I-Rock, you rock, we all rock in Detroit Rock City


I-Rock, you rock, we all rock in Detroit Rock City
(Intro to a feature from GLONO contributor, Phil Wise)

Being in a local band is cruel business. Local music scenes are full of assholes and egos—and that’s not counting the musicians. There are loads of ruthless club owners and booking agents who will take a band for every cent of the two hundred or so dollars they make in a night. There are dilapidated vans waiting to strand their hopped up occupants just out of reach of their gigs. There are jealous bands scheming to wreck your set to ensure that they walk out the favorites. There is very little to encourage local musicians to stick with it, but the rewards do come on occasion. You all strike THE note at the right time and your head spins and your spine tingles and that feeling you had when you heard the first record that moved you is coming from your own body.

The Overtones were my band. The whole concept was my idea and we paid heavily for it. I had hung out in Kalamazoo for years and seen ball crunching rock from groups like the Sinatras, Twister, Fortune & Maltese, the Sleestacks and King Tammy. All of these bands were actually just different variations of the same five or six guy line up under different names. Mike Limbert was bass player for Twister and the Sleestacks and he was also Mike Maltese, the keyboard-playing partner of the nefarious Freddy Fortune. Fortune & Maltese were backed up on drums by Sinatras smasher Scott Stevens and later the group was augmented on keyboards with Karl Knack when Jason Fortier, who came by way of King Tammy, left F&M under mysterious circumstances and Mike Maltese (Limbert) had to take over bass duties once again. The whole lot made up the fantastic and semi-fictional label Leppotone Electrical Recordings and I wanted to join the club.

My first stab at Leppotone stardom was with the Vantrells, a four piece pseudo-mod group that quickly disintegrated when lead guitarist, Matt Southwell, headed west in search of movie stardom and Mike Nesmith. The Vantrells wore skinny black ties and suit jackets and played crunchy power pop with a hint of the Who and the Knack—maybe it was more than a hint, I’m not that creative. When the Vantrells died I moved quickly to establish a new group and saw a hit with other Kalmazooians Jay Howard and Collin Stoddard. Jay and Collin signed, skinny ties and all, and we set out on Michigan with a grudge and crappy amps.

The problem with being a local band is getting out of town. The Overtones had great shows in Kalamazoo, thanks to loyal friends, lots of attitude on stage, and Jay’s good looks, which drew a sizable crowd of girls to our nights at the legendary Club Soda. But we were determined to break from Kalamazoo and we looked east to the BIG BROTHER of Michigan: Detroit.

Read the rest of the story in GLONO’s features section.

Continue reading I-Rock, you rock, we all rock in Detroit Rock City

What’s In a Name?

While looking at The Billboard 200, which, curiously enough, lists the 100 top-selling albums, I happened to notice that the top of the chart listed All For You by Janet Jackson. It opened at #1. But perhaps I’ve missed something, as I am, admittedly, not particularly interested in her music: The listing didn’t include her surname, it was just “Janet.”

It is supposedly a mark of almost universal success when an individual is known by a single name. Socrates. Plato. Aristotle. Elvis. Madonna. (Although the last-named is a bit tricky, inasmuch as depending on the venue, that moniker may refer to Someone Else Entirely.)

Janet’s brother Michael once tried to pull off being known as “Michael” (and let’s not lose sight of the fact that he also married Elvis’s daughter), but that didn’t work, as if that name broadly signified anyone, it was Jordan. So then he tried to be known as “The King of Pop,” which is certainly distinctive, but fatuous. (Janet’s brother Tito, so far as I’m aware, never tried to push the one name, presumably knowing that it had already been assigned to the former leader of Yugoslavia.)

Bruce Springsteen almost had it, with the “Bruce, Bruce” chant, but it fizzled. (And it should be noted that on the chart in question, Live in New York was at spot 69, down from 52 the week before, and it was charted for a mere 4 weeks.)

So I started looking at the list to see who else might be going for the one-name fame. Plenty. Individuals and groups alike. As in the following:

2Pac, Case, Shaggy, Lifehouse, Dido, Nelly, Eve, 112, Train, Ginuwine, Dream, Ludacris, OutKast, Tank, Enya, Aerosmith, U2, Creed, Incubus, Sade, 3LW, Fuel, Saliva, Jaheim, ColdPlay, Godsmack, Moby, Tantric, Disturbed, Mudvayne.

