New Sharon Jones video: Call on God

Video: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – “Call on God”

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings "Call on God" (OFFICIAL VIDEO)

From Soul of a Woman, out now on Daptone.

We’ve written a lot on what a dynamic performer Sharon Jones was—and make no mistake, she was a powerhouse. But what I like about this video is it also show what an artists she was, and where real musical magic comes from.

I won’t dive back into the debates around digital vs. analog recording and the pros and cons of automation or pitch correcting software. The fact of the matter is that artists should use whatever they have to the best of their abilities. And that is what makes the Daptone Records story so compelling: They have built this thing from the ground up with people who share a vision and burn with a talent that had to come out.

Here we see Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings out of their stage gear and away from the lights, sounds and manic energy that reverberated throughout their live shows. It’s a band laboring in its small and unadorned workspace. The meticulously authentic soul sound of Daptone Records doesn’t come from a suite of studios with atmospheric lighting and $10,000 sofas. It comes from people holed up in a live room, playing together in their studio in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. That’s magic.

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

Jack Kerouac reads On the Road with Steve Allen

Video: Jack Kerouac on the Steve Allen Show, 1959


Haven’t seen this footage before. It’s pretty great even with the obnoxious watermark. I’m surprised it’s in color but Wikipedia tells me The Steve Allen Show started broadcasting in color in September 1957. Who knew!

The audio of this is included in The Jack Kerouac Collection box that came out in 1990 and most of that stuff has been reissued over the years in a variety of formats. I’ve always loved hearing Kerouac read, and it’s cool to be able to see him doing it.

Of all the Beats, Kerouac seemed the most gentle and sad, quietly observing the madmen he surrounded himself with. I read his collection of letters a while back, and it seems like all he really wanted to do in life was to read and drink and be taken care of my his mother. I can appreciate that.

Ten years after this footage was taped, Kerouac would be dead at age 47 from an abdominal hemorrhage caused by alcohol abuse.

Jack Kerouac: amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Worriers video: The Possibility

Video: Worriers – “The Possibility”

Worriers – The Possibility (Official Video)

From Survival Pop, out now on SideOneDummy.

This sounds like college to me. From the opening line (“Count down the months til you move out of the house”) to the Mascis lead guitar lines, combined with themes of dealing with your parents and insecurities about relationships, it’s three minutes of postadolescent emotion.

Doing your job at being overprotecting
But these guys were never that threatening
“I’m just one of the boys, you see. You don’t have to worry about me.”
I’ll grow up to be somebody’s waitress

In fact it reminds me specifically of my beloved Port Wine Lads, active on the Kalamazoo College scene from about 1991 to 1993. Being highly literate liberal arts students, the Lads crammed a ton of words into each verse and ended up being way more thoughtful than their jokey exterior would suggest.

I don’t know anything about Worriers’ Lauren Denitzio, but I like the way she writes a chorus:

Talk of style and glory but you never pictured me.
Oo-oo-oo…the possibility.

Worriers: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Green Day video: Back In The USA

Video: Green Day – “Back In The USA”

Green Day – Back In The USA (Official Music Video)

From Greatest Hits: God’s Favorite Band, out now on Reprise.

Good old Green Day. I remember the first time I saw the “Longview” video 23 years ago I couldn’t believe they let a band so ugly and pimply on MTV. “This is real punk rock,” I said to my young self. I loved it.

That’s funny in retrospect but it’s how I felt at the time. And now the guys in Green Day are the elder statesmen of American rock and roll along with their fellow founding fathers the Foo Fighters. I have no idea what’s going on with the world anymore, but I never expected this is how 2017 would turn out.

And now they’ve got a greatest hits album out with this new song on it. Not sure who the demographic for greatest hits albums is these days, but I’m sure the smart people at WMG know what they’re doing. Right?

Green Day: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Green Day video: Back In The USA

New Amanda Palmer video: Mother (Pink Floyd cover)

Video: Amanda Palmer & Jherek Bischoff – “Mother”

From the “In Harm’s Way” 7″, out now.

“This song and music video are dedicated to the current administration. You will not build walls in our children’s hearts.”

Seems like the actor who plays our orange fuhrer could’ve shaved his Chuck Todd goatee, but who asked me?

Warning for those viewing at work or offended by the human body: there’s brief nudity.

“Mother” is the least subtle song on The Wall and establishes its central metaphor. I can remember the stoners in high school talking about the movie and saying you “had to be high to understand it.” That might be true if you have a half a brain cell to work with but the plot is pretty fucking obvious, and as a guy who was raised by an overprotective mom after his dad died young, I feel qualified and obligated to mock Roger Waters about it. Boo hoo. Poor you.

Of course, as with everything terrible, the current political climate puts a new spin on it. And things that seemed dopey and juvenile now appear insightful and heavy. Being forced to re-evaluate The Wall might not be the absolute worst outcome of the events of 2017, but jeez, it’s certainly the most unexpected.

Amanda Palmer: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Amanda Palmer video: Mother (Pink Floyd cover)

What’s In a Name?

Walter Becker died on September 3, 2017, from esophageal cancer. Now Donald Fagen is suing his estate. [Update: Becker’s estate responds.]

The issue, it seems, is the name “Steely Dan.” Or whatever that is.

The two had signed what is known as a “Buy/Sell Agreement” after the band formed in 1972, which essentially lets one member to buy the shares of the other, on behalf of “Steely Dan,” should there be a departure or death. The Becker estate wants Becker’s widow to have the shares.

It is worth taking a look back at the band, such as it was, as one could say that it has always been a duo with an array of supporting musicians.

