Thursday, February 28, 2008

BUDDY MILES 1947 - 2008

Yesterday a great drummer and singer, Buddy Miles, passed away. He was best known as a member of Jimi Hendrix's Band Of Gypsys, but he was also a member of The Electric Flag, he played with Carlos Santana, and recorded on his own.

He was also the only person ever to fall asleep while I was interviewing them (I think. Actually that's not true, but the other guy is still alive, so I won't mention it). I was doing a phoner with him. I forgot what it was for, I think he was performing in town, and I just really wanted to inteview him. I was always eager to talk to anyone who had worked with Hendrix. I was lucky enough to interview former Band Of Gypsys bassist Billy Cox as well, and also Jimi's producer Eddie Kramer.

Anyway, so I somehow track him down and book this interview, a phoner. He veers between seeming happy to talk and being cranky. I heard a suspcious bubbling sound during the interview that made me laugh, and at some point he just nodded off, and was snoring. I woke him up - "Buddy? Buddy!" "What?" So I asked him about Phish, who he'd recently joined on stage. "Phish ain't a Grateful Dead clone, I don't care what anyone says!" And a lady's voice in the background goes, "MMM-HMMM!" Soon he dozed off again. Then I woke him and asked about Santana. "Carlos Santana is intimidated by me." "Why?" He claimed that he was as good of a guitarist as Santana. So, I figured it was time to end the call. But it was memorable.

Anyway, The Band Of Gypsys' self titled album is a classic, and the stuff that didn't make it to that album, on Live At The Fillmore East is also great. Anyway, rest in peace, Buddy Miles.


I don't really know too much about The Dave Clark Five, but I do know that Little Steven Van Zandt considers them one of the most important bands of the British Invasion. Here is an interview where he talks about their importance.

They're being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in about two weeks. So, it's really sad that singer Mike Smith passed away last night. I don't know much about the band's history, and they aren't a band that has really preserved their legacy. It's hard to imagine them even being inducted without Little Steven's campaigning.

This might sound a bit geeky, but every year when the Hall of Fame inductees are announced, I make a iPod mix of songs by the inductees. If there's an artist who I don't have music from, I buy some, just to check them out. With the DC5, it turns out, you can't do that. Their albums are all out of print, and I don't think that the few songs available on iTunes is their classic material. So, hopefully, Little Steven or someone can somehow arrange for the band's music to be reissued so people (myself included) can see what the fuss is about.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


According to, Paul McCartney is working on his next album with Killing Joke’s Youth. I think he’s worked with Youth on his ambient techno projects that he released as “The Fireman.” Of course, Youth has produced a lot of other artists, including The Verve (their Urban Hymns classic, which I just wrote about). I’m sure Paul is looking to tour, but probably waiting for the details of his divorce to be finalized.

Paul’s last album, Memory Almost Full, was OK. I loved the song “Dance Tonight,” but I didn’t love the rest. Maybe Youth is what he needs – a producer who won’t be intimidated by him, and who wants to push him in new directions. Although he did work with Nigel Godrich on Chaos & Creation In The Backyard, which in theory should have resulted in a more edgy album but it didn’t.


I remember a couple of years back, The Verve was booked to play Madison Square Garden. I think I wanted to go, and then the show got cancelled. The band broke up.

So, I was glad when the British press started reporting that the band was getting back together. After I saw them on the Coachella lineup, I was hoping for some NY dates, and it turns out, they will in fact be playing here.

“Bittersweet Symphony” was such a monster hit, but that whole Urban Hymns album is a classic. I liked some of their earlier stuff, but although they split up prematurely, at least they went out on a classic. I’ve read that they’re doing a new album, some of which has apparently leaked. I’ll be curious to hear this album. I liked some of frontman Richard Ashcroft’s solo music, but I didn’t think it approached the heights of Urban Hymns.


It's always fun to try and figure out who will be presenting at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's induction ceremony. Often, they try to keep it a secret up until the event, but this year they've announced it.

Billy Joel will be doing the honors for John Mellencamp. I would have thought that they would have gotten one of his Farm Aid homeboys - Neil Young, Willie Nelson or Dave Matthews. Or Bruce Springsteen. But Billy is a good choice, and in fact, I think Mellencamp was asked to do the speech for Billy Joel a few years, but when Ray Charles agreed to do it, John bowed out (as Ray Charles is an obvious huge influence on Billy Joel). Billy and Mellencamp are both artists of the people: regular-seeming guys, with lots of talent and tons of unforgettable songs, who never seemed to get their due respect from critics.

Justin Timberlake will induct Madonna. He's working on her album, and is an ambitious pop artist like Madonna. I was thinking they'd try to get one of her influences, but Justin is a good pick for that. He and his bandmates did a decent speech for Michael Jackson a few years ago. But now Justin has proved he at least has staying power.

Lou Reed will be making the speech for Leonard Cohen. Makes sense to me. Ditto for John Forgerty and The Ventures. Ben Harper will be doing the honors for Little Walter, which I think is great - just that the Hall is acknowledging Ben as an important enough artist for the event. I was thinking it would be Clapton, but I'm glad to see Ben getting some shine. He belongs in the Hall one day.

