Monday, April 30, 2007

i have mixed feelings about this

NEW YORK - Courtney Love, widow of Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain, says she plans to sell most of his belongings.

"I'm going to have a Christie's auction," Love, 42, tells AOL music Web site "(My house) is like a mausoleum."

Love and Cobain wed in 1992 and had a daughter, Frances Bean, that year. Cobain committed suicide in 1994.

"My daughter doesn't need to inherit a giant ... bag full of flannel ... shirts," says Love, former frontwoman of the rock band Hole. "A sweater, a guitar and the lyrics to `(Smells Like) Teen Spirit' — that's what my daughter gets. And the rest of it we'll just ... sell."

No date has been set for the auction, AOL publicist Kurt Patat told The Associated Press on Monday.

Love, whose upcoming album is titled, "Nobody's Daughter," says friends support the idea.

"Everyone's been positive and behind me on it," she says. "We'll make a lot of money and give a bunch of it to charity."

She'll have a chance to move on from Cobain, too.

"I still wear his pajamas to bed. How am I ever going to go form another relationship in my lifetime wearing Kurt's pajamas?"

Of course, she should be able to do whatever she wants with Kurt's stuff, but man, doesn't this just make ya think all over again that she was just using him? Maybe i'm being too harsh, but it just strikes me as uncaring...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Big Brother and the Holding Company - Cheap Thrills

I love the fact that this album was originally supposed to be called “Dope, Sex and Cheap Thrills”! What a perfectly appropriate title for this acid-blues record!

Ever since I first heard them, I’ve been a fan of Big Brother and the crazed, psychedelic guitar playing that literally sounds like an acid trip! These cats were as real as they get and adding Janis Joplin to the mix was the perfect final ingredient. A screwed up, slightly homely (though strangely sexy) loner from Texas who was laughed out of town, Janis lived the blues that she sang. She was never as confident as she appeared on stage and those of us with similar childhoods could relate to her extravagant onstage persona as much as the shy schoolgirl she appeared to be off stage.

This record to me is the ultimate Big Brother recording – not that many people would disagree with me on that one! Fantastic songs throughout, insane playing, great arrangements – if you wanted to show someone what the “psychedelic 60’s” was all about, this would be one of the best examples.

Janis was by far the star at this point in their career, but the band was a San Francisco favorite before she joined, and everyone sang during their sets. This record opens with “Combination of the 2” with Sam Andrews on lead vocals. But Janis is right there behind him, just itching to show what she could do, and show it she does on “I Need a Man To Love”! She puts herself right out there on the line, pleading for love, while guitars slash and sting and shriek around her. “It just can’t be loneliness surrounding me” – is there anyone who couldn’t relate to that sentiment? The call and answer of “can’t be – oh no” and “it just can’t be – no it just can’t be” couldn’t be more plaintive.

Sam’s arrangement of “Summertime” comes next and is a masterpiece! The twin guitar lines are astoundingly beautiful as Janis croons with her Southern Comfort-soaked voice over the multiple melodies. The tones change instantaneously from fierce to melancholy and I can’t imagine anyone being unmoved after hearing this.

Their hit from the record is “Piece of my Heart”, which has Janis bemoaning her dependence on her man and willingness to give him anything. It is another classic, but it really isn’t as heartfelt (so to speak!) as some of their other pieces on this record.

“Turtle Blues” is an acoustic piano roadhouse blues, “Oh Sweet Mary” is an under-rated song (probably because Joplin is not singing lead) that has many interesting turns, but these are basically just lead-ins to the showstopper – “Ball and Chain”. Wow! This is the pure definition of psychedelic blues! NOISY fuzz guitars lead into Janis sweetly singing the first verse and building up to the ultra-powerful chorus with the band and JJ literally pounding out the “tell me why” section. The dynamics and tension that builds and releases throughout the song are pure sex – sweet yet rough, simultaneously passionate and fierce – and the band blends perfectly with the vocals. James Gurley’s lead is absolute magic! In the Monterrey movie Janis is the focal point, but this is a full band effort – as evidenced by much weaker versions done by her later bands which aren’t a fraction as powerful as this. Big Mama Thorton should be damn proud!

