Thursday, December 30, 2004

Cover to cover.

The top 20 album covers list in a previous post makes us long for an album cover database that collects and codifies homages through the ages, the central example for which is:
this and this.

Sonny Rollins begets Joe Jackson.
Kinks become Sleater-Kinney.
And on it goes.

Shouldn't there be --- is there? --- a book devoted to this alternate history of influence? Or a web site at least. For starters we found this Barbelith thread, which isn't bad [Pat Cooper -- A-list, baby!]. Reid Miles, the main main behind Blue Note's unmistakably graphic look, is alone is responsible for a ridiculous number of design ripoffs. And we mean that in a good way.

Tiny fingers you almost feel.

The historically aware Zoilus, ne Carl Wilson, an editor and music critic at Canada's own The Globe and Mail, keeps chugging through the holidays, with a worth-the-download-wait link to an obscenely perfect boy band video parody (sure it sounds easy -- you do it) (remember to turn off pop-up blocker to view) and another to a music-related best-of list that I nominate for Best Least Likely Than Most To Make Your Eyes Glaze Over [BLLTMTMYEGO] in the list category. The list also has the added benefit (for us, anyway) of not inspiring crazy consumer spending.

In general, the zine that produced this list, Tiny Mix Tapes, appears to have it all going on.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Time for a witness. I mean, REALLY.

A special-ops guy in the Doug Wolk Army [DWA], possibly Douglas himself, posted on Xmas day about a new mp3 blog from Mike McGonigal, which at first blush appears phenomenally rich, after less than a month of posting (love the design). Among the gospel, a Feelies nugget, along with news of Crazy Rhythm's out-of-print status. This led us on a Feelies CD search, and it appears that all of their albums are OOP, if the search engine is up-to-date. And if this listing is to be believed. This is extraordinarily wack-o, if in keeping with the Feelies strangulated history, of which more can be found here.

I saw the Feelies a bunch while in college in the late '80s, some of the best live music I've ever heard. They could be so much more ferocious on stage than on album. They ripped into "Sedan Delivery" like it was the last song they would ever, EVER play. "Gotta get away," indeed. I remember thinking that Glenn Mercer's body woudn't be able to withstand the onslaught, but this was probably just projection. Anyway, given The Feelies' limited output and fondness for choice covers, a box set is a likely next step, once their eBay value hits a certain "sell" level.

I threw it all away.

For some, it's madeleines. For others....

Reject #2.

Thumbs down on the book proposal from academic-publisher-with-an-edge Routledge, source of such music titles as Miles, Ornette, Cecil (right up our alley); Folkways Records (a history of the label); and Music in English Children's Drama of the Later Renaissance, 1st edition ("the first book-length study to examine the Elizabethan and Jacobean children's drama from a musicological perspective" --- again, right up our alley, though the "1st edition" sounds a tad optimistic, to our ears).

Beau Brummelly.

Todays NYTimes has an article that will be must reading for anyone intrigued by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, and any living members of the Beau Brummels. D'Angelo, stop sleeping on the paperwork.

The article brought to mind Michael Jackson's purchase of the publishing rights to (most of) the Beatles back catalog, a convoluted story explained with the usual clarity and aplomb by the Snopes gang.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

It's the end of the jazz as we know it.

The fine folks of Flaskaland are always good for some unsung music links; this one relates tangentially to our ongoing attempt to sell a jazz book proposal. It's a book review from the San Francisco Chronicle, of the new Gary Giddins collection. Giddins is probably my favorite writer on jazz. Until recently the jazz critic at The Village Voice, Giddins' previous compilation is one of the great tomes on the subject. It's tome-tastic.

The reviewer notes Giddins' bleak assessment of the future of jazz:

Jazz as a business is in deep trouble, despite steady sales of archival classics and various commercial uses of those same beloved records, often rendered anonymous in TV ads. How could it be otherwise? Jazz musicians have virtually no access to the machinery of capitalism and multinationals have no patience with leisure pursuits that supply insignificant profits.


Through most of jazz history elder statesmen were valued for continuing to play well, while the main focus was on younger players whose energy opened new channels. But who today plays with more energy, originality, and purpose than Cecil Taylor, Max Roach, Ornette Coleman, John Lewis, Roy Haynes, Lee Konitz, Sam Rivers, and Sonny Rollins?

