Looking at Lists

Although ranking lists are common and therefore something to be ostensibly sniffed at, let’s face it: we all fall to the allure of the ad populum. We want to see what groups of other people think, either in order to justify our own positions or to maintain that the wisdom of crowds is actually the stupidity of crowds.

Or, at a more superficial but just as important level, it is like eating potato chips: non-nutritious but damned tasty. (Lists are actually less deleterious to one’s well being than the chips are, as while there may be fat in the list, there is likely no salt, so you have to bring your own grain to the assessment of the results, and the size of that chunk may be rather large.)

When I Googled “richest musicians,” the featured snippets box, that thing that sometimes shows up at the top of the results page, listed:

1. Paul McCartney
2. Andrew Llyod Webber [sic]
3. Jay Z
4. P-Diddy
5. Madonna
6. Herb Alpert
7. Dr Dre
8. Celine Dion

and while the top of the snippet indicated that the list included 17 more that were just a click away (i.e., it is a list of the top 25), I noted that the domain was “.ng,” something that I was not familiar with.

So I Googled that and discovered it is for Nigeria. I wonder if a prince who has millions of dollars that he would like to put into my bank account is in any way involved in creating the list. After all, McCartney and the others have serious money, too, so they undoubtedly hang out with that guy who needs a place to park his immense fortune and it could be that this list is simply a list that he created to keep track of his pals.

There are plenty of other sites with their versions of the “richest musicians,” including the monetary sounding “ledgernote.com,” the musical “playback.fm,” the institutional “gobanking.com” and the financially hip sounding “wealthygorilla.com.”

I don’t know if my virus protection is up to any of them, so I decided to forego additional research on that area of listed information.

Continue reading Looking at Lists

New Willie Nelson video: Vote ‘Em Out

Video: Willie Nelson – “Vote ‘Em Out”

Willie Nelson - Vote 'Em Out

Single out now on Legacy.

Originally written during the 2018 midterms in support of Beto O’Rourke’s senate run against incumbent zodiac killer Ted Cruz, “Vote ‘Em Out” just got a brand new animated video for 2020.

So please, for the love of all that is holy, listen to Willie.

Willie Nelson: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Fuzz: Spit

Video: FUZZ – “Spit”

Directed by Charles Moothart. From III, out October 23 on In the Red.

Do you love the sound of loud guitars? Do you like rock and roll? Yeah? Then you should listen to this new song from Fuzz.

Fuzz is Ty Segall’s band with guitarist Charles Moothart and bassist Chad Ubovich. They recorded III on 2″ tape at legendary United Recordings Studio B with Steve Albini.

Moothart told Mix magazine, “Ty had done a mixing session at United Recording, so that is where the idea of recording at United with Steve came from. We wanted to record in LA to stay close to home; we wanted to be able to go in and get live takes and not stress too much on mixing, and we wanted it to be fun. All signs pointed to working with Steve at United.”

In a statement, Moothart said, “When Ty and I first started working on this song, we didn’t know if it was even going to be a FUZZ song or not. We wanted to make a song that felt straight forward, but had a subtle tweak that over time gets more obvious. The verse riff almost feels like you’re falling asleep at the wheel then the chorus opens up with a melodic, but sharp riff that adds to the punch-drunk feeling of the verse.”

Riffs, man. A badass riff might not be able to solve all the problems going on in the world, but it can definitely make you feel a little better for a few minutes.

Continue reading New Fuzz: Spit

50 Years Ago on the Johnny Cash Show: Neil Diamond, Jackie DeShannon, Dennis Hopper

The second episode of the final season of the Johnny Cash Show aired 50 years ago today on September 30, 1970, from Music City USA, Nashville, Tennessee. It featured guests Neil Diamond, Jackie DeShannon, and Dennis Hopper along with the usual regulars: June Carter and the Carter Family, the Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins, and the Tennessee Three.

Since the previous episode aired on Ray Charles’ 40th birthday it got me thinking about the ages of the folks on the show, and how much older people looked back then. Like, everybody looked 40, even people in their 20s. Here, Neil Diamond and Jackie DeShannon were both 29 and Dennis Hopper was 34.

