Monday, June 27, 2011
If you’re from NYC and wanted to make it up to Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival in the Berkshires over the weekend but just couldn’t swing it, fret not: a tiny but important piece of that festival is coming to Brooklyn tomorrow night, in the form of the new-school R&B revue of JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound.
This high-energy band was put on this earth to work crowds into a foamy lather, and you can be sure that even the hipster intelligencia at the Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg will be sweatin’ it up juke-joint style when the Uptown Sound hits the stage Tuesday at 9pm (Doors open at 8).
The Uptown Sound has at least two strong connections to Wilco:
1) They are from Chicago;
2) They play an amazingly reworked version of “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” the lead track from Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, only with a funkified twist.
3) They are an excellent band who keep getting better and better.
(OK, three connections)
Another tune in the JCB&TUS catalog is called “Baltimore is the New Brooklyn.” It will be interesting to see how this irony-drenched crowd reacts when JC sings “It’s just a short train ride away from where you really want to be.”
Smirk all you want, you Stereogum-chewing, Pitchfork-weilding Brooklyn Vegan-tarians, but you will not, repeat not, be able to deny the groove and sheer charisma of JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound at the Cameo Tuesday night at 9pm. Doors open at 8.
JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound
Friday, June 24, 2011
Wish I was heading up to North Adams, Massachusetts today to attend Wilco’s 2nd Annual Solid Sound Festival, which lasts all weekend. Hey, I think I said the same thing last year.
The weekend features two shows by Wilco, who are working on a new album, plus the ageless Levon Helm and many other fine acts detailed here:
Solid Sound is billed as “A Music and Arts Festival Curated by Wilco.” Personally, I don’t like rock festivals throwing around museum-y words like “curated.” And if you do use museum-y words, then the tickets, food and beer should be paid for with “donations” as in, I’m not paying anything.
If you and the aging hipsters in your life are looking for something fun to do, why not head on up to the lovely Berkshires and see yourself some Wilco?
To get you in the mood, here are a couple of my favorite uptempo tracks from Tweedy & Co. both featuring fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama. I'm going to dedicate these clips to my buddy Doug, whose love of Wilco is matched only by his distaste for Obama's so-called "Liberal agenda."
“The Late Greats,” from 2008 Obama fundraiser. An ode to bands that just weren’t right for their time or place, a description that may have once applied to Wilco, but does not apply to bands who curate their own festivals or hang out with future Presidents.
“Airline to Heaven” from Farm Aid 2005, which demonstrates that Obama’s relationship with Wilco goes back to at least 2005, as does his penchant for ill-fitting trousers.
More information about the Wilco-curated Solid Sound Festival, including lineup, directions and lodging, is here.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
When I think of my buddy George, who is celebrating a birthday today, one word comes to mind: Jack-Ass. Not because the word describes him necessarily, although it might, but because of our mutual love of the song “Jack-Ass” by Beck.
George and I were roommates in an exposed-brick, rent-stablized 2-BR apartment on East 84th Street at the time of the release of Beck Hansen's landmark Odelay CD in 1996, and the record recevied constant play that summer and the entire year following. Of the many great songs on that incredible record, "Jack-Ass" was our favorite.
"Jack-Ass" seamlessly mixes a cowboy campfire ballad with classic rock, back-porch blues and hip hop. Its dreamy backdrop comes from a sample of a cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” by Them, Van Morrison’s first group.
The song itself tells a lonesome tale of an outlaw drifter, worthy of Willie Nelson. It would be right at home on Red Headed Stranger, a fact Willie acknowledges by appearing in the "Jack-Ass" video.
Being the prolific oddball he is, Beck also released a "Jack-Ass" EP, featuring several remixes of the tune, a Skip James cover, and best of all, “Burro,” a mariachi version of “Jack-Ass” which you can hear below.
All of these B-sides, outtakes and ephemera are now available on the Odelay Deluxe Edition, released a couple years ago.
Beck hasn't released an album of original material since Modern Guilt in 2008. His visibility has been limited to producing albums by rock-snob royalty like Charlotte Gainsbourg (daughter of Serge) and Thurston Moore, and covering classic LPs as part of his Record Club project, where he and like-minded artists cover classic LPs from The Velvet Underground & Nico to Kick by INXS. Hopefully he’s got another "Jack-Ass" coming down the pike.
Let's go out with a fine live version of "Jack-Ass" from Letterman, right around the time when I saw him do a killer concert at the Supper Club in NYC.
Buy the Deluxe Edition of Odelay on iTunes here.
Monday, June 20, 2011
Clarence Clemons, who passed away over the weekend at age 69 after suffering a stroke earlier in the week, was probably the most famous sax player in the world (sorry Kenny G-heads), and the glue that held Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band together.
By all accounts, Clarence was a stand-up guy. And whether you think the Boss’s music is brilliant or overblown (or both), the old-school playing of the Big Man was consistently musical and unpretentious, one of the defining elements of the band’s sound. And his relationship with Bruce seemed genuine, not a contract-fulfilling obligation like you get these days when you see, say, R.E.M. plugging a new record.
The bond betwixt the Boss and Clarence back to Asbury Park in 1971. Here's a boss clip of them from the Capitol Theatre in scenic Passaic, NJ in 1976 doing “10th Avenue Freezeout,” the Born to Run track wherein Bruce recalls when The Big Man joined the band.
It will be interesting to see how the Boss handles the post-Clemons era in concert. It's not hard to picture a séance type of interlude during the Clemons showcase "Jungleland"
"Hey Big Man, you up there? How's Rock & Roll Heaven? Play any gigs with Elvis? How's Buddy Holly doin' these days?"
