Tag Archives: obits

Thank you for a funky time, Prince

The first time I remember seeing or hearing Prince was the “Little Red Corvette” video. I was at a sleepover at a friend’s house. I was 11 years old and I was pretty sure I knew everything about everything. I was, of course, wrong.

We laughed about his fruity look and completely missed most of the dirty references (“a pocket full of horses, Trojans, and some of them used”). Who was this guy? None of my pals were into Prince…yet.

When seventh grade started in September there was a new kid in school. Rich was a Latino kid who moved from New York, and he knew how to do the wave. I sat by him in Mr. Bergin’s homeroom and he regaled me with stories about breakdancing competitions back home. Our school district was extremely white, and we must have made Rich feel like an exotic alien. He was a badass. By the end of the year a bunch of classmates — led by Rich — had their own breaking crew who blew away everyone else in the talent show.

That summer, my friends and I would go to the Plainfield Dance every Saturday night. It was held in a roller skating rink and attracted kids from all over the area, including the inner city. You follow where I’m going with this? It was my first opportunity as a kid to be around black people. My friends and I were too self-conscious to dance, but we’d walk around the rink looking at girls and listening to music.

Plainfield Skating Center

The music was different from what was being played on the radio, including strange electro grooves that would end up triggering us to make a big circle around the breakdancers as they impressed everybody with their latest moves. They’d challenge each other and battle on the floor. The coolest thing I ever saw was when Rich — after a dizzying assortment of helicopter spins — concluded by coming to an abrupt halt and simultaneously grabbing his nuts with one hand and pointing at a rival with the other. The place exploded.

Continue reading Thank you for a funky time, Prince

Prince Dead at 57

This video has long been my go-to mood enhancer. Of the many, many amazing performances Prince has recorded over the years, this is the one I go back to again and again. There are so many reason why, but a few that come to mind are:

    • If I could play guitar like anyone it would be Jay Bennett, George Harrison or Prince. This hits two of the three
    • Prince’s inclusion elevates the performance from a tribute from pals (famous and talented ones, at that) to a celebration of a song and its writer who inspired and affected so many people
    • Prince absolutely mops the floor with his solo
    • His guitar disappears at the end. Seriously, where did it go?
    • The look on Dhani Harrison’s face throughout Prince’s solo is pure gold

Prince’s Guitar Solo during “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at the 2004 Hall of Fame Inductions

There are few celebrity deaths that would affect me personally—unlike that of a family member or friend, I might miss their artistry, but not their person. Prince’s death has affected me though. I am genuinely sad to hear of his passing. I think it’s because his public persona, the character he’s created and refined throughout his years as a public figure, is exactly what we want musicians to be. Yes, he was successful financially. More importantly, he was unique but cognizant and respectful of what had come before him. He confounded us with genre mash-ups and confusing name changes. He was the guy who wrote “Darling Nikki” and then extolled the virtues of being a Jahovah’s Witness. He was…interesting. Endlessly interesting.

He really seemed to exist on a higher plane.

If anyone felt music, it was Prince. You can see it in his face and his body. He created the wavelengths and then let himself be taken by them. He had that golden combination of science and soul. I don’t think Prince ever once in his life simply ran scales.

So yes, I am sad today and will genuinely miss Prince’s existence in the world. And I’ll lean heavily on my go-to mood enhancer to get through it.

Godspeed to his Purple Badness.

The Peoples Poet is Dead: Rik Mayall Dead at 56

There were sweaty summer days in the late 80s where we’d sit around the house watching TV and chugging Mello Yello. We were American teens with a thing for British culture and in addition to the NME and Melody Maker, most of our understanding of Arcadia came from The Young Ones.

This passage from one of our favorite episodes is the best tribute we can think of for Rik Mayall, who died today at 56:

This house will become a shrine, and punks and skins and rastas will all gather round and hold their hands in sorrow for their fallen leader. And all the grown-ups will say, “But why are the kids crying?” And the kids will say, “Haven’t you heard? Rick is dead! The People’s Poet is dead!”

Hands up, who likes Rick? This time, all hands are raised.

Adam Yauch is Dead

I knew this day was coming. When the Beastie Boys announced that Adam Yauch would be to unable attend the group’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame my first thought was, Oh shit.

Three weeks later, my fears proved correct.

I loved the Beastie Boys the first time I heard them. A girl I knew told me there was a new song that I had to hear, that she knew I would love it. She was right, of course. What snotty 15 year old boy could resist the charms of “Fight For Your Right (To Party)”?

