“Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes 'round
They sing "I'm in love. What's that song?
I'm in love with that song."
(from “Alex Chilton” by The Replacements)
My five month old cell phone fried itself dead. Traffic in downtown Austin crawled inch by inch. A friend, who called himself a “capitalist,” called long distance to tell me Obama’s health plan was going to bankrupt the country. But all of that paled in comparison to the strange news that on the first night of South By Southwest 2010, the great Alex Chilton had died just before leaving New Orleans to come to Austin to play a Big Star reunion. Or as the more cynical among us had it, another Big Star reunion.
Even better than the STAX museum in Memphis however, is the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. I had friends in Nashville give me the whole rap about… “You don’t have to even know the music to love the museum”…to which I rolled my eyes, but it’s actually true. The CMH integrates music so beautifully in the museum. It could be an utter disaster in there musically, with listening stations bleeding into each other until it’s just a cacophony of noise. But through the intelligent uses of curled Nautilus shell shaped listening booths that control the sound yet still allow the listener to hear what they’ve chosen, the CMH is a model of keeping the music nearby yet allowing folks to look at cases of artifacts and talk among themselves without being blown out by music playing.
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.
Now that O.J.'s come out with his TV interview and his book, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. The DVD/CD tie-in. How about a soundtrack album featuring OJ enthusing about he "may" have done it. Or a tribute record: "Song for OJ." Or possibly "OJ sings the hits of …" Don’t laugh (or gag). Anyone unbalanced enough to write this book, presumably for the money, no matter what it's doing to his children, is ego-blind enough to think he could make it in the music business. Hey, he's already been an actor.
Heard a fairly scary rumor this week that I'm trying to confirm. Supposedly, you now only need sales of 50,000 units to jump into the upper third of the Billboard album charts. Consider that number against the fact that the two largest selling albums ever, Thriller and the first edition of the Eagles Greatest Hits have sold something north of 25 million copies and you get some idea of how shocking this stat is if true.
Had the old boy lived past the ripe old age of 27 (thank you tequila and morphine), Gram Parsons would have turned 60 last week on November 5.
Back at the Barcelona Jazz Festival, after many espressos, a hunk of Cod, potatoes with olive oil mayo and tomato sauce, grilled mushrooms, and some of the best cookies I’ve ever had (thumb sized sugar cookies with chocolate centers), I made the trip to several record stores including Jazz Messengers, which has perhaps the finest collection of live jazz CDs and some LPs, in the world. If you’re feeling strong, pay down a credit card and then check out their website, www.jazzmessengers.com. They ship to the States, I checked. I picked up a CD of Clifford Brown’s final concert in Norfolk, Virginia, which was recorded in 1956, the week before his tragic death at age 26 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The tenor player on the date was Sonny Rollins. Max Roach, Brownie’s friend and constant musical companion was on drums. It’s a legendary concert that has never been available in the US and needless to say I am thrilled to finally have a copy.
Label heads—those at the very highest positions of power at music companies. To anyone who's spent time near the record business, they're a mythical breed. Like gnomes. Or dragons. Often, it's their vision that spells success or failure for the label they run. And what they say goes. Over the years, many a legendary creature has assumed the title: Goddard Lieberson, Clive Davis, Mo Ostin, to name just a few of those who have survived and prospered. The list of those who did not is at least twice as long.
Back when everyone was rushing to convert LPs to CDs, the boxed set was a wondrous thing. The rush to "box" every artist propelled the record biz to some of their best Christmas seasons ever. It even inspired some labels to get off their then wealthy asses and dig around the vaults to find that most marvelous of record label offerings, the "bonus track."
jazz fusion is a movement in music, that I have to say, often leaves me cold. Yeah, Bitches Brew is great and other masterworks of the genre obviously resonate, but shows like a rare appearance by guitarist David Torn that I caught on Tuesday night at Joe's Pub are less than thrilling.
Ohhhhh, my aching head. Back from a wedding and then right into CMJ (a sort of New York version of Austin's SXSW), which strangely enough actually had music worth seeing and some very cool panels for the first time in many many years. The Thrill Jockey Showcase that I saw, which showcased all the noiserock that Shytown is famous for, was excellent. Also attended a party at the Slipper Room on the Lower East Side for Fuzz Music, a new music company whose backing comes from one of the Google millionaires. They're looking for things to sign but have no real idea, it seems, as to what directin they want to go. A new music company in 2006. God bless they're Googly millions.
The amount of flux in the world of music and the businesses of marketing and selling creativity continues to be absolutely amazing. In nearly 25 years of writing about music I’m seeing things I almost don't believe.