Milestones: Yo La Tengo - 'Painful'


Five albums into a career with rotating bassists and a shaky grasp of the environs of the recording studio, the Hoboken quartet took a great leap forward on album number six, their first on Matador. Long-time bassist James McNew made his debut with the band on the previous year’s May I Sing With Me? [Alias-1992] but it’s on Painful that his playing truly coalesces with the band’s Velvet Underground-meets-shoegaze aesthetic, bringing about with his new bandmates, founding members Ira Kaplan (vocals, guitar) and Georgia Hubley (vocals, drums), a new phase in the band’s career which would yield their best music and firmly establish Yo La Tengo as one of indie rock’s premiere bands.

Released October 5th, 1993.

Highlights: “Big Day Coming”, “Double Dare”, “Suddenly Organ”, “A Worrying Thing”, “I Heard You Looking”.


Tuesday TV Trivia

• Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork both auditioned for the part of "Fonzie" on Happy Days [1974], but were turned down for being taller (6’0” and 6’1”, respectively) than Ron Howard (“Richie Cunningham”), Anson Williams (“Potsie”) and Donnie Most (“Ralph”).

• Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen have each played the son of their real life father Martin Sheen on screen but Emilio actually played a younger version of Martin in a flashback sequence on The West Wing [1999].

• Although her character “Julia” on Designing Women [1986] was a staunch liberal, Dixie Carter was actually a Republican in real life. So a compromise with the producers of the show was reached: whenever Julia got off on a liberal rant, Dixie Carter would get a chance to sing on a future episode.

• According to Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, the scenes for the feminist bookstore on Portlandia [2011] are filmed in the actual bookstore that inspired it with no added set dressing.

• The starship Enterprise on Star Trek: The Original Series [1966] has tubes in its hallways marked “GNDN”. Those initials stand for “goes nowhere, does nothing”.


Monday Movie Trivia

• According to Matthew Broderick, not a day goes by over the last 30-plus years that a stranger on the street doesn't ask, “Hey Ferris, is this your day off?”

• Even though the song “Dazed and Confused” was the inspiration for the title of the Richard Linklater film of the same name, the Led Zeppelin song he wanted to use in the movie was “Rock and Roll”, which Robert Plant vetoed.

• Although the character of Jimmy (played by Maris Valainis) in Hoosiers [1986] is quite vital to the plot of the movie, he only has four lines.

Blue Jasmine [2013] is the only Woody Allen movie in which the lead American characters are played by non-Americans. (Cate Blanchett is Australian; Sally Hawkins is British.)

• Jim Carrey, who played Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon [1993], shares a birthday with the late comedian: January 17th.


Friday Factoids

• On a recent visit to Washington DC, Peter Frampton told lawmakers he’d earned $1700 from 55 million streams of his song “Baby, I Love Your Way”.

• Before he became famous Bruno Mars was a well-known Elvis Presley impersonator in his native Hawaii.

• When Paul McCartney got back to London from Lagos, Nigeria after recording the bulk of the Band on the Run album there, he found a letter from EMI, dated before he left, not to go to the African country due to a recent cholera outbreak.

• Phil Collins’ maniacal laugh on the Genesis song “Mama” was inspired by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five’s hip-hop classic “The Message”.

• Jack White’s birth name is John Anthony Gillis.


Milestones - Thank You, Boys: Nothing's Shocking Turns 30

Nothing's Shocking
[Warner Bros - 1988]

Because of the band's glowing reputation in the music press as an art/funk/metal hybrid with a killer stage show that preceded my actual encounter with their music, I was intensely excited about the prospect of listening to their major label debut album. And then one summer night in 1988, while in bed listening to the local rock radio station, a song came on that somehow, unmistakably, led me to believe it was them, even though it didn’t adhere to the above adjectives. It was their unofficial theme song “Jane Says” and I was hooked. (Curiously, because I’ve never owned it on vinyl, it was a while before I discovered that one of my all-time favorite songs of theirs, “Pigs In Zen”, which closes out the album, was a CD/cassette bonus track. Boy, does that vinyl version now seems like it stops rather than ends with “Thank You, Boys” as its closer.) Ultimately, the record was a game changer, one whose power has not been diluted over the years and deservedly so.

Included in both Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, Nothing’s Shocking is not just a landmark recording in the annals of alternative rock but a thrilling, majestic collection of songs that alternately fires you up and lulls like a sunset when its work is done.

Released August 23, 1988.

Highlights: “Ocean Size”, "Mountain Song”, “Jane Says”, "Pigs In Zen”.


All Hail The Queen [RIP]

More eloquent and heartwarming statements have been made as we mourn the passing of one of the faces on our musical Mt. Rushmore so I'll keep mine brief.

Here are the two things that happened when I heard she was gravelly ill:

- I flashed back to her 2015 appearance in honor of the great Carole King at the Kennedy Center Honors. Her rendition of King’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” that night was one of the greatest musical performances I have ever witnessed. Ever. (King was very emotional and President Obama was seen wiping a tear or two. Damn.)

- The chorus of her duet with the late George Michael started buzzing in my head.

Yes, we have lost a true musical giant but she gave us so, so much; enough to last a couple of lifetimes.

God bless you, Queen.
(1946 - 2018)


Dave Grohl - "Play"

For a few years now, Blue Oyster Cult guitarist/keyboardist Richie Castellano has been delighting music fans with a series of one man videos in which he performs such classics as The Beatles’ “The End” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody. If you’ve yet to see his clips do so immediately. They are far and away worthy of your time and attention.