(Seems like many of these people have learned to spell through Hooked on Phonics.)

Will Janet make it as “Janet” (presumably that hasn’t happened yet, as at least some of us, when we hear Janet, we think “Reno”)? In a word: Maybe. (Hmm. . .that might be a good name. . . .)

Blender: Rock and Roll and Boobies Too

But no nipples.

I spent about an hour last Saturday morning hungover on my brother-in-law’s crapper. Did the same thing Sunday morning. The john is well-stocked with several issues of Maxim and Stuff, and I’ve started to like those magazines for what they are. They’re fun. And occasionally there are some interesting articles. The thing that really angers me about them is that they never show nipples. They show all kinds of cleavage and every young starlet in every imaginable sultry pose, but never any nipples.

That just seems cheap to me. A rip off. A prick tease. A Playboy-Lite for these neo-Puritanical times. Playboy at least has great fiction, intelligent interviews, and halfway-decent articles. All that and full nudity.

But still, I no longer resent Maxim and Stuff for their rather meat-headed editorial slant. There’s a certain playful anarchy going on in there. Like when they teach you step-by-step how to pick a lock. Maybe this sounds to you like a recipe for drunkfratrape disaster, but I’m hoping it’s pretty harmless. Let’s the kids think they’re being naughty without really causing any trouble.

Plus, I read an interview with a sexually precocious 17-year-old supermodel who blew off the advances of a member of a certain boy band, claiming, “The Backstreet Boys are all butt ugly.” I’ve had a soft spot for these rags ever since. Call me open-mided. Or call me a sucker. Whatever. It’s pop trash and it’s entertaining. Like watching the E! channel.

So when I read Michael Goldberg’s column, The Drama You’ve Been Craving, about publisher Felix Denis’ new music magazine, Blender, I had to pick it up. Even though Goldberg warned me not to:

If Blender succeeds by following the approach Dennis has taken with Maxim and StuffMaxim is currently the best-selling general-interest men’s magazine in the U. S. — we may end up longing for the days when we could count on Rolling Stone, for all its problems, to occasionally deliver a solid article about a meaningful artist such as Radiohead or Tom Waits. Clearly Blender will be targeting “generation mook,” those Tom Green/Limp Bizkit/Eminem-loving kids. I’m expecting the worst.

Well, after reading through much of the premiere issue, I think Goldberg can relax a little. Maybe.

Maybe Blender is being sneaky, and corporately co-opting “cool” like the Gap, Volkswagon, and Sprite, but Issue One contains an interview with Thom Yorke of Radiohead, a big article about Weezer, a full-page review of the new Lucinda Williams album (plus a full-page picture — a woman baring no cleavage for once), and a two-page review of the new Beach Boys reissues.

Granted, the interview with Yorke is based on dopey questions sent in via email by fans. And Weezer isn’t exactly an underground band, and the writer didn’t defend Pinkerton nearly strongly enough. And much of the rest of the issue is filled with “bootylicious” photos of Janet Jackson and Destiny’s Child. But check out this excerpt from Andy Pemberton’s editorial:

Who else would review over 200 CDs every issue and cover everyone from the big fish to the tiny minnows? Who else knows that music is beautiful and scary and sad and wise and fun – especially fun – whatever genre it’s from? Answer: no one (we checked).

Except Glorious Noise, of course. We’ll let Blender focus on the fun, and that’s okay. Fun music has it’s place. Not everybody has to be heavy and serious and snobby. And if Blender turns a few frat boys on to Lucinda Williams or Alejandro Escovedo then that’s good for everybody, right? Except for the snobs who want to keep their favorite bands as their personal pets. And we’ll let them worry about it themselves.



“…Due to scheduling conflicts, the 3-day music festival scheduled for May 11-13th in Queen Creek, AZ has been cancelled…”

This is the statement released by KSLX-FM (“Phoenix’ Classic Rock…Non Stop!”) on their official website. The above is followed by this impossibly chipper announcement:

“…Keep it tuned to KSLX and we’ll let you know when we reschedule our 15th anniversary show!”

