Sylvain Sylvain Dead at 69

As original member and guitarist for The New York Dolls, Sylvain Sylvain inspired countless kids in bedrooms around the world to pick up their guitars, dab on a bit of rouge, and start a band. The Dolls’ influence on rock and roll is well documented and will continue as long as there’s a need for loud, campy rock and roll--and that need never goes away.

But Sylvain also inspired my all-time favorite rock show heckle; one that I use to this day, regardless of the artist or situation. Like the Dolls themselves, it is equally specific to the moment it was first uttered and evergreen. 

It was at The Cactus Club in Milwaukee where my new bandmate and pal Mick was reunited with his band Men From Mars to open for Sylvain. I was late because I couldn’t find my way to the club and passed my turn several times before catching a glimpse of the front door and swinging a hard left on a wet road. I made it in to catch the end of Mick’s set and caught up on beers and chit-chat with Mick. Then it got loud.

Sylvain’s band kicked in hard. I can’t remember what song they opened with but I am pretty sure it was a Dolls’ tune. You know, to get the crowd ready to roll. They were pretty tight but swinging and Sylvain sounded good. He worked up a sweat quickly and eventually wandered into the crowd, guitar in hand so we could all get hot, hot, hot together. This was a few months after September 11, 2001 and we were all looking for an opportunity or reason to find some community. As a New Yorker, Sylvain obviously had some very close and personal feelings about what had happened in New York and what was happening in America as a response. He lit into a rant…a preach for loving each other and not giving in to prejudice or paranoia. He was hitting a high when the heckle rang out like a shot:

Play “Trash,” hippy!

It was incredibly offensive and incredibly hilarious, the perfect interruption for an emotional moment as only a Midwesterner can deliver. Sylvain laughed and nodded his head as if to say, “Yeah, yeah. Ok.” and we were back to rocking and sweating.

Sylvain died today after a two and a half year battle with cancer. Of the original line-up, only David Johansen remains. We have the records, we have the songs, but we’ll never get to hear Sylvain play “Trash” again. That’s a real drag.

New York Dolls - Trash

New Hiss Golden Messenger: Sanctuary

Video: Hiss Golden Messenger – “Sanctuary”

Hiss Golden Messenger - Sanctuary (Official Video)

Directed by Saleem Reshamwala. Single out now on Merge.

Oh man, I get the feeling Hiss Golden Messenger knows how we’re all feeling.

You want good news
You want sanctuary
But when you try to get real
They break you on the wheel.

Good news has been in short supply lately. Even when we get good news, the good feelings are short lived, as we immediately get bombarded by more bad news. Think of the Georgia Senate elections. It was like, “Woo hoo, the good guys won!” Then, what, an hour later a bunch of insurrectionist goons were breaking into the Capitol? What the fuck? How are we supposed to deal with this?

Meanwhile an infectious disease is spreading wildly across the country, killing 4,000+ people a day now. And good news: We’ve got a vaccine! Immediately after: Oops, we have no way of administering it to the people who need it. The county websites are a mess, redirecting seniors to hospital websites, where navigating to any useful information is hit and miss. It’s hard to not feel doomed.

Feeling bad
Feeling blue
Can’t get out of my own mind…

But a good song can make you feel better for a few minutes. And you can play it on repeat if you need to. That little light’s gotta last a while.

Hiss Golden Messenger: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Descendents: That’s The Breaks

Video: Descendents – “That’s The Breaks”

Descendents - "That's The Breaks" (Lyric Video)

Video by Jason Link. Single out now on Epitaph.

What more could you want in a punk rock song this week? Milo Aukerman expresses exactly what we’ve all been feeling over the past four years in a mere forty-two seconds: “You asshole Twitter troll – GO HOME!”

