Posts Tagged ‘Rock and Roll’

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Fancy Plans… Guide to Rock and Roll (More Requests & Old Favorites)

August 16, 2010
[Another from the Way Back Machine. Originally appeared 05/23/09.]

Another edition of the Fancy Plans… Guide to World Domination thru Misinformation (finally!). Feast your eyes on these delicious chunks of san-serif text and badly-captioned photos.

The Fancy Plans... Guide to Fighting Tin Lizzy

The Fancy Plans... Guide to Fighting Thin Lizzy

Thin Lizzy
Formed in 1967 in Dublin, Ireland and still regarded to this day as “the only band to have come out of Ireland,” Thin Lizzy featured two former members of Them, whose lead singer was a young Jim “Van” Morrison. Morrison’s penchant for impromptu poetry slams and malfunctioning trousers frequently found the band at the receiving end of police brutality.

The epitome of 70’s rock, Thin Lizzy released their biggest hit, The Boys Are Back in Townduring the pinnacle of rock’s power (allmusic.com pinpoints this as ca. 1974-1978). Thin Lizzy’s “definitive” sound and “unique” lyrics allowed them to sound more like everyone else than anyone else.  Among the songs that could quite possibly be theirs:

  • You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet
  • Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room
  • Hair of the Dog
  • American Band
  • Slow Ride
  • Roll On Down the Highway
  • Lost Inside Your Love
  • Rock & Roll Hootchie-Koo
  • Life’s Been Good to Me
  • Teenage Kicks
According to Brownsville Station's concert rider, they were to be accompanied by a minstrel at all times.

According to Brownsville Station's concert rider, they were to be accompanied by a minstrel at all times.

Brownsville Station
Formed in Michigan in 1970, Brownsville Station scored a minor hit with their cover of Thin Lizzy’s Smokin’ in the Boys Room. True success came later with 1977’s Martian Boogie, an influential space-rock track that post-dated the scene by nearly 10 years. Championed tirelessly by British tastemaker, Dr. John Demento, Brownsville Station recorded four classic Demento Sessions.

Christian Death's first lineup featuring Anthony Soprano Jr.

Christian Death's first lineup featuring Anthony Soprano Jr.

Christian Death
Formed in L.A. in 1979, Christian Death combined two staples of the goth rock scene (hatin’ on Christians; acrimonious splits) into a swaggering proto-deathrock nightmare. A nightmare for band members.

Original lead singer Rozz Williams left the group and former guitarist Valor promoted himself to lead-singer-for-life. Rozz tried to retain sole ownership of the Christian Death name but, as they were hardly a real band and not anywhere close to being on a real label, he was unable to do so. Various band members came and left and by 1983, there were no fewer than 16 Christian Death configurations touring, often opening for each other all around the Midwest.

Rozz Williams detached himself fully from the convoluted mess and devoted his time to his various sideprojects, including: Premature Ejaculation, Erectile Dysfunction, Inability to Achieve Orgasm, Female Pattern Dryness and Pee-shy.

Just really not that current at all.

Just really not that current at all.

Current 93
Death folksters whose name, much like Prince’s 1999, means less with each passing year.

house_of_pain811

Everlast models the primary form of Irish communication.

House of Pain
There’s nothing about this group of white rappers that hasn’t been better said by me already.

Chuck E. Cheese engineers prepare to scare the bejeezus out of your kids.

Chuck E. Cheese engineers prepare to scare the bejeezus out of your kids.

Kraftwerk
A joint effort of Disney Imagineers and the Ford Motor Co., as a tribute to all things German and nationalistic. Kraftwerk are fully-functioning animatronic showroom dummies and their icy synths and metronomic beats have captured the fascination of children worldwide, including Georgio Moroder and Afrika Bambaata. Now on permanent display at EuroDisney, they entertain dozens of people yearly with their hits Trans-Europe Blitzkrieg, Tour de France and Whalers on the Moon.

Previously on the Fancy Pants… Guide to Rock & Roll
Vol. 1
Vol. 2 (Requests)

-CLT

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The Fancy Plans Guide to Rock & Roll Vol. 12

December 5, 2009

It’s been awhile since the last volume of the never-ending Guide to Rock & Roll. The last time we gathered to enjoy libelous tales of the has-beens and never-weres of the rock world, we tackled only requests. This time around there isn’t a request to be found. It’s not because I don’t take requests. It’s more likely due to my scattershot posting schedule, shortened attention span and mandatory attendance of several premature funerals for rock and roll.

At this point, Oates knew the relationship was over, both with Hall and MTV itself.

Hall & Oates
1/2 moustache, 1/2 blond, Hall & Oates epitomized 80’s pop in a way few others did, except possibly Wham!, whom they were often confused with. The parallel chart success of this pair of duos saw tanned and well-rested men jousting for the affection (and money) of “the ladies.”

They deployed every weapon imaginable, including smoldering good looks (Wham!, Hall & Oates), short shorts (Wham!), moustaches (Oates) and prolific hitmaking, all despite being saddled with an underperforming partner (Andrew Ridgley, John Oates).

Once their made-for-VH1 meteoric rises and falls were over (“falls” being more accurate, especially when handcuffed to “meteoric” by some hack blogger), it became apparent that only one band was truly in it for “the ladies.” (Not Wham!) However, the information came too late to affect anything more than their respective solo careers (except for Andrew Ridgley, who ran down today’s specials for me at the local Outback).

George hid his anger well, but he had specifically told Paul to dry his guitar on "Delicate."

George Harrison
Known as the “fifth Beatle,” after being displaced by Yoko Ono and Linda McCartney, respectively, Harrison nonetheless had a successful and prolific solo career which spanned over 20 years. Famed for his combination of psychedelia and folk rock, Harrison proved that there is life beyond the Beatles (although not so much for Lennon) and enjoyed some chart success (although not as much as Paul McCartney, who was upgraded to “The Only Beatle”).

In addition to his musical contributions, Harrison was also known for:

  • Not being Ringo.
  • Not shoving his vegan ideals down his touring bands’ throats.
  • Impressive facial hair.
  • Being slightly smaller than Jesus.

Human League shortly before their defeat at the hands of Tyrell Corp.'s More Human Than Human League.

