Friday, January 30, 2009

Main Events I Won't Be Attending

Just when I thought it was safe to not attend the Grammys. The tickets are very expensive, even for voting members of the Academy. Plus, the nominees list wasn't that thrilling to me. So, I made the executive decision to stay home. Last year for the 50th Grammy Awards, rumor was that McCartney and Michael would perform. Don't get me wrong: Tina tore the house down after Aretha raised the roof. It was a heckuva a show, but what if...

Now in the past 72 hours came announcements that Macca, Springsteen, Radiohead and Jay-Z would be there. Oh, and then today comes word that Kid Rock, Robert Plant and U2 will be on the bill. Whaaaaa!? Well, I'm just going to watch it in HiDef in the comfort of my own home. Maybe I'll put on the tux and strut around the beige carpet and loiter by the bar in my kitchen nursing a glass of veggie juice. Still, no Michael, so I can rest easy.

Then, in the e-mail this morning came the lineup for Coachella which Prince headlined last year. Now, there's no way you could get me out there. The 116 degree direct sun, no shade desert? With 21,000 of my closest friends? Never! Not unless you had McCartney, and like, Fleet Foxes and Franz Ferdinand or Public Enemy and the Black Keys along with Amy Winehouse and Leonard Cohen thrown in for good measure. What? They're all playing Coachella? DANG!

No regrets. The economy hasn't bouyed enough to afford the tix to either event.

Sometimes life is funny that way. I wish you all a happy weekend. I'm hoping to catch the AMCB set at Brennan's if I'm not exhausted after a day at the studio and the drawing class I'm attending at the Norton-Simon in Pasadena. Got to get my culture on!

Peace & Disco Beats

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Eli Stone Hits Britain

Thanks to the UK Soul Mates who alerted me that they heard "Everyone's Ingenue" on telly! Here in the States, the season premiere of Eli Stone was back in October. Nice to know that the show made it across the pond, my song intact. And better yet, that some of you caught it.

In music news, I will not be performing at this year's IPO in Liverpool. But, I'm contemplating a return to the UK in 2010. Even numbered years seem to work out well. If God wills it, I will be there to entertain you... somehow.

Peace & Disco Beats

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Definitely, Maybe" - Great LPs of My Lifetime (First In A Series)

Days like today remind me of my discovery of Oasis. Rain coming in sideways, dreary January mornings walking to the bus stop and then on to the studio with an uphill mush. The music on my walkman propelling my legs made by five lads from Manchester, England.

It was the beginning of 1995. I had little exposure to British pop to that point. I knew Blur's campy Girls & Boys; Elastica's booming Connection was all over modern rock radio. But that was about it. Then one night, I was in the Tower Records on Ventura when I spotted a magazine called MOJO. The headline was "The Band You've Always Wanted." Really? A few days later, I trotted into Hollywood to seek out this band's debut CD.

For Christmas, I received a gift certificate to Blockbuster. They were pioneering the try before you buy model that eventually ran them out of business. It was my first time, so I sheepishly asked the attendant to listen to a disc called Definitely, Maybe. From the opening wall of guitars on Rock'N'Roll Star I was hooked. I didn't even need to hear the rest of the album. I got it and was back at my Hollywood hovel in minutes with the album cranked up. The next day I went to a newsstand and bought every British music mag I could lay hands on, including MOJO. BritPop became my crack for the next 3 years.

This past week, I put together a new play list of BritPop favorites. Oasis figures heavily. They became all I wanted to listen to in early '95. I only caught the music video for Live Forever once, but I would play it in my apartment constantly. Its chorus, "You and I are gonna live forever," became a mantra for me. A few days later, I shelled out $9 for an import CD single of Oasis' non-LP single Whatever. Wow. It was as if the Beatles had been reborn. I proceeded to buy up import single after import single to get all of the B-Sides. All in the span of two weeks.

The rain came down, I was making little money. It was a lonely time, but I had Oasis to amp me up. Then I saw the LA Weekly: Oasis were coming to town. I was late on the jump. Tickets had started at $10.67 (the show was sponsored by KROQ, the cost of the tickets being their location on the FM dial), but I missed out. I went to a broker and paid a whopping $35 for a standing room ticket. But what standing room. I was right next to the stage the whole night. Kicked in the head, pushed, jolted, bopped. Whatever. The show was glorious. They stoically tore through 95% of their album. Cigarettes and Alcohol still rings through my mind as I think about it. Oasis finished the set with I Am The Walrus. Ha ha. The nerve! They had it and have never lost it.

I lingered around the Palace's dance floor after the show, soaking up the atmosphere. From behind the stage emerged this shorter fellow with a Beatle Mop Top. It was lead guitarist, Noel Gallagher. I walked right up and introduced myself and told him how amazing the band and the CD were. He was very kind and seemed genuinely humbled by my compliment. He said "Thanks, nice to meet you, etc," and then was off for the bar.

