Category Archives: I Read The News Today Oh Boy

Will Axl Put the “A” in AC/DC?

From the files of “Too Strange For Fiction” comes the rumor that W. Axl Rose, your friend and mine, is going to step-in as lead singer and finish AC/DC’s current tour. Excuse me, what? Seriously, this is without a doubt the weirdest story I can personally recall involving modern rock music. But let’s take a step back to see just how we got to this (really freaking weird) place.

The former-current lead singer, Brian Johnson, announced on March 7th that he would be unable to finish the last 10 dates of the band’s tour. The reason? His doctor told him that continuing to perform would cost him his hearing. Let that sink in for a moment. Brian Johnson no doubt has access to the best healthcare available to human-kind (dude is in one of the biggest rock bands in history). I’m sure there was much “are you sure?” and second-opinioning made before such a lucrative tour was essentially placed on pause. When this story first broke, I thought “damn that sucks, but that’s the price you pay for being in a rock band.” Then it came out that Johnson lost his hearing as a result of driving race cars. Could there be anything crazier than losing your hearing from race car driving? Not being in one of the biggest, hardest rocking bands of all time…no driving a really loud car did his ears in.

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Like most people (I think) yours truly thought that this was finally the end of AC/DC. I remember thinking “Damn, first they lose Malcolm Young to dementia…then kick Phil Rudd out for going bananas/plotting murder…losing their lead singer is the end of this band.” Of course, I should have known better. AC/DC is the band that deified the death of their original (and best) lead singer Bon Scott. A true hellraiser, Scott was AC/DC and yet…after his death in 1980 after basically drinking himself into a stupor. Brian Johnson joined the band, and AC/DC released BACK IN BLACK. You know, the band’s most popular album, the one that even non-fans know entirely by heart. Besides being such a huge smash and a cultural milestone, BACK IN BLACK proved that it was possible for a band to not only move on after the loss of a frontman, said band could thrive. So why wouldn’t guitarist Angus Young want the show to go on and for AC/DC to get a new lead singer?

But this is where the story starts getting…strange. On March 15th comedian Jim Breuer (yes, the stoner-ish dude from SNL) stated that his friend Brian Johnson hadn’t quit the band for health reasons: he was kicked out. Breuer claimed that Johnson was planning on defying his doctor’s orders and finishing the tour. Before he had a chance to work out plans with the band, Breuer claimed Johnson was kicked out of the band.

Brian Johnson is 8 years older than Angus, whom Breuer claims wants to continue the band “for at least another 10 years.” So a much younger lead singer would certainly help AC/DC to solider on and make that sweet, sweet touring money. But who would be cast into the role of frontman? Speculation swirled online, with several people throwing their names into the hat for consideration. My favorite of these was Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist the lead singer from The Hives (whom apparently toured with AC/DC in the past as an opening act). Another interesting person in the running (maybe?) is the Marc Storace, the lead singer of Krokus. This choice seems more likely, as he was asked to audition for AC/DC to replace Bon Scott back in the 80’s, which he famously turned down.

I’ve been trying to figure out where the rumors of Axl Rose joining AC/DC originated from, and it’s a bit tricky. Apparently, both Rose and AC/DC where in Atlanta, Georgia (of all places) at the same time…and this geographical proximity launched the rumor. At least, I thought it was just a rumor. Then late this week, Malcolm Young’s son posted twice on social media that Rose was going to take over singing duties for the band. These posts were quickly pulled down, adding further fuel the the fire that this was serious and that there are negotiations happening right now for Rose to front the band.

Would Axl be a good choice for AC/DC? From a financial and marketing perspective I would say: hell yes. Both AC/DC and Axl could use the bump in promotion. AC/DC are as popular as ever, but having the lead singer from another legendary rock band would do wonders for their bottom line. Axl Rose also stands to reap the benefit$ as well. With the Guns N’ Roses reunion looming on the horizon, anything that Axl can do to increase his visibility and prove that he’s still a great frontman will only help put asses in seats and make him money. A Guns N’ Roses reunion is a certain money maker, but promotion costs money but joining AC/DC would be one helluva marketing campaign. And it wouldn’t cost Rose anything. Hell, if this all turns out to be an elaborate hoax, the reason neither side is coming out and squashing it is no doubt due to the tremendous interest this story has caused.

