3/20/2017

Today in Music History (March 20)

1969 John Lennon marries Yoko Ono at the British Consulate Office in Gibraltar. Lennon details this event--and his and Ono's subsequent bed-in--on The Beatles' "The Ballad of John and Yoko".

1973 - Slade hit No.1 on the UK singles chart with "Cum On Feel The Noize", the group's fourth UK No.1.

1977 -T Rex play their final ever gig.

1982 - Joan Jett And The Blackhearts begin their seven week run at the No.1 spot on the US singles chart with "I Love Rock 'n' Roll", a No.4 hit in the UK. The song was written and originally performed by The Arrows.

1991 - Michael Jackson signs a $1 billion contract with Sony, the richest deal in recording history.

Today's birthdays include...producer/dub icon Lee "Scratch" Perry (81); guitar great Jimmie Vaughan of the Fabulous Thunderbirds and brother of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan (68); and Stray Cats drummer Slim Jim Phantom (56).

3/16/2017

Today in Music History (March 16)

1948 - Billie Holiday is released from prison early because of good behavior.

1974 - During a US tour Elvis Presley plays the first of four nights at the Midsouth Coliseum in Memphis, Tennessee. He hadn't played his hometown in over a decade.

1977 - After being with the label for just six days the Sex Pistols were dropped from A&M. 25,000 copies of "God Save The Queen" were pressed and the band made £75,000 ($127,500) from the deal.

1992 - During a Metallica gig at Orlando Arena fans dangled an usher by his ankles from the balcony as trouble broke out at the concert. The band were charged $38,000 for repairs and cleaning after the audience trashed the building.

2010 - A rare Led Zeppelin recording from the group's 1971 gig at St Matthew's Baths Hall in Ipswich, England was unearthed at a flea market. The bootleg copy of the audio from the group's gig on November 16th 1971 was picked up for just "two or three pounds" by music fan Vic Kemp.


Today's Birthdays include...Heart guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Nancy Wilson (63); Public Enemy's own Flavor Flav (58); singer/songwriter Tracy Bonham (50); and Van Halen bassist Wolfgang Van Halen (26).

What We're Listening To...

Field Music is a British band that has been around for over a decade now. Tones on Town is our fave of theirs.

• Of the two brothers in Field Music (both are multi-instrumentalists) one records on his own as School of Language. The album Sea from Shore is in the same vein as Field Music but a tad less polished, in a good way.
 

The Holy Fuck are Canadian dudes whose music can probably best be described as instrumental electronica played with (analog) instruments. Latin is very cool. "Red Lights", "Latin America" and "Lucky" are our fave tracks.

• Ex-Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes' Matador is one of the best records we've heard in a while. Probably better than anything his old band ever did.

Martin Courtney is from a Brooklyn via NJ band you may have heard of called Real Estate. His solo record Many Moons is mellow, singer/songwriter fare but lively, with some breezy tunes.

3/14/2017

Paupers, Pirates and Pop Stars

HOW MUSIC GOT FREE: 
A Story of Obsession and Invention
Stephen Witt
[Penguin - 2015]

Witt chronicles the invention of the mp3, the widespread music piracy it made possible, and the response from both the music industry and law enforcement to these developments. Interestingly, Witt’s portrait of the music pirates, for the most part, falls into either trying-to-be-cool (as in the infamous Rabid Neurosis group that disseminated thousands of albums over its decade run) or the altruistic but legally naïve (ex: Oink’s Pink Palace, which counted NiN’s Trent Reznor among its members) yet fails to achieve sympathy for any of them. (In case you're wondering, Napster is barely mentioned, which makes complete sense within the context of Witt's narrative.)
The music business is ostensibly represented by Doug Morris, one of the most colorful and successful executives the industry has ever known. Morris’ rise depicts how the alternately greedy, embarrassed and ultimately successful in its own way music business still manages to exert an imposing influence despite a decimated marketplace (100+ million CDs were sold in 2016, down from 500+ million a decade prior).

How Music Got Free is an informative and, at times, a compelling read; one whose best attributes, arguably, are depicting how across-the-board greed and stupidity does not affect everyone equally, regardless of intent or milieu; and how the battles for copyrights and preservation of intellectual properties in this seismic market and paradigm shift (streaming services are the number one method of consuming music these days) left artists to suffer the financial consequences. As one of the top former pirates himself responds, when asked about his listening habits these days, "I have a Spotify account like everybody else."

2/14/2017

Sister's Gonna Work it Out

Never been big on Beyonce and can't really see what the fuss is all about. But the fuss has been undeniable: not since Madonna in her decades-ago heyday has a female pop artist garnered the devotion of the masses like Mrs. Carter has, which also includes a significant amount of critical admiration, as well.

