Results for California
In preparation for this week's guest, Steve Wynn, Jim and Greg do a little primer on the Paisley Underground music scene that developed in California in the 1980s. Jim plays a song by one of the seminal bands of this scene, The 3 O'Clock, whose very psychedelic name was inspired by Tom Wolfe's assertion in "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" that if one drops acid in the early evening, the high of the trip will occur at 3:00 a.m. The 3 O'Clock was helmed by Michael Quercio, a musician who started as a punk rocker. After discovering psychedelic rock, however, his sound, and his look, began to change. It was Cuercio's affinity for the music of the '60s, as well as the brightly colored paisley clothes, that gave this scene its name. While the name did not do the music justice, the influence of the Paisley Underground on contemporary bands like Oasis and The Secret Machines is undeniable.
It may surprise to listeners who are only familiar with "Walk Like an Egyptian," but The Bangles were also pioneers of the Paisley Underground. Their original sound, with its three- and four-part harmonies and sing-songy melodies, paralleled that of The Mamas and the Papas and The Byrds. Lead singer Susanna Hoffs continues to work in this genre; she and '90s indie pop star Matthew Sweet just released a 1960s covers album featuring songs by The Left Banke, The Beach Boys and The Who.
Greg points out that the Paisley Underground sound was not a homogenous one — in fact, what bonded these bands was a punk sensibility that welcomed other musical styles. Unlike many other punk bands at the time, these acts didn't see why they had to conform to a strict policy of three-minute, Ramones-style songs. And what's more punk rock than non-conformity? One band that went above and beyond its punk and psychedelic influences was The Long Ryders. They took more of a country approach and can be seen as pioneers of the alternative country scene that now houses bands like Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, and The Bottle Rockets.
The Rain Parade is the next Paisley Underground band up for discussion. While the members of The Rain Parade never saw the major label success like their peers in The Bangles or The 3 O'Clock (who were signed to Prince's Paisley Park label), many went on to work on successful projects. David Robeck formed the band Mazzy Star, which had an alternative hit single with "Fade Into You" in 1993 and Matt Piucci went on to work with Crazy Horse. The remaining bandmates reincarnated themselves as Viva Saturn.
Greg plays a song featuring this week's guest, Steve Wynn. His band The Dream Syndicate was a group that both Jim and Greg became fans of in the early '80s. They emerged in LA as one of the pioneers of the Paisley Underground sound. Steve then released a number of solo records and has spent the last few years with his most recent band, The Miracle 3. Steve and his band members, Linda Pitmon, Dave DeCastro and Kirk Swan, joined Jim and Greg for an interview and performance at the Chicago Recording Company.
The Dream Syndicate never made it into the 1990s, but its innovative sound continued to influence artists. While other LA bands at the time, like Black Flag, Social Distortion and Bad Religion, were making post-punk and punk music with a really hard edge, The Dream Syndicate stuck to a swirlier, psychedelic pop sound. For this reason, Jim and Greg explain, no matter how many solo projects he embarks on, our guest will most likely always be remembered as the lead singer of The Dream Syndicate.
After playing a track from Days of Wine and Roses, which Greg calls one of the masterpieces of the Paisley Underground era, our host asks Steve about the chemistry between two guitarists. In this case, Steve's partner in guitar is Kirk Swan, who was in another innovative '80s indie pop band, Dumptruck, Steve responds that the basic formula of guitar, drums, and bass is simple, but never gets old. He points to bands like Neil Young and Crazy Horse and Television as examples.
Jim asks Steve about why he continues on in this business after so many years. As Steve jokes on his website, this new album is one of several“comebacks,”but music is not such an easy life to come back to. After being pegged the“new Springsteen,”Steve and the band had somewhat of a difficult time. He explains how that hurt the band (and indirectly how he hurt Jim one drunken night). Thankfully they both came out on the other side.Go to episode 21
Hal Blaine of The Wrecking Crew
Hal Blaine may not be a household name, but if rock ‘n’ roll is all about the beat, then the 86-year-old drummer is arguably one of the biggest rock stars alive. It's his stamp you hear on some of the biggest records of the 1960's and early '70s. He recorded with Elvis, The Mamas and the Papas, Sam Cooke, Simon & Garfunkel, The Carpenters, Jan and Dean and even Barbra Streisand. That's 38 chart-toppers to be exact, and over 5,000 songs. So if we're comparing successful outputs, that really makes his only rival The Beatles!
