Wednesday, May 31, 2006

"New Cars" Backfires

Out Of The Wrecking Yard

I am glad that those who enjoy this refitted version of The Cars are enjoying it, I really do. More power to ya.

After witnessing a recent performance, I realize why I won't be able to match the level of some people's enthusiasm for The New Cars.

It's simple, really. I just can't see Rundgren, the purveyor of melodic, feel good, 70's rock (most of which I like) as the lead singer in one of the groundbreaking bands that brought the "New Wave" mentality to the mainstream.

New Wave was the antithesis of the "Have A Nice Day", "I'm OK, You're OK" attitude that permeated pop music for much of the 70's. To me, one of the major messages of New Wave was, "I'm NOT OK and life is NOT a frickin' bowl of cherries all the time". New Wave cloaked itself in darkness, disenchantment and detachment.

While I appreciate each of these genres independently, combining their elements creates a strange melange.

Todd, the former 70's Flower Child, posing as frontman for a band of dark, New Wave icons is like mixing oil and vinegar. To me, It's like The Doors returning with David Cassidy at the helm. Todd's singing, which is fine in it's own right, just can't match the spookiness and reticence of a Ric Ocasek.

Of course, it's my own small minded perception and prejudice that frames things that way. Those that have more flexibility in their outlook on this band are probably reaping benefits I have yet to aspire to. So while I may be limiting myself, that's where I am.

It does look like, in an attempt to create a New Wave image, Todd took his hair coloring tips from Debbie Harry, whom he will be touring with. The black locks underpinning a thick shock of overbleached, fright wig hair is as disturbing as his attempt to fit in as a New Wave Hero.

Friday, May 26, 2006

IRS Agent Dies; Music Industry Mourns


Ian Copeland, the pioneering booking agent and music promoter, has died at age 57. Copeland succumbed to melanoma on Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles where he was surrounded by family members, his publicist said.

Ian Copeland was instrumental in launching the "New Wave" movement of the late 1970's and early 1980's. His booking agency, F.B.I., and record label, I.R.S., focused on artists outside the mainstream Rock scene.

Copeland boosted the careers of New Wave stalwarts like The Police, The B-52's, R.E.M, Adam Ant, The Bangles, Nine Inch Nails, The Go-Go's, UB40, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Oingo Boingo, The Dead Kennedys, The Cure, Wall of Voodoo, General Public, The Smiths, Sting, The Thompson Twins, Squeeze and The Fixx.

Copeland and I.R.S. Records are responsible for helping create the "alternative music" genre that has become so popular today.

Miles Copeland said in a statement, “I am sorry to announce that my brother Ian passed from us last night at 11:20 PM. He was with his two daughters and later we all joined him. It is hard to believe but he had an exciting life and was grateful for it. He was also grateful for all the friendship shown to him over the past few months from so many people. He was much loved by so many. He will be greatly missed.”

Younger brother Stewart Copeland, a founder and drummer of The Police, told Billboard,"I was the luckiest kid brother in the world."

Monday, May 22, 2006

A Grammy In Heaven: Johnny Cash

Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye

2 1/2 years after his passing, the influence of legendary performer Johnny Cash still reverberates.

Johnny Cash was a drug addict, a man of God, an alcoholic, a thoughtful and kind- hearted soul, a jailbird, an admitted sinner and in the eyes of many, a saint. He was quick to expose his faults and foibles both in person and in song.

That's what made him so endearing, human and approachable.

Johnny's simple, ubiquitous tag line, "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash", may at first glance seem a bit generic. This humble introduction came to represent the straightforward style that was Johnny's trademark. It represented a man who wore his heart on his sleeve, was real and free from pretense.

"I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down, / Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town, / I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime, / But is there because he's a victim of the times"

- "Man In Black"

The careers of most music performers start with a big bang and then an eventual cooling off. Often it takes the form of several years of intense popularity followed by slow steady decline into irrelevance. Johnny seemed destined to follow this same pattern, especially in the 1980's when after thirty years, Columbia Records dropped his contract.

But in the 1990's Johnny's career magically resurrected. After being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1992, the immensely popular rock band U2, long time Cash admirers, invited Johnny to sing on their 1993 album, "Zooropa".

Cash then recorded his own album, "American Recordings", in his living room accompanied by just his guitar. This album won a Grammy in 1994 and began one of the most monumental comebacks in music history.

Subsequent albums were met with equal success and critical acclaim. Like a fine wine, Johnny seemed to get better with age.

Nearing the end of his journey on this planet, Johnny's voice cracked under the stress of illness and a long, harrowing life. This added even more character to his songs, revealing the tenderness and vulnerability of a man who had come to find peace with God and himself.

At the age of 70, Johnny found himself nominated in seven categories at The MTV 2003 Video Music Awards for his cover of Nine Inch Nails' song "Hurt". Up against artists nearly 50 years younger than him, including 50 Cent and Eminem, Johnny took home an award and the recognition of a whole new generation.

Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor admitted that he was initially "flattered" but worried that "the idea [of Cash covering "Hurt"] sounded a bit gimmicky", but when he heard the song and saw the video for the first time, Reznor said he was deeply moved and found Cash's cover beautiful and meaningful. He later said in an interview, "I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn't mine anymore."

"Hurt" went on to win both The 2003 Country Music Awards Single and Music Video Of The Year. The accompanying album won The 2003 Country Music Awards Album Of The Year.