Tom Hanks will be bringing some star power, as he'll be inducting The Dave Clark 5. Apparently, this makes sense because of a role he played in the film That Thing You Do. That's cool - although I don't see how it isn't Little Steven, who has campaigned on the band's behalf for years. Maybe Bruce has a gig that night though.


According to an interview that Jack White did with MTV News, he contributed to an album of unfinished Hank Williams songs that Bob Dylan is working on. He said “He came upon, somehow, 20-25 unfinished songs by Hank Williams: just the lyrics, no music, and he started to ask people if they would finish these songs. He did one, asked Willie Nelson to do one, asked me to do one, and I think Lucinda Williams and Alan Jackson are on it too. I think it might come out this year. It's a cool record. And then, there's some other stuff I have coming out, but I can't tell you about it all just yet. You'll have to be patient!"

That sounds like a cool record - it's like the Mermaid Avenue albums that Billy Bragg and Wilco did of unfinished Woody Guthrie songs. I wonder who else will be on this album: if Bob asks my opinion, I'd offer Norah Jones, Ben Harper, Sheryl Crow, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Hank III off of the top of my head.


I've written a bit lately about rumors of a Kinks reunion.

Well, in a recent Rolling Stone story, Ray Davies kind of said that, after two solo albums, he has nothing more to say, and that he misses being part of a band. He said that he wouldn't want to tour without any new music though. Unsurprisingly, Dave Davies feels the opposite way: he might be into doing some shows, but doesn't ever want to return to the studio with Ray ever again.

But, actually, this is a good sign, in a way. Recently, Dave wrote on his website that a Kinks tour would be "like a poor remake of 'Night of the Livin Dead' " and that Ray has been doing "Karaoke Kinks shows since 1996" - a reference to Ray's "Storyteller" shows, and solo concerts. So, if Dave is at least entertaining the idea of doing shows, that's at least something.


Alicia Keys is a huge pop star, and I think that that's a great thing. Lots of "artists" have topped the charts based on criteria that doesn't have anything to do with music.

AK is a refreshing change from that. Yes, she's attractive. Yes, she plays the game - she's not precious about her status as an "artist," so she does go along with "industry" stuff. And she's expanded into acting, which isn't always great for an artist's credibility. But what she is precious about is her music. Once she records an album - which I think she gets to do on her own terms, without record label meddling (no mean feat, as she's on Clive Davis' J Records) she will do what she needs to in order to get it to the people.

I've never seen her perform in person, but I may try to get tickets to see her when she plays Madison Square Garden this summer. Last time she toured with John Legend, who I'd rather see than her current opening act, American Idol champion Jordin Sparks. Like John Legend, it makes me feel good to Alicia on the pop charts: she's the real deal. I got to interview her a few years ago, and she seemed genuine and committed to her art. I love her first three albums, and I look forward to see what she'll be doing in ten and twenty years from now. I think she's one of the rare R&B and pop stars of the moment that will have that kind of longevity.


According to The Who's website, Pete and Rog are already thinking about the next album. Considering that there was about a quarter of a century between It's Hard and Endless Wire, that's pretty good. Here's what Pete Townshend says:
"... We also talked about revisiting Quadrophenia the way we did it in the '90s. This is all work for the Autumn. Roger is working on his own idea for an album for us, with the producer T-Bone Burnett, who is an old friend of mine. I am hoping to come up with some songs for a more conventional Who record."
Well, I never saw that Quadrophenia tour, and I didn't really miss it, as I'd rather see them do songs from their entire history than focus on that album. Or, I'd rather see them do Tommy. But the idea of them doing an album with T-Bone Burnett is pretty cool. Pete Townshend is a great producer, but I think it would benefit him to have someone else in the studio who has the authority to say "no" or "that's not a great idea" to someone who probably never hears that.
T-Bone Burnett produced the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss album, and if he could handle Plant, he could probably handle Townshend. And the idea of Pete writing songs for a different Who album, that's pretty cool too. I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed with Endless Wire, but I'd still be excited by the prospect of a new Who album.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


I actually don't know much about The Drive-By Truckers. That may be a good thing - all I know is that I really like their new album, Brighter Than Creation Is Dark. I've checked out a bit of their music over the years, and usually enjoyed it. I know that one of their singer-songwriters, Jason Isbell, recently left the band (and I liked some of his solo music). 

Sometimes when I talk about music, it's more about the context than it is about the music itself. Lots of blogger types are really all about the context, especially in cases where an artist has some kind of history, and liking or not liking an artist says things about the credibility of the people having the conversation. So, it's refreshing to just listen to an album, and decide whether or not you like it, strictly on it's own merits. I like this album enough to start looking for some of their older music, I don't really need to know anything else about the band (but if I see an article on them, I'll definitely read it). 


At some event promoting the Crosby Stills Nash & Young documentary, Deja Vu, Neil Young mentioned that he didn't think that a song can change the world anymore. Inevitably, the press were all over that. I mean, you'd think the guy was the president of the United States and told a bald faced lie and got caught or something. 