But Beyonce's fans have so much emotional investment in her career that her perceived snub at this past Sunday's Grammy awards exploded into as far reaching areas as treatises on how the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, aka the Grammys, by failing to properly recognize the greatness of Beyonce's most recent album, have put into question the role of the popular black artist in our society and how...

Oh, please. Calm the fuck down. So the Grammys goofed. Big deal.

I am not for a second defending whatever faux pas the Academy made in this particular case, but being surprised about this is akin to discovering that it snows in the Northeast in February. Deserving artists are snubbed year after year. It happened to Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. Bob Marley's children have waaaay more Grammys than he ever got. And we all know how Jethro Tull was once infamously awarded Best Metal Performance (?) over Metallica. (For those unaware, JT isn't even a metal band.)
 
YMMV, of course, but being disappointed about Grammy awards is too much of an investment for anyone.

2/13/2017

Quote of the Day: 'Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip'

"People for some reason, and this happens, had been sharpening their knives for Aaron Sorkin and I don’t know why. It’s like you’re about to give birth and people are standing around and the baby is born and immediately they start saying, 'Why is he crying? Why isn’t the baby standing and talking? You’re not a good parent!' And that’s what they did to Studio 60, they immediately leapt on this new creation and immediately compared it to West Wing and any other movie he’d done..."

- Actor Steven Weber from the cast of Sorkin's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip on the unfair attacks that led to the demise of the show.

Pop Life (and death)

Here's something to ponder: a significant portion of music fans under the age of 25 barely know who Prince is. Sobering, huh? The go-to explanation is that the young folks who consume music via YouTube or streaming services aren't that hip to the late Minneapolis Monarch because the man was no fan of these platforms and made sure his music wasn't featured on them. No more. As of yesterday, Grammy Sunday, Prince's catalog will be available via Amazon Music, Napster (?!), Pandora and Spotify

On the one hand, any opportunity for people to discover this legendary artist's music is a beautiful thing. However, one can’t help feeling kinda weird about something he vehemently opposed in life now being a reality, less than a year after his death. Hmm…

12/10/2015

Mr. Jones' 21 Favorite Films of the 21st Century (so far)

[As always, when attempting this kind of exercise, familiarity and poignancy—as well as considerations of time, space, length, reader interest, etc etc etc—will inevitably lead to some favorites falling by the wayside. But such are the pitfalls of compiling a list of any kind, although slightly less stress is involved when the main criteria is favorites. And so, with that out of the way, and in alphabetical order by film, have at them. Cheers. - KJ]

All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records [2015]
Colin Hanks’ documentary deftly pays tribute to the iconic record store chain founded in his hometown of Sacramento, CA. Aces.

Amores Perros [2000] 
Three different tales—all involving dogs and love, hence the title—converge at a spectacular Mexico City car crash with dire results for all involved. This film was one of the main culprits behind the international resurgence of Mexican cinema.

Auto Focus [2002] 
Greg Kinnear’s winning portrayal of fellow thespian, the late Bob Crane—depicted as a sociopath with an insatiable sexual appetite he needed to visually document for later enjoyment—is a sight to behold.  

Best in Show [2000] 
Christopher Guest’s crowning achievement is the still biting This is Spinal Tap, but this dog show mockumentary—with a dog owner who literally has two left feet!—is close behind.                                                  

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me [2012]
Cult power pop heroes get their long-deserved big screen props in this heartfelt documentary.

Bowling for Columbine [2002] 
Sadly, Michael Moore’s record-breaking documentary on gun violence is as timely as ever. Maybe even more so.

Children of Men [2006]
An innovative and profound sci-fi flick; pregnant [no pun intended] with symbolism—it’s a modern-day nativity story of faith and hope amidst the bleakness and despair of a world fraught with infertility, chaos, terrorism, and jingoistic nationalism run amok.


The Dark Knight [2008]
All three films are top-notch, but the middle chapter of the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy hit especially hard.


Ghost World [2001]
Always reaching top spots in comic book-to-movie polls, director Terry Zwigoff's adaptation of Daniel Clowes' graphic novel is, like its source, a cult classic. It's also the last time its leads, Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson, were on equal professional footing. (What ever did happen to Birch?)


High Fidelity [2001]
Fans of Nick Hornby’s novel sighed with relief when it was announced fellow music geek John Cusack would bring it to the big screen. Despite shifting the story from England to the US—in this case Cusack’s beloved Chicago—it works beautifully. Hornby thought so, too.
Igby Goes Down [2002]
Burr Steers is best known as the screenwriter for the deplorable Matthew McConaughey-Kate Hudson romcom How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and for playing Roger (aka “Flock of Seagulls”) in Pulp Fiction. But he wrote and directed this loosely autobiographical comedy drama which is likely the shining gem on his resumé. Stars the excellent Kieran Culkin in the title role.

