The Ear of the Beholder

For reasons too tedious to contemplate and therefore innumerate, I use MSN to connect to the Internet. As a result, when I long in I get to a horribly inane interface and the MSN homepage. Or maybe it is a “portal.” There is a multitude of clickable items and images, from news to weather to fashion to entertainment to. . . .

Today I happened to spot a line: “Ugliest Bands of All Time.” Which, I admit, is intriguing due to the oddity (but nowadays who can tell: who’d ever even been thinking about anthrax outside of a few metalheads or fans of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” before now?). So I clicked through and found the following list with no explanation:

· “We’re Not Going to Take It”—Twisted Sister

· “Run-Around”—Blues Traveler

· “Pet Sematary”—The Ramones

· “American Girl”—Tom Petty

· “Heaven Can Wait”—Iron Maiden

· “Search and Destroy”—The Stooges

· “No One Likes You”—Scorpions

· “My Best Friend’s Girl”—The Cars

· “Free Bird”—Lynyrd Skynyrd

· “Tearin’ Up My Heart”—’N Sync

What the hell is this all about? Is Tom Petty thought to be uglier when he sings that song? Is Iggy more attractive-post Stooges? Does the list maker have something against Germans? And why isn’t there a picture of Dee Snider’s mug if the whole thing is about profound unattractiveness?

One thing of note is that the list consists wholly of men. Which is not sexist in the way that you might think. I’d argue that with few exceptions, ugly women just don’t make it big in show biz. From Britney to Shania, from Madonna to Jessica, it is all about looks first and pipes second. Which is often audibly unfortunate and visually appropriate. Ugly men abound, which makes me think that there isn’t, perhaps, a whole lot of distance between TV newscasts and the music industry (e.g., can you image a female version of Willard Scott talking about the weather?).

Who needs music television? Not us.

Since they no longer play videos on MTV (old news, I know), we must turn to the Web to get our fix that used to at least be satisfied by 120 Minutes. For a while there, I used to tape that show every Sunday night and watch it Monday evening. I was turned on to some great new music that way. I saw the Travis video for “All I Wanna Do Is Rock” on 120 Minutes back in 1997, and that’s still my favorite song of theirs.

But now musicians know how to use the Internet, and I’ve got a broadband connection, so here are three videos that I think you should check out:

Liz Phair – Down. This is a new song from Liz, and I still love her even though she moved to LA as soon as I moved to Chicago. She may be avoiding me, but she still writes great songs. This is a cool video with interesting (for once) use of that goofy, stop-frame/multi-angle technique (as seen in Gaps ads and football games).

Liz Phair 'Down'

Bjork – Pagan Poetry. First things first: Bjork’s boobies are featured in this kinky, unsafe-for-work video. The song is brilliant, and the video is disturbing.

Björk – Pagan Poetry (Official Music Video)

Gorillaz – Rock the House. I initially gave the Gorilllaz album some shit because I was disappointed that there were only two songs with my man Del on them. I’m still upset about that, but I’ve gone back to the album several times recently, and have started to really like it. Except for the handful of songs where the guy from Blur sings in his annoying falsetto. Uggh. But a lot of it is really good. This new video from them is the other Del song.

Gorillaz – Rock The House (Official Video)

If you know of other cool videos, please add them to comments section. It’s Friday and I don’t feel like working…

[Update: This was originally posted years before YouTube, but 15 years later we embedded working videos. -ed.]

The Strokes: Fell in Love with You before the Second Show

The Strokes Blow Up The Spot (And That’s No Hype!)

On Friday night at Metro, the Strokes ran every route in the rookie rock star playbook. They played the waiting game with their sold out crowd, booked an impossibly shitty band as an opener, performed behind a shroud of smoke, and even fell off the stage, just like alleged burgeoning rock icons should. Thusly, you could call them prima donnas. You could even be like the dude in front of me, and scream out “You make me hate rock and roll!”

