Wednesday, September 23, 2009

september 29

Hello, and Happy Birthday, whenever it is. I've got more under-celebrated celebrities, one-hit wonders, and oddness. Actually, I'll start with the oddness, today...

Happy Birthday to Brian Ash, subversive animator. He cut his teeth on Internet animation before working on shows like "The Boondocks" and "Lewis Black's Root of All Evil." Here's one of his more notorious works, a promotional piece for the 2005 "House of Wax" remake, entitled "See Paris Die!" (Obviously, NSFW)

Slightly more family-friendly (but still kinda NSFW; it is promoting an R-rated film) was the award-winning prequels to "3000 Miles to Graceland." I heartily recommend checking out these clips; I wish I could have embedded them; they really feature Kevin Costner, Christian Slater, Kurt Russell, etc. from the film. If I'd seen these cartoons back then, I might have tried to see the film in theaters.

Oh, man; Kurt Nilsen is my hero. He's the guy who broke the Idol-making machine.
See, by 2004, the Pop Idol franchise had become a juggernaut, and almost every nation in the world was on its way to having their own Idol show. So, why not a World Idol? On Christmas Day, 2003, winners from eleven nations, including American Idol Kelly Clarkson, competed in a one-off globally broadcast special. In a monumental upset, Clarkson took second place to Norway's Kurt Nilsen, a victory so controversial that they never had a World Idol competition again.
Many reasons are bandied about (erratic voting, price gouging, not using Clay Aiken) but what's unspoken is the fact that the Powers That Be got a World Idol that they had no idea how to sell to the world. His songs have never been released in the United States.
Why? Because he doesn't look like a rock star. The nicest way to say it is, he paved the way for the Paul Potts and Susan Boyles of the world to start taking over. He looks very ordinary, but his voice is definitively not.
Had a hard time picking a video, because the produced music videos don't do him any favors (dressing him like Rascal Flatts,) and the concert videos have too much screaming (he is still a massive star in Norway.) But this clip of the Norwegian supergroup The New Guitar Baddies doing a live rendition of "Hallelujah" should do the trick. [Kurt's in the denim jacket, all the way to the left] Watch for him to sing the last verse, and you can see - and hear - what I'm talking about.

His last album, a team-up with Willie Nelson, had him back on top of every chart Norway has. The world just might be ready for Kurt soon, after all...

Here's another phenomenal voice that deserves better. Debelah Morgan was a vocal prodigy (as in, 5-octave vocal range) who became a one-hit wonder, thanks to the 2000 track, Dance With Me. In a decade-long recording career, she never found her footing, and disappeared from the business altogether by 2004. Seriously, if anybody knows what happened to her, let me know. I figured, she'd be on Broadway, or releasing a gospel album by this point...
The song suffers from sounding too much like a Marc Anthony tune, I know...

Finally, Happy Birthday to the Last Man Standing, Jerry Lee Lewis. A rock n' roll legend, Lewis is the last of "the Million Dollar Quartet:" the songs of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Lewis built Sun Studios, and rock n' roll itself. To this day, nobody tears up a piano like Jerry Lee Lewis at 74 years old, which says more about the sad state of the world we're in.
Now there's a piano man. Damn you, Billy Joel. Damn you, Elton John...

september 30

Happy Birthday to Robby Takac, bassist for the Goo Goo Dolls. He's a busy guy when he's not with the Goos; he runs the band's recording studio, oversees his own record label, and serves on the board of trustees of his hometown college. Also, he's a Pez aficionado; he was a featured interviewee in the 2006 documentary, "PEZheads."
2010 should see a new Goo Goo Dolls album, and a new Nightmare on Elm Street movie, coincidentally. That's a good enough reason to play the Goos' song for the "Freddy's Dead" soundtrack, "I'm Awake Now"


Okay, I have no idea who Renato Zero is. He's some Italian singer that's been around forever, apparently. And if I only had this 70's TV clip to go by, I'd have to wager that Italy is one of the moons of Jupiter.

Actually, he's one of Italy's most successful pop artists. He gave up the leotards shortly after the death of glam rock. These days, he looks like Julio Iglesias with a dab of Freddie Mercury.


Happy Birthday to Ryan Stout - the stand-up comedian, not the cagefighter.
I love me some stand-up comedy; on a cross-country drive, it's better at keeping me alert than a pot of coffee. Stout's style has a Jim Gaffigan/Larry Miller vibe, if that's any help to you. Or you can watch this clip:
Live at Gotham
Ryan Stout - Labels
www.comedycentral.com
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It's my dad's birthday, so let me feature somebody he'd dig: 80's jazz-pop starlet Basia. This Polish chanteuse had a hatful of hits before hanging up that hat in 1998. Wouldn't you know it; she's back with a new album this year!
But I'll stick with something familiar: the title track of her breakthrough slbum, Time and Tide:


Happy Birthday, Dad. And Happy Birthday to you, whenever you are...

september 28

I almost wrote about a Jonas brother today.

I came so close to losing my way. I can't believe it. I mean, how long have they been on the planet anyway? Look, I know I'm writing about it now, but it's to make my point. I don't mean to bash on a nine-year-old kid who's just starting his life - if anybody needs a break from judgement, it's a kid. He didn't pick his family. He didn't really pick what he's doing with his life. But the only reason I would have written about him yesterday is that he's got a name that might have gotten some site hits. But it's not going to be what I want to write about.
So, Happy Birthday to Frankie Jonas (the one that doesn't sing yet), and thank you for making me realize why I'm doing this blog in the first place. You're the only one I'm going to write about for the forseeable future; I can't see myself writing about the others until the world's half-forgotten about them...