I bought the tape and enjoyed it for a while but then I pretty much forgot about them until college when friends turned me on to Paul’s Boutique. I remember thinking they were crazy to even bother giving that “joke” group a second chance. Boy, was I wrong. This was the very early 90s and I was just discovering Funkadelic and marijuana and N.W.A. and I was amazed these Bud-swilling dorks had gotten so cool.

I followed them from then on and started collecting the records they sampled on vinyl. In the early days of the internet I contributed everything I knew to a list of Paul’s Boutique Samples and References, including erroneously attributing the “Good God!” to Edwin Starr’s “War.” I tried for years to correct my mistake, but by then it was part of internet history. So yeah, that was me. Sorry.

I read an article somewhere that compared the three Beasties to three parts of the human psyche. Adrock was the id (impulsive), Mike D was the ego (organized), and MCA was the superego (the conscience). This always made sense to me and these verses from “Sure Shot” seemed to prove it:

MCA:
I want to say a little something that’s long overdue
The disrespect to women has got to be through
To all the mothers and sisters and the wives and friends
I want to offer my love and respect to the end

Mike D:
Well you say I’m twenty something and I should be slacking
But I’m working harder than ever, and you could call it macking
So I’m supposed to sit upon the couch and watching my TV
Still listening to wax, I’m not using the CD

Adrock:
I’m that kid in the corner
All fucked up and I wanna so I’m gonna
Take a piece of the pie, why not, I’m not quitting
Think I’ma change up my style just to fit in

The theory oversimplifies things (in the next line Yauch rhymes about his underwear) but there’s some truth in it. And now the Beastie Boys have lost their conscience.

On January 7, 2011, in response to media reports that he had beaten his cancer, Yauch posted the following to the Beasties web site: “While I’m grateful for all the positive energy people are sending my way, reports of my being totally cancer free are exaggerated. I’m continuing treatment, staying optimistic and hoping to be cancer free in the near future.”

That didn’t happen. Cancer claimed another life. I’d love to believe that he’s in a better place, but I’m at least comforted by the fact that he’s no longer suffering from that horrible fucking disease.

Davy Is Dead and I’m Freaking Out

Davy Jones caused my first midlife crisis.

I was 15 years old and MTV had been broadcasting “The Monkees” TV show. I was a burgeoning sixties buff, already into the Beatles and Donovan. This was 1986, and I got into the TV series. I had seen A Hard Day’s Night and Help, but the slapstick goofiness of “The Monkees” was more accessible to me.

Davy was my favorite Monkee. No surprise since Paul was my favorite Beatle. I went for the cute ones, apparently. I coveted Davy’s perfect hair, which–alas–I could never have since mine had the texture of Mickey’s. Davy was funny, great-looking, cool, and short (like me!). It’s not much of an exaggeration to say I idolized him.

Future GLONO-founder Derek Phillips and I discussed the reunion tour in sophomore art class, where we had become friends. Another friend had seen them in Grand Haven that summer and we found out they would be playing Wings Stadium in November. We got tickets and spent our remaining art project time making a giant Monkees banner on a bed sheet.

But then MTV showed a special where they revealed what the Monkees looked like “now,” twenty years after the episodes I had been devouring.

And it freaked me out. Very, very badly.

Davy was no longer the cherubic young guy. He was an old man! Hell, he was 40 years old. Ancient. A grandpa in a terrible Miami Vice sport coat with awful, awful hair. His face was tanned and wrinkled. And I was shocked.

I realized at that moment that getting old sucks. You get ugly. You are no longer cool at all. And this idea made me miserable. For years and years, I dreaded getting older and lamented my lost youth. I would get nostalgic about how simple things were just a few years before. I took John Cougar’s advice to “hold on to 16 as long as you can” very seriously. And when I turned 17 I felt old.

I spent a good portion of my late teens and all my twenties feeling old. And I blame this on Davy Jones. It didn’t help that shortly after my initial Monkees obsession I started getting into the Smiths and reading Oscar Wilde. But it all started with Davy.

And it took me a long time to get over this. As the years passed I realized how silly it was for a 19 year old to think he was an old man. Because, you know, I was really old now that I was 30! A few years later, I would realize how silly it was for a 30 year old to feel old.

Only very recently have I finally come to terms with the idea that you just need to enjoy where you are in the world and not worry about how old you are now and how young you used to be. It’s liberating. And although it’s kind of a bummer that I wasted all that time worrying about it back then, I don’t beat myself up about it. That’s a waste of time too.

Of course, it took me a long time to figure this out. I’m 40 years old now, the same age Davy Jones was when he showed up on MTV and rocked my world. And now he’s dead.

