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Number One Records: Rockstar

Audio: Post Malone – “Rockstar” (ft. 21 Savage)

After three weeks with the number one single, Cardi B has been dethroned. Post Malone and 21 Savage knocked her out with their mumble rap hit, “Rockstar.” Is this the first #1 song in 2017 that inarguably sucks?

The lyrics are inane, equating being a rock star with “fuckin’ hoes and poppin’ pillies.” The delivery is lazy and the beat is boring. It’s like these dingleberries based their idea of what it means to be a rock star entirely on Spinal Tap.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with rappers glomming on to “rock” signifiers. See Run-DMC’s “King of Rock” as a perfect example, or more recently, Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles,” which at least managed to highlight the fun and excitement of rock and roll. But Post Malone just sounds like he’s zonked out on ludes.

Switch my whip, came back in black
I’m startin’ sayin’, “Rest in peace to Bon Scott”
Close that door, we blowin’ smoke
She ask me light a fire like I’m Morrison

Uh huh, okay. That doesn’t make a lick of sense and it doesn’t even come close to rhyming. Maybe I’m just old, but this song blows. The kids, however, seem to like it.

“Rockstar” had 51.3 million U.S. streams and sold 48,000 downloads in the week ending Oct. 12, and 35 million all-format radio audience impressions in the week ending Oct. 15. But still…yuck. The world is going to hell, and we’ve got these bozos bragging about assaulting “bad bitches.”

Hit her from the back, pullin’ on her tracks
And now she screamin’ out, “no mas” (yeah, yeah, yeah)

No gracias.

Continue reading Number One Records: Rockstar

New Sharon Jones video: Matter of Time

Video: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – “Matter of Time”

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings "Matter of Time" OFFICIAL VIDEO

From Soul of a Woman, due November 17 on Daptone.

We were first turned on to Sharon Jones in 2007 when I (mistakenly, and which was debated at length in the comments) called Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black the best soul record in decades. Commenter “Matt” told me to go listen to Miss Jones and I’ve been forever in debt since.

I first saw Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings shortly after that article posted. It was revelatory. In the era of beard-stroking indie rock was this band of crack musicians fronted by a firecracker of a performer who took their jobs as entertainer seriously. Deadly seriously, as it turns out.

Sharon Jones was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and documented her fight against it, while trying to also return to her passion and career fronting the Dap Kings, in the film Miss Sharon Jones! It’s a careful, honest look at the struggle and triumphs of serious illness. Jones, who was the personification of energy and strength on the stage, struggles throughout the film with the physical, emotional and financial strains of her illness and shows her vulnerability throughout and fights her way back to the stage and the road shows that pay her bills–and the bills of her bandmates, road crew and label staff. To know how the story ends, despite where the film ends, is heartbreaking.

Daptone Records announced Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings’ final studio album, Soul of a Woman will be released on November 17, 2017. Just typing those words, “final studio album” makes me sad. I hate that we’ll never see her perform again and that she won’t be creating new music. It’s hard to embrace the adage that we should “not be sad that it’s over, but be happy that it happened” when such a talented and big hearted woman has been taken away. But I’ll do my best and I’ll dance in my living room with as much vigor as I can muster. It’s what she would have done.

Post-script: Another Daptone flame was snuffed out by cancer recently when Charles Bradley died on September 23, aged 68. He was a James Brown impersonator in his past and used that time as a sort of apprenticeship that made his own live shows absolutely spellbinding. Seeing the clips of Sharon Jones talking shop and dancing with him brought an actual tear to my eye. The world has a little less soul and a lot less heart in it now. Fuck cancer.

Sharon Jones: web, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Not a Pleasant Subject

The passing of Tom Petty at age 66 of cardiac arrest earlier this week is certainly sad for those who listen to music as the man consistently worked with dedication and authenticity throughout what was a solid career.

Yet if we look at it in the context of his other Traveling Wilburys band mates, then it is disturbing to know that George Harrison was just 58 when he died of cancer and Roy Orbison was—and I must confess to being absolutely surprised by how low this number is—a mere 52 when he succumbed to a heart attack.

Jeff Lynne, 69, and Bob Dylan, 76, are still with us. But for them, as for us, the clock is ever clicking.

Without becoming macabre about the whole thing, there is a whole cadre of musicians from the ’60s and ’70s who are getting quite on in years and it won’t be long before there are many whose names will show up in alerts on the screens of our phones.