Now that our orange fuhrer has been impeached again, this time for incitement of insurrection, maybe he will take Milo’s advice and crawl back into his hole of hate. It’s probably too much to ask to stop hearing from him and about him, but it’s nice to imagine a post-Trump world…

New Jeff Tweedy: Old Country Waltz

Video: Jeff Tweedy – “Old Country Waltz” (Neil Young cover)

Jeff Tweedy performing Old Country Waltz in support of the #NIVA Emergency Relief Fund

Live at the beloved Hideout in Chicago in support of the National Independent Venue Association Emergency Relief Fund.

The Hideout in Chicago is the best bar in the world. I think it would be hard for anybody to argue with that. I mean, it’s perfect. What more could you want in a bar? (Easier access via public transportation, perhaps, but maybe ridesharing apps have rendered that irrelevant?) Anyway…

I’m playing that old country waltz
In this empty hall, bouncin’ off the wall

Looks like this was filmed at the same time as the CBS “Saturday Sessions” that aired back in October when he was promoting Love Is The King. Maybe he still is, since it’ll be available on CD and vinyl this Friday, but the focus of this new video is the National Independent Venue Association Emergency Relief Fund, a/k/a #saveourstages. Even though the Save Our Stages Act passed Congress as part of COVID-19 Relief bill, it’s going to take months for that funding to make its way into the bank accounts of our beloved clubs and bars. So NIVA is continuing to raise money “to assist the venues at greatest risk of permanently going under.” Help if you can.

Continue reading New Jeff Tweedy: Old Country Waltz

The Winning End

To enter Hipgnosissongs.com please confirm you are not accessing this website from: the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan or South Africa or in any jurisdiction in which such an offer or solicitation would be unlawful.

A few weeks back, when I wrote about Bob Dylan selling his song catalog, I figured that that would be that.

Little did I realize how this is not a one-off but becoming something of a trending phenomenon.

This past week Neil Young sold half of the rights to his 1,180-song catalog to Hipgnosis Songs Fund Ltd. (Jimmy Iovine and Lindsey Buckingham also sold.)

That disclaimer up there: It is at the bottom of a homepage of legalese. This is serious business. Go beyond the homepage at your peril.

In the site, which is, make no mistake, about making money, not music, there is this description:
“The Company’s Investment Adviser is The Family (Music) Limited, which was founded by Merck Mercuriadis, former manager of globally successful recording artists, such as Elton John, Guns N’ Roses, Morrissey, Iron Maiden and Beyoncé, and hit songwriters such as Diane Warren, Justin Tranter and The-Dream, and former CEO of The Sanctuary Group plc. The Investment Adviser has assembled an Advisory Board of highly successful music industry experts which include award winning members of the artist, songwriter, publishing, legal, financial, recorded music and music management communities, all with in-depth knowledge of music publishing. Members of The Family (Music) Limited Advisory Board include Nile Rodgers, The-Dream, Giorgio Tuinfort, Starrah, Nick Jarjour, David Stewart, Bill Leibowitz, Ian Montone, Rodney Jerkins, Bjorn Lindvall and Chris Helm.”

Bet you never thought you would see Iron Maiden and Beyoncé in the same sentence.

According to a story in the New York Times in December 2020, Mercuriadis, whose fund then had spent $1.7-billion on hoovering up catalogs—Times: “Hipgnosis owns, in full or in part, 188 songs by Jack Antonoff, a collaborator of Taylor Swift; 197 by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie; 814 by RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan; 315 by Mark Ronson; 1,068 by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics; and production royalties for 108 tracks by the hip-hop producer Timbaland”—said that he’s doing it because “I wanted to be able to do something that would contribute to having the music industry recognize that the songwriter and the producer are really the star of the show.”

So by buying up the catalogs, said songwriters and producers get more ready pocket money than they would have otherwise had. I must admit I am a bit mystified as to how producers make money off the deal, though I suspect they must.

Clearly, Mercuriadis, who may be a fan with exceedingly deep pockets, to say nothing of ready access to the pockets of others, isn’t doing this entirely for Sir Gawain-pure purposes. There isn’t that large warning on the top of the Hipgnosis page because all ye who enter are going to come out unscathed: this is about betting on the come.

