Sunday, August 30, 2009

August 31

Remember Debbie Gibson? And I don’t mean that as a slight. Debbie Gibson’s still the youngest artist to write, produce, and sing a number one song on the Billboard charts; as teen stars go, she’s more Taylor Swift than Miley Cyrus or Britney Spears. In the 90’s, Debbie Gibson the former teen star became Deborah Gibson, Broadway star, and she still toplines marquees today. At the same time, she's not above doing the occasional reality show or bizzare fast food commercial...
And yet, the generation after me will probably end up remembering her for "Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus."

Debbie plays neither shark nor octopus, but the “voice of reason” scientist that all ecological disaster movies have. Hey, it was big enough for a sequel...

Who remembers The Vines? They were supposed to be Australia’s answer to Nirvana, as in catchy, scruffy three-and-a-half minute songs that made rock exciting again. But instead of being the next Kurt Cobain, lead singer Craig Nicholls started turning into Syd Barrett, having on-stage meltdowns and frequent performance cancellations. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which has cut down on the touring but not on the music-making. He’s working on album number 5 as we blog.

I saw this performance on Letterman, and it’s as hypnotic a train wreck as I remember. Wish I could have found their performance on Conan O’Brien later that month, when they pulled it off. Somebody stocked different refreshments in their green room, apparently…

Gotta give props to drummer Jerry Allison, co-architect of the Crickets’ sound (and, therefore, of rock n’ roll.) True story: Buddy Holly wrote a song in 1957 that he named after his niece, “Cindy Lou.” Jerry asked Buddy to rename the song after his girlfriend, who he was on the outs with at the time . Buddy agreed if he could double-time the drum beat through the entire song. So, Jerry gave the song a driving beat, Buddy renamed the song “Peggy Sue,” the song made it to the top 5, and Peggy came back to Jerry (their marriage lasted for a decade,) demonstrating the power of a radio hit in winning over a girl.

But my personal candidate for a federal holiday is Julie Brown. Not “Downtown” Julie Brown, but that crazy red-headed comedienne – the one that’s still alive, I mean. Cable TV afternoon movie viewers might have seen her as The Best Friend in “Earth Girls are Easy.” But if you know her, you probably remember her from “Just Say Julie”, her signature show on MTV, back when they had VJs and music and stuff. She had this bipolar valley girl persona, perfect for puncturing the most ponderous music videos, the apex of the goofy side of 80’s comedy, before everything got “edgy”.
[Speaking of “edge,” that was the name of her sketch comedy show on Fox. It only lasted a season, and I can’t remember any of the skits, but the show also introduced America to Jennifer Aniston and Wayne Knight, before everybody started calling them “Rachel” and “Newman.”]
But the reason I’m celebrating Julie Brown’s birthday is because she came along at a pivotal moment in my life. As a kid, I couldn’t understand what was so fascinating about supermodels and centerfolds. Sure, I knew what made pretty girls pretty, but magazine covers didn’t do anything for me – certainly not as much as my classmates. And then Julie Brown came along. Here was a fire-engine redhead acting anarchic and insane, telling bad puns in short skirts with the energy of a four-year-old on Pixy Stix.
Julie Brown changed my life. She shaped the criterion for the women that would inhabit my fantasies – and, ultimately, my life. She taught me that I’m into two kinds of women: 1) Redheads (not necessarily natural,) and 2) Women that will do anything for a laugh.

Oh yeah, she’s on my List.

Tomorrow: A new month!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

August 30

For starters, Ryan Ross, formerly of Panic at the Disco, is celebrating a birthday today. And look what I get for not paying attention; they’ve cracked in half.
His new band is called The Young Veins, and he's not being shy about how much they sound like the Kinks:

Speaking of retro, I discovered Negative, via birthday boy Jonne Aaron Liimatainen. They’re huge in Finland, in a HIM/Rasmus kind of way. (In some parts of the world, hair metal never went away.) Don’t know if they’ll cross the pond, though. Maybe when we get “Rock of Ages: The Movie”…

