Tag Archives: Jim Morrison

The 27 Club Gets Another One

Amy Winehouse, dead at 27.

Not exactly a surprise, considering her lifestyle. Even the Vegas books took her off the board in “Dead Pools” more than once. But it’s yet another tragic end to what could have been a dynamic career, and unlike most of her 27 Club predecessors, the culture of the times says she should have known better.

But she didn’t want to go to rehab.

(Hey, I wouldn’t want to room with Lindsay Lohan, either.)

From my perspective, as talented as she was, her legacy is too slim to rate alongside club peers like Joplin, Morrison, Hendrix and Jones. But she had friends, and she had family, and she had a boatload of fans. And for them it’s as difficult a day as it was for a young Stones fan when that body was found floating in Winnie The Pooh’s pool.

Who’ll be the next in line?

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials, Music

Remembering Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin died forty years ago today.

Forty years? That doesn’t seem possible. But I guess it’s been that long since the first rock’n’roll generation’s stars started dropping like flies – Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Janis. I was but a wee lad when I lived through that carnage, but it was only ten years later a when psychotic gunned down John Lennon in the street.

Janis did everything full-bore, and while her death was tragic it was anything but unexpected. Attractive but not conventionally pretty, she channeled whatever loneliness and pain she felt through her gifted voice and exquisite phrasing and sang everything from deep in her soul. And much like her deceased brethren, she was able to pack a lot of magic into a short window of fame.

Video: “Cry Baby” (live in Toronto)

Hearing her music today is as fulfilling as it ever was, perhaps even more so given the dearth of vocalists at her level over the years. Although I’ve heard the song a thousand times, “Piece of My Heart” still makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck, as does her incredible version of Summertime“. And her lighter moments – “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Mercedes Benz“, for two – still make me smile and sing along involuntarily.

Thanks to the constant flood of unearthed film footage and studio sessions, Janis’ magic isn’t limited solely to her albums and reputation. I highly recommend picking up the Monterey Pop DVD as well as the recently released Festival Express, both of which capture her in a myriad of emotions. Nine Hundred Nights is a documentary focusing on the Big Brother era and is very good, although not objective. I was even pleasantly surprised by the episode of Biography broadcast by the A&E network; it was one of their best.

And, of course, there’s the original catalogue. If you’re not able to gather the originals, either The Essential Janis Joplin or Box of Pearls is a good place to start. Live CDs from Woodstock and Winterland are also worthy purchases, and there are more on the way.

Video: Ball and Chain” (live at Monterey Pop)

Every generation argues its own timeline, but the last half of the 1960’s might have produced the greatest number of important artists simultaneously at the peak of their game. And even in that competition, Janis Joplin was a beacon.

R.I.P., Janis.

Janis Joplin dot net

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials, Film/TV, Music

Rock’s Darkest Day?

July 3rd is the anniversary of the deaths of both Brian Jones and Jim Morrison. Ask rockers about Morrison and you’ll get a highly divided camp; some revere his poetic lyrics and unique artistic expression with The Doors, while others see him as a bloated, self-indulgent hipster who yammered nonsense and called it art. 

I was a Doors fan and still enjoy their music – there are a series of great singles and many of the deeper tracks on the album were pretty fascinating. I thought L.A. Woman was a tremendous album and am saddened that they never got to continue that journey. But the drunken escapades, the supposed incidents of exposure, the pretentiousness of it all…yeah, I could understand someone resisting their work because they can’t get past that. 

But I’ll wrestle you to the mat about Jones

Brian Jones was The Rolling Stones. Without him, there wouldn’t be a band, let alone a Sticky Fingers or an Exile on Main Street or a Let It Bleed. Because it was Jones the blues purist who set the course, charted the direction and marketed the band in the earliest days when everyone else was ready to fold the tent and quit

Mick Jagger would have graduated from the London School of Economics and been a prissy accountant. Charlie Watts would probably have joined a jazz band and would be famous to a whole other audience. Bill Wyman might have lived the suburban life he seemed to be drifting towards, playing in r&b bands on the weekend and still pulling birds half his age. 

And Keith Richards? He probably would have done the same damned thing – overindulge in life’s pleasures and play some of the most timeless riffs man has ever wrangled from an electric guitar. 

I remember being crushed when Jones died. I was just a kid – other iconic deaths like Buddy Holly either predated my awareness or (like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding) involved people I liked but was not fully invested in. But The Rolling Stones were my lifeblood, and this was like losing a brother.

