Tag Archives: Detroit

The Defibrillator vs. the Money Machine

Creem Magazine, RIP 1989, is coming back. An initial reaction, of course, is “Bow Howdy!”, although there have been several returns from the grave in the magazine’s existence. Maybe this time it will take.

But I wonder.

After all, the publication, which had its run out of Detroit for 20 years, has a natural demographic that is, well, reading, if much of anything, The Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg BusinessWeek to watch their 401Ks crater.

Odds are there aren’t going to be a whole lot of them who are going to consistently keen on reading about rock history from the Creem archives or buying merch with the brand’s logo on it (unless, of course, they buy the T-shirt to do the chores on Saturday, like washing the Lincoln).

The model for its return has access to its over “69,000 articles, reviews, images, and original advertisements.” That number seems a bit high, given that if there were 12 issues over 20 years, that would be 287.5 items per issue, so clearly they’re counting every tiny bit of what was the magazine.

Yes, yes, reading Lester Bangs as well as early Greil Marcus and Dave Marsh is certainly a worthwhile use of time.

And realize that it was a time rife with wonderful music to write about. Consider only a few of the releases of 1970: Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!, Johnbarleycorn Must Die, The Man Who Sold the World, Gasoline Alley, Morrison Hotel, Band of Gypsies, Back in the USA.*

But when you move from that it probably becomes an exercise in total nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. Consider, for example, that the ads are embedded: this isn’t like the posters and postcards available from Wolfgang’s Vault as much as it is a commercial chronicle of days gone by, the sort of thing that is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame meets the Henry Ford Museum. Ads from major record companies decrying “The Man” were appropriate then and seem craven now. The only ad that really has legs from that period is the Maxell “Blown Away Guy,” which appeared in 1980.

Continue reading The Defibrillator vs. the Money Machine

Detroit, Detroit

“It’s carbon and monoxide
The ole Detroit perfume”
—Paul Simon

It so happens that on May 21, 1955, 67 years before this is being written, Chuck Berry recorded “Maybellene” at Chess Studios. Willie Dixon played bass. Among the songs that Dixon wrote that you probably know from covers are:

• “I Ain’t Superstitious”
• “You Shook Me”
• “Back Door Man”
• “I Can’t Quit You Baby”
• “Hoochie Coochie Man”
• “Little Red Rooster”
• “I Just Want to Make Love to You”

Just think of the importance of those songs for many bands. Odds are Dixon, no matter how much he may have thought of them, couldn’t have imagined that impact.

“Maybellene” was based on “Ida Red,” a song released by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys in 1939, a song that is considered to be of “unknown origin,” just as the character Ida Red is unknown.

Fiddlin’ Powers & Family released a recording of the song in 1924 and Dykes Magic City Trio did in 1927, which I point out only because they don’t name groups like they used to.

Back to “Maybellene.”

During the early ‘50s Berry, who was living in St. Louis at the time, worked at two car assembly plants. Back then there were St. Louis Truck Assembly, which was operated by General Motors, and St. Louis Assembly, run by Ford.

Although the song is ostensibly about the protagonist chasing a girl who had cheated on him (“Oh Maybellene, why can’t you be true?”), it is primarily about a race between vehicles: “I saw Maybellene in a Coupe DeVille/A Cadillac a-rollin’ on the open road/Nothin’ will outrun my V8 Ford.”

Detroit Iron vs. Detroit Iron.

Continue reading Detroit, Detroit

Listen for the Union Label

Here is a quick quiz.

The following is the Mission of an organization.

Identify the organization:

• “We can live and work in dignity;
• Our work will be fulfilling and compensated fairly;
• We will have a meaningful voice in decisions that affect us;
• We will have the opportunity to develop our talents and skills;
• Our collective voice and power will be realized in a democratic and progressive union;
• We can oppose the forces of exploitation through our union solidarity.”

Obviously that last bullet point gives away that it is a trade union.

According to an article in The Observer, “In a three-week span, between July 26 and August 16, art workers at the Brooklyn Museum, Whitney Museum, and New York’s Hispanic Society Museum and Library all voted to unionize with UAW Local 2110. Additionally, on July 30, Guggenheim employees filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board. Local 2110 already boasts dozens of unions in cultural institutions across the city, including The New Museum and the Tenement Museum, as well as a longstanding union at the Museum of Modern Art.”

Perhaps it is just the Detroit in me, but when I think “UAW” I think “auto workers.”

In fact, the full name of the organization is “United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America.”

Yet autos aside, the UAW claims it has “members in virtually every sector of the economy. UAW-represented workplaces range from multinational corporations, small manufacturers and state and local governments to colleges and universities, hospitals and private non-profit organizations.”

And evidently art museums. While many people would think that sport utility vehicles are important and sculptures are optional (think of school districts where budget cuts occur and the art classes get the boot while the football program has but minor modifications), there are people who work in museums who have found that in order to sustain a modicum of normalcy in their day-to-day lives it is necessary to band together in a trade union.

But the answer to the quiz isn’t the UAW.

