Tag Archives: Lester Bangs

Rolling Stone, 43 Years Later

What a long strange trip it’s been.

The once indispensible music magazine – a hip, underground periodical brimming with the coolest in pop culture – has long since lost its relevance. Like a middle-aged man trying to elicit the wink of a teenage eye, Rolling Stone 2010 is just all kinds of wrong. And like its namesake, the no-longer Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band In The World, it just keeps chugging along, scooping up whatever cash people are willing to give it and outliving the annual predictions of its demise.

But back in its Wonder Years, it was a formidable production. Its masthead boasted names like Hunter S. Thompson, Robert Christgau, Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus and Cameron Crowe just to name a few. Its cover was usually a prescient bulls-eye, a perfectly timed cultural statement. The news was newsworthy. The reviews had meat to them. There was a sense of validation for this rag-tag new movement a generation was absorbing. It was a time when young people truly thought they could change the world, and this was the diary that would document it.

But time is a bitch.

In fairness, most magazines don’t survive their first year. Rolling Stone just turned forty-three. To do that, some would say they have not so much reinvented themself as they have sold out. Over the years, controversial articles have been replaced by controversy – manipulation of review ratings, gossip and handshake marketing in place of news. Fashion coverage. Perfume cards. Star worship instead of beating the bushes to get a jump on the next big thing. A distinct lack of rock’n’roll – hell, a distinct lack of understanding of what rock’n’roll is. And those inane, insipid “100 Greatest” lists that will send even the calmest reader off the rooftop.

Jann Wenner, like the magazine, is just a rich guy playing favorites and exercising power. You don’t get into the Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Fame without his approval, although that seems to mean less every year. And the annual awards bestowed upon artists for the “hot this” and the “best that” are mere resume fodder that don’t carry the career-changing clout they once did.

That's not rock'n'roll, Jann.

I say all this with a caveat – were I on staff at Rolling Stone for the past several years I’d probably be neck-deep in the same myopic viewpoint and filled with a delusional sense of self-importance. I might occasionally admit to myself that the best years are in the rear-view but I’d probably believe that I could help turn it around with my opinions and my votes and my influence. There but for the grace of Jann go I.

But instead I’m just a guy who subscribed long after the magazine’s atomic half-life passed ingloriously, hoping that one day the spark would re-ignite and this longtime survivor would become relevant again. Every year or two I’d pony up that check even though I was more often stacking them in a pile unread…a far cry from the day when getting an issue in the mail meant stopping everything and reading it cover to cover. It kept getting cheaper and cheaper, almost a giveaway, and I kept renewing out of loyalty more than need.

And then one day I came to the harsh conclusion that even two years for $9.99 wasn’t worth it, and I cut the cord. Strangely, even after four decades, I didn’t feel a thing.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The paper magazine might be thinner than Nicole Ritchie’s wrists, but the magic of Al Gore’s Internet has given Rolling Stone a new way to survive, and there are no stinky perfume cards. Feel free to wallow in it at the official website.

Nope - still not rock'n'roll.

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials, Music, Reviews

T.G.I.F. – Ten for Philip Seymour Hoffman

 

Happy Birthday to one of the finest actors of his generation, Philip Seymour Hoffman. Skilled in comedy and drama, a dynamic actor, producer and director, Hoffman has forged an incredible career on stage and in film and is still a relatively young pup at forty-three. 

Capote – The perfect intersection of artist and role. 

I now live in his hometown and can tell you that the entire place went batshit the night he won the Academy Award as Best Actor for Capote, a personal project he brought to the screen with two close friends. And since my girls went through the same drama program with the same teacher at the same High School, I can play the Kevin Bacon Game and connect in two moves

With future production whiz Eli

But first and foremost as a film lover, I see what people around the world see – an actor’s actor who respects his craft and delves into his roles with complete immersion. It’s why I put any project he’s involved with on my must-see list; like Kevin Spacey or Guy Pearce, he’s versatile and usually uncompromising in his choices. (Well, okay…maybe Patch Adams was a compromise…) 

So for this week’s TGIF, here are ten great film performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman. There are many more beyond these; memorable supporting roles in Twister and The Big Lebowski; hell, his part in Punch Drunk Love made me like an Adam Sandler movie for the first time since The Wedding Singer.  There are also poignant and dark moments in Love Liza and Flawless as well as highly touted roles in Doubt and yes, some big budget cheese like MI3

He’s already worked with most of the best directors and actors of his era, and has solid credibility throughout the film and the theatre industry. You should know most if not all of these films, but if any are new to you I give you my full Prescription promise that you will thank me for pointing you to them…except Patch Adams, of course. 

