Saturday, October 31, 2009

October 31

Today's October 31; how's that for a birthday? I guess the good part is, people dress up for your birthday. But who's really thinking about presents, when everybody wants candy? And that's if you're actually into the ghosts and goblins thing.
We're here to celebrate birthdays for unsung heroes, so I'm giving a nod to Johnny Marr, who's been called the "Guitar Anti-Hero". That's because when other guitarists were slinging crotch-thrusting solos in the 80's, Marr developed a jungly, ethereal sound that influenced everybody from the Stone Roses to Radiohead, and every smart rock band that followed them.
He's one of the few guitarists with a sound I recognize from band to band: The Smiths, Modest Mouse, Electronic... Heck, there's one The The album I return to every couple of weeks for the last 15 years ("Dusk"); I can't even name another one.

Here's a few of his greatest hits:

and here's another band that he just joined. I'll probably pick up this album, too...


Apparently, I posted a Modest Mouse song from before Marr's tenure with the band. So, here's one from the "We Were Dead" album, with a video I've never seen but wish I had. I love these short films that marry well with the songs, even through they don't visualize the lyrics. Enjoy...

Friday, October 30, 2009

October 30

A day away from Halloween, and I'm still recovering from yesterday's skit/blog, so I'll keep today simple. Today, we're talking about Charles Martin Smith, an actor-turned-filmmaking hyphenate.
His best acting performance: the wolf researcher in "Never Cry Wolf." As a director, he's responsible for such films as "Air Bud" and "Boris and Natasha" (the first attempt to bring those spies to a live-action film.) But we're going to watch the trailer for something much less family-friendly; the trailer for "Trick or Treat," his first film in the director's chair:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

October 29

Our birthday spotlight shines on Winona Ryder, actress and 80's/90's hottie. To commemorate the occasion, I've invited the Winona Riders (not to be confused with the early 90's punk band Winona Ryders) to share one of their after-school practice sessions at our little party here.

Hey, look! It's Blake Sennett, her indie rocker ex-boyfriend. He's co-founder of the band Rilo Kiley. Look's like he's got something to say...

And there's her ex-boyfriend Rhett Miller, singer/songwriter and frontman for the Old 97's. What's on his mind?

There's Ken Stringfellow, singer/songwriter and frontman for the Posies...

There's Ryan Adams, singer/songwriter and- hey, wait a minute...

I'm sensing a trend here...

Funny; that doesn't look like Pete Yorn...

Hey! Page Hamilton from Helmet! Somebody that rocks!

Look! Matthew Sweet's written a song for her...

So has Les Claypool!

Here comes Dave Pirner. He looks pissed...

Look, I know, this joke is going to get old in about two more clips. If I can get another six or so after that...

It'll be effin' hilarious...

It's the "funny by overkill" rule in comedy. Will Ferrell does it all the time...

Look, don't consider this an attack on Winona's character. For crying out loud, she's been on the dating scene since the 80's. I'm just making light of the fact that sensitive rockers seem to be her kryptonite. Honestly, this list reads like the dating history of any typical indie club talent booker...

I mean, if you got together all the bands that have an ex-boyfriend of Winona Ryder's for one superconcert, it would be cooler than Coachella. And two days longer, probably...

Winona's also dated a few actors, comedians, one or two directors... The latest I found, she's hooked up with ex-actor-turned-professional-rapper Joaquin Phoenix. So that's progress, I'm sure...

Meanwhile, what's going on with her acting? The biggest role she's had in years was playing Spock's mom in the new Star Trek. Otherwise, parts have dried up to the point that she's signed on to a sequel for Heathers (Christian Slater, too... and that works HOW?!? Is he going to be some Jigsaw-level evil mastermind delivering videotaped instructions from beyond the grave?)

Oh, now he's not even a real musician! What's he doing in here?

Mike Nesmith?!? Really? She dated a Monkee?

Okay, this ain't funny anymore; girl needs an intervention. Somebody find her a nice orthodontist, stat!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

October 28

Still in a slightly melancholy mood while researching, when I found this video by "Les Cowboys Fringants" (that's The Dashing Cowboys, if you don't parlez-vous...) I place this Quebecquois band in the same vein as Devotchka and Gogol Bordello, infusing the music of their forefathers with the energies and issues of modern times. (Lead singer Karl Trembley was born today in 1976.) The music's clean and sweet- and if I had my French-English dictionary, I could say their lyrics are profound and humorous, as well (instead of taking someone else's word for it.)
I don't need subtitles to appreciate the video for "Entre deux taxis": the disintegration of a love affair between a bull-headed boy and a fishy-lipped woman...

This song's on their L'expedition album, which came out a year ago. They're touring on that and a follow-up right now; they expect the tour to end next August. Plenty of time to polish up my French...

October 27

I'm in a low mood, which may explain why I've gravitated toward observing Sylvia Plath's birthday today. (My lady, meanwhile, has been obsessed with the last days of Poe.)
It reminds me how misused the appelation 'emo' has become: the only time it's used is to ridicule any music that isn't... rockin' enough? When did All-American Rejects and Fall-Out Boy become emo? I thought Dashboard Confessional and anybody that sang Morrisey songs un-ironically was emo. I swear, anybody who uses the emo label in front of me is going to get a copy of Plath's "Daddy", and they will have to read it out loud, while I provide musical accompaniment on the accordion. Now that's emo.
But today is about one of the few vital poets of the 20th century that wasn't a lyricist. So here's a smooth performance by Ryan Adams on piano, of his song "Sylvia Plath":

UPDATE: to the anonymous commenter- thanks for the correction, brah. i put i in the wrong place, once again...