The KSLX Rock Fest was to feature three days of rocking, courtesy of REO, BTO, Kansas, Grand Funk Railroad, Poco, “and many more.” It was cancelled after only 400 or so tickets were sold for the event. Despite the ambiguous “scheduling conflicts” cited by the station’s website, this sad fact was acknowledged by the KSLX-FM’s own marketing manager, who was quoted in Monday’s Chicago Sun-Times. She literally could not believe that only 400 people in the tri-county area would want to receive a weekend-long Classic Rock ass-kicking the likes of which hadn’t been seen since Ram Jam blew into town back in ’86. But them’s the breaks. Even REO Speedwagon couldn’t believe it. On their official website, they send a shoutout to all their Arizona fans (the sum of which, evidently, is between 1 and 400), lamenting the cancellation but promising a speedy return to the region. I know it hurts to say goodbye…

What does Rock Fest’s failure say about the future of what I like to call The Classic Rock Road Show? This is the annual Summertime circuit of oldies shows that feature AOR dinosuars still touring behind their hits of yesteryear. For example, Three Dog Night will be performing at Chicago’s Hawthorne Race Course this Saturday evening. Of course, they’re billed third behind a horse race and a classic car show. And somewhere, Danny Hutton silently cries in a dark room. Because that’s the thing about these nostalgia tours that swing through your local Rib Fest each year. No matter how many gold records these cats scored back in their heyday, they’re still left to compete for ticket sales with the 3pm appearance by Pikachu and Jifflypuff. Now how Rock and Roll is that?

I’m a fan of nostalgia. Chicago is famous for its cover and tribute bands, and there’s a few that do a decent job with their chosen subjects’ most famous tunes. Some beer-sloshing jokesters called Something For Joey do power-trio versions of 70s AM hits like The Looking Glass’ “Brandy” and Pure Prairie League’s “Amie.” Point of fact: The real Pure Prairie League was slated to perform at KSLX-FM’s Rock Fest. Even if they had performed, I’ll bet that Something For Joey does a better version of the song that made the real band famous. Because who wants to watch a geriatric version of anything? Alright, the Stones are still out on the road. But Mick still fucks a model, and you can bet that Keith hasn’t hung up the drugs. Say what you want about sex, drugs, and Rock and Roll, but that trio of demons keeps The Rolling Stones young. Look what happened to Aerosmith. They got clean, and all of a sudden it’s a good idea to record ballads that The Backstreet Boys rejected. Nostalgia is fine. But sometimes all we want is the song, and how it makes us feel. When that same Chicago nostalgia act rips into REO’s “Time For Me To Fly,” you can almost feel the crush of General Admission humanity around you at the old Chicago Stadium; almost see the 3-quarter sleeve tour shirts and Farrah Fawcett haircuts. But I don’t really want to be there. I just want to hear the riff, man. And I don’t need the fossils in REO to play it for me.

Evidently, neither did any more than 400 souls in Phoenix. KSLX-FM’s 15th Anniversary Rock Show was over before any aging AOR Rock hero could even plug in his Telecaster or hack up a lung. But the Classic Rock Road Show rolls on, and somewhere, Creedence Clearwater…Revisited is trying to out-rock the Shady Acres Accordian Consortium down on the North Stage.

I’m going to go get an Elephant Ear. You want one?


Read more Bangs

I found a site that has more Lester Bangs reviews. Beware: the site is in French even though the reviews are in English. No comments about whether or not Bangs’ writing can actually be considered English, okay? Anyway, it’s nice to see someone else serving up stuff that is otherwise unavailable. That is, unless you want to search them out on ebay.

To read the bootleg Lester Bangs reviews on Glorious Noise, check out our Features page.