Happy Birthday to Jennifer Rush, the woman who introduced the world to "The Power of Love." The 80's ballad, co-written by Rush, is still her biggest hit and most recognizable song. She took that song to the top of the charts in 7 countries - not the U.S., it didn't even scratch the top 40. Laura Branagan got to do that two years later, rocking it just a little bit harder, turning it into a top 20 hit, and inadvertantly convincing a lot of Americans (like me) that she wrote it. Then Celine Dion, in her world-conquering phase, took the song to number 1 in North America. Meanwhile, Maurice Stein's baby girl can't get a break in the US, although she's a star to the rest of the world.
Why isn't her version the one you hear when you're shopping for canned peas? Couldn't say?


Today is the birthday of Quentin Kawananakoa, head of the only royal family in America. Quentin's family, the House of Kawanankoa, are the descendents of the royal Hawaiian family that ruled the islands before they were deposed in 1893. Even today, among some of the indigenous Hawaiian population, he is referred to as "Prince Quentin Kawananakoa." These days, however, Quentin is an organizer within the Hawaiian Republican Party. This royal heritage is, for the most part, just something to put on business cards and talk about at parties, except...
Did you know that 2009 observed the 50th anniversary of Hawaii's annexation of the state? There wasn't a lot of fanfare for the occasion, because of a more vocal nativist movement. Some want a semi-independet status, similar to Puerto Rico; others want outright secession and reinstatement of the Hawaiian royal line in a constitutional monarchy. Don't worry; Obama will still be an American...

Ginger Fish (an amalgam of classic film starlet Ginger Rogers and serial killer Albert Fish) plays the drums for Marilyn Manson, which would presumably be a dangerous job in the first place. But being Manson's drummer might be more hazardous for your health than playing for Spinal Tap. Given Manson's penchant for smashing his own guitar along with whatever else is on stage - such as Fish's drum kit, while Fish is still behind it - Fish has had his share of injuries at the hands of Manson: a mic stand to the head, a guitar to the hand, a broken collarbone, surgeries for his back and knees... Yet he was on this year's album and tour. Dude needs an intervention...
Here's one of Manson's driving numbers:
Marilyn Manson The Fight Song


Finally, Happy Birthday to Janeane Garofalo, just because she's funny. Unfortunately, all the video I find is her NSFW stand-up routines(and I'm trying to keep a PG-13 column here) or interviews for "Ratatouille" (which wouldn't be a great example of why she's great.) And I wasn't sure how a Comedy Central embed looks...
Shorties Watchin' ShortiesCheck TV Schedule
Janeane Garofalo - Evil Cake
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Kind of garish, isn't it? Hope you find the video in there...

Aw, well. Back to fighting the good fight...

september 27

Debbie Barnhouse is a actress/director/legend in the Cape Girardeau, MO arts scene. 2009 marks a decade with the local River City Players, where her talents have shone brightest, on either side of the curtain. Last week finished the run of Sam Bobrick's "Getting Sara Married," her latest directorial effort.
Usually, I have a video clip for you readers, to illustrate a reason that our birthday subject deserves some attention. But I don't have one for Debbie, and I kind of feel responsible. In 2003, she was cast and served as costumer in a film based on one of my scripts, Dark Garden. She let our makeup team turn her beautiful face into a murder victim's, only to have all of herself off-camera except her legs (oh, those legs...) She got the same deal Kevin Costner did in "The Big Chill," but she helped plant a seed that's still growing in the Cape. So I owe her a better movie....

In a TV interview, Meat Loaf said that he never considered himself a good singer, but he learned how to act like one after being cast to play a rock star. Man, do I wish it was that simple. The man's voice has its highs (Bat Out of Hell) and lows (his American Idol appearance) but it's still one of the best in the buisness. He's got plenty of signature roles, too; his five minutes in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" take the movie to a whole other level.


If you want to understand what the big deal is about Lil Wayne, start at Vibe Magazine's "The 77 Best Lil' Wayne Songs of 2007." That's 77 songs that he spit flow on before his juggernaut "Tha Carter III" album came out. Once III came out, then he was all over the place. Enjoy it now, because he may be jumping the shark next year; that's when his rock album comes out.


Avril Lavigne tried a different type of media saturation, with her last big single, "Girlfriend." You remember this song, right? Inescapable! Did you know its the 2nd most watched video on Youtube - of all time? OF ALL TIME?!? (Take that, Beyonce!) She re-recorded the song in seven different languages (even tried in Hindi,) and did a remix with a hip-hop artist. All that work, just so she can have a number 1 hit in the US...

And it's the only song anybody knows from the album (and she received too much flak about plaguarism...) News like this makes me wonder if she's running out of steam; she's working on her album for next year, and her publicity is proud to announce that's she using at least four songs she wrote before she was famous - songs that are almost ten years old. Hopefully, she's got enough going on in the here and now to write something besides the 'look at how rich I am' album...

september 26

So, Jack LaLanne is 95 today. And he can still kick my ass. The man that made bodybuilding an American obsession is still around today: lifting weights, towing boats with his teeth, and selling juicers that can kick my ass. For his birthday, he wants to swim twenty miles off the coast of California.
Me? I'm going to start with some face exercises...