Human League
As one of the forerunners of the New Romantic movement, Britain’s Human League found itself defending its turf (and pedigree) against all comers, including the Anti-Nowhere League, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and the newly-minted (and freshly dead) Zombie Nation.

They enjoyed a seven-year run on top of the musical heap before succumbing to hair metal, synthpop backlash and internal wrangling (which is not so much a reference as an indication that more people should be listening to Clinic).

As the band slowly fell apart, their legacy lived on with multiple appearances on 80’s compilation and the Grand Theft Auto:Vice City soundtrack, which would mark the only time 50 million people purchased the (Keep Feeling) Fascination single, which came bundled with a lawsuit-baiting, open-world murder simulator.

Iron Butterfly, featuring (clockwise from top) Guy Pearce, Matthew Broderick, Steve Zahn and Steve Coogan.

Iron Butterfly
Known for a single track (In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida) which spanned three albums due to the space limitations of vinyl. Their monstrous hit song was one of the first singles to “go platinum,” albeit in a stripped-down three-minute version, which trimmed off nearly 90 minutes of psychedelic excess.

The track’s title (loosely translated by Hooked on Phonics as “In the Garden of Eden“) was a staple of their live shows, thanks to its sprawling length, which gave each band member a chance to dick around while their audience members retrieved their drugs, took their drugs or purchased more drugs.

During their brief heyday, the average Iron Butterfly set list looked like this:

1. Intro
2. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
Encore (In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida [reprise])

Having paved the way for mainstream awareness of psychedelic hard rock, Iron Butterfly abruptly lost all relevance and faded into obscurity, leaving behind an overwrought back catalog, which proved useful for seed-and-stem sorting.

As his music career faded, Rick James hit the tour circuit as a Whoopi Goldberg impersonator.

Rick James
Rick James (born Dave Chappelle) took the late ’70s funk scene by storm with his hit single Superfreak, which set the stage for the brief flareout of a “career” that was the Reverend MC Hammer. Following his own blueprint for brief success followed by spectacular failure, James made some runs at chart success with a few other, less sample-worthy singles before deciding to follow his true calling: drug addiction.

After joining nearly every other musician ever in eventual irrelevance, Rick James briefly lifted his head from the dusted mirror to release an album in the mid-’90s, approximately 15 years after anyone gave a shit. Unable to produce the “skills” to pay the “legal bills,” James returned to obscurity and blow, taking with him his talent (which at this point was as weak as the 3/4-baby laxative blend “coke,” whose possession resulted in immediate arrest).

-CLT

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Fancy Plans Guide to Rock and Roll Vol. 11 – All Requests Version

October 24, 2009

After a slight delay, the Fancy Plans Guide to Rock and Roll has returned (slightly) with a handful of bands hot off the request line, which is located in your comment threads and ignored for long periods of time right here on this blog.

They say “All good things come to those who wait.” I really wish “they” would stop saying that. Enjoy.

CALEXICO

Calexico spy an under-tipping diner.

Calexico
As Americans channeling Mexicans and distributed by Germans, Calexico are the “domestic” auto of indie rock. While probably (perhaps even fiercely) American, Calexico are the sum of their foreign-made “domestic” parts, often raising the ire of Lou Dobbs, who normally shows no interest in recorded music, domestic or otherwise.

Following a twisted path through Giant Sand and Friends of Dean Martinez (neé Martin), Calexico gathered up its mariachi leanings and headed for the welcoming climes of Germany, where they recorded their debut album. Due to a translation error and general German good-natured obtuseness, they were listed as “Spoke.”

Having had enough of this foreign bullshit (except for the mariachi stuff), Calexico returned home and re-issued their debut under the correct name. They continued to build their reputation as an “unavoidable” live band by annoying diners throughout Arizona with their flashmob mariachi-ing, often in support of other confrontational groups like Pavement and Lambchop (the latter of which often broke building capacity codes as soon as they entered the restaurant).

They further cemented their pristine indie rep (and swelled their tip jars) by performing with such alt.rock luminaries as Lisa Germano(!), Naim Amor(?) and Nancy Sinatra(!)(indie?).

Having conquered the all-important “street cafe” scene, Calexico went on to conquer NPR’s tastemakers with their multi-cultural blend of interstitial music, which meshed well with the give-and-take of various left-wing pundits. While definitely critical successes in the US, their popularity grows exponentially overseas, which would seem to indicate it is time for Calexico to haul their big-brimmed and sequined asses across the drink and return to the glory of being “big in Germany,” which has worked for so many “fringe” artists over the years.

3rd Place - Donnie Darko Lookalike Contest

3rd Place - Donnie Darko Lookalike Contest

Bright Eyes
The brainchild of indie wünderkind Conor Oberst (whose parents mysteriously shorted him an “n”), Bright Eyes burst out of the Omaha scene much the way that anyone bursts out of Omaha: by stumbling badly right out of the gates.

Critics responded to his debut album (the redundantly titled A Collection of Songs Written, Recorded and then Burned onto Round “Compact Discs” and Perhaps Recorded to the Occasional Cassette to be Listened to By Listeners with Stereos and Walkmans and Whatnot, Maybe in Their Car, But This is 1998 So Possibly a Cassette: 1995-1997) with everything from abuse (allmusic.com: “…unintelligible babblings of a child”) to confusion (Omaha Star: “Supposedly music, but I’ll take the remaining members of Journey at the State Fair any day of the week, even without their original singer…”).

Two years down the road Bright Eyes release Fever and Mirrors which is heralded by Pitchfork as “an instant classic, which nobody but us have ever heard of.” Metacritic hails them as “Pending. Still waiting on 5 reviews.” Their “improved” sound is chalked up to a more mature sound due to the addition of instruments such as flute, accordion, clavichord, sousaphone and Ouija board.

Pretension now safely on board and loaded with multi-instrumentalists, Bright Eyes break into the mainstream as a much-heralded “new” artist, despite being in existence for nearly seven years (sort of like adopting a “starter” child). With this celebrated status (and sudden change in tense two paragraphs ago), Oberst and co. begin to reap the perkiest fruit of their labor. Called upon to provide support for a Springsteen tour, Bright Eyes were afforded the opportunity to play to a much larger indifferent crowd when not carrying luggage for the “Boss.”