Or you could have shut the fuck up about the hype, the hair, and the RCA cheese, and reveled in the series of real rock moments that the NYC quintet tossed off with casual efficiency and genuine dedication – just like real rock icons should.

The Strokes don’t just wear their influences on their sleeves – they went to St Vincent DePaul and scrounged up the whole damn suit. And so what? When they finally emerged from backstage about 2am, and Julian Casablancas keeled over his mic stand, promptly misjudging the lip of the stage during the set opener, all of their Velvet Underground tendencies and New York accoutrements mattered little. The band that has J.Lo’s PR types scratching their skulls detonated their own hype and kicked the debris into the balcony, right in the faces of all the pretty people politely cheering with their pinkies raised. An obviously inebriated Casablancas could give a shit about celebrity guests or the slicked-back gold card humps that clogged the cramped environs of Metro. Performing their bare-bones catalog in 45 sweaty, tightly-wound moments, Casablancas, dueling guitarists Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond, Jr, drummer Fab Moretti and bassist Nikolai Fraiture pretty much made each of their 12 songs sound like a true anthem. Casablancas’ vocal – a sandpaper-y cross between Lou Reed and Morrissey – weaved in between the two guitars’ soloing and the rhythm section’s admirable groove, even as his motor skills failed him to the point that he must have leaned on each of his comrades at least twice during the set.

Towards the end of the set, Our Fair Singer pushed the dirty, sullen mop out of his eyes. Introducing “New York City Cops,” a track removed from the forthcoming Is This It? LP in the wake of September 11 (subsequently pushing the release of the record back to October 9), Casablancas was sincere through his drunkenness. “People have been writing some shit about this next song,” he slurred. “Yeah, well, we were fucking there, man, we were fucking there, okay? [And all we’re trying to do] is be confident!” With that, The Strokes launched into “New York City Cops,” a song that would only be misconstrued as offensive by those who tend to make decisions without even hearing the music. The number burned like white phosphorus, and followed up by “Take It Or Leave It,” The Strokes left the stage with a one-two punch of hard-edged, REAL rock and roll that showed their true colors as passionate musicians and — perhaps — future rock icons.

Too much has been written about the Strokes’ stylish pedigree, both by this website and other outlets (Hello, Rolling Stone.) But if Friday night’s show proved anything, it’s that the band can talk the talk. The group’s reverence for its NYC rock forbearers is obvious, both in print and in person. But what about Albert Hammond, Jr’s stage moves on lead guitar, those that recalled Joe Perry, or even Slash? Those guys aren’t New Yorkers. What about the obvious New Wave influences in the precision of the songs and Valensi’s high strung, frenetic rhythm guitar? I swear I heard the Housemartins floating around in there. And the whole band’s underlying groove of booze, love, and anger remind me as much of Mission of Burma’s “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver” as they do of Television or The Ramones. There’s the rub: For months, we’ve been hearing all about the Strokes, without really hearing – really listening to – the music itself. Though the group’s fantastic plastic hype machine will undoubtedly help it sell records, it’s fire-in-the-belly performances like what took place on Friday night that will really make them rock stars. After all, something’s going down in music these days. Pop is dead, Nu Metal is over, and Hip Hop’s wack clown princes are marginalizing the form’s true artists. Rock and Roll never died, but a group like the Strokes – with their energy, simple enthusiasm, and of course their drunken antics – can certainly help the Rock get back on track, and reap the benefits of what it has sown.