A new segment debuted on this episode called “Country Gold” which apparently showcased important country musicians. Or something. This week featured Claude King, who had a few hits in the early sixties, but otherwise…who? It’s a little hard to figure out, really, since the list of artists is just kind of random: Bobby Bare, Floyd Cramer, Bill Monroe, the Stonemans, Hank Snow, Connie Smith, Bill Anderson and Jan Howard. Sure, many of those folks would ultimately be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, but of all the legends who were still alive in 1970, why them? Perhaps only Johnny Cash knew the answer.

How great is Neil Diamond though? The Diamond had first appeared on the show in February and came back to do his best song: “Cracklin’ Rosie.” His performance is perfect, as is his shirt.

Later in the show a very high Dennis Hopper reveals that he cannot sing as he warbles an embarrassing duet of Kris Kristofferson’s “The Pilgrim” with his host. To prove he’s a very serious artist Hopper then recites a Rudyard Kipling poem…very intensely. 1970 was weird, man.

• Johnny Cash – “Rock Island Line”

• June Carter – Poem: Paul the Woodpecker

Neil Diamond – “Cracklin’ Rosie”

Neil Diamond On Johnny Cash Show

From Tap Root Manuscript (UNI, 1970).

Continue reading 50 Years Ago on the Johnny Cash Show: Neil Diamond, Jackie DeShannon, Dennis Hopper

New Laura Veirs: Another Space and Time

Video: Laura Veirs – “Another Space and Time”

Laura Veirs - Another Space and Time (Official Music Video)

Directed by Twixx Williams. From My Echo, out October 24 on Bella Union.

Sometimes you need a little bossa nova grooviness in your life. It might even help you imagine a world that wasn’t constantly awful. In her third single from the upcoming My Echo, Laura Veirs presents an alternate reality where “California’s not burning and the seas don’t rise.”

Veirs says, “This song is a dream that we can and will live in a more peaceful, loving world – and a world with more personal freedoms, too.”

Dare to dream!

Laura Veirs: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Laura Veirs: Another Space and Time

The Importance of Numbers & Events

One of the things that is not well known about many publications is that they don’t make money—or at least much money—from the publications themselves, be they the physical object that we know of as a magazine or as a digital variant. You’ve probably noticed various subscription offers—tote bags notwithstanding—that have a phenomenally low price. That’s predicated on the publications needing to get high circulation prices so that they can “sell the audience” to advertisers: “We have X + 1 readers, which is better than our competitor, which just has X, so buy our space.” Cheesy tote bags can go a long way.

Another way that they make money is to hold events of various sorts. They capitalize on the brand that they have otherwise established.

One of the consequences of COVID-19, at least for the organizations that care about the health and well-being of their supporters, is that there have been a vast number of in-person events cancelled or postponed. Let’s face it: any event needs to have a critical mass of attendees in order to pay the venue rental and so on, and that critical mass would be difficult to achieve if there is social distancing involved. Of course, there is the possibility of some promoter thinking, “Well, since we can only have 50% of the attendees, we’ll have to double the price of the event.” And that is unlikely to work particularly well for a variety of reasons, ranging from the fact that there is still a high level of trepidation among those who still have jobs regarding how long that’s going to last (I find it interesting that of late when jobs numbers are reported it sounds as though only low-wage individuals have lost their jobs when there are regular reports, for example, in publications like Adweek about agencies shedding people and offices), to say nothing of the millions who simply have lost their jobs and that restaurant or club just isn’t coming back.

So the alternative that some publications are taking is to hold virtual events. One of them is Variety, which describes itself as “the most authoritative and trusted source of entertainment business news, reaching an audience of affluent influencers. For 113 years, influential producers, executives and talent in entertainment have turned to Variety for expert film, TV, digital, music, and theater business analysis and insights.”

In an interview with Morning Consult, Dea Lawrence, Variety’s chief marketing officer, said that since COVID-19 they’ve held more than 60 “Variety Streaming Room Events.” What’s striking is that there are significantly more people “showing up” for the virtual events than there were for the physical ones.

That is, pre-COVID, only 10% of those who bought tickets for the physical Variety events actually showed up. For the virtual events, the number is 43%. As Lawrence said, “We started pitching all of the advertisers immediately. . . .”