Monday, October 26, 2009

October 26

I'm taking it easy today, and the band of today's birthday boy will help. Today's the birthday of Keith Strickland, guitarist for the B-52's. Can't believe how long they've been going on, and they're still going, making album when they feel like it, playing where they like, looking as good as they ever did. (I'll probably post about Kate Pierson on her birthday.)
Meanwhile, let's play a B-52's song that's great to play on Rock Band:

Since I've so little to write about today, let me ask of you: if I don't mention the birthday you think I should, post it in the comments...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

October 25

Today's birthday girl is Nika Futterman. She's a vocal artist by trade, which would keep you much busier than you might expect.
The first thing that comes to my mind is cartoons, and she's certainly done plenty of those: Clone Wars (Asajj Ventress), CatDog (Lola), Brave and Bold (Catwoman), and more...

She also does voiceovers for commercials, video games (Brutal Legend, Psychonauts, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, etc...) She even writes her own music, apparently.
She's got her own website displaying the breadth of her vocal dexterity. But nowhere on her resume does it mention what may be her highest-profile vocal gig:

Yup, she has the opening line on the Offspring's "Pretty Fly for a White Guy". Those five words alone are worth a birthday nod here at the B-Blog. Send her a birthday greeting today... but you probably want to mention something besides the Offspring when you do; she's far too multi-faceted...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

October 24

Here's an interesting one. J P Richardson, The Big Bopper, is a one-hit wonder, but don't blame him. Let me explain...
Richardson gained the Big Bopper name while working as a Texas DJ, spinning those new 'rock n' roll' records. He apparently coined the phrase "music video," but that's not what he's famous for. He parlayed his radio career into a songwriting career, then his own recording career. "Chantilly Lace" became a top 10 hit in 1958, big enough for him to open for Buddy Holly and Richie Valens... Yup, he's the third rider on the plane The Day the Music Died. Because Richardson had the flu, Waylon Jennings offered his seat on the plane... Other singers took two more Richardson compositions to the top of the charts. But history will always remember him as the Big Bopper.

I like rummaging through video stores' retired VHS collections. Last week, I found an American Bandstand greatest hits collection (including the above performance) for 75 cents. Can't believe these aren't on DVD; maybe Dick Clark's waiting for Blu-Ray?...

Friday, October 23, 2009

October 23

Here's the song "Happy Birthday," from the man who never quite gives you what you expect, birthday boy WEIRD AL YANKOVIC"

I can either overdo the superlatives and drop them altogether when talking about the legend that is Weird Al Yankovic, who's celebrating a half century today. I wanted to grow up to be like this man. In retrospect, I may have listened a little too much; oh, well...
But I love the guy too much to do a decent encapsulation of his work, so let's concentrate on 2009. He's fully in the digital age; several songs from his next album are already on iTunes (because today's pop songs don't have the shelf life they used to.) He also directed a short film, "Al's Brain", that debuted this summer at a couple of outdoor festivals. And he inexplicably made an appearance in Rob Zombie's Halloween II (dangit... now I have to see it...)
So here's Weird Al in 2009, doing a style parody of the White Stripes in... "CNR":

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

That's right, if you join the JibJab website, you can put yourself in a Weird Al video, in honor of the man himself today. And, for crying out loud, tell Weird Al Happy Birthday and thank him for walking the Earth...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

October 22

Two-fer Thursday (today, anyway...) featuring the closest thing America's produced to a Monty Python, IMHO. Two cast members of Mr Show, Jay Johnson and Bob Odenkirk, are celebrating their coinciding birthdays today. So, this first clip is a short one, featuring Bob as an interviewee on a lie detector; Jay plays the guy that asks him about angel dust:

And if you like that, here's episode 203, "The Biggest Failure in Broadway History"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October 21

Today's featured birthday boy is Lux Interior, lead singer of the Cramps. Here's why:

1) Celebrity deaths come in threes. So, here's my third entry this week featuring a dearly departed. I promise, the rest of my entries will be folks you can call/write/say 'Happy Birthday' to, and hope for a response...

2) The Cramps was one of the bands to come out of the 70's Punk revolution; taking the Ramones sound one step further, they embraced the sounds of early rock n' roll, or rockabilly, and established the sound of psychobilly. The Cramps and the bands that followed (Southern Culture on the Skids, Horrorpops, Hank Williams III) give us vivid reminders of what made Rock n' Roll (as opposed to today's rock music) the most dangerous music of its day.

3) Lux Interior's co-conspirator, the lovely ginger guitarist Poison Ivy. They were together in the band for all 33 years of its existence, and together in matrimony for 37 years.