JTL

Note: Sting will be glad to hear that I officially hate Moldy Peaches more than he and his soulless corporate whore yuppie rock. Moldy Peaches are a duo from New York City who I had the nauseous fortune to stand through while waiting for The Strokes to take the stage Friday. Remember that geeky neighbor kid that always tried to hang out with you and your friends growing up? The one that copped all your bits, tried to hang but couldn’t, and had food stuck in his braces? Well, New York City’s Moldy Peaches are that kid, if he listened through the wall while Beat Happening, The Vaselines, Frank Zappa, and The Flaming Lips practiced. A bastardized, shitty version of these venerable artists, The Moldy Peaches are the worst thing I’ve paid money for since dollar dances at the Ypsilanti Déjà Vu. Kimya Dawson and Adam Green, two dopes riding a very different New York pedigree than that of the Strokes, came off like The Frogs or Ween if those groups put their wicked senses of humor in a cryogenic chamber and received a year of free lobotomies. Unfunny, unoriginal, and utterly horrible, The Moldy Peaches are the worst thing to happen to music since Fred Durst had kids. You’ve been warned.

JTL

Love: American Style

Glorious Noise is happy to introduce a new member to the team. Kristy Eldredge is a writer living in Brooklyn. Her new feature article reports from New York on her finding true love in the arms of Quasi. Be sure to welcome her to the group and post your thoughts in the discussion section.

Continue reading Love: American Style

The David Caruso Factor

The Beatles are a sterling example of the concept that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

It came as something of a surprise to me—a pleasant surprise, I must say—that there was no blow-by-blow breakdown of the “tribute” to John Lennon that appeared on cable earlier this week. Although I still remember where I was when I heard that Lennon had been shot (for some reason, remembrances of such things are supposed to signify an import beyond the norm, which I’m not so sure about, as it could simply be a function of difference, not significance), it has always seemed to me that his post-Beatles career with such things as “Instant Karma,” wasn’t much more than a variant of a Ray Stevens novelty act.

The whole veneration of Lennon goes back to something that happened during my generation, when The Beatles were new and we were children. Everyone had their “favorite” Beatle. Although they were considered as individuals (e.g., “Paul is the cute one”; “George is the shy one”), the band members were inextricably tied to the band as a whole; there was no notion that there could be solos. Of course, the main dichotomy was between John and Paul for the simple reason that they were the two up front: No one—at least no one at age 10—was pouring over the small type on the label on the vinyl to see who was responsible for what. Even on the Saturday morning cartoon of the band there were obvious differences between the two. John was the guy who made the most cracks while Paul evinced a certain niceness. And so it has remained ever since.

But let’s face it: for every “Mind Games” or “Maybe I’m Amazed,” there has been a whole lot of post-Beatles dreck. Not that I think that those guys should have stopped working after the band broke up, but it does seem to me that there should have been a bit of critical distance applied to their subsequent music. Less fawning. More listening.

For some reason, musicians who have gained success, recognition and popularity through their membership in a band almost never (I really can’t think of a good counter example, but I’m keeping my options open) do as well solo. Think, for example, of all of the albums released by Mick Jagger, Robert Plant, Pete Townshend and on and on and on. How many of these are better than the Stones, Zeppelin, Who, or Whomever?

Note how the Patron Musician of this site, Neil Young, has been a part of many bands but has always been apart from them. In my argument, Buffalo Springfield been successful, we would probably not be giving Neil quite as many props today—if any at all.

ON THE CATWALK, BABY

Further Probing the Link Between Fashion and Rock — Is Fashion Only Clothes Deep?

Johnny Loftus

Recently on Glorious Noise, in an article discussing Hollywood’s propensity to favor the underdog as the perfect paramour for the straightlaced overachiever, I made the point that said overachiever — at least in the context of the Teen Comedy — is usually the cheerleading captain (Kirsten Dunst in Bring It On) or at least rich and popular (Freddie Prinze, Jr in She’s All That). And — whether they be male or female — that Cool Kid’s true love usually turns out to be a punk rocker or an intellectual or an amalgam of both, either way decidedly not someone who dates the preps. This seemingly innocuous article developed into a fascinating conversation string debating the interrelated topics of rock, fashion, self-identity, motivation, and feminism. Taking one part of that discussion, it’s interesting to look at Fashion’s role in Rock, and vice versa.