Mean Girls [2004] 
A love letter to ‘80s teen comedies, this Tina Fey-written, Lindsay Lohan-starring vehicle is the real deal. 

Mystic River [2003] 
Million Dollar Baby [2004]
It’s become a cliché itself that Clint Eastwood’s movies avoid the much maligned Hollywood happy ending. But these two—the former about the ramifications of a long ago sexual child abuse case and its ties to the killing of a current local mob boss’ daughter; the latter a meditation on true family and tough decisions disguised as a boxing film—are nothing but stellar filmmaking.


Ocean's Eleven [2001]
An ensemble cast with no filler, led by Messrs Clooney and Pitt, this is the rare remake that actually improves on the original.

Old School [2003]
Fight Club reimagined as a frat house comedy? Yes, please.


Sideways [2004] 
Failed writer and staunch oenophile takes his soon to be married best friend on a final bachelor romp thru California wine country. Hijinks ensue. Actually, Alexander Payne’s buddy flick is so much more than that.

The Simpsons Movie [2007]
No cable, Netflix or YouTube for this one—we actually made our way to the theatre to pay tribute to the first family of Springfield.

61* [2001] 
This Billy Crystal-directed account of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris’ chase for the all-time home run record during the 1961 major league season is our all-time favorite sports movie. Period.


Snatch [2000]
No sophomore slump for writer/director Guy Ritchie, who followed his popular 1998 debut film Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels with this smash hit which mines a similar crime/comedy vein. And yeah, even after repeated viewings Brad Pitt is still unintelligible. 

Thank You for Smoking [2006]

A clever and humorous satire that zings both sides of the cigarette fence.


10/23/2015

Groovemasters: Hunter and Amendola Live

CHARLIE HUNTER + SCOTT AMENDOLA
Bonafide
NYC
10/22/15

It's one thing to have guitarist extraordinaire Charlie Hunter dazzle with simultaneous guitar and bass dexterity on his custom, 7-string, hybrid instrument, via his numerous recordings. But to witness such brilliance up close is nothing short of a decidedly jaw-dropping experience. Add the nimble and equally inspired drumming of Scott Amendola and one just might be at a magical loss for words.

Playing with the spontaneity of two adventurous jazz pros jamming in someone's living room, Hunter and Amendola--who clearly hails from the Joey Baron school of highly creative, stunt drumming--both awed and delighted the assembled crowd with spirited renditions of respective originals, as well as covers ranging from classics like Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" to pop hit "Royals" by Lorde. But their swampy New Orleans-infused Cars medley ("Bye Bye Love"/"Good Times Roll"/"Let's Go") must be heard to be believed. Awesome.

10/20/2015

Lost and Found: 'Teenage Sex Therapist'

OWEN MAERCKS
Teenage Sex Therapist
[Feeding Tube Records - 2014]

Being a dedicated music artist is like standing on a street corner asking the passerby if they are interested in having a conversation about a topic near and dear to you. If you’re lucky, a crowd of like-minded folk will gather to hear what you have to say. But more often the not, they won’t be interested in the topic and/or your delivery or in all likelihood won’t even stop to ask what it is you’re going on about. Hindsight might make clear you had nothing interesting or substantive to communicate, but when it’s actually the opposite and you’re ignored for reasons both fickle and frail, that’s gotta hurt.

In 1978 Maercks’ Teenage Sex Therapist went dramatically unheard or, alternately, unloved among those who had the opportunity to hear it. Yes, his Beefhart-ian take on post-punk/new wave wasn’t going to climb the charts, then or now. But this was accessible, workman-like art rock that deep down was catchy as fuck. Surely it would’ve found an audience had it gotten the right attention, particularly at a time when kindred spirits such the B-52s were just a year away with their own outside-the-norm statement of musical purpose. But it was not to be.

Aside from Maercks himself, we have noted guitarist—and former Maercks bandmate in Monster Island—Henry Kaiser, to thank for the existence of Teenage Sex Therapist, having gotten Maercks up to Monterrey, CA to record the album over a few days with a band Kaiser selected and rehearsed in advance. (No Skyping or prior exchange of files, kiddies—remember, this was 1978.) Because of Kaiser’s involvement—and, let’s face it, the vagaries of life and the lottery-like aspect of the Internet—Maercks’ lone release has now found a home in the record collections of quite a few sympathetic fans, having gotten a proper release by the Massachusetts-based Feeding Tube Records. For those of us who missed its wonderful courtship with brilliance the first time around, discovering Teenage Sex Therapist is a source of both joy and reaffirmation: the former is self-explanatory; the latter lies in the hope that great music eventually finds an audience, especially while its creator is around to bask in the somewhat muted glow. 

Highlights: Nary a duff track here but “Sleeping With Great Works of Art”, “Information”, “Asleep and Awake”, “Nancy Calls Collect”, “Hoh!” and “Intense Young Man” deserve special attention.