I didn't want to write about it until I felt he had been given the chance to really express what he was trying to say, not what some reporter was trying to make it seem like he was saying.  I mean, what a story for them: "'60s Hippie Icon, Wrote 'Ohio,' Gives Up!" So, Neil responded on the "NY Times" section of his website

"A Song Alone
by Neil Young
No one song can change the world. But that doesn't mean it's time to stop singing. 
      Somewhere on Earth a scientist is alone working. No one knows what he or she is thinking. The secret is just within reach. If I knew that answer I would be singing the song. 
      This is the age of innovation. Hope matters. But not hope alone. In the age of innovation, the people's fuel must be found. That is the biggest challenge. Who is up to the challenge? Who is searching today? All day. All night. Every hour that goes by. I know I am. 
      My friends write to me don't give up. I am not giving up. I know this is the time for change. But I know that it's not a song. Maybe it was. But it isn't now. It's an action, an accomplishment, a revelation, a new way. I am searching for the people's fuel. Will I find it? Yes. I think so. I don't know why I may have been chosen to help enable a discovery of this magnitude. I know I can only write a song about it when I find it. Until then I can write a song about the search or spend all my time looking. But a song alone will not change the world. Even so, I will keep on singing.

I don't really know if "Ohio" really made a difference, politically speaking.  Like, did it truly scare nixon's people? Did "Blowin' In The Wind" really help to end the Vietnam War? I'd like to think so, but I don't know. I think it's more likely that they provided something of a rallying cry to like-minded people.  I think songs like that make people who go against the grain feel like they aren't alone, there are other people who question authority. Also, these songs came out way before the internet was bringing people together.  Even if these songs did have the power that history has assigned to them, I don't know that the conditions exist for music to make that kind of political impact anymore. It would be nice if I'm wrong about that - but I don't think music should be expected to change things in that sort of dramatic, immediate way. 


I've always been a bit mystified over people who hate on Sheryl Crow. Good singer, good writer, plays a bunch of instruments, does cool covers, is a good collaborator, supports great causes, what's not to like? 

I bought her debut, Tuesday Night Music Club, pretty much as soon as it came out. I saw it at Tower, recognized her name somehow (probably because she was a backing singer at the Bob Dylan tribute concert in 1992 and her name was in the liner notes of the live album), and they had those listening kiosks, so I checked it out and liked it. Yes, "All I Want To Do" was overplayed and I don't ever need to hear it again. But I think Sheryl Crow wouldn't mind putting that one to rest, but she knows that many fans still love that song. 

I've enjoyed lots of songs on all of her records, especially Sheryl Crow and The Globe Sessions. Actually, I didn't like her last album.  I think part of her problem is that she hangs with the legends: the Stones, Clapton, Stevie Nicks and so forth. So, probably inevitably, she's going to be compared to them, and that's tough to deal with.  

But I like her new album, Detours, although some songs don't work for me. "Gasoline," which features Ben Harper on backing vocals, though, is great. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


U23D was all well and good, but the exciting news is that U2 is back in the studio with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois working on their new album. 

They're in unchartered territory at this point. They still make great records, nearly thirty years on. They can still put out a classic. What band has ever still meant this much after so much time? 

It's cool that they are working with Eno and Lanois - the team that produced The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree; I think they also worked on Achtung Baby. The difference this time - I hear - is that Eno/Lanois aren't just producing, but also co-writing with the band. That should be interesting. 

I wonder what happened with Rick Rubin? He worked with the band on the new tracks on the best-of a few years back, including their collaboration with Green Day, "The Saints Are Coming." But I guess they wanted someone who would be around every day, and RR isn't that guy. They probably didn't want to have to worry that they'd call him, and he'd be busy with Metallica or something. 


MTV is reporting that Common is already working on the follow-up to last year's Finding Forever, which was one of the best albums of the year, in my opinion. 

I wish Common had Jay-Z's level of success.  Of course, he's not as good of a marketer, and is more artistically ambitious. Which is why I'm glad that he has had a decent run of good fortune in recent years: from hooking up with Kanye West, who exec-produced his last two albums, to getting some sweet acting gigs, including the recent American Gangster.  He's also going to be in the upcoming adaptation of the very cool comic book series Wanted, and he's supposedly going to play Green Lantern in the Justice League movie, if that movie ever happens. 

He says in the MTV interview (linked above) that being in films frees up his music a bit. I guess some might think that when an artist "goes Hollywood," they try and water down their music to be the biggest star to the most people.  I don't think Common is wired like that: I think he knows that he'll end up making way more on movies than on music, so why not be as ambitious as possible with his music, since the bills are being paid anyway. 

So, I'm looking forward to Common's new album, as well as his upcoming project with another of the great MCs of all time, Q-Tip

Sunday, February 17, 2008

1988: HIP-HOP'S GREATEST YEAR? just did a cool feature on the best hip-hop albums from 1988. Indeed, it was a great year for hip-hop. RS cites Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back at #1, and I'd definitely agree. I don't know if I got into that album in 1988 - I think I happened upon it the following year - but, wow, I still remember being blown away by how awesome/different/aggressive the album was. And I'm still knocked out every time I hear it today.