Of course the idea of a session musician is something we're familiar with today, but many listeners can probably still remember their own revelation that their favorite acts might not have played their own songs. You expect that of The Monkees, but The Beach Boys? The Byrds? Many of their songs were actually recorded by Hal Blaine and The Wrecking Crew – a loose organization of California studio players whose members included Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Earl Palmer and more. There was an unspoken pact to keep their hit-making machine a secret, but as time has gone on, they've gotten their due. Hal Blaine was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and last month saw the release of The Wrecking Crew, a new documentary directed by Denny Tedesco, son of crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco.Go to episode 488
Booker T. Jones
When Jim and Greg were at SXSW, they were invited to interview soul legend Booker T. Jones in front of a live audience. This week, you'll get to hear some highlights of that interview. Jim and Greg start the interview by asking Booker how he became such a musical prodigy. The multi-instrumentalist, who has played tuba, piano, saxophone, guitar, oboe, and of course, most notably, organ, credits his musical family with steering him on that path. This path took him to Stax Records where he, Steve Cropper, Al Jackson, Jr., and Lewie Steinberg (later replaced by Duck Dunn) formed Booker T. and the MGs. While Booker was still in high school, the group recorded "Green Onions," which went on to become one of their most well-known hits.
Jim asks how Booker feels about being relegated to the role of“side man,”in music history, but the musician explains that he feels nothing but pride about being“best supporting musician.”In fact, Booker explains that being a side man elevated him as a musician and allowed him to do so much more than he would have been able to solo. Some of the people our guest has recorded with over the years include Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Ray Charles, and even Barbra Streisand.
Booker T. and the MG's not only played with an impressive cast in the studio, but on the road as well. Jim and Greg highlight his 1967 European tour with other Stax artists, and ask Booker what everyone must have been on to get that powerful, lighting fast tempos. Booker attributes that kind of energy and enthusiasm to people like Otis Redding and Al Jackson, describing them as“possessed people.”The Monterey International Pop Music Festival followed in the summer of 1967, and Booker describes this experience as one of the most eye-opening of his life. With everyone (including the Hell's Angels) collectively joining in to ensure its success, this concert was an affirmation of the values of peace and love everyone there believed in. The MGs went on to perform with Neil Young and with many artists at the Bob Dylan tribute in 1992 including George Harrison and Eric Clapton, who he dishes on later in the interview.
Performing at Monterey eventually led Booker to leave his steady stream of jobs at Stax and venture out to California. As a solo performer and producer Booker challenged himself with a number of new projects including a collection of standards for his neighbor, Willie Nelson. He also worked in the studio with Stephen Stills, Rita Coolidge, Bill Withers and Neil Young.Go to episode 72
California garage rockers The BellRays join Jim and Greg in the studio this week. Some listeners may be hearing of the band for the first time (as our hosts explain, they are a group on the rise). The BellRays gained attention at festivals like SXSW and through their appearance in a Nissan Xterra commercial, but many people may only be familiar with lead singer Lisa Kekaula's side projects: Her powerful voice has been lent to Crystal Method, Basement Jaxx, and a recent MC5 reunion tour.
No one should doubt that The BellRays is a collaborative effort, though. The band's fifth album, Have a Little Faith, was produced by bassist Bob Vennum (who happens to be Lisa's husband), and most of the songs were written by guitarist Tony Fate. These three are joined by drummer Craig Waters to achieve a sound that is hard to describe. Many clichés have been attached to the group's music, which our hosts decided to call "part Tina Turner, part MC5." It's all fine with the band; just don‘t say they’re from Detroit.Go to episode 35
Another California native with a country spirit is singer/songwriter Jenny Lewis. The Rilo Kiley frontwoman joins Jim and Greg to talk about her latest solo album, Rabbit Fur Coat. Last year Rilo Kiley achieved some success with their second album More Adventurous, and even opened for Coldplay and played at Coachella. Therefore, the timing of this solo project seems to be curious. As Jenny explains, however, doing solo projects and side projects has always been apart of her band's experience. She previously worked with Ben Gibbard on The Postal Service, and Rilo Kiley bandmate Blake Sennett has another band called The Elected.
