed things up on their global tour by performing albums in full and, uh, mixing up the setlist (maybe?), but one thing they haven't done is record more than a smidgen of new music. On the other hand, it seems only fair that the group members reap some rewards from their influential work. It would just be interesting to hear what the four of them could come up with if they attempted a new album.
Here's "Bone Machine" performed live on a TV show in the Netherlands, "back in the day." Scrappy!
Thirty five years ago today, the original Apple Computer — now called Apple I — was introduced. This week it was revealed that Apple's market value hit $600 billion. Only one other company — Microsoft — has ever reached that value level (it's now back down to a paltry $255 billion, according to the Associated Press).
Not even its creator could have known that the little box designed and hand-built by Steve Wozniak (with entrepreneurial spiritual guidance by Steve Jobs) would lead to multiple revolutions, including in the worlds of technology, telecommunications, media, music and likely hundreds of other fields.
Who knows where those fields would be today were it not for Apple. One thing that certainly would not exist today is the following song tribute to Jobs by New York City-based progressive House DJ/producer AzR featuring only sounds and tones from an Apple computer (aside from some Jobs quotes). Every time I hear that "chirp," I think my iPod connector cable is going haywire.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 11 birthday include early Jazz musician Nick LaRocca (1889); Pop and Jazz music's first African-American personal manager (and also a noted Jazz bassist) John Levy (1912); composer of Rock classic "Louie Louie," Richard Berry (1935); original member of The Specials (and singer in Special Beat with The English Beat's Ranking Roger) Neville Staple (1955); late singer/guitarist for one hit wonders Big Country ("In a Big Country") Stuart Adamson (1958); co-founder of Gin Blossoms (who later committed suicide after leaving the band) Doug Hopkins (1961); British Soul/Pop vocalist Joss Stone (1987); and singular actor/musician Vincent Gallo (1962).
Gallo is best known as an indie film actor with a public persona so over the top, many find him obnoxious. Though he's never had a mainstream breakthrough (in part thanks to his refusal to go the Nic Cage route and make shitty, big-budget craptaculars just for the paycheck), he remains one of America's great underrated actors. And his stellar feature Buffalo ’66 (in which he starred and directed and wrote) is one of the best twisted RomComs of all time, second perhaps only to Billy Wilder's The Apartment. Hopefully he'll make another masterpiece at some point. But his experimental streak seems pretty domineering.
Gallo has been as adventurous in his musical work as he has in celluloid. When Gallo moved to NYC in the ’70s, he played in a band with art legend Jean Michel Basquiat and later performed in other groups and as a solo artist. He continued to write music for his films (notably Brown Bunny and Buffalo) and has put out a few releases on U.K. electronic/experimental label, Warp Records.
Gallo has directed music videos (including John Frusciante's "Going Inside") and appeared in several clips as well, the most famous being Jay-Z's "99 Problems."
In 2005, Gallo curated a weekend of show at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in the U.K., booking Yoko Ono, Frusciante (Gallo, coincidentally, toured in 2001 with a band that included Frusciante's Chili Peppers replacement, Josh Klinghoffer) and Yoko Ono (Gallo and Ono's son Sean Lennon also made an album around that time that has yet to be released).
Here's the first song on his 2001 solo album When, "I Wrote This Song For the Girl Paris Hilton" (for no clear reason).
On this date in 1980, the British awards program honoring songwriters, The Ivor Novello Awards, bestowed the awards for best Pop song and best lyrics to The Boomtown Rats, the Irish Punk band featuring Live Aid founder Bob Geldof. The song that won the honors was the band's biggest, "I Don't Like Mondays," a tune written by Geldof after reading about the news of a 16-year-old high school student who started a shooting spree on a playground in San Diego in early 1979.
The young girl killed two adults and injured eight kids and one cop. With a rifle given to her by her father as a gift, she began shooting from her house across the street from the elementary school playground. When she was asked by a reporter why she did it, she said, "I don't like Mondays. This livens up the day." She also told police during a six-hour standoff that "there was no reason for it, and it was a lot of fun." She was sentenced to 25 years to life and has been denied parole multiple times. During parole hearings, the woman has made various excuses, from claiming that it was the cops who fired the shots that killed and hurt people to insisting she was sexually abused by her father to proclaiming she was on alcohol and hallucinogenic drugs at the time.
She is not eligible for parole again until 2019.
The Boomtown Rats released "I Don't Like Mondays" that summer. The song gave the Rats their second No. 1 in the U.K. (it only made it to No. 79 in the States) and became the tune for which they're best known. The tune wasn't a celebration of the girl, nor was it a tribute to the victims. Rather, it was a clever, emotional look at mental illness and how it can effect anyone, even those you'd least suspect.
Russell Brand referred to the song when he hosted the NME Awards in 2006. When the often curmudgeonly Geldof won the "Best DVD" award for the Live 8 disc (ooh, what an honor!), he began his speech by saying, "Russell Brand … what a cunt." Brand shot back and won the diss battle instantly, saying "It's no wonder Bob Geldof knows so much about famine — he's been dining out on 'I Don't Like Mondays' for 30 years."
Here's a clip of Geldof and Rats pianist Johnny Fingers performing my favorite version of the song, at the 1982 Secret Policeman's Ball benefit concerts for Amnesty International.
Click below for Born This Day featuring Andrew W.K., Billy Joel, Richie Furay and Ghostface Killah.
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.
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.
