Tag Archives: Features

Election 2020: Revenge of the Turtle and the Used Car Salesman

From The National Affairs Desk:

Well, this is it, folks. Election Day 2020 is upon us and while it’s certainly not the end of the Trump nightmare–we have at least until January 21 for him to blow up the whole shithouse–it is the beginning of the end…one way or another. The big question before us these next few days and weeks is what exactly is coming to an end?

Will voters take back control of their government and toss out a serial liar and fraud, or will we enter a period of accelerated disintegration? What does The End look like?

Before we get to the end, I’m not even sure when it started. Was it Bush v. Gore some 20 years ago when the United States Supreme Court stepped in to stop a recount that Al Gore was winning to hand the election to a dim-witted son of a President? Was it before that when right-wing radio rose up to scream in the faces of delivery guys and salesmen stuck in rush hour traffic and mourning the loss of the Shining City on a Hill first promised, then condemned with the election of a Clinton

Or was it in an earlier, darker time when the whisper of a “silent majority” who valued law & order over justice was waiting in the wings standing back and standing by for the order to attack? And attack they did, with billy clubs, tear gas, mandatory minimums and a gerrymandering scheme to make LBJ blush. 

Who knows? All elections are an inflection point and this year is no different, except it’s not governing philosophies that are at odds, but the entire concept of a free and fair election. Will this be the end of four years of rampant grift, fraud and cruelty or the end of American-style republican (small “R”) democracy? Will the whole experiment blow up in our faces as an abject failure? The next few weeks will tell us.

And it’s not like we didn’t warn you.

This year is another clear test of character, represented on either side by everything that’s at stake. In one corner we have a flawed, but capable and decent man who has adjusted his messaging (and more importantly, his policy) to recognize the changing times we’re in. Joe Biden has been in the game a long time, which means he not only knows how to win but he knows how to govern. He knows politics is about compromise–not giving up what you believe in, but listening to others and finding the space to move closer.

Retired Naval officer Jonathan Gaffney gets it.

In the other corner we have Donald Trump. A compulsive liar and cheat who is considered a joke by everyone who actually knows him and his brand of “business.” The saddest part of this whole thing is that he’s duped a good 40% of this country into thinking he’s anything more than a clown with bad intent. He’s not even a good conman, yet here we are. We’ve been talked into a lemon, will we now double-down on the extended warranty?

We opened the National Affairs Desk in 2006 with a short piece on how straight shootin’ George W. Bush couldn’t hit the truth if it was the side of a barn. It seems quaint now, but the Valerie Plame story was heating up the charts back then. It was a real scandal (no, really) when the White House played fast and loose with classified information and the identity of covert officers whose husbands had the gall to submit intelligence that undermined the main argument for a war of choice. 

“Ah, but that’s just how hardball is played!” you might say. But it’s not baseball we’re playing here, gang. It is a much more lethal game played by sharp-teethed reptiles like Mitch McConnell who will rip your fingers off like a snapping turtle. Yes, a Snapping Turtle.

One defining chapter was when Cocaine Mitch blocked the hearing for Merrick Garland, holding an open court seat for almost a year hoping his bet on the worst person in America winning the 2016 election would pay off. He hit the trifecta and handed the court to Donald Fucking Trump to shape for a generation. That turtle bites.

Hunter S. Thompson flashes victory signs
Hunter S. Thompson was an outlaw but not a crook…and certainly not a used car salesman.

So, this is it. This is when we’ll find out if “America [is] just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.” Hunter S. Thompson thought so, but he was one for hyperbole employed with dramatic flare. The question remains: how uncomfortable are you, really? Are you the salesman or the mark? Today’s vote will tell the world once and for all. 

 

At What Cost?

You’ve probably not heard of Marc Geiger, unless you’re into the business of the music business: He was, until recently, the head of the William Morris Endeavor Music Division, or more simply: he was an agent. Agent to the stars.

But you have heard of one of the things that Geiger was responsible for creating: Lollapalooza.