One of Jenny's motivations for this solo album was her desire to sing with women. She is joined on Rabbit Fur Coat and in our studio by The Watson Twins, Chandra and Leigh Watson. Jenny explains that she grew up singing with her mother and was inspired by albums like Gonna Take a Miracle by Laura Nyro and LaBelle.
It should be noted that Jenny didn‘t just grow up singing. She was also a fairly successful child actress and appeared in ’80s movies like Troop Beverly Hills and The Wizard. She explores some of that history on the album. She also addresses people who are skeptical of her authenticity — being that she was born in Las Vegas and bred in L.A. rather than Kentucky. But, as Jenny points out and as listeners learned in the previous segment, California and towns like Bakersfield have significant country roots. Oddly enough, Jenny is not the only member of Rilo Kiley to have that dreaded“child actor”label. Blake Sennett was a regular on shows like Boy Meets World and Salute Your Shorts.Go to episode 19
Jim and Greg are joined by the members of Best Coast. The indie trio, named for lead singer Bethany Cosentino's beloved California region, has a unique combination of shoegaze rock and '60s throwback harmonies reminiscent of the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas. Their debut Crazy for You was a surprise hit for an indie release-reaching the Billboard Top 40. Cosentino talks to Jim and Greg about her own musical roots (Dad performed with 70's rock band War), rock heroes (Stevie Nicks) and personal writing style. She's joined by band mates Bobb Bruno on guitars and Ali Koehler, formerly of The Vivian Girls, on drums for a live performance in the studio.Go to episode 258
Touch and Go Records
This week Jim and Greg wanted to take a look at one of the music industry's most important independent labels: Touch and Go Records. Touch and Go recently turned 25 and celebrated with a three-day bash at Chicago's Hideout Block Party. Over the course of the show, you‘ll hear why Jim and Greg wanted to focus on this modest Chicago label. You’ll also hear from the founder himself, Corey Rusk, and a number of the label's artists, including Scott McCloud from Girls Against Boys, Janet Weiss from Quasi (and formerly Sleater-Kinney), Ted Leo, David Yow from Scratch Acid and The Jesus Lizard and recording engineer and musician Steve Albini of Big Black and Shellac fame.
Touch and Go's founder Corey Rusk is known not just as a tastemaker with an incredible ear for talent, but also as one of the most honest businessmen in the biz. This is what separates Touch and Go from other labels, major and independent alike. Rusk's business model, which doesn't shy away from the Internet and which relies merely on trust and a handshake, has kept it going for 25 years, helping it to outlive its peers. Labels like Twin/Tone in Minneapolis, which launched The Replacements, SST in California which launched Black Flag and Hüsker Dü, and I.R.S. in which launched R.E.M. and The Go Go's, all emerged in the early '80s after punk's mainstream explosion and before alternative's reign. However, Touch and Go is the only one of the bunch not only to stay in business, but to do so successfully and independently.
The best way to understand the label's significance is to sample some of the music. You'll hear these songs in our short-but-sweet montage of Touch and Go music:
- Killdozer, "Hi There"
- Girls Against Boys, "Kill the Sexplayer"
- The Dirty Three, "Doris"
- Jesus Lizard, "Mouth Breather"
- TV on the Radio, "Dreams"
- Butthole Surfers, "Fast"
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Art Star"
- Calexico, "Cruel"
Touch and Go has put out a lot of music over the past quarter century, but Jim and Greg both manage to pick their single favorite T&G tracks. Greg goes first and chooses "Stage 2000" by Seam. Touch and Go is often thought of as the place to go to for loud, hard-edged punk music, and that is certainly true. However, their roster is actually quite diverse, and there are a number of bands like Seam, who are making beautiful, soft, melodic music.“Stage 2000”is on Greg's favorite Seam album, The Problem With Me. That album was recorded with Chicago producer Brad Wood, best known for producing Liz Phair's classic Exile in Guyville.