Soldiering on, periodically releasing an EP or actual album every six weeks or so, Bright Eyes continued to refine their twin powers: bedroom electronica (as displayed on Digital Stems and Seeds on an Electric Ladyland Dust Jacket) and their slightly creepier bedroom acoustical work, which features Oberst sitting on the edge of your bed for hours at a time, alternating between chugging PBR, strumming softly on his guitar and quietly watching you sleep.

Hull's mobsters ranged from "pasty" to "nerdy."

Hull's mobsters ranged from "pasty" to "nerdy."

Housemartins
Straight outta Hull, the Housemartins were an English pop group with an infectious sound and a cheery outlook that combined Christianity with Karl Marx, thus ensuring complete rejection by both of their target audiences.

Formed by Paul Heaton and Stan Cullimore who originally performed as a busking duo, (Ed. – Oh. My. God.) the two friends went on to add a few more members in an effort to attract an audience that preferred its musical ambushes came from the hi-fi rather than Tube platforms or duck ponds. Their most notable addition was superstar DJ Fatboy Slim, who agreed to put down the records and cocaine and play some unobtrusive bass under his given name, Beats Int’l Mighy Dub Katz Pizzaman Freakpower Quentin Cook the BPA Norman Cook.

Having ensured their place in history with the addition of their most famous member (added bonus: free remixes for life!), the Housemartins released their biggest (and only) single to date: Happy Hour. The single shot to the top of the charts, aided by a popular claymation promo video featuring the British counterpart to the California Raisins: the Hull Prunes, who spent the entirety of the video doing very British things like “trainspotting” and “bitching about the dole.”

Their next single, Caravan of Love, enjoyed exactly one week at the number 1 spot before being shoved rudely aside by Jackie Wilson’s Reet Petite, which shows exactly what is both very right and very wrong with British musical tastes.

The single’s a cappella styling drew the ire of their biggest fans, prompting shouts of “Judas” during their completely unplugged gig at the Newport Folk Festival. Heaton was in turn prompted to stop the show and say, “Oh, so you’ve heard of him? Let me just take a moment of your time to give you the good news about Jesus H. Marx, who will free us from the twin oppressions of capitalism and rational thought. I would also like to address our growing trade deficit.”

The band split in 1988 but the members have remained friendly, often joining each other’s bowling/busking teams and dropping by while on holiday.

Axl often announced band firings through cleverly trimmed photos.

Axl often announced band firings through cleverly trimmed photos.

Guns N Roses
Formed by the common-law marriage of W. Axl Rose (born W. Oral Sex) and Tracii Guns (born Tracy Gunns), Guns N Roses tore apart the hard rock scene with their hard-charging riffs and dangerous behavior, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the Rolling Stones still had their original guitarists and hips.

Perhaps one of the most important bands of ever (and your can drop “perhaps” if you throw “self” in front of “important”), GNR hit the fucking ground running with their debut full-length Appetite for Destruction. While the album itself was a hard-rock revelation, the album cover itself was much more memorable.

The original controversial cover, which featured the band members hanging around a stream in some sharp suits was met with complaints from record store owners, who refused to stock the “weak-ass nature bullshit” in the appropriate “Hard Rock” section.

After a hasty redesign, GNR presented Plan B, an album cover featuring them holding various doll parts whilst standing around in a butcher’s shoppe. Again resistance from record shop (or shoppe) owners was high, leading to threats of “brown bagging” the album due to its general “WTF-ness.” Various iterations were tried and rejected (naked prepubescent girl playing with a model, Slash surrounded by naked electric chicks, a naked 15-year-old hanging out at the park, someone smelling a glove, a robot rapist) before settling on the cover we all ended up with: a heavily stylized depiction of the band as a tattoo template.

As Appetite for Destruction took off, GNR toured tirelessly, inciting riots, destroying hotel rooms and, very occasionally, playing an entire set without storming off. As the band headed back into the studio for their followup, Axl decided GNR needed a new look. He issued a kilt to himself, a top hat to Slash and whiskey bottles and pink slips to the rest of the band. (Thus began the revolving door of GNR musicians, each of which Rose would herald as the band’s savior, until finally refining the group down to its only essential member: W. Axl Rose.)

In 1991, GNR released Use Your Illusion I and II, which was described as “bloated” (as double albums often are) and “mercenary” (as double albums packaged and sold as two distinct single albums often are). Both albums were chart toppers and featured several outstanding tracks, none of which I can think of off the top of my head other than November Rain, which clocked in a 8 hours and 56 seconds, often being the only video MTV had time to play between The Real World, Real World retrospectives and The Grind.

A rare shot from Rose's ill-fated foray into "faith healing."

A rare shot from Rose's ill-fated foray into "faith healing."

After the release of the now-prerequisite covers album The Spaghetti Incident?, which featured a rundown of their purported influences, none of which they sounded like, W. Axl Rose headed back into the studio with the remaining band member(s) for the next 15 years.

Although Rose appeared sporadically to announce that the album was “just around the corner” and “fucking awesome,” the LP was not released until November of 2008. Problems began when it became apparent that there were few musicians willing to work with Rose, whom the press had affectionately dubbed “an egotistical maniac.” Holing up in L.A.’s Up My Own Ass studios, Rose issued the honorable threat that he would not release any more music until there was “democracy in China.”

After a decade or so of dicking around, Chinese officials (in conjunction with the independent bottlers of Dr. Pepper) began to call his bluff, beginning with a series of trade embargoes targeted at various takeout joints and dry cleaners in the Hollywood area. As the lack of pepper steak and freshly pressed shirts began to erode Rose’s willpower, China stepped up the pressure, stating that while W. Axl Rose had a “proven track record in the music industry,” they had the “willpower of over a billion oppressed people, most of whom have been forbidden to listen to your music,” adding “not to mention a fuckload of tanks.”

To save face (and the independent bottlers of Dr. Pepper), Rose released the poorly titled Chinese Democracy to rave reviews such as “That’s hard rock, alright…” (Spin, Nov. 2008), “Sounds like Rose’s trademark vocal stylings…” (Bill’s Record Blawg, Dec. 2008) and “We’ve had this album for years…” (thepiratebay.org).

Rose announced through personal assistant Sebastian Bach that Chinese Democracy was the first in a planned trilogy, with the follow ups due to be released in 2023 (“weather permitting”) and 2038 (“…at which point I will likely be dead”).