At this point, of course, the ghost of the Big Man would appear on the Big Screen to thunderous applause, as the E Streeters play along to one of his epic live "Jungleland" solos, not unlike the Elvis in Concert extravaganza where the TCB Band plays live to early-70s footage of The King.
RIP & TCB Big Man. Get some vintage live E Street Band on iTunes here
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
If you need further validation that you are getting old, Culture Club frontman Boy George turned 50 today.
Flamboyant trappings aside, George Alan O' Dowd had a beautiful voice with a timeless quality that would have pretty much ensured his success had he been a product of the 1980s or the 1930s. In an era when even Queen’s Freddie Mercury was in the closet. Boy George was one of the first celebs who was completely out and frank about it.
Back in the day, I remember watching him on The Tonight Show with Joan Rivers filling in for Johnny Carson (and Jerry Seinfeld on the couch), and when he told Joan he was bisexual, there were some pretty loud gasps in the audience.
Culture Club had a pretty great run of hit singles in those years, beginning with "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me," and went on to include "I’ll Tumble 4 Ya," "Time (Clock of the Heart)," "Karma Chameleon" and my personal favorite "Church of the Poison Mind."
"I don't see myself growing old gracefully," said Boy George in the Joan Rivers interview. And with many drug busts, arrests and countless hours of government-mandated community service over the years, he has fulfilled his prophecy with aplomb.
I caught Culture Club live in 1999 at a Jones Beach 80s revival show which also included Howard Jones and The Human League. Despite being ravaged by a decades-long heroin habit, George was in fine voice and he and his mates rocked the nostalgic Lawn Guyland crowd with their era-defining, bouncy, buoyant pop.
Happy half century Boy George, you kooky Karma Chameleon you.
Get yer Culture Club on iTunes here.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Anyone who is into rock documentaries knows that they are often used as bait for PBS pledge drives. Why then do they stop showing them once they have your money?
Anyway, the carrot PBS was dangling the other night was Songs of America, a fascinating 1969 TV documentary about Simon & Garfunkel that juxtaposes images of them on tour, in concert halls, hotel rooms and recording studios with images of the unrest of the era, from civil rights marches to bombings in Vietnam. It is all so very 1969.
Adding to the curiosity factor is that Songs of America was directed by Charles Grodin, best known for the 80s buddy film Midnight Run and his hillariously curmudgeonly guest spots with David Letterman. But back in 1970 or so, he was an A-list Hollywood mensch, on the level of someone like Ben Stiller.
Songs of America is full of some great clips. My favorite is the following studio run-through of their epic musical olive branch "Bridge Over Troubled Water," featuring a guy wandering around who looks like exactly Paul Simon, only with a missing chromosome or two. A little research revealed it is Eddie Simon, Paul's younger brother. He’s like the musical equivalent of Mini-Me; a folk-rock Clint Howard. It’s important to have a circle of trust when you’re on the road.
The Grodin-helmed rock-doc is now available as part of the recently released 40th anniversary deluxe reissue of S&G’s swan song LP Bridge Over Troubled Water. The bonus DVD also features a new film about the making of the album.
Paul & Art perfected a knowing tender melodic style of folk music that has never really been bettered, and never diminishes in power with time, as this clip of my favorite S&G tune "The Boxer" (also on Bridge) from Letterman a few years back demonstrates. After changes upon changes, we are more or less the same.
Buy the 40th anniversary edition of Bridge Over Troubled Water on Amazon here.
Bonus Clip: Charles Grodin on Late Night with David Letterman, 1990
Wednesday, June 08, 2011
In addition to being a world-class megalomaniac, master of Web-2.0 social networking and all-around pervert, disgraced New York State Congressman Anthony Weiner is also a huge music fan.
Rock Turtleneck has gained exclusive access to Weiner's private YouTube channel, called Weiner-palooza!, in which he sent musical dedications and Twitter tweets to his female “friends.” In light of recent events, they are, shall we say, revealing to say the least.
Hey Ladies @hottweiner3948: There’s more to me than you’ll ever know/And I got more hits than Sahaharu Oh!
Hey @weinfan4life: One woman’s Weiner is another man’s Hot Dog! LMFAO - time to get the Led out!
Dear @weinerlover354: How dare you call me a Creep! WTF?!! Turn it up!
To the ladies@coedsforweinerUSA: These young girls won't let me be/Lord have mercy on me! LOL
Attn@weiner4prez2012: I just re-waxed myself – hurts so good! pix to come!
Dear @tweenweinerBFF: No, you are not too young – you think I would put my career in jeopardy over something as trivial as age? I'm a congressman, not an idiot!
To: @weinerwilco456: I’m in the mood for some Tweedy – and some Tweety!
To @WeinerTweeter859: See Me! Feel Me! Touch Me! Tweet Me!
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Apropos of nothing, here's a grate way to kick off the month of June, with one of our favorite classic YouTube clips: The Grateful Dead on Playboy After Dark.
This late-night TV show featured Hugh Hefner, Barbi Benton and a bevy of bunnies getting all Mad Men with their martinis, minis and tuxedos. It would be hard to think of guest more diametrically opposed to this lifestyle than the hallucinogen-gobbling Haight Ashbury set, but somehow it all works.
After a few very kind words with Hef, Jerry steps out and plays a couple tracks from Aoxomoxoa: a lovely tune called "Mountains of the Moon" and then revs it up with the band on a ripping "St. Stephen."
So get out the Gibley's and turn it up. And Happy June.
Buy the Grateful Dead's Aoxomoxoa on iTunes here.