Jim's Touch and Go pick is "Kerosene" by Big Black off their 1985 album Atomizer. Though Atomizer was initially released by Homestead Records, Big Black moved to Touch and Go a year later, and the label reissued the band's entire catalog. So we'll let Jim slide on this one — especially since no one has been as closely associated with Touch and Go as Big Black founder Steve Albini. Albini came to Chicago to study journalism at Northwestern, and Jim can hear this sensibility in his lyrics. Songs like "Kerosene" are essentially sensationalistic tabloid stories backed with thrashing noise-rock.Go to episode 43
Ty Segall Slaughterhouse
Ty Segall may have made a name for himself as a low-fi bedroom recording artist, but don't mistake him for the moody quiet type. This California garage rocker is loud! Slaughterhouse is his first release with his own band, and both Jim and Greg agree: this is a ferocious dirty record. It's hard, Greg says, to find artists who do both noise and melody well, but Ty is one of them. On Slaughterhouse, extreme noise and melody battle it out for half an hour. The ten-minute track of fuzzed out drone that ends the record reminds Greg of surveying a battlefield. Jim agrees. Ty might call this“evil space rock,”but for him, it's masterful garage rock overlaid with Brit pop melodies. Another double Buy It.
Redd Kross Researching the Blues
Jim and Greg review Researching the Blues, the new record from California rock veterans Redd Kross. Adopted as the“little brothers”of L.A.'s hardcore punk scene when they first formed in 1980, Redd Kross always tended more Beach Boys than Black Flag in sound. Their 1990 record Third Eye was a harbinger of later alt-era successes (Nevermind for one), but the band itself never achieved Nirvana-level success and went on hiatus in 1997. Researching the Blues, the band's first new record in 15 years, reunites the“classic lineup”of Jeff McDonald, Steve McDonald, Robert Hecker, and Roy McDonald. Both Jim and Greg agree they're glad to have these boys back. Redd Kross have cut all the fat, Greg says. They get in, give you a great guitar solo and some killer harmonies, and then get out. Past records have been rife with seventies pop-culture references. Greg thinks Redd Kross are taking themselves a bit more seriously this time around, though Jim points out there are still enough kitschy references to Dracula and Frankenstein to keep things light. Researching the Blues gets a double Buy It.
Best Coast The Only Place
Also from California - and proudly so - is Best Coast. The band's debut album was the much buzzed about Crazy For You, a hit fueled as much by Beach Boys pop as it was by lead singer Bethany Cosentino's intense homesickness (she was in a band in New York for a time). Jim says that Best Coast's sophomore album, The Only Place, might come under fire for being simply more of the same. That might be true, if by“same”you mean it's another album of indelibly catchy pop. But he also points out the darkness of Beth's lyrics this time around. She's singing about her desire to be loved for who she is, and as Greg points out, she's doing so sincerely and movingly. Both Jim and Greg agree this is summery pop at its best. They say Buy It.
Vince Staples Summertime ‘06
The year 2015 has been a prosperous time for rap and hip hop, with Fetty Wap, Wiz Khalifa, A.$.A.P. Rocky, and Silento dominating the charts. However, a new and different kind of artist has emerged with the debut album Summertime '06 from California rapper, Vince Staples. An ode to growing up in his native Long Beach, Greg finds Staples to be very talented in both writing and articulating his perspective. He compares Summertime '06 to early works by gangster rappers like N.W.A. and likes how he gives a lens into a culture that no one else is really talking about right now. It's a Buy It from Greg. Jim agrees and says that gangster rap can easily become misogynistic and pro-violence sounding, but that's not really what Staples is interested in doing. Jim compares him to artists like Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper, but wishes that Vince would write more about the sense of community and positivity in the neighborhoods like Kendrick and Chance do. However, he believes Staples is a very important voice and give Summertime '06 a Buy It.