The Pirate Bay (piratebay.org) invites you to “beat the rush” and check out these two fine albums today.

-CLT

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Fancy Plans Guide to Rock and Roll Vol. 10 – All F-ed Up Edition

September 22, 2009

Volume 10. Has it been 10 already?

Time for an anthology. If any of you have time in your lives for approximately 12,000 words containing approximately 0 facts, please let me know. I can send you the appropriate links via horseless carriage. My manservant Riley will be pleased to dictate these to you in his unplaceable Continental accent.

Tip well. Riley has a hot temper and a driver’s license. When he says he’s about to “lay a bitch out,” you can rest assured he means it.

Without further ado, whatnot and misc. bullshit, here it ’tis: Volume 10 – All F’ed-Up Edition.

 

Faith No More: they clean up real nice...

Faith No More: they clean up real nice...

 

Faith No More
Charged by absolutely no one to draw up the funk-metal blueprint, Faith No More charged onto the scene in 1985 with the heavily rotated single We Care a Lot. After priming the pump with a track that name-checked Transformers, Garbage Pail Kids and the police departments of various major U.S. cities, a band usually has only one way to go.

Not so with Faith No More. Following a long-running rock tradition of replacing lead singers, FNM shattered expectations (and a few hotel TV sets) by getting rid of the shitty vocalists first (Chuck Mosely, Courtney Love) and bringing in the stud (Mike Patton).

Expectations duly shattered (and repair bills passed on to label execs), the new Faith No More hit the ground rapping with their huge single, Epic. The accompanying video’s live fish execution scene shook up a stagnant metal scene in ways no one could have predicted. Suddenly everyone wanted more funk in their metal, rap in their lyrics, peanut butter in their chocolate and keyboard players in their band.

Stagnant metal scene duly shook up, Mike Patton gazed upon this wreckage (that’s a Numan reference) with a mixture of contempt and bemusement. Rather than crank out Epic v.2, the band delivered Angel Dust, a roaring disfigurement of an album which left their label heads shaking their collective heads in contempt and, presumably, musement. Or bewilderment.

The band reached their peak with a nearly note-for-note cover of the Commodores’ Easy. With their metalhead crowd left to puzzle out this inscrutable move (and scurry for their dictionaries), Mike Patton served notice that he was no ordinary lead singer, perfectly comfortable with shredding your eardrums and his vocal cords or laying you down by the fire to make sweet, sweet love at you. (And I stole that one from Zap Brannigan. But as the old saying goes, “If you have to steal, make sure you tell everybody about it.”)

At this point, the Faith No More story becomes vague, another in the multi-volume set (from the Time/Life Series Diminishing Returns). Patton split from the band to pursue side projects that ranged from “unlistenable” to “potentially brain damaging.” Keyboardist Roddy Bottum went on to form the incomparable Imperial Teen. The other guys went on to do “other guy” stuff, presumably.

Lionel Richie continued to crank out regrettable product. Like Nicole.

 

Welcome to the fifth dimension. (Not pictured: The Fifth Dimension.)

Welcome to the fifth dimension. (Not pictured: The Fifth Dimension.)

 

Fifth Dimension
A group that was always “a little bit soul; a little bit hippie bullshit,” the Fifth Dimension are best known for their pioneering work done in a dimension that was two past where most bands were willing to go.

Often performing their entire tour in the fifth dimension, the band would draw huge crowds despite there being hardly anything visible on stage. Die-hard fans would claim to see brief glimpses of the band members between bright flashes of light and faint snatches of otherworldly voices. Those in the audience who were not psychotropically enhanced often claimed to have “not seen a damn thing” and that the whole “experience” was “bullshit.”

During one of their brief forays into a third dimension studio, the Fifths recorded their massive hit “Age of Aquarius,” which soundtracked a key nude scene in naked-hippie musical Hair. Hair’s producers wisely reasoned that a fair amount of nudity would be a box office draw, but theater-goers found the nudity was far less than gratuitous. In fact, because this was the Sixties and the performers were hippies, the advertised “sexy bits” were left to the imagination due to the incredible amount of hair. Said one theater-goer: “Dear God. It’s everywhere! And the smell…”

The Fifth Dimension faded into obscurity as fans flocked to bands more readily visible on stage and less likely to spin watches backwards or leave the audience members covered in ectoplasm and artifacts.

There was also the matter of the class action lawsuit filed against the band by the city of Pomona, CA. The suit alleged that the Fifth Dimension were “dicking around with forces they can’t possibly comprehend,” thus cataclysmically opening “a gateway to hell.” The court found in favor of the city as the Fifth Dimension were either unable or unwilling to attend in any sort of visible fashion. The members were ordered to pay for any damages incurred by Satan’s minions and to “cease and desist from making music and fade into obscurity.”

 

mark-e-smith

The Fall's Mark E. Smith - His voice sounds every bit as good as he looks.

 

The Fall
Anybody who knows me knows I have a weakness for Manchester natives who can’t sing for shit (hello, Happy Mondays). Mark E. Smith, he of the inimitable Mancunian drawl, has combined with various iterations of his band to produce over 1,200 albums. This includes nearly 4,500 singles, 300 live albums and 150 or so one-offs, released on anything from 45’s, cassette-only and wax cylinders. If you are new to the band, you can’t go wrong starting out with any of over 200 greatest-hits compilations.

As you make your way through the treacherous back catalog that rivals the legendary vaults of Prince or the drunken productivity of Guided by Voices, there is also the shifting band dynamic to consider. Various styles and influences will crop up as the band continually experiments with their sound.

A lot of the shift also comes from Mark E. Smith’s on-again, off-again relationship with his sometimes wife and guitarist, Brix Smith. This can also be said about his relationship with the rest of the band, although probably with a lot less sexual contact. Hence, a lot of comparison just within the Brix and non-Brix albums.

Which brings us to the pinnacle of their career: a cover of disco favorite Lost in Music by Sister Sledge, proving yet again (see above) that great bands are at their best when they cover classic pop without irony.

