Category Archives: Articles

Ticketstubs: The Pixies in Kalamazoo, 1992

I had recently gotten home from a semester abroad in Scotland. While I was there the Pixies had released Trompe Le Monde, and I bought the cassette at the Aberdeen HMV the week it came out. The Pixies were one of my favorite bands, and the Surfer Rosa/Come On Pilgrim two-fer had been the soundtrack of my sophomore year of college. “She’s a real left winger ’cause she’s been down south and held peasants in her arms.” Yep, that pretty much nails it. Bossanova got me through some tough times. “Is she over me, like the stars and the sun?” Yes, she was.

To this day listening to the Pixies conjures up those intense conflicted emotions of college: liberated but sheltered, idealistic but cynical, innocent but itchy, that desire to push it too far. “We’re not just kids… We got ideas!”

I loved Trompe Le Monde with all its abrasive guitar and spacey lyrics, but I remember being concerned about the lack of obvious Kim Deal input. There were rumors… Trouble in paradise?

The week before the show I picked up a brand new pair of wire-rimmed glasses from one of those places in a strip mall with the warranty where if anything went wrong they’d replace them for free. Something went wrong.

When the Pixies came onstage at the State Theatre they all seemed to be in a nasty mood. They were in the middle of a huge arena tour with U2 and this was a one-off show in between dates. They didn’t look at each other or say anything to the crowd; they all stared straight ahead and ripped into their set. Nevertheless, they sounded tight and great and the Kalamazoo crowd went nuts. A mosh pit formed immediately, and before the end of the first song my brand new glasses got knocked off my face and disappeared into the abyss. I’m not totally blind, but I can’t really see.

So I guess I can’t actually say that I saw the Pixies live in 1992. I heard them. And that was still impressive.

The setlist for this show isn’t available online, and I can no longer recall the details, but other setlists from that era reveal they played a lot of newer stuff mixed with a bunch of older classics. Nothing quite like the summer of 1989 when they played their songs in alphabetical order. Wish I would have seen that!

They didn’t say a word between the songs. After their final song, Black Francis dryly quipped, “Thank you very much we’re the Pixies U2’s up next,” and they exited the stage. No encore.

Continue reading Ticketstubs: The Pixies in Kalamazoo, 1992

To a Musician Not Dying Young

Recently I was with a few people from southern California who had come to musical maturity in the ‘70s. I learned that there is a robust “tribute” or “cover” band scene there. One of the women I was with had been a backup singer in a Segar tribute band. It seems, she explained, that many of the people in these bands are unsuccessful in getting their own music to break and so they perform—or could that be “pretend”—as others.

So there are bands like the Dark Star Orchestra, the Australian Pink Floyd Show, The Fab Four, Nervana, and multitudes more.

In many cases it is not enough to have a note-for-note rendition of the original band in question, but some of these tribute bands cover themselves in the clothing and the hairstyle of the individual musicians making up the bands in question.

(Of course, the Iron Maidens have a look that doesn’t duplicate the original for obvious reasons.)

We will not see the Beatles again. Not Pink Floyd or Nirvana. And while the situation with the Dead is uncertain, Jerry’s not going to be on stage.

And the music created by the originals is often so good that it exists independently of the people who made it in the first case, so it could be the case that there are several people who go to the clubs who have no idea of what’s being covered and when they leave they go home and download “Katmandu.”

Which is certainly a good thing for all concerned, be it the tribute band, the listener or, in this case, Seger.

But there was a comment that one of the people made that struck me as being odd and in some ways unsettling, a comment that was agreed to by the others in attendance: “Well, we can’t see the originals any more so this is just as good.”

Is it? Really?

Without going all Walter Benjamin and “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical [Digital] Reproduction,” doesn’t authenticity matter?

Continue reading To a Musician Not Dying Young

Jack White in Detroit

Jack White was born in Detroit. He went to Cass Tech High School, which numbers among its alum people including Diana Ross, Alice Coltrane, Donald Byrd, Kenny Burrell, and Regina Carter. Good company.