Jenny Lewis The Voyager
It has been 6 years since California folk-rock siren Jenny Lewis released her last solo album, and Jim and Greg have been chomping at the bit to see what her most recent release has to offer. The former child actress turned indie songstress lived through some turbulent stresses during that time, including the death of her estranged father, a bout of insomnia and the break-up of her band, the power pop group Rilo Kiley. All of this made its way onto The Voyager, a slow syrupy overflow of calming soundscape reminiscent of California's late 60's/early 70's Laurel Canyon sound. Greg was taken by its deceptive smoothness. His only critique points toward the balmy sweetness of the music. However, that sound provides a great foil to the complicated lyrics. He says Buy It. Jim agrees, though he's less of a fan of Lewis' obvious inspiration (Fleetwood Mac to name one). But, he describes the album as brave and seconds the Buy It.
Arctic Monkeys also have a new album out called Humbug. For their 3rd release the UK band traveled to the California desert to work with Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age (and now Them Crooked Vultures) fame. Jim loves the result. It has all of the charm and wit of their breakout debut, but with a dark ambience inspired by Nick Cave or Scott Walker. He gives the record a Buy It rating. Greg applauds them for trying to change the pace with this release, but he doesn't think the songwriting is as strong. To Greg the melodies and exuberance have been replaced with texture and ambience. He gives Humbug a Try It.Go to episode 196
One of the things Greg admires most about Alejandro Escovedo is his ability to choose great covers to perform. He reminds his new audiences of great older songs they might not be familiar with. One such song is "Sex Beat" by The Gun Club. The track was released on the California post-punk outfit's 1981 debut Fire of Love. Greg describes front man Jeffrey Lee Pierce as a legendary figure of that era and genius guitar player. Put a quarter into the Desert Island Jukebox this week to hear his song "Sex Beat."Go to episode 156
While recently flipping through the stacks of his musical library, Jim came across Beauty and the Beat, the 1981 debut album from California's The Go-Go's. The all-female New Wave band is probably best known for their hit single "We Got the Beat," but Jim is a bigger fan of another Beauty and the Beat song, "Lust to Love." Written by two of the band's five members, guitarists Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey,“Lust to Love”turns the table on the tired trope of men being the only ones with sexual appetites and is emblematic of the band's underappreciated-at-the-time power pop songwriting talent.Go to episode 473
One of the best things about music is it can transport you to a whole other place without ever having to leave the room. Greg's DIJ pick this week is Marlena Shaw's 1969 track, "California Soul." The song was written by Ashford & Simpson and had been covered by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell and The 5th Dimension. However Shaw's version is the most definitive, having been sampled numerous times over the years. Her cover combined elements of R&B, soul, jazz and a hypnotizing string arrangement. While Shaw recorded the track in Chicago, it transports the listener straight to California.Go to episode 495
The Best Songs of 2011 - Mixtapes
As 2011 comes to a close, it's a great time to think about the songs that defined the year. Jim and Greg have compiled their favorite songs into mixtapes. During the show you'll hear a small selection, but luckily you can stream both mixes in their entirety. And you can make your own.
Happy New Year from Sound Opinions!Go to episode 318
David & Family
The Rock Doctors' patient this week is David from Minneapolis. David's“ailment”is that he has a tough time finding music that both he and his kids will enjoy. As the father of four boys between the ages of three months and 10 years, that's quite a challenge. So far he's had luck with The Decemberists, Earth, Wind and Fire and Sugar — basically anything with great pop vocals and harmonies, as well as a good beat for dancing. And of course, some of his sons have fallen under the spell of tween pop star Kelly Clarkson.
Greg's prescription is New Magnetic Wonder, the latest album from Apples in Stereo. The Robert Schneider-fronted band that emerged out of the Elephant 6 collective offers a perfect mix of sunny, exuberant vocals and sophisticated arrangements. Plus, as Greg explains, Schneider is just a big overgrown kid (something that listeners who heard his interview on Sound Opinions can attest to).
Jim prescribes a dose of Smash Mouth. A couple of years ago the California garage popsters, who Jim thinks of as the male equivalent of No Doubt, released a greatest hits album called All Star Smash Hits. Jim explains that, as a fan of garage rock, David will appreciate their edgy aesthetic and punk covers. In addition, his kids are certain to enjoy the more bubble gum aspects of Smash Mouth's music and covers of songs like "I'm a Believer" (which they might already know from the Shrek 2 soundtrack).