Continue reading The Winning End

Data: 2020 Total Music Sales and Streams

Streams are up, sales are down. Except for vinyl, which is up again for the sixteenth year in a row (but still less than the trusty old compact disc). The industry will try to convince you that “music consumption” is up, and maybe it is, but those calculations are squishy at best.

Especially when they change their formulas every year. This year, Billboard is not using total music streams (audio-only + video streams) in their “album equivalent audio music consumption” calculation “due to reporting methodology changes from a major video provider.” They are just using audio-only streams plus sales. This way, they can say that “album equivalent audio music consumption grew 12%.” Hooray! Good news, right?

Maybe. Without knowing exactly how that major video provider’s reporting methodology changed, how can we be sure that video streams didn’t just go down from 401 billion in 2019 to 147 billion in 2020? Looking at that, it does seem a little extreme, doesn’t it? Was the number of video streams inflated before? Regardless, including those 2020 video stream numbers in the calculation would mean that overall song streams fell from 1.147 trillion in 2019 to 1.02 trillion in 2020. Which, combined with the annual decrease in album sales, would make it look like overall music consumption dropped in 2020. And we can’t have that. Nobody like a loser.

Therefore, exclude the video streams altogether and everything’s rosy again! Label execs and the RIAA can feel like they’re earning their bonuses. Everyone’s a winner.

Whatever. Enough cynicism. If you want to support musicians, buy t-shirts and physical media directly from your favorite artists’ websites.

Let’s all hope we get to go to some concerts this year. Wouldn’t that be fun? So #saveourstages.

Total U.S. Album sales (physical + digital in millions)

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

2020: 102.4 million
2019: 112.75 million
2018: 141 million
2017: 169.15 million
2016: 205.5 million
2015: 241.39 million
2014: 257.02 million
2013: 289.41 million
2012: 315.96 million
2011: 330.57 million
2010: 326.15 million
2009: 373.9 million
2008: 428.4 million
2007: 500.5 million
2006: 588.2 million
2005: 618.9 million
2004: 666.7 million
2003: 667.9 million
2002: 693.1 million
2001: 762.8 million
2000: 785 million
1999: 754.8 million
1998: 712.5 million
1997: 651.8 million
1996: 616.6 million
1995: 616.4 million (I’ve heard the figure is 616,957,000)
1994: 614.7 million (I’ve heard the figure is 615,266,000)
1993: ~573 million (1994 was 7.4% increase over 1993)

Continue reading Data: 2020 Total Music Sales and Streams

New Run The Jewels video: Walking In The Snow

Video: Run The Jewels – “Walking In The Snow”

Run The Jewels - Walking In The Snow (Official Music Video)

Directed by Chris Hopewell. From RTJ4, out now.

It seems like a lifetime ago already, but RTJ4 was rush-released on June 3 last year, just ten days after the murder of George Floyd on camera by Minneapolis police officers. The world was justifiably outraged. There were marches. There were riots. There were violent clashes between protesters and white supremacists. Our cities were on fire. Everything was a mess.

And there’s no better soundtrack to help process the insanity than Run the Jewels.

And every day on the evening news, they feed you fear for free
And you so numb, you watch the cops choke out a man like me
Until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, “I can’t breathe”
And you sit there in the house on couch and watch it on TV
The most you give’s a Twitter rant and call it a tragedy

While “Walking In The Snow” reflected the moment perfectly, it’s depressing that it was written and recorded six months before anybody had ever heard of George Floyd. “I can’t breathe” was the last thing said by Eric Garner, who was choked to death on camera by a New York City police officer in 2014. This is nothing new. Cops have been killing black people in this country with impunity since the “slave patrols” of the 1700s.

We’ll see if any real substantial policy changes come out of the George Floyd protests last summer. So far, not much. Qualified immunity is still the law of the land, and until it’s abolished law enforcement officers are legally protected from having to face any consequences for wrongdoing.