Of course, much like above (see also: Faith No More), this set a precedent that was followed by shitty bands whose careers never really had a pinnacle (Limp Bizkit – Behind Blue Eyes [the Who]; Alien Ant Farm – Smooth Criminal[Michael Jackson]; the Ataris – Boys of Summer [Don Fucking Henley])

One final note: Mark E. Smith’s singing can be an acquired taste and should actually be prefaced with quote/enquote. It’s not so much singing as it is a rambling drawl with extra ending syllables. But before you start talking shit about lack of vocal talent, ask yourself this: who would you rather listen to for an extended period of time: Bob Dylan or Celine Dion?

The prosecution rests.

 

It was the early '80s. Mirrors and restraint hadn't been invented yet. Or color, apparently.

It was the early '80s. Mirrors and restraint hadn't been invented yet. Or color, apparently.

 

A Flock of Seagulls
The quintessential ’80s band, A Flock of Seagulls were truly a snapshot of their place and time, so tied to the brief “new” wave of music that they spent several weeks in the Top 40 Wishing (They Had Taken A Better Photograph). Epitomized by their stupid hairdos and overuse of parentheses, AFoS were charter members of the Haircut 100, a group of New Romantic groups whose cross-country runs were immortalized in AFoS’ greatest hit, I Ran (a 10K for Charity).

As music progressed, bringing with it hair metal and ridiculous hairdos of a different kind, AFoS remained in a creative holding pattern, doomed (as with so many other bands) to fade into obscurity, only to be harshly marginalized by smartass “blogger personalities” such as myself.

Godspeed, Seagulls. And take these fucking things with you: ( )

-CLT

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Fancy Plans Guide to Rock and Roll

September 19, 2009

Rivers Cuomo finally trims the band down to just the "important" members.

Rivers Cuomo finally trims the band down to just the "important" members.

[With Volume 10 of the Fancy Plans Guide to Rock and Roll headed your way early next week, I thought it might be fun and self-satisfying to re-up the original. It was never intended to be a series, but people started making requests and, oddly enough, I actually started fulfilling them. I’m still way behind on the requests, but as Abe Vigoda is fond of saying, “I ain’t dead yet.” Enjoy. (Originally published on May 13th, 2009.)]

Here at Fancy Plans… we are often asked the question, “What is rock?” We reply, “Well, what are you listening to now?” The answer comes back, “It sounds like rock.” And our answer comes back, “It sounds like suck!”

Secure in our superiority, we retire to the bar, down several shots, head home alone and cry ourselves to sleep. Usually to Sigur Ros or some other depressing Nordic band. Unless we feel like murdering our friends and burning down a church. Then it’s Dimmu Borgir.

But enough about us. It’s time for some Rock and Roll 101. Remember, we do take requests. Just put them in the comment box.

Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch
Fronted by an underwear ad, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch succeeded in putting the “fun” back in “funky.” Tragically, they completely failed to put the “funk” back in “funky,” creating a sound that can only be described as “funy,” a made-up word that means nothing but sums up the group perfectly. Marky Mark went on to be a successful actor dues to his enormous prosthetic penis.

New Kids on the Block
Much like other “new” bands (Riders of the Purple Sage, Christy Minstrels, Order), there’s nothing remotely new about these kids. They’re still the same old kids who’ve annoyed you ever since they were old enough to leave their yards.

Remember, a few Christmases ago, when they showed up on your doorstep, bursting with four-part harmonies and well-rehearsed choreography? And you said, “Would you youngsters like some hot cocoa?” and while they were nodding enthusiastically, you hurled the cocoa into their freshly scrubbed faces? Ho ho ho!

Well, if you do remember would you care to indicate that by marking an “x” in this box and signing the bottom of this statement?

The Alan Parsons Project
Supplies:
– 16 Popsicle Sticks
– 4 Pipe Cleaners
– Intergalactic Spaceship (ask your parents for permission)
– Dry Macaroni Noodles
– Magic Markers
– Psychedelics (ask your older brother)

The Strokes
Grandpa’s favorite band, or at least he thinks so now, when he isn’t catching strange scents or ordering “strangers” like you out of his house. He used to tell you war stories but all he does now is argue with the television, occasionally stopping to yell, “Listen to me, you motherfucking beanpole. I don’t know who you are or where you got that haircut, but get the fuck out of my house! Your skinny tie reeks of purple.”

Awwww. Don't you just want to eat him up?

Awwww. Don't you just want to eat him up?

Eminem
As popular as his namesake and twice as sweet. Cute-as-a-button blonde candy coating with a dark chocolate core of blustering misogyny. Melts in your mouth, not your hands, ladies.

Pet Shop Boys
PETA’s least favorite band. Chock full of glittery synths, intelligent lyrics and a wardrobe to die for. If the Boys ever covered Venus in Furs covered in fur, several hundred angry protesters would show up and try to reconcile their hatred of furs with their respect for gay celebs and little red ribbons. Heads would explode.

Or perhaps, PETA will again take the low road and pimp out some objects (excuse me, models) to stand around nakedly protesting, thus ensuring press coverage both legitimate (AP) and bastardized (hello, Internet!). Possibly NSFW.

Led Zeppelin
Early pioneer of the heavy metal spirit, Led Zeppelin is perhaps best known for their song We Fucked a Groupie with a Shark. Amongst their other achievements: exposing youngsters to Satanism, Whitesnake, and founding member Peter Jackson’s movie career, which finally allowed the band’s Tolkien love to blossom fully.

the Sex Pistols
Formed by Malcolm McLaren as yet another London sex shop, the Sex Pistols inadvertently became a band. They were briefly popular and reached their pinnacle when they serenaded Queen Elizabeth on her 103rd birthday. Frank Sinatra nodded his approval.

Tragedy would befall the band as bassist Sid Vicious fell in with the wrong crowd and began murdering his girlfriends. Fortunately, his lack of personal hygiene and crippling heroin addiction stopped him at one, a Miss Chloe Webb. Malcolm McLaren went back to running both sex shops and his mouth, pausing briefly to photograph naked 15-year olds.

Carter, the Unstoppable Sex Machine
Current favorites in the mostly British arch-off, along with Certified Balsa artist Fatima Mansions and undeniably popular Blur. As Blur has dropped their class warfare angle to concentrate on world music, animated side projects and screwing Justine Frischmann, this leaves Carter USM (Shopper’s Paradise, Sealed with a Glasgow Kiss) in a neck-and-neck race with underdog Fatima Mansions (Only Losers Take the Bus, Blues for Ceausescu).

