Friday, June 13, 2014

Siouxsie Spellbinding

Before she became Siouxsie Sioux, Susan Janet Ballion was best known as one of the Bromley Contingent, a rag tag group of revelers who were looking for an alternative to pop culture that came together through early Sex Pistols performances. It was the young Susan who stood behind the couch as The Pistols gave their infamous interview to Bill Grundy on the British Today program(me).

These humble fangirl beginnings gave no indication of erstwhile Susan's future greatness. As someone who grew up in The Banshee's era, I know firsthand the power Siouxsie held for women of her generation (a period best represented as '77-'87). Her robust and throaty tone (with more than a hint of testosterone), her self-assuredness, her proto-goth sartorial style and her expressionist kabuki like make-up (one critic described her as "her own Warhol portrait") made her nearly ideal for those on the margins of a Reagan-Thatcher world. She was a leader, and unlike Patti Smith, she was a fashion forward one. While the musical wave of Siouxsie's era included more of a quantity of women than previous decades, there were few of the period who would live to stand the test of time (Chrissie Hynde, Kate Bush, Patti Smith, Annie Lennox being a few exceptions). Siouxsie's voice nearly always transcended her material – which could be spotty at times – but when the material – and the guitar player – were worthy of the singer, both could soar.

As seen below – with her now deep into her fifth decade – the old girl still has much creative spunk in her yet.

(If the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had any real cred, she'd be in it.)

"Their greatest line-up" live from Rockplast 1981:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: It Ain't Nirvana

Fifteen years ago, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation was established by a group of record execs and attorneys. While legendary Atlantic Records producer and impresario Ahmet Ertegun and Rolling Stone publisher Jan Wenner had some involvement, the Hall of Fame does come off rather like an outfit run by suits. In fact, its present CEO – Joel Pressman, has had no previous music industry experience whatsoever. KISS's Paul Stanley had this to say about him:
Why not look at Joel Peresman’s credentials? What has he done to qualify him to run the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? What did he do? He worked at Madison Square Garden as a Vice President. Well, as far as I’m concerned, delivering newspapers doesn’t qualify you as an expert on literature. 
Every year its list of inductees favors the big sellers while consistently skipping over many of the true innovators (e.g. Tom Petty, yes; Captain Beefheart, no). According to their website, their mission is to "recognize the people who have created this music which has become the most popular music of our time." Well then, mission accomplished.

Looking at the roster of inductees you'll note it isn't nearly as black and blues oriented as it should be. Ostensibly, The Hall of Fame's purpose is archival, tributary, and non-profit. Realistically, it also brings in oodles of money. (To offer some perspective, pro football teams are also considered non-profit.) Interestingly, artists who're honored are required to buy tickets for their guests and reserving tables can go for tens of thousands of dollars (see here for Johnny Rotten's ideas on that).

Anyway, this year they honored Nirvana. One might quibble with the band's choices for vocal replacements but the concept of featuring all female singers – both young and old – turned out to be a good one. The band's survivors and their guests comported themselves proudly. It was the young kiwi singer Lorde who provided the evening's highlight giving All Apologies an appropriately restrained twist. Saint Vincent offered her a toned down but decent Lithium but the other two guests – Joan Jett and Kim Gordon – despite gallant and courageous attempts, were asked to write checks too large for their voices to cash. (Really, who could sing Smells Like Teen Spirit?) As for the band's part, Dave Grohl is still one of the best bangers available and Krist Novoselic's bass lines were much improved over the dumbbell ones played on the records. (His accordion was a nice touch.) Sideman Pat Smear gave the proceedings the proper gusto.

Here's the full performance: skip to Lorde at 32:10:

Of course, the producers had the video taken down. Instead, here's a crappy camera phone version:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Banned Music in the USSR

A blacklist of banned bands in the USSR as created by Komsomol, the Communist Party’s Youth Wing (date unknown).  “This information is recommended for the purpose of intensifying control over the activities of discotheques...”

Sex Pistols and Judas Priest, sure, but The B-52s and The Village People?

Thanks to Nerdcore.