So.

Rock and Fashion, Fashion and Rock. To which side of this dichotomy do those who consider themselves rockers — and concurrently those who consider themselves fashionistas — align themselves? And does that line blur continually between the two camps, with the hardliners in both staying as far away from the other as possible? Glorious Noise is currently interviewing for a fashion editor, who will then cover the Fashion side of the equation. In the meantime…

In Rock at least, fashion — or at least what one wears — has always been a signifier of music style. The Greasers and the Preps, the Mods and the Rockers, and Steve Dahl’s infamous Disco Demolition — these battles were all based on a demarcation of style and music. But even the 70s heavy metal dudes drunk on suds tearing up Comiskey Park’s infield while burning millions of disco records had a look that defined them. It wasn’t a pair of pink sidewinders or a bright orange pair of pants, but hell, you knew them when you saw them coming. Nowadays, musical genres still spawn their own fashion. There’s the club kids with their giant jeans and florescent T’s. In another corner are the neo-Goths, who’ve updated the 80s Robert Smith look with piercings, vinyl pants and hair dye. And there’s the indie rockers, whose style has always revolved closely to that of the Fashion world, if only because the genre’s fans have those skinny hips that haute couture adores so much. Natch.

If someone tells you that they don’t care about fashion, they’re usually lying. Unless they’re a drummer, and that’s a whole different article. Anyway, it’s true that the two are linked, whether the Rockers or the Fashion kids like it or not. But how? In obvious ways, like Steven Tyler or Shirley Manson sitting stage-side at Fashion Week in Milan? Or is it something deeper, something that somehow plays back into the vibe of my article about Bring It On‘s guitar-playing, Clash T-shirt wearing lovable loser, who wins the sunlit love of his school’s fashion maven?

I’m afraid I can’t go any further with this point until some input arrives from all of you GloNo readers, who were so gracious as to write in your thoughts about the other article. What do YOU think?

JTL

GloNo Radio Switches Formats, Merges with Clear Channel

Okay, that’s a lie. We don’t have anything to do with the Great Radio Satan. But we did dump a bunch of tracks from our playlist, most of which happened to be rap tunes. (This struck me as decidedly KKKorporate, hence the phony headline.)

But there was actually a good reason, three good ones in fact. First, rap sounds like shit over the Internet due to the inherent lack of fidelity. Second, well, we are trying to keep the music mix a bit more focused on rock, alternative, non-mainstream, punk, indie, alt-country, and roots music. Why? I don’t know, that’s what most of us here seem to be into. So as much as I love Ice Cube and Eminem, they’re 5000. Go ahead and criticize me in the comments if you want.

The third, and most important reason, is that we’ve got new material! GSV has submitted about 10 new tracks, including songs from the always amazing Jack Bruce, heavy pioneers Spooky Tooth, and a great number from, get this, Daryl Hall.

Check out the radio station with those handy links on the right, and go attack the bulletin board for suggestions, requests, comments, and criticism.

Keep on rockin’ in the free world,

Jeff Sab, GloNo Radio co-station manager

[We’ll be updating the radio playlist about every two weeks, so keep tuning in to let us know what you think – ed.]

Spreading like a plague

Glorious Noise’s very own Phil Wise reviews Built to Spill’s latest offering over on NeuMu. Check it out and congratulate the old boy for spreading his love out into the world a little more! Here, here.

THE RIGHT PROFILE

RUDIE CAN’T FAIL

The Punk Rocker Gets The Girl!