Maybe 2021 will be the year of systemic changes to policing. But that’s never going to happen unless the people demand it from their elected leaders from the local level all the way up to the president.

Run The Jewels: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

On New Year’s Day

On January 1, 1959, Johnny Cash performed at San Quentin State prison; what is interesting is that he’d released “Folsom Prison Blues” in December 1955, and didn’t play at Folsom Prison until 1968, when he recorded a live album there. He followed that up in 1969 with Johnny Cash at San Quentin. When he played the show on New Year’s Day in ’59 Merle Haggard was in the audience; Haggard had been convicted of trying to rob a roadhouse in Bakersfield in ‘57; failed at an escape from Bakersfield Jail, so was transferred to San Quentin. While Cash had never been a convict, Haggard had spent time in several prisons; that New Year’s Day performance by Cash was, Haggard later said, instrumental in his becoming a musician, something that he’d tried to do prior to the Bakersfield job, obviously unsuccessfully at that time.

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On January 1, 1953, Hank Williams—whose given name is Hiram—was being driven to Canton, Ohio, for a concert. Williams—who’d had a long bout of problems with alcohol, amphetamines, etc. (his drunkenness lead to his dismissal from the Grand Ole Opry in 1952; he became part of the show in 1949), although it should be pointed out that he was plagued by severe back problems and later a heart condition, so odds are the substance abuse was meant to relieve the pain—was found dead in the back seat of the Cadillac he was riding in. He was 29. One thing that Williams had pulled off that few others have managed as well as he did was to record as “Luke the Drifter.” Apparently, Luke the Drifter performed religious recitations, which Williams figured would not exactly be helpful vis-a-vis his public career. Somehow songs like “My Son Calls Another Man Daddy” and “Moanin’ the Blues” wouldn’t be Luke the Drifter-approved.

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On January 1, 1962, one of the great fails of all time took place: The Beatles auditioned for Decca Records. And Decca decided that Brian Poole and the Tremeloes would be a better pick. In July 1963 that band made its way to the charts for the first time in the UK with a cover of an Isley Brothers hit, “Twist and Shout.” The Beatles had beaten the band to that song, having released their version in March of the same year. The Tremeloes evidently knew a good thing when they heard it: in a post-Poole lineup, they covered “Good Day Sunshine” in 1966. It didn’t make the charts. Back to the Beatles for a moment: although January 1, 1962 was a Monday, did people really work that day in the UK?

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On January 1, 2007, BBC Radio 2 (According to the company: “The remit of Radio 2 is to be a distinctive mixed music and speech service, targeted at a broad audience, appealing to all age groups over 35”) announced the results of a poll that had been taken of approximately 20,000 of its listeners. It indicated that the greatest British band of all time was not the Beatles. It was Queen. This makes one question the vaunted “wisdom of crowds.”

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On January 1, 1890, the first Rose Parade was conducted by the Pasadena Valley Hunt Club. The association with a football game didn’t occur until January 1, 1902. There is a notable university in Pasadena, California Institute of Technology, better known as “CalTech.” It was established in 1891. It had a football team. The Beavers never played in the Rose Bowl. CalTech did have an “appearance” at the Rose Bowl in 1961. Some clever Sheldons managed to switch flip cards used by the cheerleaders for the Washington Huskies so that people in the stands would be directed to unknowingly spell “CALTECH” during halftime, which was picked up by the national NBC broadcast. (The CalTech football team ceased to exist in 1993.) On January 1, 1972, the first rock band rode on a float during the Tournament of Roses: Three Dog Night. Which makes one question the wisdom of the organizers in Pasadena back then. On January 1, 2021 there was no Rose Parade, having been canceled due to the pandemic. It was the first time the parade had been canceled since 1945, due to a world war.