The CD version has bonus tracks including a fairly forgettable Big Brother number “Roadblock” and “Flower in the Sun” (with a fine guitar break from – presumably – Sam Andrews, who wrote the tune), both outtakes from the Cheap Thrills sessions and not really missed from the original release. Of more interest are two songs recorded live at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit – good tunes, but again, I wouldn’t say that they were essential. Nice additions to the CD, though.

Fans of living-on-the-edge psychedelic rock’n’roll probably already own this record, but if you’re looking for a Janis Joplin record that personifies everything that she stood for, this is the one!

Unfortunately for r’n’r history, shortly after this record was released, she left Big Brother and formed the Kozmic Blues Band and then the Full Tilt Boogie Band due to her insecurities and critics’ unfounded claims of BB’s lack of instrumental proficiency. These new groups were both fine aggregations and they put out some good music, but nothing that can close to the power, the magic, the originality, and the passion of Big Brother.

The Sick Rose

The Sick Rose was one of the first European garage bands (in this case, from Italy) to reach a world-wide audience. Starting in the mid-80’s, they created an authentic 60’s sound reminiscent of bands like the Chesterfield Kings – snotty vocals (from a singer who can actually sing!), a fuzz punch, and Farfisa organ flavorings. Definitely one of the better bands to come out of that scene anywhere in the world – their originals showed that they weren’t just another sound-alike group, but actually had some originality in an often overly-derivative scene.

I didn’t get a chance to meet any of these guys until the Tommyknockers first European tour in 1990 or so. Singer Luca Re had agreed to help us out with our Italian shows and after driving all night, we arrived at the flat where he lived with his wife, Julia, at about 3:00 in the morning! They were still super gracious hosts who put up out entire motley entourage for several days while we were between gigs. Luca then drove us to all of the gigs and I think he might have even set up an extra show for one of our off nights. Unbelievably nice people who we have had the pleasure of seeing over the years and who we are still in touch with.

For some reason we weren’t able to see the Sick Rose play at this time, but we did get to gig with the fantastic and extremely under-rated Mouseblasters, whose amazing guitarist, Giorgio Cappellaro, has played with the SR off & on since then. Luca did sing a couple of songs with us at our Torino show (the town where the Sick Rose originated and Luca still lives) and blew us away as he dropped his quiet, mild-mannered alter ego and, despite a recently broken foot, turned into a wild man who leaped around the club while belting out Iggy songs!

My favorite SR album came out about this time on Synergy Records, titled Renaissance. This record takes garage rock and merges it with high-energy insanity and creates an incredible slab of r’n’r!

Jumping out of the gate full throttle with “Cheating”, this version of the band – with Giorgio sharing guitar duties with Roberto Bovolenta – rocks, riffs, shrieks, shouts and shows the world that you can create something unique within the garage genre. There are still some melodic and quieter moments (comparatively speaking), such as “Now She Comes in Colour”, “Abbie’s Dolls” and the lovely “Restless Mind”, and some more 60’s sounding tunes (“The American Dream”), but then they return to the heavy moments like “My Kind” (with a perfectly vicious scream by Luca and some superb guitar work by G&R) and the Dictators-influenced “Hunting For a New Love”. There’s even some great riff-rock with “Jaildoor” and “See the Glow”. Sitting on top of everything, Luca never forgets the melody and can move from crooning to screaming at a moment’s notice. What a band and what a record!

The CD also includes one of the better Dead Boys covers I’ve heard (“Big City”) and a DMZ-styled version of the Standells’ “Barracuda”.

All of the Sick Rose records are recommended to anyone who enjoys garage rock, but this album transcends all genres and anyone who loves rock’n’roll should love this one!

another loss

Monster Mash' singer Pickett dies at 69

NEW YORK - He does the "Monster Mash" no more. Bobby "Boris" Pickett, whose dead-on Boris Karloff impression propelled the Halloween anthem to the top of the charts in 1962, making him one of pop music's most enduring one-hit wonders, has died of leukemia. He was 69.

