Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Final Notes in 2007

Category: News

Here is a list of the people in the musical world who performed their final song in 2007:

Del Reeves (January 1, emphysema, 73). A country singer best known for his hit "Girl on the Billboard" and a long-time Grand Ole Opry performer.

Sneaky Pete Kleinkow (January 6, complications of Alzhemier's disease, 72). Rock and roll's greatest pedal steel guitarist, he performed with the Flying Burrito Brothers and a number of other rock acts.

Doyle Holly (January 13, prostate cancer, 70). A former member of Buck Owens' Buckaroos, he had his own limited solo career in country music. His best-known hit was "Queen of the Silver Dollar," which was produced by and featured backing vocals by Waylon Jennings.

Thornton J. "Pookie" Hudson (January 16, cancer, 72). The lead singer of the band the Spaniels, best known for the hit "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight."

Denny Doherty (January 19, kidney problems, 66). "Zal and Denny, working for a penny, trying to get a fish on the line." One of the Mamas and the Papas.

Brent Liles (January 19, hit by semi while bicycling, 43). Bass player for the punk band Social Distortion.

Jerry Hayes (January 21, unknown causes, 61). Country songwriter, his best-known hits were "Rolling with the Flow" and "Who's Cheatin' Who."

Tom Morrell (January 29, emphysema, 68). Steel guitarist in Bob Wills' Texas Playboys.

Mike Clark (February 1, cancer, 63). Originally a drummer for Sam Cooke, he went on to found Southern Tracks recording studio.

Frankie Laine (February 6, complications from hip replacement surgery, 93). A magnificent pop singer responsible for such classics as "Moonlight Gambler," "Jezebel," "Rawhide," and the theme song of the Mel Brooks classic Blazing Saddles.

Ray Evans (February 15, heart attack, 92). Best-known as the songwriter for a number of television shows, including the theme to Mr. Ed.

C's Record Store, Louisville, Kentucky (February 17, demise of interest in vinyl, 25). The last true record store in Louisville closed its doors for the last time.

Ian Wallace (February 22, esophageal cancer, 60). A British drummer who worked with Bob Dylan, Don Henley, and many others.

Donnie Brooks (February 23, heart attack, 70). The singer of the classic hit "Mission Bells."

Brad Delp (March 9, suicide [carbon monoxide poisoning], 55). The lead singer of the rock band Boston.

Luther Ingram (March 19, kidney failure, 69). An R&B singer best-known for his soulful rendition of "If Loving You is Wrong (I Don't Want to Be Right)."

Henson Cargill (March 24, complications from surgery, 66). Country singer best known for his crossover hit "Skip a Rope."

Don Ho (April 14, heart attack, 76). The legendary Hawaiian singer with his own club in Waikiki, he scored a major pop hit with "Tiny Bubbles" in the 60s.

Glenn Sutton (April 17, heart attack, 70). Country songwriter ("Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad") and producer (he produced his then-wife Lynn Anderson's classic "Rose Garden").

Bobby "Boris" Pickett (April 26, leukemia, 69). The ultimate one-hit wonder, the man who gave us "Monster Mash."

Tommy Newsom (April 27, liver cancer, 78). A jazz saxophonist best known as a member of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show band.

Zola Taylor (April 30, pneumonia, 69). The female singer in the Platters.

Tony Thompson (June 1, drug overdose, 31). Singer in Hi-Five (who did "I Like the Way").

Hank Medress (June 18, lung cancer, 69). The lead singer on the Tokens' smash "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

Beverly Sills (July 2, lung cancer, 78). One of America's best-known opera singers.

Boots Randolph (July 3, subdural hematoma, 80). A member of country music's "A List" of session musicians and the performer of "Yakety Sax," which was the theme music to The Benny Hill Show.

Bill Pinkney (July 4, unknown causes, 82). The last original member of the group the Drifters.

Ron Miller (July 23, heart failure/cancer, 74). A songwriter, his best-known hit was Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life."

Lawton Williams (July 26, respiratory illness, 85). Country songwriter who wrote Bobby Helms' "Fraulein" and Gene Watson's "Farewell Party."

Lee Hazelwood (August 5, cancer, 78). Singer, songwriter, producer, and duet partner with Nancy Sinatra.

Max Roach (August 15, illness, 83). Jazz percussionist.

Hilly Kristal (August 28, lung cancer, 75). The owner of CBGB's, the club where the groundwork for American punk music was laid.

Janis Martin (September 5, cancer, 67). A rockabilly singer with the hit "Will You Willyum" in the 50s and the misfortune of being tagged "the female Elvis."

Luciano Pavarotti (September 5, pancreatic cancer, 71). To say "opera singer" is such an understatement. Pavarotti was the face of opera music for much of the world.

Hughie Thomasson (September 9, heart attack, 55). The lead guitarist for the southern rock band the Outlaws, of "There Goes Another Love Song" fame.

Bobby Byrd (September 12, cancer, 73). An R&B songwriter who worked with James Brown.

Larry Fuller (September 22, fire on tour bus, 55). Bluegrass performer.

Werner von Trapp (October 11, natural causes, 91). One of the singing von Trapp family, the family portrayed in The Sound of Music.

Nicky James (October 15, brain tumor, 64). A former member of the Moody Blues.

Teresa Brewer (October 16, neuromuscular disease, 74). An extraordinary pop music singer with hits such as "Music Music Music" and "Till I Waltz Again With You."

Lucky Dube (October 18, shot to death, 43). South African reggae performer.

Porter Wagoner (October 28, lung cancer, 80). Country Music Hall of Fame performer, showman, and ambassador for the Grand Ole Opry.

Robert Goulet (October 30, pulmonary disease, 73). Pop singer with a booming baritone voice.

Hank Thompson (November 6, lung cancer, 82). Country Music Hall of Fame member who kept western swing alive through a 60-year career.

George Osmond (November 6, unknown cause, 90). The father of the singing Osmond family.

John Peterson (November 11, heart attack, 65). The one-time drummer of the Beau Brummels, he co-founded the band Harpers Bizarre (best-known for their rendition of Simon & Garfunkel's "59th Street Bridge Song").

John Hughy (November 18, heart attack, age unknown). A country steel guitarist who spent many years playing for Conway Twitty.

Kevin Dubrow (November 25, cocaine overdose, 52). The lead singer of the 80s band Quiet Riot.

