So now another is gone. George Harrison, the “Quiet Beatle.” Cancer. Horrible.

In some regards, Harrison was the Rodney Dangerfield of the group. Sure, Ringo seemed to be the one who could get little, if any respect. But the difference is that Harrison actually earned it. While I have previously argued that the Beatles are the premier example of a group that is better than the sum of its parts, that group without Harrison would have been a far paltrier outfit.

Rock and roll was once figured to be about youth and vitality. It was something with chronological limits: “I hope I die before I get old.”

Perhaps this is an argument based on my own increasing chronology, but I’d like to suggest that rock and roll is now about relevance. Otherwise we wouldn’t be so concerned about the failure of Jagger, the fatuousness of Sting, and pomposity of Aerosmith.

And we wouldn’t take a moment to reflect on the passing of a signal musician in the genre’s history.

George Harrison, Dead at 58

George Harrison portrait by Astrid KirchherrWhen I was in high school I had a very serious argument with my best friend over who was the coolest Beatle. My friend said John. I said Paul. Several years ago, we admitted to each other that we had been wrong. The coolest Beatle is and always has been George Harrison. May he rest in peace.

Mediocre Mick

So I actually listened to the songs that Mick’s Web site is streaming from his new album, Goddess in the Doorway:

“Visions of Paradise”—Perhaps if Eddie Money had recorded this song in 1988 I might have liked it.

“Joy”—Would someone please just kill Bono?

“God Gave Me Everything”—At least this song rocks a bit. Would’ve been a nice inclusion on Steel Wheels.

“Don’t Call Me Up”—Cloying, but I like it. I can still buy Mick as a crooner. Isn’t that what old irrelevant rock stars are supposed to do, anyway? This song is good stuff; the perfect rock cliche of unrequited love turned to hate, hate that’s ultimately betrayed by feelings still unresolved. I love the way Mick says “Argen-ti-nah”, the Bon Jovi-esque guitar solo near the end, and the wonderful strings that Axl Rose only wished he could pull off with such finesse.

“Goddess in the Doorway”—Good beat, in the right Detroit techno hands it could make a dance remix as good as the Stones’ “Dance”. Why those hands would soil themselves with this album in the first place is another question.

“Too Far Gone”—Could have been a really cool song if it wasn’t so overproduced. Why is there an organ and strings in what should have been a nice stripped-down track bemoaning our fast-paced society? (Yes, Mick, you and your boys screwed up when you went disco instead of continuing to chase Gram’s Cosmic American vibe.) I still like the song, hope someone with more talented producers with better ears will record it someday.

Who knows what’s lurking in the tracks I didn’t hear, but I doubt it’d be enough to make this anything other than a middling record from someone who’s long ago given up the ghost of respectability. Jann Wenner, were he capable of it, should be embarrassed. If Lester Bangs were alive today, I think he’d need quite a bit of Romilar to get through this whole album.

Tonight’s the Night

Tonight’s the Night

Wilco at the Riviera Theater, Chicago

By Derek Phillips

In 1973, Neil Young toured for an album that was vastly different than the country comfortable Harvest that had made his name as a solo artist the year before. In fact, the set list for many of the ’73 tour dates didn’t include a single song from Harvest, but instead had tracks from Tonight’s the Night, Young’s harrowing tribute to close friends and drug casualties that wouldn’t see official release for almost two more years. As Wilco’s set closed in on ten songs, almost entirely from their as yet unreleased album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (YHF), I began to wonder if Tweedy was walking in Neil Young’s footsteps

Wilco took the stage of Chicago’s Riviera Theater to the precocious and creepy strains of “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, a song and a movie that are equally innocent and dark—not unlike Wilco’s latest recordings.

From the onset it was clear things had changed since their last Thanksgiving show, now a Chicago tradition. First, the stage was outfitted with white Christmas lights resembling stars against a black sky. Large yellow-white oriental globe lamps also hung above the band adding to the stark, dark spacey-ness of the fantastic YHF.

