Archive for the 'Music' Category


November 11, 2008

Holy cow:

 YouTube is by far the world’s biggest stage for online video. But in some ways Hulu is stealing the show.

With critical plaudits and advertising dollars flowing to Hulu, the popular online hub for television shows and feature films, YouTube finds itself in the unanticipated position of playing catch-up.

On Monday, YouTube will move forward a little, announcing an agreement to show some full-length television shows and films from MGM, the financially troubled 84-year-old film studio.

With YouTube, Hulu and Fancast (and who knows what site just around the corner), just give me my laptop and park me anywhere.


John and Hank

October 24, 2008

It’s the battle of the bands, country vs. rock, the aging redneckand the faded hippie! Johnny Cougar gives Cranky John what for!

A radio ad endorsement of Barack Obama by Hoosier rocker John Mellencamp repeats a charge the Obama campaign thinks will resonate with Hoosier voters: that John McCain supports tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas. But independent organizations have said the tax the Obama campaign is referring to is not a main factor in overseas job migration.

At least he doesn’t sing, thank goodness. I couldn’t have taken him going on about the little pink houses that got foreclosed on cause somebody’s job got stoled and sent to China. Meanwhile, do you want to PARTY? Are you READY for some SARAH?

Palin will speak at a Road to Victory Rally at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Coliseum, 4000 Parnell Ave., according to GOP chairman Steve Shine. Doors will open at 4 p.m. Singer Hank Williams Jr. will perform.

I guess at other rallies, Hank has done a version of his “Family Tradition” in which the title is changed to “McCain-Palin Tradition” and the lyrics compare Palin to a “mama bear” who can be counted on to “protect your family’s condition” because “if you mess with her cubs, she’s gonna take off the gloves — that’s an American female tradition.” Take a cue from Mellencamp, Hank.

Lord, this has been going on far too long.


October 13, 2008

Sometimes, you find the most amusing nonpolitical stuff in the most poitlical places. I stumbled across this over at The Corner:

Zappa dappa do, nuttin but

October 2, 2008

Oh, well. I should have known that “America’s Got Talent” wasn’t going to end my way last night when Queen Emily was sent home as the No. 5 contestant. I had her in the top three. America may have talent, but it also has millions of morons who wouldn’t know real talent if it — well, fell into their living rooms. The act that should have won — Nuttin but Stringz — was dispatched in third place. At least the winner — operatic singer Neal E. Boyd — was also one of the top three in talent. He does have a remarkable voice. I’d probably appreciate him more if I liked opera more.

Nuttin but Stringz is still the act I’d pay my own money to see, especially if someone is smart enough to hook them up with the right people. Put them in front of a rock-funk-jazz-fusion-don’t follow no stinkin’ rulez band, and the avant-garde might finally meet popular culture.

Where’s Frank Zappa when we really need him? One of the birthday gifts I asked for and got last month was a CD of his “Grand Wazoo” album from the early ’70s. I’d listened to it on vinyl until the grooves wore out, and now I’m listening to it every second I’m in the car. You know how you listen to a song a few times and get used to its structure and then can anticipate what’s coming up next — even a complex, strange piece like most of the cuts on Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew”? Frank’s music isn’t like that.

Save the music

September 24, 2008

One of my favorite Hoosier excursions over the years has been to the June bluegrass festival in Bean Blossom — good music (when Uncle Pen played the fiddle!), good food (ham ‘n beans n’ cornbread!) and friendly people in a relaxed atmosphere. And you get to see and even meet the people whose records you’ve been buying for years. So hooray for Steve Johnson, the Indianapolis businessman who is trying to save the place.

Johnson established the foundation when he learned that the festival grounds were for sale.

“I hatched the idea of forming a foundation which would allow us to make sure the grounds would never go back to a private owner. This way, we can take the revenue and put it back into the infrastructure of the park,” he explained.

Owner Dwight Dillman decided to help the group by lowering the price for the property from $3.9 million to $3 million. He even removed the big “For Sale” sign at the park entrance in a show of support for the foundation’s efforts.

It’s a rustic site, so even $3 million might sound like a lot, but the compound is more than 50 acres now. I bet Bill Monroe paid only a few thousand for it when he bought the land in the early 1950s.  Here’s a brief look at the great man.

Four out of five ain’t bad

September 19, 2008

I don’t know if it means my good taste or my bad taste has been confirmed, but the rest of America agreed with me on four of the top five on “America’s Got Talent.” The only one I picked who didn’t make the cut was Jessica Price; instead, Donald Braswell went on to the finals, and since he was my sixth choice, I guess I can’t complain too much. And here is the clip of what Nuttin But Stringz played Tuesday night that knocked me out. The clip I put up earlier was from a previous broadcast.