Jim Nesbitt (November 29, heart ailment, 75). Country novelty singer, best known for his song "Please Mr. Kennedy."

My Mother (December 9, complications from brain aneurysm, 75). The greatest mother in the world who introduced me to the music of everyone from Jim Reeves to Elvis Presley.

Ike Turner (December 13, reportedly emphysema, 76). The ex-husband and former musical partner of Tina Turner.

Marvin "Sweet Louie" Smith (December 15, unknown cause, 68). A member of The Checkmates, Ltd., who had the hit "Black Pearl" in the 60s.

Dan Fogelberg (December 16, prostate cancer, 56). Folk-rock singer with a string of critically acclaimed albums such as Nether Lands and pop hits such as "Longer and "The Leader of the Band."

Joel Dorn (December 17, heart attack, 65). Record producer who scored with Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly (With His Song)."

Oscar Peterson (December 23, kidney failure, 82). Jazz pianist who won eight Grammys over his career.

Farewell, and thanks for the music.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

We Drank a Toast to Innocence

Category: News

Dan Fogelberg, the folk-rock singer-songwriter who rose to prominence in the 70s with a string of critically-acclaimed albums such as Souvenirs and Nether Lands and saw commercial success into the 80s thanks to hits like "Longer" and "Same Old Lang Syne," died Sunday (12/16) in his home in Maine after a long battle with advanced prostate cancer.

Fogelberg was born in Peroria, Illinois on August 13, 1951 and became popular in the 70s amid the "singer/songwriter" era. With albums like Captured Angel and Souvenirs (the latter produced by his longtime friend Joe Walsh), Fogelberg established himself as one of the most gifted of the genre. One song from Souvenirs, "Part of the Plan," was Fogelberg's first top 40 song.

He did not obtain widespread commercial success, however, until 1978's Twin Sons of Different Mothers with jazz flautist Tim Weisberg. The single from the album, "The Power of Gold," made Billboard magazine's top 30. His next album, Phoenix (named after the mythical bird, not the city), contained his biggest hit, "Longer."

His success continued with 1980's The Innocent Age, which featured four hits: "Same Old Lang Syne," "Hard to Say" (which featured Glenn Frey on backing vocals), his ode to his father, "The Leader of the Band," and "Run for the Roses." That song is featured prominently every May prior to the Kentucky Derby by various news outlets.

Fogelberg's success waned after The Innocent Age because of the rise of dance and "hair bands." His last charted single, "She Don't Look Back," barely made it out of the 90s on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1987. He continued to release albums, however, and maintained a loyal fan base.

In 2004, Fogelberg was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. He canceled his tour and began taking treatments. In 2005, he announced that the progress of the cancer had been slowed "to an almost negligible level" according to his post on his web site.

Dan Fogelberg was 56.

Fogelberg's web site

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hogan's Hilda Dies

Category: News

Sigrid Valdis, best known for her role as Colonel Klink's secretary Hilda, has died. She died October 14 of lung cancer. Because her family wanted to ensure a private funeral, her death was just announced this week.

Born Patricia Olson on September 21, 1935, Valdis joined the cast of the hit comedy series Hogan's Heroes in the second season. She replaced Cynthia Lynn, who played Helga. Her character was given a new name, Hilda. She was the secretary to Stalag 13's bumbling kommandant, Colonel Klink, and the frequent love interest of Colonel Hogan.

Off screen, Valdis and Crane developed a romantic relationship. They married on the series set in October, 1970. Reports vary regarding the status of their marriage at the time of Crane's murder in 1978: some claim they were in the process of divorcing; however, their son, Scotty, says that, despite a separation, they had reconciled.

Valdis quit acting after Hogan's Heroes until three years ago. According to Scotty Crane, she was also vehemently opposed to the movie Auto Focus, the 2002 movie about Bob Crane's sexual addiction, relationship with John Carpenter, and 1978 murder (for which Carpenter was tried and acquitted). "There are a ton of untruths in it," she is reported to have said.

Hogan's Heroes was a very popular situation comedy set in a German prisoner of war camp during World War II. The series was initially controversial because a number of people mistakenly thought the show was set in a concentration camp, or that the show glorified the Nazis. In reality, several of the actors on the show, including John Banner (Sgt. Schultz), Werner Klemperer (Colonel Klink), Howard Caine (Major Hochstetter), and Leon Askin (General Burkhalter) were Jewish; and Robert Clarey, who played LeBeau, was a concentration camp survivor.

Sigrid Valdis was 72.

Book on Hogan's Heroes

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Ole Lefthander Has Rounded Third and is Now Home

Category: News

Joe Nuxhall died Thursday night (11/15).

For most of the baseball world, he is the answer to a trivia question. He is -- and, based on current laws, ever shall be -- the youngest player to ever have played professional baseball. He was 15 years old when he stepped onto the mound for the Cincinnati Reds the first time.
For Reds fans, however, Nuxhall's career as a baseball player is almost secondary to his decades in the broadcast booth. For 30 years, he and Marty Brennaman were the broadcast team for the Reds and the envy of the other teams. After Al Michaels left for network sports, Brennaman went into the booth in 1974 and the classic era of Reds radio broadcasting began. Marty and Joe were there for the Big Red Machine years, including the back-to-back World Series championships in 75 and 76. They called Tom Sever's no-hitter, Tom Brownning's perfect game, Pete Rose's record-breaking 4,192nd hit, and the 1990 World Series sweep of the Oakland A's. They were there for the bad times, too. In fact, Marty's signature call, "This one belongs to the Reds!" supposedly began in sarcasm after the Reds finally won a game following a long losing streak in '74.

Nuxie, as he was lovingly called, retired from full-time broadcasting three years ago because of lymphoma. He continued on a part-time basis, choosing his road trips carefully. All the while, he continued to be a fixture for his beloved Reds, a love affair that was definitely two-way. Earlier this year, three microphones were placed beneath the Reds' broadcast booth at Great America Ballpark to honor legendary broadcasters. Two of those microphones were for Marty and Joe. (The third is for Waite Hoyt.)

Nuxie left a legacy that goes far beyond the record he holds for youth. He worked tirelessly for charities for the Reds, and for greater Cincinnati. His trademark sign-off, "This is the Ol' Lefthander, rounding third and heading for home," is featured on the outside of Great America Ballpark (on the third base side, of course). In honor of Nuxhall, the baseball park will be left dark this weekend, except for those words. His statue will also be illuminated.