Although White moved to Nashville, once a Detroiter, always a Detroiter.

In 2001 White established Third Man Records. In Nashville.

But what may be more important is the establishment of Third Man Pressing. In Detroit.

Jack White’s company is producing LPs in Detroit. It is a 10,000-square foot factory that “officially” opened on February 25.

It is a production facility that presses hot vinyl between a set of dies into discs that has a capacity of 15,000 records a day.

Although “Detroit” is known for cars, in actuality, there are only two automotive plants in the city limits proper, the Jefferson North Plant where Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos are produced, and the Conner Avenue Plant, where the Dodge Viper is manufactured. Viper production ends this year. So there may be just one car plant.

Detroit. One car plant. Imagine.

(And the company that runs that plant, FCA US, is a part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which is owned by Fiat, which is based in Italy. That car that Eminem drove in that Chrysler commercial a few years back? It was built in Sterling Heights, Michigan, not Detroit. Close though.)

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My rock and roll library update

The Zapple Diaries: The Rise and Fall of the Last Beatles Label by Barry Miles (Harry N. Abrams, 2016)

Do we need another Beatles book? Is there any facet of the Beatles’ 12-year existence as a group that hasn’t been written into the ground? Well, at least until Mark Lewisohn completes his definitive multi-volume history, it looks like we’re going to continue to get more. This one is a specific first-person look at the big-idea, short-lived subsidiary label that the naive idealists formed to release experimental recordings. Miles was hired to record poets such as Charles Bukowski, Laurence Ferlinghetti, and Allen Ginsberg. Spoiler alert: Zapple ended up only releasing two records (vanity projects by George Harrison and John Lennon) before new manager Allen Klein fired everybody and closed shop.

The Underground Is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America by Michaelangelo Matos (Dey Street, 2015)

I’m probably not the intended audience for this book since I don’t really know the difference between house and techno and jungle and dubstep, and I don’t particularly care. Dance music people are very into genre differentiation, but it’s still rock and roll to me. I do, however, enjoy reading well researched and engaging history, and this book is full of that. Lots of young people doing their own thing, making their own scenes, getting loaded, and digging music. Despite the fact that Matos has claimed “The book is not about recordings,” I could have really used a soundtrack when reading it since virtually all of the music was unfamiliar to me.

Sound Man: A Life Recording Hits with The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, Eric Clapton, the Faces… by Glyn Johns (Plume, 2014)

It’s rare that I start but don’t finish a book. This is one of those rarities. For all the characters and events this guy witnessed, you’d think he’d be able to come up with some interesting insights or at least a few good stories. Nope. It’s just tame and boring. Which is a shame because I’ve read interviews with Johns where he’s been hilarious and opinionated. Unfortunately, this book — at least the first half — doesn’t reveal any of that.

Willie Nelson: An Epic Life by Joe Nick Patoski (Back Bay, 2008)

I picked up this book after reading Patoski’s Oxford American article about drummer/character Paul English, “Watching Willie’s Back.” Willie Nelson is an American hero whose greatness has only occasionally been captured on tape despite the fact that he’s got 50+ years of recording under his belt. This book goes a long way in explaining what it is about Willie that makes him such a compelling and unique figure. He’s as close to the Buddha as this country is every going to produce.

Continue reading My rock and roll library update

Watch the MC5 kick out the jams in Germany in 1972

Video: MC5 – Beat Club Recording Sessions: Bremen, Germany 1972

MC5 – Beat Club Recording Sessions: Bremen, Germany 1972

This footage is amazing. It’s from the weird time right after they had kicked out original bassist Michael Davis. They were in Europe promoting their third and final (and best) album, High Times, although they don’t play anything from that record in this clip, filmed for the German television show Beat-Club. They had been dumped by their record label, and their former manager John Sinclair was accusing them of being greedy junky sellouts. Things were not looking good for the Five. And yet…

Watch this footage!