Jagger is 74. McCartney 75. Townshend 72. Jimmy Page 73. Brian Wilson 75.

And this list could go on longer than I would like to write.

This is going to happen.

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Riot Fest 2017: No Dicks on the Dancefloor

Riot Fest once again proved itself to be the music fest for grownups. Grownups in black t-shirts.

While all the other big festivals rotate the same dozen headliners, it’s great that Riot Fest has retained its punk rock focus. Maybe not as strictly as during its first several years as a multi-venue festival, but most of the performers still fall somewhere along the punk rock spectrum. And even the ones who don’t play distorted guitars could be said to have a punk rock attitude. Gotta respect that.

Riot Fest sometimes gets accused of cashing in on nostalgia. Sure, a lot of the bands peaked 20 or 30 years ago (or more). But the fact that they’re still around and kicking ass is a testament not only to their survival but to our own. We should all hope we age as gracefully as the most of these artists (Al Jourgensen excepted).

Headliners this year were Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, and a reunited Jawbreaker, playing their first full show in 21 years (other than a couple warm up gigs around San Francisco last month). The headliners get the big font on the poster, but fest diehards know that the undercard is always where the action is.

It was hot and sunny when we got to the park on Friday. You never know what you’re going to get in September in Chicago, but you can usually count on at least some rain. The line to get in was down the block and security was being thorough. I heard one guy complaining that they had opened his cardboard cigarette case the wrong way and wrecked it. A woman behind me was worried she was going to miss X, who she had last seen in 1983 with the Replacements opening up for them! Don’t worry, she made it in with time to spare.

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Number One Records: Look What You Made Me Do

Hey everybody, remember this column? It’s understandable if you don’t. It’s been 16 weeks since we had a new number one record in America.

Who would have guessed that “Despacito” would spend the entire summer at the top of the chart? After all, 16 weeks ties the all-time record for the most weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100. And before that, we had four new number one records in four weeks, which was the first time that had happened since 1990.

It was starting to look like “Despacito” might never be unseated. But then, all of a sudden, new T-Swizz!

Video: Taylor Swift – “Look What You Made Me Do”

Taylor Swift – Look What You Made Me Do

From Reputation, due November 10 on Big Machine.

People have lots to say whenever Taylor Swift does anything. There are a couple of obvious reasons for this. First of all, she is a provocative artist who does interesting things. Additionally, haters are compelled to hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. Either way, she is a ridiculously successful artist who guarantees eyeballs and everybody wants a piece of that action. So it goes.

In some ways it doesn’t even matter what the music sounds like. There are plenty of trappings to focus on when it comes Taylor Swift™ (and pop music in general). But how’s it sound?

Pretty cool actually. A sparse 808 beat with spooky piano and strings. It builds up to some drama-drama in the pre-chorus, and then the chorus switches gears with a stripped down interpolation of Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy.” Who knows why, but it must have been worth it to give away 12.5% of the songwriting credit (but none of the publishing) to a couple washed up one-hit wonders. She moves in mysterious ways.

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Big Bill Broonzy at Circle Pines Summer Camp

Video: Big Bill Broonzy – Live at Circle Pines in 1957

Big Bill Broonzy 1957: 3 Songs

Big Bill Broonzy was a legend of the blues from the 1920s, through the folk revival of the fifties. He was the mentor of Muddy Waters and an advocate for the younger generation of blues musicians including John Lee Hooker. He toured Europe throughout the 1950s where he convinced them that he was the last living bluesman. After his death in 1958 his music continued to inspire the early British rock scene via the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Kinks, and Eric Clapton, who all cited Broonzy as a key influence.

But I had never really gotten into him. That is, until last summer when I dropped my nine year old off for summer camp and saw the following photo framed on the wall in the old farmhouse that serves as the main headquarters of Circle Pines Center:

Next to the photo there’s a handwritten note from Pete Seeger.

Dear Circle Pines–

I’m so glad you are still going strong. I’ll never forget my visit with you in ’57. Big Bill Broonzy was there. He said, “Pete, you better film me now. I’m going under the knife tomorrow.” He never sang again.

Keep on — all of you
Pete
Aug 1 ’98

I knew that Circle Pines had a long history of progressive activism, but I didn’t know anything about Big Bill Broonzy and Pete Seeger hanging out there!

I’ve since done a little research, and the story gets even better. Broonzy actually worked at Circle Pines as a cook in 1954! Cooler still, it was Chicago’s Pulitzer Prize winning oral historian Studs Terkel who hooked Broonzy up with the job!

