Sunday, January 13, 2019

Banging and Scraping for the Groove

I’m going to guess that The Esbjörn Svensson Trio from Sweden are jazzers that grew up on rock. I’d throw this outfit in a bag with cool cat Matthew Ship which I’ve posted here before. Both musicks display footnotes from hip hop, rock, trance, and here – when that double bass (Dan Berglund) drops in with the bowed fuzz tone – heavy metal. I think the band has moments when it wants to traipse off into New Agey Fairyland, or rural folk as they’ve called George Winston, but that bass player and muted piano hammering brings it all back.

I’ve long argued that bebop, like abstract painting, are movements that want to take the art away from the people and lock in the tiny rooms for an academy audience. The bebop had rich benefactors like art does with its collectors, there might be an bigger audience for jazz. (People do worship the rich. Even the things they collect.)

Maybe this is what it’ll take to save jazz and make it relevant again.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

When the Tragically Cool (& Others) Get Popped: Pt 1

First, The Tragically Cool:

Presenting a tribute to those whose mug shots were worthy of a Ralph Lauren ad and a shout out to those whose style and elegance would never abandon them – even in what might be, for most, one of life’s most dire humiliations.

The First Place All-Time Hall of Fame Award: Who could top David Bowie in his Station to Station, Man Who Fell to Earth period? Never will you see a ice-colder, more I’m Rick James, bitch! look coming from a mug shot on anyone – certainly not from Rick James. 

The arrest was in a downtown Rochester, NY hotel following a performance. Along with Iggy Pop and another person, all were charged with marijuana possession. Two months later the charges were dismissed and Bowie and Rochester would never meet again.

The always fine Jane Fonda in her wife-of-Congressman-Tom Hayden activist days. Also from the same period she won the academy award for Klute: She worked the Shag (the name of her hair style) like no one else.

Beiber just knowing that he’s The Beeb – with rock-hard abs, a porn star’s package (noted in those poolside paparazzi pics), all while crashing Lambos for fun – and has an Armani army of attorneys at his disposal who’ll get him released long before he reaches the hold, shows himself to be completely unperturbed – jolly even. 

In 2014 at 20, the Beebs admitted to police that he was blazed with a prescription drug chaser. Justin was able to avoid jail time but only after a plea agreement to take an anger management course and make a $50,000 charitable donation, in addition to paying court-ordered fines. Three years later, a contrite Beiber walked back from his sparkly pimp mugshot and admitted a desire to never go through that ordeal again. He also posted a couple of decidedly less pimp pics to his Instagram. (See below.)

Steve McQueen, the star of such films as The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape takes the bravado one step further: Flashing peace and figuring as long as he’s buzzed, the party ain’t over. In 1972 McQueen was brought in for drunk driving while in Anchorage, AK. Once released, he left town and charges were filed in absentia. 

If you’ve ever seen Bullit, you’ll know that if they caught him, it’s only because he let them. 

Frank Sinatra: Ol’ Blue Eyes showing the piercing stare and a wig of hair thick enough stay put during a Jersey squall also revealing why the flaps of the bobbysoxers’ may’ve gotten moist back in the day: The pic was taken while Frankie was still toiling in the obscure clubs of New Jersey mob land. He had just begun singing on New York radio that year but was still unknown nationwide.

Even at this early stage, the 1938 charges against him were worthy of an idol: Sinatra was arrested twice that year for “Seduction” and “Adultery.” Apparently the crooner had banged a broad “of good repute” by letting her think he might marry her: Such a devil.

In the cad department though, a few years later Blue Eyes would pay a doctor $40,000 (a good sum in those days) to “bribe to doctors in New Jersey in order to escape the draft.” It worked. He was declared 4-F “because of a perforated eardrum and chronic mastoiditis and that his mental condition was one of mental instability.” Also:
During the psychiatric interview, the patient stated that he was “neurotic, afraid to be in crowds, afraid to go in the elevator, makes him feel that he would want to run when surrounded by people. He had comatic ideas and headaches and has been very nervous for four or five years. Wakens tired in the A.M., is run down and undernourished. The examining psychiatrist concluded that this selectee suffered from psychoneurosis and was not acceptable material from the psychiatric viewpoint.”
Apparently, the above had been secret until 1980 when it was released under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Phil Spector, legendary music producer, impresario, shitty husband, and gun enthusiast is currently serving 19-year term for the murder of his live-in girlfriend. At 74 in 2013, he looked rather unintimidated considering his likelihood of ever seeing the outside again.