Even though Joe hadn't been broadcasting much lately, for Reds fans the game will never sound the same again. The Ol' Lefthander has rounded third for the last time, and is now home.

Joe Nuxhall was 79.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Barry Bonds Indicted

Category: Sports News

Former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds has been indicted on five counts of perjury and obstruction of justice.

The indictment was announced today (11/15), stemming from Bonds' testimony in late 2003 before a federal grand jury investigating BALCO in San Francisco. Bonds denied under oath that he took or received performance-enhancing steroids.

One of the most interesting facts to emerge from the indictment is the fact that Bonds received a positive test for steroids, yet no action was taken against him by Major League Baseball.

The Indictment in its entirity

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Legend Lives On From the Chippewa On Down

Category: History

On November 10, 1975 the SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior, killing all 29 aboard.

The Edmund Fitzgerald was owned by Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company in Milwaukee and was named for the company's CEO. It was launched in 1958.

On November 10, 1975, the ship encountered a heavy storm while en route from Wisconsin to Detroit (not Cleveland, as the Lightfoot song says; however, many of the sailors aboard were residents of Cleveland). The captain's last transmission said they were "holding their own" in the storm. Approximately ten minutes later, "they might have split up or they might have capsized, they may have broke deep and took water." While the theories are numerous, the fact remains the ship sank -- and quickly.

It was not the worst shipwreck in Great Lakes history (the Algoma, which sank in November 1885, claimed between 37 and 48 lives; Alpena's sinking in October 1880 took an estimated 100 lives); and, had it not been for Gordon Lightfoot, the November 10th anniversary would just be a sad anniversary for the families of those who perished.

However, the legendary folk icon recorded a song about the disaster for his Summertime Dream album in 1976. At six minutes in length and with a detailed, grim account of the events of the ship's sinking, it hardly seemed destined to be a song for the ages. However, Reprise Records released the song as a single in the fall of 1976, and it quickly became a major hit. (The song eventually reached #2 on the Billboard pop singles chart.)

As a result of the popularity of the song, the Edmund Fitzgerald tragedy went from "one of many" to "the most famous. The Weather Channel has a segment every year explaining the details of the Lake Superior storm that caused the wreck of the ship. The Discovery Channel has produced a show on shipwrecks in general, with the story of the Edmund Fitzgerald being the centerpiece.

Superior they said never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early

The homepage of the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The Edmund Fitzgerald Memorial site
Edmund Fitzgerald Information from The Shipwreck Museum in Whitefish Bay, Michigan

She Said "So Long, Norman"

Category: News

Author Norman Mailer died November 10th of kidney failure in New York. He was 84.

In the "six degrees of Warren Zevon" department, Zevon's song "The French Inhaler" contains the following line:

The French inhaler, he stamped and mailed her
She said, "So long, Norman."

In a 1978 interview, Zevon vehemently denied the line referred to Mailer. "That man is a street fighter," Zevon said, "and I don't want to meet him in a dark alley one night and have to say, 'Listen, Norman, it wasn't about you.'"

After Zevon's death, son Jordan Zevon cleared the air: the line was indeed a reference to Norman Mailer.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Donny and Marie's Dad Dies

Category: News

George Osmond, the patriarch of the Osmond family, died today (11/6) in Provo, Utah. He was 90.

His children became famous singing on Andy Williams' variety series in the 60s. Donny first appeared on The Andy Williams Show at age 6.

The Osmond Brothers' biggest hit was the Jackson Five sound-alike "One Bad Apple" in 1971. Donny Osmond's biggest hit as a solo performer was "Go Away Little Girl," also in 1971. His duet with sister Marie, "I'm Leaving It (All) Up to You" was a top 5 hit in 1974. Marie, as a solo performer, had four #1 country hits, including "Paper Roses" (which was also a top 5 pop hit).

George Osmond taught barbershop quartet singing to his four oldest sons (Alan, Wayne, Merrill, and Jay). Their singing netted them a job at Disneyland in the early 60s, where Andy Williams found them and invited them to join his show.

In total, there were nine Osmond children. The oldest two never performed professionally because of hearing impairments.

The elder Osmond's wife, Olive, died May 9, 2004 from a stroke. He is survived by 55 grandchildren and 48 great-grandchildren.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sad Farewell to a Pop Dynamo

Category: News

Teresa Brewer died Wednesday (10/17) of supranuclear palsy, a neuromuscular/brain disease.

The small woman (her biographies listed her as 5'2") with the powerful voice is best-known for her happy love-and-jukebox anthem, "Music! Music! Music!" in 1949. During the 50s she hit the pop charts with such songs as "Bo Weevil," "A Tear Fell," "Empty Arms," "You Send Me," and "I Love Mickey," which she recorded with baseball great Mickey Mantle.

Despite not having a charted hit since 1961, Brewer maintained a loyal fan base. She continued to perform until her health declined in the late 90s.

Teresa Brewer was 76.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

...But On the Other Hand...

Category: News

I ended up not going to the Dylan/Costello concert. I've been fooling with trying to get bronchitis for about three weeks off and on.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Alison Goes to Maggie's Farm

Category: News/Preview

Bob Dylan is headlining at Louisville's Freedom Hall on October 17th. He will be performing with his band. Opening will be a solo performance by Elvis Costello.

I won tickets (from an all-talk AM radio station, go figure!), so I'll post a review later.

Bob Dylan's site
Elvis Costello's site

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Recommendation for the Month (10-07)

Category: Review

It is rare to see bands stay together for decades. Bands as varied as the Beatles, the Eagles, and the Clash could not stay together for a decade; and the Sex Pistols could barely stay together for one tour. So when a band comes along, and stays, it's something to be celebrated.

ALBUM: Legend

SONGS: Boomerang / Spellbound / Barbados / Little Darling / Love Comes, Love Goes / Heart of the Night / Crazy Love / The Last Goodbye / Legend

Even though they have been compared in the "country-rock" discussion, Poco and the Eagles basically have only one thing in common. Two things, actually: Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmit. Meisner played bass on the first Poco album, Pickin' Up the Pieces, but quit the band before the album was released. He was replaced by Schmit, who remained in Poco for a decade before replacing Randy Meisner in the Eagles.