You have to realize that at the time, lines were drawn between Beatles fans and Stones fans; peer pressure said you had to be one or the other, and you’d better choose. All the cute girls chose The Beatles, of course…and that was reason enough for me to side with the Stones

He was the first rock star in my world; looked (at the time) like a golden god, played any instrument you put into his hands, added flavor to Stones singles that other bands would later copy and seemed like the coolest guy on the planet. When I saw the Stones on Ed Sullivan I looked right past Jagger and was mesmerized by him. And I wasn’t the only one…five hundred miles north of my New York City house, Andy and Greg of The Chesterfield Kings were watching the same program and getting their minds blown as well. 

And then he died – murdered, I still believe – and what had been this picture perfect vision of music and peace and utopia started to crumble. Soon it would be Jimi, and Janis and Jimoddly connected…and finally the nail in the coffin,  Altamont

Don’t get me wrong – I love the Mick Taylor era of the band, and although he’s been underutilized in his tenure, Ronnie Wood is one of my all time favorite guitar players. But the London singles the early Stones cut? Pure magic

Listen to the magic!

Had the Stones broken up after Exile, they would have that same unfinished legacy that Buddy Holly, The Beatles and James Dean have – a permanent snapshot of genius in its prime.  No chance to stumble and fall, or go ages between artistic releases, or climb on stage long past their prime and sing about want and boredom and being unsatisfied…right before pocketing millions per gig and taking a private plane home. 

What would Brian Jones have done after he got over the heartbreak of being squeezed out of his own band? I can only wonder. But I can also revel in what he left behind, which is a brilliant anthology of classic music that is as powerful to me now as it was as the impressionable boy with a transistor radio and a dream. 

What a drag...it is getting old.

And Happy Birthday to (among others) Kurtwood Smith, Fontella Bass, Franz Kafka, George Sanders, Dave Barry, and the late, great Ken Ober.

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials, Film/TV, Music

T.G.I.F. – Ten Radio Records

Happy Radio Day!

Well, that’s if you believe that Popov invented the concept instead of Marconi or Tesla. (And if everyone believed that, would we have had a band named Popov instead of these guys? Would Marconi not have played the mamba?

Celebrate the day anyway – it is Friday, after all – and blast some music out your car window. You might also want to celebrate by seeing films like American Hot Wax and The Boat That Rocked, a/k/a Pirate Radio.

Here are ten radio-related songs to get you started…

Joe Jackson:  “On The Radio”   Not the best song on I’m A Man, but that’s how strong the early Joe Jackson albums were (and how tight the band is).

Bruce Springsteen:  “Radio Nowhere”  I like Bruce’s social conscience, and I can appreciate the whole Woody Guthrie thing and his passion for the roots of music. But sometimes I just like a great Bruce single, and this is one.

Rush:  “Spirit of the Radio”  I was never a big Rush fan, mostly because Geddy Lee’s voice is like chalk on a blackboard to me. But when he shuts up and the band jams…wow.

Warren Zevon:  “Mohammed’s Radio”   Great live version (with Jackson Browne). God, I miss this man.

The Doors:  “WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)”  I know a lot of people hate The Doors and think Jim Morrison was an overrated ponce, but I think L.A. Woman was a phenomenal album; an indication of what might have been.

Everclear:  “AM Radio”  One can argue that many of Art’s songs sound like they’re built on the same rhythm and chord progression, but you can’t knock his ability to combine humor and pathos. Great video, too.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch:  “Midnight Radio”   If you have not seen this film, you need to run to the store and get the DVD. John Cameron Mitchell’s performance is amazing, and thanks to Steven Trask, this is arguably the best rock and roll soundtrack ever. That’s right…ever. The original cast recording from the play is as good or better than the film soundtrack, but get both.

R.E.M.:  “Radio Free Europe”   The song that started it all for them, and one listen brings back that era in a flash, when these guys sounded so different from everybody else.

John Hiatt:  “Radio Girl”  The video sadly cuts off at the end, but I’m thankful even this much exists. John doesn’t play songs from Slug Line and Two Bit Monsters anymore, and that’s our loss.

Elvis Costello:  “Radio Radio”   Elvis Costello hit the ground with an astounding one-two-three punch of albums, and I wish I had a good rip of his initial SNL appearance when he played this song. But this nod and wink to that event with the Beastie Boys is pretty damned cool.

And your bonus trackJonathan Richman’sRoad Runner“. Priceless!

Got my radio ON!