At #2 was Run-DMC's Tougher Than Leather. At the time that it came out, they seemed kind of over, but when the album was reissued a year or two ago, I felt like it was a pretty good album that I "slept on."

Soon after I got into P.E., I also got into Ice Cube and Ice-T, both of whom are represented on this list. N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton is on the list, as is Ice-T's Power. Both are great, but I got into Cube from his solo debut, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, which I actually prefer to N.W.A. I know, blasphemous. My favorite Ice-T albums were The Iceberg/Freedom Of Speech... Just Watch What You Say and O.G. - Original Gangster.

The list also included great albums by EPMD, Eric B & Rakim, Boogie Down Productions and even DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. Yeah, it's easy to just say, "Yeah, hip-hop was better back then." But, it was. Still, there are great albums being put out today, look at Kanye West, Common and Nas to name three. Like the No Expiration masthead says, "There's always great new music being made."


I know, I've written about the Underground Garage before. And before that. But I had to share this. The other day I was listening, and they played this song by The Jive Five - "My True Story." Just one of the most beautiful songs ever. I'd heard it before, but I didn't know who sang it. I pulled over to write it down.

Then, the next song was this awsomely primitive, totally hilarious, righteously ass kicking song by a band called The Mummies - "You've Got To Fight
To Survive (On The Planet Of The Apes)."

Like I did when I first heard Ognir & The Night People, I ran home and logged onto iTunes to buy the songs. I did get "My True Story," but The Mummies barely tolerate CDs, apparently, so mp3s ain't happening. No problem, I'm going to order one of their albums.

Some people will tell you that people who like doo-wop don't like primitive garage punk, and vice-versa. There are some good uses for these people: they are good to laugh at. They are good to ignore. But don't invite them to any parties. And if you do, for the love of god, DON'T LET THEM NEAR THE SOUNDSYSTEM (no matter what their "research" says).


Yep, both CD sales and digital tracks surged following Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' Half Time Show performance. That's great: it shows that older fans are reaquainting themselves with the band, and also new people were turned on to the band after seeing them perform.

I remember last year, when John Mellencamp was promoting his latest album, the interviewer asked him about why he let Chevrolet use his new song, "Our Country," in their ad (he also sold them "Now More Than Ever" a few years earlier). He had, like Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and very few others, always refused to sell his music to sponsors. He asked the interviewer if he had heard Petty's then-new solo album, Highway Companion, and asked if he ever heard it on the radio. The interviewer agreed, there wasn't much awareness of the album. So Mellencamp says, "And my album isn't as good as Tom Petty's!" Basically saying that, having a good album isn't enough anymore if you want people to hear it. So, even though I'm not really a football fan, I'm glad Tom agreed to do the Super Bowl.

I'm just forward to: his upcoming tour, his reunion album with Mudcrutch and a new Heartbreakers album.


I thought Ringo Starr decided that he wasn't going to tour anymore, but, alas, he's assembled another All-Starr Band. I think most of these guys have played with him before: Colin Hay of Men At Work, Billy Squier, Hamish Stuart of Average White Band (and formerly of Paul McCartney's band, back in the late '80s and early '90s), Edgar Winter and Gary Wright - yes, the "Dream Weaver" guy. I've never seen an "All-Starr show, this one seems kind of fun. I did see Ringo once at New York's Bottom Line - he was basically warming up for VH1 Storytellers the next night, and it was a lot of fun. You just gotta love the guy. I just hope that if he does one new song, it is "R U Ready," from Liverpool 8.


I read that there's going to be a special Aerosmith version of the game Guitar Hero. I'm not a video gamer myself, but I love the idea of a video game making younger people excited about rock and roll, and turning them on to older music. I think it's a great move by the band - few other groups have been able to keep turning on new generations to their music the way Aerosmith have. I remember seeing them a few years ago, and thinking that there were at least two different audiences at the show: those who grew up on their '70s albums, and those who discovered them in the '80s. I think Aerosmith have missed the current crop of kids (not having had a hit single in a few years), but this will probably hook a lot of new people. Hell, I may even get this game: what's more fun than listening to Aerosmith for hours while playing (not quite air) guitar?


The Ractonteurs posted this on their myspace page this week: I guess it's no surprise: The White Stripes have wound down their activities around their underrated album Icky Thump, and The Raconteurs are booked for both Bonnaroo and Coachella. I thought the first Raconteurs album was a classic, so I'm really looking forward to this one.


Eddie Vedder is going to be doing some solo dates. I've been lucky enough to have seen two solo gigs by him over the years.

One was at the Tibetan Freedom Concert in Wisconsin in the late '90s. He started off the gig playing solo and pretended to ask audience members to join him on stage on bass and drums. It was a planned out bit - he planted two friends in the crowd, and they joined him on bass and drums. At first the crowd was kind of like, "Wow, these guys fit in pretty well!" Then he introduced them and everyone realized it was a ruse. It was fun, though. His set was covers and a few Pearl Jam songs.