Create a phenomenon and make a lot of money.

Geiger has created a new company. He’s accumulated some $75-million in capital for it.

It is called “SaveLive.”

The “Live” is as in “live music.”

And while many of us might think that the way to do that would be to help fund the bands that are not out on stages right now because of the pandemic, finding a way to buy their music or swag or something, that’s why many of us are not clever business people.

Instead of the musicians, Geiger is looking to support the venues where the musicians would perform were it not that the number of venues that have had to keep their doors shut legally or economically is still high and those that are open have had to reduce the number of patrons allowed in, which is making their continued existence iffy at most.

As I’ve written about before, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) has worked with Congress on creating the Save Our Stages Act—sponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Roger Williams (R-TX), which just goes to show that music, like viruses, knows no party affiliation—which is wrapped into the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROS Act), which, unfortunately, is stalled in the Senate.

As NIVA recently wrote about its members’ situation and the financial straits that are being caused by the pandemic and how they need more industry-specific help: “Unfortunately, previous Payroll Protection Plans do not work for this industry because we’re shut, so sadly we’ve been forced to furlough about 95% of our employees. While nearly 90% of America’s businesses are operating, as gathering places, we are not.”

The longer this goes on, the fewer venues will remain. After all, the people who own stages may not have to pay many of their employees, but they still have to pay property taxes, utilities, insurance and other things that aren’t going to go away even when the virus does.

So enter Geiger and SaveLive.

At its most simple, the plan is for it to buy at least 51% of venues. That way the previous owner will have income that can be used to do things like keeping the pipes from freezing this winter (yes, yes, there are venues where it doesn’t snow, but you get my drift).

Geiger told the New York Times, “I believe the artist economy is going to be very big when it comes back. Artists will want to tour to get their cash moving again, and people are going to love going out more than ever.”

And so the venues will be there to support those acts. Thanks to Geiger’s company.

This raises some questions.

Continue reading At What Cost?

Listening to The Drifters in the Age of COVID

Back in the 1960s, there were a number of songs that were about places rather than people, many of which were performed by The Drifters, a group that was highly influential but for some reason not as widely known as they should be (e.g., “Who’s singing that song?” “Don’t know.”). Their performances of these songs is often heard in things ranging from commercials to movies—and if it isn’t The Drifters, it is by performers who cover it close to The Drifters’ approach.

In 1962 The Drifters recorded “Up on the Roof,” written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, which became a hit in 1963, and later became named by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one of the “500 Songs that Shaped Rock”. (The Drifters also made the list with “Money Honey” and “There Goes My Baby.”) The lyric of that song could have been written to describe this past summer, when New York City was a COVID-19 hotspot:

When I come home feelin’ tired and beat
I go up where the air is fresh and sweet (up on the roof)
I get away from the hustling crowd
And all that rat race noise down in the street (up on the roof)

In 1963 The Drifters had a hit with “On Broadway,” a song written by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Jerry Leiber, and Mike Stoller. While they weren’t the first to record the song—as The Cookies and the Crystals had beat them to it—their version was the most popular, having reached 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.

What’s interesting about this song is that while “Broadway” connotes what is referred to as the “Great White Way”—the section of the street between 42nd and 53rd streets—because of the lights that shine from the theater marques (“They say the neon lights are bright/On Broadway”. . .”I’ll have my name in lights”), the lyric goes on to say that while the protagonist/narrator is told that the possibilities are dim—“They say that I won’t last too long on Broadway”—he (in The Drifters’ version) doesn’t believe that:

But they are wrong, I know they are
I can play this here guitar
And I won’t quit till I’m a star
On Broadway

While Bruce Springsteen performed at the Walter Kerr Theatre from October 2017 to December 2018, the notion of someone making it performing on Broadway with a guitar is certainly something that seems unusual today, as it must have been back in 1963, when shows that opened that year included Brigadoon, Oliver! and Pal Joey, things that are more of bravado than ballads.