Of course, if one spends years immersed in writing a two-volume bio of Bing Crosby, Les Paul might suddenly comes across as energetic.

Jazz's obit is written and mimeographed every few years. It's surprising that Giddins, who continued to champion younger players from his perch at the Voice up until the end, would mourn the lack of youthful innovation, but I think this is almost a required corollary to covering a beat for decades. And moreover misses the boat. Jazz is marginal now, and has been for a while, but that doesn't mean there isn't an audience for it, and it certainly doesn't mean that it lacks younger players opening new channels. The roster of new releases here is one source of optimism among many.

Also, while "access to the machinery of capitalism" would, one supposes, be nifty to have (although the password keeps changing), phenomenal and relevant musical statements have been made without it through the ages. The web already offers instant access to the machine, if only with smaller gears. And as for "leisure pursuits that supply insignificant profits," well, it's funny what happens when you charge $0.99 for a song.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Surely one of them is wrong.

Seems like it's time to declare a moratorium on this titling trope. When Jon B. J. and Mark E. S. hit on the same scheme, it's clearly time to close up shop.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Out of step.

The greatest spare-time waster. Ever. Devised.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Grooves of academe.

New York, Oct. 1 – Arts coverage is not keeping up with the enormous growth in newsworthy cultural activities across the United States, according to a groundbreaking study from Columbia University’s National Arts Journalism Program (NAJP).

Reporting the Arts II: Critical Perspectives
p 140: "A History of Rock Criticism," Robert Christgau. In which RC's Consumer Guide begats Entertainment Weekly and Blender; and we learn how much better it was in the olden days, yea verily.

p 144: "Subject/Object: Firsthand Knowledge in Criticism," Sasha Frere-Jones. In which SFJ lets me off the hook.

p 164: "Below the Radar: Covering the Arts Underground," Douglas Wolk. In which a soldier from the Doug Wolk Army [DWA] takes us all down, down to Chinatown.

Bands get the chroniclers they deserve dept.

Jim DeRogatis to pen "an illuminating, well-researched, fast-moving, and very human portrait of one of the most distinctive rock music acts of our time."* Yep, you guessed it: The Flaming Lips.

* publisher doublespeak


Writing for The New Yorker, Dave Eggers follows Eric Idle around as he prepares for the early 2005 launch of Spamalot, the musical "lovingly ripped off" from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If you're not aware of how shrubbery works its way into the story, you will be bored to tears.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Everywhere that I'm not.

Douglas Wolk and his army of lookalikes who serve at his whim are all over the place all over again. One of the Wolks links to a nifty, NY-based concert review blog, more in the monitor; Wolk, posting there on the same Pixies/Mission of Burma show I saw, wishes there had been less, much less, in the speakers. I more or less agree with his assessment of the sound in the hall, but at the time blamed it on my my own degraded hearing. I came to earplugs late; too late.

Wolk was also on hand to check out a farewell performance of a different sort: the last meal served at the legendary kosher restaurant Ratner's. Ratner's was a culinary landmark of a decidedly blintzy sort for just shy of 100 years. (Like my elementary school, Ratner's will close after 99 years of doing business. Unlike my school, now condos, Ratner's will be demolished.)

And Wolk, perhaps the same one, links to WFMU's on the download page, noting in particular a Pixies parody/tribute. I would also highlight their ODB-RIP selection, his cover of Phil Collins' Sussudio.

Needles and pins.

The planned boycott of the Knitting Factory, scheduled to begin February 14th, is off, per take it to the bridge. Their demonstration yesterday appears to have made some wheels turn. The new owners of the Knitting Factory reportedly threw out hundreds of CDs by artists on Knit-affiliated labels, refused to return masters to artists (as was their contractual right), and under-paid recording royalties.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Suck my left one.

Seattle's Experience Music Project has an online exhibit up now that documents the riot grrrl movement. The story as written is decent if extremely narrow, focusing almost exclusively on the Pacific Northwest, 1991 -- was it really that local and shortlived? Of course, since the guy that started the place is from the area, perhaps a regional focus is to be expected.

But the music clips are worth the price of admission: Huggy Bear, early Bikini Kill, Lois Maffeo, Beat Happening [though I had trouble making any Windows Media clip play; maybe the EMP's founder had a falling out with his old buddy]. There are posters and other graphic artifacts on display, too, and lots of video clips I don't have the bandwidth or time to explore fully.

