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by Mike Breen 04.18.2012
 
 
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Virtual2pacalypse Now? When Jokes Come Alive

Was the hologram 2Pac a glimpse into the future of "live" music?

It's always a baffling moment for me when one of the things many of us have joked about happening in the future actually happens in the future.

"One day we'll just talk to the TV to change channels," we'd say, goofing around as we maneuvered the broomstick taped to the channel changer dial on (yes, ON) the television set so we wouldn't have to get off the couch to change it (more) manually.

"Wouldn't it be cool if, like, we could go see Kajagoogoo in Cleveland this weekend, but just broadcast to us in the garage so we can chug Milwaukee's Best and do Whip-Its while we watched it?" we'd say, knowing Mom would let us borrow the station wagon to go see the New Wave megastars in Cleveland when pigs can fly or we can carry around all the books in the library in our pockets!

Yeah, like that'll happen. But only because Kajagoogoo broke up years ago (and it did NOT end well). Last weekend, I was able to watch several artists perform at Coachella live, as it happened, while laying on my couch. Not naked, but also not sweating or getting run into constantly by some wasted "raver" in a purple Adidas jumpsuit shouting "Play 'Our House!'" while I'm trying to watch Madness.

I don't think the latest watershed the-silly-future-is-now moment — Tupac Shakur appearing at Coachella in hologram form alongside Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre — was part of the live broadcast through YouTube. But enough people have seen footage of it now that it has become a super-high trending topic on our digital future-boxes with the interweb and the series of tubes and whatnot.

I've been a bit shocked that the gimmick has elicited way more "OMG" responses that "WTF" ones. It is a neato technological trick and certainly warrants a lots of "Well I'll be"-type responses, but I've been bewildered that most of the commentary has been in the range of "tearful amazement" and "pure awe." This is based on some serious Twitter research, which has revealed how people like Katy Perry ("I think I might have cried when I saw Tupac") and Rihanna ("#IWASTHERE #STORY4myGrandKidz") reacted. I can only assume the "little people" feel the same way and are equally impressed.

If you somehow haven't seen it, take a gander:



I've made jokes in print about things like a "Hip Hopera," using it as something beyond the realm of possibility because it would be so cheesy and ridiculous. It's happened numerous times since. Never that successfully, because, you know, it's a Hip Hopera.

I've used the dead-musician-
hologram gag similarly — a far-fetched concept to play upon the ridiculous rate of technological advancement today and the greed of the music biz that might one day enable all the great dead artists of our time to be brought back to life as holograms and go on tour. Older artists could go out as their vintage selves — The Rolling Stones circa Beggars Banquet or Wu-Tang Clan circa Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (… and EVERYONE shows up). "Bands" could do multinational shows simultaneously. And the only people really getting paid to tour would be the A/V geeks hired to run the equipment.

It's such a bizarre concept; it's not supposed to ever actually come true. That's the kind of thing that makes jokes dated. And it's why The Jetsons still holds up. Robot maids — that shit's hilarious!

As dazzled as everyone seems to be by the projection of a dead rapper fake-performing (even shouting out "Coachella," though, to be fair, they could have cobbled that together from a sample from when Tupac used to play Frisbee Golf there on spring break), could there actually be a market for a hologram act to "tour"? (Note: Yes, I realize the Tupac at Coachella wasn't actually a "hologram," so shut it.)

Promoters, apparently, are going to find out if reports are true that Hologram2Pac might go on tour with Dr. Dre. Since the ghost cameo was the talk of the entire festival, Dre and Co. probably started planning it immediately. Especially after Shakur's mother gave her permission for the Coachella use and was reportedly amazed by how it came off.

That could be a fun special effect as part of someone else's act, but could it ever go to the next level? Will there ever be a tour reliant on a holographic headliner? Would people pay to see that? I'm not equating a DJ concert with a film projection of a dead person, but put, say, hologram Elvis on Daft Punk's stage — with Daft Punk — and would it double or triple the usual Daft Punk draw on tour?

I don't know if "The 1969 Beatles on Tour" or "Eddie Van Halen and His Fabulous Rotating Hologram Singers" would find an audience at this point. But I'm constantly amazed by what people love. Reality TV? Now That's What I Call Music compilations? Karaoke? Bon Iver? Every sitcom on CBS? We can do better.