Continue reading Listening to The Drifters in the Age of COVID

The Question of Spending During a Pandemic

This week I received another offer. This time, it wasn’t for a tote bag. Rather, it was a picture, an 11 x 14-inch print. It was clearly one hell of a deal in that there on the page was $433 and directly beneath it “Only $39.”

A couple of points about that. First of all, who comes up with a price like $433 for something, in this case a photographic print. Obviously the print as object doesn’t cost $433, as there is a piece of paper, 5.5 inches wider than a piece of what has historically been known as “typewriter paper,” and some glossy ink on it. Now the photo as subject and as execution certainly might have some value, but again, given that this is a proposal that was widely emailed out to who knows how many people, it is not as though there is some sort of exclusivity to it, unless you think that ordering a McDonald’s without pickles makes it somehow different than the billions sold. Then there is the question of going from $433 to $39. That is a $394 difference. Or approximately a 90% discount. What can you buy that has a 90% discount? It all seems rather bizarre, and all the more so when you know that if you buy the photo for $39 you get (actually this should be in the past tense because by the time you see this the “deal” will have expired) something that the purveyor says is worth $39, so your effective cost is $0, which is a whole lot less than $433 or even $39.

The picture is that of The Who, taken in 1971 at the Oval Cricket Ground, Kensington, London. There’s Roger with his hands above his head in the foreground, with the Ox slightly behind him to the left, presumably moving nothing but his fingers. Between them in the background is Keith, holding a pair of drumsticks crossed above his head. And to Roger’s right and several feet behind him is Pete in flight. It is an oddly static black-and-white photo, and as it is shot from stage left across the stage rather than from the front of the stage, there isn’t a particularly good sense of the musicians at that particular moment.

Which leads me to wonder about who is going to be interested in that picture of The Who, whether it is for $433, $39 or $0. I suspect that it might be people in my generation (no allusion there) who might want it, but then I wonder. I had the opportunity to see The Who—yes, the real The Who, in that it had that lineup, which is the only authentic one in my estimation, though I will accept the post-Moon Kenney Jones band as somewhat legit—and have an interest in music (or so it seems) yet that photo would hold no value for me. Perhaps had I been at that show on September 18 , which was in support of the people of Bangladesh, I would have been interested in the picture, but having learned that the lineup also included The Faces, I might be a bit more interested in a photo of that, though that is unlikely, too. Presumably some fans would be interested.

Continue reading The Question of Spending During a Pandemic

WHO MADE WHO: Rock radio, targeted males, and the tyranny of nostalgia

In January 2018, rock radio in Chicago met its eschatological fate when K-Love ran the flaming sword of the archangel Uriel through the prostrate body of WLUP. The Loop had first declared itself the city’s loudest radio mouth in the late 1970s, when Steve Dahl burned disco records in a big fuck you to anyone who challenged the white male’s perceived right to be an obnoxious, ignorant clown. The station’s AOR format downshifted into hard rock, and a steady thrum of AC/DC, Def Leppard, Skynyrd, Foghat, and “Get the Led Out” rock blocks blasted from suburban garages, unfinished basements, and cinder block high school weight rooms, eventually traveling through the cocaine and Aqua Net hair metal era and onward to grunge and “active rock,” i.e. lots of Foos and Nirvana. But by the mid-aughts, radio listenership had splintered, coalesced, and splintered again to form into specific micro-demos, and The Loop’s blunt instrument approach was wavering. Its battering ram dulled, the Christians came calling, and with their “positive and encouraging” CCM niche, they squashed the dude rock bug dead. All stop signs, all speed limits; highway to hell, indeed.

Enter Labor Day Weekend, 2020. With the suddenness typical of terrestrial radio moves like this, iHeartMedia flipped its “Big 95.5” modern country format to “Rock 95 Five” and cued up a core playlist of Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC, Pearl Jam, Bon Jovi, Green Day, Def, Foo, and Motley Crue. Radio bigwigs described the move as returning ”a key soundtrack to a large lifestyle group,” and white guys aged 25 to 54 driving around Chicagoland in their grey 2003 Ford Mustangs with a vinyl bumper sticker featuring Calvin pissing on a Chevy logo suddenly felt seen again.