More context would've helped, maybe something on forebears like Liliput or The Raincoats or even Mo Tucker. And while the write-up touches on class issues, noting how most of the movement was made up of middle- or upper-middle class women, there's really nothing on the queerer elements of riot grrrl [is three the proper number of r's?], which produced its own impressive musical lineage. But it's a retrospective, not a critical overview, so perhaps we ask too much.

Reject #1.

Our book proposal has received it's first rejection letter, and it's very nice, thank you:

Dear [agent name],
Thanks for sending me the proposal. I read it with a great deal of interest and discussed it with people here, but while I found much to like in it -- the authors' obviously intense involvement in and knowledge of free jazz, the well-thought-out organization of the book, the fact that free jazz has not been written about that much in book form -- I ultimately think the audience for the book will be too small, as is unfortunately usually the case with jazz books. I have no doubt someone will disagree, however, so I wish you all the best in finding the right publisher for the book.

Please do continue to send me proposals for books on music, film, theater, and cultural studies of all kinds. These are indeed the kinds of books we are looking for for Faber.
Have a great holiday!
All best,

It is perhaps a sad comment on my self-esteem that I take solace in the respect shown to our project here. Then again, you'd think that the publisher of Billy Corgan's poetry would have fairly lax standards.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Saw The Pixies last night at Hammerstein Ballroom, with Mission of Burma opening. These are two bands that formed in Massachusetts, where I was also formed, and stopped playing in 1992 and 1983 respectively. (I stopped playing some time around 1979.) I had never seen either perform live, despite being a fan of both since the late '80s. The show was breathtakingly good, pummelling in its generosity, and forgiving (to us older types) in its timeliness. I'll spare you the usual set list rundown -- both bands played all their "hits," the Pixies most of their first three albums.

In the jacket I happened to be wearing to the show I found a ticket stub from Oct. 1994: my first Dylan concert, attended with no less than the author of this fine tome. That was a jaw-droppingly good show. Until then I'd studiously avoided seeing any performers I thought were merely nostalgia acts coasting on past glories. Boy was I wrong. I've since seen Dylan several more times, and once disabused of my belief that it's not worth seeing a band or performer past their (perceived) prime, I've gone on to see amazing shows by the Ramones (ver. 3.0), Television, and Rocket from the Tombs (with Richard Lloyd in for the late Peter Laughner) (& not to be confused with this band), possibly others I don't now remember. I had been operating under the misguided assumption that a reunion tour was just another name for filthy lucre, a cash-in with zero relevance, when I later realized that as long as the performer was committed to the material --- and I still liked it --- it made little difference when I heard it played, as long as I got to hear it, delivered fresh.

Naturally, there are exceptions, and some bands should of course just stop. And others should really stay stopped.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Five boogies that didn't take.

1. Department Store Boogie.
2. (Do the) Five Towns Boogie.
3. Booger Boogie.
4. Rick Burleson Boogie.
5. Hey, Lady (That's My Boogie).

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Let It Be was the first rock album I really drowned in. In all likelihood, it was the first rock and roll album I ever played. This was somewhere in Massachusetts in the mid-1970s: finished basement with wood paneling; hi-fi with stackable spindle; cardboard speakers on rickety wood shelves; odd, sculpted driftwood owl on the wall; tight screen door leading to a backyard of a depth of around two feet, most of it slate. Limited as I was by my parents’ spotty record collection, I suppose it’s lucky I stumbled on to The Beatles at all. It was the only Beatles album down there, and, as I recall, the only relic that even smacked of ‘60s rock. Unless Bridge Over Troubled Water counts (which it doesn’t). Odds were high that I’d light on a soundtrack: Carousel, Hair, An American in Paris, Cabaret, Mary Poppins, Oliver!, Grease, Annie, Camelot—you’d think I was raised by some real troubadours. I have no memory of my folks ever listening to anything beyond AM radio. I find it hard to imagine them buying these records, and suspect that some kind of music club was involved. Or, in the case of the Firestone/Julie Andrews Christmas carols, a gas station giveaway.

Anyway, Let It Be, once found, was instantly in high rotation at my house. It might’ve been the only disc rotating. I fondly remember jumping around like I had springs on my feet, shouting along with my best buddy. And I was blissfully unaware of the phenomenon known as The Beatles; as far as I was concerned, Let It Be was the first and only album by this shaggy quartet. I was in that pure pre-media state now known only known to six-month-old babies and the Amish (and I wonder about the latter), where even the Apple label (and half-apple on the flip) was a source of amazement.