Dave Grohl is no stranger to one-man endeavors: he wrote, performed and recorded the self-titled Foo Fighters debut album by his lonesome, of course. (The one exception being Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs playing rhythm guitar on the song “X-Static”.) But that was a record made by a 25 year old rock star trying to find his way back into the world of music after the demise of his massively popular band. This lone gun endeavor, on the other hand, is the fruit of a wildly successful career rocker pushing 50 and availing himself of the ample resources at his disposal to do anything he pleases. So when it’s his turn to do the one man video thing he one ups Castellano and others by having a film crew document his gimmicky performance—Grohl appears as multiple versions of himself, all playing at the same time—of a 23-minute original instrumental in which he even plays instruments we don’t normally associate with the head Foo, such as keyboards, minor percussion, tympani and vibraphone.

“Play” is almost a half hour long and has accountrements of prog rock littered throughout, but no one who’s heard the dude's music will be surprised by this instrumental track. In other words, if latter day Foo Fighters were to channel Pink Floyd, Rush and Yes, this would quite likely be the end result. However, unlike the best work of those acts, there are transitions between the sections on “Play” that are bit clumsy and could’ve benefitted from the logistics of being performed by an ensemble, as Grohl performed each instrument for one complete take and went back to the beginning every time he flubbed a part.

As an exercise in rock star ego he could’ve done considerably worse but “Play” wasn’t meant to reward anyone but Grohl himself. A decent and enjoyable composition, it’s the kind of song you’ll watch on YouTube, marvel at the man’s prodigious talent and inevitably forget not long after.


Today in Music History (August 8)

1960 - Decca Records destroys 25,000 copies of Ray Peterson's "Tell Laura I Lover Her" because they felt the song, which recounts the last thoughts of a teenager dying from a car accident, was "too tasteless and vulgar". A cover version by Ricky Valance, went to No.1 on the UK chart a month later. 

 1966 - The Beatles release their seventh album, Revolver, in the US. Featuring "Taxman", "Eleanor Rigby", "I'm Only Sleeping", "Here, There and Everywhere", "She Said, She Said", "And Your Bird Can Sing" and "Tomorrow Never Knows", the album spent 77 weeks on the Billboard chart peaking at No.1. Exactly three years later, in 1969, the photo session for the cover of their Abbey Road album takes place on the crossing outside Abbey Road studios. After photographer Iain McMillan, balanced on a step-ladder in the middle of the road, took six shots of John, Ringo, Paul, and George walking across the zebra crossing while a policeman held up the traffic, the band then returned to the studio and recorded overdubs on "The End", "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" and "Oh! Darling".

1981 - MTV broadcasts its first stereo concert: REO Speedwagon in Denver, Colorado. The band had just released their hit album Hi Infidelity.

1986 - David Crosby of Crosby, Stills and Nash is released from prison after serving three years on drug and weapons charges. (His conviction would be overturned by a Texas appeals court in November of 1987.)

1987 - U2 score their second US No.1 single from The Joshua Tree with "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", which received two nominations for the 30th Grammy Awards in 1988: Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

1988 - N.W.A release hip hop classic Straight Outta Compton on Ruthless Records. In 2017, it was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or artistically significant."

1992 - A riot breaks out during a Guns N' Roses and Metallica show at Montreal Stadium when Metallica's set is cut short after singer James Hetfield is injured by pyrotechnics. Guns N' Roses took the stage but frontman Axl Rose claimed that his throat hurt, causing the band to leave the stage early. The cancellation led to a riot by the audience who overturned cars, smashed windows, looted local stores and set fires.

2010 - John Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman, has his parole hearing delayed until early September so that officials could gather additional information. Chapman had become eligible for parole in 2000 after serving 20 years, but had been denied his freedom five times.

 2016 - The judge presiding over the "Stairway To Heaven" copyright infringement trial rules against Led Zeppelin and their publishing company's attempts to recoup nearly $800,000 in legal fees. While a federal jury determined that Led Zeppelin were not guilty of plagiarizing Spirit's "Taurus" in a copyright infringement trial, judge R. Gary Klausner ruled that, since the lawsuit itself was not frivolous and meritless, the estate of Spirit guitarist Randy (California) Wolfe and their attorney Francis Malofiy were not obligated to repay the defendants' legal fees.

2017 - Singer/guitarist/songwriter/television host/actor Glen Campbell dies in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 81. Campbell released more than 70 studio albums and sold 45 million records worldwide. His hits include:"By the Time I Get to Phoenix", "Wichita Lineman" and 'Rhinestone Cowboy", and his guitar playing can be heard on "Strangers in the Night" by Frank Sinatra, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" by The Righteous Brothers and "I'm a Believer" by The Monkees. 

Today's Birthdays include...drummer Liberty DeVitto, best known for his work as a drummer for Billy Joel's recording and touring band as well as Carly Simon, Phoebe Snow, Karen Carpenter, Stevie Nicks, Rick Wakeman, Bob James and Meat Loaf (68); A Flock of Seagulls drummer Ali Score (62); Dennis Drew, keyboardist for 10,000 Maniacs (61); Madness guitarist Christopher Foreman (60); and U2 guitarist and backing vocalist Dave Evans aka The Edge (57).