Another time, in 1999, he opened up for The Who with the same guys (I think they were called C Minus). Of course, Pearl Jam is one of the great live bands ever, but it's always interesting to see someone like that in another context. All of Eddie's dates are on the west coast, but hopefully he will also hit NYC at some point. Of course, with Pearl Jam playing Bonnaroo, they might also be doing some other shows. It would be cool to see Eddie, Pearl Jam and Brad within the same year.


You'd think that politicians - and especially republicans - would have figured out by now to check with an artist before using his or her music. From Reagan using Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The U.S.A." to McCain using John Mellencamp's "Pink Houses" and "Our Country," to bush using The Foo Fighters' "Times Like These," these guys (and/or their campaigns) never bother to ask the artists it if it OK to use their music. I would think, if you're a republican, you wouldn't use a rock song unless you ask (or unless it's by The Nuge, but "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang" probably wouldn't gain many conservative votes). Well, Boston multi-instrumentalist/songwriter/producer leader Tom Scholtz just publicly asked the batshit crazy repub to stop using "More Than A Feeling" - Tom likes Obama. In fact, huck, a bass player, has been playing the song on stage with some guy who was in Boston once (but who didn't play on that song), which sort of makes it seem like Boston endorses the guy. I'm not a huge Boston fan, but I recently got a reissue of their debut album, and it is pretty great. Now I'm more of a fan. Well done, Tom.


In the early '80s, when the original lineup of Asia - former King Crimson/UK/Uriah Heep bassist/singer John Wetton, former Yes guitarist Steve Howe, former Yes/Buggles keyboardist Geoff Downes and former ELP drummer Carl Palmer - got together, I doubt many people expected them to become pop superstars. Somehow, they were able to curb their prog-rock tendencies and come up with some tight pop songs that made them into MTV stars. They sounded as much like Boston as any of their former bands.

I can't front, I was into their first album. The second one was OK, and after that, the band started splitting up. It's funny how every prog rock band seemed to have these massive revolving door lineups. The band actually went on for years after everyone but Downes left. But last year, the original lineup got back together; this year they'll release a brand new album. And now there's another Asia out there made up of some of the guys that Geoff Downes played with in the more recent lineups! Hopefully, this won't lead to a reality show competition of some sort.

I don't know if I care about the band putting out new music and touring - since I don't have any of their music anyway. But I think it's cool that a band that were dissed by critics before they ever released a note is popular enough to tour more than two decades later. I do hope that Steve Howe and Yes do something again at some point - as far as I'm concerned, Asia is Steve Howe's second band. Or third, really, since none of Asia's songs are as good as Tomorrow's "My White Bicycle." Asia were, however, better than GTR.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Like everyone else, I was totally stoked when I heard that The Police were getting back together. They were one of my first favorite bands. They had lots of hit singles, but they were cool. They were rock and roll, but they were different. And they didn't have an intimidating catalog. Where The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Beatles, et al, had these humongous catalogs with tons of compilations, I got into The Police during the Ghost In The Machine era - and that was thier fourth album.

I got to see them last summer at Giants Stadium, and I had to be honest with myself and admit it fell a bit flat. Maybe it was the anticipation. Maybe it was the lame crowd. But it was also that they were stretching out every song - they did it just a bit too much. "Roxanne" is perfect at 3 minutes. That said, "Driven To Tears" was devastatingly awesome.

And that said, I just heard that they're going to be doing some "final" dates this year. I will definitely try to get tickets for this show. I wonder, will people be as excited to see Sting solo gigs any more, now that they've had the chance to see The Police?

Personally, I hope that Stewart Copeland will get back with Oysterhead - the band he had with Les Claypool of Primus and Trey Anastasio of Phish.


I've mentioned what a huge Rush fan I am before. And while I didn't love their last album, Snakes & Arrows, I felt that "Far Cry" was one of the best songs of last year, and one of
their greatest songs. I'm not sure how excited I am about the news that they are releasing a live album, again, since it is their eighth, and features lots of songs that have been on prior live albums.
Then again, I saw the tour back in the summer of 2007, and, as usual, they were great. I just wish that they'd rearrange some old songs or jam a bit or something. They're touring again this summer, and I can't imagine that I'd miss them.
Now that I'm thinking about it, f- it, I'm excited that they're doing a live album. I'm excited that they're touring. After all that drummer Neil Peart has been through, it's inspiring that he can still attack the music with the intensity that he brings to the stage every night. If you think you've had it rough, you should read his book Ghost Rider. You'll hug your loved ones afterwards.


Last week, I went to see U23D - in IMAX, no less. Totally appropriate format for U2. I'm a member of the fan club, and those of you who've been following No Expiration for a while know that I'm no cynic. Hell, I even dug Rattle & Hum. So, I was really looking forward to this experience, and it didn't disappoint.