Nicki Minaj, another weapons enthusiast, was arrested in 2003 for criminal possession of a strap (with intent to use). At the time she was 20, known as Onika Maraj, and working as a Red Lobster waitress in Queens. You’ll find no sweat on her concealer-free brow.

John Belushi, brows totally on fleek: 

And, The Others:

I was once detained and issued a two tickets for trespassing and an open container. I’d to sit on the curb with my hands on my head until the police arrived (all of this in front of my girlfriend at the time). I wasn’t yet 21 so it all could’ve been much worse. Still, I’ve never actually been sent to jail. Gawd no: I’ll straight up admit, I’d wet myself like a poodle pup in pen with pitbulls and cry bitch tears. I would. So, the look of fear and humiliation on the faces below, I totally get. Just note that the fear on the faces below only serves to make the faces above appear all the more heroic.

Not moving like Jagger: Sir Mick Jagger, as seen in his famous arrest of 1967. According to the band, a party at Keith Richards’ country estate had been tipped off to the police by The News of the World for possible drug activity. Jagger was suing the paper for slander at the time. Among the guests were Marianne Faithfull and George and Patti Boyd Harrison. 

Waiting until the Harrisons had left, the police would enter the house and arrest both Richards and Jagger. The two would be issued harsh sentences but the charges would later be overturned.

Here, apparent repeat offender and future Axl Rose was 18 in the top photo, and probably not much older – but a li’l harder – below. At top, his face looks like it may’ve serious doubts about turning 19. Welcome to the Jungle, Rosebud.

Dale Bozzio from Missing Persons: Just for some context, this is what Dale used to look like;

Earlier in her career she did some, er, modeling if you’re interested. In any event, despite her early promise she appears to have ended up somewhere else entirely. Most recently, Ms Bozzio was still touring with some version of a “Missing Persons,” so it seems as if she’s mostly functional. However, her recent run-in with the law might seem to indicate otherwise. Not knowing her full story, I don’t want to play the possibility of any substance or mental health issues for yucks.Still, she appears to have gone full cat lady: Bozzio tried to rescue sick and feral cats from the woods of New Hampshire, but she evidently didn't take very good care of them. Two of the cats were found dead and 12 were put down after being neglected while Bozzio toured with the band last fall. Later, a judge found her guilty of one count of cruelty to animals and sentenced her to 90 days in jail and 250 hours of community service. She was also ordered to pay a $2700 euthanization bill.
Another repeat offender, Jim Morrison, and arguably one of the history’s great faces: • Top: Morrison looking as cold-blooded as a Lizard King in 1963 – this would’ve made him 20 and two years away the formation of The Doors. The charges against the rambunctious lad, made in his hometown of Tallahasee, FL were petty larceny, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, and public drunkenness at a football game. After making fun of the footballers, Jimbo stole an umbrella and helmet from a squad car’s open window. The charges were later dropped for a small fine. I’m sure his Rear Admiral father was not amused. • Middle: Morrison’s infamous New Haven arrest for an expletive-laced tirade issued from the stage against the police who’d just maced him in the face while waiting backstage. The claim was he was trying to incite a riot.• Bottom: On the occasion of his even more infamous Miami arrest in which it was thought he’d exposed himself, in a Dionysian frenzy, to the audience. (According to what I’ve read, the general consensus is that he probably didn’t. Iggy Pop, OTOH, brings his glory all out in this video, probably around 1979-80, and while the result is impressive, the law – and YouTube, so far – was uninterested.) After the Miami arrest, the now bearded, paunchy, and dazed Morrison would find himself dead within a year.