Christina Milian has a birthday today, but I'm not even sure if she notices; she's too busy living the Dream. So far this month, she had a second wedding with Terius "the-Dream" Nash in Rome, announced her pregnancy, announced the second single and label change for her upcoming album (which also got its title changed to 'Elope,') saw the release of her latest starring role in the newest 'Bring It On' movie... The girl knows synergy.
This is why I don't usually peddle in gossip. I can't tell if Junior Beyonce here isn't using her personal life as a billboard for her latest projects. The word is, she's supposed to get married one more time, in the U.S. Who wants to bet it'll be within three weeks of the street date of her album or her duet with her new husband? Y'know, the hot musician/producer that's now running a record label?
Eh, what am I complaining about? She was cool on 'Smallville.' And I like this song:



Speaking of working couples, Sheri Moon Zombie just saw the release of a second movie with her husband this year. This one's a cartoon, which works out; apparently, she went to school to be a voice artist, before she followed the path that made her Mrs Rob Zombie.
Here's the trailer for "The Haunted World of El Superbeasto," the movie that proves that she's more than just a pretty, blood-spattered face:



Before today, the last I'd heard about Olivia Newton-John was that Dateline NBC episode where they tried to track down her ex-boyfriend that disappeared in the ocean a few years back to duck child support payments. But Olivia Newton-John's past all that now. She got re-married this year, twice: in an Incan spiritual ceremony in Peru, and then a (more?) traditional ceremony back in the US. Now she's touring again and selling herbal drinks with her new husband-
I think she just brought us full circle with everybody today. Cool...

Since the summer's behind us, here's a song from the Olivia Newton John that always comes to my mind:


Okay, time to say goodbye:

september 25

Since it's been suggested that I occasionally write about artists the average person may have heard of, I'm sending out a "Happy Birthday" to Clifford Harris, Jr, also known as T.I. Today, the Rubber Band Man's either celebrating his 29th birthday, or six months until his release from federal prison. I'd write more, but do I really know Clifford Harris? Does anyone?



Mary Doyle Kennedy will always be Natalie from the Commitments, one of my favorite fictional bands of all time. It's cool to know that in real life, she's one of the actors that made good: besides her own self-released albums (I wonder what her version of "Video Killed the Radio Star" sounds like,) she just completed her run as Catherine of Aragon on "The Tudors" (for those of you with cable television.) She recently recorded some songs with John Prine; no word on when those'll be released. And I wonder if she ever jams with the other Commitments?



Okay, we've had hip-hop and soul; it's time for some rock n' roll!

Kiyoshi Ijichi plays drums for Asian Kung-Fu Generation, a Japanese rock band that would sound great opening for Weezer. In fact, Ajikan (that's the quick way to say their name) aren't just playing better alt-rock than I'm hearing in America; they're keeping it alive with their own festival. This year's Nano-MugenFes was a two-day showcase of Japanese rockers alongside acts like Ben Folds and Nada Surf; if you're as interested as me, the live DVD comes out next month...


This song, "Loop & Loop," was on their 2004 album, 'Sol-fa.' It was one of my first discoveries when I started blog-trolling a few years ago, one of the reasons I started this blog. I can't vouch for the accuracy of the lyrics, or even what the song's about. The song transcends for me, but I'm open to explanations; comment me if you've got the song's about...


Finally, happy birthday to Santigold. She made it on a few 'best of 2008' lists, but I finally learned about her this week. I guess today's critics really miss 1982, because she sounds a lot like The Motels.

Yeah, I'm digging this. For real evidence of her sonic powers, check out the effects of her set at the 2009 Sasquatch Festival.

Seen this clip before? That's her track, "Unstoppable," that the short shorts pied piper's dancing to. Can't really tell if it inspired the Black Eyed Peas and Oprah, but I feel like dancing, too...

september 24

The story of Donald Earl DeGrate, Jr, a.k.a. Devante Swing, is a mystery. Devante was the producer, primary songwriter, and defacto leader of Jodeci (he and his brother Dalvin were the “De” in “Jodeci,”) which were something of an R & B powerhouse starting in 1991. DeVante parlayed the band’s success into forming his own record label, signing and/or discovering such talent as Missy Elliott, Timberland, Ginuwine, Tweet, Flo Rida, and much more. But by 1997, the label was folded, the band was on “indefinite hiatus,” and DeVante was off the grid.
Ten years later, and I can’t believe how much trouble I’m having finding news about this guy. He’s got another brother who’s keeping himself – and his music – strictly on the side of the angels; Devante worked on a track of his 2004 album… I’m also reading some buzz about “Nodeci”, which is a Jodeci-sounding group definitely without a K-Ci or JoJo. But is it the DeGrate brothers? Or a bunch of Jodeci-worshipping wanna-bes? Will the real Donald DeGrate please stand up? For a man who contributed as much to the R & B architecture of the last 15-odd years, he’s startlingly quiet.
Here’s an example of Jodeci at the height of their powers: their performance on the 1993 “Uptown MTV Unplugged” special. Their rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Lately” became their biggest pop hit. (By the way, Donald’s on the piano…)



His mama named him Michael Shawn Crahan on this day long ago, but most people today know him as “Clown” or “#6”. That’s right; Shawn’s one of the drummers of Slipknot. But he’s been ready to be much more; without the mask, he runs his own record label and plays with another band, Dirty Little Rabbits. As soon as the current world tour is over, he’ll host a few gallery showings of his photographs and paintings, and complete the book “The Apocalyptic Nightmare Journey,” chronicling his time in Slipknot.
While researching, I found out about To My Surprise, one of Crahan’s bands that got lost in the “Slipknot side project” shuffle. The band folded as soon as Slipknot was ready to resume, which is a shame. It wasn’t as big a deal as Stone Sour or the Murderdolls, but it should have been.