* * *

I still love the Monkees music. I recently picked up a box of the (out of print) 1994/95 Rhino remasters, and it’s been great to listen to the album tracks again. I had all those albums on vinyl, but I had mostly been listening to the stellar Listen to the Band box which features songs remixed from the original multi-track tapes. The original album mixes are good, too, and it’s been fun discovering the minute differences.

I spent a lot of years defending the Monkees against people who couldn’t see past their manufactured origins. It’s been nice to see the need for that line of defense becoming obsolete as more people appreciate the perfectly crafted songwriting and performance on the first two albums as well as the strive for autonomy and integrity on the later albums while maintaining pure pop brilliance.

These days, it’s only grouchy old Baby Boomers like Jann Wenner who still seem to hold a grudge against the Monkees. And their time is running out.

Life is short. But we’re alive right now. So enjoy the time you have.

There’s an underrated late-era Monkees song called “You and I” that Davy co-wrote (and to which Neil Young contributes lead guitar) that sums up what I’ve been struggling to articulate here, and I think he’s actually singing to me right now.

You and I have seen what time does, haven’t we?
We both had time to grow, you know,
We’ve got more growing to do, me and you,
And the rest of them, too.

You can see the changes we’ve been going through,
Such a pity, what a shame. Who can we blame?
You and me, me and you,
And the rest of them, too.

In a year or maybe two,
We’ll be gone and someone new will take our place.
There’ll be another song,
Another voice, another pretty face.

The Monkees – You and I

That’s what time does, doesn’t it? The passing of time and all of its sickening crimes is making me sad again. And I blame this on Davy Jones. Again!

* * *

I’ll wrap this up on a lighter note. Here’s a photo of me and Phil in high school in 1987 or maybe 1988. Notice my shirt has two columns of buttons, which was as close as I could find to an authentic Monkees shirt at the time.

Jake Brown and Derek Phillips, Northview High School, ~1987

Dropping the Whitney Bomb

Let me start with the prerequisites:

1. It’s sad when people die

2. As music fans, we often attach personal feelings to people we’ve never met but who created something that touched us deeply

3. Whitney Houston was very talented and inspiring to a lot of people

That said, I have to be honest: I have never, ever in my life liked Whitney Houston’s music. Actually, that’s me being polite about the dead. Let me try again:

I have always fucking hated Whitney Houston’s music.

As someone who grew up in the 80s and 90s I still have vivid memories of the radio being dominated by incredibly slick (yet, somehow ultimately cheap-sounding) pop music that seemed to have subject matter limited to the storylines of teen romance novels. Lots of songs about secret romances or unrequited emotions or jilted lovers or illicit hook-ups. I get it, those are some universal themes. But they kind of run out of steam on the second or third listen. Unfortunately for me back then, the second or third listen of a Whitney Houston song came somewhere in the first 45 minutes of your day. Whether it was on your mom’s kitchen radio, the Kraco in your dad’s Plymouth Voyager or on MTV…she was everywhere. Like a stalker. It was scary.

It started off innocently enough with her cheeky 1985 single “You Give Good Love.” It was harmless and good fodder for jr. high boys to embarrass their female classmates. “Hey, Melissa. You give good love!” High-fives all around. But the joke was on us because it was just the first volley. In less than two years she’d hit us with the double barrels of “The Greatest Love of All” and the ubiquitous “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” All school dances were destroyed. Whitney owned. Still, this was harmless pop. It was annoying and obnoxious in its unbridled girl energy, but it wasn’t destroying lives.

And then war broke out.

Ten days into Operation Desert Storm, Houston detonated a bunker buster with her rendition of our National Anthem at Super Bowl XXV. I worked at Blockbuster Video at the time and it was mandated by Corporate that we play the video (being sold as a fundraiser benefiting military charities—honorable enough, I must admit) at least once every hour. ONCE. EVERY. HOUR. When you’re working doubles that means more than 12 times a day. While everyone is lost in a nostalgic haze of that rendition today, I was pummeled with it day in and day out while suburban moms asked me where they could find “Ghost” and their kids begged me for another bag of our free caramel corn.

But that wasn’t Whitney’s last shot. She was about to go nuclear.

I vividly remember when her rendition of Dolly Parton’s simple declaration “I Will Always Love You” stormed the charts. Like a siren blaring in the night, I couldn’t escape her pitch-perfect caterwaul. When, in the third act of the song, she modulated up another step into the stratosphere I thought my head would explode. Remember, this song topped the charts for 14 straight weeks and remained in the Top 40 for 24. That was my life for the months and months that the song was on constant replay in America.

So while I sympathize with those who are celebrating Whitney Houston’s career and talent and truly mourn the loss of her voice, I can’t say I am with them. Godspeed, Whitney, but can we please—PLEASE—not revisit the great Whitney Houston blitzkrieg? Do it for the children, who are our future after all.