Other than that, the two bands could not be further apart. While the Eagles are considered by many a "country-rock" act, in truth very little (about 13-15% of their songs, based on what some songs are labeled) of their music was "country." Poco's music, in contrast, could not get airplay on modern country radio because it would be dismissed as TC (Too Country). It would be hard to find a modern country performer labelling Poco as an influence (as opposed to all the Eagles fans you can find) for that very reason.

When Schmit jumped ship drummer George Grantham left as well, leaving one original member in Poco. Rusty Young and longtime (but not founding) member Paul Cotton recruited two British session men (Steve Chapman and Charlie Harrison, who worked with Al Stewart) and added keyboards for the first time. A band having lost all but one of its original members should have fallen apart; or, at the very least, resorted to third-rate material. Instead, Poco created a gem.

After languishing for years in the background (two songs, "Keep On Tryin'" and "Indian Summer," made it as high as #50 on the Billboard singles chart), Poco finally scored a breakthrough hit with "Crazy Love." Tim Schmit may have departed, but he definitely left his "Keep On Tryin'" spirit behind for this great song. Lyrically short and simple ("Tonight I'm gonna break away, just you wait and see"), "Crazy Love" shines on this album and in Poco's collection. The other hit from the album was their joyous ode to New Orleans, "Heart of the Night." The lyrics paint a lovely portrait of the Crescent City ("In the heart of the night in the cool falling rain / There's a full moon in sight shining down on the Pontchartrain") with a saxophone solo that highlights the feeling.

Legend is far from a two-song album, however. "Spellbound" will do exactly what the name says. "Barbados" is good enough to make you book passage on a cruise. The title song is about a horse, and it's one of the few good songs about a horse. Forget "Wildfire" or "A Horse with No Name," "Legend" is a masterpiece. The tale about "the horse that's known as only Thunder Road" gallops along as though the music is trying to catch the colt. "The Last Goodbye" is a haunting ballad, something that Poco does very well even though they are not necessarily known for slower songs.

While Legend was a departure in terms of Poco's country-rock, the album at least let the rest of the world know what their fans knew for years before (and in the years since): Poco is far more in music history than just the band that lost bass players to the Eagles.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Crystal Zevon's Mother Dies

Category: News

Crystal Zevon, Warren Zevon's former wife and author of the excellent biography I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon, announced on her web site that her mother, Barbara Brelsford, passed away on September 11. Mrs. Brelsford was 83 and suffered with cancer.

From Crystal's blog:

Barbara Craven Brelsford, 83, of Sun City, passed away on September 11, 2007. She was born on March 19, 1924 in Summerfield, KS. She is survived by her husband Clifford, two daughters Crystal Zevon and Caren von Gontard, grandchildren Ariel Zevon and Paul von Gontard and great-grandsons Max and Gus Zevon-Powell. Barbara and Clifford were married on June 1, 1948 and had known one another since they were in 4th grade. Her life was one of devoted and selfless service to her family and to humanity. She graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in Home Economics and a B.S. in Nursing from the University of Kansas. In 1956, she and her family moved from Kansas to Aspen, Colorado where they lived until Cliff and Barbara retired fulltime in Sun City in 1978. Barbara used her nursing skills to teach, to heal and to help others in their passage to a better place through more than two decades of dedicated service through hospice. Barbara’s last words typified her life. “Keep smiling,” she said. We carry her smile with us always.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Eve’s Place, PO Box 8331, Surprise, AZ. 85374 (www.safetyatevesplace.org) or to Chapter CC PEO, Pgm. for Continuing Education, c/o Shirley Dail, 10238 White Mountain Rd., Sun City, AZ. 85351.
Services will be held at Sun City Christian Church DOC, 9745 W. Palmeras Ave., Sun City – 623-972-6179 - on Saturday, October 6, 2007 at 2:00 p.m.

Crystal Zevon's blog

Sunday, September 23, 2007

An Uneven Trip

Category: Review

Book: Hotel California, by Barney Hoskyns

Published 2006

One of the problems with Barney Hoskyn's 2006 look at the Southern California rock scene is the title is longer than the book. The official title is Hotel California: The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends. The book is only 336 pages long.

Being a fan of most of the artists mentioned in the title, I could not wait to read this book (even though I had to because of problems getting a copy). The title is rather misleading in some respects. Most of the artists mentioned enjoyed the bulk of their popularity in the 1970s; however, the main focus of the book is the 1960s, before most of the artists had record deals or even arrived in Los Angeles. (In 1965, when the book begins, future Eagles Don Henley and Glenn Frey were still in their respective home states of Texas and Michigan, preparing for college.) Furthermore, the title Hotel California is generally associated with the Eagles (it is, after all, the title of their multi-platinum album from 1976) than Crosby, Stills and Nash or Joni Mitchell. In short, if you're looking for a work on the Eagles, go to Marc Eliot's To the Limit: The Untold Story of the Eagles, not here.

The book is good as far as it goes, but the problem is it fails to go very far. It appears that the publishers told Hoskyns he only had 336 pages to work with, 280 of which were spent on chronicling the 60s, so the 70s were rushed through at almost breakneck speed. Most unforgivable is the fact that Mama Cass Eliot's death was mentioned parenthetically after she is a major subject in most of the first portion of the book. Fleetwood Mac has bigger coverage in two-paragraph rock encyclopedias than they received here (although, in fairness, they did begin as a British blues band, not a southern California "mellow rock" one).

Maybe Hoskyns' eyes were too big for his pen and the work should have been presented in multiple volumes. However, in spite of the gripes, I do recommend the book to fans of the Byrds, the Mamas and the Papas, Jackson Browne, and even J.D. Souther (who gets more print here than he has in 30 years elsewhere). Do not, however, expect it to be comprehensive.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Recommendation fo the Month 9-07

Category: Review

Sometimes albums are released to the proverbial sound of one hand clapping. The quality of the music doesn't diminish; to the contrary, sometimes good albums become great albums with the passing of time. Then again, sometimes all a good album needs to become a great album in a person's collection is to be heard. With that, here is my recommendation for September:

ALBUM: Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams

SONGS: She's a Runaway / Fadeaway / Still the Night / Rickshaw Riding / Angels / Misery / The Strangest Kind / Say You Will / Ultimately Fine / That's All / Lookin' for Me Somewhere

In the midst of what was called the "roots rock" movement of the mid-1980s, Slash Records, best-known as the home for the Violent Femmes, signed another band from Milwaukee known as the BoDeans (with the pronounced and spelled as da, which they later dropped because people began to think the name of the band was "the Da BoDeans"). Their music was far removed from the acoustic punk of their labelmates but no less Americana. The four-piece band went into the studio with singer/songwriter T-Bone Burnett and created a masterpiece.