Aerosmith’s and American Idol’s Steven Tyler at 19 looking like Shit’s gonna get serious when my dad finds out. The lips appearing not to have reached their full efflorescence as of yet. 

In high school Tyler had played drums in bands prior to composing Dream On in 1969. He’d meet Joe Perry and with Brad Whitford they’d form Aerosmith a year later. Tyler would be 22.

Kurt Cobain at 19, though troubled pubescent Kurt would also get popped for spray painting God is gay and ain't got no how watchamacallit on various cars in Aberdeen, WA, this shot was for the occasion of trespassing – police found him climbing on the roof of an abandoned warehouse. (Who hasn’t done that?) In 1986 he would’ve been 16 and already living on his own.

Dennis Hopper (1936-2010) used to live around the corner from me. My wife and our two kids were crossing at the corner of his street when he, possibly channeling his huffing psycho character from Blue Velvet, wasn’t about to slow his Jaguar down for no punk ass, non-celebrity family. I felt the wind of his Michelins on my heels. We all of us stared him down. He wouldn’t look back.

Hopper’s brush with the law came in 1975 and the story goes that after winning some LSD in a poker game, he walked outside and shot a .357 magnum into a tree because he thought it was a grizzly bear. In a turn of Hollywood kismet, Hopper ended up in the same jail where Jack Nicholson’s introductory scene was filmed for Easy Rider.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Attending Rock Concerts Adds Years to Your Life!

So says a recent study. And that's nine years they’re claiming.

Just to note:  This new behavioral science study was commissioned by O2, the UK’s most popular music and entertainment venue. Can you smell confirmation bias?

For us oldsters, that’s asking a lot. I mean, do I really want to go and sit through two (often questionable) opening bands, stand for hours on end, etc., etc. And does this figure include the offset necessary for all of the second hand cigarette smoke (a big part of my early club years experience), the drinking, drug-taking, mosh pit injuries, the horrible toilet bacterial counts, and what not?

And you’ll love this part:

Research indicated that 20-minutes spent at a concert actually increased people’s sense of well being by 21 percent, their self-worth by 25 percent, closeness to others by 25 percent, and mental stimulation by 75 percent. This in comparison to 10 percent for activities like yoga and a mere 7 percent for dog-walking.

Those who attend live concerts once a fortnight and more were the most likely to score their happiness, contentment, productivity and self-esteem at the highest level (10/10), suggesting that regularly experiencing live music is the key to building a long-standing improvement to well being.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Polishing a Springsteen Jewel for the Haters

I’d never heard of Amy MacDonald. Didn’t know anything about her other than the sinister algorithms of YouTube thought they could bait me with it. I know now that she’s Scottish, an Anglo-folky style performer, kind of in middle of the road – her edges are all well polished. Not really my cuppa. But, she does have spunk. That she’s loaded with.

Listen to her solo cover of Born to Run and notice two amazing things: One, she challenges a golden chestnut that no one has any business challenging. What could be added or revealed to the original? A song already so mined of all its ore what could be left behind but dust? A song also so completely riveted into our brains in its original form, it’s no longer a song so much as an ideology. It's not a Bruce Springsteen song; it’s the embodiment of Bruce Springsteen himself.

But, she does challenge it and in doing so reveals something within that we hadn’t heard before. Doors of perception opened: She adds pages to the composers original script, all those things we’d hope from anyone with the courage to confront such a hyped up chestnut – a song we already know too well. Part of this is accomplished by her distinguished voice. You can’t buy that: Either you’re born with that or not. And you don't even have to care for Born to Run to love what she’s done here.

What makes hers work is exactly all of your preconceptions: A suicide mission for lesser artists but – somehow – she prevails. It’s her mouth. When she pulls back the muscles in her face, spreads open her jaw, it seems to add a fuel to voice. Watching her present increases the pleasure of the hearing. Maybe that’s her secret.

Anyone looking to “unfold your wings” by singing and playing songs, yours or anyone else’s, listen up: There’s a deep lesson to be had here.