Continue reading Listen for the Union Label

New Mike Skill video: ’67 Riot ft. Wayne Kramer

Video: Mike Skill – “’67 Riot” (ft. Wayne Kramer)

Single out now.

Mike Skill was a founding member and prinicpal songwriter of the Romantics. It might be hard for people who only know the Romantics in blouses on MTV in 1983 to think of them as a Detroit punk band, but that’s what they were.

Casual music fans might not realize that Detroit continued to foster powerhouse rock and roll bands even after the Grande Ballroom closed its doors in 1972. Bookie’s was a gay disco that eventually became the home for Detroit punk. Destroy All Monsters, Sonic’s Rendezvous Band, and the Romantics played there all the time in the late 70s and early 80s.

And now, all these years later, Mike Skill has teamed up with brother Wayne Kramer who lends his Detroit guitar pyrotechnics to something of a sequel to the MC5’s “Motor City Is Burning.”

See the workin’ folks doin’ their best
Risin’ up when they’re hard pressed
They’ll take matters in their hands
Don’t be surprised by the flames you fan.

The time has come for each and every one of us to decide whether we are going to be the problem or whether we are going to be the solution. Are you ready to testify?

Continue reading New Mike Skill video: ’67 Riot ft. Wayne Kramer

Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

“. . . the clock is ticking, the hours are going by. The past increases, the future recedes. Possibilities decreasing, regrets mounting.”
–Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance


The theater where I saw the Faces—with Ronnie Wood and Stewart hiding behind the amps–, the Birmingham Palladium, no longer exists.

The Grande Ballroom, where I saw the original Fleetwood Mac—the one with Peter Green—is gone.

The Eastown Theater, where I saw Derek and the Dominos, is a memory. As are Derek and the Dominos.

What is important: the building or the memories? One could point out that were it not for the building there wouldn’t be the memories, which is absolutely true. But were I to drive down Grand River and see the sad remains of the Grande (if you’re interested in seeing it, the address if 8952 Grand River, Detroit; Google Maps has an image of the remaining structure), would it make much of a difference with the exception of a brief wave of nostalgia? If the Grande was purchased by some corporation and transformed into some faux-hip venue, would that make my memories any better?


Two miles southeast of the Grande on Grand River, the Olympia Stadium once existed. There is now an Army National Guard facility on the site and most of the property appears to be a shitty parking lot. Olympia was opened in 1927 (the Grande opened as a dance hall in 1928), closed in 1980 and was torn down in 1987.

I saw the Rolling Stones there. That band apparently continues to exist. I have no interest in seeing the present incarnation of the Stones. That the site where I saw one of the best concerts of my life is now something entirely different doesn’t much matter.


Right now we are in the midst of a plague. A plague that is burning through our lives, leaving charred and devastated rubble in many cases. Things that we did, places that we went to, activities that we were a part of are in all-too-many instances irrevocably changed. They won’t come back.

The National Independent Venue Association has been established to help save independent music performance centers that are likely to be closed as a result of COVID-19.

In a letter sent to Congress in efforts to get financial assistance for the ~800 operations that are members of NIVA, assistance in the form of loans, tax relief, insurance, and other measures, Dayna Frank, board president and owner of First Avenue & 7th St Entry in Minneapolis, writes, “Our stages give artists like Adele, U2, Keith Urban, Prince, Lizzo, the Eagles, Wu-Tang Clan and Foo Fighters their start. The world could be without the next Lady Gaga, Kenny Chesney, Chance the Rapper or Bruce Springsteen if we cease to exist.”

The letter is addressed to Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Kevin McCarthy, and Mitch McConnell.

Does anyone think McConnell would be convinced by that argument?

To her credit, Frank also points out, “While we are small businesses”—and aren’t the Republicans the bulwarks of small business?—“the estimated direct annual economic impact we bring to our local communities is nearly $10 billion.”

That should raise some sleepy eyelids.

Continue reading Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

Time Is(n’t) on My Side

Given the most-recent Macaulay oeuvre on this site and the absence of same, some of you might have been thinking (if you thought about it at all), “Hmm. . .he kept writing about dead people; maybe he’s joined them.”


Still here.

And not another piece about dead people.

Well, not exactly. They could be zombies, but. . . .

That is, Friday, February 7, I saw on the front page of the Detroit Free Press a piece about the Rolling Stones coming to perform at Ford Field, the football stadium named for (and owned by) the family that built it (and a few million other things every year), in mid-June as part of its North American tour, the tickets for which are becoming available on February 14, a.k.a., “Valentine’s Day.”

Here’s the thing: I’ve seen the Rolling Stones twice here in Detroit. Once in 1969 at Olympia Stadium, which no longer exists. The opening acts were B.B. King and Terry Reid. Everyone knows B.B. More people ought to know Terry Reid, but that’s a story for another time. That tour included Jagger, Richards, Wyman, Mick Taylor, and Ian Stewart. That was the tour where Jagger wore the Uncle Sam hat and a onesy.

The tour that was to end up at Altamont.