Happy Birthday, Janet Weiss, virtuoso drummer. She was the primary drummer of Sleater-Kinney, as well as anchoring Quasi, The Go-Betweens, Junior High, and drumming for Elliot Smith, Bright Eyes, Stephen Malkmus… The girl can’t keep still.

This week, she’s in Canada, playing with the Jinks, before Malkmus reunites with Pavement for a 2010 tour. It would seem to be a good time to take a break, but Janet probably won’t, dammit…
Here’s the album version of the song that got Janet the Sleater-Kinney gig: “Dig Me Out”.



Finally, it’s Jim Henson’s birthday. There’s so much that’s been said about his life’s work, and the joy we still feel from the love and laughter his stories gave to us. But I’m going to spotlight a subversive tribute – and by subversive, I’m referring to that simultaneous expression of sentiment and blasphemy. So I want to take a moment to talk to you about Sad Kermit.
Quoth the website: “Soon after the death of Jim Henson, Sad Kermit spiraled downward into a life full of addiction, romance and pain.” From there, Kermit discovers the acoustic guitar and Elliot Smith… and the rest is Internet history.
The saga of Sad Kermit started with the green doppelganger singing the Johnny Cash treatment of “Hurt”, along with a video of the most depressing scenes featuring a muppet ever. (Imagine Aranofsky's 'Requiem for a Muppet') But the songs themselves – Nine Inch Nails, Elliot Smith, and Leonard Cohen songs, performed with the heartbreaking vocals of Sad Kermit - can be really affecting, once you get past the joke.

Several covers are still available on the Sad Kermit website; I recommend the down-tuned version of “Rainbow Disconnection”.

September 23

I thought Jerry Corbetta’s band Sugarloaf was a one-hit wonder for “Green-Eyed Lady,” (#3, Hot 100, 1970) that oldies oddity with the murky organ riff in the middle. (Maybe they’d have gone further if they’d stuck with their original band name: Chocolate Hair.) Turns out the band’s a two-hit wonder: “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You” made it in the top 10 before the band dissolved in 1975. Maybe it's the video, but I like this song even better...

Corbetta did some studio work throughout the rest of the 70’s and 80’s, before finding his calling on the reunion circuit: first, as one of Franki Valli’s Four Seasons (there’s, like, 37 of them); then, in the AM radio supergroup Classic Rock All-Stars (with ex-leaders of Rare Earth, Spenser Davis Group, and Iron Butterfly.) They’re in Lawrenceburg, Indiana this weekend…


I thought Martin Page was a one-hit wonder for “In the House of Stone and Light,” (#1, Adult Contemporary, 1994) that soft rocker that saw me through many a midnight grocery shelf stocking. But that’s only if you discount all the songs he wrote for other acts(“We Built This City,” “King of Wishful Thinking,” “These Dreams”) that fill the soundtracks of a million shopping trips. He still lets other people sing his songs; the tunes he saves for himself (and releases himself, since his 2008 follow-up album, “In the Temple of the Muse”) sound like Sting or Peter Gabriel. Kudos for not actually releasing a song called “In the Temple of the Muse”; but all I can offer is his solo hit:

He’s working on album number three, and seems to prefer MySpace over his own website, if you’re looking for current events…


Finally, just to make sure I post up something indisputably good, here’s Ingrid Fliter, celebrated pianist, performing one of her specialities, Chopin’s Nocturne in D

She hasn't been on any charts, although her playing is available on CD.

Happy Equinox to everybody today, and Happy Birthday to you, whenever you are…

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

September 22

Today’s theme is discoveries, as in “I just discovered all these guys which have nothing in common, but I HAVE to talk about them.”

Like Bethany Dillon, who might be the nicest, most mellow artist I write about this week. I’ve embedded the video for her song “Dreamer,” featuring clips from the movie of same, simply because there’s clips of Lexington, Kentucky in there, which is my present home. My reasons may be superfluous, like watching sitcoms to see a high school classmate do his walk-on as “Airport Passenger Checking Watch…” But twice now, the Lexington link got me to check out some nice things; first, a decent family film about Snake Plissken and a little horse that could… and now, this song:


Next, happy birthday to Andy Cairns, mastermind of Therapy? a Northern Irish rock band that’s as big as an underground band can get after 20 years. I remember “Screamager” on the local alternative rock station, back when there was such a thing (1993.) They’re still making their style of psychological post-hardcore rock; here’s this year’s model, the title track from “Crooked Timber”


Now, Emilie Autumn is not my cup of tea, but I know she will be for too many of my friends. She’s an electric violinist with that dark cabaret vibe, bloody corsets and all. I guess my problem is that her songs seem to have this overwhelming “no boys allowed” vibe, which is problematic for a listener with a scrotum. So I may not be the best judge. However, my instincts tell me that all my Rasputina and Dresden Doll loving friends will dig her. They’ll just resent me on principle, later…
Anyway, Emilie Autumn and the Bloody Crumpets are touring North America this year, and a special edition of her album, “Opheliac,” should be at your local Hot Topic next month.