But that’s not really the question is it? Would Axl be a good fit for AC/DC in a musical sense? No, as much as I love Axl, I don’t think he’s the right guy to sing AC/DC’s songs. He’s not gruff and bluecollar enough to pull that off. Oh sure, one or two songs would be cool, but I can’t imagine he’d be able to pull of an entire setlist of songs from the band in any sort of believable way. And are they going to toss in a GNR song or two? I think that people would expect that and I don’t see Angus wanting to play any of those songs.

I feel really grateful that I had the chance to see AC/DC on the BLACK ICE tour in 2008. I’m also really grateful that I run an Axl Rose-themed blog in a year where we’re going to see a GNR reunion and a possible Rose-fronted AC/DC. Can you imagine what this is going to do to my page views?

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RIP David Bowie

I’m sitting at my dining room table on the Monday after the David Bowie has died and I’m trying to figure out what to write. “Heroes” is quietly seeping out of the wireless hi-fi I use to fill my house with music, and it feels both absolutely perfect and totally wrong. I think the problem is, like many people (I think), it wasn’t until he died that I gave David Bowie his proper due.

David Bowie was a rock star. David Bowie was a poet. David Bowie was an artist. David Bowie was an actor. David Bowie was a style icon. David Bowie was weird in a way that wasn’t always cool or accepted (at least initially) but he was always true to himself. When I think about all the ways he impacted me both as a rock fan and as a human being I find myself really amazed.

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1976: David Bowie poses for an RCA publicity shot in 1976. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

I laugh whenever someone says “that’s freaky” because I think about the Flight of the Conchords bit where “Bowie’s in Space.” My wife and I have a private joke about her driving related to the song “Moonage Daydream.” He played Tesla in my favorite Christopher Nolan movie. How can David Bowie be so many things? Because above all else, David Bowie was a true artist who managed to find a way to stay in the mainstream and on the outer edges of culture.

The first time I heard David Bowie and knew that it was David Bowie was when I got into Queen and heard his (amazing) duet with Freddie Mercury “Under Pressure.” That he steals the show out from under one of rock’s most charismatic frontmen should be all anyone should ever need when it comes to Bowie’s rock credibility. But then there were the albums, the width and breadth of which I have only just begun to fully examine. Would you believe that I only last month sat down and listened to DIAMOND DOGS? That’s a fucking brilliant album. David Bowie has at minimum six records most rock fans consider essential.

I wrote a review of ALADDIN SANE a few years ago and to this day it’s probably my favorite Bowie album…however in recent years I’ve started to reconsider HUNKY DORY. And then there’s ZIGGY STARDUST to re-evaluate and reconsider. The man’s catalogue is so expansive, I could spend the next few years just exploring his music. And I probably will. Last week, on his 69th birthday, David Bowie released his final album BLACKSTAR. I’ve only heard the title track, and even though it’s really freaky-man (ha!) I feel like I owe it to Bowie now that he’s gone to dive fully into his last album. Weird space jazz? Just another page in the book of Bowie.

Goodbye, David Bowie.

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Lemmy is dead and GnR Lives?

It’s been a crazy week in the world of rock and more than one person has asked me if/when I was going to write a post. I wish I had a good excuse for posting so infrequently, but I don’t really have one. I’m just a lazy bastard. But there were two really big news items this week, so here I am.

First, the legendary lead singer of Motorhead, Lemmy Kilmister, died this week. I wasn’t surprised by this as Motorhead had cancelled a couple of tour dates earlier this year due to Lemmy not feeling well. Like most Motorhead fans, when I heard the news I assumed Lemmy had succumbed to his addictions. Besides being a first rate hellraiser, Lemmy was what can only be described as a “power drinker.” The fact that the dude made it to 70 is really a miracle, if you ask me. When I learned it was cancer and not excess that claimed Lemmy, I was genuinely shocked. Now, did Lemmy’s boozing ways contribute to or even cause his cancer? Perhaps, but the fact remains he didn’t die of liver failure which was what I was expecting.

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Rest In Power, Lemmy.

I saw Motorhead once in the middle 2000’s in St. Louis. They played a killer show with Valient Thorr that to this day ranks in my top 10 concerts. Lemmy’s voice was gravelly and unmistakable; there was never any mistaking him for someone else. I’m not the biggest metal-head, but the metal bands I do like tend to have vocalists that sound unique. Lemmy sure was unique. He also looked like a rock ‘n roll warthog from hell. One of my favorite Lemmy memories was his cameo in 1990’s comedy AIRHEADS where he proclaims that he was “editor of the school magazine.”