Nuttin But Stringz

September 18, 2008

I’ve been sticking with “America’s Got Talent,” even though it slowly transformed from a variety show to just another version of “American Idol” — nine of the top 10 finishers are singers. I watched last night, and it was pretty easy for me to choose my favorites for the five finalists. So long, Sinatra impersonator and Elvis impersonator; I’ll watch you on TV, but pay to see you in Vegas? Don’t think so. Goodbye to the 4-year-old — what was she doing there in the first place? Catch you later, Osmond Family wannabes. Donald Braswell almost makes the cut for me. Nice voice, but still . . .

My final five: Jessica Price, who made me actually listen to Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” again — I’d gotten so used to hearing it behind that cruelty-to-animals commercial that I stopped paying attention to it. Eli Mattson is a good singer and great keyboard player. Queen Emily and Neal E. Boyd have amazing voices.

But my favorite is Nuttin But Stringz. They have a unique act, and last night they did an original number that took me back to my rock-concert-attending days. It sounded like a cross between Led Zeppelin and an Irish folk number. Put those two in front of a hot band, and you’re looking at true superstars.

It died last week

September 8, 2008

Groups such as Rush, Chicago and the Moody Blues still haven’t made it into the Rock ‘n’ roll Hall of Fame and won’t make it again this year, but lame acts such as the Pet Shop Boys, Nick Cave and that hard-rockin’ mama Whitney Houston have been put up for nomination. No wonder there isn’t exactly breathless anticipation:

The closest thing to the Madonnas, R.E.M.s, Van Halens and U2s that have starred at recent inductions is probably the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

[. . .]

Madonna’s nomination last year polarized voters and fans — some of whom admired her musical innovations and longevity, others who thought she had nothing to do with the three words that precede “Hall of Fame” in the institution’s name. If nominated, Houston probably will stir up even more of a fuss.

Why don’t they just admit they’ve hit the bottom of the barrel and move on to something else? Unless rock ‘n’ roll is redefined to include what are now considered other forms, there aren’t likely to be many more superstars.

The chorean war

August 18, 2008

As a persistent and strident critic of excessive federal spending, I feel compelled from time to time to comment on a national program that seems defensible. One of those is the “orphan products” program of the Food and Drug Administration.

Drug companies are reluctant to do research on diseases that won’t give them millions of customers for the drugs they produce. Given the billions they have to spend on research and development and government requirements, in order to make a profit they would have to charge a price no customer could afford. So they concentrate on things like cancer and heart disease and obesity that gurantee a steady customer base. (OK, your Big Pharma-bashing can go in here.)

Under the orphan-products program, the federal government gives financial incentives and patent considerations to companies that deal with diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 people. It’s been in the news lately because, under its provisions, the first drug ever for the treatment of Huntington’s disease has been approved: It won’t reverse the disease, but:

The disorder results in jerky, involuntary movements known as chorea.

The drug tetrabenazine controls the chorea, which affects about 90 percent of people with the disease.

This strikes me as a legitimate use of government funding to equalize opportunity, in much the way that state education spending is designed to give students in property-poor counties the same chance at an education as those in property-rich counties. The state determines a per-pupil cost that represents reasonable education spending, and makes up the difference for those counties that can’t raise that much in property taxes.

The disease is still fatal. People who are diagnosed usually live about 20 years. Since it’s usually diagnosed in the late 40s or early 50s, that’s not such a bad deal. But ontrolling the corea means that sufferers might use more of that 20 years going out and interacting with other people instead of just shaking in a dark corner of the bedroom.

Like Woody Guthrie did. That’s why I paid attention to this story, because he suffered from Huntington’s. Huntington’s may be the second-most-famous minor disease, after Lou Gehrig’s disease, simply because of who had it. None of the stories I read mentioned Woody, though. Fame is fleeting, I guess.

If one parent had Huntington’s, your chance of getting it is 50 percent. If none did, your chance is zero. If they develop a test to let you know if’ you’re gonna get Huntington’s, would you take it? Well, they did, and Arlo Guthrie, whose music I came to like as much as Woody’s, said, “No thanks, I’ll just wait and see.” I’ve thought about that a lot. If I could know, would I want to — if my time were limited, just how limited? I’ve gone back and forth, but mostly I come down with Arlo — just let each day come, until the next one doesn’t.