 

Almost Famoussteals the movie as Lester Bangs

Owning Mahoney – like many of his roles, a double life. 

The Talented Mr. Ripley – larger than life Freddie, who sees through it all. 

Before The Devil Knows You’re DeadAndy is a bad, bad man. 

Happiness – disturbing, desperate and shattered Allen

“Sometimes it’s hard to say no. Ultimately, if you stick to your guns, you have the career that you want. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good payday and I’ll do films for fun. But ultimately my main goal is to do good work. If it doesn’t pay well, so be it.” 

Magnolia Phil Parma, porn-loving caretaker. 

State And Main – Nervous writer Joseph Turner White

Charlie Wilson’s War – rockin’ the stache as Gust

Along Came Polly – egomaniac Sandy is blind to his failures. 

Boogie Nights – the incredible, uncomfortable Scottie J

And keep your eyes peeled for Jack Goes Boating this Fall. 

 

Hoffman at Wikipedia and IMDB. Oh, and this! 

Leave a comment

Filed under Film/TV, Reviews

He Put The BOMP…

No statue? This will have to do.

No statue? This will have to do.

I’m often asked what makes Bomp different. One answer is that where most labels concentrate on a small roster, I’ve always preferred to give a lot of bands the chance to be heard…I guess I’d most like Bomp to be remembered as a label utterly dedicated to the people who care most about music: the fans and collectors.”

Five years ago we lost one of our greatest soldiers, Greg Shaw. Most pop music writers have read him if not been influenced by him; many saw an opportunity to take the leap from fan to participant because of his magazine and his labels. Shaw began by writing fan letters to magazines and was soon writing reviews for everyone from Rolling Stone to Creem.  Along the way his journey led to managing bands, working at major labels (assembling compilations, of course) and running a record shop, but legions of powerpop fans point to a 1978 issue of Bomp Magazine as the rallying cry that launched a movement.

“Punk had already had its day by 1978, when Bomp Magazine ran a cover story proposing Powerpop: a hybrid style with the power and guts of punk, but drawing on a pop song tradition with wider popular appeal. I had in mind bands like The Who and The Easybeats, (hell, even The Sex Pistols fit my definition!) but much to my chagrin, the term was snapped up by legions of limp, second-rate bands hoping the majors would see them as a safe alternative to punk. I took a lot of heat for starting the whole business…”

Bomp Powerpop cover

But he should also get credit for what did go right. Many great bands rose from the masses of skinny tie wannabes, and some (including Shoes, 20/20, Paul Collins, The Plimsouls, and The Romantics) started at Bomp before landing at major labels. Writers including Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, Dave Marsh, Mike Saunders and R. Meltzer passed through his masthead. That Bomp didn’t become a haven for great bands like Sire Records is a shame, but Shaw was unwilling to compromise his vision just to play on a bigger stage.

In the ’80s retro-garage was bursting out thanks to bands like The Fuzztones, The Lyres and The Chesterfield Kings; Shaw’s Voxx label attracted a ton of groups. He launched a series of compilations called Pebbles (inspired by Nuggets) featuring some of the rarest original ’60s punk records from his personal collection. He picked up Iggy Pop’s first solo album, Kill City (“when nobody else would touch it”) and issued a series of Stooges outtakes under the title of The Iguana Chronicles. In the ’90s he aligned with Alive Naturalsound Records which brought great bands like Black Keys, Bloody Hollies and Soledad Brothers into the fold, and he continued to discover and nurture new bands that tweaked his antennae until his death from heart failure. He was only 55.