So, in lieu of sending him a birthday shout-out, I guess today's a day to let out your inner freak, in honor of the Creature From the Black Leather Lagoon:

Monday, October 19, 2009

October 20

Today's birthday blog goes out to Margaret Dumont, a woman Groucho Marx referred to as 'practically the fifth Marx Brother.' Her role, in the best of the Marx Brothers films, was always some rich aristocrat for Groucho Marx to simultaneously ridicule and seduce. With her as a reliable foil, Groucho could show off the speed and wit that made his comedy transcend its age and-
you know, this is really getting long winded. Margaret Dumont took it on the chin from Groucho for all of us, She usually played the rich old biddy to his con man, and she loved him for it. And so did we.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

October 19

Now this might seem like really left field, but I want to write about the undercelebrated, and Dr Carlo Urbani certainly qualifies. A physician who specialized in the study and treatment of infectious diseases, he spent most of his career bringing medical help to impoverished and war-torn zones around the world. He served for a time as president of Médecins Sans Frontières, and was among the doctors that went to Oslo to accept the '99 Nobel Peace Prize on the organization's behalf.
In February 2003, he was working in a Hanoi hospital for the World Health Organization, when an American businessman was admitted with flu-like symptoms. He recognized the man's affliction as something new and worse: the disease that would be eventually named SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.) He put the alarm out to the WHO, and persuaded the Vietnamese Health Ministry to begin isolating patients and screening travelers, allowing for the one of the most effective global responses to a potential pandemic ever. Dr Urbani was also one of the disease's first identified victims, succumbing to SARS the following month.
In December 2008, friends, colleagues and admirers of Dr Urbani assembled for a memorial oratorio: part spoken testimonial, part opera. An original and unpublished work was created for the performance, and heard for the first time on December 28, 2008. Why should it be the last?

I write about plenty of singers, actors, and cartoonists. Today, I'm writing about a hero.

October 18

Today's blog goes out to Craig Bartlett, creator of the underrated animated series Hey Arnold! The urban Charlie Brown ('Footballhead'? C'mon...) started as a series of clay-animated shorts, which Nickelodeon optioned for a cartoon series. The TV show was really about a lively Brooklyn-esque neighborhood, and one good kid that made the neighborhood a better place for everybody.
Here's the pilot:

I couldn't confirm the rumor that he started working for NASA after he left Nick, but I do know he's got a new PBS kids series, called Dinosaur Train. Soon as my son's 4, we'll probably be watching it all the time. Incidentally, his wife is Lisa Groening Bartlett - yes, her brother Matt named Lisa Simpson after her.

Friday, October 16, 2009

October 17

Couldn't decide which one to feature today, so here's a twofer:

Aqua's Rene Dif is blowing out candles today. The band took a hiatus so that they could each pursue solo careers and Rene could get over the fact that the female lead singer decided to marry the keyboard player instead. But everybody's friends again, and they're making new music.
Here's the new single they put on the greatest hits album: "Back to the 80's"

Marshall Mathers, aka Eminem, is also celebrating his birthday today. (No idea when Slim Shady's birthday is.) Yeah, he unretired this year, too. In fact, the sequel to his Relapse album, which dropped in March, is supposed to be out this November. Among the most interesting projects he was in this year was his comic book with the Punisher. (That's right: Eminem, Punisher, and a chainsaw...)
Unofficially, it's not his first appearance in a comic book. The creators of the graphic novel Wanted, which became the Angelina Jolie movie, modeled the hitman-in-training character after Eminem. (And Jolie's character was modeled after Halle Berry. Imagine that movie...)
Since I'm in a comic book mood, here's a track from the Encore album, 2004's "Mosh"

October 16

Today's birthday boy is Tony Carey, a one-hit wonder with a lot more to his resume. Music fans who know his name know him as the keyboardist for Rainbow at their peak, with Richie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio. He also spearheaded the Planet P Project in the 90's. With these two groups, plus his solo work and production credits, the guy's never really stopped making music.
What I know him the most for is "A Fine, Fine Day," a #1 rock hit from the 80's, and his personal one-hit wonder. This video did it for me, and about twenty years before the Sopranos, too...

If you found this column to check on your boy Tony, here's his 2009: his final Planet P Project album is done, and on sale at his website. He also played with Over the Rainbow, a band featuring former members (and descendents) of Rainbow, but had to bow out due to medical reasons.
On his plate for 2010: a new solo album. If there's more story songs like "Fine Day," I'm there...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

october 15

If there's a 4th wave of ska, Tomas Kalnoky will be one of its architects. It's hard to gauge whether a style of music's evolved to its limit until it's done (see: swing, blues, jazz) or it's ready for a reinvention (see: hip hop, country, reggae.) If ska gets its next phase, at least one of the bands Kalnoky started - Catch-22, Streetlight Manifesto, Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution - will be in the thick of it.
Catch-22 started in the tail end of the Third Wave (when Less Than Jake could still get on the radio), getting national attention for their first album, Keasbey Nights. While Kalnoky went to college, Catch-22 continued touring. By the time Kalnoky returned to music, Catch-22 had an entirely new line-up and sound, so he started Streetlight Manifesto; when Catch-22's label announced a re-release of Keasbey, Kalnoky and Streetlight Manifesto re-recorded the entire album.
SM finished touring in September, and announced their break until mid-2010. Now's a great day to send Kalnoky a Happy Birthday wish, along with a wish for the long-awaited next SM album... or the next Acoustic Revolution album...