If you would have told me while I was listening to 2Pac's All Eyez On Me album in 1996 (and, honestly, trying to figure out why so many considered the man a genius) that one day within the next two decades a dead Shakur would be the talk of some huge festival ("It's like that Lollapalooza thing, ’cept it don't travel"), I would have spit Milwaukee's Best out of my nose. (Yeah, I didn't mature much.)

I've watched as the concert experience — the actual, go-some-place-type of concert experience — has evolved in the past 20 years. The most talked about today is the phenomenon involving young people fiddling with their phones instead of "not paying attention" to the concert. I was, like many, annoyed/befuddled by the perceived lack of focus, but I realized something while watching Paul McCartney's Cincinnati concert at Great American Ballpark last summer that has helped me take a deep breath and just accept it.

Everyone enjoys music — listening to it, watching it performed, absorbing it — in different ways.

It was especially evident at the McCartney show because so many people had deep connections to the music being played, but they showed it — or expressed it — in different ways. I was intensely attentive and a bit internally emotional. I didn't talk a lot. My epiphany came when my girlfriend spoke to me while Sir Paul was introducing the next song. I could not imagine how insane someone must be to TALK while PAUL FREAKIN' MCCARTNEY WAS TALKING?!

And then I realized how stupid that was. My way of experiencing the show was different than hers or from the hammered 60-something couple dancing with their eyes shut or the beaming kids with their parents or the teen with the smartphone tweeting. They all had fun. And they'll all remember it (and those who don't as well will have photos to help).

So if Hologram2Pac is the next wave of live concert entertainment, I probably won't go to any of those concerts, but I won't make fun of people who do. Well, maybe just a little. Mostly because I won't be able to stop thinking about the early Saturday Night Live "fake commercial" promoting a concert residency, not long after Elvis died, starring Elvis' coat. That's one old music biz joke that hasn't come true. Yet. (Though EP did "tour" as video footage on big screens backed by a live band. And it did pretty damn well, from what I remember.)

Elvis Presley's Coat from Walter Williams on Vimeo


My recommendation is to do as I do, frustrated concertgoers. Accept our new hologram superstars. You never know — they might some day come to life and the world will be ruled by hologram images of great pop cultural icons originally crafted for beer commercials and personal appearances at car dealerships.

President Sinatra, I supported you all along.


(And now that I've made a joke about it, it has about a 600 percent better chance of happening.)
 
 
by Kyle Pope 01.31.2013
Posted In: Music Commentary at 03:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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Bands Just Wanna Have Fun! (No Period Necessary)

For a band that is called fun., I sure find it ironic that their music sparks nothing close to that feeling.

I admit comfortably that when I was 16, I was a fan of Nickelback, Disturbed and other bands that would fall under that “Cock Rock” territory. That’s a pretty bold statement.

While I’d say that (most) of that fandom is long gone, I have been finding myself coming back to a lot of the bands the shaped my childhood and early teenage years. Yes, partly for nostalgia (although no amount of that could ever make me listen to Nickelback again), but I think this is mainly because I am finding more and more that I am losing my place in the ever-changing world of music, specifically alternative and indie music.

Three years ago, I was always into the cutting edge of what is “now” — what many others and myself thought was good. I survived Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs winning Album of the Year at the Grammy’s, braved the great King of Limbs debate of 2011 and forced myself into thinking that a band like Chevelle actually sucked.

I read Pitchfork religiously to stay on top of music’s latest and “greatest” new bands. I even pretended that I loved Bon Iver, but that fell short when it was revealed that for about a year I thought Bon Iver was one person. Sorry I’m not sorry Justin Vernon.

Truth be told, I hate Bon Iver. I also think Neon Bible is a much better Arcade Fire album and even a Radiohead album like The Bends was better than King of Limbs. I think Chevelle kicks ass, but you’d never hear me say that out loud until now.

I guess I’ll stop brown-nosing my ego and get to the point. I like music that is accessible and fun. No, not the band. My friends and I, “We Are Young,“ but if that’s your idea for a great indie party song, then your parties suck.  