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“Write a Catchy Chorus, HAL”

In NASCAR racing, which went into official existence in 1948, 1972 is identified as the start of the “Modern Era.” The series has yet to become postmodern, but that’s another argument for another digital venue.

The troubadour tradition, that of a musician who sang and played a stringed instrument, goes back at least to the 11th century. One could make the argument that the “Modern Era” for troubadours, or, more to the point of this, singer-songwriters, started in 1962, the year the first Bob Dylan album was released.

When it comes to much music since then, whether it is a Dylan or a Paul Simon or a Jackson Browne, individuals who write and perform their work, or a band, ranging from the Beatles to Wilco and some before and after, it is probably the case that when we hear the music performed, we think of that music, especially vocals, coming from an individual who, in some significant way, has something to do with those lyrics.

To go to the classic case of the Beatles, it was either a “John song” or a “Paul” song, and when it was George or Ringo. . .well, there really weren’t enough of them combined to have a significant effect.

Tweedy is trying to break our hearts.

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Fortune and Maltese: Live in Kalamazoo, 1995!

Video: Fortune & Maltese & The Phabulous Pallbearers Live at the State Theatre

Fortune & Maltese & The Phabulous Pallbearers Live at the State Theatre

Hot damn, I loved this band! And here is some fantastic newly discovered live footage of them at the peak of their powers. Thirty minutes of amped-up garage rock remastered in “Trash-o-Phonic stereo sound.” Live in Kalamazoo, Michigan on February 5, 1995.

I can’t remember if I was at this show, but I might’ve been. I used to go see them whenever I could. Freddy Fortune and Michael Maltese with Nat Cromlech, J.C. Graves, and the greatest drummer of all time: Dusty Sexton.

Check out the video and if you’re not familiar with Fortune & Maltese, you owe it to yourself to dig into them. Unfortunately, none of their stuff is available for streaming yet. So go find their records! They’re out there. Actually, the studio recordings of most of this set are collected on Get Hip’s Fortune & Maltese and the Phabulous Pallbearers compilation.

Fortune and Maltese: fb, amazon, wiki.

Continue reading Fortune and Maltese: Live in Kalamazoo, 1995!

Who’s Left?

When I saw that the Who had recently performed a couple of classics on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon I immediately forwarded the link to Stephen Macaulay. Mac has a long history with the Who, dating back to seeing them at Cobo Hall in Detroit when he and the band were all scruffy young guys. He’s been quite vocal over the years on his disappointment over what they have become. -ed.

Video: The Who: “I Can See for Miles” (live on the Tonight Show)

The Who: I Can See for Miles

Imagine listening to “I Can See for Miles” with your eyes closed. Wouldn’t you imagine that this was a good cover band, but something sounds slightly off on the lead vocals, as though the singer was trying too hard or having too difficult a time?

And then you open your eyes and watch.

It’s him.

But what the hell is Daltrey doing with that acoustic guitar? Does he really think that Pete and Simon can’t handle it? Or is it that he doesn’t quite have the confident moves anymore and so the guitar becomes a prop that keeps him from having to make those moves. Plus, with Pete teasing and doing the windmills is physically distracting.

(There is no crutch for the vocal cords, however, at least not, apparently, in this venue.)

Continue reading Who’s Left?

Listening to Gresham’s Law

Back in 1558, Sir Thomas Gresham, who was the financial agent for Queen Elizabeth I, articulated what was to become known as “Gresham’s law.” The law has it that “bad money drives out good.”

He was talking about physical currency.

One way to think about this is to take a quarter out of your pocket (assuming that you’re reading this in the U.S.; if not, it doesn’t make any difference although it will be less physically obvious).

When you look at the coin edge-on you see a sandwich of materials. There is a copper center covered by two shiny layers.

Said quarter is 91.67 percent copper. The shiny stuff is nickel and it makes up the remainder.

Prior to 1964 quarter were made of silver.

So in Gresham’s law, the “bad money”—the metal sandwich—drives out the “good,” the silver, which has a much higher value in terms of the metal alone. Almost as soon as the cupronickel quarters appeared the silver quarters disappeared. Some were saved by coin collectors. Some, no doubt, were melted down (which, by the way, is illegal) and sold as metal.

What does any of this have to do with music?

Continue reading Listening to Gresham’s Law