Moody new acoustic jam with spooky Mellotron and a creepy video to match wherein a Western wear garbed White drags his coffin across the prairie to his grave. Best part of the video is that it’s monochromatic so you can’t see Jack’s ridiculous blue hair. Doowutchyalike, of course, but what would inspire a grown man to dye his hair that color? Where’s Meg when you need her? She never would’ve tolerated nonsense like that.
As Ron Burgundy would end his broadcasts, “Keep it classy,” and arguably that’s what Dolly Parton, whose exaggerated presence is such that it provides a whole extraordinarily level to that state of being, proved she lives in that manner as when, this past week, she gave a pass to her nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The first definition for “Hall of Fame” in the Cambridge Dictionary is:
“a building that contains images of famous people and interesting things that are connected with them:
“You really know you’ve made it when they enshrine you in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” [italic in the original]
Which seems rather unusual from the intuition that numbers Stephen Hawking, Lord Byron, Charles Darwin and Sacha Baron Cohen among its alums.
You might think that they would have had it “when they enshrine you in the UK Music Hall of Fame.” The problem there is that the UK Music Hall of Fame, founded in 2004, ceased to exist in 2008. However, it wasn’t a real building on the Thames or the Cam, but, rather, simply an awards show that was broadcast on Channel Four.
Perhaps the Brits know something that those in Cleveland don’t.
Lego-man hair aside, Jack White usually has pretty good taste. He’s built his entire empire on the fact with his various Third Man enterprises. From the record label, to the store front, to his design studio, to his return to the day job with upholstery, Jack White has put his three-headed stamp on some pretty cool shit.
So it’s a little odd to hear what sounds like every Guitar Center’s sales guy’s worst nightmare of a song belching out as the first single of a promised two-album run. This song has everything: Big riffs, squelchy tones, freaky tremolo and keyboard banks from 1996. [End: Stefan skit]
Just the same, I’m looking forward to hearing more from Detroit’s estranged son. With two albums boasting 23 track between them, there’s bound to be some gems in among the rough cuts.
Fear of the Dawn is due out on April 8, 2022 with Entering Heaven Alive following on July 22.
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.”
“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 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.
Brendan Benson writes his own “Tuesday’s Gone” while he and his fellow Raconteurs visit the House On The Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin, which looks a lot cooler than Uranus, Missouri. Last spring we took a family road trip on what’s left of Route 66 from Chicago to the Grand Canyon and I had purchased a little guidebook to make sure we didn’t miss out on any of the cool stuff along the way. One of the spots was a place called Uranus, which had a fudge shop, and since one of my travel companions was a 12 year old boy, I figured we had to stop at least to get a “I love Uranus” t-shirt. They claimed, after all, that the best fudge comes from Uranus.
Guess what: Uranus stinks.
As soon as we got out of the car we were hit by a dank cloud of cigarette smoke. It was so disappointing. I went in thinking that there had been a town in Missouri that was called Uranus and some hilarious person decided to open a fudge shop there. Nope. There is no town named Uranus. The closest town is St. Robert. It’s just a tourist attraction that a former strip club operator started in 2002. That’s way less funny than doing it in a historical place with an unfortunate name. And it certainly doesn’t belong in a “things to do along Route 66” book. It was just gross. The idea that somebody developed a whole fake town just so his employees would have to greet their customers with “Thanks for picking Uranus!” is a little creepy.
I enjoy scatological humor as much as the next guy, even if the next guy is 12, but Uranus is a poorly executed shithole. Maybe that’s part of the joke. If so, that’s some next level meta action.
The House On The Rock, on the other hand, looks amazing.
A funky little groove with Jack and Brendan singing harmonies throughout, “Help Me Stranger” is gonna be lit live. Shades of all the genres that made Detroit a hothouse for any variety musical pollinators in the late 60s and early 70s.
The video is more of the symbolism of life in a broken land we’ve seen of late. Whether it’s Jack holden a baby in what appears to be an abandoned Asian city or images of that baby then smoldering in Jack’s arms, things are not well.