More importantly, guitarist/keyboardist/collaborator Jay Bennett was gone, having left the band a few months ago. Bennett’s influence on Wilco’s best work (arguably 1996’s Being There and 1998’s Summer Teeth) is undeniable. His sense of melody and skill on keyboards, guitar and as a sound engineer were surely the bedrock of what made Wilco the great band it is today. And most of the first set avoided any guitar-heavy songs with the band focusing on its moodier and more keyboard-driven tracks.

From set opener “I am Trying to Break Your Heart” to “A Shot in the Arm” to the tenth song in the set, “Misunderstood” the band floated through their more introspective songs, completely ignoring the implied demand for toe-tappers like AM‘s “Casino Queen” or “King Pin.” Ten songs down and no sign of any of the lighter, country-inspired tunes that established Wilco as THE band of Was Tweedy antagonizing the audience like Young did on his Tonight’s the Night tour? This show was a journey, a test of faith for both the band and the audience. Wilco was walking into the darkness and we were about to see who would follow.

But the band had an ace in the hole with Glenn Kotche on drums. If the driving guitar and spirit of Jay Bennett was missing, it was craftily hidden by Kotche’s truly inspired percussion. Tastefully injecting stuttered percussive flashes into Tweedy’s sparsely populated songs, Kotche added a level of sophistication to songs that could easily be lost in their own space. As the Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot wrote in his review of the previous night’s show, “Kotche pulls melody and texture from an instrument typically consigned to the rhythm section.”

And just as other senses sometimes sharpen when one is lost, so too have the members of Wilco stepped up in Bennett’s absence. Longtime auxiliary player, Leroy Bach, washed the songs in lush keyboard parts and though not an inspired guitarist like Bennett, Bach is a capable guitarist who may in time find his own style as the band progresses.

But the MVP of the show was undoubtedly bassist John Stirratt. His pristine harmonies and McCartney-esque bass playing pulled together all of the elements, old and new, of a band in flux. Most notably on YHF’s “War on War.”

And, in the end, this was not an antagonistic show, nor was it an exercise in artistic bullying in which the band forces the audience to swallow unfamiliar material wholesale. Wilco may be moving on but it’s not forgetting and the band played a number of songs covering the seven years of its history. Old timers sang along loudly to “Pick Up the Change” and “I Got You” while their girlfriends cooed at Tweedy as he lightly touched their hearts with “Far Far Away,” “Sunken Treasure” and “One By One.”

In fact, it was in the first encore that IT actually happened. Tweedy finally delivered “California Stars,” his equivalent to Young’s “Heart of Gold.” And that was the difference between the two. Where Neil Young was dragging his audience through forced group therapy in 1973, Tweedy was just asking a loyal audience to follow him. And we did.

There are similarities, of course. Wilco has drifted away from the roots-rock sound that established it as a true American treasure, just as Young drifted away from the down-home folksiness of Harvest (No Depressioners can find solace in the fact that Young has continually returned to his folk roots, just as Tweedy may someday). But in walking away, both Young and Tweedy have stepped into new territory. As Young said in an interview years ago, “Heart of Gold” may have put him in the middle of the road, but he soon got bored and headed for the ditch where you meet more interesting people—maybe even Jeff Tweedy.



And Look! It’s All Here! On Display!

Johnny Loftus

After mainlining triptophan for 12 hours, it’s likely that the majority of Mick Jagger’s aging domestic fanbase were lying catatonic in their Barcoloungers by the start of “Being Mick,” ABC’s documentary of the legendarily rooster-like Rolling Stone. But even if those in Jagger’s near-septegenarian agegroup had skipped a fourth and fifth helping of green bean casserole to see the show, they may have been left scratching their heads. Because if “Being Mick” illustrated anything, it’s that Jagger’s new solo material is banking on a much younger demographic than his regular gig’s bombastic tours and schlocky studio work normally aims for. Filmed by documentarian Kevin MacDonald (One Day In September), “Being Mick” is a decidedly MTV-esque (think of that network’s “Diary” series, and you’re close) look inside Jagger’s bizarre world; a place populated by enormous homes, numerous children, plenty of jet-setting, and – of course – Lenny Kravitz.