I use fun. as my main example, but this also applies to Mumford and Sons, Gotye, Imagine Dragons, Lumineers and others. I find my friends and acquaintances throwing it against the wall and, beyond my understanding, I’m seeing it stick. It might be just me, but I find these bands depressing. Not in an Alice in Chains “I’m a heroin addict and I don’t know how to stop ruining my life,” kind of way either, but more like a Simple Plan, “My girlfriend left me and now I can’t stop complaining about it” kind of way. Yes, I just compared Mumford and Sons to a pop-emo band from the early 2000s.

There’s a difference between depressed and depression and these bands embody that very essence of momentary sadness that really doesn’t matter in a few months.

Despite the very real and very dangerous depression of the guys who fronted Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Butthole Surfers and several other bands during the ‘90s, the final product of that excessive drug use was great and often fun music to listen to.

You don’t put a hand on your heart and shed a tear for Kurt Cobain when he screams out the lyrics to “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Of course not! You crank it up to 11 and scream loud and out of key with the guy.

Fun has become such a dirty word in alternative music and it’s not because of any form of stereotypical pretentious hipster nonsense. I really think the reason is, well…just because. I don’t think there’s a reason why Mumford and Sons’ Pop-Folk-with-a-Bluegrass-flare fusion is striking big, while Old Crow Medicine Show has been doing that for years.   

What do I know is this: I miss when indie music was something new, exciting and fun to listen to. When I think of indie, I think of the playful lyrics like “We could go and get 40s” from the song “12:51” by the Strokes, the iconic bass line of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” and the voice-raising howls of “Wake Up” by Arcade Fire.

I realize this is all personal interpretation, but indie music has become something of a boring passé before it even got old to begin with.

Bands have no foreseeable longevity because songs like “We Are Young” will be replaced faster than you can say “something that I used to know.” Ha, see what I did there?

And while Mumford and Sons have proven to have some lasting factor on modern music, I find their songs empty, repetitive and lacking any real expressiveness. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. “Little Lion Man” and “I Will Wait” are the same damn song.

They just don’t make good indie like they used to anymore, but then again maybe I’m getting too damn old for it anymore. 


Anger, pain, jealousy and atheism, but tell me this song doesn’t get you going! I dare you!

 
 
by Mike Breen 04.18.2012
Posted In: Music History, Music Commentary, Music Video at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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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 Jason Gargano 01.26.2011
Posted In: Music News, Music Commentary at 03:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Kayne West Tops Pazz & Jop Poll

The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop music critics' poll was unveiled last week. As expected, Kayne West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy stomped the competition, garnering nearly twice the points as the No. 2 album, LCD Soundsystem's This Is Happening, resulting in the largest ass-kicking in the poll's 37-year history.

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by Jeff Roberson 04.27.2012
Posted In: Live Music, Festivals, Music Commentary, Reviews at 09:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
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Merle Fest 2012: Day 1

North Carolina festival kicks off with Deep Dark Woods and Jubal's Kin

Thursday, April 26: MerleFest Festival Grounds

Electrified cats and dogs fell relentlessly across Roanoke Valley as I made my way into to North Carolina. As I turned off I-77, west towards Wilksboro, the skies started to clear and the rain disappeared. The south in the spring.

There are really only two stages operating on Thursday — the main Watson Stage where all the big acts play and the small Cabin Stage that is just off the main stage.The Dance Tent and Plaza Open Mic tent will have music today also, but most of the action is on the main festival grounds. The Cabin Stage provides music between acts on the Watson Stage. I know it's not the other way around due to the fact you can hear them sound-checking on the Watson Stage as the smaller stage acts are doing their sets. A note to festival organizers — that sucks.

The Watson Stage broke the silence at 3 p.m. sharp with the festival opening act, a five-piece from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, called The Deep Dark Woods. There are a fair number of Canadian acts at MerleFest. I like to think this is due to the Canadian governments dedication to supporting Canadian artists and helping them to further careers. That's a nice touch. Commies.

The Deep Dark Woods is an Alternative Country/Roots Rock/Americana band (what's it called these days? Fuck if I know) that has a really together and dark soulful sound somewhat reminiscent of Cincinnati's own The Hiders. Two guitars, keyboard, drums and the best bass player since Paul Cavins of Throneberry hung it up to play drums. Simple, unadorned, muted flats on a P-bass. My goodness, he alone was worth the effort. The songwriting was vital, evocative and never embarrassing and the dual Gretsch hollowbodies through Ampeg amps was a pretty unique and, for me, unheard sound. They weren't breaking any ground, sound-wise, just good songwriting presented exceptionally well and, in these genres, that's pretty much the goal.