Here's the animated video from their Somewhere in the Between album, "Would You Be Impressed?"
WARNING: Possible NSFW (unless you work for PETA or something)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October 14

Happy Birthday and "ah ha" to Steve Coogan.
Milady and I finally got to see "Hamlet 2" last week; I had a sense, watching the trailer in the theater, that it would disappoint. It seemed like a movie that confused outrageousness with comedy, or at least, outrageous set pieces with outrageous concepts. It suffered from the same problem Steve Coogan did: trying to walk a tightrope between outrageous and sentimental, and never quite getting a true rhythm from the deal. So it's kind of funny, but not what it could have been.
I don't entirely blame Coogan, who seems to be trying to be an actor instead of a British comedian in a Hollywood film (think Russell Brand or Ricky Gervais.) His Tony Wilson in 24 Hour Party People shows that he can walk that line, and be really funny. And there's always hope for that Alan Partridge movie.
So, here's the funny part of "Hamlet 2", a film that gets less funny the more you explain it.

Yes. Much funnier than the "Raped in the Face" musical number. Best left unexplained.

Monday, October 12, 2009

October 13

Okay, breaking a rule tonight, but it's too good a chance to pass up. If your baby was born on October 13, they have a better than average chance of being an exceptional singer. If they don't look the part, so much the better. Here's three examples:

Nana Mouskouri
is one of the most popular singers you've probably never heard of. You may think this is my usual hyperbole, but how many other artists do you know in the 200 million sold range? On the plus side, she recently retired after a 50-year career, singing in 14 different languages (including her native Greek.) On the other hand, she has those 'substitute kindergarten teacher' glasses, and her songs tend to make soft rock sound like, well, rock. Plus, she was born with only one vocal cord; that's what makes the vibrato in her voice.
Here's a performance on a French TV show. Don't know why her entrance music is "Guantanamera":

The world sure could have used Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan after his death in 1997. Besides being Pakistan's biggest recording artist ever, he was the voice of Qawwali, from the Sufi branch of Islam - and the world could have certainly used a reminder that there's more than one way or another in Islam. His style garnered many Western admirers including Eddie Vedder, Alanis Morrisette, and Peter Gabriel.
Here's a duet with Peter Gabriel, live in concert:

Our third phenomenal singer born today is Paul Potts. Remember what I told you guys about Kurt Nilsson? (If not, click here.) Well, by the time Paul Potts auditioned for Britain's Got Talent, they got it right.
I'll explain in a moment. First, here's the moment that started it all for Paul...

The first ten times I watched this, I cried and laughed. I bet you did, too.
How do you sell a pop-saturated public on an extraordinary voice with an ordinary face? With a story arc I call the "three-minute underdog."
You don't have to be a music fan to appreciate this:
- a common schlub steps up to the spotlight, surrounded by jeers;
- Schlub opens his mouth and delivers something miraculous;
- the critics fall over themselves with apologies and praise.
It's the kind of story you expect in the movies, even makes your eyes roll when you see it coming. For some reason, realizing it's happening in real life (as real as a television program can be,) where it never happens, makes it ten times as potent. It worked for Susan Boyle the following season. It worked for America's Got Talent winner Neal Boyd, who not only won with the same story, but the same exact song. If I was a producer of American Idol, I'd be looking for a singer in a wheelchair with a five-octave range. Money in the bank...

October 12

Happy Birthday to Sam Moore, of Sam and Dave. I hope that doesn't bother him, after all these years. The duo broke up in 1981, but soul music aficionados know Sam Moore as half of the duo that sang "Soul Man" and "Hold On I'm Coming." He recorded a solo album in 1971, but it didn't see the light of day for almost 30 years. He had his 'legacy' CD (seems every Hall Of Fame-eligible singer has a Grammy-baiting, star-studded album) in 2006, produced by Randy Jackson. (Yup; nominated.)

I'll always think of Sam Moore as half of a whole. Two things come to mind when I hear his name: his duet with Conway Twitty on "Rainy Night in Georgia..."
(the link I found is from the Netherlands, so it may take a while to get to you...)

and his appearance in Tapeheads, as half of the Swanky Modes.

Happy Birthday, soul man...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

October 11

Today's birthday boy is Michael J Nelson, one of the most successful professional hecklers in history. Nelson was head writer on the TV cult comedy "Mystery Science Theater 3000," as well as portraying 'Mike Nelson,' a janitorial temp shot into space by mad scientists, forced to watch bad movies with only two talking robots to
join him in taunting the movies. The show was critically acclaimed, but movie rights became exceedingly expensive with success.
After the show's cancellation, Nelson and friends found new ways to get paid for talking during a movie. The TV series "The Film Crew" was a more mundane setup for the same practice of three voices heckling an old bad movie. "Rifftrax", meanwhile, were MP3 Commentary tracks to be purchased independently of whichever movie it was recorded for. This allowed heckling of the newest, biggest, baddest movies around:

The success of Rifftrax is one sign that MST3K ended before its time. Several other former castmembers also participate in a current project called "Cinematic Titanic," which is like MST3K, but kind of R-rated...