For those of us alive at the time, Born to Run is the song that made Springsteen a fetish of American pop at the time. He would later say the song was an attempt to alloy Bob Dylan, Phil Spector, and Roy Orbison. With all of the critical fawning it got – he got the covers of Time and Newsweek the same week I believe – it was as if he’d just brought pop music’s tablets down from the mountain. And for all of the hype and more it was easy to be skeptical. I bought the album for my older sister based on that drooling praise culture was heaving on it at the time. My sister would be completely disinterested. For me, the main interest was She’s the One and his pianist, Roy Bittan. One of the best in rock, ever.

But it was this the song that made me pay attention. This was stripped down, guitar-based rock. The kind of music that was my cuppa. Later, in interviews Springsteen would speak about his complicated and mostly unpleasant relationship with his father. This song may be one of the greatest dad disses ever recorded:

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Old & In the Way But with Expenses: Will the 70's Please Die?

For those not alive in the 70's: The bad news is it was peak drugs and sex (pre-AIDS). But it wasn’t all good: With sexual indulgence came serious sexism – and like most things, the advantage was all men’s.

Smoking was everywhere and everyone’s parents did it. Every kid would’ve sucked up clouds of it secondhand before they chose to shove that first one between their teenaged lips. There was smoke in elevators, stores, waiting rooms, offices, restaurants – everywhere. Mad Men doesn’t even get you close. (Plus, kiddies could get their own ciggies from machines.) And the drugs – they weren’t bad, in fact, they were the path to enlightenment. Bands and record labels built cocaine into their budgets. (In 1972, Black Sabbath spent $75K on coke; their album at the time cost $60K.) Weed and a bump were the new martini.

And then the music: Also peak classic.

Sorry you missed all that. Well, firsthand at least. You’d be forgiven for thinking that it never went away. Because it didn’t.

More bad news: However aged and decrepit those Baby Boomer acts have become, however many times your parents wanted to relive their teen years on their iPods, most of those acts are still working. Their hips may be plastic but the silver they’re still chasing. (Did no one save up for retirement?) And, now they’re coming to your town (or state, for you hillbillies). Many are promising these to be their final tours. Many are in their 70’s (Mick J is 75; Paul McC is 76) but don’t hold your breath. These coffin dodgers could be back again. And again.

A list of acts recently, currently, or soon to be on tour:
  • The Rolling Stones 
  • Eric Clapton
  • The Outlaws
  • King Crimson
  • Kiss
  • Genesis
  • Pink Floyd
  • Roger Waters, Us + Them Tour
  • Yes (50th Anniversary Tour!)
  • Eddie Money
  • Uriah Heep (!)
  • Deep Purple
  • Fleetwood Mac
  • Peter Frampton

  • Steve Winwood
  • Queen
  • Dead and Company (?)
  • Paul McCartney
  • REO Speedwagon
  • Moody Blues
  • Hootie and the Blowfish
  • Hall and Oates
  • Jefferson Starship
  • The Pretty Things
  • Gang of Four
  • Aerosmith

  • Styx 
  • U2
  • The Cure
  • Judas Priest
  • Journey
  • ZZ Top
  • Bon Jovi
  • Ratt
  • Journey
  • Ted Nugent
  • Bob Seger
  • Blue Öyster Cult
  • Def Leppard
  • Poison
  • Salt N Papa
  • Iron Maiden
  • Metallica
  • Naughty By Nature
  • Dave Matthews
  • Bonnie Raitt
  • Megadeth
  • The Monkees (!)
  • The Beach Boys (!)
  • Jethro Tull
  • Electric Light Orchestra
  • Cheap Trick
  • Kansas
  • Joe Walsh
  • Roger Daltrey (playing Tommy)
  • Scorpions
  • AC/DC with Axl Rose

  • Golden Earring
  • Ozzy Osbourne
  • Foghat
  • Savoy Brown
  • Elton John
  • Cher
  • Jackson Browne
  • Smokey Robinson
  • Diana Ross
  • Kool and the Gang
  • Mariah Carey
  • Earth, Wind, and Fire (!)
  • George Clinton, Parliament Funkadelic
  • and endless more...