A dark horse candidate has appeared out of the US, though. It’s Negativland and their piss-take of U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. And here come the lawyers! Stay tuned!

(Or not, with the exception of Blur, none of these bands are still producing music.)

Lemmy, under the influence of nearly goddamned everything, is suddenly entrance by his "massive" hands.

Lemmy, under the influence of nearly goddamned everything, is suddenly entranced by his "massive" hands.

Motorhead
Fronted by Quentin “Lemmy” Kilmister, former contributor to space rock pioneers, Hawkwind. Lemmy (Quentin to his mum) wished to head towards a more straightforward metal sound while founding member, Jethro Tull, was more than happy to prance around playing his flute.

Lemmy fought long and hard for his release from the label, finally forcing their hand with his refusal to comply with their sideburn policy.

KISS
The founding members of KISS met at a Kabuki class at an upstate New York Montessori school. They soon took their love of rock and roll and stage makeup to the next level, forming KISS in 1972. The original lineup included Gene Simmons (born Chaim Witz), Ace Frehley (Alfred Carlson Entemann), Peter Criss (Christopher Peter Rasmussenjinsenn) and Vinnie Vincent (Vincent Vincent, III Esq.)

Fortune and fame came quickly. Gene Simmon’s tongue and little black book became the stuff of legends (apparently, he is quite the master storyteller and writes down his dreams for later interpretation). In 1996, Gene Simmons was given an honorary doctorate from the University of Chicago, thus temporarily making him “Dr. Love,” until his title was bestowed on Dr. Drew.

Alice Cooper
During his formative years as a member of the high school tennis team, Alice Cooper (born Vincent Damon Furnier) suffered a debilitating case of tennis-lesbianism. While recuperating (or should I say, “recooperating”), Vincent took a long trip to Sweden and returned as Alice Cooper, rock star. (I guess I won’t say that. It’s ridiculous.)

Much like your former uncle, Aunt Patricia, whose house you never get to visit anymore. Which is too bad because s/he was giving you free tennis lessons. Oh, well. We all wish her the best as she continues to climb the levelled playing field.

Cynthia Plastercaster
Not specifically a rock star, although she does know a great many of them and could probably pick them out of a crowded, darkened, half-dressed room. Ironically, Cynthia’s start can be explained by a malaprop caused by a gardening accident suffered at an early age.

The story is that Cynthia approached Jimi Hendrix backstage and asked to be “a fanclub of his member.” Jimi was delighted by this play on words and gave her some suggestions as to what she could do with Jimi’s jimmy.

Another anecdote adds to her considerable legend. Apparently, a young George Lucas received a backstage pass to a New Christy Minstrels show. While touring behind the scenes, George happened across Cynthia, working from her normal plaster-castering position. As a 31-year old virgin, Lucas was confused and thought that this was her actual height. This image, combined with her eccentric speech patterns, stuck with Lucas and was the inspiration for the character Yoda.

Please stay tuned for future installments as events warrant.

-CLT

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Fancy Plans Guide to Rock and Roll Vol. 9

August 24, 2009

In the past volumes of this guide we’ve taken some swipes at some pretty big names. “But what of the small, indie, critic’s darlings?” I hear you asking. Well, they’ll get theirs as well. It’s just that, well, if you’ve had a 30-year career of diminishing returns, it’s just so much easier to broadly swipe. Not to mention, they’re all big boys and girls (Heart, especially) and should be able to take it. And while I hate to admit to taking the easy way out, today’s lineup is probably the easiest. It does include one request, however: Steven Wonder.

Def Leppard - Britain's finest seven-armed rock monster

Def Leppard - Britain's finest seven-armed rock monster

Def Leppard
If someone asked you what the ’80s sounded like, you could grab any of their first three albums and say, “Listen to this.” A band that was always more pop than metal (and more hair than talent – zing!), Def Leppard defined an era. That era was the “MTV stands for Music TeleVision” era, the early days when MTV was still pushing music in video form, rather than relegating it to soundtracking promos, bitchy Real World infighting or rolling behind the Real World closing credits.

They power on to this day, a testament to their longevity and their fans’ unwillingness to branch out their musical tastes. They’ve earned a spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame if for no other reason than their multiple triumphs over adversity, including losing a drummer’s arm to a car crash and losing an entire guitarist to death. That, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s noticeably lax standards and elastic definition of “rock.” (No worse, really, than the Grammy committee’s definition of “metal.” Jethro Tull, indeed.)

Voted Most Likely to Be Asked to Please, for the Love of God, Put a Shirt On
Voted Most Likely to Be Asked to Please, for the Love of God, Put a Shirt On

John Denver
Speaking of elastic definitions, John Denver never strayed near “rock” or “roll” once in his career, or in the afterlife, according to our sources (Sonny Bono, the Big Bopper). As sickeningly clean-cut and wholesome as a busful of Young Republicans, Denver tore the ’70s a new wuss-hole and presaged country’s descent into bland pseudo-pop. Presumably Denver released several individual albums, but who fucking needs them, considering he released around 19 “Greatest Hits” compilations.

Unlike the edgier Pat Boone and the comparitively “gangsta” Air Supply, Denver never toed the line once, cruising a steady, easy-going center line that left people yearning for the street toughness of the Eagles or Jackson Browne. Oddly enough, he was the subject of one of the darkest tribute albums ever, as death metal’s finest took on such classics as Sunshine on My Shoulder and Sweet Surrender on the unfortunately named Things to Do with Denver When He’s Dead (Cleopatra Records). Keep your ears peeled for Morbid Angel’s take on his (also unfortunately titled) classic, Fly Away.

The secret of Dire Straits' success? Glow-in-the-dark headbands.
The secret of Dire Straits’ success? Glow-in-the-dark headbands.

Dire Straits
Speaking of bands that hitched their star to MTV (we were: just scroll up to Leppard, Def), Dire Straits were yanked out of their mopey pub-rock scene and held under the fast-flowing mainstream, when their single Money for Nothing burst onto the scene in 1985.

Propelled to multi-platinum success by a video so meta it name-checked the only channel that would play it, the Dire Straits seized this opportunity, wove it into a wicker lawn chair and collapsed into it for six long years. Having Rip van Winkled right past their sell-by date, the Dire Straits awoke to a very different world; one that had passed them by in a blur of distortion and flannel.