Noel and his brother Liam have gotten bad raps over the years for being unapproachable, boorish, untalented... Whatever. I will always rank Noel among the coolest of my peers. Things came full-circle, in 2006, when I got to record at Monnow Valley Studio in Wales where Oasis had their first sessions for Definitely, Maybe.

Definitely, Maybe continually shows up on Top 100 lists. I'm not sure where it stands for myself but certainly within the Top 50. The CD is still as fresh and exciting as when I first heard it. So of it's time: Cool Britannia.

They paved the way to my taste for new and established UK acts like Supergrass and Pulp and the Austin Powers phenomenon. With their very personal battle with Blur, they competed to put out superlative records on a regular basis. It was exciting to visit record stores back then to hear what would come out of England next. Yes, for a long time, Oasis were the "Band I Always Wanted."

Peace

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Not So Chic, But Rock Hall Gets a Run(-DMC) For Its Money

Well, friends here we are a few days into the Obama administration and I'm still excited. Bought all the various newspapers I could. It will take me a while to read through them, but I'll do my best. 

On to music. The Rock Hall class for 2009 was announced recently and as usual, I am disappointed by the omission of Chic. This band, not simply a disco act or one-hit wonder, deserves the recognition. Perhaps in another decade, founding member Nile Rodgers will be honored as an individual in a technical category for his production and writing prowess. Le Freak excites me every time I hear it. Their other big hits, I Want Your Love and Good Times form the basis of a great jazz influenced dance canon. Oh, well. 

[Search my blogs for previous entries touting the worthiness of Chic's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.]

As for this year's class, I'm only truly thrilled for Run-DMC. They are one of the cornerstones of hip-hop and modern rock. Yeah, I said it. Without Run-DMC, no Beastie Boys, no Beck, no Public Enemy, no Aerosmith comeback or Johnny Cash's valedictory run. Why? Because along with the awesome, influential music Run-DMC created, their act is associated with the seminal label Def-Jam and a producer for the ages: Rick Rubin. To call Rubin a genius is fair. Plus Run-DMC was fun, they weren't about abuse, drugs or guns. They were all about the kicks, the Kangols and the rhymes. Their induction performance, minus deceased DJ Jam Master Jay, will be moving and spectacular. Run-DMC's inclusion in the Rock Hall will also open the gates for other deserving rap acts, like P.E., the Beastie Boys & (yeah, I said it) LL Cool J.

Congrats to the other inductees including Bobby Womack & Jeff Beck. 

Peace & Disco Beats

Monday, January 19, 2009

King Day Thoughts

My first blog of the new year. Happy 2009 everyone. I am feeling optimistic and hopeful about the direction my life and the times are heading.

I'm thinking about the reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this morning. It's been several years since the last time I went to his childhood home in Atlanta. Yesterday I preached at church for the first time and used two excerpts from his speeches, the Nobel Prize Acceptance and the sermon the Drum Major Instinct. In researching Dr. King, a huge light bulb came on. I am actually a few months older now than King was at the time of his assassination.  Isn't that crazy? He was 35 when he won the Nobel Peace Prize. When I was 35, I hadn't even gotten the band to England. 

My sermon was based on John 1:43-51, the calling of Phillip & Nathanael. It was entitled "Called (In The Name Of Love)." I spent time discussing how those disciples' reactions to their call was different, but ultimately yielded the same result; how in love, with love and in the name of love are the best ways we can respond to the call. Remember, He knows our hearts better than we do.

[Note: I will be preaching again on Sunday Feb. 15 at North Hollywood First United Methodist Church. The worship begins at 8:15 AM. Contact me or the church for more details]

During both of the worship services, I performed U2's Pride (In The Name Of Love), which was written about MLK. The second time I did it, in the main service I was nearly levelled to tears by the power of the lyric. To this day, I'm surprised that it took a band from Ireland to write the definitive pop song about Dr. King.

This has been a busy new year for me. Yesterday with the preaching; and at the studio I have a new role around the back of the house. I'm now supervising the singers and improv performers at the studio. It's exciting work and edifying, too. I'm supremely thankful to God that I'm actually doing a job that I don't want to leave at the end of the shift. Frankly, I'm thankful that I have a job. 

Tomorrow, I have to be at the studio, but I will be near TV sets as much as possible. The DV-R will be set to capture all of the festivities for Obama's Inauguration. I attended Bush, Sr.'s inaugural while I was in college. It was fun, even though I was the loyal opposition. I have some twinge of regret at not being there in person tomorrow, but looking at the forecast, it will be toasty and in the low 80s here. Sorry, East Coast.

So, I encourage everyone to find a way to celebrate Dr. King in their hearts and actions. To paraphrase, King felt peace is a way of life, not a concept. Today is not just a day off, it's a day on!

Peace & Disco Beats