The visual branding for “Rock 95 Five” is all blacks, reds, and bold dips, sort of the typographic version of a football lineman who does up his eye black in tragicomic kabuki. A recent playlist scan featured Foreigner’s loutish “Hot Blooded,” “Beautiful People” from Marilyn Manson (a song which reveals its extreme debt to Alice Cooper schlock as it ages), the Foos doing “All My Life,” and Steven Tyler’s lewd scatting on Aerosmith’s “Rag Doll.” A nod toward relative tenderness (or at least an acoustic guitar) came in the form of the Black Crowes’ heroin paen “She Talks to Angels,” and 95 Five finished out the set with the turgid knuckle dragging of Creed’s “My Own Prison,” a song and band where emo is bruised, battered and recast as the singular right of the white male animal to have what are otherwise known as all of the feels. There are no women here. (Maybe Alanis. Maybe.) There are no people of color, aside from a few Hendrix nuggets. And the imaging positioners that drop in between songs exclusively feature a smarmy white male voice shouting stock phrases like “Do you even lift, bro?” and leering that “we’ll melt your face, and melt it good.” A certain kind of male is in control again. As he sees it.

Continue reading WHO MADE WHO: Rock radio, targeted males, and the tyranny of nostalgia

The End of Ownership: Material Gives Way to the Ephemeral

Here we are living through social distancing. Living through a period when we interact with people, primarily, unless those people are part of a small group we are confident of, via Zoom or Teams or from behind a mask, ideally six or more feet away. Masks and sweatpants have become increasingly important to people, the former because of the need to go out and the latter because somehow the “office” is something that is only evident from the waist up.

And when we have to encounter surfaces, there is a frantic look around for some means by which the object is sanitized or our hands are. Or both.

If we need stuff—like, say, food—then it isn’t a matter of just going down the street to the local bodega or hopping in the car and buzzing over to the supermarket. It is something that is carefully planned and executed. And while time has dulled the edge of the potential virus, there is still some hesitation regarding whether the objects should be brought in to the kitchen right away or whether those cans, boxes and bags should be permitted to settle for a period of time.

The material has become suspect.

2

But it wasn’t COVID-19 that had the effect on the music industry in the U.S. that is unfolding. It seems that people have decided that when it comes to music, most are not particularly interested in any sort of ownership. The transient is sufficient. And when the numbers for 2020 are calculated, odds are that what occurred in 2019 will be nothing if not magnified.

In a report from the Recording Industry Association of America for overall economics of 2019, the trade group found “Total revenues from streaming music grew 19.9% to $8.8 billion in 2019, accounting for 79.5% of all recorded music revenues.”

And more telling: “The streaming market alone in 2019 was larger than the entire U.S. recorded market just 2 years ago in 2017.”

The biggest chunk of the monies in 2019 streaming were for subscription services, accounting for $6.8 billion. That in itself is 61% of total recorded music revenues.

Continue reading The End of Ownership: Material Gives Way to the Ephemeral

Folklore Is Found in the Threads of Despair

…Driving in to Darlington County
Me and Wayne were quarantining since the Fourth of July
Driving in to Darlington County
Looking for any kinda work on the county line
We drove down from New York City
Where the pretty girls wearing’ masks just want to know your COVID history
Driving in to Darlington County
Got a connection for free testing with an uncle of Wayne’s
We drove 800 miles without seeing a temperature checkpoint
We got rock and roll music blasting off the T-top singing…

The hard truths of our American COVID moment are many, maddening, and bitter. Cases spiraling upward and spiking daily in towns, cities, counties and states; a mortality rate in the hundreds of thousands; an economy in tatters and the average person isolated, masked, and desperately shifting their weight on uncertain ground. From barbecues to ballgames, fancy graduations to informal get togethers, the course of everyday life in America has careened off course into unknown territory. The numbers are scary, the danger is real, and the only thing anybody knows for sure is that nothing is for sure, and none of us will ever be the same again.