Everything great about rock and roll is here on display. Sonic Smith’s furry hat, Machine Gun Thompson’s Norton Motorcycles t-shirt, Wayne Kramer’s dehydrated pastiness…I mean, come on! Even fill-in bassist Steve (“Steev”) Moorhouse looks cool. But nobody can get anywhere close to the glory of Rob Tyner with his fantastically crazy teeth, magnificent afro, and face dripping with sweat even before he counts in the band with his famous “Kick out the jams, motherfuckers!”

This nine-minute extended freakout version of their greatest hit (peaked at #82 in 1969) goes off into jazzy weirdness before coming back around again with Kramer and Smith intertwining guitar leads, getting as funkadelic in their own way as Eddie Hazel and Garry Shider.

They play five songs in total over two separate sessions (clearly differentiated by the new shirts in “Ramblin’ Rose” and “Black To Comm”). The total running time is under 30 minutes and although it would great to have even more, this is really enough to prove that the MC5 is still grossly underrated despite all the praise they get from people like us.

Continue reading Watch the MC5 kick out the jams in Germany in 1972

The Pepsi (Non) Challenge

While there may have been some consternation or disappointment that Lady Gaga didn’t take the opportunity at the Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl Halftime Show (PZSSBH) to make a political statement of some sort regarding the Muslim ban, the dissing of two U.S. allies, nominations of an array of Wall Street billionaires to the Cabinet, throwing shade on federal judges, making outlandish claims about voter fraud, or comparing American citizens with Vladimir Putin, did you happen to notice that this was the Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl Halftime Show?

There’s no business like show business and something like the PZSSBH is the biggest business of them all each January on screens across the planet.

It has long been a mystery to me why there are performers like Lady Gaga at the Super Bowl Halftime Show. But it is less of a mystery when you figure that there are those who are going to watch the Super Bowl because they like football and so they’re going to watch the Super Bowl, or those who are going to watch the Super Bowl because they are at a party where there are so many and so large screens that it is impossible not to watch the Super Bowl, and then there are those who might click over every now and then to see if they can catch a commercial. Or if there is some performer playing at the stadium with a stage set that is only dwarfed by those used for the Olympics Opening Ceremonies.

You want to sell those people some Pepsi Zero Sugar. You hire Gaga.

Continue reading The Pepsi (Non) Challenge

Glorious Noise Turns Sweet 16

When we first launched Glorious Noise in February 2001 the country had just inaugurated a Republican president who had lost the popular vote after a bitter, draining campaign. My pals and I were not optimistic about the future.

We’ve written at length about the origins of this site, about the influence of Vanity Fair’s “Rock Snob Dictionary,” about Jim DeRogatis’ Lester Bangs biography, about the on-point emails from Johnny Loftus…but equally influential was the work of Hunter S. Thompson, who had recently launched his online column, Hey Rube, for espn.com (thankfully archived here). His posts were honest and fearless and beholden to no one; we idolized him. Thompson took his own life shortly after Bush was inaugurated for his second term, and I miss his voice every time I read the news.

The GLONO posse has always been a bunch of politics junkies. Which is why in 2006 we started POLJUNK, the national affairs desk of Glorious Noise. The site is no longer active, but the Twitter account is still on fire. You should follow it. We try to keep most political commentary out of the @gloriousnoise account so we can keep the focus on music, because in times like these it becomes more important than ever to remember that there is still good stuff going on in the world.

Please don’t think we are putting our collective heads in the sand when it comes to the current political situation, but there are lots of avenues available out there that provide your minute-by-minute fix of outrage porn. It’s important to stay informed, but it’s also easy to get overwhelmed by the constant barrage of bad news. And that doesn’t do anybody any good.

Independent voices are getting more and more consolidated as people increasingly get all their information from fewer and fewer sources. 16 years ago when we started GLONO the online world was a very different place. I was convinced that the internet was an incredible thing, leveling the playing field between the bigwigs and the little guy. The democratization of opinion was going to make the world a better place, where a bunch of nerds with a modem could potentially have as much influence as Jann Wenner or anybody else. And musicians wouldn’t have to go through evil record labels to get their music out to the whole world. Be careful what you wish for, I guess.