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On January 1, 1975, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham officially joined Fleetwood Mac. In April 2018 Buckingham was “fired” from the band, ostensibly because of Stevie Nicks. He sued the band in October for dismissal. He had a heart attack in February 2019 and underwent open heart surgery. Due to the intubation, his vocal cords were affected. He recovered and was to have made his first return to a stage at the Beale Street Music Festival, which was to have taken place May 2020, was pushed back to October 2020, and was cancelled. In December 2020 Stevie Nicks sold 80% ownership of her song catalog—including “Dreams,” which had a massive boost in 2020 due to a TikTok video—for a reported $100-million.

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On January 1, 2021, I thought I’d wish you all a good one for the year. The pandemic isn’t over yet. It is not likely to be for several more months. It will. But still: be careful. Because while we are all ready to get out there, know that on February 27, 2020, someone who shall go unnamed said, “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” We’re still waiting.

Wrapping up 2020

Good riddance to what has been, objectively, a very bad year.

343,000+ Americans have died of a disease that can be carried by people without symptoms and spread to people who might die. Most people who get it don’t get too sick. Some never even know they had it. And yet it’s already killed 1 in 1,000 Americans.

The most disturbing thing about 2020 has been how this virus has exposed how little Americans care about each other. How easy it’s been to shrug off thousands of people dying every day. How unwilling people are to inconvenience themselves for the sake of protecting the vulnerable. Half the country refuses to believe that doctors and nurses are telling the truth about the situation they’re dealing with in hospitals.

It’s impossible to get the country to agree on solutions when people are living in alternate realities. No common set of facts.

We made the decision at the end of 2016 to try to stay positive and keep this site focused on the good things happening in the world. Music has the power to make you feel better, even in the shittiest of times. Especially in the shittiest of times.

Looking back over our annual wrap-ups of previous years, I can’t even remember now why we thought 2018 was so bad, but it’s sad to think I couldn’t imagine it getting worse. It could. Much, much worse.

And here we are. At the end of a very bad year. There is some hope on the horizon. A vaccine is being distributed…albeit far more slowly than we were led to believe. We will have a new administration on January 20 despite the efforts of an unamerican, anti-democratic wannabe autocrat. We should all be thankful that our orange fuhrer is as inept as he is; a competent fascist could have easily stolen this election. The fact that our entire democracy came down to the lawfulness of a handful of local officials should make us shudder. Make no mistake: those few decent Republicans will certainly be replaced by unscrupulous monsters in the near future. And then what? Let’s hope we won’t have to find out.

But we made it through. Personally, there were times (weeks, months) where I didn’t feel up to the task of seeking out good new music to share. I just couldn’t conjure the energy. But throughout the entire year, our intrepid Stephen Macaulay filed 1,000 words to me every Saturday along with an email summing up his week. These missives inspired me to keep this site alive during a year when it would’ve been excusable to let it lie fallow…or die off altogether.

If you’ve followed GLONO for any amount of time you may have caught on that Mac is of a generation that witnessed the Faces at Cobo Hall. He saw the Stones on the Exile tour. Mac subscribed to the Fifth Estate and to Rolling Stone back when it was printed on newsprint. That is to say, Mac is like the cool uncle we all wish we had growing up, which puts him in a demographic that is more at risk to the serious effects of COVID-19.

Locked down in stricter quarantine than anyone else I know, Mac has carried our site through this year, and for that I will always be grateful.

Let’s all hope the distribution and administration of the vaccine gets straightened out quickly so we can have a shot at seeing each other in real life some time next year. Stay safe, stay healthy, and try to stay positive!

Love,
Jake and the GLONO posse

Continue reading Wrapping up 2020

2020 at End: I Tried to Be Positive. Honest

As this is my last entry for 2020, I had planned to make it somewhat more, well, positive than many of the things I’ve written of late. Seems that for the past several months I’ve been writing about the consequences of COVID-19 on our music and our lives, and very little of that has had a proverbial silver lining. Then in the months before that it appeared that I had become the official Glorious Noise obituary writer, a dubious distinction at most.

