Music Features
Dec 25, 2006, 14:51


Now that everybody is into mash-ups and pointlessly odd juxtapositions, why not pull George Martin out of the old folk's home to run The Beatles shit through the blender?  Whatever it takes to get you to drag that American Express card back into a record store.  Real art used to be sacred.  Somewhere John Lennon is sick of giving peace a chance.

SLOW DEATH: The Closing of Tower Records

Remember Sound Warehouse, Peaches or the Virgin Megastore?  Add Tower Records to the list.  Some things you tend to take for granted.  Tower Records was once like a 7-11 store; been there forever, will always be there.  Right?  Sorry.  If you were ever looking for a box set of your favorite artist on sale for eight bucks, you better get your ass to the Tower carcass during the next week or so.  Over the last decade the larger chain stores have squeezed the Mom-and-Pops at first to the periphery, then off the radar altogether.  Now iTunes has crushed whatever was left of the retail experience.  Apparently karma has come full circle.  At least Tower used to feel like an indie store…

SPIN CYCLE: Club DJs with Laptops Instead of Records

Sick of dragging your crates to-and-from your nightly DJ gig?  Bring your laptop and beat matching software instead.  In fact, why don't you just put your whole set on an iPod and mail it the fuck in? If you were ever wondering how the bottom dropped out of the music business, consider this: the record labels used to bring one very important thing to the table, and it was enough to justify their existence; that was the manufacturing and distribution of the vinyl record.  Now that you can record and distribute your own stuff, everyone is a DJ or rock star and nobody is getting paid royalties.  As a result, all of your friends who used to work at record labels are either unemployed, or they've permanently transitioned to production work on television commercials or indie films.  It's a long fall from grace for people who have dedicated their whole life thus far to their infinite love of melodic noise.


Indicative of the trend referenced above, the primary focus at Austin's yearly SXSW booze fest has moved from alternative music to indie film.  This actually makes perfect sense; the festival started years ago because a group of local music promoters, bookers, writers, musicians and managers began to age and felt the need to transition from the nightly grind of gigging in clubs to a more age-appropriate cluster fuck gathering once a year.  Instead of bleeding locals dry for their cash all year, why not charge touring indie bands a hundred bucks or so for the right to play in the self-appointed “live music capitol of the world” for one weekend?  Now that the locals are all deaf and most record company A&R weasels have been stripped of their expense accounts, the SXSW folks have once again followed the money.  It ain't Sundance, but most of us can't ski anyway.


I doubt the guys in Led Zeppelin were thinking about selling a Cadillac when they wrote “Rock and Roll” for the ZOFO album, because the old or dead blues cats from Depression Era (the unaccredited source of most of LZ's earlier material) probably never had the opportunity to drive one.  I'd have to say that I never thought I'd see Snopp Dogg holding a golf club in a car commercial with Lee Iacocca, either.  On the other hand, the recent Volvo commercial featuring a Sparklehorse song makes perfect sense, right?  Please.  Look, if you wanna use music to sell cars, be smart about it. Try “Drive” by The Cars or “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson—something that actually works.  The only Led Zeppelin fan driving a Caddy is Tony Soprano, and the only thing that Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse has in common with a Volvo car is that they both happen to have vowels in their names.  Just because most of us discovered Nick Drake in a Volkswagen spot doesn't mean we went out and bought the car, too.  Here's an idea: Motorhead's “Ace of Spades” in one of those VW commercials showing people getting into serious auto accidents.  “That's the way I like it, baby… I don't wanna live forever…”


Once I strapped the vomit trough on my face and settled into the couch, I was then ready for the idiot onslaught.  I thought enough time had finally passed where I could handle a few minutes of Courtney Love's self-absorbed nonsense.  She showed us her many photo albums, her walk-in closets filled with clothes she never wears, and the clothes Kurt Cobain wore when he killed himself.  Anything for a buck or shred of publicity, huh?  By the time they got to the footage of her passed out in the recording studio, I could really feel for her. This shit was putting me to sleep as well.  Now that the industry is pretty much dead, I wonder how her ego will deal with selling (maybe, if she's lucky) one-tenth of the amount of records she once sold while coasting in the wake of Cobain's jet stream.  And you know what's weird?  Pretty On The Inside is one of my favorite albums of all time; made before she went Prada and started letting Linda Perry write all of her songs for her.


The brilliant documentary film about the twisted Texas savant revealed what many have never really taken into consideration; while this man is a musical genius, he would never be able to effectively process the emotion and responsibility of the success he so richly deserves.  Daniel Johnston is visibly uncomfortable dealing with complimentary adoration.  His delicate mental state is such that each day is an ongoing challenge, even though he still lives at home with his parents and has a support group of fans and friends who manufacture and distribute his music.  This film shows what so many of us were actually afraid to articulate out loud—if Daniel Johnston were to have ever become rich and famous, he'd almost certainly be sharing a cloud right now with his biggest fan, that blond-haired guy from Nirvana.


Punk rock died a long time ago, but CB's was always a living museum and monument to the beginning of the trend.  On the club's last night in business, Patti Smith and her band tore it up onstage and then laid the wreath on the coffin. Sure, CBGB's was a hellhole of a music venue, with perhaps the nastiest restrooms and dressing rooms you've ever seen in your life.  But that's what punk rock was originally all about—piss and shit and blood and snot… not your forty dollar ripped t-shirt purchased at the mall via Hot Topic with your parent's Visa card.  And yeah, Hilly was a dick who ripped off bands and would never return your phone calls.  But you know what? These days it's hard to find anyone who was as dedicated to their cause for as long as he was to that of CBGB's.  For that, I give him props and wish him the best in the future.  Things do come full circle, more often than not. Over twenty-five years punk rock came and went and CBGB's was there the whole fuckin' time.  We were right there with ya, Hilly.  Too bad we're all deaf now.


What does it say about the state of the live music business in Los Angeles when hideous copy bands dressing and acting like AC/DC, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Queen regularly draw more people to their shows than excellent LA-based original bands like The Spores, Gram Rabbit, and Rocco DeLuca and The Burden? It means that the majority of people out there would rather settle for a pale imitation of something from their past rather than opening up their ears to something new and exciting. This, my friends, is the difference between our American audiences and the more open-minded European or Japanese audiences. Tribute bands are the sonic equiv of celebrity look-alikes. You wouldn't throw ten bucks at a movie just because the star happened to look like Brad Pitt or Naomi Watts, would you?  Who knows… maybe you would.


Whenever I see someone wearing a black “Led Zeppelin 1977 US Tour” t-shirt I feel compelled to inform them that I was actually at the first night of that tour (April 1 at Memorial Auditorium in Dallas—I was in eighth grade at the time) and the show totally SUCKED.  Still, because I was a huge LZ freak at the time, I forgave them and bought the shirt that night for seven bucks.  (I even took it to the mall the next day and had a t-shirt shop stencil my name on the back.) These days, people are paying stupid money for that same shirt with the thought in mind that it represents some magical moment in time.  That tour, their last, was a total disaster.  The band was clearly unrehearsed, they were sloppy, Jimmy Page was on smack, and Robert Plant's voice sounded terrible.  As I recall, none of the band members ever made eye contact with one another the whole show.  But we can still live the dream right?  Put it in on my debit card.


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