Let’s recognize the birthday of the late Chris Latta. He started in stand-up, did some TV and film work, but really made his mark in voice-over work:
Yup, he voiced two of the most hissable villains of 80’s after-school TV: Transformers’ number two Decepticon, Starscream, and G I Joe’s chief nemesis, Cobra Commander:

When you think about it, 80’s cartoons were way too silly to work. The bad guys had to be dangerous but not too scary, appear threatening yet defeatable in 25 minutes (minus commercials), and come back again and again. Latta’s voicework turned what could have been ordinary heavies into the perfect cartoon bad guys. They didn’t just lose every week because Good always triumphs over Evil; they lost every week because they were douchebags.

If that’s not enough contributions to pop culture, he also originated two Simpsons voices: Mr Burns and Moe the Bartender. All together, he deserves a raise of the glass.

Let’s finish this 80’s flashback with birthday boy Aaron Barrett ’s band Reel Big Fish, covering the Duran Duran chestnut “Hungry Like the Wolf.” And not just any”Wolf”- the Lupin III AMV (Anime Music Video) for “Hungry Like the Wolf.” (Hey, if I post this three times, how bad-ass would this column be?)

See you tomorrow…

august 29

Right out the box, I find A+, born Andre Levins, and his biggest hit, “Enjoy Yourself.”

I’m convinced that anything sounds good with a Fifth of Beethoven. I think the reason nobody’s heard of him is he hasn’t found the right name. He’s not to be confused with the rapper A Plus, from the Hieroglyphs. But his birth name’s too close to Andres Levin, the music producer. So (for now) he’s trying to release a new album under the name Young Plus. None of this speaks well for the imaginativeness of his lyrics, I’m sure….

Elizabeth Frasier gave the Cocteau Twins their ethereal voice in the 80’s and 90’s. Imagine if Enya had the hankering to start a pop band, and you’ve got the Twins. They’re like those instant summer rainstorms, the kind that fall while the sun keeps shining, a slightly miraculous feeling.

Since the Twins broke up in ’97, fans have been waiting for their return. Heck, fans have been waiting for Fraser’s solo album since 2007, but it was pulled, without explanation. The band was scheduled to reunite for Coachella 2005, but they cancelled, without explanation. The fan site was taken over by her management team in ’07, and currently only has a “coming soon” type notice (don’t know if the music on the page is new or not…)

Anton Newcombe is the chief mastermind of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, another college radio staple of days gone by. If you liked Pink Floyd before Syd Barrett ‘left’ the band, definitely give the BJM a try. Otherwise, the rock documentary “Dig!” can give you a better idea of his reputation, deserved or not. I picked a song from their 2008 release, which sounds and looks like something that would have run on Night Flight in my childhood…

And it’s David Desrosiers’ birthday, too! The secret weapon of pop-punkers Simple Plan! He’s, uh… a bassist! Yeah, so…

Aw, heck, I’m trying to dole out some attention to others before I write about Michael Jackson. How can I not? And yet, what hasn’t been written about him since he passed? About his homicide, his kids, his mystery son, his legacy? I mean, I was blasting his greatest hits when my friends were still throwing around babysitting jokes; now, everybody's finally saying nice things about him, while I still need a break.
No matter what happened, you’d be reading about Michael Jackson, just so I could post his 'appearance' on the Simpsons:

Happy Birthday, Michael. We miss ya…

Friday, August 28, 2009

august 28

I try not to write about big stars for a couple of reasons. First of all, there’s enough birthday notices for sufficiently famous people on celebrity TV shows and magazines, never mind the Internet. I’m trying not to compete with them. I’m interested in the folks that don’t have paparazzi chasing them, because they have stories I haven’t heard yet. But if I want people to eat the steak, I have to throw some sizzle in.

