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.
Berlin was a much smaller market yet there were some interesting music stores, headed by Mr. Dead & Mrs Free which sells only new vinyl. Nearby was Rock Steady Records (pictured above) which had a decent selection of used vintage vinyl. I hear the flea market by the Brandenburg Gate has a number of vinyl dealers but somehow I never made it there.
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"
Being addicted, or even just a fan of The New York Times means you have to suss out the necessary assumptions and become expert at translating what's really going on there. Even overlooking the woeful sports section and regular incidents of pathetic pandering—a recent travel piece by Robert Kennedy Jr. comes to mind—the institutional psychoses and attitude, subtle as they may be, that the paper infuses, again ever so delicately, into everything is quite amazing.
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.
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 relationship between the internet and music continues to evolve in new and bizarre ways. The latest is Guvera, a site that offers free music downloads, that the principals say uses the sponsorship model in new and they hope successful ways and keeps everyonefrom artist to label to consumehappy. When you register for the site, they ask you a battery of questions about your likes and dislikes and then you’re free to search for a song or an artist. The site will then direct you to a channel or channels, sponsored by an advertiser, which has what you’re looking for. Using the information from those initial customers’ surveys and then your subsequent download history, the site’s algorhythms find the target audience for certain advertisers and grab their eyeballs in a better way than pop up or strip ads. They also tell the advertisers what music the customers they want to reach listen to. The advertiser pays the royalties on the music to whoever holds the copyright. In other words, either the record label or the artist gets paid. It ain’t stealing.
You gotta hand it to The New York Times; they do try and cover the audio industry. And when it comes to dumbing it down, they truly aren't fucking around. Rather than have to read an article from last week's Circuits section on how MP3's might someday sound better, A Quest for That Warm Sound of Old (June 5, 2007), which was printed just above a piece entitled Making Tunes a Fixture on the Patio (snaring more Jersey readers is obviously an NYT priority) here are the some beauties, salient or otherwise.
"The more you turn it up, the punchier it sounds…"
"…tries to sweeten digital sound by putting back what compression has taken out."
"…what are people really going for, accurate reproduction or pleasing reproduction?"
"Our technology tricks your brain into hearing something that isn’t there."
"When you can't hear the difference anymore, it's overkill."
"The process is never perfect."
"With a good recording, the quality may be improved by tweaking the playback."
"Don’t throw away your records yet."
The worlds of creating and selling music have never been in such a dramatic state of change. While the CD declines, the LP is resurrected. As piracy charges along undiminished, downloads continue to increase in sales. And then there’s streaming….
What a great show HE 2007 turned out to be. Large crowds and much good feeling all around. If two channel audio is truly dying then I didn't see it. Lots of good sounding rooms, much impressive, well-priced gear, a successful RAVE awards and a hotel with a key location all made for a very successful show.
Today, May 14, is a momentous day in music history as the anniversary of the passings of Keith Relf (Yardbirds), Chet Baker and one of the humankind's greatest musical talents, the one, the only, the chairman of the board, Francis Albert Sinatra who died in 1998. Somewhere, Frank's still got the world on a stringRingADingDing!
Transatlantic flights wipe me out. Chalk it up to being an old man I guess. But after a connection through a dark deserted Heathrow, I arrived in Barcelona for the 41st Barcelona Jazz Festival and within a couple of days, semi-disaster had struck. Not to me mind you but to American jazz saxophonist Joe Lovano who fell, not once but twice and broke an arm and a shoulder. He had to cancel his show here in Barcelona, his European tour and then had surgery with the chief orthopedic surgeon of Barcelona’s much beloved soccer team, FCBarcelona, presiding. I saw Lovano this morning as he was leaving for a flight home. He had both arms strapped up in this elastic, soft cast contraption but was in good spirits and ready to head back to NYC. He says he’ll be able to play again in about 15 days, but he’ll have to lay off performing until after the first of the year. No word yet however on what caused his tumble, which is the bigger question.