One night last week, a bout of channel surfing brought me to the Grammy nomination concert. Not the Grammys mind you, that’s in February, but a televised special to announce the nominations. And only the nominations of the celebritydriven stuff like Best New Artist which is when LL Cool J, who was hosting, walked across the front of the auditorium and ask the Jonas Brothers how it felt to be nominated. As the bile rose in my throat I changed the channel. I found it to be very strange that this was proceeded by a showing of the venerable 1964 stop motion animation special, Rudolph, The RedNosed Reindeer which is narrated by Burl Ives and contains a couple of indelible toon icons in the prospector Yukon Cornelius and a Yeti called a “bumble.”
Perhaps the most interesting thing on satellite radio has been Bob Dylan’s Theme Time radio show on XM, where he uses big themes like “baseball” or “eyes,” and builds shows around music that somehow connects to the theme. The idea for this show, which is worth listening to if only for Dylan’s raspyvoiced patter, may have come from a previous Fortiesera radio program hosted by one of Dylan’s heroes, Woody Guthrie.
A hit abroad but relatively unknown at home. That describes Cheap Trick who I wrote about here recently and also, believe it or not, Otis Redding. He was a big hit in the U.K. and even it seems in Paris before he hit at home with his final single, “(Sittin’ on the) “Dock of the Bay.”
I live by the axiom, “So many records to listen to, so little time.” That’s not an excuse; just reality. And it has nothing to do with being a music writer. If you’re a voracious music fan, there’s no way, no matter how many records per day you slug through, that you can hear it all. If today, I started listening to just my Beethoven Symphony cycles, it would literally be months before I could come up for air.
All Together Now, the DVD that details the making of Love the Beatles collaboration with Cirque du Soleil is coming out on October 21 and from the looks of the trailer it could be fun. I hear there are flashes of Yoko being a dragon lady (now there’s a shock), McCartney being a doofus of sorts (another revelation) and some great bits with George Martin which, all kidding aside, might make this worth the price. The subtitle in this trailer that says, “Yoko hates it,” is a classic.
It’s been a Guitar Fest here in NYC lately. I’ve seen Bill Frisell (always superb), Kenny Burrell (a very rare pleasure because he hates to fly) and Mike Marino (with new Blue Note pianist Aaron Parks). Tonight is a tribute to Fender's Jazzmaster guitar headlined by Nels Cline, J. Mascis, Thurston Moore and Tom Verlaine. Must be frets in the water or something.
The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia? Now in its second revised and updated printing? Does any one person, even a momentous artist who now seems determined to die on the stage (to steal a quote from the great Midnight Cowboy) really need or deserve their own encyclopedia?
These days I often have to stop myself and remember again that I need to write about music and not just the incredibly weird situation in which today's music business is both dying and rising from the ashes simultaneously.
There it was again. Goosebumps. Even a grainy old out–of–synch YouTube video of a 1986 sound check at Maxwell's in Hoboken still evoked a shiver. At the risk of living in the rock 'n' roll past, The Replacements were one of the best bands, bar or otherwise, that I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing. Over the years I saw Westerberg, Mars and the Stinson Bros many, many times. I saw them when they were riotously drunk, careening from one tune to the next, never finishing any of them. I saw them once at an unbilled gig do not a note of their own music, preferring instead to rip through TV themes: Batman followed by Bewitched followed by The Flintstones... I saw them jacked up on God knows what, painting their shoes and whipping bologna from a deli tray all over their dressing room. Through it all, with the possible exception of when Bob Stinson was kicked out for getting a little too addictive, they had a ball. When it got serious near the end, around the time of Don’t Tell a Soul, it was for all intensive purposes, over. They were the best thing to come out of the once vaunted Minnesota scene—okay, after Prince—and whether they liked it or not, one of the originators of the whole "alt" rock thang.