PHOENIX, ARE YOU READY TO ROCK?

Nope.

“…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?

JTL

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.

THE DOORS. WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE THE DOORS?

Old Man Winter has finally been kicked out of the Midwest on his ass. And with Summer comes the annual ritual of neighbors introducing their record collections to each other. So why does it remind me of the menu at a Holiday Inn?

Hot times, Summer in the city.

Speakers in front windows blast tunes into the street, the better to have a catch to. Loc’d out Monte Carlos and Impalas cruise the strip, competing to see who can rattle more license plates to the sounds of the latest single (currently, the favorite seems to be J.Lo’s “Play That Song”). And of course, everyone in the city is out on the porch, barbecuing, drinking, and kicking back to their favorite Summertime music. But too often and for too many people, a few rays of sunshine and a bag of charcoal means that they need to dig down into that stack o’ CDs at the end of the rack, the ones with the cracked jewel cases and sun-blistered, margarita-stained liner notes. These are the discs that have stuck through 3 colleges, 5 apartments, 2 girlfriends, and too many Summer bashes. They mean a lot to the owner, and occasionally (sometime between Coronas 6 and 10), he can relate some “bitchin'” collegiate anecdotes that get his work buddies howling.

It’s become such a cliché. Summer? Corona? Burgers? Quick! To the Jimmy Buffet!

What caused this knee-jerk reaction? Well, part of it is Jimmy himself. A failed Nashville troubadour who re-made himself as a Gulf Coast Tropic-core rocker with a penchant for pirates, beer, and laziness, Buffet’s 1973 nugget “Why Don’t We Get Drunk” and its smirking punchline forever positioned him as every aging beer drinker’s Instant Summer Panic Button. Which explains the sales numbers generated by the man himself. Something tells me his album of showtunes (co-written with everyone’s favorite wild party guest Herman Wouk) hasn’t exactly funded the man’s latest jetboat purchase. For legions of SUV-driving Parrotheads, Buffet’s ketchup-and-mustard greatest hits collection and his annual Summer tour are all they know (or care) of Key West’s favorite son. So what’s tiresome about Summer music? Not Buffet the man. It’s Buffet the fan

The past few weeks have seen some beautiful nights in Chicagoland. The breeze is just right, the beer gardens are full, and dogs are meeting people on every stoop. Recently, I sat down on my porch with a can of Bud to watch the world go by. Jeeps rolled down the street with The Wu and Crazy Town booming out of the back. A fella across the way had the baseball game on a little transistor radio. And then I heard them, wafting across the warm Summer air from the coach house behind my building.

The Doors.

Now, “Touch Me” was never a good song. But it’s even worse coming out of a pair of shitty Realistics. Jim Morrison’s moronic warble accompanies production that’s two steps away from a Tom Jones road show rolling into Branson, MO. His delivery is so bloated, Morrison makes Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without A Face” sound like Johnny Hartman. But I digress. I’m still out on the porch, and my Bud’s getting warm while I ponder why in God’s name my neighbors believe The Doors are worthy of anything, let alone Summertime outdoor music listening.

I think my neighborhood Doors-lovers have quite a bit in common with the Parrotheads, and both share an affinity with those consumers out there keeping the singles and soundtracks sections of the store commercially viable. Many people just don’t want to work that hard for their music. The only thing I could ever compliment The Doors on were a few funky organ licks. But Jimmy Buffet is a hard-working dude, and at least his music has some narrative depth to it. So I’m not necessarily railing on the musicians. Like I said, it’s more a problem with the fan himself. Too many times, people simply settle for what’s available on a “Top Sellers For Summer!” endcap, not realizing the gems that lay beyond greatest hits collections and the same 8 Buffet songs that everyone else loves. It’s like my man Phil Wise said before. Record shopping is tough business. But if you have the patience to explore, and the ears to listen, those Coronas and brats just might start tasting a little better. There’s nothing wrong with knowing the lyrics to “Cheeseburger In Paradise,” or even (ugh) “LA Woman.” But why not make your barbecue a little bit cooler with a few unheard or un-recongnized gems? In the meantime, I’ll be on my stoop, drinking a Bud.

And the back of my neck’s getting dirty and gritty.

JTL

The Heat is On

So it’s 80 degrees here in Detroit, which means a lot of things. Like, summer is here, and the time is right for… listening to bad bar bands covering Jimmy Buffet on the deck at some cheesy restaurant? Please, not that.

Summer should mean that it’s time to head up to Pine Knob or Val du for some great outdoor rock and roll. But alas, that ritual seems to have died with the lp. (Or it died when I got that reckless driving ticket in Mears?) Or perhaps, more accurately, I’ve just gotten old enough that the only sort of music that really gets my rocks off happens in a bar. When I’m drunk. When they’re drunk. It costs about $5 plus whatever it takes to get my head in the right mood. (Editor’s note: Tickets to see, ahem, Chicago this summer are over $40, not including parking.)

Problem is, going to a bar in the summer to see a band, if not one of the aforementioned parrots, is often the equivalent to “making weight.” Sure I want to lose about 20 pounds, but not in one night and not by sweating. A guy the other day in a local band and gave me further motivation to skip the bar band scene for the next few months: “Most good bands don’t tour in the summer because it’s too damn hot.”

I do have high hopes for the Detroit Electronic Music Festival (I may even have a hotel party), but other than that, the soundtrack to my Summer in the City is going to have to come from my record collection. There’s much to do in the summer and I’m glad it’s here, but I’m going to miss the action and the ears ringing in the morning.

How many years?

There’s a silly article on Slate.com about how rock and roll flourishes every 12 years. According to the author 1967, 1979, and 1991 were abnormally good years for music, and therefore, we can expect another high point in a couple of years.

Looking casually at my Desert Island discs (which I’m already completely unsatisfied with, by the way), I noticed that none of my picks were released or recorded on any of those years. I’m too lazy to go through everybody else’s picks and determine when the good years were, but if someone else wants to do it, feel free.

I think the overall flaw with Geoff Shandler’s theory is that great music has been written and performed and recorded and released every single year. And a lot of it. Sometimes (often) the great records don’t sell a ton and they don’t make it to the charts or to the radio, but they’re out there. It may be hard to find them, but they’re around. The current state of music is pretty great. I’ve picked up some great albums recently. The fact that the radio stations play a bunch of crap and MTV doesn’t show videos anymore only means that we have to work harder to find the good stuff.

The web can help. Along with legally dubious means such as Napster and good old-fashioned FTP, there are tons of legitimate sites that have songs available to stream and/or download for free. I like Listen.com and it’s always my first stop when I hear about a band I want to check out. If they don’t have anything there, I resort to CDNOW for audio samples or to Napster to see if anything’s out there.

And don’t forget about your local, independent record stores. As long as the guys behind the counter aren’t snotty punks, they will usually have a few current releases to recommend. And they should even let you listen to it before you buy it. Get to know them. Let them get to know you, and I guarantee their recommendations will be more suited to your taste than anything a computer database can come up with.

Good music is available now, and it’s always been available. Go out there and find it. I just picked up the new Me First and the Gimme Gimmes record and it’s a hoot. Non-stop fun. All covers of 60’s songs. Maybe not for everyone, but I smile every time I listen to them roaring through Cat Stevens’ “Wild World.”

Rock and roll can change your life.