The secret weapon in the BoDeans, and indeed what may have kept them from success beyond the "cult figure" status for the two decades since (they have had one hit, "Closer to Free," which was used as the theme song to the TV series Party of Five), is the vocal quality of lead singer Sam Llanas. His voice is so unique that critics began tripping over themselves to describe it. "A bullfrog in a blender" was Llanas's personal favorite description, although Robbie Robertson (who enlisted Llanas and his singing/songwriting partner, Kurt Neumann, to sing on three songs on Robbie Robertson) may have had the most accurate: "When I first heard him, I thought it was an old woman. A very soulful old woman."

Without question, Llanas's voice does take a little getting used to, but it is part of the charm and authenticity of the BoDeans. Llanas has no trouble conveying his emotions. When he tells "the story of Mary and the gun" in the opening track, "She's a Runaway," there is no question that Mary is a personal friend -- even though the tale of a battered woman taking fatal revenge on the man who beat her is purely a figment of Llanas's imagination. The album's closing song, "Lookin' for Me Somewhere," was inspired by seeing Emmylou Harris in concert, and Llanas pours out his infatuation for her with pubescent honesty ("Alone I go to sleep and I close my eyes / And I dream about a girl out there in the world").

Kurt Neumann, the other half of the BoDeans singing and songwriting team, has a voice that requires far fewer descriptors. His lead vocals are standard Midwest rock and roll. Put the two together, though, and you have the Everly Brothers on helium. The harmonies on the album are exceptional, certainly unique for the mid-80s when hair bands and air guitars ruled the scene. Their duet on "Fadeaway" and the chorus on "Angels" shows that country legend Charlie Louvin was absolutely correct when he said, "Any song worth singing is worth singing with harmony."

Burnett's production is perfect for the band. There is nothing overdone (the way fellow Milwaukee native Jerry Harrison did with the BoDeans' second album, Outside Looking In, saturating the album so heavily with production that a pick axe was necessary to find the BoDeans beneath it all), allowing each song to be presented as honest and open as the band performed them onstage. When Llanas sings "Rickshaw Riding," about love in the Orient, a song that could have easily been overproduced is allowed subtleties that enhance the number. When the band lets loose on the roll-down-the-windows-and-drive-fast rocker "Ultimately Fine," Burnett simply runs for cover and lets them go.

Among the BoDeans' fans' live favorites is "Misery" (no relation to the Kinks song by the same name; in fact, all the songs on this album are Llanas/Neumann originals despite sharing titles with other songs), a song about discovering a one-time girlfriend is cheating. The song is definitely a highlight, not just of this album but of their career. It is hilarious ("I found you're the reigning queen of the one-night stand") and bluesy, a song for all the she-done-me-wrong men in the world. As usual, Llanas delivers it as though he's been there more than once.

The BoDeans have seen their share of personnel changes over the years. Guy Hoffman, who co-wrote "Still the Night" and sang the bridge (the only time someone other than Kurt or Sam have sang on a track), left after the tour to support Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams, beginning a long list of drummers in the revolving door. Bassist Bob Griffin left in 2006 after 21 years in the band (no official reason has been given, but perhaps it is because Llanas and Neumann relocated to Austin while Griffin remained in Milwaukee). They had their fifteen minutes thanks to "Closer to Free" and have returned to their cult following status. Simply because they are a "cult" band does not mean that this exceptional album should linger in obscurity. Indeed, if time has done anything, it has shown just how well this stellar debut holds up.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Life'll Kill Ya

Category: Opinion/News

(PHOTO: Warren Zevon and the blogger, taken by George Gruel at the Tower Theater, Philadelphia, October 10, 1982)

September 7 marks four years since Warren Zevon died from mesothelioma. This anniversary is marked with the availability of Crystal Zevon's biography of her former husband, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon (previously reviewed). The book is tough to read, as Crystal said, because it shows every ugly wart Zevon possessed. However, it's not that much of a shock if you consider the man's music, because he certainly never presented himself as an Osmond.

Zevon earned a couple of posthumous Grammy awards for his life-affirming farewell album, The Wind. But, sadly, even today he remains best-known for "Werewolves of London" -- and dying. But there is so much more to Warren Zevon. And, thanks to the release of the two missing albums from his catalog on CD this year (Stand in the Fire and The Envoy), his catalog is waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.

Zevon's first taste with success was in 1969, when he penned a song that ended up on the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack ("She Quit Me"). Kim Fowley produced his first album (Wanted Dead or Alive) that was pretty lame but did feature a couple of flashes of the brilliance that was to come ("Tule's Blues," "A Bullet for Ramona"). In 1976, his friend Jackson Browne convinced Asylum Records to sign him, then convinced Zevon to return to the U.S. from Spain. Zevon recorded his eponymous album with the help of most of L.A.'s famous musicians (Lindsey Buckingham, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Browne). It sold poorly but gained fame after Linda Ronstadt covered four songs ("Hasten Down the Wind," "Carmelita," "Mohammed's Radio," and her hit "Poor Poor PItiful Me"). It remains a gem in Zevon's discography, the home of the brilliant "Desperadoes Under the Eaves."

If any song can be a microcosm of Warren Zevon's music, it's "Desperadoes Under the Eaves." It's powerful ("I'm trying to find a girl who understands me / But except in dreams you're never really free") and funny ("And if California slides into the ocean like the mystics and statistics say it will / I predict this hotel will be standing until I pay my bill") -- at the same time -- wrapped up in a lovely melody with the final punch line being an orchestrated imitation of an air conditioner humming.