Pickett, dubbed "The Guy Lombardo of Halloween," died Wednesday night at the West Los Angeles Veterans Hospital, said his longtime manager, Stuart Hersh. His daughter, Nancy, and his sister, Lynda, were at Pickett's bedside.

"Monster Mash" hit the Billboard chart three times: when it debuted in 1962, reaching No. 1 the week before Halloween; again in August 1970, and for a third time in May 1973. The resurrections were appropriate for a song where Pickett gravely intoned the forever-stuck-in-your-head chorus: "He did the monster mash. ... It was a graveyard smash."

The novelty hit's fans included included Bob Dylan, who played the single on his XM Satellite Radio program last October. "Our next artist is considered a one-hit wonder, but his one hit comes back year after year," Dylan noted."

The hit single ensured Pickett's place in the pantheon of pop music obscurities, said syndicated radio host Dr. Demento, whose long-running program celebrates offbeat tunes.

"It's certainly the biggest Halloween song of all time," said Demento. The DJ, who interviewed Pickett last year, said he maintained a sense of humor about his singular success: "As he loved to say at oldies shows, `And now I'm going to do a medley of my hit.'"

Pickett's impression of Karloff (who despite his name was an Englishman, born William Henry Pratt) was forged in Somerville, Mass., where the boy watched horror films in a theater managed by his father.

Pickett used the impersonation in a nightclub act and when performing with his band the Cordials. A bandmate convinced Pickett they needed to do a song to showcase the Karloff voice, and "Monster Mash" was born — "written in about a half-hour," said Dr. Demento.

The recording, done in a couple of hours, featured a then-unknown piano player named Leon Russell and a backing band christened The Crypt-Kickers. It was rejected by four major labels before Gary Paxton, lead singer on the Hollywood Argyles' novelty hit "Alley Oop," released "Monster Mash" on his own label.

The instant smash became a sort-of Christmas carol for the pumpkin and ghoul set. In a 1996 interview with People magazine, Pickett said he never grew tired of it: "When I hear it, I hear a cash register ringing."

While Pickett never re-created its success, his "Monster's Holiday," a Christmas follow-up, reached No. 30 in December 1962. And "Graduation Day" hit No. 80 in June 1963.

He continued performing through his final gig in November. He remained in demand for Halloween performances, including a memorable 1973 show where his bus broke down outside Frankenstein, Mo.

Beside his daughter and sister, Pickett is survived by two grandchildren.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The B-Movie Rats

The first time I saw the Rats they looked like some refugees from a trashed-out, drug-fueled biker bar that would just as soon kick your ass as shake your hand. They played punk rock that was fast and furious, including mega-speed versions of Rose Tattoo, Faces and Stones tunes. They were stripped down about as far as you could go – guitar, bass, vocals and a drummer whose entire set consisted of a bass drum, snare, high-hat and a cowbell (he says he was too lazy to carry any more than that)!

But man, they could all play and they created a huge sound – Rick could hit those 4 pieces of his drum kit with a fullness and a mania had to be seen to be believed. Curt & Bill, on guitar & bass, were monster players with great tone and Derek was a real surprise in that period of the LA scene – a punk rock singer who would really sing!

Upon meeting these cats, you were in for another surprise – they were some of the nicest guys on the scene! Friendly, supportive and they all have open minds about good music and have a variety of tastes. We all ended up being pals and are still in touch to this day.

“Killer Woman” was their first album and it is a pure blast of high-energy punk rock! They had already been honing their chops with numerous shows, including ones with bands like Nashville Pussy and the Pleasure Fuckers. Songs like “Dirty Dog”, “Looking For a Fast One’, “Don’t Run Away”, etc, showed that they could write catchy tunes that rocked with a razor’s edge. This record was a pretty accurate representation of their sound at the time.