Jubal's Kin took the Cabin Stage immediately following The Deep Dark Woods. This Florida based brother and sister duo is what I like about finding new music. Gailanne Amundsen and her brother Roger play with passion and commitment. Gailanne tore through some fiddle music to start off the set and then effortlessly moved to the frailing banjo and tore it up, too. Close familial harmonies and incredibly dynamic arrangements on songs that can only get better as they mature as performers. Incredible talent coupled with the right instincts. Unfortunately they started hitting the drums on the main stage for the next act; fortunately for me, Jubal's Kin (pictured below) has three appearances over the MerleFest weekend, so I moved on knowing I'll have better opportunities to see them in less distracting circumstances. That's one of the cool things about MerleFest — a lot of the acts have two, three or four sets over the span of the festival in a variety stages.

I wandered over to the Heritage Tent to see what my favorite potter, James Peter 'Pete' McWhirter, has for sale. I met Pete and his wife Kim last year. My sister is also an exhibitor in the Heritage Tent and, along with spewing the sights and sounds for you, I help her out by affording her breaks to have meals, use the bathroom, catch a band, etc.

Pete makes the most amazing jugs in a variety of themes. My wife and I are deeply in love with his Chick Jugs — jugs inspired both by his neighbor chickens in Burnsville, NC, and something you might find corn liquor in. He also makes musician jugs — Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops plays one — and outrageous face jugs. Pete is the second generation potter and owner of McWhirter Pottery. His mom ended up in Celo, NC, with an art degree in hand, singing with various folks, met his father, a native of North Georgia who had sp
ent some time marching with MLK, and Mom started McWhirter pottery making everyday useful objects — dinnerware, vases, etc. Pete carries on both the tradition of throwing pots as well as singing with his wife Kim in the western NC band He Said, She Said. Kim will be appearing Sunday at Merle Fest in the Traditional Tent Stage for a program entitled "Women Who Sing Traditional Music."

While hanging around Pete's booth, I met Buell, the man who claims to be responsible for MerleFest being more then a one-off event organized 25 years ago to raise money for a horticulture project at Wilkes Community College. Buell was running the video for the first event. They were using the NC-PBS truck with a Betacam machine that happened to have four XLR ins. While standing behind the camera near the sound board, the engineer asked him if he would like an audio board feed into his Betacam machine. Using this video along with some footage from the local TV station and more audio from a local radio station, he weaved together a video of the first event and sold Wilkes Community College on its production. This video sold over 5000 copies and created a demand that enabled the next MerleFest. I heard some great 1988 MerleFest stories from both Buell and Pete (Pete was at the first one also) and got directions to get my free "I Love John Hartford" button. Who doesn't love John Hartford?

Up later this eve on the big stage is Vince Gill. I suppose he's pretty good. I'll be heading to the Dance Tent to catch Blind Chocolate and the Milk Sheiks. I saw this Asheville, NC, based band last year at the recommendation of the Crossville, Tn. Huminaires drummer Joshua Hall and they were pretty damn good. Right now, it's time to feed the beast. More on Blind Chocolate in the morning.

(Words and photos by Jeff Roberson)
 
 
by Brian Baker 04.30.2012
Posted In: Reviews, Music Video, Music Commentary at 12:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
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Review: Jack White's 'Blunderbuss'

After the tumultuous revolution of The White Stripes, the twisted Pop/Rock convention of The Raconteurs and the Blues/Indie Rock gene splice of Dead Weather, there was nothing left for Jack White to do but to hang his own name on the marquee and go the solo route. There is an argument to be made that every White project is an extension of his musical persona regardless of the personnel he surrounds himself with or what he calls it; even the album's he produces bear his distinctive mark. At the same time, it’s also true White uses his shifting musical guises to offer a prismatic glimpse into the unique facets of his creative psyche, each one cut from the same bolt of cloth but patterned into something subtly but noticeably different.

White’s debut solo album, Blunderbuss, follows that logic line in much the same way. He explores and expands upon many of the genre variations that have defined his catalog to date in the service of imploding love songs that, at least on the surface, would seem to point toward his recent divorce as inspiration. In fact, the lack of actual drama surrounding that event indicates that White has written a song cycle about theoretical bad love rather than using pages out of his tear-stained journal for his muse.