I am a big fan of Jack White’s, more so his approach to the music business even than much of the music he makes. He’s an aesthete, which makes for great branding, but sometimes needs to be challenged by other influences. My favorite examples of his work are when he partners with somebody else. Someone like Loretta Lynn. Or Brendan Benson.
The Racanonteurs are by far my favorite Jack White joint, mainly because he has a foil in the pop sensibilities of Brendan Benson and the backing of one of my favorite rhythm sections in Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler of The Greenhornes (my second favorite Third Man Records act).
But Jack’s been a busy boy and it’s been more than a decade since we last heard from The Raconteurs. They’re back now, with Benson confirming some tour dates via Twitter, and a couple of killer new videos.
2019 is going to be an exciting year of touring with The Racs!
“Sunday Driver” is a great example of the successful smashing of sounds that make The Raconteurs so good. The intro sounds like a Greenhornes’ jammer with a garage-psyche break under Benson’s melody. Success in a most unlikely way!
“Now That You’re Gone” is my favorite of the two though. A simmering break up songs accompanied by a super hot video of lust and destruction. Oh yes.
A new album is due later this year and I cannot fucking wait.
We all know Jack White is from Detroit. It’s an elemental part of his whole persona and that city’s musical past is a crucial element to influencing his music. That influence has largely focused on a sliver of Detroit’s musical heritage: the screaming power of garage rock and proto-punk. Yes, The Stooges and The MC5 loom large in White’s record collection.
What’s always amazed me though is the fact that Iggy and Sonic Smith and the Asheton brothers and Rob Tyner were bellying up to the same bars and scuffing up the same stages as George Clinton and Fuzzy Haskins and Eddie Hazel around the same time. Detroit’s racial strife in the streets of the late 60s and early 70s is much better documented than what was going on inside The Grande Ballroom, and that’s too bad. Imagine what it was like to see such a diverse set of musical influencers emerging at the same time from different directions? Here we have the prime ingredients of Punk and Hip Hop percolating in the midwest as the politics of unrest were driving everyone mad. And did I mention Motown or Bob Seger?
And so it’s great to hear Jack White tapping into some of the funkier influences in “The Corporation.” I don’t claim to know what is going on in this video beyond White acknowledging that he has multiple facets to his personality, and that extends to his music. I hope he settles into this character for a bit and gets the kids to dance.
The media narrative for Jack White’s new album is that this is where Mr. Analog ditches the primitive gear and embraces 21st century technology. That involves drum machines, Pro Tools, and — apparently — an Eddie Van Halen “Wolfgang Special” guitar. Alright, so he no longer cares about doing things “the right way, the hard way, the difficult way,” but how does it sound?
It sounds good! It still sounds like Jack White. It’s just a little glitchy, as my videogame-obsessed kid would say. It appears that he’s not utilizing the tech to simplify or “fix” things but rather to fuck it up a bit. Sounds weird but cool. Which has pretty much been his thing all along.
My hunch is that Third Man will immediately follow this up with a live album, recorded direct to tape with no overdubs, not only to satisfy the purists but also to prove that these new songs don’t need the fancy gimmickry of modernity to stand on their own.
From Boarding House Reach, due March 23 on Third Man Records. Single out now.
One of my favorite heckles happened during a performance in Milwaukee. Sylvain Sylvain of the New York Dolls was playing a loud, sweaty show shortly after the 9/11 attacks and paused to deliver a monologue on how we’re all brothers and sisters who should try to find what we have in common with each other instead of trying to tear each other down. As he paused to lift his saggy snap-brim hat and wipe his sweaty brow, someone in the crowd yelled out, “Play ‘Trash,’ hippy!”
It was the perfect heckle. It not only reminded us who it was preaching these platitudes with some good old-fashoioned Midwestern comeuppance, but it broke the self-aware tension that suffocated us all in those early post-9/11 days. It was a bit of obnoxious normalcy.
And so I am tempted to yell at Jack White today with the release of his new single and video, “Connected By Love,” but I just can’t. On the surface, it’s another hippy dippy tagline. But the video and the song are sincere, and in this suffocating era of post-truth Trump-ism, a little sincerity is a breath of fresh air. It’s also a good jam.