It took a couple of years before the next major release – a split CD called “Distilled” (because it was recorded at a studio called the Distillery) with the like-minded Hellbenders – another wild aggregation who they played with regularly. This was still savage punk, but with a (dare-I-say) maturity, a little more “rock” and improved production and playing throughout. Super powerful stuff, with a fantastic cover of the Runaways “American Nights” and amazing originals like “Visual” (that will stick in your head for days after hearing it), “Breakdown”, “New Orleans” (a town they loved to play in), and the massive “Saturday Night Bloodbath”. As good as the Hellbenders were I felt sorry for them having to follow the Rats on this release! Few bands could measure up after this rock attack!

The follow up was another full-length and a rock’n’roll classic titled “Bad For You” (on Junk Records in America) or “Make You Bleed” for the European version. This opens with one of their best songs – “Revolution” (about a “rock and roll revolution” – what else?) – and immediately you are struck by the quality of the production as much as the unadulterated ROCK! Everyone who heard this record was blown away that this was an independent release and not a major label record – the sound is just so damn good – the guitars are gargantuan, no one would ever guess that Rick was only playing a couple of pieces, the bass is heavy (and Bill is definitely an under-rated player – he was excellent on the bass!) and Derek sounds better than ever! Just a terrific record all around!

There are still bursts of punk insanity, such as “Smoke”, “1000 Miles”, and “On the Rocks” (which has a great “I can think of a word that rhymes” moment in it) but more songs show a growth such as “Living on the Outside”, “Runaway” and “Invisible Man”. They’ve also included their take on the Faces “Borstal Boys” (they recorded “Stay With Me”, as well, at some point), showing their indebtedness to great classic rock. The other cover on the record is the fantastic soul-rock of the BellRays’ “Have a Little Faith”, once again showing their versatility. Overall, a mind-boggling record and something that everyone who loves wild r’n’r should own!

Unfortunately, the band went through a few personal changes after this CD which kept them from the studio for too long and this is the last recording that has so far been released. The band members have all gone their separate ways now, but before they did, they played as a 5 piece with the phenomenal Andy Baker on drums and Matt Lake on second guitar and did record a final album that is still due to be released. This lineup was very different from the earlier band and had a much more 70’s-rock style to it. They did longer and slower (though still ultra-powerful) songs along with the crazed punk rock and had a lot more guitar interplay between Curt & Matt. These tunes are some of my faves that these guys have ever done, though. Some people were turned off by their growth, but I think the songs are incredible and will blow peoples’ minds! “Radio Suicide”, “Bad Rain”, “Renegade” are just amazing r’n’r anthems and in a just world they would be considered classics by everyone who cares about real music! You can hear some of these at iSounds at:
With luck, Radio Suicide should be released this year. More than highly-recommended – I would say that it is a must-buy!

The guys talk about doing some reunion shows, so keep you eyes open – they are super live!

Spinal Tap to the rescue!

NEW YORK - Spinal Tap is back, and this time the band wants to help save the world from global warming.

The mock heavy metal group immortalized in the 1984 mockumentary, "This is Spinal Tap," will reunite for a performance at Wembley Stadium in London as part of the Live Earth concerts scheduled worldwide for July 7.

The original members of Spinal Tap will be there: guitarist Nigel Tufnel (played by Christopher Guest), singer David St. Hubbins ( Michael McKean) and bassist Derek Smalls ( Harry Shearer). Rob Reiner, who both directed "This is Spinal Tap" and played the fake documentarian Marty DeBergi in the film, will also be in attendance.

A new 15-minute film directed by Reiner on the band's reunion will also play at the opening night of the Tribeca Film Festival in New York on Wednesday. The slate for the opening gala, to be hosted by Al Gore, was previously announced, excepting the Reiner short.


the latest on Phil Spector

LOS ANGELES - More than four years after an actress was shot to death at Phil Spector's hilltop mansion, a jury must decide whether the music producer murdered her. Opening statements in Spector's trial were scheduled for Wednesday.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Bob Dylan - Time Out of Mind

Bob Dylan – Time Out of Mind

I just found this CD and picked it up on a whim. I’ve been going through a Dylan phase lately and checking out a lot of stuff that I’ve ignored in the past.