Musically, Blunderbuss is a mixed bag of White’s best tricks; the Who-like guitar blast of “Sixteen Saltines,” the Prince-channels-the-Stooges Soul squall of “Freedom at 21” and the bluesy sugar swing of “I’m Shakin’.” But White also pushes his work down some interesting new paths as well, from the Americanapolitan Soul of “Love Interruption" (where White and singer Ruby Amanfu duet in a manner befitting Robert Plant and Alison Krauss) and the purer Country sway of the effecting title track to the Ray Davies-tinged dancehall Pop of “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” and the loungey piano Pop of “Hypocritical Kiss.”

Blunderbuss is another prime example of Jack White’s impeccable track record as one of Indie Rock’s most reliable chameleons.

(Edited to correct White's duet partner on "Love Interruption")

 
 
by Mike Breen 04.27.2012
 
 
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This Date in Music History: April 27

The Stooges reunion begins and a long-distance dedication to Casey Kasem

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):

Dear Casey,

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.

Sincerely,

Mike B. from Ohio



 
 
by Deirdre Kaye 05.25.2012
Posted In: Playlist, Music Commentary at 12:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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A Memorial Day Playlist

Music videos to help you remember those who fight and die so you don't have to

Memorial Day (originally called “Decoration Day”) was founded after the Civil War. The amount of men both the South and the Union lost during the Civil War was so staggering that it is often still referred to as our bloodiest war. Needing a way to grieve for their fallen loved ones, women and children took to the cemeteries to decorate the graves of their killed husbands, fathers and brothers. Over time, as America involved itself in more wars and saw the loss of more men and, eventually women, Memorial Day soon came to be a day to memorialize all fallen comrades, not just those from the Civil War.

These days, despite the fact that we still have thousands of soldiers deployed overseas, the meaning of Memorial Day seems to have diminished. For many people, it marks the start of summer. It’s the day where it’s officially OK to unroll the cover off your hibernating pool. It’s an excuse to invite over a few friends and fire up the grill. We build bunkers out of charcoal, dodge the friendly fire of water guns and begin donning our summer uniforms of shorts and tank-tops. Rarely, however, do we stop to remember the soldiers who have fallen in order for us to enjoy the oncoming lazy days of summer.

As Americans, we are certainly a culture full of short attention spans and we, the media, do a piss poor job of helping you remember why Memorial Day is still relevant. We publish thousands of words each year memorializing overdosed musicians and crazy, drug addled actors. We’d rather publish images of wild-eyed and high comedians than show you the reality of the flag covered caskets that still come rolling in off of planes each week. That’s incredibly pathetic when you consider that roughly 6,400 soldiers have been killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. So, maybe it’s our fault.

This year deserves to be different, though. Recently, one of my best friends sent me a video of a bunch of bored soldiers in Iraq dancing to a Vanilla Ice song. We’d been discussing the reasoning behind the exorbitant amount of soldier suicides. I guess it had gotten the best of both our moods and he decided we needed to cheer up. Except he failed. As I watched the videos, I couldn’t help but wonder just how many of those boys were still alive.

They really were boys, too. None of them look any older than the staff at CityBeat. Most of them look a lot younger. Soldiers are hardly grown-ups — according to Congressional record, the average age of a combat soldier is 27 and 68 percent of the fallen soldiers are under the age of 30. For many of us, that means they’re kids who went to our school. They’re our prom dates, point guards, arch-enemies and best friends.

This Memorial Day, as you’re preparing for your summer-long battle with mosquitoes and weeds, enjoy this playlist of fun, bar-b-q worthy music (including two versions of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”). At some point, though, check out the videos that go along with them. Even if you have no personal acquaintance to memorialize, take time to remember that others around the patio table may have someone missing. Say “Thank you” to the dude with the U.S. Marines sticker on the back of his jeep (he’s surely lost a friend or two) or apologize to the mother with the gold star on her service banner. Drink a beer for the girl you knew back in high school who was in ROTC or take your kid to go pop an American flag on their great-great-grandpa’s grave. 

With each passing year, the reasons behind any war almost always end up blurry.  Don’t let the faces of our soldiers become that way, too.