So it was with a middling sense of anticipation that I picked up Let It Be … Naked. Ill named and badly designed, it nevertheless promised a return to more innocent days. I thought it was simply the original album stripped of Phil Spector’s murderous over-production—strings, background chorus—returning the band’s sound to their roots, which was the reported point of the project to begin with: as in, "Get Back." But it turns out to be more (and less) than that. For one, the set list is different. Goodbye "Maggie Mae" (tant pis) and "Dig It" (no biggie), hello "Don’t Let Me Down." The song order is different, too. "Get Back" is first, and "Let It Be" last, among other switches, which is mostly all to the good, although I miss the extra lead-in time between tracks on the LP. The tunes come fast and furious on the CD. And much of the studio chatter, including John’s sendoff, "I hope we pass the audition," was left off—also missed.

In a few unremarked upon cases, entirely different takes of songs are substituted for the ones I was weaned on, most notably "Let It Be," which here sounds strangely ponderous. (I’m looking at you, Ringo.) But overall, the slight changes in arrangements or solos—Billy Preston’s organ sounds much more prominent here—and the changes in running order have the startling effect of making something old and overly familiar sound suddenly new. The Beatles became more than a rock band so long ago it’s impossible to hear most of their back catalog as anything more than hermetically sealed sound capsules produced by a cultural phenomenon from another time. But by tweaking a note here and there, this record allows me to hear The Beatles as a band, to hear the music as it unspools in time and not as some preordained, received bundle of rock history, and that’s a gift.

My friend who discovered Let It Be with me went on to become a Beatlemaniac-in-training. I’m pretty sure he made a set of dinner plates featuring magic-marker depictions of all four. I didn’t go that route—you could almost hear enough Beatles just walking around, and later I disdained them for being popular. And I’m thankful I didn’t, because while most crazy Beatle fans knew more about Let It Be Naked before it even came out than I do now, it allowed me, for a second, to get back to the basement. And I'm still jumping.

Monday, December 06, 2004

The letter i and the word POD vs. Negativland.

Just in time for Christmas, a special edition iPod from the folks famously sued by U2's record label. Bid now; only one day left as I write this. [via Core77]

Negativland keep up their own site here. One item that doesn't make their "minutia-filled" discography is this compilation, done in connection with a visual arts show on illegal art put on by the folks behind Stay Free! mag. I recommend this publication highly, despite the fact I'm pictured, unflatteringly, on the back of their recent Brooklyn issue, with the rest of my family. It appears that copies of the compilation CD are available at the illegal art site at a great price -- $8.95. Worth it even if you're used to getting your illegal music for free; you can rest easy in the knowledge that you'd be cheating at least some of the artists out of royalties.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Thurston said no.

Thurston Moore politely passed on our invitation to write a foreword for our free jazz book, citing too many current assignments. He was considerate, and had a bland word or two of support for the project, but the news was disappointing, as he seemed such a natural for the gig. I took it as a negative judgment on our work so far. Why even request a look at the proposal if he was over-committed? Ah, well. Next! (The prospective list now includes Thom Yorke, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Brian Eno ... free jazz fans all.)

Anyone out there have Iggy's number?

We should all rock with the government-supported fury of the Dutch.

Tuesday Morning Quarterback, the best weekly, 7,000-word football column penned by a Brookings Institution fellow, made a rare fumble in a recent article. Poking fun at the Dutch Rock and Pop Institute, TMQ wrote, "Rock is supposed to be a form of rebellious anti-establishment expression. Can't they do anything without government hand-holding in the European Union?" This is semi-amusing, as is the notion of an Under Secretary of Wa Wa Effects (I nominate this guy), but any nation that celebrates the 25th anniversary of a wonderfully extreme band like The Ex -- former squatters who are something like the ur-Fugazi -- has the right idea about arts support. (Hear for yourself.)

Meanwhile, speaking of government hand-holding, back at home, our own Mom and Pop Institue, the FCC, so fears for our moral purity that the complaints of a mere three people are enough to spur a record fine against a TV network. It is reassuring to know that our leaders have us by the, uh, hand, innit?