The fact of the virus as the arbiter of our new American reality is sobering enough. Its effect on our institutions of leisure, the games we watch and play, and the arts that we hold dear has been a bewildering leveling agent. Basketball? In a bubble. Baseball? Getting by, barely. Summer movie release schedules? Decimated. And music — for so many of us, the guiding factor throughout the year, but the brightest of lines in Summer, when traipsing around boffo music festivals, seeing sets outside at street fairs, and reveling in sweaty rock club moments form a kind of idyll — music is facing its own peril as both an economic system and an art form built from shared experience. What does music look like when it wears COVID’s scars?

…It’s a long day, locked down in Reseda
There’s a community testing site out in the front yard
I’m a bad boy, ‘cause I didn’t practice proper distancing
I’m a bad boy, for bringing it here…

On June 23rd, Taylor Swift surprised the world with the announcement of Folklore, her eighth studio album. The set was conceived of, written and recorded entirely in quarantine after the singer and songwriter’s plans for a tour in support of her 2019 record Lover were blown apart by the virus. For Swift, the pandemic’s altering effect on her business model offered a unique opportunity for creativity, one which lent a new intimacy and earthiness to her music, received critical appreciation for her stylistic and economic pivot, and netted positive returns in the all-important social media news cycle. The pandemic sucks, but people still love a surprise.

For the folklorists and musicians Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, the pandemic hit as hard as an early March tornado that nearly destroyed their home base and recording studio in Nashville, Tenn. As performers and gigging musicians whose money is often made on the road, it was natural to drop a new set of demos for the heads (Boots No. 2: The Lost Songs, Vol. 1) and use the lockdown to record the Americana covers set All The Good Times.

“Music has some things that only music can do in a time like this,” Rawlings explained to Rolling Stone. “With folk songs, every person has put a little bit of their DNA into what becomes the bloodstream of that song, and the culture and time period they came out of usually did also.”

“[Playing these songs] in a time of isolation and reflection, it’s almost like all those people are there.”

Exploring the spinal fluid of what makes a folk song live seems especially important in a period like this COVID journey, when our modes of living are realigning and sickness, death, and fear are in too high supply.

In the stark, melancholy and achingly emotive world he created for “Highway Patrolman” from 1982’s bleakly rewarding Nebraska, Bruce Springsteen tells a tale of two brothers torn by loyalties and a love triangle. “Me and Franky laughing and drinking, nothing feels better than blood on blood,” he sings. And the brothers take turns dancing with Maria, as the band plays “Night of the Johnstown Flood.” While no such folk song seems to exist, with the reference Springsteen alludes to a catastrophic 1889 dam failure just upstream from Johnstown, Pennsylvania that killed over 2,200 people and more than $17 million in damages, or nearly $500 million in 2020 money. The Johnstown Flood was the worst loss of civilian life in US history, a grim title it held until the devastating Galveston hurricane of 1900 and, later, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. What will the coming folkloric record chronicle about this tragedy of our time, this unseen flood, and its even more profound toll in lives and destruction?

JTL

Napster and the State of Crowds Circa Right Now

One of the more-entertaining caper movies is the 2003 The Italian Job, a remake of the 1969 film (which I argue gets more credit than it deserves as it has Noel Coward and Benny Hill, with the former mailing it in and the latter giving it all that he has, which was generally more than enough when he was reeling it it). The movie features Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Donald Sutherland, Jason Statham, Edward Norton, and Seth Green. (Note I said “entertaining,” not Citizen Kane.)

Seth Green’s character—the obligatory computer hacking genius—is named “Lyle.” But Lyle insists that he is called “The Napster.” He explains that Shawn Fanning, who he says was with him at Northeastern University, was not the person behind the peer-to-peer file-sharing service launched in 1999.

Lyle rants: “I should have been on the cover of Wired Magazine. You know what he said? He said he named it ‘Napster’ because it was his nickname because of the nappy hair under the hat. But he. . .it’s because I was NAPPING when he STOLE it from me!”