The White Stripes: The Last Great Band

White Stripes, 2007

It’s over. According to an announcement on their website, Jack and Meg White “will make no further new recordings or perform live” together as the White Stripes.

I’ve always felt a connection between the band and this web site. We have similar roots, being from Michigan and digging the sixties garage rock scene. GLONO’s first bit of national exposure came when we sent Jeff Sabatini to the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in downtown Detroit in May 2002 with $15 to purchase an official copy of Jack and Meg’s 1996 marriage license. We were the first place to publish that document online.

But that wasn’t the first time we had covered the band. Johnny Loftus caught them at the Empty Bottle way back in July 2001, and we’ve kept tabs on them ever since.

Continue reading The White Stripes: The Last Great Band

The Captain, Sean Carasov, Dead at 48

He sold merch for the Specials and the Clash. He was the tour manager for the Beastie Boys at the beginning of their career. He got A Tribe Called Quest a record deal. But the first I ever heard of the Captain was in a column he wrote—”In Defense of the Mullet”—in the second issue of Grand Royal magazine, published in 1995. His irreverence at the time was striking.

To me the Mullet is as American as pick-ups with rifle racks, tractor pulls, Wal-Mart, wet t-shirt contests, slapping your girl upside the head with a frying pan and living in the woods. In fact, I think it’s time the Mullet became the official cut of the U.S. Armed Forces. Fuck the crew cut. Crew cuts are soft. You won’t see no Mullet on Christopher Street. The Mullet is the white man’s jheri curl. Hell, maybe I will get me a Mullet after all. A Mullet, an El Camino with Nitros, a six of Coors, an eight ball of meth and just ride.

No surprise that his ever increasingly righteous editors at Grand Royal (the Beastie Boys) felt the need to tame his prose and censored his freeform “Beefs” column. Reading it again today, it’s kind of amazing they printed it at all, considering the shit he throws around about “Baba Yauch,” pistol whippings, “fat women in stretchy pants,” etc. Check it out and have your mind blown (click for larger, legible images).

grand-royal-2-captain-beef-1-small.jpg

grand-royal-2-captain-beef-2-small.jpg

While I hadn’t followed the Captain in the 15 years since then, it turns out he became a major contributor to 4Chan and Encyclopaedia Dramatica, and even stirred up a bunch of trouble with the Church of Scientology, who allegedly poisoned his cat and got him arrested on charges of “Criminal Threats” (which were eventually dropped). He took his own life on Saturday, October 30.

The official word from the Beasties camp: “what the fuck captain !?! we love you and miss you.”

Big Star Bassist Andy Hummel, Dead at 59

Andy HummelOh man, there goes another one. Former Big Star bassist Andy Hummel dies at Texas home:

Hummel had been receiving treatment for the past couple of years, but recently went in for a hip operation and was informed that the cancer had spread and that his condition was terminal. “At that point,” said Hummel’s friend, Ardent Studios owner and Big Star producer John Fry, “Andy elected to accept hospice care and spent the last couple weeks at home with his family.”

Sad news. What a rollercoaster year to be a Big Star fan. The box set, Alex Chilton’s death, and now this. What a bummer. John Fry said it best: “I guess the one thing that I am happy about is that Andy and Alex were able to see another chapter in the continuing appreciation of their music. And to see how much their music continued to mean to people over the years.”

I’d like to go to India

Live in a big white house in the forest

Drink gin and tonic and play a grand piano

Read a few books

Far from what saddens my heart

Try to live away from it

Big Star: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Alex Chilton, Dead at 59

Dan Penn (in glasses) and Alex Chilton lounging at the Sam Phillips Recording Service, mid-1970s. Photo by William Eggleston.

Dan Penn (in glasses) and Alex Chilton lounging at the Sam Phillips Recording Service, mid-1970s. Photo by William Eggleston.

“September Gurls” on a mixtape. That started it all. I’ve got nothing to say that hasn’t been said already. I’m thankful we have his recordings. Fucking mortality. But records don’t die. So put some music on and make sure the people you care about know you love them.

I mean, jeez, I haven’t even been able to get my head around Mark Linkous dying (just two days after we randomly posted his cover of “Dark As a Dungeon”). And now another one of my musical heroes…gone.

There’s a William Eggleston exhibition going on at the Art Institute of Chicago through May 23. He shot the photos used on the covers of Radio City and Like Flies on Sherbet. I’m going to have to go see that.

Oh, and the Box Tops are underrated. Soul Deep is a really good collection.

Continue reading Alex Chilton, Dead at 59