I can't embed it, but YouTube has all four episodes of "The Film Crew" online, which is one step removed from MST3K. Let me recommend "Giant of Marathon" as a good introduction for what makes Mike Nelson so funny...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

October 10

I'm fitting a twofer in today's entry. First, Happy Birthday to the oldest Oscar winner on the planet, Robert F Boyle.As an art director or production designer, he has been responsible for giving shape to the worlds of Fiddler on the Roof, North By Northwest, The Birds, and over 70 other films. Nominated four times, he accepted a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 2008, at the age of 98. If you're looking for a movie to watch tonight, a list of his films is here. Here's a 2000 documentary about Mr Boyle, "The Man on Lincoln's Nose":

I also want to send out a Happy Birthday to my friend Jason Schumaker. I first met him in 1997, when he was chief instigator of The Militant Fags, a shock rock band that became an urban legend in the Illinois suburbs of St Louis, Missouri. After finishing high school, he dived into new musical ventures with extreme ravenousness: one year, it's metal (Spire); the next, it's prog-rock (Dangerfield); and the next, it's emo (Shut-In.) His 'pop-art/rock" band Snaggle contributed "The Veil Awaits" to the soundtrack of the 2004 thriller "Dark Garden".
In his career, he's had three strikes working against him: 1) He lives in St Louis (and is not trying to be a rap artist); 2) He has spent a lot of years and energy wresting his addiction of certain people, places, and things; 3) He is an Internet Luddite.
He recently set up two MySpace sites: one for his older compositions, and one site for his newest endeavor, Later That Day. He just posted demos for Later That Day earlier this week, and his songwriting powers are as strong as ever. Stop by his page, and let him know what you think, before he takes his songs on the road...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

October 9

Today's featured artist is Steve Burns, the best friend a blue dog ever had. Yeah, it's that Steve. Raising my kids introduced me to "Blue's Clues," probably the closest thing to a successor to Mr Rogers the world's seen. Even my non-breeding friends didn't mind watching "Blue's Clues" the morning after some questionable adventures.
The show lost something when Joe took over (and they tried to make Blue talk,) but it had to happen. Five years in, Steve (yes, his real name) didn't feel like going bald in front of the kids and moved on...

Apparently, he's an indie rocker at heart. Songs For Dustmites came out in 2003, with a little help from Steve Drozd of the Flaming Lips. This started a mutual admiration society: Burns showed up in the Flaming Lips' movie "Christmas on Mars", Drozd joined Burns' new band Steve Burns and the Struggle... The two Steves, as 'Steve-n-SteveN,' ever made a children's album together (Uni vs Octo) It's not the same magic, but if you're jonesin'...

October 8

First, an announcement-

I'm 45 days in, toward my intended goal of 365 consecutive entries. However, this has become more intensive than I had ever intended. So, in an effort not to give up this blog altogether, I'm attempting a change in format.
Basically, it looks like I'll be featuring one personality a day. There's a whole lot of the rest of my life I have to catch up with.
Also, I'm looking for help. If you'd like to write an entry, drop me a line at

On to the blog...

Happy Birthday to Gregori Chad Petree, guitarist and guy vocals for Shiny Toy Guns. How did I miss this band in 2007? Did these guys steal the Killers' best stuff when they weren't looking? With every band I find that knows how to make dance music with guitars, I feel more hopeful for the future of humanity.
Anyway, Shiny Toy Guns are kinda new, but pretty mercenary. They've recently covered "Major Tom" and "Burning For You" for use in Lincoln automobile commericals. They're also doing a song for a Disney film next year, which has promptly put them on the Bowling For Soup/Smash Mouth express lane.
Here's a song from four years, two albums, and one female singer ago:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October 7

If you come to this blog to see what celebrities were born today, I imagine you're going to be disappointed. But there are plenty of people celebrating Simon Cowell's birthday today. I'm trying to explore the breath of our existence, using the days of a calendar as a jumping point, and see what cool discoveries (and re-discoveries) I can make.

Like Doni Schroader, who does play piano, but is best known for his time behind the skins with ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of the Dead. But his time with the indie stalwarts was an interruption of his collaborations with Beth Cameron. From playing in Nashville, TN's Fair Verona, Doni and Beth started Forget Cassettes in 2001. While Doni joined the Trail of Dead in '04, Beth continued recording as Forget Cassettes. By '08, Doni and Beth were recording music together again, as Eliza the Arrow.

I see why they went with the name change. The Forget Cassettes songs are their versions of that stripped-down White Stripes sound. Meanwhile, Eliza the Arrow shows what happens when they have a whole room of toys to make music with. Can't wait for that first album...

Happy Birthday to Marco Beltrami, who sounds like he should have been born closer to Halloween. Marco's composed film scores for many seminal horror films, among other genres. (His Oscar nomination's for 3:10 to Yuma.) Her's a great retrospective:

He's working on Scream 4, as we blog...