Back then, I didn’t want to call this site a blog, despite the fact that we started out using blogger.com as our content management system. I thought Glorious Noise was cooler than that. We had multiple contributors, our own domain, we weren’t diarists, we didn’t feel obligated to post multiple times a day, most posts weren’t just reblogs of existing content. We were an online zine, not a crummy little blog. We are, after all, professionals.

Today, that distinction–and snobbery–just seems silly. Glorious Noise is a blog. It’s always been a blog.

And now Twitter and Facebook have basically gobbled up all of the former ways to measure a site’s connection to its readers. Remember when comments were fun? Remember following a bunch of different sites with RSS? Remember discovering cool new sites by following links on other cool sites? Does anybody even read blogs anymore?

So why bother? Why spend your time writing, editing, and publishing articles when you have no indication that anybody’s reading them, and most evidence suggests that not very many people are?

I had a few beers with Johnny Loftus in Chicago a few weeks ago and he asked me pretty much those same questions. My response was, well, why did we start this shit in 2001? Why were we posting stuff back then? Nobody knew about us. Nobody read us. It took us almost a year to reach our 20,000th unique visitor. And half of those were probably bots. But we were thrilled. It was exciting!

We did it because it was fun. And because we had something to say. Even if it was stupid, and sometimes it certainly was. Who cares? Sure, it’s cool when readers give us feedback, and it’s cool to reach new people, but that’s never really been what it’s about.

Our earliest mission statement reads as follows:

Glorious Noise is a forum for my friends to post their thoughts on various subjects, mostly dealing with music. We have been described as rock snobs, but I don’t think that’s a totally fair label for us. We like what we like, and if you want to go out and spend your money on the new Limp Bizkit record, that’s up to you.

This is not a record review site. No one cares about the opinions of a bunch of strangers. If we were professionals, we wouldn’t be here. If you want professional reviews and real rock journalism, I recommend InsiderOne. Glorious Noise just contains some essays, stories, and rants about how rock and roll can change your life.

I hope you like it.
Jake

That still cracks me up. So snotty. And righteous. But that was our mindset when we founded the site.

And now I’m asking my posse to keep it going. Because I think it’s important to put good stuff out there. Now, more than ever.

I fully understand that everybody has limited free time. And I get that it’s uncool to ask people to work for free. We’re all grownups now. We have a lot of other pressing, real-life stuff to do. But it’s important to not allow yourself to get bogged down by negativity. As Johnny told me, “In a world of rancor and hot takes, we could all use a safe space to hang.” Purposeful self-interest and self-preservation. And that’s our goal for Glorious Noise for the immediate future. Or at least until the internet is shut down or the world ends…

We are going to continue to self-publish independent content on this self-funded site. Just like we’ve been doing for the past 16 years. And I still hope you like it.

Say it loud: I’m BLOG and I’m proud.

Continue reading Glorious Noise Turns Sweet 16

Is Past Prologue?

For the past several years rock and roll has become profoundly apolitical, particularly vis-à-vis the 1960s when, largely because the war in Vietnam, there was considerable engagement of performers.

There were two signal albums of that period, one that came out in 1969 and the other in 1970, and both have Paul Kantner in common.

In 1970, Kantner formed Jefferson Starship. And at this point I can imagine a sufficient number of eyerolls among all of you reading this such that the centrifugal force could spin an LP.

But before there was “Find Your Way Back” and “Jane” and “Count on Me” and Grace Slick-as-Kim Cattrall in the Mannequin “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,”* there was the original Jefferson Starship, which was arguably what came to be known as a “supergroup.”

Joining Kantner and Slick there were Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Cassady, plus Jerry Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, David Crosby, Graham Nash, and David Freiberg.

They came together and created Blows Against the Empire. The Empire in question was pre-Darth Vader. While the album does have a science fiction theme, the whole idea behind it was that the American Empire was something that needed to be escaped from.