A week later David returns to the doctors to report on his health status. He relays to Greg that he and all his sons really enjoyed the Apples in Stereo. He describes the band's music as fun and upbeat, as well as weird and experimental. David's wife was another story, but these doctors only agreed to please five patients… six might be pushing it.
Smash Mouth was something the whole family could agree on, especially for road trips and casual listening. The six year old described it as "a lot like rock and roll." But, David and his boys found the Apples in Stereo to be“meatier”and more interesting. Perhaps we've got four young rock critics in the making!Go to episode 76
Time now for The Rock Doctors to open up the clinic. Every so often Jim and Greg like to give back, so to speak, and help some listeners with an ailment of a musical variety. Whether someone is allergic to hip hop or addicted to jam bands, our hosts hope they can provide the right musical prescription. Heck, they've even taken an appointment with Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman.
Before they get to their main appointment of the episode, they run over to the emergency room to take a call from Anne in Philadelphia. Anne is getting married next month and has been racking her brain to come up with a good song for the“Father/Daughter”dance. Problem is, Dad is something of a music expert who likes to dig deep for his wedding selections. But songs like Leadbelly's "Ain't It A Shame" don‘t hit the right emotional chord (and aren’t exactly crowd pleasers).
So, Anne wants to know what Drs. Kot and DeRogatis would recommend? Greg goes first, suggesting "The Way You Look Tonight." Sure, this Oscar-winner could be an obvious choice, but it's the lesser-known version by The Jaguars that Greg prescribes. Jim takes a cue from one of rock's best Dads, Loudon Wainwright III (father to Martha and Rufus and Marshall). His song "Daughter" has the perfect mix of humor and sentimentality.
Jim and Greg call their next two patients in from the waiting room. Doug and Susan have been happily married for 18 years. But they've never been able to get along…musically. Doug is a Presbyterian minister with an indie rock past who remains as passionate as ever about music. He loves jangly pop and expansive Spector-esque production, but doesn't give a lick about lyrics. Susan, he tells our nurse, is stuck in "Classic Rock Hell and '70s Rock Purgatory." She still favors FM rock like Jimmy Buffett and Little Feat, and has little tolerance for Doug's“trash can music”and fondness for“whiny broads.”So the doctors are tasked with finding this couple something new they can listen to together.
Jim begins by recommending a dose of the California quartet Delta Spirit. He couldn‘t resist prescribing Susan a band that actually uses trash cans, but more he thinks the couple will appreciate the group’s emotional and spiritual lyrics. Greg prescribes Arrow by Heartless Bastards. On their 4th release the Ohio group finally has the songs to match the intensity of Erika Wennerstrom's vocals. And they reference much of the classic rock and soul that Susan favors.
So how did the medicine go down? Doug gives a Buy It to Delta Spirit, noting that Matthew Vasquez can really sing. Susan still just hears this as something up Doug's alley. Doug also appreciated Heartless Bastards, but despite Wennerstrom's singing style, not because of it. He's curious to see the band live, but didn‘t fall in love with the record. Susan liked the direction Greg went in more, but again, didn’t find a winner in Heartless Bastards. But both husband and wife enjoyed the process of listening to and critiquing music…and that's all the Doctors can really ask for!
Do you need to consult with the Rock Doctors? Or know someone who does? Fill out a patient form and send it to email@example.com.Go to episode 335
Jim and Greg begin the show with a discussion of Lollapalooza and other summer festivals. There's Coachella in California and Bonnaroo in Tennessee, but Chicago is shaping up to be the major destination for music fans this year. The Lollapalooza lineup is impressive, with a diverse mix of bands including Lolla vets The Flaming Lips and Red Hot Chili Peppers, indie favorites Death Cab for Cutie and The Shins, and Chicago natives Wilco and Kanye West. Plus, the city will be home to two of the biggest independent music festivals: The Pitchfork Music Festival, featuring Destroyer, Art Brut, Spoon and post-punk pioneers Mission of Burma, and the Intonation Music Festival featuring The Streets, Bloc Party, Lupe Fiasco and a rare appearance by 13th Floor Elevators founder Roky Erickson.Go to episode 21
If you were one of the unfortunate few to tune in to last week's Golden Globes“ceremony”then you know first hand how the Writer's Guild strike can affect awards season. Now it appears the Grammy Awards might be next to fall. The Recording Academy is seeking an interim agreement from the WGA to insure that the Feb. 10th awards broadcast will go off without a hitch. While they have gotten support from other industry unions, a WGA spokesperson didn't recommend betting on a waiver. Jim, for one, would welcome a trimmed down Grammy Awards. But, Greg doesn't think that audiences will tune in without the promise of star power. The one upside — perhaps this year the Grammys will actually be about music.