What, you want somebody you've heard of? Okay, how about Thom Yorke? As in, the voice of Radiohead? And another, yet-to-be-named band?
The blogosphere's been freaking out about Thom's 3-night showcase at L.A.'s Echoplex earlier this week. Thom played several tracks of solo material - tracks from his 2006 solo album The Eraser, plus a few songs he just released last month. The freakout seems to be two-fold: Thom Yorke recruited Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers for the band, and the band seems to be good enough for Radiohead to take a break for a few years.
Here's Thom and friends, at an October 2nd show, performing "Analyse." I only found two clips, one with a dodgy camera angle and another with dodgy video. Here's the good listen:

Not big enough names for you? How about a X-Man? Okay, so it's the 80's Australian band The Uncanny X-Men (I've heard it pronounced 'Cross-Men'...)
Today is lead singer Brian Mannix's birthday. Brian Mannix is a pretty cool name, as superheroes go, though, right? His powers seem to be vocals and big hair. And an inability to age: his latest band, Absolute 80's, replays the decade's greatest hits in Melbourne's pub circuit these days.
Here's a video of their highest charting single, "50 Years." This clip's from a Saturday morning show, so if the emu's annoying you, skip to the 1:02 mark.

Yeah, this is the X-Men Hugh Jackman grew up with. Explains a bit, doesn't it?

October 6

We'll start with the Arcade Fire, on account of keyboardist William Butler's birthday. The Arcade Fire's a pretty big collective, so keep an eye out for the first guy to climb up the rafters bare handed. It's getting easier to find their music; their song "Wake Up" is echoing through the new "Where The Wild Things Are" trailer. But since I'm a sucker for cartoons, here's the video for "Neighborhood 3(Power Out)"

This month, the band's taking a breath and planning out album number three.

Happy Birthday to nerdcore rapper MC Lars. He raps about more than video games and Myspace (although he does that, too.) Here's his video for "Signing Emo," his paean to the standard lifecycle of today's major label rock band.

I had a hard time finding the right video for Matthew Sweet, even though I consider myself a fan. Most people (anime fans, Guitar Hero players, people who went to college in the 90's) would associate Matthew Sweet with "Girlfriend", the title track and commercial breakthrough. My favorite album was his follow-up, Altered Beast, although it's a heartbreaker of a disc. But at least I found this video for "Time Capsule":
Power pop like this is never really in or out of style (juat ask Fountains of Wayne.) But Sweet's still recording and producing; his last album came out summer 2008. He last hit the charts as a member of The Thorns (what was the name of that single they had? I can't remember...) Next month, he'll be touring the east coast with the Bangles' Susanna Hoffs, featuring their collaborations of '70s covers.

Finally, Happy Birthday to Millie Small, singer of the 1964 hit, "My Boy Lollipop." "Lollipop" is the first international ska hit (technically, it's a blue-beat song,) and the song that put the Island Records label on the map.

This footage is from her Finnish TV special, the apex of her fame. I dig the song, but I listen to her voice and wonder, what ever happened to Michel'le?

October 3

Some birthday folks, I just have to write about. Like Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters, which have a hometown connection for me. Jake's not from Lexington; his co-conspirator, Scott "Babydaddy" Hoffman, is, but Scott's birthday was September 1, so I missed that opportunity. Anyway, the band's 20 percent Kentucky, so I kinda gotta make some noise.
Fortunately, I dig their sound, 21st century glamdance that goes over so much better in Europe than on this side of the pond. Their third album comes out next year, and it might be the charm. Meanwhile, here's their biggest single so far, a tune co-written with Elton John: "I Don't Feel Like Dancing"

If you think Montgomery Gentry and John Michael Montgomery are better musical exports, I found a bluegrass version of "...Dancin'" for you.

Sometimes, my obligations are familial. I can't imagine a reason that anyone that would read this blog would not have heard of Gwen Stefani. Heck, I can't spell "Bananas" without thinking of her. I have a couple of readers who already think the world deserves a Gwen Stefani day, so I have to observe it.
Again, this isn't twisting my arm much. I dig the No Doubt, and so does Gwen, apparently; in recent interviews, she's said that her solo career is done, and it's all about No Doubt now.
Also, I must continue to convince my ill-informed friend; yes, that was Gwen Stefani touring with the band this year, not a 'thick' look-a-like. Observe the band on their comeback tour, performing "Tragic Kingdom".

Man, now I'm fantasizing about a thick Gwen Stefani...
Oh, since the tour's over, the real trial-by-fire begins: will No Doubt make a decent new record? We should know in about two years...

Sometimes, it's reasons you can't justify, it just has to be done. Why Greg Proops? I mean, he's a funny guy, proved he can be funny on the fly for years now.
Maybe it's all those episodes of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" Or maybe his appearance in "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" as the comprehensible podrace announcer...
Maybe it's the name. Silly, really... I just like saying it... "Greg"; Hilarious...
I found this clip of his first appearance on "Whose Line," back when it was only in Britain. Can't believe it's been twenty years...

Like many "Whose Line" alumni, his latest hat to wear will be "game show host"; he'll be reading the questions on "Head Games" on the Science Channel starting this month...