Johnny Loftus

Jesse Bradford as Cliff Pantone in Bring It OnNow, don’t come kvetching to me about why I’m watching Bring It On months after its theatrical release. Let’s just say – ahem — that it’s for context, and leave it at that. Just like The Clash covering Vince Taylor & His Playboys on London Calling. And that leads to the point. In Bring It On, Our Heroine (Kirsten Dunst) not only befriends the punk rock chick who tries out for her elite cheerleading squad. She also falls for her new friend’s brother, a Clash-loving psuedo-intellectual who shreds a Dan-O-Lectro in his spare time and tries to teach his new girl about punk rock. There’s even a reference to his past in a Detroit high school. (See? Even Hollywood realizes Detroit is the new Seattle…). But here’s the funny part. Dunst is the head of the toniest cheer squad this side of Clueless. And here’s the blonde, bouncy cheerleading captain falling – for all practical purposes and Hollywood’s characterization amalgam theorems appreciated – for the local Indie Rocker. In his first scene, the kid sports beat up Chuck Taylors, the Ramones on his headphones, and a T-Shirt featuring Mick Jones and the boys. He promptly shows up the jocks with his smirky cool, and is immediately put in the good graces of Ms Dunst’s character, who in real life just might drop a quarter in the kid’s coffee cup, mistaking him for those less fortunate.

Which suggests the opening scenes of Gia, Angelina Jolie’s 1998 star vehicle that featured her as the doomed model whose innocence was corrupted by the Me Generation and her own excess. In the film, Gia waits outside the hoity-toity modeling agency for her photo shoot, only to have some of the more mamby pamby girls drop some loose change in her morning coffee. Ever the rebel, Gia struts into the agency and, staring down the smarmy receptionist, carves her name into the mahogany with her stiletto. That’s so PUNK, man. And that’s exactly the problem.

What is it about film that places the modicum of cool upon a genre that – in real life – is grudgingly respected at best? In the movies, the girls always go for the bad boy rocker/intellectual. Likewise, the girl who eats nails for breakfast – like Jolie’s Gia or Eliza Dukshu’s Missy in Bring It On – is met with hostility, then fear, and finally respect by those that would normally shun her. What it may come down to is this: The star of the movie cannot date his or her self. If the star in question is blonde, chiseled, or pretty, said star cannot date a similarly cheekbone’d or likewise coif’d individual. And in Hollywood’s streamlined view of Generation Y, there really are only two kinds of kids: Cool/Beautiful, and Cool/Intellectual. And in the latter archetype, musical taste always seems to be the way to display the difference.

THE RIGHT PROFILE

And in this bizarro Tinsel Town view of the world, the cool kid who digs The Clash, Iggy Pop, and Phillip K Dick is written like the punk rock Navy S.E.A.L. You know – in Baywatch, it’s his S.E.A.L. pedigree that gives Hasselhoff’s character his street –er, beach — cred. Spend any weeknight watching bad basic cable and you’ll come across an action move featuring a conflicted hero who harbors a black bag past as a demolition expert with the US Navy’s elite fighting force. Yeah, yeah, yeah — next. It’s the same thing with the rocker/intellectual archetype. If you need to make your star’s love interest cool, make him/her a rebel. The kind with a wallet chain, leather, and a tough attitude derived from the rebellious band T-shirts s/he wears to homeroom. Alicia Silverstone, aka the Kirsten Dunst of 3 years ago, made a similar move in Clueless. By finally falling for her nerdy, college-thinker stepbrother, Cher was simply following the Hollywood formula. And in last year’s Drive Me Crazy, Kirsten Dunst doppelganger and cool chick Melissa Joan Hart fell for her next door neighbor, a withdrawn misanthrope who nevertheless portrayed – In Hollywood’s eyes – the smart, sensitive rocker. In many ways Drive Me Crazy was a remake of She’s All That, starring Rachel Leigh Cook as the artistic geek who woos the class Cool despite her best efforts to remain a mousy painter. Which was in turn a remake of 1987’s Can’t Buy Me Love, which followed the transition of a smart-yet-dopey kid into the true love of his class’s dream girl.