In 1978 Zevon scored his best-known hit, Excitable Boy. The major hit was "Werewolves of London," but "Lawyers, Guns and Money" was also an FM rock hit (and was later covered in a very impotent version by Rick Derringer). For all the violence in the first half of the album, "Accidentally Like a Martyr" showed just how completely Zevon could pour out his heart into a song. The song, about a time of separation from Crystal, is as painful a song about the ending of a relationship as you're going to find ("Never thought I'd have to pay so dearly for what was already mine...should've done, should've done, we all sigh"). Just as deeply in despair as that song is, "Tenderness on the Block," co-written with Browne, is positive, a song about a daughter finding romance (inspired by daughter Ariel, who was about 14 months old when Excitable Boy was released). Yes, "Werewolves of London" is a hokey novelty number; however, this album should not be overlooked because of that (much the same way Randy Newman's Little Criminals should not be ignored because of "Short People").

Zevon's personal life was in the garbage disposal between Excitable Boy and the follow-up Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School. He and Crystal finally divorced after a year-long battle with the demon in his life that lived in a bottle of vodka. (He would yo-yo on and off the wagon for the rest of his life, taking a serious fall (although one could certainly understand it) when he was told of his terminal illness.) The 1980 Zevon was a completely different person: trim and fit (not the pudgy -- by his own admission -- drunk who was sickened by the photo of he and John Belushi together), apparently ready to make up for the time he had lost sucking his existence out of vodka bottles. Alas, by the time he released Bad Luck Streak, the music scene had changed dramatically. Disco, punk, new wave, and ultra-tight "superstars" FM rock playlists took over. There was no place left for Zevon in mainstream music. Although a good album (nowhere near the masterpiece of the first two), Bad Luck Streak had half the sales of Excitable Boy. Asylum recorded his 1980 tour for a live album, Stand in the Fire, which Rolling Stone hailed as "one of the best live albums ever," but it sold even less. One more album, 1982's outstanding The Envoy, and Zevon was off the label.

The Envoy featured Zevon at his best. He was funnier than ever (consider this line in "Let Nothing Come Between You," his love song to Kim Lankford, the Knots Landing actress he was engaged to during the recording of this album: "Got the license, got the ring / Got the blood tests and everything"), rattling off gems such as "The Hula Hula Boys" ("I didn't have to come to Maui to be treated like a jerk / How do you think I feel when I see the bellboys smirk?") and "Jesus Mentioned" (about Elvis, who "went walking on the water with his pills"). This album also featured two of Zevon's best songs ever: "Never Too Late for Love," showing that he was not over Crystal despite being engaged (a marriage that never happened) to Lankford ("You say you're tired, how I hate to hear you hear that word, everybody hurts / Who am I to say I know the way you feel? / I've felt your pain and I know your sorrow"). Then there was "Charlie's Medicine," a powerful number about a man getting "expensive drugs" from a dealer then discovering that he was murdered by "some respectable doctor from Beverly Hills." "I came to say goodbye," Zevon sang, "I'm sorry Charlie died, I came to finish paying my bill." In I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, Crystal Zevon revealed that Warren, thought to be living a clean and sober life in 1982, was actually doing heroin and wrote this song about his supplier. That bit of information makes the song ever more powerful.

When Zevon resurfaced with members of R.E.M. on 1984's Sentimental Hygiene, he was again back on the wagon. He took a few shots at Asylum for releasing him (in "Trouble Waiting to Happen," he referenced discovering that he'd been dropped from the label by reading it in the "Random Notes" section of Rolling Stone), and presented another funny-but-really-not-funny autobiographical snapshot of his life, "Detox Mansion" ("I'm going to Detox Mansion, way down on Last Breath Farm / I've been raking leaves with Liza, me and Liz clean up the yard"). R.E.M. was not yet the superstar band they would become, so their presence on Sentimental Hygiene didn't help sales. The best-known song from the album was "Boom Boom Mancini," Zevon's ode to the boxer (and probably a nod to his father, who was an amateur boxer).

During the sessions, Zevon and the band members jammed on various blues, country, and rock songs. The tapes were eventually released after R.E.M.'s late 80s success under the name Hindu Love Gods.

The decade closed with Transverse City, an album filled with synthesizers and techno (think Neil Young's Trans album). Zevon paid homage to his Russian heritage with the song "Turbulence," singing the final portion in Russian. The sales, as usual, were flat.

In 1992, Zevon released another masterpiece, Mr. Bad Example. The title song, a rollicking tale of debauchery, was noted by one critic to be so Zevonesque that "no one bothered to ask him if it was autobiographical." The song "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead" appeared on this album, as did a lovely country duet with Dwight Yoakam, "Heartache Spoken Here." A tongue-in-cheek look at domestic life, "Model Citizen," featured Zevon's son Jordan singing back-up. (Baseball writer Peter Gammons released an album of rock songs, Never Slow Down, Never Grow Old, in 2006, and opened the album with a cover of "Model Citizen.") Then there was the closing number, "Searching for a Heart." "They say love conquers all," Zevon sang. "You can't start it like a car, you can't stop it with a gun." David Letterman frequently referenced this line when speaking of Zevon's songwriting genius.

Zevon released two more albums in the 1990s, the live album Learning to Flinch and 1995's Mutineer. He referred to the latter as his thank-you to his fans, who thanked him by ignoring the album in droves. Indeed, Mutineer may be Zevon's poorest selling album since the 1969 release. Dejected and dropped by his label (Giant), Zevon took the rest of the 90s off. He made friends with numerous writers (Carl Hiaasen, Hunter S. Thompson) and, as he deadpanned, "learned to play the flute." Despite not being active in recording, he was frequently seen on The Late Show With David Letterman as substitute band leader when Paul Schaffer was away.

In 2000, Zevon released another classic album, one that would prove to have a most prophetic title: Life'll Kill Ya. "From the president of the United States to the lowliest rock and roll star," he sang in the title track, "the doctor is in and he'll see you now / He don't care WHO you are." Another song, the cleaned-up title being "My Stuff's Messed Up," also dealt with getting bad news from the doctor. Other gems on the album include "I Was in the House When the House Burned Down" (a man who seemingly escaped while all the "stuff" was "messed" up around him), "For My Next Trick I'll Need a Volunteer" (a powerful look at messing up love: "I can saw a woman in two, but you won't wanna look in the box when I'm through / I can make love disappear, for my next trick I'll need a volunteer"), and the beautiful "Ourselves to Know." Set ostensibly in the era of the Crusades ("We left Constantinople in 1099"), the song concludes with one of Zevon's best verses: "Now if you make a pilgrimage, I hope you'll find your grail / Be loyal to the ones you leave with, even if you fail / And be chivalrous to strangers you meet along the road / As you take that holy ride, yourselves to know." This album shows that Zevon was in top form.