Shania Twain is interesting to me from an anthropological standpoint. I mean, she’s one of the most successful artists even in the country music genre, but you’d have a hard time finding her on my local country radio stations today. She’s indicative of the Madison Avenue country sound: less southern-fried but more palatable to the rest of the world. Guess that’s what happens when you’re married to Def Lepard’s record producer.
Exhibit A: the “Up!” album. With over 11 million copies in the US alone, it’s the biggest selling record of this decade. “Up!” actually had three versions: the red CD version was more pop-tinged than the green “country” version, while the blue “international” version was remixed by two Bollywood music gurus.
You can hear some of the Indian sound in the production of “Gonna Get You Good,” one of the chart-toppers from “Up!” Or you can turn down the sound (I know you will…) just watch the video and try to figure out what country music fans thought of this:

Two quirks about her that I dig: She’s a Revlon cover girl, but her secret to smooth skin is Bag Balm, an ointment for protecting cow udders in the winter. Also, her cameo in I Heart Huckabees is worth a look, especially if you can’t stand Jude Law.

Jack Black is on my babymomma’s List. If you don’t know what The List is, now is not the time to talk about it. Now is time to talk about Jack Black.
Without Jack Black, there would not be “Heat Vision and Jack,” a craptastic show that never saw the light of day, and inspired its producers to create the bizzarely funny There’s so much great stuff he’s done, all the way back to “High Fidelity” and “Mr Show.” But I’ll narrow it down to a Tenacious D skit called “Tribute”. I tried to find the original HBO broadcast bit, before Led Zeppelin’s lawyers got involved.

David Fincher – I can write about this guy! Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac – he’s made creepy awesome movies (and kept Brad Pitt from becoming, say, Paul Walker.) Showing two minutes clips of his greatest films seems cheap… But he built his resume and developed his cinematic style with a catalog of stunning, award-winning music videos! Like this:

Wait a minute…


How about a public service message?

Now THAT’s David Fincher.


Here’s a cause a bit closer to my mission. Birthday boy Jess Margera is the drummer for CKY, which gives him something to talk about besides being Bam’s brother. I was prepared not to like CKY, but it’s the right kind of harsh.

Mission accomplished. Rock on…

Thursday, August 27, 2009

August 27

It’s my first week, and I’m getting the hang of this, banging this out between feedings. I can’t write about everybody, so I try to keep a variety of up-and-comings, used-to-bes, and Big-in-Japans. But I don’t want to write for an audience of one. So, who would YOU like me to write about?

My lady would want me to write about Alexa Vega. She’s an actress that’s already top-lined plenty of tween movies; if she was in the Disney fold, you’d probably had already heard too much of her. But for those of you old enough to vote, you might recognize her one for two things: the Spy Kids franchise, or “Repo! The Genetic Opera,” which is the real reason I’m posting about this girl. Any excuse to spotlight “Repo!”…

This is the best copy of “Zydrate Anatomy” I could find, featuring the play’s writer, Vega, and Paris Hilton. Please don’t let that dissuade you; it’s a wonderfully gory operetta for anybody who adored “Buffy” or “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

In case my mom’s reading this, I guess I should write about Ogie Alcasid, who’s apparently an entertainment powerhouse in the Philippines. In twenty years, he’s gone double platinum three times, been in 30 movies, and hosted too many game shows, including Filipino versions of Family Feud, Hole in the Wall, and Pinoy Idol (I think he filled the Randy Jackson role.) He even has a chain of hot dog stands called “Oggie Doggie”.

I can’t bring myself to post his music here; sounds like the late-70’s muzak that Sears piped in when Mom would make me shop for school clothes. But I just have to share this clip of Ogie co-hosting the Philippines' version of "Hole in the Wall"; he’s the one in the pigtails, I think…

If my Facebook-addicted co-worker’s reading this, I have to send birthday wishes to Tony Kanal of No Doubt. Gotta admit, the man’s got brass ones for dating and dumping Gwen Stefani, and then sticking around to record an album of songs about the breakup, watching the album go 16 times platinum, and let her sing those songs to you every night.
In honor of his skills and inspirations, it seemed like “Ex-Girlfriend” would be the perfect music video to play. Wouldn’t you know, all YouTube copies are blocked for posting. And then I found this AMV, cutting a scene from the Anime “Kite”, which should be very familiar to anybody who’s seen the No Doubt video. In fact, let’s call this the “Possibly Not Safe for Work” version…

In the end, I’m writing this for me, trying to share a glimpse at the weird and wonderful things this world has to offer, encouraging others to appreciate the under-appreciated while we have a chance.
So, Happy Birthday, Pee-Wee Herman.