And those numbers look good (i.e., 72,091 unique registrants; 31,238 unique attendees), which undoubtedly make the sponsors of the events happy. What’s more, the virtual events cost Variety less than the physical ones did, which undoubtedly makes Variety‘s chief financial officer happy.

Continue reading The Importance of Numbers & Events

50 Years Ago on the Johnny Cash Show: Ray Charles, Arlo Guthrie, and Liza Minnelli

For the last year or so I’ve been setting the DVR to record “The Johnny Cash Show” on GetTV. Back in the golden era of variety shows, when everybody from Ed Sullivan and the Smothers Brothers to Carol Burnett and Glen Campbell had their own primetime shows, the Man in Black got his own one-hour program on ABC.

And it’s awesome. Watching it is like taking a time machine back to an entertainment environment that feels almost entirely alien to today’s slick world where everybody on tv has perfect teeth, appropriately plucked eyebrows, and the exact same measurements. “The Johnny Cash Show” is funky and sincere and goofy and weird in the best way.

According to Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn, ABC was hoping to piggyback on the success of CBS’s new hit, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.” Cash agreed to do it as long as he could tape the show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and select his own guests. The production company agreed to the former and evaded the latter.

It started out as just a summer replacement series, debuting on June 7, 1969 with guests Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, fiddler Doug Kershaw, and comedian Fannie Flagg, and running every Saturday night through September 27. The show’s initial run created enough buzz to be renewed for another 17 episodes, starting Wednesday nights in January 1970 and running through May 13, 1970.

The final season of the Johnny Cash Show kicked off 50 years ago today on September 23, 1970, from Music City USA, Nashville, Tennessee. It featured guests Ray Charles, Arlo Guthrie, and Liza Minnelli along with the usual family of regulars: June Carter, Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, the Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins, and the Tennessee Three.

It was Ray Charles’ 40th birthday. Johnny Cash was 38. Arlo Guthrie was 23. And Liza Minelli was 24.

Like each episode in the series it begins with an instrumental, big band version of “Folsom Prison Blues” conducted by Australian arranger Bill Walker, and then our host introduces himself: “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”

• Johnny Cash – Medley: “One More Ride” / “Hey Porter” / “Orange Blossom Special” / “Folsom Prison Blues”

• Ray Charles and the Raylettes – “Finders Keepers”

Ray Charles – “I Walk the Line”

Ray Charles – “Ring of Fire”

Ray Charles - Ring Of Fire

From Love Country Style (Tangerine Records, 1970).

Continue reading 50 Years Ago on the Johnny Cash Show: Ray Charles, Arlo Guthrie, and Liza Minnelli

The Question of Spending During a Pandemic

This week I received another offer. This time, it wasn’t for a tote bag. Rather, it was a picture, an 11 x 14-inch print. It was clearly one hell of a deal in that there on the page was $433 and directly beneath it “Only $39.”

A couple of points about that. First of all, who comes up with a price like $433 for something, in this case a photographic print. Obviously the print as object doesn’t cost $433, as there is a piece of paper, 5.5 inches wider than a piece of what has historically been known as “typewriter paper,” and some glossy ink on it. Now the photo as subject and as execution certainly might have some value, but again, given that this is a proposal that was widely emailed out to who knows how many people, it is not as though there is some sort of exclusivity to it, unless you think that ordering a McDonald’s without pickles makes it somehow different than the billions sold. Then there is the question of going from $433 to $39. That is a $394 difference. Or approximately a 90% discount. What can you buy that has a 90% discount? It all seems rather bizarre, and all the more so when you know that if you buy the photo for $39 you get (actually this should be in the past tense because by the time you see this the “deal” will have expired) something that the purveyor says is worth $39, so your effective cost is $0, which is a whole lot less than $433 or even $39.

The picture is that of The Who, taken in 1971 at the Oval Cricket Ground, Kensington, London. There’s Roger with his hands above his head in the foreground, with the Ox slightly behind him to the left, presumably moving nothing but his fingers. Between them in the background is Keith, holding a pair of drumsticks crossed above his head. And to Roger’s right and several feet behind him is Pete in flight. It is an oddly static black-and-white photo, and as it is shot from stage left across the stage rather than from the front of the stage, there isn’t a particularly good sense of the musicians at that particular moment.