By next year Live Nation will not only have severed ties with Ticketmaster, but become its biggest competition. The concert promoters, turned music moguls, announced plans to launch their own ticketing company. Therefore, they'll have their hands in every aspect of the music industry: production, marketing and sales of both albums and concert tickets. According to Jim and Greg, this brings up a lot of ethical issues that make them question how the consumer will be served. Ticketmaster is also blurring the lines of business; the company made its own announcement regarding the purchase of TicketsNow. That website is the second-largest site in the secondary-ticket market behind StubHub. Ticketmaster has been criticizing these kinds of brokers for years, but…if you can‘t beat ’em, join ‘em. As Jim and Greg explain, now there isn’t a lot stopping Ticketmaster from withholding a large quantity of tickets from the first round of sales, only to jack up the prices and make a huge profit the second time around.
The other big area of competition is turning out to be the summer concert festivals. The concert promoters behind Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California are headed east to set up shop in New Jersey. The Liberty State Park event will be held on August 8-10 — the same exact dates as the Vineland Music Festival. That event is being put on by the promoters behind Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits. Can New Jersey handle two 3-day concert festivals with a similarly diverse bill of hundreds of bands? Jim and Greg think no. The stage is set for“a blood bath”between the two corporate giants, but the real victims are probably going to be music fans.
From the concert wars to the real war… In an effort to boost morale, the U.S. Army has put out a request for a“professional rock band.”Following suit with the National Guard, who used 3 Doors Down to help them recruit moviegoers, the Army is looking to get a little more rock and roll. Or rather, Southern Rock, Pop Rock, Post-Grunge or Hard Rock. If you play these genres of music and are some kind of celebrity, national or local, and also don't mind suiting up in kevlar and being shipped off to Kuwait or Afghanistan, then submit your“proposal”today. Sound Opinions H.Q. can think of a few music celebs they'd nominate to be shipped off.
Next up Jim and Greg warn you to get ready for a full-blown Michael Jackson revival. That's right, the man who many of us reduced to an E! True Hollywood Story may actually return to being an important music figure. A 25th anniversary edition of Thriller is scheduled for release next month, and Jermaine Jackson has said that his brother will be joining the rest of the Jackson 5 for a reunion tour later this year. But kicking the revival off is rapper Rhymefest, who just posted a free download of The Michael Jackson Dedication Album on his website. The album was produced entirely with Jackson song samples, as well as inventive skits featuring the rapper and his pop idol. Jim and Greg both recommend listeners check the album out, with Greg adding that it's the best thing Michael Jackson has had his name on in two decades. Rhymefest fans should also check out his appearance on the show.Go to episode 112
Just a couple of years ago MySpace was the place to check out new bands and share them with friends. Now, their user base is shrinking while Facebook is up to 500 million users. So they are cashing in on the music scene and re-launching Music on Facebook. It certainly lends itself to interacting with artists, but what about the listening? That remains to be seen.
Producer Phil Spector was once known as the architect of the "Wall of Sound." But from now on he'll be known as a convicted murderer. A California appeals court rejected Spector's bid to overturn his murder conviction, saying it was permissible for prosecutors to call other women who said he had threatened them with guns in the past. He's now serving 19 to life in prison. His first trial ended in a hung jury.Go to episode 284
Making news are recent announcements about upcoming summer concerts. First, there was release of the lineups for the annual Coachella and Bonnaroo music festivals. The Coachella Festival in southern California usually has one of the more exciting and diverse bills of the summer, with past headliners like Coldplay, Nine Inch Nails, and Radiohead. This year, though, Jim and Greg are skeptical of whether headliners Tool and Depeche Mode can be enough of a draw. It's up to support acts like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Massive Attack and Wolf Parade to make the desert heat bearable. There is also exciting news for Chicagoans: Lollapalooza will be returning with an expanded three-day format. Plus, indie rock fans can look forward to not one, but two new festivals in the city—the Pitchfork Music Festival and the newly independent Intonation Festival.