Tommorrow: Why I don’t write about bigger stars

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August 26

One of the things I love about this blog is it gets me searching again. I was researching today’s blog, when I came across Yagmur Sangul, whose name is missing a couple of umlats and such. (Thank goodness I’m writing a blog and not kill-pronouncing his name.) He’s the guitarist and primary songwriter for a Turkish band called maNga; yes, they named themselves after Japanese comic books. They’ve got an Incubus sound with Coheed imagination.

Actually, I checked out their website, and they’re a bit of awesome. The song above translates to, to the best of my research, "Leave Me Alone". Google “maNga Turkey” if you want to find out anything about these guys; sorry I don’t speak Turkish….

I’ve known how awesome Shirley Manson is for some time. Ever since I heard her sing “Vow” on the first Garbage album, I’ve been captivated by the girl.

Garbage - Vow
Uploaded by nofx06. - Explore more music videos.
Shame Guitar Hero 5 isn’t out yet; apparently, she’s one of the characters you can play the game as.
If you head to her Facebook page, you can hear a couple of songs from her solo sessions - will they be on her long-anticipated solo album, or will there be another Garbage album?

Today’s a good excuse to say “thank you” to Mark Snow, the composer of “The X-Files” theme, the song that made all whistling songs creepy. In fact, I think that’s the secret sauce that makes the creepiest shows creepy. There’s “X-Files” and “Twilight Zone”, the apex of creepy TV songs. Every other show either sounds like an amusement park ride (“Tales from the Crypt,” “Monsters”) or chintzes on the music altogether (“The Outer Limits”, “Fear Itself”)
In tribute, I found this duo on YouTube doing an acoustic guitar take on the “X-Files” theme. If that’s not creepy enough, realize that the entire performance is filmed with their heads cut off. For what reason? Are they hideous? Inhuman? Members of the witness protection program? I want to believe so…

Finally: another birthday girl, another discovery for me. Chantal Renaud was a big deal in 1960s France, the face of an entire genre of music. I don’t understand a single word she said, which somehow makes this song harder to shake out of my head.
Either you’ll enjoy it, or file it in your “WTF” file. Either reaction’s acceptable.

Tomorrow: Requests and Dedications…

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

August 25

I’m not simply trying to well-wish celebrities, or snatch some of that sheen of fame for my pseudo-journalistic exercise. If I wanted blog hits, I’d write about Blake Lively or Claudia Schiffer. And then where would we be?

Allow me to confirm that birthday boy Kel Mitchell is not dead. Remember “Keenan and Kel”? While Keenan Thompson is an SNL castmember, Kel may seem like an Invisible Boy to some of you. But for a few years, solo Kel has made his mark as the R & B Weird Al, with the occasional acting role (“Honeydripper”, “Like Mike 2”) Now, he’s building a new generation of fans, voicing characters in cartoons like "Clifford The Big Red Dog" and "Pink Panther and Pals.". It’s okay, man. We’re all dudes here…

Hey, remember Powerman 5000? Band mastermindSpider One has a birthday today. He’s the Demolition Man to Rob Zombie’s Rambo, claiming sci-fi to his bro’s horror rock schtick.

I have never forgotten “Words Collide” and the Yu-Gi-Oh hair.
While he's not getting into the moviemaking business yet, he seems to be treading closer to his brother's territory, with his new gig as blogger/correspondent for

Happy birthday to Takeshi Ueda, of the Mad Capsule Markets. They’re a Japanese rock band that I didn’t realize I was a fan of, until I dug out my PS1 copy of “Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3”.

Every time I hear that song, I forget how uncoordinated I am. In 2010, he's released his second solo album, and continues designing new t-shirts and haircuts...

Most of all, I have to say “Happy Birthday” to Rollie Fingers, Hall of Fame baseball player and personal inspiration.