Just like any other concert by an artist of this vintage, you might complain that your favorite song is missing. In fact, this film is shorter than any of the concerts that I saw on the Vertigo tour, which this was recorded during. But an hour and twenty minutes of 3D (or IMAX-ed 3D) is a lot for the system to take. I think the film was perfectly done. OK, so they should have included "Zoo Station," but at least they included "The Fly."

I always think of U2 and R.E.M. as counterparts: they started out at around the same time, they shared some influences, they had a healthy distrust of certain "mainstream" rock, but were good enough to be accepted by the mainstream on their own terms. One big difference is that R.E.M. seemed to be embarassed by, or intimidated by, their success, and actively sought to pare it back. Their big influences were The Velvet Underground, The Stooges and Patti Smith: they had no point of reference of how to keep that popular and be cool, and in some regards, I think it messed them up a bit.

U2, on the other hand, loved The Velvets, The Stooges and Patti, but also Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and The Who, all of whom offer varying templates for handling success and maintaining a high artistic standard. They saw nothing wrong with popularity: where Michael Stipe might enjoy the fact that only a cult of people love Patti, Bono might argue that there's been some mistake: someone that great should be headlining stadiums.

Anyway, it's this lack of contrarianism that allows U2 to make a film like U23D and have it be great. These guys respect the latest indie rock thing (on different dates on this tour, I saw The Kings Of Leon and Keane open - both were kind of boring) - but they don't worry about not seeming "indie." You can't really change the world if you stick to your corner. You certainly can't be an Irish band totally rocking a full stadium in Buenos Aires. These guys are fully aware of the ridiculousness, the power, the glory and even the responsibility of the position that they've found themselves in for the past twenty years, and they handle it really well. I hate when people rip on them for being big, being bold and for shooting for the stars. I went to the movie with my friend Ben (a great frontman himself, he's learned lessons from Bono, Stipe and Bruce) and he wrote about this topic - why people seem afraid to enjoy someone who is larger than life - on his blog.

One other note. I remember Adam Clayton once saying something like "I may not be the best bass player in U2. But I am the bass player." Well, I don't know if Bono, The Edge or Larry Mullins Jr. are great bass players, but Adam is one of my favorites, and the loud bass levels in the mix at the IMAX theater brought that one home for me. I think he is nearly Entwistlian in his bass playing greatness.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Neil Young is becomming as prolific with films as he is with music. There's the Crosby Stills Nash & Young Deja Vu documentary that just screened at Sundance. I've also written that Jonathan Demme, who shot Neil's Heart Of Gold concert film a few years back, shot Neil's Philly shows on his current tour.

But Neil's also working on a less music-centric documentary. Linc-Volt: Re-Powering The American Dream is about Linc-Volt, a 1959 Lincoln Continental convertible being "re-powered" at the shops of Jonathan Goodwin (who I read about in a recent cover story in Fast Company, linked here). Apparently, after Mr. Goodwin is done with it, the car will get 100 miles per gallon and will be a diesel/electric hybrid. Hopefully, this process will be something that will be affordable to the average American.

Other than that, hopefully Neil's non-CD box set will, in fact, come out this year. He says he has no plans for his next album yet, but of course he may have changed his mind in the last five minutes.


Rolling Stone's web site (which is where this photo comes from) reports that Eddie Vedder is contributing a new song, "No More," to Body of War: Songs That Inspired an Iraq War Veteran. the soundtrack to Body of War, a documentary about a paralyzed twenty-six-year-old veteran Tomas Young, who served in Iraq for less than a week before he was shot and severely injured, and his subsequent crusade to question the war (money from the soundtrack to Iraq Veterans Against the War).The version on the album will be one that Eddie recorded with the great Ben Harper at Lollapalooza last summer. There's a live version of this song available as a bonus track on the iTunes version of Eddie's Into The Wild soundtrack, but Ben isn't (singing) on that version. As I previously mentioned, he's also doing a song for an upcoming documentary based on Howard Zinn's A People's History Of The United States.

Meanwhile, the other members of Pearl Jam (including touring keyboardist Boom Gaspar) recorded "Barack Around The Clock" (with Stone Gossard on lead vocals) and posted it to their web site. It was up earlier today, but has since come down, they probably didn't have the publishing rights to post it, even for free (as it was to the tune of the early rock and roll classic "Rock Around The Clock.")

With all this stuff going on (plus the fact that Stone is going to be doing a Brad album this year), I was glad to find out that they're going to be playing Bonnaroo this summer.


Lez Zeppelin, that is. But at least Bonnaroo can brag about having booked "Zeppelin."

The earlier rumors of The Kinks and R.E.M. headlining have also proved to be false. It's really too bad about The Kinks, it would be great if they reunited.