So what’s with this punk rocker/geek/rebel/intellectual archetype that keeps showing up in movies as the love interest? We’ve all seen where it ends. Thanks to real-life misanthrope John Cusack and his source material from Nick Hornby, America has seen what real Indie Rockers/Punks/psuedo-intellectuals tend to grow up to be: Frustrated record store owners who spend too much brain power on compilation CDs and not enough on personal hygiene. And yet, in the view of Hollywood, it’s this character set that presents the most pratfalls/romance for Gen Y movies being written at this moment. In real life, would the average impossibly attractive high school senior, who happens to be captain of her school’s cheerleading squad, go for, let’s say, Jack White of White Stripes? Or, to only add to their impossibly attractive hype machine, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes? Chances are – barring the millions that Casablancas and his mates will make in the next year on RCA – that it won’t happen. And yet, in the movies, composites of these guys are shitting on the captain of the football team and getting the girl in the process.

Huh?

The guys I knew in high school who looked and acted like Dunst’s love interest in Bring It On usually got feces smeared on their car door handles at lunch. But for whatever reason, it’s these brave souls whose punk rock, book-reading lifestyles are perpetually eulogized on the big screen. What does this mean for all those skinny, burgeoning Indie Rockers out there in the Gen Y land? Well, probably not much. But at least they can take solace in the fact that they’ll grow up to be the guy with the coolest record collection. I’ll never understand Hollywood, but I’m glad that they think I’m the kind of guy that deserves the love of a starlet.

JTL

WHO DO YOU LOVE?

The Push and Pull of Celebrity, Art, Acting, and Musicianship

Johnny Loftus

Friday evening’s America: A Tribute To Heroes was the entertainment industry’s way of helping out the nation’s physical and emotional recovery effort, in the wake of September 11’s terrorist attacks. Musicians and actors – luxurious celebrities all – came together in a live event simulcast on multiple networks, and in the process raised hundreds of millions of dollars, by early estimates. Make no mistake: It’s a great and wonderful thing that they did, these entertainers who our culture treasures so dearly, selflessly offering up their talent to aid in the nation’s grief. But in its execution, the telethon was a study in Celebrity itself. What do musicians and actors offer us? Is a musician’s song more tangible than the appearance of a famous actor reading a vignette? Are both entertainers present more for their sheer celebrity-ness, than any level of talent that they may possess?

The telethon greeted the world with a somber Bruce Springsteen, performing his heartbreakingly appropriate new song, “My City’s In Ruins.” After the song’s nadir – a pronouncement imploring us all to “rise up” – Tom Hanks appeared from the darkness. An actor’s actor and undoubtedly the single most respected person working in Hollywood today, Hanks was pressed into service to introduce the evening. “We are not healers,” he said senatorially. “We are not protectors of this great nation. We are merely artists, entertainers, here to raise spirits and, we hope, a great deal of money.” Hanks’ entreaty was followed immediately by Bono and U2, who like Hanks are famous for their conviction.

But there’s a difference.

For all of their melodic genius and anthemic choruses, U2 have become international heroes for tempering their music with fiery passion. “Seconds,” “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “New Year’s Day,” “Pride (In The Name of Love),” “Mothers Of The Disappeared,” “One,” “Walk On” – all of these songs were musical highlights, and many were smash hits. But they are also testaments to the group’s beliefs – human freedom, equality, and peace. We know this about U2, and we accept it as part of their being. No one will ever accuse the band of being superficial, because they’ve never had just one level to anything that they do. Even the Achtung, Baby years, with their media-savvy indulgence and stage show bombast, were meant on some level as a critique of the very components involved in the music and subsequent touring. So for U2 to appear on A Tribute To Heroes performing “Walk On,” the parallel is obvious. What isn’t as clear cut is the roles of the actor/celebrities who appeared. Tom Hanks is respected within and without the industry not only for his ability as a thespian, but also because he’s, well, a real stand-up guy. Taking on roles with meat on their bones, Hanks since the early 90s has also worked exclusively within projects that have only solidified his stance as the Face of America. This positioning has been performed so flawlessly that, now, Hanks the celebrity and man cannot be separated from Hanks the actor in respected, feelgood roles. One begets the other and vice versa. Indeed, during his introductory speech Friday night, a friend remarked “I’d vote for Tom Hanks,” not even mentioning what was implicit: Hanks will run for office in the future, and win handily. But will we vote for Tom Hanks, or Forrest Gump? A smart, respected individual, or the image of that individual battling Nazis and giving his life for his country?