But then I learned that Leslie West had died. I will confess that I am not a fan of Mountain, that I never found “Mississippi Queen” to be particularly engaging. It sounds to me like a variant on something that Lynyrd Skynyrd might have done. Or perhaps Def Leppard. Whereas the former are from Jacksonville, Florida, and the latter from Sheffield, England, West was born in New York City and was raised in Hackensack, New Jersey. Go figure.

The little interest that I had in Mountain was a result of the participation of Felix Pappalardi, whose name was familiar to me from his production work on Cream’s Disraeli Gears, as I was—and continue to be, albeit with a different fervor—a big fan of Cream. So if Pappalardi worked with West, it had to be worthwhile. But that didn’t really work in my estimation, even though I was arguably predisposed to like the band.

Of the members of Cream it was—and continues to be—Jack Bruce for me. He was one of the most innovative and accomplished bass players of the 20th century, and if you do an eye roll and think of “Sunshine of Your Love,” I suggest you give a listen to “You Burned the Tables on Me” from his third solo album, Harmony Row, or the work that he did with Kip Hanrahan. Then your eyes may open wide.

One of Mountain’s minor hits (or I guess for it the adjective can be removed) is “Theme for an Imaginary Western,” a cover of a song written by Jack Bruce and Pete Brown, which originally appears on Songs for a Tailor, Bruce’s first post-Cream solo album—produced by Pappalardi.

Pappalardi left Mountain and was replaced on bass and vocals by. . .Jack Bruce. Or at least a newly named band was created in 1972, West, Bruce and Laing. (Corky Laing played drums in Mountain, so the band wasn’t too far away from the original.)

In my estimation this was one of the bad choices that Bruce had made in his career, but presumably he was looking for a revenue stream. What is odd is if you listen to the solo album that Jack Bruce released after leaving West, Bruce and Laing, Out of the Storm, you’ll undoubtedly conclude that Bruce’s talent was wasted playing with West. (When Bruce went out on tour in support of that solo album, he enlisted Mick Taylor to play guitar: that is more of a balance of talent.)

Bruce formed the Jack Bruce Band and Jack Bruce & Friends during the 70s and 80s, but ended up collaborating with Robin Trower on two albums, B.L.T. (presumably that would be for Bruce, Bill Lordan (drums) and Trower; it is interesting to note that on the cover of the album, the font size for Trower’s name is significantly bigger than the other two) and Truce (in this case, Lordan was gone and just Bruce’s and Trower’s names appear on the sleeve, in the same font size). As for these two records, even though Trower, a remarkably capable guitar player, is a good foil for Bruce, they strike me as being somewhat mediocre.

Bruce became something of an itinerate musician, playing with all manner of musicians, some good, some questionable. He died of liver disease in 2014.

Pappalardi? He died of a gunshot wound in 1983. His wife was convicted of negligent homicide.

Of the two more famous musicians that he played with: Ginger Baker died in 2019 (Bruce and Baker collaborated in a band with guitar player Gary Moore—BBM—which released an album, Around the Next Dream, which for some odd reason features a picture of Baker smoking a cigarette (naturally) and wearing angel’s wings: Clapton is god but Baker is a seraph?); Clapton is still with us.

Which brings me to the positive subject that I’d planned to write about, the Save Our Stages Act, which is a $15-billion part of the coronavirus relief package passed by Congress. One of the main sponsors of the bipartisan bill is Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota—she worked with Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a stalwart Republican and evident music fan. On December 21 she took to the Senate floor and stated, “And this was about — yes, Nashville and New York, but it was just as much about the Fargo Theatre or a small small country music venue in Texas. And while we see the light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccines, we know that it will be quite a while before these businesses which operate on such thin margins as it is can keep going.”

Continue reading 2020 at End: I Tried to Be Positive. Honest

Rock and roll can change your life.