 

 
 
by Mike Breen 05.22.2012
Posted In: Music News, Music Commentary at 09:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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This Date in Music History: May 22

Pedophilia in Pop songs and birthday boy Sun Ra's bizarre film, 'Space Is The Place'

Call it "Rock & Roll Pervs Day." On this date in 1958, Jerry Lee Lewis arrived in the U.K. for a tour. Though it had been hidden at the time from the press and public, a reporter greeted Lewis at the airport and asked the rocker about his wife, Myra Gale Brown. She was Lewis' third wife (he was 22) and "first cousin once removed." She was also 13.

Lewis' handlers told him not to talk about his marriage, but he ignored them and spilled the beans (though he insisted she was 15). The U.K. public was outraged and the tour was cancelled after three dates. When he returned to the States, he found many radio outlets had banned his music; even Dick Clark wouldn't let him on his show.


Lewis' career took a major hit due to the controversy. Almost all of his singles afterwards peaked between 80-100 on the main singles charts. But Country music fans didn't seem to mind the cousin lovin'. Lewis had numerous Top 10 hits on the U.S. Country charts from the late ’60s and throughout the ’70s.

Exactly one decade after Lewis' British mishap, San Diego-based Rock band Gary Puckett & The Union Gap hit No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart with the song "Young Girl," which caused only a "minor" controversy even though it was explicitly about falling in love with an underage girl and fighting the urge to continue pursuing the relationship. In other words, a pedophilia anthem on par with Lolita (though the narrator in the song does seem to resist). Sample verse: "Beneath your perfume and your makeup/You're just a baby in disguise/And though you know that it's wrong to be/Alone with me/That 'come on' look is in your eyes."

The blip of controversy had no effect on Puckett and Co.'s career — the song made it to No. 2 in the U.S., as did its follow-up, "Lady Willpower" (featuring a similarly toned line: "Well there's so much you have to learn/And I would gladly teach you if I could only reach you"). In August of 1969, the group released "The Girl is a Woman Now" (sample line: "This girl was a child/Existing in a playground of stone"). Creepy.

"Young Girl" was covered by ABBA singer Frida, Danny Tanner on shitcom Full House and the kids from Glee in a "mash-up" with The Police's "Don't Stand So Close to Me," another pedophilia ode of sorts, inspired by the aforementioned Lolita book.

Last year, the Village Voice's Michael Musto did a roundup of "The Weirdest Pedophile Songs of All Time" and included Puckett's unnerving tune, as well as Neil Diamond's "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon," Donny Osmond's cover of "Go Away, Little Girl" and perhaps the most blatant of all, The Sherman Brothers' "You're Sixteen."

You think ANY of those songs would fly if they were released today?



Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 22 birthday include Rock & Roll Hall of Famer as a member of the Parliament/Funkadelic family, Calvin Simon (1942); Elton John's lyricist Bernie Taupin (1950); founder of The Specials (though left out of the second-wave Ska band's recent reunion activities) Jerry Dammers (1955); Mope Rock king and frontman for influential British Indie legends The Smiths, Morrissey (1959); Folk/Pop singer/songwriter Catie Curtis (1965); guitarist for Metal band Type O Negative, Kenny Hickey (1966); Indie Rock favorite John Vanderslice (1967); and amazing, exploratory Jazz genius Sun Ra (1914).

One of the more enigmatic and eccentric musicians in history, Ra was born Herman Poole Blount in Birmingham, Ala. Ra sported outlandish, "futuristic" costumes on stage and insisted he was from Saturn; listening to his experimental approach to Jazz, you can't be blamed for thinking it might be true. His music either threw out the rule book of Jazz or turned it upside down and he was an influence not only on progressive Jazz artists, but artists from all genres that veer into unexpected and/or avant garde territory. He's been cited as a big influence on musicians from George Clinton to Sonic Youth.

Ra died in 1993 from pneumonia after reportedly having a number of strokes and circulatory problems.

In 1974, Ra was the focus of the film Space Is The Place, a movie almost as strange as Ra's music. The fictional film is fascinating to watch, though sometimes hard to follow. Check out the full flick below (it is NSFW due to mild nudity, violence and some saucy and racial language). It runs about 80 minutes (but it's fun just to skim through if you don't have that kind of time right now).  

