In my ongoing quest to

In my ongoing quest to avoid supporting the Media Borg, I am hereby giving up listening to my favorite radio station, WDFN 1130AM, Detroit’s best sports talk station. I am doing this for one simple reason: The station is owned by Clear Channel Communications. I just can’t ignore this fact any longer, so I’m tuning out.

I encourage those of you who also oppose(d) the 1996 Telecommunications Act that eased the FCC’s restrictions on media ownership to do likewise and stop listening to Clear Channel-owned stations in your area.

Oh, and by the way, lest you think I’m a complete loony for thinking like this, go ahead and read this article on Salon.com explaining how Clear Channel is blatantly defying the FCC, even in its diminished regulatory capacity, and screwing us all.

It’s no wonder that radio has a bland sameness to it nationwide—it really is programmed by one big corporation—explaining why a music lover like me (used to) listen to sports talk.

Please help me find an address for the king of the UN

This doesn’t have anything to do with music, but I recently received this email from a friend of mine, and I felt the need to share it with you. I certainly don’t advocate this kind of “Send this to ten of your friends” message, but this is a special exception. My friend has given permission to publish this here but has asked me to change his name, which I did.

Jake

Dear Friends,

I am not into politics and whatnot but it seems that most of you are and should be commended for it. Since you are, however, I have a few questions that you could perhaps help me get answers to. I am interested in writing a letter to the leader of the UN (King/Prince/Commissioner I don’t know his title) to find their schedule for the year 2002. Reason being, I thought that maybe after they are done setting up a multi-ethnic government in Afghanistan they could perhaps come to the United States and help US set up a multi-ethnic government. I figure, if they can work their magic in a place like Afghanistan, what with the centuries of warring tribes and whatnot, they could surely do the same with the United States where people are, on the surface at least, a little bit calmer (or maybe they just don’t LOOK as crazy). Anyhoo, I don’t know the fella’s name that runs the UN. The old guy had double first names, being a foreigner and all. Could you imagine, Paul Paul Stanley? WOW!! I’ve seen the new guy’s picture and he has a graying beard. If you could tell me how to get in touch with him I would appreciate it. If he is anything like me (and we’re all more alike than different) then he likes to make lists for himself (gotta have goals). I would just like to talk to him to see if we can’t get on his list and whether they will have the time help us out next year. Perhaps if I made a internet chain letter where it had some sort of form letter and everyone added their address and social security number as they received it and that stuff about how bad luck (or at least no multi-ethnic government) will come if they don’t pass it on to 10 friends. This could show the King of the UN that it’s not only me that wants the UN to help the U.S. So political/computer savvy friends, I would appreciate your advice.

Sincerely,

Paul Stanley [not his real name – ed.]

Please add a comment if you agree with this (address and social security number are optional, of course…).

Calculated Oops

Britney Spears Live from Las VegasOn the day following the Britney Spears HBO bump-and-grind performance from Las Vegas, I noted that on sports talk radio there were discussions about the appropriateness of men above, say, age 25 finding 19-year-old Spears sexually appealing. While not promoting a Don Henley defense here, the whole thing strikes me as rather absurd. Too many of these people were trying to come off as though they are in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. “Can you say ‘bullshit,’ neighbor?”

To use the time-honored sports-talk metaphor, let’s break things down…

* Title IX notwithstanding, sports is a testosterone-driven arena. If there is any question about that, then ask yourself this: Why do ads for strip clubs in Windsor appear in the sports section of the Detroit Free Press and not the entertainment section? Sports is nothing else than the Entertainment Business writ large. Just like music. In fact, when you consider the ties between the two, things become rather inextricable.

* How many “sports fans” are “fans” of Anna Kournikova? How many “sports fans” have you ever heard holding the view that “She’s too young to ogle”? I’ve heard approximately none. How many “sports fans” managed to have their Internet-based fantasy sports team playing interrupted by opening an attachment to an email that was a virus disguised as pix of Anna? Let’s see: Spears, 12/02/81; Kournikova, 6/07/81. Yep, a vast difference.

* Spears appeared on HBO. Not broadcast. Not basic cable. Gee, do you think that the venue might have had a little something to do with her ability to strut her stuff in a way that would otherwise be considered verboten? (Although with last week’s “Victoria’s Secret Underwear Extravaganza on the Network Owned By Disney, Which We Thought Was Always About Less Obvious Sexuality” may have changed things somewhat in this regard.) And what about the fact that she was on 9 pm—isn’t that post-family hour?

