In Aural Robert in the April issue of Stereophile, Amoeba owner David Prinz and I discuss his label, Amoeba Records, and his ongoing program to reissue Gram Parsons live sets. Needless to say however, I also talked with him about the ever more bizarre situation that the record business now finds itself in. As the owner of the biggest and best independent record stores on planet Earth, his opinion carries more than a little weight. Here's a sampling of what he said about the biz and the specter of iTunes.
Writing about the idiocy known as the Grammy Awards Show just isn't that much fun anymore. I used to take great glee is slicing and dicing them but they’ve been so dumb for so long that, to quote Mr. King (as in B.B.): the thrill is gone. That said, I now look at it as live comedy, of the squirm in your seat variety. It's always mildly amusing to see the U.S/U.K. music business make an ass of itself for the entire world to see. In no particular order here's a few Grammy 2007 observations.
On one of those occasions when the camera whirled down and across the crowd, I saw Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, looking very adult-like, and his wife sitting in a coveted aisle seat. He's come up in the world. His band's Sky Blue Sky was nominated for Best Rock Album but lost out to the Foo Fighters.
Sinatra and Keys? A tragic mistake for her. Showed how limited her talent is, but then anyone would come up short against Frank. That little sound/image synch problem did not help. A bad idea gone wrong.
Tina and Beyonce. Tina looked spectacular at 69 and sounded even better. She is a wonder of nature. And plastic surgery. Beyonce? Damn, the woman has dancer thighs doesn't she? She looked and sounded very nervous. Of course again, she was matched, not to her advantage, with a masterful singer. Maybe the whole young/old thing needs a rethink.
Liked the commercials for Garth Brooks Greatest Hits records.
The Jerry Lee Lewis/Little Richard/John Fogerty segment was fairly amazing. The Killer, who has been rumored to be on death's door for at least the last decade, looked jowly as hell but was still having fun. Little Richard, on the other hand, was oddly waxen looking (yes, more than normal) and was downright grim when he played. It did occur to me that that performance could well be Jerry Lee's final television appearance, the last glimpse America will ever get, of one of the more unforgettable creators of rock ‘n ‘roll.
Thank God Michael Jackson didn’t show up to pay tribute to Thriller. The freak quotient was off the map to begin with.
Seeing and hearing Keely Smith was great. Kid Rock however is the same untalented dope he's always been. His only redeeming quality is his respect for rock's elders, which still ain't enough to make me say anything but: why does this man have a music career?
Loved the look on people's faces when Doris Day’s name was mentioned. Ooohh was that a LONG time ago.
Andy Williams looked like Andy Williams if he were one hundred and ten years old. It’s testament to what performing in Branson, Mo. ad nauseum will do to ya. And poor squinting Tony Bennett did not a whole lot better.
Great choice on Herbie Hancock. Blew everyone's mind. In a good way.
The great Eliane Elias put on a quite a show last night in NYC. Touring in support of her new album, Something For You, Eliane Elias Sings and Plays Bill Evans, the pianist, singer and longtime Evans admirer lit up Dizzy's at Jazz at Lincoln Center, which is easily one of the best–sounding rooms for live music that I've ever been in. The food in there is fairly tasty and not wildly overpriced, a total rarity on the New York jazz club scene. And that behind the stage, floor to ceiling glass that adds a Central Park West backdrops to every performance is genuinely divine. Say what you want about Wynton, but the man did make the three JALC venues happen.
I was saddened today to read about the December 22 passing of Ruth Wallis, a singer from the 40's through 60's who specialized in creative naughtiness. Born in Brooklyn (where else?), she sang with Benny Goodman and owned her own record label, but it was her risque tunes like, "The Dinghy Song" ("He had the cutest little dinghy in the Navy") that brought her the most fame and which became the basis for an unlikely 2003 Broadway hit, Boobs! The Musical: The World According to Ruth Wallis. Here are a few classic couplets from the Wallis-penned title tune:
"You've gotta be filled
Two fried eggs will never grab him like grapefruits will
(And they're both breakfast foods)
But listen girls, don't try to fool your lover
Remember, he can go to Good Year if he wants rubber"
"Just think if all us girls had boobies with fluorination
We could take the cavities out of the whole damn nation
A nibble a day keeps the dentist away"
"Some push 'em up
Some stick 'em out
And some keep 'em flappin' in the breeze
Some tie then down because if they don't
They would hang down to their knees
Just you tease"
Now that Christmas has come and gone, and my need to hear Bobby Helms' "Jingle Bells Rock" has subsided — I'm not sure but I think it has something to do with those electric guitar flourishes, it's seems an appropriate time to say something about the continuing and astonishing turmoil in the record business which according to most sources experienced a nearly 20 percent decline in sales of physical product compared with last Christmas.
"Cavalcade of merciless repetition," is how Jimmy Page described touring in the Sunday Times last week. I still say they're gonna tour but give them credit: they're being coy about being dragged into accepting all that cash.
Needless to say, I'm not in London waiting in line at O2 arena but that doesn't mean my thoughts, like those of about every other music fan on the planet, aren't turned to what's going to happen this evening when Led Zeppelin ends two decades of silence and lets it rip in what's being billed as a one-off show for charity.
There are many nights when being a music writer comes down to the whining about the stark question: why am I dragging my ass out on the town again? What reason do I really have to see this act? Or to see this act one more time?
The new Miles Davis On The Corner set, which Sony says is the last metal boxed chunk of Miles they're gonna release, ever, is also the most beautiful, ever. Like the LP which reached its finest, most completely perfected form just before CDs came in, the boxed set is reaching its zenith with this one. The funky characters from the original cover are now stamped into the metal casing into which the set, book and CDs combined slip into. It's the same setup that Sony’s been using since the beginning of what has proved to be colossal reissue program.