I don’t know much about how this record came about, but it is definitely a return to earlier days, in a way. Overall this is a blues album, with reverb-drenched production, tremeloed guitars, and at times even a Tom Waits kinda feel.

I can’t really pick apart this CD as it seems to be meant as a whole. There are nods to his older recordings in lyrics and melodies and in fact, it feels like an “old” record. Not “old” as in outdated, but almost a timelessness about it and also maybe the idea that he is considering his age and looking back at his life. It is solemn and maybe even bleak, but powerful and another milestone in its own way.

Quite good stuff – definitely should be an addition to anyone’s Dylan collection.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The D4 - 6Twenty

The D4 – 6Twenty

This New Zealand gang delivers the goods with singalong punk’n’roll with roots in NY 70’s punk like the Heartbreakers (they even cover “Pirate Love”). Fast and hard, there is even a Devil Dogs-tinge to the tunes, though I like D4’s songwriting considerably better. “Get Loose” with the chorus of “get out, get up, get loose!” is a monster! (And, according to Wikipedia, it has been featured on a Bacardi Rum commercial!)

Despite being pretty straight-forward punk’n’roll overall, there is definitely variety here. A lot of the songs are relatively simplistic (nothing wrong with that!), but the “Exit to the City” has some really rockin’ lead guitar wah-wah work and even more sing-a-long portions and “Heartbreaker” is a little slower, but still very heavy and some more great guitar work – almost Hellacopters-ish (which is high praise indeed coming from me!).

Another stylistic switch comes with “Ladies Man”, which is basically a 60’s garage tune – complete with farfisa-sounding keyboards and temeloed guitar! “Little Baby” turns up the garage to 11 by stealing from the Del-Vetts incredible “Last Time Around”, cementing once again the link between 60’s and 70’s punk rock!

All in all, a damn fine r’n’r record! This is a few years old so you might already have it, but if ya don’t – go get it!

Garbage - Bleed Like Me

Garbage – Bleed Like Me

I’m not usually drawn to commercial bands, but I have always thought that Garbage had some interesting qualities – good melodies, a noisy edge – and I do really like this album, despite being more produced than I normally prefer.

It starts off with the power-chord driven “Bad Boyfriend” which does sound practically evil and yet sexy with Manson singing lines like “So ripe so sweet come suck it and see, But watch out Daddy I sting like a bee, I know some tricks I swear will give you the bends, C'mon baby be my bad boyfriend.”

They take a turn at 80’s new wave on “Run Baby Run’ and then a basic pop tune with “Right Between the Eyes” before going into their single from the album.

“Why Do You Love Me” – questioning why someone would love a woman who looks like a model and who fronts a successful rock band does not seem very realistic. This is a good, catchy and rockin’ song with a memorable chorus, but rings a bit false and contrived lyrically because she never presents any evidence of why someone should not love her. I assume that they are reaching out to the average (and average looking) person listening to the song and hoping that they will connect to it, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense coming from this singer. Not that good looking people can’t be insecure but still…Unless, of course, I am interpreting the lyrics completely wrong! Or, this could just be a “story song” and not meant to be able her at all. Regardless, despite being a good song, it is just not very believable.

The rest of the album includes more noisy-guitar pop (Metal Heart, Boys Wanna Fight – which has some of the more – hopefully – purposely silly lyrics that I’ve heard in a while!), more 80’s-styled new wave (Sex Is Not The Enemy) and even a quiet ballad (It’s All Over But the Crying).

Again, those who know me know that I generally prefer a much rawer sound to my bands and even though the guitars can be noisy on here, it is a produced noise. But, if that doesn’t bother you, then you will find some damn fine modern, dark pop tunes on this record!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

loss of a landmark

HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. - A fire destroyed the lakeside home of the late country singer Johnny Cash on Tuesday.

The fire started around 1:40 p.m. CST in this suburb about 20 miles northeast of downtown Nashville. Fire trucks arrived within five minutes, but the house was already engulfed in flames, Hendersonville Fire Chief Jamie Steele said.