* Spears appeared in Las Vegas, at the MGM Grand. The tribute to Dorothy in that hotel notwithstanding, the first thing that anyone arriving in Vegas knows is they aren’t in Kansas anymore. Despite the Las Vegas Tourist Board’s attempts to make people think that Vegas is “family friendly,” the only families that it is friendly to are those that own the casinos. As for the other “families,”: “Gee, Mom, will you let Sally and me out of the closet so that we can watch the pirate ships blown each other up? Mom? MOM? Damn. She must be back at the video poker again… Gimme the beef jerky.” Make no mistake that Vegas is still about silicone and slots, about the Big Win. Which Spears and her handlers hope to realize (the Big Win, that is; the other two are already accommodated).

The whole thing is pathetic. And moreover, it is simply characteristic of what is happening to popular music. While pop music has always been a function of someone figuring that they could make a fast buck by promoting the sound of the moment, there is a vast difference in degree today than there has ever been. The Selling of Stars At Any Cost has become the order of the day among massive conglomerates. It is all about maximizing investment at the cost of taste. At the cost of talent. It is about moving Product. And these products have an increasingly short sell-by date. Most of these people who are plastered on the cover of Teen People (hmm… AOL TimeWarner, which owns HBO, owns that, too…) have careers with all of the substance of cotton candy. Chances are, 20 years from now Eddie Money is more likely to still be performing with Ringo’s All-Starr Band at outdoor concert venues while most of the people of Spears’ ilk will be performing at some sort of dinner theatre. (While some may claim that she’s the next Madonna, I’d argue that there already is—or has been—a Madonna, and so that position has already been filled: There are no second acts.)

There is no question that Spears is now meant to appeal more to the people who are claiming that it is “wrong” than she is to the mobs of teens who attend her shows. Who has a greater degree of disposable income? And who can spell “hypocritical”?

The Glorious Noise Interview with Camden Joy


When I was young, we approached rock and roll like that, that it had been broken open and sucked dry by greedy adults and nothing remained of it but a few shards. The Rolling Stones, for example, could be reduced to the mumbles and guitar jabs at the start of “Stray Cat Blues,” the submerged clatter of “I Just Wanna See His Face,” and the line in “Respectable” about smoking heroin with the president. Three fragments. And I’d have to say that even that was pretty generous of us. The Clash and the Who were each reduced to just two fragments. My friends and I called these “moments,” and we constantly bickered over the merits of this or that “moment.” I’m the one who said the moments occur when a performer strays from the script, when you sense they haven’t practiced this part but aren’t worried what to play. It was Roy who said these moments were “steered entirely by the majesty of impulse.” I always loved that, “the majesty of impulse.” Made passion sound like some kinda key to royalty.

— From The Last Rock Star Book Or: Liz Phair, a Rant by Camden Joy

We are pleased to present to you the Glorious Noise interview with one of my favorite contemporary authors, Camden Joy. He was called “one of the smartest, funniest, and most thoroughly twisted people writing about rock today” by Jim DeRogatis, the author of the Lester Bangs biography, Let It Blurt, and authority on smart, funny, twisted writers. In the interview Camden Joy discusses his role in reviving interest in alternative country legends, his love of genetically-modified fruit, and his waning interest in current popular music. He also mentions his three brand new novellas that were just published by Highwater Books.

Read all about it here.

Continue reading The Glorious Noise Interview with Camden Joy

Boxing Bob Dylan

Nothing’s free in this world. Especially when it’s offered by a corporation. Is it worth it to accept freebies from the Man when he seemingly expects nothing in return? Not when it’s box seats to a concert. You’re better off watching it at home with relatives you hate. At least you can kick them out…or kill them. This Glono feature looks at the sick world of corporate boxes and how they can kill your favorite rock stars.

Continue reading Boxing Bob Dylan

To quote an old Rush song, “You don’t get something for nothing”

Today the New York Times* has a great article about Microsoft’s Xbox, and how Bill Gates basically screwed a bunch of bands to use their music in titles for the new video game console. The short version of the story is this. Microsoft gave a lot of small-time bands on indie labels an offer some of them apparently couldn’t refuse: Either give us your music for free or we’ll just get some other music from somebody else and you’ll lose out on a great “promotional” opportunity. Read the article and debate the merits of giving away creative work under the guise of promotion, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned as an artist, it’s that you don’t work for free, especially not for a corporation.

*If you have to read a daily newspaper, you might as well read the Times. Though it’s as suspect as any big media outlet, the hacks there seem to publish a better fishwrap than most anyone else on earth. And it’s free online if you register. And if that link to the article above doesn’t work, don’t blame me; because of the registration process for the Times Web site, it might not. If you can’t get it to work, register and search for the article, “For Musicians, Microsoft’s Xbox Is No Jackpot”. Or just go buy a Dead Tree Edition.