In May of 2003, Johnny's longtime soulmate, June Carter Cash, passed away following heart surgery. Johnny was holding her hand when she died. Less than four months later, Johnny followed her. His passing was attributed to complications of diabetes, probably exacerbated by a broken heart.

Cash's song "Hurt", went on to win a Grammy in 2004.

In 2005, a movie based on Johnny's life, "Walk The Line" was nominated for 5 academy awards. In 2006, Reese Witherspoon won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of June Carter Cash.

Johnny's music continues to inspire. The rock group Coldplay has added a tribute to The Man In Black on their current world tour. They are playing the classic, "Ring Of Fire" at their sold out shows.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Hits That Never Were

The Charts Don't Rank Quality

What do all these songs have in common?

Badge- Cream

Good Times Bad Times- Led Zeppelin

Street Fighting Man- Rolling Stones

Foxey Lady- Jimi Hendrix

Purple Haze- Jimi Hendrix

Gloria- Them

My Generation- The Who

Cinnamon Girl- Neil Young

Layla- Derek & The Dominoes

Truckin'- Grateful Dead

Tiny Dancer- Elton John

You Can't Always Get What You Want- Rolling Stones

Dream On- Aerosmith

Tequila Sunrise- Eagles

Rebel Rebel- David Bowie

Changes- David Bowie

Moondance- Van Morrison

Surrender- Cheap Trick

Highway To Hell- AC/DC

Life During Wartime- Talking Heads

They are all great, Classic Rock anthems you say? Yes.

But they all share another distinction.

None of them were number one songs. In fact, only ONE of them made it into the top 10. Only TWO were Top 40 singles. And the only reason these two exceptions made it that far is because they were given a second chance. "Dream On" and "Layla" recharted, both going higher years after their initial release.

Every one of these songs charted in the Top 100, which should have given them enough exposure to push them higher. So why were they initially so ignored and overlooked?

In some cases, they may just have been ahead of their time. Jimi Hendrix was incredibly advanced as a guitarist but appreciation for his music didn't reach its peak until long after his death.

Sadly, it's more likely a case of radio programmers, music industry moguls and the record buying public playing it safe. Staying with the status quo rather than risking embracing challenging new music.

There is a price to be paid for this security. Much of the claptrap that does make it into the Top 40 and even the Top 10 turns out to be embarrassingly vapid in retrospect. The fate of most Top 40 songs is to quickly fade from view like a falling stars and ultimately end up as obscure trivia.

The songs listed above are so well known only because they have stood the test of time. These dirges became classics by not because they made a huge impact when they were first released. But because of having been consistently and repeatedly played, long after other songs have become forgotten relics.

For example, 1972 was a good year for music. Even so, "Day Dreaming" by Aretha Franklin, "How Do You Do" by Mouth & Macneal, "Scorpio" from Dennis Coffey and "Clean Up Woman" from Betty Wright were all in the Top 10. If you remember even one these songs you are to be congratulated for your Rain Man like memory.

'72 was not an anomaly, other years reveal similar results. It stands to reason then, that there is great music out RIGHT NOW that is not getting its due, while other songs are getting all the attention. To find these future classics now you might need to look in places you haven't before considered.

If you are ready to trade the "mainstream" for something a little more progressive, a bit of effort is required.

Try scanning your radio dial for a local station that plays alternative music. In So Cal, Indie 103.1 fm and 94.9 fm are good places to start. You can also search on the internet and stream music right to your computer from both traditional radio stations and internet only stations across the country and the world.

Check Apple's iTunes Music Store for new music releases every Tuesday. Join an internet message board or newsgroup for recommendations on independent and alternative bands.

Ask your musically savvy friends what they are into.

Get XM or Infinity satellite radio.

There are more music resources at your disposal now than at any time in history. Only you can stop yourself from being musically shortchanged.

Here are the (still hard to believe) actual Billboard chart results for the Classic Rock anthems listed above:

Gloria- Them #71 1966

My Generation- The Who #74 1966

Purple Haze- Jimi Hendrix #65 1967

Street Fighting Man- Rolling Stones #48 1968

Foxey Lady- Jimi Hendrix #67 1968

Badge- Cream #60 1969

Good Times Bad Times- Led Zeppelin #80 1969

Foxey Lady- Jimi Hendryx #67 1968

Cinnamon Girl- Neil Young #55 1970

Layla- Derek & The Dominoes #51 1971 (Charted again at #10 in 1972)

Truckin'- Grateful Dead #64 1971

Tiny Dancer- Elton John #41 1972

You Can't Always Get What You Want- Rolling Stones #42 1973

Dream On- Aerosmith #59 1973 (Charted again at #6 in 1976)

Tequila Sunrise- Eagles #64 1973

Rebel Rebel- David Bowie #64 1974

Changes- David Bowie #66 1972 (Also #41 1975)

Moondance- Van Morrison #92 1977

Surrender- Cheap Trick #62 1978

Highway To Hell- AC/DC #47 1979

Life During Wartime- Talking Heads #80 1979

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Keith Richards Does His Own Stunts

Hard To Kill is reporting that the 62 year old Rolling Stone guitarist suffered a concussion while taking a time out from touring with his bandmates last Thursday. The thrill seeking Rocker was vacationing in Fiji when a series of mishaps occurred. Richards apparently fell out of a coconut tree while fishing and later the same day had a jet ski accident.

Richards has been released from a New Zealand hospital in good condition. Barring any more daredevilish behavior, The Stones are expected to continue their current world tour in Europe this summer. No word on whether the aspiring hexagenerian stuntman will arrive to the shows by limo or parachute in.