Woody Guthrie was pretty much a Communist — “This Land Is Your Land” says it all– so he would find the angst over federal spending at the beginning of this entry pretty amusing. Hey, hey, Woody Gutrhie, I blogged you a post . . .

Face the music

August 7, 2008

Have to say that when it comes to musical taste, I’d go with Barack Obama

Everyone knows you’re a Jay-Z fan, but who else is on your iPod?
My staff teases me about how eclectic my tastes are. I’ve got Frank Sinatra, I’ve got Sheryl Crow, I’ve got John Coltrane, I’ve got Bob Dylan. There’s Javanese flute music, African dance music, a lot of R&B.

over John McCain:

This might sound like a sleazy rumor out of one of those 527 ads, but we’ve heard you’re a huge ABBA fan. Can this possibly be true? Honestly?
Yes, I have to give a straight-talk answer. I’m also a Roy Orbison fan and a Linda Ronstadt fan — all the ones whose place in the spotlight ended some years ago. But I like Usher, too. I was on Saturday Night Live with him, got to see him perform, and I was very impressed with him.

Actually, I like just about everything on both lists, but ABBA? Seriously, ABBA? That’s just unacceptable in a presidential candidate. Mama Mia!

Bad, worse, worst

August 6, 2008

The worst song ever:

BAHA MEN’s summer hit record WHO LET THE DOG’S OUT? has been named the worst song of all time.
The track, which topped charts around the world in 2000, is number one in a new list compiled by editors of and AOL Radio.
It beat off tough competition from rapper Vanilla Ice’s memorable hit Ice, Ice Baby and a more recent chart success for Ricky Martin – She Bangs.
There was even a place in the chart for a couple of music legends, in Sir Paul MCCartney and Stevie Wonder.

I don’t have any quibble with the badness of any of the songs included in the top 10 (or bottom 10, I guess), but, of course, the purpose of such lists is for us to grouse about all the bad ones left off. And there are so many from which to choose! This would be my current list of all-time bad songs. Tomorrow, it might be different.

10. Achy Breaky Heart

9. Baby, Don’t Get Hooked On Me

8. You’re having My Baby

7. Sometimes When We Touch

6. The Night the Light Went Out in Georgia

5. Seasons in the Sun

4. Horse With No Name

3. Wildfire

2. In the Year 2525

And my nomination for the worst song ever:

1. MacArthur Park. Dammit, get that cake out of the rain!

Nothin’, honey

July 2, 2008

Today’s existentialism quiz.

Bob Dylan: If you aint’ got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose.

Kris Kristofferson: Freedom’s jsut another word for nothin’ left to lose.

What’s the difference?

I can think of at least a couple.

Once upon a time, you ruled so fine

June 24, 2008

What’s the world coming to? The chief justice of the United States Supreme Court quotes a pop icon  (pdf file) in his dissent on a court ruling:

The absence of any right to the substantive recovery means that respondents cannot benefit from the judgment they seek and thus lack Article III standing. “When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.” Bob Dylan. Like a Rolling Stone, on Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia Records 1965).

Cool. And, believe it or not, that’s exactly what I got out of that song, too. How does it feel, Babe, to be out on your own, no direction home, with no Article II standing?

No, but hum a few bars

June 20, 2008

Another one of those silly lists compiled by people with too much time on their hands — 14 songs you should never play in a bar:

There’s nothing worse than having a perfectly good drinking session ruined by a song that either doesn’t belong in a bar, has been crammed down your ears too many times, or just plain sucks.

The three songs that should not be on this list but are — “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Hotel California” and “anything by the Beatles.” But that’s all subjective, which is the whole point of such lists.

I have two strong memories of songs being overplayed in a bar. One is Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart.” We played it every time we went into a certain bar in Michigan City. But so did a lot of patrons, and nobody seemed to mind. It was a catchy tune that everybody liked, and it expressed a sentiment that people drinking in bars might like to hear. “Hey, Honey, lay down you money and play your part, but lemme finish this drink first.”

The other was Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” A bunch of us from Fort Hood found it on a juke box in Killeen, Texas, and kept playing it over and over for about three hours straight. The locals (“civilians” is what we called them) were not amused, but the more annoyed they became, the more determined we were to keep playing it. We threw in Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” occasionally to keep them off guard, but they weren’t fooled.

“Stairway to Heaven,” by the way, is one song on the list that definitely belongs there. Even when I hear it on the radio, I have to pull over and make myself calm down. “Sometimes words have two meanings.” Yeah, right, move it along, for God’s sake, my ears are bleeding.