Jay Farrar: Another Round Before You Go

There are times when you stop by the local watering hole only expecting to have one beer, and you take your barstool and place your order with that avowed intention, when you feel a hard slap on your back and a loud voice in your ear and turn to see the face of a friend you haven’t seen in awhile. He orders another round, and you settle in. That’s what Jay Farrar’s set at the Intersection was like.

If some of you like me are a little fuzzy on the names like I always am, he did a couple of albums with his band Son Volt, and before that, he was in Uncle Tupelo with a certain Jeff Tweedy (does that make Tweedy his cousin if they’ve got the same uncle?). His accompanist, Mark Spencer, played a Telecaster and a lap steel, while Jay had about half a dozen acoustic guitars with him, although I only saw him play one of them. The crowd was a little too old for a Tuesday night, and pulled tables and chairs up close to the stage where the dance floor would usually be. Farrar’s voice had that familiar tone and cadence, instantly recognizable.

Most of the set was comprised of songs from his new solo album, Sebastopol, very appropriate for the two guitar arrangement (even if the house acoustics and stage configuration was not), the songs a little like the conversation with that old friend where you talk about what you’ve been up to lately. Mixed in was an Uncle Tupelo number and a song or two from Son Volt’s debut Trace.

With the first couple of bars of “Tear Stained Eye,” after the appreciative woops from the crowd died down, I had to wonder why the old songs gave me so much more of a twinge than the new. Is it the fact that they’re old times being talked about that makes them good times, the years and a lively imagination putting a spin to them? Or do good songs become great when you’ve listened to them time and again on mix tapes, and sung along with the tune, out of tune, on road trips into the great West? Maybe he says it best in that very song: “Can you deny/there’s nothing greater/nothing more/than the traveling hand of time?”

Whatever it was, the songs sounded good, the slide guitar on the solo sounding like a trembling saw. I was still thinking about the question when they wound up their set and were brought back for an encore by the polite but insistent applause. They closed with another Son Volt song, “Windfall,” which sounded like the promise you make after a few too many rounds to keep in touch and do this more often, and they were done. I picked up his disc on the way out—as our man Scott put it, “It’s almost like buying the artist a beer, considering you’re cutting out the middleman.” And Jay definitely deserves another round.

Props To My O.G. (Original Geek)

Yesterday, Barry Manilow released his 39th album, Here at the Mayflower. Now I’m certainly not going to go out and buy it, nor should any of you, not when you can pick up a copy of 1974’s Barry Manilow II on vinyl at any thrift store in the country for less than a dollar. For those of you that don’t already own this album and are wondering if I’m patently stupid for suggesting that you should (or wondering if I’ve just descended into that it’s-so-bad-it’s-good kitsch that causes usually intelligent people like Jake Brown to like such awful shit as Britney Spears) listen to “Mandy” and tell me Manilow is not an artist that should be respected.

For that matter, listen to most of his stuff from ’73-’78 (all of which I proudly own on vinyl and regularly listen to) and tell me that it’s not the best Easy Listening music ever recorded (or at least better than Dan Fogelberg). And then tell me that you haven’t found yourself humming along to an Air Supply song you heard Muzak-ed over the PA at Wal-Mart, or stopping for longer than the obligatory five seconds on WLHT to catch the end of “Blue Bayou”. Even better, try and make an argument for why George Michael’s seminal work with Andrew Ridgeley in Wham! is not Easy Listening—because there’s not a “lite” radio station in the country that doesn’t butt “Careless Whisper” up against “Maneater” by Hall and Oates.

If you’re not man or woman enough to admit the greatness of Barry Manilow, then you need to think really seriously about how comfortable you are with your own self image.

Granted, I think there’s probably no reason to own more than three or four Manilow albums, just like you don’t need to continue buying AC/DC records once you own Highway to Hell, For Those About to Rock, and Back in Black. But for some people, getting stuck in a groove is the way they like to live their lives. For these people, the Manilows and AC/DCs of the world are pillars of strength and perseverance, things they can cling to when the shit hits the fan. So props to both artists for never compromising who they are, never re-inventing themselves to meet marketplace demands.

Barry Manilow has taken a lot of shit over the years, erroneously being dubbed the poster child for bad music when we all know that cretins like Richard Marx, Michael Bolton, and Kenny G could each in turn suck the proverbial chrome off a trailer hitch, a ’59 Cadillac, and a new Harley Springer Softail. Although some of Manilow’s career moves were indeed somewhat suspect (not writing the song, “I Write the Songs”, for instance), think about it for a minute, just how much space would those 39 albums take up in your CD storage unit or on your record shelf? If it were indeed all garbage, Manilow would have long since been put out to pasture. But no, the guy has stuck with it, brushed off the criticism and he still looks, sounds, and performs the same as he did 20 years ago. If Aerosmith and the Stones had aged as well and kept their coolness as intact as Manilow has kept his un-coolness, we’d be living in a different world.