Today's a big one for synthesizer fans. You know partly what I'm talking about if you've visited Google today (see below). But today also marks the 30th anniversary of a drastic and controversial move by the UK Musicians' Union. The union proposed a ban on synthesizers and drum machines because, to quote South Park, "Thur takin' our jaabs!" This is 1982, mind you, when Synth Pop and New Wave were huge and Hip Hop was beginning to find its legs in the mainstream. Musician unions worldwide struggled to come to peace with the existence of electronic instruments, many proposing tax hikes on the instruments to discourage use (like the U.S. does with cigarettes now).
The UK union's support of a ban caused a splinter group to form — the Union of Sound Synthesists was created to protect Electronic musicians' rights (or anyone else who wanted to use a "non-traditional" electronic instrument).
The attacks on synthesizers and drum machines due to a fear that one day a computer will be able to make ENTIRE SONGS seems a little funny given today's electro-heavy musical landscape.
On this date in 1977, there was another attack on "electronic" (or perhaps more appropriately "electric") instruments. Jefferson Starship's planned concert at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park was cancelled by the city because it violated a ban on electric instruments being used in the public park. The greatest tragedy of the incident was that it partially inspired one of the worst songs ever made, Starship's "We Built This City" (the song was not written by the band, as many have cited; Elton John songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, J. Geils Band singer not-the-J.-Geils-Band's Peter Wolf, Martin Page and Dennis Lambert are to be credited/blamed for the tune).
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 23 birthday include regional native and legendary vocalist Rosemary Clooney (1928); singer for ’80s Pop band Baltimora ("Tarzan Boy"), Jimmy McShane (1957); former MTV VJ Karen Duffy (1961); Radiohead drummer Phil Selway (1967); Maroon 5 drummer Matt Flynn (1970); modern Soul singer Maxwell (1973); singer/songwriter Jewel (1974); original blink-182 drummer Scott Raynor (1978); singer for Indie Pop girl group The Pipettes, Gwenno Saunders (1981); singer/songwriter Tristan Prettyman (1982); and Electronic music pioneer Robert Moog (1934).
First things first — it's pronounced "Mogue" (rhymes with "vogue"), not "Mooo-g."
After manufacturing theremins, Mr. Moog (who passed away in 2005) founded Moog Music and invented the Moog synth, one of the first widely used, commercially available synthesizers. Early Moog users like Wendy Carlos (who did the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange with Moogs and helped Bob design the machines), Keith Emerson, John Cage and Rick Wakeman helped popularize the instruments.
The instrument can be heard on hundreds of thousands of popular tracks since Moog first showed off his concept in 1964 at the Audio Engineering Society's annual convention. Paste magazine picked its Top 10 "quintessential" Moog moments last year, which included tracks by Kraftwerk, Rush's "Closer to the Heart" and this one from the late Donna Summer.
Paste also made a cool list of the best of today's Moog boosters, including St. Vincent, Wilco and Mastodon.
Google today has one of its best "Google Doodles" yet. In honor of Bob Moog's 78th birthday, the search site features a fully playable Moog synth on its front page; you can even record your Moog squiggles!
Today Moog Music Inc. is donating 50 percent of all clothing and merchandise (though not instruments) sales proceeds to the Bob Moog Foundation. The online shop has some very cool new T-shirts and other goodies.
"Moog Music and our customers celebrate Bob’s pioneering legacy. In a time when science achievement is declining in this country, we are proud to support the Bob Moog Foundation in their efforts to bring science alive through electronic music. We invite all of our customers to make a purchase online on May 23rd and support the Foundation’s important work,” said Mike Adams, Moog Music President & CEO, in a press release.
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 1968, one of Rock & Roll's Shakespearean tragedies came to an end as singer Frankie Lymon, a Pop superstar in the mid-’50s with Rock & Roll/R&B vocal group The Teenagers, died from a heroin overdose at the age of 25.
Actually, if you've ever seen the 1998 film Why Do Fools Fall in Love
(named for Lymon and the Teenagers' biggest hit), you know that the
singer's death was a trick ending. The story of Lymon's sad legacy
(blockbuster hit leads to lead singer ego explosion; quits group; can't
find solo success; finds drugs; gets drafted; quits drugs; mounts
comeback; celebrates with drugs; dies) took an unusual turn in the ’80s.
Three different women came forward claiming to be Lymon's widow and
entitled to his estate. Turns out, they were all
telling the truth — Lymon had married all three but never divorced any
of them. Ultimately, the singer's estate was awarded to his third wife;
if that conclusion was reached on a coin-flip, could you really blame
Here's archival footage of Lymon's last TV appearance, a 1965 slot on the program Hollywood A Go-Go where the 22-year-old singer lip-synched to the original version of "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" — recorded when he was 13.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a Feb. 27 birthday include Jazz legend Dexter Gordon (1923); ex-WKRP in Cincinnati DJ, Dr. Johnny Fever, aka Howard Hesseman (1940); Journey guitarist and MILF pilfer Neal Schon (1954); guitarist/songwriter with Metal giants Iron Maiden, Adrian Smith (1957); Sex Pistols hanger-on Nancy Spungen (1958); singer with R&B/Hip Hop/Pop trio TLC, Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas (1971); and Classical/Pop vocalist Josh Groban (1981).
Groban is the kind of singer who would be really easy to make fun of if he didn't have such a good sense of humor about himself already. One of those Classical/Opera crossover Pop stars (like Charlotte Church or Il Divo) who approaches Pop and Rock material with the same overly careful enunciation and melodrama, Groban has parodied himself on various comedy programs, including Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and this bit from Jimmy Kimmel Live, where the singer used his talents to make Kanye West's nutty tweets sound even nuttier.