In 2002, Zevon released My Ride's Here, another album with a not-too-thinly-veiled death theme (the lyrics in the title song clearly indicate the "ride" he is waiting for is in a hearse). The album featured songs co-written with Hunter S. Thompson ("You're a Whole Different Person When You're Scared") and Hiaasen ("Basket Case"). Letterman contributed his voice to "Hit Somebody! (The Hockey Song)," which has a very "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" feel to it musically (not lyrically). Although still not selling outside of his traditional fan base, everyone agreed that Zevon was, as the song title said, "a genius" and the best was yet to come.

While on tour for My Ride's Here, Zevon complained of being short of breath constantly. He had developed a phobia of going to the doctor in the 80s and stated the only "doctor" he trusted was his dentist. When he told his dentist he was "working out like Vin Diesel" and attributing his shortness of breath to that, the dentist insisted on a chest x-ray.

By the end of the day, Zevon knew he was dying. X-rays and tests revealed lung cancer (later ruled to be mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure) that had already spread to his liver. The doctors were pessimistic: Zevon's life would end in three months, maybe.

Undaunted by the news, Zevon headed to the studio almost immediately to begin work on what would be his final album, The Wind. The opening track, "Dirty Life and Times," was actually written before the diagnosis, although the opening line certainly makes it sound like a post-diagnosis song ("Some days I feel like my shadow's casting me, some days the sun don't shine"). As the album progressed, Zevon traced his disease, as much as in terms of living as in dying. "The Rest of the Night" is about as wild a party song as you could hope to find on a 60s garage band album. "Prison Grove" is a number that likens life on death row behind bars to life trapped in a cancer-riddled body. "Goodbye prison grove" is the cry of a man earning his freedom from the pain of the disease and the pain of incarceration. Sadly, either way, the way out is death.

With nothing left to prove, Zevon's last song, "Keep Me in Your Heart," was recorded at his apartment because he was too weak to travel to the studio. "Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath," he sang, literally proving his words true by the pain evident in his voice. "If I leave you, it doesn't mean I love you any less," a line to lover, former lovers, friends, and fans alike. His final request: "Keep me in your heart for awhile."

Zevon survived his self-destructive behavior a number of times, the final time over Christmas of 2002 when he locked himself in his apartment with nothing but his prescription narcotics for the pain the cancer was inflicting on his body and bottle after bottle of scotch to wash them down with. According to Crystal Zevon's tome, Zevon finally sobered up when he was informed that John Hiatt had been contacted to impersonate Zevon so the album could be finished. Zevon came out of his 90-proof shell and finished the album. He also lived long enough to see his grandchildren, twin sons born to Ariel and her husband, come into the world in June, 2003.

The Wind outsold Excitable Boy and was a top ten album when Zevon died on Sunday afternoon, September 7, 2003. Five months later, Zevon's children, Jordan and Ariel, would accept two Grammy awards, one for The Wind as "best contemporary folk recording" and one for "Disorder in the House" as "best rock vocal performance, duo or group" (with Bruce Springsteen's backing on the track). In the four years since, however, Zevon has pretty much slipped back into the shadows where he unfortunately hid from the masses most of his professional life.

I'm currently reading an essay on Patsy Cline, Joli Jensen's "Patsy Cline's Crossovers" in the collection A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music. In the paper, Jensen points out that, for years, Patsy Cline was a mostly forgotten artist in country music. While Jim Reeves was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame three years after his death (the first year he was eligible, as the Hall of Fame has a rule banning acts from being placed on the ballot for three years after they die to prevent a "sympathy vote"), it took ten years after Cline's death for her induction. It was not until Beverly D'Angelo's portrayal of Cline in the Loretta Lynn biopic Coal Miner's Daughter that interest in Cline picked up and people discovered the long-forgotten singer. By the same token, maybe one day someone will make a movie out of the biography just published and people will be flocking to stores to buy Zevon albums.

That'll be a wild way for his "dirty life and times" to end.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Punk's Daddy Dies

Category: News

While many people consider Iggy Pop to be the "father of punk," I would argue the title truly goes to Hilly Kristal. The owner and founder of CBGB's (OMFUG) (which stood for "Country, Bluegrass, Blues, and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers") gave a venue for future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members the Ramones, Patti Smith, and Talking Heads to play in. Had CBGB's not existed, it's likely these people would never have been discovered.

Hillel "Hilly" Kristal died August 28th from complications of lung cancer. He was 75.

Kristal opened CBGB's as a venue for acoustic music in the early 70s in the Bowery section of Manhattan. Something went "wrong" along the way, as his home for "country, bluegrass, and blues" became the proving ground for punk rock. Television was the first punk band to play regularly at the club, followed soon by the Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie, Mink DeVille, Talking Heads, and the Fleshtones.

CBGB's was forced to close in 2006, and its ending might have put an early nail in Kristal's coffin (although he was planning to take CBGB's to Las Vegas).

Farewell to the man who helped make punk music possible, Hilly Kristal.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Bittersweet Book

Category: Review

In 2002, Warren Zevon discovered that he had terminal cancer. Instead of lying down to die, he went into the studio to make the life-affirming The Wind, an album that earned him a gold album before his death 12 days after the album's release. Two posthumous Grammy Awards subsequently went to the recording.

Zevon's dying was chronicled to some degree by VH-1's InsideOut program. The full story, however, can be found in a new book authored by Zevon's ex-wife Crystal. I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon was released in May. The 452-page book covers not only Zevon's death but his often turbulent life.

This book is must-reading for any fan of Warren Zevon. It presents him, warts and all, which is how he wanted to appear according to the preface. Zevon was never one to withhold his "dirty laundry," frequently presenting it in song ("Detox Mansion," "Gorilla You're a Desperado," "My Dirty Life and Times," "Mr. Bad Example"), so a posthumous look at his life certainly will not sugar-coat anything.