I think the essence of Greg Shaw can be found in this quote:

“I think it comes down to the fact that Bomp is an outgrowth of my love for music. Where many would view it as a marginal business that barely breaks even, I prefer to see it as a hobby that’s profitable enough to allow me to build my life around it.

Contemplating the impact Greg Shaw had upon the industry, it just makes me sadder when I think about politics and greed making charlatans wealthy and famous, while true visionaries are sometimes just cult heroes. But fame is cheap commodity and wealth dissipates. Legacy is the coin that matters, and Shaw’s legacy continues to inspire. 

The BOMP website

Tributes from other writers

The bookSaving The World One Record at a Time

The date of October 19th also claimed guitarist Glen Buxton of the original Alice Cooper Band, who died in 1997; he was only 49.

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials, Music

T.G.I.F. – Ten Music Flicks

After writing about The Boat That Rocked the other day, I thought about other music-related movies that I really enjoyed and found that I had several favorites that I could watch over and over again and enjoy almost as much as the first time. These aren’t concert films – those are obvious repeat performers – but movies about pop music. I’m also focusing on the more modern era (forgive me, Sal Mineo). Plus the movie has to be good (sorry, Tommy) . A few are obvious commercial favorites (is there anyone who doesn’t quote Spinal Tap?) but a couple of these must be off the path; I find most people have never heard of them, let alone seen them.

But hey, that’s a large part of why I do this, to share information about what knocks me out and hopefully expose people to a great band, film or book they might have missed. I highly recommend every single one of these, and hopefully there’s at least one you haven’t seen that you will take a chance on. Enjoy some great movies with great music, whether it’s a library rental, a used copy on Amazon or circling the listing in TV Guide when you see it. Without further ado (you’ve had just the right amount of ado so far, right?) and with apologies to The Committments and The Rutles, here they are in alphabetical order…

Almost Famous : Cameron Crowe drew upon his own story to craft this brilliant peek behind rock’s curtain, from the groupies (sorry…Band-Aids) to the roadies and the madness that is rock’n’roll. Great music and wonderful performances from the leads and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s great turn as Lester Bangs.

A Hard Day’s Night : The Beatles. Need I say more? “I’m a Mocker”

Hedwig and the Angry Inch : Absolutely the best rock opera ever. John Cameron Mitchell’s brilliant performance and Stephen Trask’s music are a perfect match, and both the musical and the movie soundtracks could stand on their own as great music. But the film is phenomenal.

The Idolmaker : Ray Sharkey should have won the Academy Award for his performance as a teen idol Svengali. Great performances from Paul Land, Joe Pantoliano and Peter Gallagher.

A Mighty Wind : The Spinal Tap of folk music and another perfect movie from Christopher Guest. Tremendous performances from everyone, but Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara as “Mitch and Mickey” were brilliant. How did this song not win the Academy Award?

Rock and Roll High School : The Ramones. Need I say more? “Things sure have changed since I got kicked out of high school”.

Spinal Tap : Absolutely hilarious, with pitch perfect performances from the three leads and an amazing array of bit parts and cameo roles, like Paul Shaffer as Artie Fufkin and Bruno Kirby as the Sinatra-loving limo driver (the extended deleted scenes are priceless). Here’s a song so good I like it even though it’s parody.

Still Crazy : I think the common thread in all these movies is perfect casting. Bill Nighy is wonderful as the fragile lead singer and you can’t go wrong with comic geniuses Billy Connolly and Timothy Spall. But the story is as heartwarming as it is funny and the music is phenomenal.

That Thing You Do : Tom Hanks nailed the screenplay about a one-hit-wonder band and even wrote many of the songs that the other acts in the “galaxy of stars” performed. The main songs benefitted from pop wizards like Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) and Mike Viola, but the perfect casting was only exceeded by the movie’s heart. One of my favorite films of all time in any genre.

Velvet Goldmine : Glam fans will lap this up – an Eddie and The Cruisers type plot in the world of glitter and decadence, with Ewan McGregor and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as thinly disguised Iggy Pop and David Bowie plus great performances from Christian Bale and Eddie Izzard.

6 Comments

Filed under Editorials, Features and Interviews, Film/TV, Music, Reviews