Now stuck in the unenviable classification of “boomer rock,” the Dire Straits are doomed to walk the earth, playing mid-sized arenas and large corporate conventions along with other hellish acts like Eric Clapton, Phil Collins and Steve Winwood.

Album cover for Wonder's relatively unknown classic "Stevie Wonder Sings the Rick James Songbook"
Album cover for Wonder’s relatively unknown classic “Stevie Wonder Sings the Rick James Songbook”

Stevie Wonder
A brilliant child prodigy (perhaps not on par with Mozart, but at least up there with Bill Withers or Huey “Piano” Smith), Stevie Wonder went on to usher in a new era of R&B in the ’70s. This, of course, was followed by another ushering in the late-’90s by, among other artists, Usher. Known for his well-crafted hooks, infectious swaying and not being able to see, Wonder is a shoo-in for the African-American Blind Piano-Playing R&B Singer Hall of Fame, joining charter member Ray Charles and Jamie Foxx, who portrayed Ray Charles in the 2004 film, Ray.

Wonder lost his sight at an early age during a tragic “Wonder Twin Powers” accident with brother Davie. Due to a disagreement in terms that neither was aware of until after the word “Activate,” the resulting mixture of garbled syllables resulted in their potent twin powers being activated in the form of “Summon Baphomet,” an ancient malevolent diety (who is not a morning person, per se). The wrathful and drowsy god responded by removing Stevie’s eyesight and Davie completely. The suddenly removed-from-this-dimension twin was renamed “He Whose Name Cannot Be Spoken or Referenced To” and so we won’t for the remainder of this piece.

Stevie Wonder went on to sign with Motown Records as age 11, thanks to Baphomet, who admitted he had “overreacted” and “owed him one.” The rest is history. Wonder went on to release album after album with hit single after hit single, culminating in the peak of written music: I Just Called to Say I Love You. Understandably, no self-respecting indie record store clerk will come within 100 miles of this single, leaving you to purchase it pretty much anywhere else.

The hundreds of members of Little Feat prep for a turf war with Chicago
The hundreds of members of Little Feat prep for a turf war with Chicago

Little Feat
The story of Little Feat’s formation is a fascinating one, filled with facts, intrigue, Frank Zappa and jazz fusion. Legend has it that Lowell George was trying to form his own group, using members of Frank Zappa’s touring band. Fed up with Frank’s terrible anal jokes and endless guitar wankery, George approached Bill Payne, another Zappa band member.

Word of this dissent leaked back to Zappa, whom George overhead saying, “Trying to organize these halfwit guns-for-hire into an actual band would be no small feat.” George overheard this and took off as fast as his size 4’s would carry him.

George formed his own group and, poking fun at his diminutive shoe size, suggested they name the band “Little Feet.” His bandmates and promoter heard this as the much-more-clever “Little Feat,” and hastily cranked out thousands of posters and album covers featuring this spelling. After discovering their error, George was furious and shuffled band members in and out of the lineup for the next 30 years.

Little Feat’s blend of rock, jazz, funk, R&B and shoegaze proved popular and Lowell George soon found himself surrounded by groupies, all oohing and aahing and saying how “cute” and “adorable” he was. Because you know what they say about guys with little feet? They have big hearts. And are as cute as buttons.

-CLT

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My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies

August 8, 2009
Mr. Richards would like to point out that he is British

Mr. Richards would like to point out that he is British

Someone once said “Rock stars ain’t what they used to be.” His name is Alan and he said it much more eloquently and verbosely.

What’s even more pathetic is that these geritol fueled geezers still rock harder than today’s delicate and sensitive prefab pop stars. The cry of the musician is no longer “1, 2, 3, 4” but “Dear Diary.” They’re so busy eating tofu, saving rain forests and hanging with politicians that they’ve forgotten the number one rock star rule. You are a god, so act like one! And make sure the god you model yourself after is cruel and vain. You know, like Zeus, or the Buddha…

It’s true. The demystifying of rock and roll continues, especially in the mainstream. There are no dangerous rock stars out there. Everything is too clean and media-friendly. Your average rock star these days is no more threatening than a Hot Topic employee. When the best story we have is Amy Winehouse stumbling around the stage or Scott Stapp drunkenly harassing other celebrities, it’s time for a true revolution.

As anyone should know by now, being a rock star was never supposed to be about lifetime employment. You were supposed to live fast and hard because your career was on the burnout tipping point perpetually.

Tastes would change. You could chart with a couple of singles. Your band members would OD, quit, get married, get divorces, get back with the band, get hospitalized, go to rehab, throw shit out of hotel windows, etc.

Now it’s the RIAA and ASCAP trying to secure perpetual residuals and copyright extensions. It’s instant legacy acts and music safe enough for your parents to appreciate. It’s reality show appearances and career retrospectives. It’s vegan menus and bottled water on the tour riders.

I remember when a band coming to town meant locking up your daughters and medicine cabinets. When shows ended with fistfights in the mosh pit or riots in the parking lot.

Fall Out Boy: Suitable for ages 3 and up

Fall Out Boy: Suitable for ages 3 and up

What do we have now? Holy fuck, Fallout Boy is coming to town! Better lock up… the front door, I guess. Make sure the stove is off as well. We’ll probably be gone a good three hours. Family trip to the arena! I may cut loose and have a Heineken or two while waiting for the kids to exit.

In the worlds of Frank Booth: “Fuck that shit.”

My heroes used drugs. They fucked with the establishment. They turned the world on its ear, at least temporarily. They set fires and snorted blow of groupies’ asses. They did it up right.

Smack has been the drug of choice for fine musicians everywhere, dating back to the early days of jazz. It wouldn’t seem to be a very creative drug, what with all the passing out and vomiting, but you can’t argue with the results.

The Velvet Underground
Influenced every band that has ever came after them. If not directly, then they influenced the band that influenced this band. Hell, they even wrote a track named Heroin, which may have been a restrained 7 minutes on the album, but became an epic in concert.

Skinny Puppy
Canada’s industrial pride and joy. They used enough smack that each member spent some time in rehab. Dwayne R. Goettel’s OD was a key part of their 1993 breakup. Evidently such an inseparable aspect of their music that fans openly speculated as to the amount of “suck” a sober Nivek Ogre would bring to their next album. Skinny Puppy was an ugly band, and their drug of choice brought that out, resulting in some of the most nihilistic and apocalyptic industrial music of the last 20 years.