Even for the devoted Zevonite, who knows all about Zevon's "dirty life and times," the tome can be a hard read. The book begins with Zevon's death, discussed in explicit detail. Kim Lankford's account of an incident behind the song "Charlie's Medicine" (an outstanding tune from the very underrated The Envoy release) is shocking, given that it came in a time when Zevon was presented as free of his drug and drinking demons. Also particularly painful is the account of Zevon's scotch binge, literally shutting everyone in the world out in favor of the bottle, over his last Christmas. In one regard, it is hard to criticize an alcoholic for falling off the wagon after he discovers he's going to die (the InsideOut program showed that Zevon, who had stopped smoking in 1994, took that habit up again once he was diagnosed); however, Warren knew what booze had done to his relationships before, and those lost days could never be recovered with the clock on his life ticking.

The layout of the biography is excellent. There are four parts to the book, each part (and the chapters) named after a Zevon song. Zevon's story is told by friends, family (author Crystal Zevon, who divorced in 1980, remained a lifelong friend, and Zevon's children Ariel and Jordan), fellow musicians (Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen), and Zevon himself -- entries from his diaries are plentiful. Photographs cover Zevon from age 3 until weeks before his death (as he holds his twin grandsons) grace the book throughout.

The book presents the real Warren Zevon. After all, the man who wrote the violent "Excitable Boy" and "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" tunes also penned "Tenderness on the Block" and "Searching for a Heart," and this book shows both. The movie version might pull in an NC-17 rating, so be warned.

But, much like a Zevon album, the graphic content of the book should not distract from enjoying the body of work. If you're a Zevon fan, this book is not to be missed. Even if you're not, a glimpse into his rock and roll life might make you curious as to what all the fuss has been about since the release of Warren Zevon in 1976.

Crystal Zevon's website

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Online Music

Category: Opinion

By now, I'm certain you have heard about the debate going on with the RIAA, in essence, trying to price online broadcasting out of existence. I am not by nature a conspiracy theorist, but I certainly smell one here.

I was always under the impression that broadcast royalties were the job of the publishing companies. When I worked in radio, we had BMI and ASCAP stickers on the studio windows. The RIAA does certify sales of albums (gold albums and platinum albums), but paying royalties falls to the record companies (for sales) and publishers (for songwriters). The RIAA hasn't ever been involved in royalties...until now.

What the RIAA has been involved in is getting money. The RIAA petitioned the U.S. Senate to put a "royalty tax" on cassette recorders and blank cassettes in 1982 (this has been extended to blank CDs: if you have a CD burner in your stereo, those will only accept CDs marked music -- which have been slapped with this royalty tax). The RIAA used the lawmakers to block DAT machines from becoming successful. The RIAA also petitioned FM radio stations to stop airing new albums in their entirety. The argument the RIAA put forth was not unlike the modern argument: people were sitting at home with cassette decks, taping the new Tom Petty or Don Henley album off the radio, thereby cutting into sales.

What the RIAA has never taken into account is quality. There are very few albums with stratospheric sales (Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 by the Eagles has a sales total of over 41 million copies; a Wikipedia list shows only eight albums that have sold over 20 million copies). There's a reason for that, too: for all the music released in all the genres throughout the year, there is a microscopic amount that gets heard by the masses and manages to strike the fancy of enough people to sell well. If you look at the albums that were selling in the millions in the 70s, you'll see they had a common element: they were good, if not great. Even after 30 years, albums such as Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, the Eagles' Hotel California, and Steely Dan's Aja hold a dear place in the hearts of people who bought them when they first came out as well as finding a new audience with people who were not born when the albums were released thanks to nonstop airplay on "classic rock" stations. Yes, I'm tired of hearing the same songs over and over on FM rock stations, but when you DON'T hear those songs 24/7 then hear Who's Next, it dawns on you just why the songs from that album are so overplayed: it's a dang good album.

In his autobiography By the Seat of My Pants: My Life in Country Music, the late Buddy Killen (a country musician and businessman who produced all of Joe Tex's classic soul hits, not to mention the fact that he wrote Tex's last big hit, "I Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)" in 1977) mentioned that a problem plaguing country music was that modern songs were producing plenty of hits but very few classics. This isn't unique to country, as rock and roll has been suffering the same fate for decades. Therein lies the problem with album sales: much like the one-hit wonders of pop music in the 60s, there is a glut of albums featuring one "can't miss" hit, one possible hit, and eight hunks of junk in the key of G-whiz.

Since the late 70s, the FM rock format has been nailed shut to anything new and fresh. The more unique musical styles get, the tighter that format gets locked down. The Violent Femmes' first album has sold over a million copies (according to Rhino's website, it is the only album that has ever earned a platinum certification without ever appearing on the Billboard Top 200 Albums sales chart), but have you ever heard them on FM rock radio? Of course not, they don't sound like the Journey-o-Styxwagon FM shlock rock formula music. That hardly means they're "unknown," however, as the album sales indicate.

With the advent of satellite radio and Internet radio, bands like the Violent Femmes have been able to find an outlet for getting their music past that locked radio format. And here is where the "conspiracy theory arises in all of this. The Internet radio phenomenon cannot possibly hurt record sales; to the contrary, it can only help as people hear music that they cannot hear on their local FM station that is too busy playing "Night Moves" for the seventh time today. People obviously like John Hiatt's songs, since "Thing Called Love," "Angel Eyes," and even "Sure As I'm Sitting Here" have been hits for others; therefore, people just might like Hiatt -- were they allowed to hear him. The Internet says "yes" to artists that have long had no outlet for their music other than word of mouth, and now that outlet is being threatened by interference from the very organization that claims their mission "supports and promotes our members' creative and financial vitality."

The RIAA might be cutting their own throat here, since they are denying people access to music that might be heard...and liked...and purchased. I cannot help but think that the commercial radio stations, which are sinking in ratings because of their tight playlists that refuse anything new, no matter how good or in demand (Warren Zevon's life-affirming farewell album, The Wind, was certified gold before Zevon died, but even two Grammy awards and appearances by FM rock stalwarts Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne couldn't get Zevon airplay), are secretly gloating over the fact that the RIAA is attempting to shut down radio's biggest competition.

The losers, in the long run, are the performers who are making great music that is getting heard by the tens of hundreds instead of the tens of millions, and the fans who are being deprived of this exciting music.

The Rock and Roll Show

Category: Introduction

Because I love country and rock, I have decided to open a second blog dedicated to the rock and roll side of music. My country blog is alive and well at Raizor's Edge.

Thanks for reading!