The savage breast

June 2, 2008

All you Bush-bashers have been picking on Condi for such trifling things as her national-security competence. Now, finally something that’s serious:

Condoleezza Rice may be a top diplomat who once aspired to being a concert pianist but she let her hair down a bit in Stockholm to meet the flamboyant rock group KISS.

“I was thrilled,” a beaming US secretary of state told reporters Friday after meeting lead singer Gene Simmons and his three band members at the waterfront Sheraton Hotel in the Swedish capital on Thursday night.

“For someone who likes the whole range of music, it was really fun to meet KISS and Gene Simmons,” Rice said on the plane taking her from a conference on Iraq in Stockholm to talks with Iceland’s leaders in Reykjavik.

A classical pianist would even consider what KISS does music? How disappointing. Coincidentally, I ran across this story soon after reading the Condi-KISS one:

NEW YORK (AP) — Noted neurologist Oliver Sacks has found common ground with the pastor of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church: Both men believe in the healing power of music.

Sacks, the best-selling author of “Awakenings” and “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,” shared the church stage Saturday with the famed gospel choir as part of the inaugural World Science Festival, a five-day celebration of science taking place in New York this week.

“It should be an exciting and unusual event,” Sacks said in an interview this week. “I will talk about the therapeutic and beneficent power of music as a physician, and then their wonderful choir will perform. … And the audience will make what they can of it.”

I presume they’re talking about real music, like Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” or Duke Ellington’s rendition of “Satin Doll” or folk or jazz or blues or some early rock. Not hip-hop. Not the teen queens. Not KISS. Ever. Alice Cooper, OK. Black Sabbath on a good day. “Iron Man” smooths me right out.


April 28, 2008

There aren’t many acts I’d go out of the way to see live anymore — that was another part of my life. But the Robert Plant-Alison Krauss tour would be at the top of the list. I first saw Krause when she was just a kid, on stage with Bill Monroe at Bean Blossom. And what was the point of anybody else doing heavy metal music after “Led Zeppelin II”? And they weren’t even exactly a metal band.

This is a fascinating marriage of styles, and the reviewers say the show is something special. Rockers will be disappointed that the duo go more in the direction of Alison’s root music than Robert’s, but, hey, they’re both, as producer T-Bone Burnette says, out of their comfort zones.



Idol chatter

April 24, 2008

A few Americans come to their senses:

It had to happen sometime: American Idol is showing signs of mortality in its seventh season.

Ratings for TV’s top show are down 7% to an average 29 million viewers for regular episodes and down 10% among adults ages 18 to 49, the main currency on Madison Avenue.

It’s still big enough for Fox to be the ratings champ, though. Might I suggest a night at a karaoke bar? The entertainment value will be the same, and you’ll get out of the house.

Still trying

April 21, 2008

Caught this on CBS’ Sunday morning show yesterday. Coldplay’s “Fix You” by Young@Heart. Go ahead and don’t cry. I dare you.

Mr. bad example

April 17, 2008

A rap star’s secrect past uncovered, and it turns out he was — ready for it? — not such a bad guy:

So there was no conviction. There was no prison term between 1999 and 2002. And he was never “facing 75 years,” as the singer claimed in one videotaped interview.

Remember when stars tried to clean up their pasts?

(via fark)

Bad rap

April 2, 2008

We haven’t had a “Department of the Obvious” report in a while, so let’s check in:

Rap music, which warned against the dangers of drug abuse in its heydays, now glorifies their illegal use, according to a new study. There has been an alarming six-fold increase in references to drugs in recent rap songs, the study found, leading researchers to warn that young people who tend to emulate rap artistes are “already at risk and need to get a positive message from the media”.

Next, they’ll be telling me that Soylet Green is people!

Seymour’s finest

March 14, 2008

Matt Welch at Reason doesn’t think to much of John Mellencamp:

If you were one of the hundreds of millions of Americans who successfully avoided watching the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame broadcast Monday on VH1 Classic, you missed one of the worst song-stretching exercises since Jerry Garcia went on to the Big Insulin Provider in the Sky — John Cougar Mellencamp transforming the three-chord yawner “The Authority Song” into a seven-minute advertisement for editing.

He also points out that the longtime Farm Aider has a lot of relatives around Seymour who receive farm subsidies: “George Mellencamp, for instance, was the 18th largest recipient of 2003-2005 subsidies in Seymour, with more than $142,000. James Mellencamp was 39th, with more than $90,000.”