Finally, I’m returning to my 90’s indie rock vibe, which seems to be flourishing these days in Bulgaria. Ostava, led by birthday boy Svilen Noev, are keeping the rock alive in Eastern Europe: smart, stripped-down rock from a country that, apparently, hasn’t discovered Nickelback yet. Here’s hoping that this pristine environment can be preserved…



Happy Birthday, whenever it is…

Monday, September 21, 2009

september 21

Liam Gallagher is the vocalist of the British band Oasis, and, these days, he’s the last brother standing. Noel left the group for good last month, apparently, minutes before a Paris concert. With two albums on the contract to go (and a lot of pride on the line,) Liam has announced that the band’s soldiering on, and auditioning guitarists. Fans are skeptical about the band’s chances for success (the band’s biggest hits were all written by Noel) or if the band will even stay split definitely… maybe… (Noel left during their first American tour.)
In the meantime, here’s an Oasis song that Liam wrote, which offers a clue of what the new Oasis could sound like…


Dave Coulier, or “Uncle Jesse” to most of you, is the new McKenzie brother. The former “Full House” housemate was picked to replace Rick Moranis for the animated return of the SCTV character. The show finished its first season on Canadian broadcast television (makes sense,) so no word on when the second season arrives, or when the show will make its way south. If it doesn’t, Coulier’s got a lot going on, with his comedy tour and the second half of his tenure as a wrestling league commissioner, and all…
I was so happy to find an episode of his Nickelodeon sketch comedy show, “Out of Control” on the Internet. Don’t know if this was how he met Alanis Morrissette…

Sunday, September 20, 2009

September 20

Chuck and John Panozzo were two-thirds of the founding fathers of Styx. Back in high school, they formed a band with Dennis DeYoung called The Tradewinds, where Chuck played guitar, John played drums, and Dennis apparently played accordian. Eventually, they got it right (Chuck moved to bass, for one), added a few members, and became the architects of their particular brand of anthem pop that is the Styx legacy.
Styx tends to get described as Prog-Rock, but their bombast and anthems seem more like a preparation for the jukebox musicals of the 21st century. How many Styx singles are perfect Glee fodder? Heck, how much of the "Kilroy is Here" album got ripped off by "We Will Rock You"?




styx - mr roboto
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That's the Panozzo twins flanking the minister in "Heavy Metal Poisoning".
Styx finally chose the rock side of their equation, parting ways with Dennis DeYoung for good in 2001; they tour on the Heritage Circuit today. John Panozzo died in 1996 of liver complications; Chuck left the group to deal with his HIV, but returns as his health allows. The Grand Illusion remains...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

september 19

Takanori Nishikawa, a.k.a. Takanori Makes Revolution, comes off like an anime character popped into the real world. In fact, anime’s very, very good to him. His tracks for Rurori Kenshin and Gundam SEED made him big in Japan, and the first Japanese act Sony’s pushing in North America. Here’s his original song for the Japanese soundtrack to Spiderman 2, “Web of Night.”

T.M. Revolution was married to the Yumi half of Puffy AmiYumi, but that didn’t last.

Lita Ford already has a place in rock history as lead guitarist of the Runaways, the 70’s all-girl, all-rock band. She became Queen of Metal in 1988 with her self-titled (but 4th) release, and her #1 hit, Kiss Me Deadly. After that, she married the lead singer of Nitro, cashed in her chips, and raised her family on a Caribbean island. Seriously.



Lol Crème is a creative guy. In the 70’s, he was in the band 10cc; if you still hear a 10cc song today, you’re probably shopping for groceries. Crème was not part of that half of 10cc. Crème (and I apologize for the accent that my word processor keeps adding) and Kevin Godley, who had been his bandmate for several bands now, had more art-y leanings and started their own project, Godley and Crème. Then the 80’s showed up, and they found their real niche: music videos. Their music videos became the bedrock of the MTV revolution:











That’s all I got time for… see you tomorrow!

Friday, September 18, 2009

September 18

Pardon the cartoony mood today; it'll make sense in a moment or two...

Lance Armstrong is celebrating another birthday today, which apparently doesn’t surprise anybody. If I was talking about any other cancer survivor, I’d be impressed. What impresses me is that he got third place in the Tour de France this year, and he still plans on competing in 2010. His naturally conceived son was born this year, too, which impresses me even more. Is there anything he can’t do?

Apparently, there is…

Ami Onuki is the pink-haired half of Puffy Amiyumi, a Japanese pop-rock duo that crossed over to the US via cartoons.

In Japan, they’re known simply as “Puffy;” they added the “Amiyumi” for international audiences, to avoid legal trouble with P-Diddy. The rest of the world knows them for singing the “Teen Titans” theme, and their own 2004 cartoon.
This summer, they released their latest album in Japan, along with a song for the new Naruto movie.

June Foray has been voicing cartoon characters since World War II. She worked in radio, then children’s records. In the 40’s, she voiced Lucifer the Cat for Cinderella – and modeled as a mermaid for Peter Pan. But she became the go-to female voice in the cartoon world for decades. She even does voice-over work for the occasional live-action feature (you can hear her in Pirates of the Carribean.)
But here’s a collection of Foray performances you may have seen, and you’ve probably heard:



Dee Dee Ramone
(born Douglas Colvin) was a bass player and songwriter for the Ramones. He’s the one who read that Paul McCartney would sign into hotels as “Phil Ramon”, and added the “e” to the end. He wrote most of the band’s songs, and had the most personal problems; the story goes, he traded the rights to three of his songs for bail money.


Finally, today’s column is dedicated to my daughter Sam.


Tommorow: the Rolling Stones are killed...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

September 17

Happy Birthday, and welcome to the second half of September. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the self-coronation of America's only king, Emperor Norton of San Francisco. I'd love to write a column about him, but he never made any music videos. Let's look at some iconoclasts that were born today:

Mirah is a singer-songwriter in the Ani DiFranco vein. That means some of the songs are wispy acoustic numbers, while others are as industrial as folk music can sound.
Her most renowned song is “The Garden”, which was used for a routine on the FOX competition show, “So You Think You Can Dance.” But I think this video, produced by a fan for a fashion school project, is a better sample of the song…

In 1986, Mirah appeared on the kids’ game show "Double Dare" – and used her winnings to attend the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament..