Fortunately, in this same space of time that Manilow has neither grown nor changed, I have. Thanks to my dad who, recognizing my fascination with Barry Manilow during my young and formative years (yes, four of my Manilow albums were actually acquired in the 1970s, before I had even turned eight years old), went out and bought me a copy of R.E.O. Speedwagon’s best-selling album of 1980, Hi Infidelity. As much as this purchase of a cheesy pop-rock record must have pained my father—he’s known to all my friends as The Jazzman; my girlfriend even calls him “Jazz”—he must have recognized that if he didn’t do it, distract me from Barry with something other than Spyro Gyra (which, to my credit, didn’t work), I might now be the guy who went eagerly out last night after work and purchased Mayflower. How’s that for good parenting?

So R.E.O. (ironically enough, given my current occupation as an automotive writer, standing for Ransom E. Olds) changed my life by introducing me to what is now arguably an even worse—perhaps just more insidious—genre of music than Easy Listening: Classic Rock. Fortunately, I have been working on combating the resultant disease—call it Neilyoungisgodosis—with the help of a good support group (this being my friends; “Hi, my name is Tom and I really love Little Feat”) and a prescription for regular doses of Public Enemy. My father still has some hope: at least Chuck D. is black. This digression aside, it’s important to remember that good music is good music, no matter how uncool it is, no matter where it came from, no matter what genre it falls into, no matter how embarrassing it is to admit, and no matter how stupid you might have been when you first liked it—or how stupid you are now.

Maximum Cool? or Walt Disney’s Noggin Is Floating in a Vat of Liquid Nitrogen; When Will Mick’s Shriveled Testicles?

On November 20, Mick Jagger’s solo “Goddess in the Doorway” is scheduled to hit the racks. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (the Rolling Stone for the financial set) by Anna Wilde Mathews, “Virgin [Records] is counting on the Web to help Jagger reach out to a new generation of fans in Gen Y, a marketing-savvy and Internet-focused group responsible for fueling the success of acts like Britney Spears and ‘N Sync.”

This isn’t about pointing fingers, but. . .

“Goddess” is the fourth solo album from the grandfather of rock and roll, a man who can comparatively still remember the folks who used to reside on Mount Olympus. The 58-year-old has accumulated other relics (Townshend) and near-relics (Bono; Joe Perry) to accompany him on this outing. Interestingly enough, Rolling Stone magazine’s founder, editor and publisher Jann Wenner, has written a glowing review of Mick’s album, something that I suspect that Wenner doesn’t do too often (write reviews, that is; “glowing reviews” and that publication are achieving a certain synonymous sound). According to Wenner’s biography on the R.S. website, “Wenner himself conducted many of the magazine’s major interviews in its early years, including lengthy session with Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend, Bob Dylan and Phil Spector.” Any names sound familiar?

Meanwhile, it seems that the Stones (as in the band) are in negotiations about the possibility of going out next year on their 40th Anniversary tour. (What do you get someone for their 40th? Geritol?)

All of this brings to mind a phrase from Samuel Johnson: “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.” I’m surprised that Jagger hasn’t discovered that the time for him to make recordings for the kids is long past.

Potentially Scary News for Liz Phair Fans

Pitchfork is reporting that Michael Penn is producing Liz Phair’s upcoming new album. This fact by itself isn’t a total disappointment, since I like what I’ve heard of what he’s done with Aimee Mann, and I don’t totally hate the sound of the Wallflowers’ album Breach, which he produced. We’ll see. Pitchfork adds (in their typically snarky fashion — but who are we to talk?),

While she was at it, she also decided to co-write some material with Gary Clark of the band Danny Wilson, who has recently worked with such leading ladies of artistic vision as Natalie Imbruglia and Vitamin C. And, being on a roll, she figured she might as well also bring aboard Pete Yorn, the man currently filling the pop culture void left by Shawn Mullins’ slip into obscurity.

I think I might be the only person in America who fondly remembers Danny Wilson’s chipper little song “Second Summer of Love” from 1989. Whatever though. We’ll just have to cross our fingers and hope Liz’s new album doesn’t turn out to be the complete schlockfest that Capitol Records would love for her to release.

Regardless, she still looks great in her underpants.

Rock and roll can change your life.