The first album, Can’t Buy a Thrill, was released in 1972. It was followed with a series of annual releases: Countdown to Ecstasy, ’73; Pretzel Logic, ’74; Katy Lied, ’75; The Royal Scam, ’76; and Aja, ’77. There was a short break, as Gaucho didn’t appear until 1980.

In 1995 Alive in America was released. The next studio album was Two Against Nature, 2000, the same year another live album was released, Plush TV Jazz-Rock Party.

The final Steely Dan album was released in 2003, Everything Must Go.

Fagen had four solo albums: The Nightfly, ’82; Kamakiriad, ’93; Morph the Cat, ’06; Sunken Condos, ’12.

Becker had two: 11 Tracks of Whack, ’94; Circus Money, ’08.

According to, in 1973, “The band in various configurations tours the U.S. and Britain.”

Then there was something of a touring hiatus, it seems.

The site notes that in 1980 “Becker and Fagen go their separate ways.”

So the first tour had an assortment of musicians and seven years later, after that flurry of annual albums and then Gaucho, that was it.

Continue reading What’s In a Name?

New Sleigh Bells video: And Saints

Video: Sleigh Bells – “And Saints”

Sleigh Bells – And Saints

From Kid Kruschev, out now on Torn Clean.

This is spooky. Norwegian black metal bands, cheerleaders with skull masks, bloody tears, grim reapers. It’s the worst pep assembly ever.

And the song is just as creepy, with a narrator so strung out even the pizza man notices.

My mom keeps calling me
My friends keep texting me
So sorry guys, whatever it takes
Delivery guy wants to know if I’m okay
Nah, man, but thanks

Yikes. Hope they feel better, but it’s not looking very likely…

Sleigh Bells: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

50 Year Ago: A Letter to My Teenage Son

Audio: Victor Lundberg – “An Open Letter to My Teenage Son”


There’s been a lot of talk recently about the 50th anniversary of the first issue of Rolling Stone magazine, dated November 9, 1967. The interviews and reviews of early Stone are rightly celebrated, but I like flipping through for the ads and weird news items.

The second issue came out two weeks later and featured Tina Turner on the cover. It was 20 pages long, with 3 full-page ads, and featured an interview with Donovan and a big Jon Landau piece on Aretha Franklin. The thing that caught my eye, however, was an article on page 8 by Bob O’Lear titled, “USA’s Hottest New 45 RPM: Letter to a Teenage Son.”

The hottest record in the country — not the Monkees, not “Incense and Peppermint,” not the “San Francisco Sound” nor even the Beatles — is a non-musical offering by two middle-aged advertising executives from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The song, if you haven’t heard it, is a slice of the reactionary doublespeak for which my hometown of Grand Rapids is notorious (Amway, Betsy Devos, et al). “Some of my generation judges people by their race, their belief, or the color of their skin and this is no more right than saying all teenagers are drunken dope addicts or glue sniffers.” Of course, by the end, the narrator threatens to disown his son if he refuses to fight in the Vietnam war. “Your mother will love you no matter what you do because she is a woman.”

Fifty years later it’s kind of hilarious, but still pretty sad because it’s based on an actual letter the dude wrote to his 17-year-old son. This was the state of the world in 1967. Imagine having to make that choice as a teenager. “If you decide to burn your draft card, then burn your birth certificate at the same time.”

O’Lear plays it straight. No moralizing, barely any condescension, just straight reporting. He interviews the songwriters, the record label, and a radio program director, and he quotes a big chunk of the narration. This is O’Lear’s only byline in the Stone.

A little googling uncovered a “promotion man” named Bob O’Lear who worked for labels affiliated with Liberty Records in 1967. So was this article essentially a press release? Native advertising? Had Jann Wenner already sold out by the second issue? Or was he just willing to publish whatever content he could get?

“An Open Letter to My Teenage Son” spent six weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at #10.

Continue reading 50 Year Ago: A Letter to My Teenage Son

Taylor breaks a million for the fourth time

Three years ago this month, we reminded everybody that Selling a Million Albums in a Week is a Big Deal after Taylor Swift released 1989 and sold 1.287 million. At that time only 18 other albums had hit that mark since Soundscan began tracking sales in 1991.

Before Swift’s new album, Reputation, sold 1.216 million last week, only one more album had sold more than a million: Adele’s 25. And 25 crushed all sales records, selling 3.378 million copies in its debut week, 1.112 million in its second week, and 1.157 million in its fifth (Christmas). Which was historically bonkers. Since then, nobody’s come close and nobody probably ever will.

But 1.216 million is still a lot of albums. And those are sales. In just the United States. 709,000 digital albums and 507,000 CDs (no vinyl yet). As Billboard points out, that’s the “10th-largest sales week for any album since Nielsen Music began electronically tracking sales.” In fact, it sold 1.05 million copies in the first four days. That is a dedicated fanbase.

If you factor in streaming and track downloads, it moved 1.238 million equivalent album units (not much more because she’s holding it off streaming services for now).

Continue reading Taylor breaks a million for the fourth time

New Bjork video: Blissing Me

Video: Björk – “Blissing Me”

björk: blissing me

From Utopia, out November 24 on One Little Indian.

Bjork sure is a funny little fairy, isn’t she? Look at her flitting around all ethereally while singing about “excess texting” and “sending each other mp3s.” You have to love her. She might look like an anime princess but don’t let that distract you from what is ultimately a beautiful love song about “two music nerds obsessing” and “falling in love to a song.” Dreamy!

Makeup by Hungry.

Bjork: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Bjork video: Blissing Me

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