The nice thing to see is that Jagger doesn’t seem to care what anyone thinks of him. He doesn’t apologize for his, er, “bohemian” approach to love and marriage; in fact, he jokes with one of his twentysomething daughters, promising her that he won’t date anyone younger than her. The documentary paints Mick as an aging, yet still vital English Gentleman who is as happy showing off his collection of 18th century oils as he is grooving in a studio with Wyclef Jean. Now, as it has been noted here at GloNo, this is TV, and it is sweeps week, and “Being Mick” is at its core an extremely expensive ad for his new record. But like it or not, Mick Jagger didn’t become impossibly, sickeningly rich and famous without a little bit of talent. And “Being Mick” does succeed at proving that the man is, in fact, an impossibly, sickeningly rich rock star who still has some talent. At first, the sequence chronicling Jagger’s visit to Jean’s studio to record the final track on Goddess In The Doorway seems oddly incongruous. As Clef and Mick do a faux electric slide side by side, Jean’s posse looks on with puzzled glances. Read: “Yeah, I know he’s Mick Jagger, but GODDAMN, that white boy’s old!!” But this is followed by a shot of said white boy laying down his vocals to a track playing in his headset. With his voice all we can hear, Jagger shimmies and shakes, flails wildly and smacks his lips, obviously enjoying the song and his vocal. It amounts to not only a testament to his still-strong voice; it also acts as a clinic for those burgeoning rockstars in short pants over at MTV who seem to use their “Diary” platform as an excuse to bitch and moan about how tough touring is. Jagger takes it in stride, finishes his vocal track, and before we know it is relaxing in the limo, chatting politely on a cell phone about his excitement over working with Jean. All in a day’s work for an aging Glimmer Twin.

In another vignette, Mick jets to Miami Beach for a session with Lenny Kravitz. Upon entering Lenny’s lair, one of Jagger’s pals describes the combination home/studio as a rock star’s 21st century vision of a 60s rocker’s intergalactic bachelor pad wetdream. Or something like that. Which would also describe Kravitz’ production of “God Gave Me Everything I Want,” a crunchy, double-tracked slice of rawk that, if it didn’t sound almost exactly like Lenny’s own new single, would be the perfect re-introduction of Jagger to a new generation. (Or maybe that’s exactly the point…). But that’s just good ol’ Lenny, continuing to one-hour martinize the greasy, analog work of his 60s and 70s AOR heroes.

Either way, when at the end of “Being Mick” the man of the hour takes the stage in LA for the song’s premier performance, his funky chicken in stride as he fronts a band of well-coifed young guns, Jagger tears into the aggressive vocal with mirth that suggests he’s still virile in more ways than one. Whatever you think of Mick’s opulent lifestyle, his past (or current) dalliances, or his charmingly detached austerity, at 58 he’s still a rocker. And in the end, perhaps that’s what being Mick Jagger is really all about.


Annoyance Alert

I’ve just witnessed an ad on ABC for a show that will be on at 10 pm Eastern Thanksgiving night: “Being Mick.”

Yep, him.

(See him mugging in the studio; see him in exotic places; see him with a toddler; see him just like a regular person who happens to be incredibly rich and consequently unlike any regular people that any of us know.)

Let’s see… Britney, JLo, Garth Brooks, and now Mick all in a matter of a few days on the tube, all around the “sweeps” that drive up costs that advertisers pay for commercial time—and drive up the costs that we all pay for products to accommodate that charge.

How can purveyors of rock and roll change your life? Well, one way is by lightening your wallet.

The Glorious Noise Empire

Here at Glorious Noise, we do not not try to be all things to all people. We do what we do, and we hope you like it. We like it, and we’re going to keep doing it. This message is just a little heads-up to what’s shaking here behind the scenes…

About every two weeks or so we are changing the playlist of our Glorious Noise Radio station. We’ve got over four hours of great songs streaming to you in both lo-fi (for modem users) and higher-fi (for our broadband friends). [Update: sadly, we’ve abandoned the Live365 station because they started charging money for it – ed.]

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Rock and roll can change your life.