Our next birthday girl is Cassandra Peterson, the woman the world knows as Elvira. Really, what other girl does goofy, sexy, and creepy so well? Honestly, I’m more familiar with her merchandising efforts than her movie hosting duties. She was the inspiration of one of my favorite pinball games.

In 2007, she hosted the reality show “The Search for the Next Elvira,” where contestants auditioned for the chance to be Elvira at special events. That’s when I learned that there are more than one Elvira these days, so Cassandra can stay home in LA.

Reinhold Messner looks like the Dos Eqquis dude. That is to say, he looks like the most interesting man in the world. Messner is, in fact, one of the world’s most renowned mountain climbers. In 1978, he became the first Westerner to climb Mt Everest without an oxygen tank, a feat that was considered scientifically impossible at the time. By 1986, he had climbed all 14 of the world’s tallest mountains. He’s also crossed the Gobi Desert, and the width of Antarctica – on skis.
“Reinhold Messner” was also the name on the fake ID of Darren Jesse, drummer of the Ben Folds Five. In 1999, the band released what would be their final album, “The Unauthorized Autobiography of Reinhold Messner.” The album title, named after an underage alias, suggests at the album’s themes of dealing with the soon-to-be past before moving on with life, such as the 1st single, “Army,” which was performed on the David Letterman show in 1999.

The band learned there was a real Reinhold Messner less than two months before the album’s release; fortunately, he contacted the band to let them know he really enjoyed the album.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September 16

Apologize for the wonky dating; I try to post on the day of, but I guess I have to adjust my PC's calendars.

You know those songs that you only seem to hear at wedding receptions? Not the love songs - the dance floor songs for people that don’t usually dance. Songs so catchy that Grandma’s pulling you on the dance floor? If you like these songs, that’s okay. Reception halls are the last sanctuary for tunes like the “Macarena” and “Electric Slide.”
Black Lace has made a career from churning out these kinds of songs. Alan Barton and Colin Routh had tried to make a go as conventional music artists, but a meager showing at the 1979 Eurovision Song Contest, almost destroyed the group altogether. The duo discovered a song in the Spanish discos called “Gioca Jouer”, wrote some English lyrics for it, called it “Superman,” and delivered their first top 10 hit to the charts.

I found this tribute to it, on a British skitcom called “Psychoville,” to soften the blow. Be glad I didn’t choose “Agadoo”...

Our next birthday boy has been called “The Master Drummer of Jamaica” and “The Unknown Legend”. Winston Grennan was a session drummer around Jamaica in the 60’s and early 70’s, and the one credited with inventing the “One Drop” beat that became the bedrock of the reggae sound. He played on thousands of tracks, with everybody from Toots and the Maytalls to Bob Marley, from Booker T and the MGs to the Rolling Stones. He’s all over the soundtrack to the Jimmy Cliff film “The Harder They Come”

In 1973, he moved to America to immerse himself in the jazz scene; he was recording and working with Marvin Gaye, Aretha, Herbie Hancock, the OJays…
Finds like this are the reason I write this blog. I consider myself a ska fan, but learning about Winston Grennan reminds me how much I still have to learn.
I considered linking to some footage of Kid Creole and the Coconuts, or a clip from "9 ½ Weeks" featuring his Ska Rocks band, so we could see him play… But I’m going with Paul Simon’s “Mother and Child Reunion,” because it’s a song you probably know, so it gives you an idea of how far reaching his music is. It’s indicative of a man who has his fingerprints on hundreds of songs, whether he played them himself or inspired the sound, that have snuck under our radar.



Ron Blair played bass for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for the first four albums, helping establish the sound that would carry them over 25 years. In 1982, he left to focus on his family, and was replaced by Howie Epstein. Epstein died of an overdose in 2002, before the group’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Blair joined the group onstage that night, and then returned to the fold altogether.


Happy birthday to all the birthday boys and girls out there. Hope you heard something you liked today, and it encourages you to dig a little further. If there's someone that you feel deserves a spotlight, send me an e-mail at TheLeroyGrey@gmail.com and try to convince me.

Monday, September 14, 2009

September 15

For today’s column, I let Milady pick out today’s spotlight (I was running late for work, and she’s been growing to enjoy the blog.) Here’s her picks:

Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein was, for many, the seminal guitarist for the Misfits, playing during the Glenn Danzig years (my Misfits) and the Michael Graves years (milady’s Misfits.) Last year, he toured his new band Gorgeous Frankenstein, an amalgam of the stage names of he and his wife, ex-WWF wrestler Gorgeous George. He’s also doing well with endorsements, hocking customized guitars, coffin-shaped amplifiers and effects pedals – even a “Made in Hell Hot Sauce.”
Today’s video features the Misfits, singing the title track from milady’s favorite album,
"American Psycho"


Next, milady has introduced us to Yuriy Norshteyn (say it Yuri Norstein, if you like,) the celebrated Russian animator. He has received awards and accolades for such stop-motion classics as “Hedgehog in the Fog” and “Tale of Tales.”
For over 25 years, he has been working on an animated version of the Nikolai Gogol story “The Overcoat.” From what I’ve read, it’s due to his exacting methods. He is the sole animator, with his wife as the art designer. He stopped for two years when the cinematographer passed away, before accepting one of his students to resume work. He is particular about the help he receives, will not use computers, and is shooting the movie on black-and-white film, which means he develops his own film stock.

Here’s a favorite of Hayao Miyazaki: 1975’s “Hedgehog in the Fog”


In January of this year, a statue of the Hedgehog from the film was erected in Ukraine, Kiev.