Other actors appeared on A Tribute To Heroes. Jim Carrey didn’t talk out of his ass. Robert DeNiro didn’t threaten Osama bin Laden with severe bodily harm. And Cameron Diaz looked very pretty as she read copy. At the same time, a sage-like, bearded Tom Petty performed “I Won’t Back Down,” staring into the camera with an eagle’s eye. Billy Joel gave new life to “New York State of Mind,” reminding everyone of the vitality and diversity inherent within his hometown. And Wyclef Jean trotted out his uncanny Bob Marley impersonation, re-working “Redemption Song” as a heartfelt shout-out to all the burrows of NYC. It was important for the viewing audience to hear the stories of true heroism related by the actors and actresses present. And thankfully, no one appearing on the telethon used it as a Macy Gray-like moment to promote a project or album. But eventually, it became more interesting to see which actor would be next chosen to read. There was something sickeningly voyeuristic about George Clooney introducing some “friends” he had with him, the camera panning to take in a phone bank staffed by Jack Nicholson, Goldie Hawn, Tom Cruise, and Al Pacino, among other boffo stars. Was the move intended as a reason for people to call? The average American, sitting in his doublewide munching Bugles…”Well, I wasn’t going to contribute, but if I know I can get that Penelope Cruz on the line, whew. She’s a stone fox!”

Some musicians are more Celebrity than Artist. Enrique Iglesias’ disturbing good looks and his nauseous over-emoting make him a candidate for the Just Appearing For Face-Time Sweepstakes, even if that isn’t the case. Celine Dion performing “America The Beautiful” screams of CD single sales. But barring these unfortunate intrusions, the majority of musicians that contributed to the telethon – Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys, Eddie Vedder, even Fred Durst – were giving something of themselves and their talent, beyond the simple fact of Celebrity for Celebrity’s sake. Put another way, the actors who appeared – despite the many strong performances among them — have all become Famous for being Famous. It’s true that, for example, Bono is famous for being famous. But his celebrity does not taint his passion for music, for his art. Conversely, no matter how sincerely he delivers his heroic vignette, Jim Carrey cannot be separated from his talking ass. Making a few critically acclaimed commercial failures does not a true actor make.

It’s a tough thing. Many of the actors who were part of America: A Tribute To Heroes are true icons, having through their roles become part of the fabric of our culture. That’s why it’s a bit humorous to think of Clint Eastwood drawing his .44 and warning terrorists across the globe, “Go ahead, punk. Make my day.” At the same time, the musicians who appeared Friday evening have become stars, but still remain vessels for their art, which is music, and which can outlive them. Towards the middle of the show, the lights came up to reveal a cowboy-hatted Neil Young sitting at a grand piano, looking ever bit the surly rock statesman that he has become. And without ado, Young performed John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Here was a musician, famous in his own right for an illustrious career of music, performing a song by an artist who was taken from the world too early. An artist who’s music has come to define him, his previous band, and all the passion, conviction, and peace that he desired for the world so much. Actors can be defined by their famous roles, and become celebrities for the same reason. Musicians can become celebrities, but if their music truly matters, it’s what people really remember them for. It’s not a question of who’s better, musicians or actors. Maybe they’re the same, in that they are all entertainers. But what’s clear is that music is a more direct medium of expression, and in the context of recent events, has the power to heal us more than Ace Ventura 3 ever will.

JTL

Rock and roll can change your life.