Reserve my copy

February 29, 2008

I can hardly wait:

NEW YORK – Eminem is working on a book that’s “every bit as raw and uncensored as the man himself,” according to his publisher.

Dutton Books, an imprint of The Penguin Group, announced Wednesday that it would be publishing the best-selling rapper’s “The Way I Am” this fall.

[. . .]

Offering a window on the star’s private thoughts on everything from his music and the trials of fame to his love for his daughter, Hailie, this title is every bit as raw and uncensored as the man himself,” Dutton said.

Shouldn’t complain, I guess; at least this is keeping him busy. He hasn’t had an album since 2004, and a spokesman says there is none in the works.

The savage breast

February 27, 2008

Oh, bushwa:

The New York Philharmonic‘s unprecedented concert could herald warmer ties between North Korea and the United States. After three encores, some musicians left the stage in tears as the audience waved fondly.

Between horn fanfares and the flourishes of the conductor’s baton, the U.S. and North Korea found common ground in a concert Tuesday that spanned American and Korean musical traditions.

Whether the feeling lingers after the music will depend on the North’s compliance with an international push to rid it of nuclear weapons.

Classical music and nuclear weapons. Which wins? Hmm, let me think.  Each side wants a propaganda win, which is why this came about. I’m guessing North Korea wins, because the Western press coverage will be mostly like this, all full of weepily romantic drivel.

Still, probably worth it for us. Music, especially good music, is a universal language. Maybe we will have pushed a few in the audience over the edge, finally fed up with all their loony dictator thug denies them.

Idol chatter

January 17, 2008

singer-illus.jpgI’ve never watched any reality TV shows, except a few minutes here and there when one of them was on right before another program I wanted to see. But a friend decided to check out “American Idol” this year (apparently, she was being left out of the conversation; that’s all anybody talks about the next morning), so I deicded to peek in, too. I won’t say it made my ears bleed, but, jeez.

I can see the fascination, especially in the early rounds. After you suffer through several bad singers in a row, it can be an almost transcendent experience to hear a halfway good one.

That same friend I and went shopping at Jefferson Pointe one Saturday afternoon. We had planned to finish the day at our favorite Mexican restaurant but found out it had closed, so we went over to the one at Park West and stumbled into Karaoke Night. Most of the singers were mediocre or worse, but it was good, silly fun for an unplanned evening. Then this old guy in a sweater and goofy golf cap shuffled up to the microphone. God, how horrible was he going to be? But he was wonderful — warm, mellow voice, like one of those old-time Big Band singers. And he didn’t oversell the song — just sailed through it like he’d been on stage all his life. The crowd gave him a thuderous ovation, and it’s a moment that’s stayed with me to this day. There must be moments like that on “American Idol.”

But about those bad singers. They are not just bad, they are not just awful, they are not just unbearable to listen to. They are weirdly awful in an almost supernatural way. And they have weird back stories. There is the kid who has been collecting his fingernails in a baggie, which he shows to everybody. There’s the one who’s never even kissed a woman. There was this guy:

Douglas Davidson, a 28-year-old student, says he has been trying “to restart my singing hobby since I was 16.” He says his father would catch him singing sometimes and tell him he hated him. Ooooo-kay. He walks around “warming up” for a couple of minutes. He shout-talks his way through “Livin’ on a Prayer.” It’s awful. He says he was rough on a couple of notes, and walks around “warming up” again. He starts another song, and it’s terrible, too. Simon tells him to stop and that it’s just not working. He ignores them all and keeps trying to sing. Simon: “No one in a million years is ever going to pay to hear you sing.” He starts walking and singing again. Security removes him. Simon: “Douglas, they’re going to take you someplace safe.”

That was some creepy television. I had known that the awful singers were delusional about their singing abilities. That’s all people talk about in the early shows, and how, after all, could they not be delusional to display their lack of talent before a national TV audience? But something I hadn’t understood without watching the show: Their lack of talent is not the only thing they are delusional about.  Some of these people seem to exhibit symptoms of serious mental illness. They are not just oddballs. Going on Idol is part of their sickness.  To trot them out for the sole purpose of national ridicule is more than just meanness or even cruelty. It borders on the unconscionable.

Or am I overreacting based on underexposure to the Idol phenomenon?

Rock it, Bill

January 16, 2008

Via Fark, one of the great moments in entertainment history, William Shatner performing — I guess that’s the right word — “Rocket Man” at a science fiction convention. It happened 30 years ago today.