Finally, we’re talking about Signe Toly Anderson, the original female vocalist for Jefferson Airplane. The band was formed in 1965 by Marty Balin and Paul Kantner, who wanted to create their version of the fusions of rock and folk that were starting to develop in the country. Balin recruited Anderson, a Portland, Oregon transplant, to be a co-vocalist. She sang with the band as they graduated from the San Francisco music scene to their first album “Jefferson Airplane Takes Off,” released in September 1966.

By this time, she had married a Merry Prankster and given birth to a daughter. So, in October of 1966, the Jefferson Airplane did a run of six shows at the Fillmore Theater; the fourth was Anderson’s last. (Bootlegs of the final concert can be found on the web.) The next night, the band played with a new recruit: Grace Slick.
"Somebody To Love/White Rabbit" (Jefferson Airplane)


Hope you enjoyed today’s blog. Now, I’ve got to figure out what implied message she’s giving to me, before I start working on tommorow’s blog. See you then!

September 14

If you pay attention to typical celebrity birthday lists today, you’ll hear that Tyler Perry is 40 today. He’s a big deal to Hollywood; he’s got the best ROI of any performer out there today, which is how he’s got his own film studio. I wonder if he’s found so much success because he’s reaching an underserved audience (African-Americans who don’t want to grow up to be rap stars) or because he’s reaching an underserved audience (people who think situation comedies are funny.) I don’t consider myself either, but I’m not going to hold my breath for any movies that fit my demographic (heterosexual Filipino accordion players.)
My blog’s about discovering new things, so I’m taking the Madea taste test. This is a scene from Madea’s Family Reunion:

That wasn’t so bad. Tyler Perry fans, was that a quality sample? White people, was that funny to you?


Let’s compare that with a very different kind of comedy sketch featuring birthday boy Robert Ben Garant, just one year younger, who is an established comedic writer-performer with his own slate of successes: not just those quirky, subversive comedies that allows stoners to feel snobbish (this sample is from the 90s MTV sketch comedy show ‘The State’,) but the kind of middle-class comedies that make Critics weep for the Death of Cinema (Balls of Fury, Night at the Museum, The Pacifier)



Let’s employ a control sample, featuring something that fails to be funny. To be fair, it’s an Everclear music video, which is supposed to be about rolling and rocking, not rolling in the aisles.
Why this video? Besides the fact that it tries too hard? Well, today’s the birthday of Everclear bassist Craig Montoya (and by “Everclear bassist”, I mean, “the bassist that played on any Everclear song you ever heard of”; Craig left the band years ago, and Art Alexakis has rebuilt Everclear around himself more times that Axl’s trimmed his Roses…)

Also, for you TV fans, that’s veteran game show host Wink Martindale as the game show host; what a trouper. And the lucky red-headed game show contestant? That’s Christina Hendricks, who plays Joan Holloway on “Mad Men.”

Sunday, September 13, 2009

September 13

Today’s Bollywood film star Mahima Chaudhry’s birthday. Apropos of nothing, I just wanted to show some Bollywood, so here’s Mahima! From what little I’ve read, she’s the Halle Berry of Mumbai: a box office draw who’s won India’ equivalent of the Oscar, but that’s not the assets everyone’s raving about…


We featured an Indian; why not a cowboy? Randy Jones is best known for originating the Cowboy persona in the Village People, a role he filled until 1991. I guess being known as “The Cowboy” is better than ‘the guy that stands all the way to the left”

He kept the hat, when his solo career needs a goosing. Yes, he’s still performing, and he even had a cameo in this season’s “Flight of the Conchords.”

Ever seen the Mark Wahlberg movie, “Rock Star”? Well, it’s about 30 percent true. Judas Priest did, in fact, recruit second singer Tim “Ripper” Owens based on footage of him singing with a Judas Priest cover band. The story became a magazine article, which became the nuggest of a script that became “Rock Star”. But the real story is happier, if less dramatic.
Ripper stayed in Priest for seven years and recorded two studio albums with them. The same year Halford returned to Priest, Ripper became the replacement singer for another iconic metal band, Iced Earth. That gig lasted until their original singer returned as well, but this year, he’s singing for Yngvie Malmstein’s Rising Force, which has never had a signature vocalist to try to get their job back. And just in case, Ripper’s got a solo album out too.
I like my metal with uplift and spaceships, so here’s Ripper during his tenure at Iced Earth:


There’s a lot to admire about Don Fagerson, known to the world as Don Was. Don’s been an album producer for everyone from Bonnie Raitt and the B-52’s to Iggy Pop and the Rolling Stones.; he produced the best album Hootie and the Blowfish ever made.
But he also started Was Not Was, a producer project featuring moderately successful Detroit peers and hometown legends. And I originally picked him as an excuse to play the 80’s earworm, “Walk the Dinosaur”…
…but then, I had to throw in the title track from the album of whence it came. I mean, who’d be brave enough to follow “Walk the Dinosaur,” with this?

If all of this is just too much before your time, realize that his son is the drummer of Eve 6. Now, shell out the money for that fruit bouquet…

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 12

Turns out my fellow lab rats check out the blog, so let me send some recommendations their way.

Brian, today’s birthday girl for you is Petra Marklund, or as she’s known on dance floors around the world, September. I say, ‘around the world’, as opposed to ‘in the U.S.’ But she’s perfect for you; she looks like Jamie Pressley, sounds like Lady Gaga, and she’s from the Land Where Disco Never Died, Sweden.