Joining Jim and Greg for the news this week is former Supreme Mary Wilson. Ms. Wilson made headlines recently when she began a national campaign to support legislation that would prevent imposters (but thankfully not cover bands) from posing as major artists. To prove the point that there is only one true Mary Wilson, the singer did an a cappella rendition of The Supremes' "Stop! In the Name of Love" for the Illinois House of Representatives.Go to episode 12
Following up on their 2011 music business report last week, Jim and Greg are happy to announce that vinyl album sales continue to be healthy. For the third year in a row, Abbey Roadwas the top-selling vinyl album. But nostalgia isn't the only thing pushing record sales. New artists like Mumford and Sons, Bon Iver and The Black Keys also had top selling vinyl products. Jim and Greg are pleased to know that music fans continue to have affection for this format, especially in a year when digital music sales finally topped physical ones.
Coachella, the first of the big music festivals of the season, announced its upcoming lineup. During not one, but two weekends in the California desert, attendees can see performances by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, Radiohead, The Black Keys and Jeff Mangum. But they'll miss out on a reported Black Sabbath reunion due to guitarist Tony Iommi's recent cancer diagnosis.
Our last bit of news proves that when it comes to the life of a musician, not a whole lot has changed in two centuries. A letter written by composer Ludwig van Beethoven has emerged in Germany valued at over $128,000. In what the BBC describes as six pages of“scrawled corrections,”Beethoven complains about his ailments, and like many a rocker today, a lack of money.Go to episode 320
If your hometown looks anything like Chicago these days, it's hard to even imagine the warmer months. But, for many music fans, now is the time to start mapping out their summer concert plans. The concert business is the one area of the music industry that is thriving, and summer festivals are a huge money-maker. The lineups have been released for Coachella in California, as well as Bonnaroo in Tennessee. And, even without a lineup, the UK's Glastonbury Festival has sold out. One bad sign of things to come in this economy — the Langerado Festival in Florida has already been cancelled due to poor ticket sales.Go to episode 167
The copyright infringement lawsuit over Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" now has a resolution. As we've previously covered, the trust of Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe sued Zep, alleging that“Stairway”plagiarized the 1968 track "Taurus." A California jury didn't hear enough similarity between the songs and decided in favor of Led Zeppelin. And as we wind on down the road from the decision, intellectual property attorney Jeffrey Brown tells us this probably won't change the legal standard for copyright infringement. Even when the plaintiffs win – like in the "Blurred Lines" trial – the legal fees are too high to be worth it for anyone but the wealthiest of artists. These cases will continue to be primarily worked out in backroom deals.Go to episode 553
The Turtles are best known for hits like 1967's "Happy Together." But, vocalists Flo and Eddie, or Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, are still making news—but more for their legal battles than their music. Last year they sued SiriusXM for $100 million, saying that by playing its songs without permission, the broadcaster had infringed on the group's rights under state laws. The first ruling came down in September in California, in favor of The Turtles. Then, earlier this month, a district court judge in New York ruled against SiriusXM and rejected its motion for summary judgment. This is being considered a major victory for artists and record companies in the copyright debate. But, more significantly, it may have wider impact if the cases lead to changes in copyright law—specifically an obscure provision on recordings made before 1972 when federal copyright protection went into effect. For songs by the Turtles and other "oldies" acts, neither SiriusXM nor services like Pandora pay labels or artists. They do, however, pay royalties for songwriting. So, it begs the question - who should get credit, financial that is, for a song—the songwriter, the performer, or both? And as Wondering Sound Lead News Writer Marc Hogan explains, $60 million/year is at stake according to royalties organization SoundExchange. So lawmakers better get cracking.Go to episode 470
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