 
 
by Mike Breen 04.30.2012
Posted In: Music History, Music Commentary at 09:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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This Date in Music History: April 30

The L.A. riots continue and Willie Nelson turns 79

On this date in 1992, the Los Angeles riots had the world's attention, breaking out after the four cops on trial for beating Rodney King were acquitted the day before. Property damage has been estimated at $1 billion and 54 people were killed in the mayhem.

There were a lot of important things to come out of the riots, but, in the music world, the greatest tragedy was Madonna's famous bustier was swiped from its case at Frederick's of Hollywood. The black bustier worn by Madonna in the "Open Your Heart" video was stolen from the Frederick's "lingerie museum." It wasn't the only underwear debacle that night — a man who wanted Madonna's bustier found it already stolen, so he instead grabbed a push-up bra worn by Katey "Peg Bundy" Sagal on Married … With Children (he would later return the bra to a church, which returned it to Frederick's). Madonna's bustier was never returned (despite a whopping $1,000 reward), but the Material Girl did give the museum a replacement.

In more serious matters, the rioting created the opportunity for dialogue across the country about race relations. And that dialogue leaked into popular music, as major social issues often do. Songs (from nearly every genre) inspired by the L.A. riots of 1992 include Tom Petty's "Peace in L.A.," Sublime's "April 29, 1992 (Miami)," Dr. Dre's "The Day the Niggaz Took Over," Rancid's "I Wanna Riot," Machine Head's "Real Eyes, Realize, Real Lies," Garth Brooks' "We Shall Be Free," fIRHOSE's "4.29.92," David Bowie's "Black Tie White Noise," Aerosmith's "Livin' on the Edge" and Branford Marsalis' "Simi Valley Blues," the title of which was named after the town in which the police officers were put on trial. L.A. Electronica act Daniel LeDisko named his "band" LA Riots on the 15th anniversary of the riots.

Here was Rap legend Ice Cube's commentary on the riots from his third solo album, 1992's The Predator. This past weekend, Cube (alongside artists like Cypress Hill and Ras Kass) performed at a concert celebrating West Coast Hip Hop called Krush Groove. At midnight on Saturday (when it was officially April 29, the day rioting started), Cube reportedly asked the crowd to take a moment and remember those frightening days.



Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 30 birthday include Blues/Gospel singer and guitarist Reverend Gary Davis (1896); Rockabilly/Country singer ("The Battle of New Orleans," "North to Alaska") Johnny Horton (1925); half of the instrumental duo Santo and Johnny ("Sleep Walk"), Johnny Farina (1941); late Folk singer/songwriter and activist Mimi Farina (1945); Dancehall Reggae star Barrington Levy (1964); bassist and original member of Brazilian Metal greats Sepultura, Paulo Jr. (1968); Ohio native and member of "boy band" 98 Degrees, Jeff Timmons (1973); singer/composer/pianist for The Dresden Dolls and solo artist Amanda Fucking Palmer (1976); rapper with G-Unit and solo artist Lloyd Banks (1982); one of the singing kids from Glee, Dianna Agron (1986); and legendary singer/songwriter Willie Nelson (1933).

Nelson is one of those songwriters (like artists from Woody Guthrie to Lennon/McCartney to Bob Marley) who transcends genre tags. Nelson isn't a Country music icon — he's an American music icon.

Before garnering a publishing contract in 1960, Nelson worked as a DJ, played bars and joined Roy Price's band on bass. Songs Nelson wrote for others in the 1960s would become Country music classics — "Hello Walls," "Funny How Time Slips Away" and "Crazy" are just a sampling of his hits from that period.

Nelson had less success as a singer on his own, so he retired and moved to Austin, Texas, in the early ’70s. But Nelson fell in with the Outlaw Country scene and recorded increasingly successful albums, including the classic, Red Headed Stranger. He continued his run into the ’80s with material like "On the Road Again" and "Pancho & Lefty," and also formed supergroup The Highwaymen with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson.

Since the ’90s, Nelson has made news headlines with his tax problems and dedication and enthusiasm for smoking weed, but he's also managed to release a few relevant albums that have kept him from having to go on QVC to shill his music.

Here's one of Nelson's early hits, "Crazy" (best known for the version by Patsy Cline), and a clip of Nelson talking about his forthcoming album, Heroes (due May 15). The album will include a strange range of covers — from Bob Wills to Coldplay — as well as a couple of new songs. Happy 79th, Willie!






 
 

 

 

 
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