Driven to Distraction

I’ve been accused—and Jeff will undoubtedly underline this in a big way—of writing too much about Honda. But discovering that there is something called the “Civic Tour,” finding that it is split in two, with the second half being designated “v.2001.2,” and reading this line: “The Civic Tour allows Honda to reach out to our younger consumers through the music of today’s hottest bands, proving that the re-designed Civic is a perfect fit for their lifestyle” from Eric Conn, Honda assistant vp, Auto Advertising, I can’t resist. Half one is headlined by blink-182. v.2001.2 is headlined by Everclear. The boys in that band will be touring with three Civic coupes that are painted “with black and orange stars and stripes, echoing the cover design from their most recent CD, ‘Songs from an American Movie, Vol. Two: Good Time for a Bad Attitude.'” Should we all pause and say “Wow!”?

Something called “marketingfactoryinc.” set up the tour. It “created and produced audio content-based promotions for the Vans Warped Tour, Spin Magazine and ChickClick.com, while also servicing Yahoo!Music, Sony Playstation, Diamond Rio, Wherehouse Music, OP, Eruptor Entertainment and EIDOS Interactive.” “Audio content based?” “Servicing”? Is this the Terminator meets e.e. cummings?

Oh, for the days when I didn’t have to figure out how the hell Everclear proves that the Civic isn’t a good car but a lifestyle choice.

Choice, Value & Connection

In a recent interview with a USA Today reporter, Hilary Rosen, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, said, in reaction to a line of questioning related to the nullification of Napster through the efforts of that group, “Consumers want to know their access to music is going to give them the most choice, the best value and connection with their artists.”

Let’s break that down.

I’m not precisely sure what “connection with their artists” means. I always figured that this was the sort of thing that Tiger Beat—er—Rolling Stone provides. To say nothing of posters, T-shirts, bath towels, hats, and the other objectifying objects of today’s musical professional.

As for “choice,” I think that this is one area that the Internet certainly provides an advantage, but one that is curiously enervated. Look what’s happened to small record stores. Actually, you’d have a tough time looking, because they have, by and large, disappeared. Their economic model is being crushed by the likes of Best Buy, Circuit City, etc. While those big stores once offered a variety of product, of late it is clear that only the “hits” are stocked. Try to find something that was released the week before last and you’re probably out of luck. The reason why the small record outlets have all but vanished is simple to understand. The majority of music consumers buy hit records (which explains why they are “hits”). The big stores not only have other product lines to help contribute to profitability (from irons to audio players to big screen TVs), but they are also able to secure large quantities of hit discs: Buy in bulk and cut a better deal. So the small guys who remain have an exceedingly tough time of it, being largely sustained by GloNo-friendly customers. But before long, many of them will be empty storefronts—or Starbuck’s outlets. And with their passing, choice. Which then leads to a search for the non-hit on the ‘Net. Which may be efficient, but isn’t there something to be said for the physical act of discovery of the obscure in the stacks, something far more satisfying than the mere tap-tap-tap on the keyboard?

Finally, the “best value.” How many people—be they consumers or even recording artists—associate “value” with the way that the recording companies provide product” Whereas the CD format once provided new economies for consumers, it seems that the only economies of interest are related to economies of scale, as the injection molding machines run 24/7, chunking out still another N’Sync, Britney, _______________ (fill in the blank) hit-maker. Prices creep ever-upward with determination.

Who is well served by the status quo? Only those who assure that it remains so.

That’s all right

I don’t know how long this has been up, but Emusic.com has a great collection of Elvis photos from his 1954 Louisiana Hayride days. In my opinion, this is when Elvis looked his best. He’s so cool in these pictures, it hurts to look at them.

ElvisThese were the days of the original Sun Sessions, when Elvis, Scotty and Bill — with a whole lotta help from Sam Phillips — were actually creating a whole new style of music, a combination of country and western with rhythm and blues that no one had heard before. Say what you want about Bill Haley, Little Richard and Chuck Berry — all great artists — but they didn’t come up with anything as new as our boy, Elvis.

Just listen to that very first single. “That’s All Right” is an obscure blues song by Big Boy Crudup, hopped up all hillbilly-style. The flip is “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” a famous Bill Monroe bluegrass hit, rocked out with no trace of bluegrass left in it. It’s not just a white boy trying to sing like a black guy. It’s way more than that. Al Jolsen tried to sing like a black guy. Bing Crosby did too. What Elvis did changed the world. And that’s the way it is.

Rock and roll can change your life.