Ah, Napster.

The company was sold last week by RealNetworks an internet streaming platform provider—which also owns SAFR, which it describes as “the world’s premier facial recognition platform for live video”–to MelodyVR, a British firm that streams virtual concerts.

It was a $70-million deal, with $15 million in cash, $44 million to be paid to music publishers and labels and $11 million in MelodyVR stock. Which seems to be pretty much a case were RealNetworks is getting $15 million in money, $44 million in what could be argued is debt-relief and $11 million in something that seems not to be, well, $11 million, because reportedly MelodyVR had a £16.1-million pretax loss in 2019. Hard to imagine things are going to be much better in 2020.

(One wonders: were The Italian Job to be remade again, would Lyle want to be called “The Napster”?)

But perhaps the virtual concert model is going to gain some traction in the pandemic world.

Continue reading Napster and the State of Crowds Circa Right Now

Why Dolly Parton Matters More Than Most You Can Name

Back in the 1960s there was a war going on. A physical war. One with guns and bullets. With American kids being shipped literally to the other side of the world and plopped into jungles where the terrain was in itself rotten, to say nothing of the fact that there were other kids shooting at them. Some of those kids had volunteered to service. Others were selected by lottery, sort of like Theseus and the Minotaur—or The Hunger Games.

And in the 1960s and early ‘70s there were protests in the streets of America by other kids who wanted the war in Vietnam to be ended. They didn’t want their friends to be killed. They didn’t want themselves to be killed. Of course politicians—Johnson and Nixon—did what politicians tend to do, which is to worry more about themselves than others. They rolled out a rationalization that were Vietnam to fall, then it would be the first of a series of dominoes. The North Vietnamese were “communists.” That would mean there would be a whole bunch of commies created as a consequence.

On April 30, 1975, there was the fall of Saigon. The Americans left. The North won.

And now everything from clothes to hair extensions, from computers to shoes, are being produced in Vietnam and shipped to places around the world. Including the U.S.

Now the government is against production in China. Vietnam has become a more acceptable source.

Funny how times change. Countries and people.

During the 1960s and early ‘70s music was changing, as well. A simple way to think about this is that there was AM radio on the one hand and the nascent-but-growing FM band on the other.

AM radio played 45-rpm records. They were capable of handling approximately 3 minutes of music, so that’s why there were so many short songs. FM radio played cuts from LPs, which at 33.3 rpm, were capable of handling approximately 20 minutes per side. So the AM stations played the “hits” while the FM stations—at least those that were considered to be “underground”—would play entire sides of albums at a time. Very subversive, that.

Musicians that had their music played on FM, musicians who were chronicled in the pages of publications like Rolling Stone when it was literally a tabloid on newsprint with gritty coverage, were often openly anti-war. Which was a tricky situation for them to be in back then, because on the one hand they were trying to gain traction in what was still an AM-hits-driven market and on the other, as righteous as that position may seem, at the time there was a majority of Americans who didn’t have that point of view. Yet “The Man” wasn’t going to keep them down, so there were festivals and concerts where the peace sign (as in the pointer and middle fingers forming a V, which Winston Churchill had used about 25 years before to signify “victory”) and the circular graphic version (which was actually created in 1958 by a designer Gerald Holtom, who came up with it as a nuclear disarmament symbol: one interpretation is that it is based on the semaphore communication system that uses flags; the sign for “N” has two flags down at a 45-degree angle and the “D” is one flag straight up and the other straight down) proliferated everywhere.

Jimi Hendrix didn’t play “The Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock just because he thought it would be a clever cover.

All of this is to get to something that is highly laudable that happened this past week, when Billboard published a cover story on Dolly Parton, the 74-year old country singer, songwriter, actress, and apparently all-around good person.

Perhaps the most widely reported quote from the interview is “Of course Black lives matter. Do we think our little white asses are the only ones that matter? No. Everybody matters.”