However, the rumor that Pearl Jam would be one of the headliners has turned out to be true. The other headliners are Metallica, Kanye West and Coachella headliner Jack Johnson. I think that's a pretty cool lineup of headliners. Also on the bill: The Raconteurs, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, The Allman Brothers Band, B.B. King, Levon Helm, Talib Kweli, Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi, Rilo Kiley, Mastodon, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and Aimee Mann. And Lez Zeppelin. Pretty good lineup. Here's hoping Robert Plant performs with Zep.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


I've written about my love of Little Steven's Underground Garage channel before. There are some of the best, most interesting, most well-informed DJs that you'll ever hear there, including radio legend Kid Leo, Detroit garage rocker Ko Molina, former Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, Woggles frontman The Mighty Manfred and Dictators frontman Handsome Dick Manitoba. (Oh yeah, and Little Steven.)
Last night, Dick was talking about how, when he was a kid, what a huge part of his culture it was go buy records: LPs and 45s. They would take a bus to Alexander's department store to check out new music. I can relate: when I was a kid, it was all about riding bikes to the flea market on weekends to buy tapes, or getting a ride to the mall.
Anyway, Dick was talking about how, his bar recently hosted a record release party for The Fleshtones' new album. The band sent Dick a bunch of copies of their new album on vinyl. And his five year old was like, "What's that?" The generation gap gets ever wider these days, I guess.
After that, he was quiet for a second (pauses usually aren't allowed on radio stations, I think they're referred to as "dead air," but The Underground Garage keeps it real in a way that most stations can't). Then he sighed and said, "Well, where else are you going to hear Ognir & The Night People?" I'd never heard this band, and I'd never even heard of them. I sat in my car and listened to the entire song, "I Found A New Love," and then ran right inside and bought it on iTunes. OK, so it isn't a busride to Alexander's. But it's 2008, and it's still exciting for me to discover new (or not new) music. So thanks Handsome Dick, Kid Leo and Little Steven, for keeping the excitement in rock and roll radio.
(By the way, this picture was taken at Little Steven's Underground Garage Rock Festival a few summers back: a great show that featured The Dictators, The Stooges, The New York Dolls, Bo Diddley and a bunch of other legends. I'm sorry to say it's the only time I've ever seen The Dictators, but they were great).


I recently wrote about how I was looking forward to Willie Nelson's new album, Moment Of Forever. I should have ammended that: in the past 10-15 years, Willie has put out some really inspiried albums (2004's It Will Always Be is one of my favorite albums by him, 2006's You Don't Know Me: The Songs Of Cindy Walker is great, and the Ryan Adams-produced Songbird from 2006 was really strong). Others don't work as well, like the pop-leaning The Great Divide from 2002, or the blues album Milk Cow Blues from 2000. The reggae album Countryman from 2005 was just goofy.

Moment Of Forever was produced by current country superstar Kenny Chesney, who collaborated with Willie on a one-off thing at some point, and who Willie liked so much, he wanted to do a whole album with him. To me, it's kind of like if Jon Bon Jovi produced an album for Chuck Berry. Jon clearly regards Chuck Berry's music highly, but does his audience really care?

I've read some kind of harsh and apathetic reviews of the album. I actually would give it a B or a B-. The opening track, "Over You Again," is a new song by Willie, it's him doing what he does best. The title track is a cover a song by Willie's buddy/sometimes bandmate Kris Kristofferson, and that one works too. The third song, though, was written by "Big Kenny" of Big & Rich. It's cool, but just doesn't sound natural. At this point in Willie's career, his music shouldn't sound forced. His version of Randy Newman's "Louisana" (written in the '70s, even though it sounds like it's about Katrina) is great. I thought that the choice to cover Dave Matthews' solo song "Gravedigger" was an inspiried choice, but I think the recording is a bit too bombastic. That works for Dave, for Willie I would've gone a bit more acoustic.

Ultimately, I think Kenny Chesney (and his production partner Buddy Cannon) did a good job. Clearly, the label wanted to take one more shot of returning Willie to the country mainstream, but Chesney/Cannon probably knew that there is little or no chance of that happening. They got some great moments out of him.

I recently wrote about Willie's collaboration with Calexico on the I'm Not There soundtrack: they did a phenomonal "Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power)." Here's hoping someone puts up the cash for them to do a full-on album next time.


Ever since Ronald Reagan used Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The U.S.A." without asking permission (or, apparently, even reading the lyrics about how a vet got screwed over by his country after returning from the war), it's been kind of funny how politicians from both sides of the fence (mainly republicans though) try to co-opt songs without regard to the rights of the author, and without regard to the song's message beyond the chorus.

Another favorite of mine was george w. bush's usage of the Foo Fighters song "Times Like These," which offended Dave Grohl to the point that he went on tour with John Kerry.

Now, John McCain, seemingly one of the less vile republican candidates, has been using some of John Mellencamp's songs, including "Pink Houses." Mellencamp - who was a John Edwards supporter and a longtime Democrat - wasn't having that. And with lyrics like "'Cause the simple man baby pays the thrills, the bills, the pills that kill." Was McCain even listening? Anyway, good for you John (Mellencamp).


I remember at some point last year, Public Enemy said that they were going to stop touring so much. Since then, they co-headlined the awesome Rock The Bells tour, and then did a tour of their own. Now, they've announced that in May, they're doing three dates in the U.K. as part of the "Don't Look Back" concert series, where artists recreate one of their classic albums.