But just before that album, Jefferson Airplane released Volunteers, an album that, in effect, was calling out for volunteers not that would join the military and go to Southeast Asia (it is hard to conceive of the fact today that your best friend or your uncle or your boss or your father or yourself could get drafted and sent thousands of miles away to a jungle hell where death was not an unusual consequence), but to get out in the streets. The marches that occurred in Washington and around the world on January 21 were far more common back then. Volunteers were needed frequently to protest against the war.

Continue reading Is Past Prologue?

The Ministry of Found

What was once angry might once again inspire volume

It was a few days after the election when I found nihilism lying broken in the street. Scuffed, half-crushed, and sharing a gutter with chicken bones and an energy drink that didn’t take, it still had spittle in its beard, metal shavings in its throat, and gave off the vibe of not having removed its leathers for a decent spell. And by the way, ‘you party?

Ministry’s Land of Rape and Honey was in the gutter at the bus stop. A half dead cassette, still broadcasting to Past Me. The iconic Sire Records logo was apparent on its banged up, off-white housing, next to all of those rabid, reverse paeans to a god called Fuck You. “Stigmata,” “The Missing,” “Deity,” “Golden Dawn,” “Destruction”. Electric guitar and bass, arc welded to unholy electronics.

Just like a car crash. Just like a knife.

Released in 1988, Land of Rape and Honey continued Al Jourgensen and Ministry’s evolution from a largely electronic, but definitely weird dance act into something much more angry, and louder. Today we talk a lot about dumpster fires, right? This music was abraded in flames, reflecting in a million jagged shards of the devil’s disco ball. In Hell, no one can hear you party, and that’s mostly because of Jourgensen’s mechanized yowl. Mr. Acidic Robot Sarcasm, he was pretty much over the putrid mud from the sky, the shit storm of propaganda. It was time to scream obscenities at the Conservative Establishment. Oh, and society? You’re a bunch of boring-sex-havers. The title track even hijacked the bashy 1985 slink of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” and applied skeezy synths and shouty polemic at maximum volume. You climb the mountain, you pray.

Past Me reveled in the pounding dystopian echoes of “Destruction,” how the martial beat and its bizarro hardcore punk churn resonated in my head. At a different bus stop, I cut its music video out of footage from the 1987 Patrick Swayze headband vehicle Steel Dawn. Back then I knew Reagan, Bush, and their cronies were schmoes, but I mostly wanted to max the volume on my Walkman in private solidarity with some scary people from the city who didn’t give a fuck about God, The Guv, or giving license to complacency. (Play it louder, blasted tape technology!) Land of Rape and Honey sounded like a middle finger built from amps stacked to the sky. And the sky could suck it, too.

Post-election, Current Trump, happening upon a bracing screed from my own past, I wondered how artists in the now will agitate the status quo. I fished out the remains of the tape, and said goodbye to the gutter. Our bus had arrived. We would make it in time.

JTL

Continue reading The Ministry of Found

What Do They Know?

One of the things that often happens when a performer—be it an actor or a musician—makes a political point is that there is a degree of dismissiveness among some—even among that person’s fans—, a reaction that has it, in effect, “Oh, she’s just an actress, what does she know?” (Or, as our President put it about Meryl Streep, “one of the most-overrated actresses.”)

We can allow these people to move us in their performances, but somehow that has nothing to do with their intelligence or capability or thoughtfulness. They are “just” playing or singing or acting. What do they know?

Of course, when it comes to the campaigning part of politics, it is all good to have the actors and musicians to come on stage with the candidates to lend support, be they Gary Busey or George Clooney, Wayne Newton or Bruce Springsteen. (Yes, I’ve made loaded choices of supporters of the candidates in the last presidential, but they are no less true.)

When Madonna says “Yes, I have thought an awful lot of blowing up the White House, but I know that this won’t change anything,” you’d think that the 58-year-old performer was going to be in charge of life-altering policies for literally hundreds of millions of people; when a presidential candidate says in a speech of his opponent, “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know,” it gets pretty much treated as though, “Oh, it’s just him being him.”

Actors or musicians, the thinking seems to be, really don’t know more than their crafts. Lawyers and real estate developers—they know lots about everything.

Don’t they?

Continue reading What Do They Know?