She also said, “All these good Christian people that are supposed to be such good Christian people, the last thing we’re supposed to do is to judge one another. God is the judge, not us. I just try to be myself. I try to let everybody else be themselves.”

And with those two quotes she has arguably said more than I’ve heard from any number of musicians, and those who are speaking out seem to be more interested in doing it in some metaphoric ways than Parton’s clear, unambiguous statements.

She had named a dinner attraction named “The Dixie Stampede.” She dropped the “Dixie”—in 2018.

“There’s such a thing as innocent ignorance, and so many of us are guilty of that,” Parton told Billboard. “When they said ‘Dixie’ was an offensive word, I thought, ‘Well, I don’t want to offend anybody. This is a business. We’ll just call it The Stampede.'”

Woke well before others.

Continue reading Why Dolly Parton Matters More Than Most You Can Name

The True Story of The Stooges at Goose Lake Tapes

Today marks the release of The Stooges Live at Goose Lake 1970, a release so unlikely it kinda boggles the mind. Not only are there very few live recordings of The Stooges, but this particular recording of this particular performance is so drenched in legend that to even suggest there was a clean documentation of it sounds like a tall tale. 

I’ve been very lucky to be friends with and play in a bunch of bands with Joshua Rogers. We met in the early 90s and quickly established a musical kinship that took us through dalliances with glam, mod, garage rock, Americana and beyond. Early on we dubbed him “Gadget,” not just for his love of technology but for his impeccable timing as a drummer. It’s almost as if he were designed to be a drummer–programmed, as such.

If you knew Joshua well in those days you also knew his dad in some way. Jim Cassily loved Josh’s musical projects and loved facilitating them however he could. In addition to being a king storyteller, Jim was an inventor with a specific interest in how rhythm has residual benefits relating to motor skills, balance and lots of other stuff I don’t understand. The Interactive Metronome became a key piece of his technological legacy, something Joshua knew well as his dad would have him clap along with a metronome as part of his learning the drums.

And the stories he would tell…Our early bands spent time recording with Josh’s dad and that meant hours of exposure to the various tales he would weave throughout the process of setting up for a recording session. I was a natural skeptic in my youth and basically considered “adults” to be full of shit. Especially Boomers who took any opportunity to tell us how much better everything was in their day, so I was probably more dismissive to his storytelling than I had any right to be.

“Dad was such a legendary bullshitter that it was hard to sort of keep the stories straight,” Josh joked in a recent call where we caught up on this crazy adventure. 

As a kid it was sometimes hard for Josh to discern fact from his dad’s colorful fiction. “Friends laughed at me because I told them he was a member of the Oak Ridge Boys.” This bit of fantasy was likely the result of Josh’s conflating some joke Jim may have told him about having sung with the Oak Ridge Boys and the fact that he could sing in the same register to hit the most famous part of their most famous hit, “Elvira.” When you’re a kid sometimes you miss the nuances of a joke. 

There were also brushes with fame that would sometimes get jumbled up in the telling or retelling. “I thought he had dated Janis Joplin, but mom says no. He–like everyone else–thought she was scuzzy. He did work with her though, but I’m not sure to what capacity. And he did date Debbie Harry.”

Wait, what? 

“Mom jokes that he chose her over Debbie Harry. That’s what he would tell her.”

“Eventually, I started to take dad’s stories with a big hunk of salt.”

The original Goose Lake recordings, stored in a vodka box.

The Stooges’ performance at Goose Lake was pure rock and roll myth. It was the last show with the original line-up. Bassist Dave Alexander was summarily fired from the band by Iggy immediately after leaving the stage because he was so stoned or scared or whatever that he couldn’t play. At least, that’s how the story went.

But at what point does a story become history? Sometimes it’s just when it’s been told enough times by enough people and sometimes it’s when there’s some corroborating evidence. Such is the tale of how a box of tapes in a farmhouse basement in Michigan made its way to Nashville, via Chicago.

Continue reading The True Story of The Stooges at Goose Lake Tapes