The second time was in 1972 at Cobo Arena, which also no longer exists. This time the aforementioned lineup was supplemented by Nicky Hopkins, Bobby Keys, and Jim Price. Stevie Wonder was the opening act.

I graduated high school in 1972. That was 48 years ago. I hate to do the math.

In subsequent years, I have had several opportunities to see the Stones. And I’ve never pursued those opportunities for the simple reason that I believe you can’t catch lightning in a bottle, and what was once there, sparking, hasn’t. Isn’t.

Continue reading Time Is(n’t) on My Side

New Stef Chura video: Scream

Video: Stef Chura – “Scream”

Directed by Ambar Navarro. From Midnight, out now on Saddle Creek.

Stef Chura grew up in Alpena, a small town on Lake Huron way up north in Michigan. For fans of Michigan garage rock Alpena is best known as the birthplace of Dick Wagner and his bands, the Bossmen and the Frost. Wagner went on to play with Alice Cooper and Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal-era Lou Reed.

Alpena is also the home town of Matt Southwell of Bang Sugar Bang. Before that, Southwell played with my pals the Vantrells.

So Alpena’s rock and roll bonafides are legit.

And now we’ve got Stef Chura, who was an Alpena cheerleader in eighth grade. “I kept the skirt,” she told the Detroit Metro Times. She was also a wrestler, and that dichotomy shows up in “Scream” which features classic Detroit muscle as well as chirpy exuberance.

She moved to Detroit in 2009 and told Rolling Stone, “I feel like it’s not like it was. There was a golden era with the garage-rock stuff and Jack White and the White Stripes but…do I relate to the current scene? There’s definitely a scene that I’ve played music in for a long time. So I do relate to that.”

Chura’s new Saddle Creek album was produced by Car Seat Headrest’s Will Toledo, who came to Detroit and recorded at Tempermill Studios.

Stef Chura: twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Flint Eastwood video: Monster

Video: Flint Eastwood – “Monster”

From Broke Royalty, out now on Neon Gold.

Flint Eastwood is a stupid name but this is a pretty cool song. The name might be better if they were actually from Flint (or maybe not) but they’re from Detroit. They used to be a band but now it’s just Jax Anderson. She records in an old church in Corktown.

When I hear you speak
All the words that keep on haunting me
When I hear you speak
I’m missing you here with me
But it’s gonna be alright

She told Billboard, “I wrote the song ‘Monster’ about the dark nights that took place after the passing of my mom & the moment I discovered that things would eventually be okay again.”

It’s good to be reminded that we’ll be alright.

Flint Eastwood: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Anna Burch video: Tea-Soaked Letter

Video: Anna Burch – “Tea-Soaked Letter”

From Quit the Curse, February 2 on Polyvinyl.

There’s no hula hooping in this one, but the song is just as good as Anna Burch’s previous single.

She’s got such an easygoing, effortless delivery, and her rhythm guitar reminds me a bit of early Liz Phair. I swear I listened to this song ten times in a row.

Strange, the ones you love
Could bury your body underground
I woke up too late again
Would you start the coffee, my only friend?

I forgot to fake away that I was feeling
I guess it’s too late now all my cards are showing

No you can’t come up
Who am I kidding? I would drag you up
What was that you said
That I don’t exist inside your head

You said you would communicate better
So what will you send me a tea soaked letter

I feel so alone
When everyone in town is overblown
So I made a scene
I can think of things more embarrassing

Can’t wait to hear the rest of her album!

Anna Burch: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Anna Burch video: Tea-Soaked Letter

New Anna Burch video: 2 Cool 2 Care

Video: Anna Burch – “2 Cool 2 Care”

Single out now on Polyvinyl.

It’s important to know how to hula hoop. It seems impossible at first, but keep trying. You’ll get it. Don’t try to go too fast or else you’ll just look like spaz. Another tip: learn on a good quality, heavier hoop. You can still buy it at the grocery store but just don’t get the super cheap lightest ones, because they’re harder to do. The heft of the hoop helps keep the momentum, and that’s key.

Anna Burch is a solid hula hooper and this video is evidence of that. She grew up in St. Joe (West Michigan, represent!) and lives in Detroit. She’s been in a bunch of bands I’ve never heard, but now she’s gone solo. Back in January she told the Metro Times that her solo debut (working title: Quit the Curse) had been “all recorded” but she was frustrated with the results and intended to “lay down new tracks” with producer Collin Dupuis in February. The full-length results are due in early 2018.

Burch sings “2 Cool 2 Care” as if it doesn’t bother her that her boyfriend is an asshole.

Slamming all your drinks, you don’t have to think about me
You’ve got all your friends, used up all their meds, honey

She says, “I like you best when you’re a mess.” But the extended bridge reveals she knows the deal.

I don’t even fantasize about what life would be like
If I were to find a one true love
The kind they said I should be dreaming of

Dare to dream, Anna! Ditch that prick and go find yourself a grownup who knows how to treat you properly.

This is a great song, and it would be just as good if its video didn’t feature hula hooping. But it does, so how lucky are we?

Anna Burch: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.