Tim Russert would have been sixty today. RIP, buddy.

1 Comment

Filed under Features and Interviews, Music

Stand Up Wit…Matt Braunger

Owls well that ends well

I guess I should learn to pay closer attention when I see funny skits on MAD TV and SNL and jot down the names of the new cast members and bit players. For once again I find myself laughing out loud while listening to a comedy CD and then realizing later why the name sounded a wee bit familiar (in this case, the “Officer Laughs” sketch). So if the name Matt Braunger doesn’t immediately ring a bell for you either, do not let that stop you from grabbing a copy of Soak Up The Night as soon as possible.

Braunger studied improv in Chicago under Del Close and is a regular at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles; this is his first CD. Deep-voiced and six-foot four, what could be an imposing physical presence is offset by his approachable guy next door persona. Ironically, the weakest part of the set opens the CD, as a routine about convincing his family that he’s a professional comedian morphs into a character study of an unhinged uncle. But he rebounds quickly with bits about classic bathroom graffiti, gangstas who dig The Smiths, religious zealots, and why you need to be literate when interviewed. Lots of well structured stories with great throw-away lines that flow really well despite few overt segues.

The killer bits, as they should, appear later in the routine – why there should never be eye contact in porn, why Jim Morrison was mistakenly anointed as a poet and especially the routine about pet owls – hilarious on the CD but even better with his physical gestures (see clip below). And that’s what I really like about Braunger; his animated delivery enhances the material but his writing is so strong that the jokes stand up well without the visuals.

It’s always great to discover a CD from a comedian who has gimmick-free, self-deprecating humor, and I hope that Comedy Central Records signed him up for more down the line. Highly recommended.

Matt nails his TV debut on David Letterman.

Matt’s website and MySpace site

Listen to some clips on Amazon.

Video: “Driving Mr. Morrison

Video: “Drink and Drive-Thru

1 Comment

Filed under Comedy, Reviews

New Album! Solin

Scarf this one up!

Scarf this one up!

Well, not brand new. Solin recorded Energy Fair in late 2007, some copies were out in 2008, but the album release party was only a couple of months ago. Semantics – good music is good music, and Energy Fair is loaded with it.  The album cover doesn’t suggest a skiller pop craftsman, nor does the daunting title of the opening track “Which Way To Sanity”. But by track two, the jangly “Take it From The Top”, you’re ready to go the distance. And at nineteen tracks, you have miles to go!

Solin has a solid, appealing voice and doesn’t really sound like John Lennon incarnate, although that might be the most frequent namedrop I’ve heard, probably because he portrayed Lennon in an Off-Broadway Beatlemania show. (I’ve heard others suggest Parthenon Huxley and even a more centered David Bowie, and I can’t against argue either.) If anything, the album is more often channeling George Martin-isms, although you’d expect that kind of nick from someone who is a producer himself.

 “Strawberry Wine” really bleeds the influences, featuring “Penny Lane” trumpet, Ringo drum fills and the slow march of voice over piano that Lennon would use on his more pensive numbers. However, the result is anything but a Beatles cop; in fact it is more closely comparable to the midtempo Memphis pop of Van Duren (even more eeriely reminiscent on the gorgeous “Diamond Gold” and “Doesn’t Have To Be With You”). That’s a big compliment.

What I found remarkable about Energy Fair was the ability to keep up the pace for nineteen songs without flagging, especially considering that the bulk of the tunes exceed the four minute mark. While the slower tempo songs allow you to appreciate his lyrics and phrasing, the jaunty tracks like “No Connection” (a favorite), “Adrienne” and “Robin” are just as appealing. Songs are catchy, but not dumb-riff simple; there’s a lot of meat on these bones.

Nothing really rocks on this album with the exception of the 60s psych “Cuz I’m Yours” and “Streets of Westville”, the latter a dark, brooding hybrid of Jim Morrison and Neil Young’s Crazy Horse. Still, while it might sound fine blasting out your car window you’re not going to get anyone dancing or flashing you the rock horns. But neither is it an album that demands quiet introspection, as if the fragilty of the experience would be violated by sharing it outside your personal space. Energy Fair is diverse and vibrant enough to be appealing under any circumstance. If I heard this wafting across the fence I’d be more inclined to hop across and meet that new neighbor.

Solin on MySpace.

Solin website with links to purchase from Not Lame and Kool Kat.

Listen to clips at CDBaby.

*

Leave a comment

Filed under Features and Interviews, Music, Reviews