Pigface
It goes without saying that any supergroup containing members of Ministry, Skinny Puppy, KMFDM, the Jesus Lizard and Front 242 would be heavily influenced by their substance abuse. Their collective music was dubbed “heroin rock,” a brutal spin on the psychedelia of “acid rock.” Experimental, nasty and confrontational, Pigface gloried in their crowdsourced noise machine, releasing the beautifully artless live album, Welcome to Mexico, Asshole recorded in Tijuana.

Happy Mondays
For the most part a cheerful “baggy” dance-rock group, whose club-friendly beats and twisted lyrics epitomized the ’90s Madchester scene, Shaun Ryder and his cohorts trafficked in nearly every drug imaginable. Particularly partial to heroin (“Kentucky Fried Chicken” in the band’s internal parlance), the band made no effort to hide its nasty habit(s), with Shaun Ryder lazily threatening to “lie down beside you/fill you full of junk” in Hallelujah.

The band soon took a sizable chunk of their label’s money to record an album in Jamaica, where they discovered crack. The advance was blown through quickly and Shaun Ryder returned to the label offices, holding his own demo tapes hostage. Another injection of cash freed the master tapes and the band was back in business. Before wrapping up the sessions, Ryder stepped out for some “KFC” and never returned.

Nothing subtle about this...

Nothing subtle about this...

Spiritualized
Jason Pierce’s combination of drone, space rock and gospel is one of the cultural touchstones of British music. After the acrimonious split of Spacemen 3 (slogan: Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To), Pierce took his ideas and addictions and set about crafting some on the finest paeans to drug use ever recorded (and distributed as mini-disc pop-out “pills” in the case of Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space).

The heroin references are everywhere. From Cop Shoot Cop (there’s a hole in my arm where the money goes) to I Think I’m In Love (warm as the junk running down my spine), the references are everywhere. Pierce likes to play ambiguous in interviews, leaving the lyrics open to “translation.” But he named his daughter “Poppy” for chrissakes.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. There are others, some of which are less notable, in my opinion.

Red Hot Chili Peppers
Under the Bridge finally made Kiedis’ shirtless torso and “heavy feelings” relevant. Flea got shot in the foot during a bit part in Point Break. They had their moment and are shifting into legacy mode. I think they lack the last bit of push they’ll need to be remembered any more fondly than their contemporaries (RuPaul, Right Said Fred) 30 years down the road.

Smashing Pumpkins
Touring keyboardist Jonathon Melvoin and drug buddy Jimmy Chamberlin both OD in a hotel room. Chamberlin lives but leaves the band. Somehow I get the mental image of Billy Corgan attending to Melvoin funeral just to make sure everybody knew how much he disapproved of the drug use.

That’s the drugs. The bad behavior is gone as well. What we get now is faux “rock star” moments at the MTV VMAs and red carpet posturing. With the exception of the thug life intertwined in hip hop, everyone is out there pretending to live like a badass but most likely spends nights at home writing in their diary, updating their LiveJournal and smoking cloves with the windows open.

It used to be the shit to be a rock star. Ego on, brain off. Strut, fuck, get paid. Look ridiculously good while 10% sober and 90% hungover.

Early days of the Black Crowes:
Chris Robinson is in a convenience store. A fan recognized him and says something like, “OMG! Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes!” Her friend says, “Who?” Chris Robinson says, “Maybe if you’d stop stuffing twinkies into your face you might learn a little something.” Apocryphal? Maybe. Reported as fact in a Spin interview. If it’s not true, it should be.

Jane’s Addiction:
Perry Farrell says he got head from some guy just to “see what it felt like.” Perry figures since it’s a guy it should be good. After all, men should know. But the guy went at it “like eating corn of the cob.” Rock star living? A solid yes. Let’s hear Chris Carrabba tell a story like that.

Pulp:
Jarvis Cocker interrupts Michael Jackson’s Christ-like posing and child wrangling during a performance at the Brit Awards. Cocker waves his bottom in Jackson’s general direction. Assault charges are filed and dropped. Melody Maker suggests instant knighthood. Always standing up for what you believe in, no matter how inappropriate? Hell. Yes.

Rolling Stones:
The ultimate legacy act, now entertaining millions of parents and grandparents every year, used to have the swagger. They used to frighten people. Ed Sullivan makes them change their lyrics. For the love of god, their haircuts used to be more upsetting. How about this choice lyric (from Stray Cat Blues): “I can see that you’re fifteen years old/But I don’t want your ID.” Statutory rape, ladies and gentleman. That’s how the Stones Roll.

Voted most misleading title of 1984

Voted most misleading title of 1984

The Cure:
A legacy act in their own right. Robert Smith earns the derisive nicknames of “Mad Bob” and “Fat Bob” during the Pornography recording. Loaded to the gills with every drug imaginable, the Cure (mainly Smith as usual) release a nightmarish album awash in suicidal lyrics and tape manipulations. Smith also briefly splits the band and cites label pressure, although I doubt they indicated that he should do more drugs and be more weird. “It doesn’t matter if we all die,” indeed.

Case two: Shiver and Shake, from 1987’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me. Robert Smith invites the object of his hatred (band member Lol Tolhurst) into the studio for a private rendition of this song. Smith makes him stand front and center while he belts out the pointed lyrics:

You’re a waste of time
You’re a babbling face
You’re three sick holes that run like sores
You’re a fucking waste…

Rock star 1, former rock star 0.

So what happened? Who can we pin the blame on? Can “society” take one more for the team? Is it the homogenization of radio that began at the tail end of grunge? Is it just something cyclical?

It used to be when a band like Metallica went on tour, they left behind a wake of destroyed venues, massive bar tabs and paternity suits. Now they travel with a full orchestra and a sweater-clad therapist. I would assume they stay up late into the night, talking things out and carefully itemizing their tax deductions.

I can only assume that music has “matured,” pop fluffery notwithstanding. We’ve got adolescence on life support. Rock and roll operating under a living will. Take it back. Support those who know it’s just for today. Rock and roll is dead. Let’s make the wake a blast.

-CLT