Google anyone from the 70’s (or 60’s): It’s hard to find anyone who isn’t touring. Literally – I think Rush was the only band I could find that wasn’t. Some, like The Kinks, are still pending. David Lee Roth has been drooling over the prospects of another tour. Sadly, many of these bands are little more than effigies or placeholders. Most, and in many cases all, of the original members are dead or indifferent: The Beach Boys, Foghat, Journey, Earth, Wind, and Fire, The Monkees – time hasn’t been kind.

I remember reading interviews with Jagger from the 70’s talking about his dread for the idea of singing Satisfaction 20 years into the future. (He would’ve never dreamed of still being at it after 40.) Guess which song The Stones close with?

No age shaming here. I support geezers. But, Satisfaction at 75? Blasphemy.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Björk Belts, ca. 1988

Mamma: This is the song that made me fall in love with that voice. (Later, I fall in love with the rest of her but it started here.) My girlfriend at the time and I were playing the first Sugarcubes album in regular rotation. Both of us agreed that the guy screaming from his knees in the vid, Einar Örn, needed to be strung up by a mic cable. (After The Sugarcubes, he’d be elected to the Reykjavík City Council.) This, no doubt, would make her decision to leave the ’Cubes that much easier. (The guitarist would father her first child.)

You’ll need to tune Örn out to fully drink in the pleasures of Björk’s (pronounced B-yerk) prodigious tone and growl. A sound as smooth and biting as the finest single malt you’ll ever sip. Watch for when that mouth goes full wide-open. Whatever comes out will completely humble you. It’s a voice that digs straight into your pink juice. Or call it synchronized vibrations – whichever. But know that your consciousness can only submit. (This is an actual thing: Find the receipts here.)

Sure, maybe I’m little starry-eyed for the diminutive Icelandic Giant. And I’ll confess, while I’ve always respected her voice, her viking confidence and courage, and that steadfast and telescopic artistic vision, I haven’t always found her music easy. Some of it can be a slog. And full disclosure, I haven’t really paid that much attention to her after those early albums. Never mind: I still love her.

It shouldn’t be hard to see why.

Birthday: Maybe not for you but this one brings fat bitch tears to my eyes. Just so you know, she’d an an album of jazz released in Iceland – and later worldwide – when she was 12. This isn’t just gush: The pixie is a genius.

The above is good, but it’s the album version that’ll break your heart.

And this, a snippet from an interview in Icelandic before the release of Debut, her first solo release. In it you’ll hear her pronounce her name and say everything exactly as she should.

Question: Will the album he as successful as The Sugarcubes? 

She says (and I paraphrase, loosely): Probably by only a fraction. I don’t care. This is music I have to do. This isn’t a fashion show. I won’t worry if people don’t buy it. I’m not here for the musical salt licks.

Love her.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Nadine Expert May Not Actually Not Be One

Why is it the French insist on adding cream to everything?

With Nadine, that’d be whipped: In this video of I Wanna Be a Rolling Stone from 1978, French pop singer Nadine Expert shows herself – or was handled – to be quite the provocateur, if only not musically. Not much to be found on her online that wasn’t written in Russian or French so I’ve no idea of her backstory; maybe she doesn’t need one. The one upfront seems to be the one that mattered most. According to a Facebook page, she released three singles, an album, and appeared on French television. She was 21 when the video was shot.

Around the same time as this video, a friend would drag me to see the very popular stage show Beatlemania. At the time I saw it, they’d a McCartney look alike on bass who’d learned to play left-handed. None of that changed the fact that it sounded like a bar band in costumes standing before screens of contemporary newsreels. My friend didn’t seem to mind: But then, he was from Las Vegas. I just kept thinking, Forget this. I should go give those records another listen. I’d be way more absorbed by Ms Expert’s performance here.

You can’t help but like her spunk.