We’re past due for another Swedish pop infusion…

Martee, you’re the Man. And I’m not just saying that because the last guy that upset you enough, you had words and he was never seen again… Nah, it’s because you’ve expanded my musical horizons.
So, let’s see if we can get some attention for Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland. If you’re into country music these days, there’s no need for introductions. They’ve been on the country charts for the last four and a half years But here’s a chance to set things straight about “Stay,” the band’s first platinum single.


She didn’t write it about herself. Her story is, she was inspired by a Reba McEntire song, another song from the perspective of the cheated-on wife, and wondered what the point of view of ‘the other woman’ was...

CJ, it’s my turn to school you about a rapper, and I’ll try to avoid embarrassing myself by mangling urban grammer. Bizzy Bone’s 33 today, and back in the Bone Thugz fold, trying to get their reunion album, The worlds enemy, released. For now, they're touring, playing clubs and restaurant openings...

Did you know he was on America’s Most Wanted? As a child, he and his sisters were abducted by an ex-stepfather, and went missing for two years. In 1983, a TV-movie about the abduction of Adam Walsh was broadcast, followed by pictures of children abducted, including young Bizzy. A neighbor called the police, and Bizzy was reunited with his mother.
This month, Bizzy Bone and friends have released a mixtape (or two) You can get it at his website, BizzyBone.Us.

Val, your mixtapes prove how musically adventurous you are (not to mention, you actually read this blog; kudos!) Let me tune you in to Larry LaLonde, who is not just celebrating his birthday, but 20 years as the guitarist for Primus, which are still together – just taking things reeeeeelly easy. Having acknowledged your voluminous musical tastes, it’s not easy to pick a tune for your perusal. I mean, from modern country to Rasputina to the Gorillaz…
Wait! That’s it!


Finally, Heather, you’ve been open minded to everyone’s musical temperaments. But at heart, I know you’re a sentimentalist, and you’re celebrating your wedding anniversary this weekend, so let me offer to you one of the most romantic songs that birthday boy Ben Folds ever put to tape.

Makes you want to get married all over again, doesn’t it?

That’s my shout-out to my co-workers at the lab. Tomorrow: the age old battle between Disco and Metal continues...

September 11

Having September 11 for your birthday is like having anti-Christmas Day for your birthday. Don’t worry; all those kids born on December 7th got the day back eventually, too. And if you’re having trouble getting people in a party mood today, take comfort that there are other birthday kids today…

But I have to admit, my mind’s wandered to 9/11. That day, I alternated between watching the news like everyone else and retreating into myself, listening over and over to “Don’t Panic,” the first track of Coldplay’s “Parachutes.”

Well, the world’s gotten better, and Coldplay is, of course, much bigger. Bassist Johnny Buckland’s celebrating his birthday today, and it looks like the band’s taking the day off, before they resume their England dates with Jay-Z, which still blows my mind. .

Jay-Z opening for Coldplay; that’s just…

Ludacris is sitting pretty on his birthday, too. I mean, he's got three oriental restaurants in Atlanta, so you know he's getting a free cake with his birthday dinner, at least. The dude just gave away twenty cars to strangers; what do you get the man for his birthday? I mean, besides better movie scripts:

I mean, seriously, man; stay away from any movie involving video games. I know, you don’t want to play Skinny Black too many times, but… Do some cop procedural show; we’re due another CSI any season now….
Or, better yet, stick to comedy.


Let’s finish this with a birthday shoutout to Richard Ashcroft of the Verve. He wrote “Bittersweet Sympony” – unless you ask the Rolling Stones’ lawyers, who say that a sampled riff of an orchestral cover of “The Last Time” constitutes composition of the song. The rest of “Urban Hymns” was a great listen, but the Verve was always eclipsed by that song – and Richard Ashcroft’s ambitions. This August, the Verve broke up for the third time again, supposedly because of Ashcroft’s wish for a solo career.

At any rate, “Bittersweet Symphony” still hits the spot when I need to scrape myself off the pavement and keep trudging through the day. A song like that is a great gift to the world, so thanks for that , Mr Ashcroft….

Thursday, September 10, 2009

September 10

David Lowery and Johnny Hickman, bandmates in Cracker, know how to throw a birthday party. This weekend, the 5th annual Pioneertown Campout offers a two-day concert in the woods; Cracker plays Saturday night, while Lowery’s other band, Camper Van Beethoven, closes Friday night’s stage.
Cracker had to make an appearance on this blog, for their Kerosene Hat single, “Happy Birthday to Me.” Couldn’t find the original video, but I found this fanvid, featuring a collection of Hubble photos; good enough for me!


Siobhan Fahey is another music artist who’s done double duty on the charts. In the 80’s, she was part of the pop trio Bananarama. In the 90’s, she started the duo Shakespeare’s Sister. These days, she’s working on solo material, and I’m hoping she doesn’t disappear altogether.
Bananarama was good for what it was, but I still remember the video for “Stay,” and that spooky, goth’d out Fahey.


Here’s somebody I discovered today: Don Powell, drummer for Slade. One of the UK’s most successful acts of the 70’s, they remain inspirations for today’s rockers’ inspirations. I didn’t realize how many of their songs I knew, until I did the research. That, and I mixed them up with the Sweet.


Don Powell’s story is kind of heartbreaking. In 1973, Don was in a car crash that took the life of his girlfriend. He woke six days later, without his sense of smell or taste, and with his short-term memory severely damaged (yes, Memento-style.) He rehabilitated his body so he could play drums again, saw the band through another flock of hits in the 70's and 80's, and still plays with Slade today...



Tomorrow: more British rock…