It's not suprise that P.E. will be doing It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (although I'd argue Fear Of A Black Planet and Apocolypse 91: The Enemy Strikes Black are also classics, Nation is clearly their high point).

The album just smokes almost any other album in any other genre, not just hip-hop. Hopefully, they'll bring the show to NYC. I wonder if Terminator X, who retired a few years ago to be an ostrich farmer, will be involved. P.E. will no doubt be getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a few years, so hopefully Terminator is getting ready to speak with his hands again.

Monday, February 4, 2008


Today I read that Arcade Fire may be suing rupert murdoch and fox for using their one of their songs in a ad promoting football without the band's permission. Wow, if fox really did that, what a perfect storm of stupidity that is. I mean, if they used a Ted Nugent song without his permission, he's probably be sort of OK with it.
But an Arcade Fire song? For a football game? That's all kinds of funny.
I'm not knocking the band, I like both of thier albums, and I loved the recent Spin cover story on AF's Win Butler and Bruce Springsteen. And supposedly Win enjoys basketball, so it's not like he's an anti-jock or something. But still, who was asleep on the job at fox for this one? Maybe they can make it up to the band by offering some of all of them guest roles on The Simpsons (plus a big check and an apology).


I'd heard rumors of a Marvin Gaye biopic, but I guess it's in production. I read that Jesse Martin of Law & Order is playing Marvin, and James Gandolfini from The Sopranos has a support role.

When I was younger, the only song I knew by Marvin was "Sexual Healing." But about ten years ago, I picked up his box set, and was completely blown away, not just by his singing and songwriting, but by his artistic progression, which is akin to Stevie Wonder's. Both guys started out very much a part of the Motown system (nothing wrong with that, as it cranked out some of the greatest music of all time). But at some point, both artists outgrew it, and created their own music, on their own... with amazing, timeless results. It reminds me of The Beatles in some regards.

Anyway, Marvin has a fascinating, tragic story, so I look forward to seeing how they bring it to the screen.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


I occasionally check out's upcoming release schedule, and I noticed a Mighty Mighty Bosstones collection, Medium Rare. The band has been inactive for a few years now: it seemed that their time had sort of passed: they looked like they were about to break huge, they didn't, and some important band members left the group (guitarist Nate Albert, who co-wrote a lot of the music, trombonist Dennis Brockenborough, who also sang backing vocals and sax player Kevin Linear). And of course, Dickey Barrett now calls L.A. home, due to his gig as hype man on Jimmy Kimmel's show.

So, I was surprised to see that they got together this past December to do another of thier legendary Hometown Throwdowns. For those who don't know, the Throwdown is a gig (or series of gigs) at a small club (or clubs) in Boston around Christmastime. I traveled to Boston for this twice, and never regretted the hundreds of miles of driving, the hours on the road, whatever. Once I drove up for the show, watched the show, and then drove home (I might not have done that if I didn't have tickets to see a solo acoustic Bruce Springsteen show the following day...).

Anyway, it's kind of annoying: I didn't read about this anywhere in the music press. I know that someone from Sleater-Kinney plays drums for the guy from Pavement. I know there's some band called Vampire Weekend that people like. I know that Lil' Kim and Remy Ma don't like each other. But I hadn't heard about an actual awesome band reuniting. That's depressing. I've seen a lot of rock bands in my day, and on a good night, the Bosstones were among the best. And they usually had good nights. I've seen them more than ten times, easily.

They've never been considered hip, but that's mainly because they started their fanbase organically, without any help from the rock hipster press. The rock hipster press doesn't like anyone who they didn't help create, period. They'll make it seem like the Bosstones are a bunch of dumb jocks or something. But those of us who have gone to the shows, we know the deal.

Considering that they come from a scene that has had it's share of skinhead problems, it's pretty ballsy that they had the Anti Racist Action League representing with tables at all of their shows. Sebadoh doesn't do that, do they?

Anyway, enough sour grapes. Obviously the band won't be a full time thing due to Dickey's new day job, but I hear they're playing New Jersey at a big, sort of punk rock festival. Even if they just do a half hour, I'm there.


I was suprised when I heard the NFL had asked Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers to play the Super Bowl Half Time show. But good call by whoever had the idea: they rocked it. Four songs, no gimmicks, no guests: "American Girl," "I Won't Back Down," "Free Fallin'" and "Runnin' Down A Dream." Kind of funny that three of the four songs came from Tom's 1989 solo album Full Moon Fever, which his then label (MCA) didn't think was commercial enough to release.

What a great "promo" for Tom's summer tour. They sells tons of tickets anyway, but this might remind people who haven't been paying attention about how great the band is. I kind of wish they did some newer stuff, even something from his last solo album, Highway Companion, so that all the songs wouldn't be, like 19 years old but whatever. Last year's Prince's set was awesome, and everyone loved it, but the only recent song he did was a cover of the Foo Fighters' "Best Of You."

I'm curious to see how Tom's ticket sales are tomorrow, when most of the tour goes on sale. I know I'll be at one of the shows.