Finally, sometimes you write about somebody because it's why you do what you do.
Alan O'Day is a prolific songwriter who became a one-hit wonder in 1977, with teh #1 hit "Undercover Angel." Most people born after 1977 heard it again with the "Charlie's Angels" movie soundtrack. I heard it mostly in high rotation during the first two months of the launch of an automated oldies station for the St Louis market that shall remain nameless. But I digress...
Alan O'Day may fit the definition of one-hit wonder, but he's no slouch. He spent most of the 70's writing songs for others to sing; artists like Helen Reddy, Cher, and the Righteous Brothers took his songs up the charts. In the 80's, he returned to writing music for films and television shows. For the Muppet Babies cartoon series, he wrote over 100 songs.
But since I couldn't pinpoint any of those, I'll pitch in this fanvid for the 70's "Charlie's Angels" series, set to the music of "Undercover Angel"

Had to do it, even if Too Sweet For Rock n Roll is almost guaranteed to feature him and his sole chart-topper. But I ain't made at her; Too Sweet is a semi-authoritative and sweet-looking resource for pop music celebrity birthdays. A must read, if you love the music...

Haven't said in a while: if there's anyone you think deserves featuring, drop me a line at Otherwise, Happy Birthday to you, whenever it is...

October 4

Okay, I'm going to start this column by saying that I am not gay. I am cool with the gays, but I am not the gay.
The reason I offer this disclaimer is that I get enough grief, from the woman that I've impregnated on several occasions, about my enjoyment of euro-disco music, Judas Priest, and Coldplay. (Either she finds my tastes in music very annoying, there's something wrong with my technique, or she's not telling me something.) And preparing today's column with her taunts in the back of my head has got me censuring myself.
So, Happy Birthday, Chris Lowe of the Pet Shop Boys. Happy Birthday, Jon Secada. Ain't got time for you today, guys.

Instead, we're shining a light on Juka, the Japanese Goth-rock vocalist (as opposed to Juka, the West African zouk-pop crooner; that's what you were thinking, right?) To get everybody else up to speed, Japan's Juka is an icon in the Visual Kei movement, which is symphonic metal performed in neo-Romanticism cosplay wardrobes. It's like the characters from a Final Fantasy video game picked up guitars and attempted to rock.
Here's Juka, singing in the Hizaki Grace Project, during their 2007 "Node of Scherzo" concert. Juka's the one that looks like the Goblin King from "Labyrinth"...

Okay, the one of the left that looks like the Goblin King.

Happy Birthday to actor Bill Fagerbakke, who has made a living from speaking for the non-smart. He starred opposite Craig T Nelson in the sitcom "Coach", as the intellectually challenged assistant coach. He played the very challenged Tom Cullen in the TV version of "Stephen King's The Stand." But you know him for voicing Patrick Star, best friend of Spongebob Squarepants. If you need to voice a character that makes Spongebob look like the smart one, go with a professional.

Meanwhile, the dude does Shakespeare and Ibsen onstage. Now, who's the Philistine?

Celebrating a quarter century on the planet is Lena Katina, the redhead from Russia's biggest band ever, tATu. tATu the band's stalled for the time being - no word on an American release for the third album, no release date for the movie "Finding tATu" - so it looks like each girl's going the solo route. According to her website, Lena's already made the trip to L.A., and laid down a couple of tracks.
I'd like to give her the benefit of a doubt, so I'm sharing this fanvid of the tATu track, "Yugoslavia", featuring Lena's vocals, all by their lonesome.

Today's one-hit wonder is Phillipe Russo, who made it on the French charts in the 80's with the track, "Magie Noire" (translation: "Black Magic") It sounds exactly what 80's dance rock should sound like: the soundtrack to a training montage in a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie...

Seriously, filmmakers, if you want to out-Tarantino Tarantino, grab this song...

Finally, a very Happy Birthday to the awe-inspiring Susan Sarandon. And I'm not saying this because of her Oscar-winning turn in "Dead Man Walking" or her seminal performance in "Thelma and Louise". I'm not saying this because she embodied the concept of the MILF before anybody invented the word. I'm not saying this because she married Prince Humperdinck in the 60's and lived to tell the tale. I'm not even saying this because I filmed a scene with her (and 200 other extras) in the Academy Award nominated "Lorenzo's Oil".
No, it's all about Janet Weiss, and the movie that changed my life. Here's her musical number in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show":

Look for her later this year in "The Lovely Bones", and sometime next year in "Wall Street 2"

Two redheads in one column; it's a good day...

October 5

My favorite actress in the business, Oscar winner Kate Winslet, is 34. It's not just her beauty, talent and fearlessness that get to me, it's her intelligence. I mean, she's got a plan. The girl knows what she's doing.

See what I mean? Actually, that's a clip from the TV series "Extras," which is that hilarious in every single episode.
Not easy to find a video of music featuring Winslet. I was worried I'd have to show a clip from that painful film "Romance and Cigarettes," (she was the best part, of course) and then I learned that she did a duet with Weird Al Yankovic (!!!) for some children's book/CD set. That's like putting two great tastes together!

Yup... that's like chocolate-covered macaroni. We're going to leave the music to the professionals for the rest of today....

Lee Thompson
, saxaphonist for Madness, the most successful 2nd wave ska band ever. They made me fall in love with ska before I knew what it was. Hearing Lee's wailing
on "One Step Beyond" takes me back to Friday nights St Louis community radio, getting my weekly dosage of ska and reggae.

Something's in the air; so far, three seminal ska bands have returned to the stage this year. In fact, Madness is getting some of the best reviews of their career, even if their work's 'maturing'. Judge the new stuff for yourself...