Just a few hours later, there was almost nothing left except brick chimneys and the steel frame.

The cause is unknown, but Steele said the flames spread quickly because construction workers had recently applied a flammable wood preservative to the exterior of the house. The preservative was also being applied inside the house.
No workers were injured, but one firefighter was slightly hurt while fighting the fire, Steele said.

Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash, lived at the home from the late 1960s until their deaths in 2003.

The property was purchased by Barry Gibb, a member of the Bee Gees, in January 2006. Gibb and his wife, Linda, had said they planned to restore the home on Old Hickory Lake and hoped to write songs there.

Gibb's spokesman, Paul Bloch, said the singer and his family are "both saddened and devastated by the news."

While the Cashes lived there, the 13,880-square-foot home was visited by everyone from U.S. presidents to ordinary fans.

"So many prominent things and prominent people in American history took place in that house — everyone from Billy Graham to Bob Dylan went into that house," said singer Marty Stuart, who lives next door and was married to Cash's daughter, Cindy, in the 1980s.

Stuart said the man who designed the house, Nashville builder Braxton Dixon, was "the closest thing this part of the country had to Frank Lloyd Wright."

When Cash moved there, the road was a quiet country lane that skirts Old Hickory Lake.

Kris Kristofferson, then an aspiring songwriter, once landed a helicopter on Cash's lawn to pitch him a song.
In later years, Cash did a lot of recording in the home and in a studio on the property. The landmark video for his song "Hurt" was shot inside the house.

"It was a sanctuary and a fortress for him," Stuart said. "There was a lot of writing that took place there."

Richard Sterban of the Oak Ridge Boys lives on the same road as Cash. "Maybe it's the good Lord's way to make sure that it was only Johnny's house," Sterban said.

Cash's musical career began in the 1950s and spanned from rock 'n' roll to folk to country. His hits included "Ring of Fire," "Folsom Prison Blues" and "I Walk the Line."


Monday, April 09, 2007

good news for fans of the MC5


U. S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford has issued a ruling exonerating David Thomas, Laurel Legler, Future/Now Films, Zenta LLC., From The Heart Productions, and Carole Lee Dean of all claims brought against them by Wayne Kramer, Margaret Saadi Kramer and Muscle Tone, Inc.

"It's good to remember the 60's, but some say if you remember the 60's you weren't there. Perhaps to assist all of us in remembering the 60's, Defendants David Thomas and Laurel Legler made a film on the MC5, a 60's Detroit Rock and Roll band that made its mark on American history with loud rock and roll and radical perceptions positing an imperialistic and materialistic America. This lawsuit teaches that materialism remains with us, as Plaintiffs vigorously seek money from Defendants. Although the MC5 faded away largely due to drugs, the band lingers on in the memory of many, and would be known to many other but for pending legal feuds."

The Honorable Andrew J Guilford, United States District Judge
Findings Of Fact And Conclusions Of Law, issued March 31, 2007

Many will recall numerous serious allegations being made in the wake of the cancellation of the "MC5 - A True Testimonial" documentary's official release back in 2004; the Court has weighed the actual evidence and made a comprehensive ruling, stating:

"Much of this case rests upon the credibility of witnesses, and the Court finds that Thomas and Legler were far more credible than Kramer on key issues concerning alleged promises, representations and commitments."

Could this blockbuster ruling finally clear the remaining obstacles and enable the long-overdue release of the brilliant "MC5 - A True Testimonial" documentary? Judge Guilford expressed his opinion:

"Defendants were first-time filmmakers who spent eight years of their lives trying to create a documentary film that would be historically truthful, a documentary that would celebrate the talent and creativity of the MC5 band, a documentary that would say something about the 60's, and would say something about the present. They succeeded, and the film merits wide distribution for the enjoyment and edification of the masses."

Tell me that I'm dreaming...

Complete details: here, here and here.

With any luck, the film will finally be officially released and the MC5 (and i'm sure even Wayne Kramer) will gain many more fans.