Tomorrow: a couple of spooky chicks…

Sunday, August 23, 2009

August 24

I can’t exactly call this a celebrity blog. Everybody’s got a birthday, but not everybody gets a “Happy Birthday.” Yes- happy birthday, Ron Weasley. Happy birthday, Dave Chapelle. I started this blog to write about the under-celebrated.

Like John Bush. He got his start as the vocalist for Armored Saint, a metal band started by his high school buddies. He remains the only guy ever offered the job of Metallica frontman (right after Kill ‘Em All,) but he stayed with Saint, right up to the death of founding guitarist Dave Pritchard in 1990. When Armored Saint was laid to rest, John Bush had his next gig waiting: vocalist for Anthrax.

I’m an Anthrax fan since State of Euphoria, so The Anthrax vocalist is Joey Belladonna. But the John Bush years helped the band grow up while keeping the speed. Metallica has been spending the last four albums trying to make a song as good as “Only.” Through three labels, the grunge movement, and 9/11, Anthrax soldiered on. But when it was time for the reunion/cash-in tour, Anthrax invited Belladonna back for a two-vocalist tour. Quicker than you can say “Sammy Hagar”, Bush said, “no, thanks,” and walked away.

The new Armored Saint album came out in early 2010, while Anthrax is doing the Sonicsphere tour with their 'classic' lineup...

Another guy I like is Mason Williams, of “Classical Gas” fame. I heard this song for years on radio stations that never tell you what they play anymore and finally learned the name, thanks to “The Simpons.”
It’s one of those songs I always wanted to learn to play on guitar.
When “Classical Gas” made its debut
What’s really cool about this song is, he played this on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, a show he was a joke writer Music composition was something he did on the side; comedy paid his bills. Matter of fact, he gave Steve Martin his TV break.
Sorry I couldn’t find the performance with the fishbowl guitar. Still, great to watch:

And then there’s Jeffrey Daniel, another guy I discovered due to this blog. If you were dancing in the 70’s, you probably heard of Shalamar, an R & B trio that bridged the way between disco and hip-hop; sort of an early-80’s Fugees. They even broke up and had solo careers; Jody Watley’s the most successful, yet least crazy.
Daniel was known for his dancing. Here’s some moves he did on a British dance show in 1982 (skip to about 2:00, if you need to…):

And here’s some guy dancing on a tv show in 1983:

That’s right; Michael Jackson was a fan. In fact, he’d seen Daniel doing his backsliding move on Soul Train, American Bandstand, etc… and asked Daniel to teach him how to do it.
Jackson would end up hiring Daniel formally as a choreographer, for such videos as “Bad”, “Smooth Criminal,” and “Ghosts.” Jeffrey Daniel lives in Japan these days, speaking fluid Japanese and Cantonese, and working on his solo career, although Shalamar might be back.

Finally, because there’s two members of the band celebrating a birthday today, here’s Quicksilver Messenger Service.

So, happy birthday, guys. Tomorrow, a couple of masters of metal. Or hair. Or something…

August 23

Welcome to chapter 1. I learned my daughter was going to be born today, and it got me wondering who was born today. I’m a former rock journalist, aspiring writer, eternal trivia addict, and current blog junkie. So I started looking around today, and here’s the interesting stuff I found:

Ytcracker’s a nerdcore artist, so if you like your hip-hop with cheat code references, he’s your man. He’s not your typical net-saavy hip-hop poseur; the boy was programming in BASIC at the age of 4, and made national news vandalzing government websites before he was out of high school. He got out of the game to spit flows over Nintendo beats.

Shifty Shellshock
’s blowing out candles today. He was the lead singer in Crazy Town, which was kind of like Sugar Ray before they figured out what kind of music girls want to listen to.

Today’s a great excuse to listen to “Butterfly”, a catchy ditty that did for CrazyTown what “More Than Words” did for Extreme: totally made them an ironically-named one-hit wonder. But how can you hate this song? Actually, the dude’s girlfriend’s in the video, so he got his, and we never heard them on the radio again. Everybody wins. (Just kidding; Shifty kept busy.)