Brian Johnson, vocalist for AC/DC. Some still call him 'the other vocalist', but Brian's the one that's sang their biggest hits. [Did you know that the "Back in Black" LP is the second best-selling album of all time?] He gives hope for every band that tries to get together its second act.

This year's tour might be it for the boys. Six dates last month were cancelled while Brian was recovering from surgery, treating typical 'old man' problems. No word if they removed that hernia that's the source of Brian Johnson's vocal power; that would be like giving Macy Gray a lozenge...

Finally, I'm posting a Velvet Underground track because it's Vaclav Havel's birthday. In 1968, Havel was a playwright in communist Czechoslovakia, while the Velvet Underground was another band whose music was being smuggled in and share in the Prague underground. People started their own bands, despite government efforts at suppresion. The arrest of several musicians in 1977 inspired the Charter 77 manifesto, which would be the guiding principles of the Velvet Revolution, the bloodless regime change that would see the end of communism in Czechoslovakia and the beginnings of free elections. Havel, who was sent to prison several times for speaking out for human rights in his plays and in public, would become the first president of the Czech Republic. When he welcomed Lou Reed to a democratic Czechoslovakia in 1990, Havel said to him, "Did you know that I am president because of you?"
Havel's retired from public office, but not from public life. He continues to work with human rights organizations, and speak about those issues. He's returned to playwriting, and parlaying that into directing his first feature film.
Havel's life story reminds me that art, even in inherently disposable forms like 3-minute rock songs, can affect and inspire others; the Velvet Underground's fearlessness in the realm of music inspired Havel and his peers to seek that fearlessness in their own lives.
So, here's a video of the Velvet Underground track "European Son", to salute Vaclav Havel and hope that we tap into the fearlessness in our own hearts that we need to change our world for the better...
The Velvet Underground - European Son

October 2

Sam Roberts is a Canadian singer-songwriter still trying to make his way south. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't sound like Nickelback, so he's still waiting for his superstar visa. Actually, he sounds like Pete Yorn, playing the kind of rock and roll that seems almost old-fashioned. That might explain a song like "Those Kids":

Happy Birthday to Sigtryggur Baldursson, drummer for the Sugarcubes (Bjork's old band.) Y'know, Iceland seems like a harmless country that picked the wrong year to be in the banking industry. But all the music that comes out of there is just... weird: Bjork, Sigur Ros, Gus Gus, mum... And don't tell me it's the cold; where are all the weird Alaskan bands?
Anyway, Sigtryggur provided beats for the Sugarcubes all the way to the end, then kept busy in the Icelandic punk and indie scene. These days, his main project is Steintryggur, very Art of Noise-ish. Maybe they wanted to beat their critics to the punch when they named their first single, "I Don't Get It"

Bonus! What's the name of the Sugarcubes' international breakthrough hit?

According to Bjork, it's about a May-December romance (she's five; he's fifty...)

Bud Gaugh played drums for Sublime, the other greatest band of the 90's that lost a lead singer too soon. He's played with other bands since then, but every project's felt like one foot in the past. So what to make of the announcement that Sublime's getting back together? I know, I rolled my eyes too - and then I heard the new guy. They've got this 20-year-old, Rome; no telling how his songwriting is, but what I'm hearing seems like it could work. I'll let you find his performances with the band online (there's only one bootleg performance I found so far) But here's hoping he might have the stuff to pull off songs like this:

Finally, I just like this song from birthday boy , who you know as Badly Drawn Boy. Here's the animated video for "Year of the Rat"

October 1

So, milady asked what the point of this blog was. "What's the point of going to a birthday site to read about a bunch of people you've never heard of?" The point is, to learn about a bunch of people they should have heard about, and especially, the people you didn't know you knew.

Like Mariska Veres, lead singer of Shocking Blue: did you know about her? Okay, you mat not even know Shocking Blue, but do you remember the song "Venus"? Now you got a reason to notice. When "Venus" became a global number 1 hit in 1969, Mariska was garnering comparisons with Grace Slick and Cher, in both vocal range and beauty. For the most part, they were big in the Netherlands, and lasted until 1974. Mariska got into Jazz, and kept singing until she passed in 2006.

You're one of those people that thought this was a Bananarama song, didn't you?

Imagine you were in a bar, and there's Jim Carrey, his face stuck in a "Fire Marshall Bill" expression like his mother always said it would. He's pissed off, downing bourbon and cussing up his family, his girl, the world- and you don't stop him, because his ranting is so funny...
That's what Chrsitopher Titus is like.

Kill Titus - These bloopers are hilarious

I didn't know I'd heard Youssou N'Dour before. I heard the name in college, but who listens to college radio? To me, he was one of the luminaries of afro-beat and world music in the last twenty years (so good luck finding his CDs at Wal-Mart...)
Turns out one of his songs did mske it to American radio, just barely: a duet with Neneh Cherry, called "Seven Seconds." Got that chilled electro-music sound...

Finally, today's a good day to spotlight Jerry Martini, saxophonist for Sly and the Family Stone. He's the one that convinced Sylvester and Freddie Stone to combine their bands together into a psychedelic melting pot. To celebrate, here's a televised performance of "Dance to the Music," the most egalitarian song in their discography. Remember, it wasn't Sly's Family Stone; it was "...and the Family Stone."