Which leads me to wonder about who is going to be interested in that picture of The Who, whether it is for $433, $39 or $0. I suspect that it might be people in my generation (no allusion there) who might want it, but then I wonder. I had the opportunity to see The Who—yes, the real The Who, in that it had that lineup, which is the only authentic one in my estimation, though I will accept the post-Moon Kenney Jones band as somewhat legit—and have an interest in music (or so it seems) yet that photo would hold no value for me. Perhaps had I been at that show on September 18 , which was in support of the people of Bangladesh, I would have been interested in the picture, but having learned that the lineup also included The Faces, I might be a bit more interested in a photo of that, though that is unlikely, too. Presumably some fans would be interested.

Continue reading The Question of Spending During a Pandemic

New Gorillaz video: Strange Timez (ft. Robert Smith)

Video: Gorillaz – “Strange Timez” (ft. Robert Smith)

Gorillaz - Strange Timez ft. Robert Smith (Episode Six)

Directed Jamie Hewlett. From Song Machine, Season One, due October 23 on WMG.

If you would’ve asked me twenty years ago if Robert Smith would still be around and making relevant music in 2020, I would’ve scoffed and said he should’ve retired after Disintegration. If you would’ve asked me the same thing about Damon Albarn, I would’ve replied, “The guy from Blur?”

That is to say: I’m an idiot. And please ignore any predictions I make about the future.

Because Robert Smith is still going at it and doing good stuff and the kids love the Cure more than ever, and the guy from Blur has turned his Gorillaz into a mainstream hit machine. Which boggles my mind, but what do I know? Clearly, not much.

(I am, however, still holding a grudge against Albarn for dropping Del the Funky Homosapien from the project after the first Gorillaz album. Del rules.)

So here we are in 2020 and Robert Smith has teamed up with the Gorillaz for a new Covid-themed single and he even appears in the video as the man in the moon. Which seems perfect.

Battle war of the worlds, surgical glove world, bleach thirsty world
I’m twitching in the grimy heat, I think I might be spinning

It is indeed a strange time to be alive.

Gorillaz: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Deep Sea Diver – Impossible Weight (ft. Sharon Van Etten)

Video: Deep Sea Diver – “Impossible Weight” (ft. Sharon Van Etten)

Deep Sea Diver - Impossible Weight featuring Sharon Van Etten (Official Video)

Directed by Jessica Dobson, Peter Mansen, Tyler Kalberg. From Impossible Weight, out October 16th on ATO.

I saw Deep Sea Diver open up for Wilco back in November, which was the last concert I went to before covid, unless I’m forgetting something, which I totally could be, because this fucking pandemic has obliterated any real sense of time or memory. I would’ve sworn that show was at least three years ago but nope.

And you can hear that maybe a little bit of the headliner rubbed off onto this new song with its swirling chimes and its verses that assassin down the avenue.

But that was then and this is now
I tried so hard not to let you all down
It’s an impossible weight
So I’ll just let you down now

When I was 14 I got into the Monkees when MTV started showing the reruns. Riding the success of that revival, Clive Davis of Arista Records convinced Micky and Peter to a record a few songs for a new hits compilation. “That Was Then, This Is Now” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 on July 5, 1986, peaked at No. 20, and stayed on the chart for 14 weeks. I turned 15 during its reign and I loved it. The album, Then & Now…The Best of the Monkees, stayed on the Billboard 200 for 34 weeks. I played the cassette nonstop.

In not too long I would start to pick up the original albums at garage sales and the Rhino reissues at record stores. My copy of Headquarters had a crack (not a scratch, a crack) that went all the way through, but if I lined it up just right it would still play.

None of that really has anything to do with Deep Sea Diver, but if you’re going to have a chorus that says “that was then and this is now” then you’re going to get a Monkees story out of me and that’s just the way it is.

Oh and also: Sharon Van Etten rules.

Deep Sea Diver: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Deep Sea Diver – Impossible Weight (ft. Sharon Van Etten)

Rock and roll can change your life.