Do yourself a favor, and check out "Orange County"; they do the best job of explaining just how inescapable “Butterfly” is, and what kind of people actually listen to this music. Mike White always gets the best out of Jack Black.

I could write about Julian Casablancas, lead singer of the Strokes. I love the Strokes, think their first three albums are genius. But I got four more chances to write about the Strokes. Why use it up with Casablancas or Hammond? I’d rather write it for the birthday of that bass player with the Prince Valiant haircut.

No, it’s time to put somebody like Dean DeLeo in the spotlight. When you’re in a band with somebody like Scott Weiland, you don’t get a lot of time to shine. Lord knows he and his brother have tried for their time. When it became clear Scott was going to be gone for a while, he and the rest of the Pilots got a new singer and called themselves Talk Show. Then the brothers DeLeo teamed up with Richard Patrick to form the alt-rock supergroup Army of Anyone. After that went nowhere, he and his brother started producing albums, for bands like Alien Ant Farm. And in the end, they still have to reunite with the Barry Bonds of Rock, just to get some play. At least we get a new Stone Temple Pilots album out of the deal, at the end of 2009. Which will be worth it if we get at least one song as catch as “Big Bang Baby”

There’s quite a few guys you’ve heard of- even your parents have heard of – that were born today. Keith Moon, Rick Springfield, Gene Kelly…
But I have to save something for next year.

This column is really for guys like Jimi Jamison, the second lead vocalist for Survivor. Remember that song from Rocky III, “Eye of the Tiger”? He ain’t singing that. Dave Bickler blew out his vocal cords (and I can’t wait to tell you what he does now…) and Jamison replaced him on tour. If you’ve ever noticed Survivor since “Eye of the Tiger”, you’ve heard this guy. You’ve heard him singing “The Search is Over” and “Burning Heart”. You’ve seen him in the Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso commercial, singing in Glen’s ear on his morning commute. Heck, you might have seen Jimi Jameson touring around with a bunch of other guys calling themselves “Jimi Jamison’s Survivor.”

But Jimi Jameson deserves a Happy Birthday from you because he gave us, quite possibly, the last great TV theme song. Observe:

So, that’s how things are going to work around here, in a nutshell. Enjoy, reminisce, maybe send an e-card to the artist. I’ve started compiling my list, but I can always use a little help: if you know some birthdays I shouldn’t miss, send me an e-mail at

Tomorrow, we talk about Anthrax, “Classical Gas”, and the guy who taught Michael Jackson to moonwalk. If you’ll excuse me, I have to run in slow motion now…

Monday, August 17, 2009

Testing, testing...

These are the very first words I've ever posted in a blog; not imaginative enough to remember, I know. But I'm testing how this works. Since you're still reading this, let me introduce myself and this experiment.

I've been looking for something that combines my love of pop culture, music, writing, research of obscure arcana, and the internet. While anticipating the birth of my latest child, I had a discussion with a friend about the ideal birthdate - preferred horoscope signs and such. I'm not entirely convinced about the zodiac (but I'm getting there,) so I thought a list of birthdays of accomplished people might offer some testimony about each day's potential.

At the same time, I've been as inundated as everyone else with celebrity obituaries for Farah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Billy Mays... But it was the notice about Willy Deville that got to me. Just another dead punk rocker in the news, but I researched him anyway. And I found this:

He composed the song, and got nominated for an Academy Award for it. And I wouldn't have noticed if he hadn't died and made the news. Who else was I missing, and could I find them before they were just another obituary notice?

So that's what this blog is about: celebrating the under-celebrated. I research a day of the year and try to share the cool, weird, cheesy, or disgusting things I find. It's not the most comprehensive site; if I don't talk about one of your faves, I apologize. But every day, I'll try to post up about some music act you haven't heard of, or haven't thought of in a long time, or never thought of in that particular way. In this way, I hope to give an experience like I've had, reading my favorite blogs, discovering weird and wonderful things.

When my daughter's born, I'll start posting regularly; easier to remember life events that way. More as it happens...

Leroy Grey