His brief cameo is a fun moment made extra-meta because earlier in the movie Lemmy is mentioned by name in a pretty funny exchange with Harold Ramis:

I’ll also never forget the time in 2002 when it was reported that Lemmy was considering having his famous facial warts removed in order to sell them online. I’m not even sure how true that rumor was, but I distinctly remember it being in the news. Anyway, Motorhead is truly an excellent band and Lemmy was one of the last remaining metal gods, he will be missed.

Also this week, it was announced that the rumors were true: the original line-up of Guns N’ Roses were reuniting next year.  Although the only gig that’s been confirmed is a headlining gig at this year’s Coachella Festival in April, the word on the (proverbial) street is that GnR will be also be launching a massive 25 date stadium tour in 2016. This is a huge deal because as we all know, GnR has been steadily touring for the past 20 years but with only Axl Rose as the sole original member of the band.

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Coming to a town near you? 

Does it excite me that Axl and Slash have buried the hatchet and are going to tour? Of course it does! Now the big question: will I be interested in going to see the band play live? I saw Slash earlier this year open for Aerosmith and it was kinda…sad. Slash was perfectly fine, but it was obvious that he was yearning to return to the glory of Guns N’ Roses. The lead singer he’d recruited for his band was an obvious Axl-clone. And while it was an audience who’d shown up to see Steven Tyler and Company, the only reactions the band really got was from the GnR songs they played.

I liken a reunited Guns N’ Roses to the most recent STAR WARS movie. People are only excited about this because of the nostalgic feelings it creates inside them. Nobody really wants to see an older, bloated, graying rock band get up on stage and embarrass themselves. Well, maybe some people do, but I don’t. A reunited GnR would be a time warp to an earlier era in all GnR fans lives. An era that should probably be left in the past, if we were all being honest. I’m sure Slash and Axl could whip themselves into fine-ish form but the real question everyone should be asking is: to what end? Will this be a greatest hits cash-grab-mega-tour? I’d rather they get together and write new music and release an album than just travel across the country using Pro-Tools to mask the ravages of time and sell a couple thousand T-shirts. But that’s just me.

There a many reason I’m not going to Coachella–I’m about to be a father for the first time being just one of them–but I’d consider seeing them on tour if they came to my town. And the tickets were reasonable. And that’s the rub with reunions like this, isn’t it? These tickets are going to be insanely expensive so many long time fans are probably going to be shut out (another reason I’d prefer we just get another album).

Everyone seems to be lusting for the past everywhere I look (again, STAR WARS) and this GnR reunion just seems like another example of that trend. I’m really torn between stoked to potentially have the chance to see Guns N’ Roses live and a little disgusted that the only concerts people get excited about anymore are these Dinosaurs of Rock Reunion Showz. Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% a classic rock fan, but I wish there was a new band grabbing headlines (and dollars) like a reformed GnR.

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RIP Scott Weiland

I’ve been trying to decide what, if anything, I would write regarding the passing of Scott Weiland. When the news broke that Weiland had died on December 3rd my first thought was “of course he did.” As harsh as it may sound, I’d felt that Weiland had been living on borrowed time. While 48 years is far too young for anyone, part of me is pretty amazed that the hard-living Stone Temple Pilots frontman lived as long as he did. The guy was convicted of buying crack cocaine and once lived next door to Courtney Love–his premature demise was all but ordained.

I’m not going to bullshit you: STP was not a band that impacted my life very much. I think Stone Temple Pilots put out a few good albums and had/have a few really awesome songs, but I’d be hard pressed to name you 5 or more STP songs. I did really enjoy Velvet Revolver, a band he led along with former GNR guitarist Slash. As I write this, that band’s first album is playing in the background, and I’m struck by how good LIBERTAD still sounds eight years later. I think it’s a shame that the band didn’t stay together…but part of the reason Velvet Revolver folded was because Weiland was erratic and ended up quitting.

Drugs, money, and ego can really do a number on people…sadly Weiland’s demons got the better of him. Was Weiland Kurt Cobain? Hardly, but he does leave a helluva a legacy both with STP and Velvet Revolver. Even though I wasn’t his #1 fan, I’m sorry to see his talent snuffed out because an old ass Scott Weiland would have been really interesting. In honor of Weiland, I’m gonna re-listen to Velvet Revolver’s twin albums and maybe put on Stone Temple Pilots PURPLE for good measure.

Weiland’s family is insisting that people not “glorify” his death, so I won’t do that. Scott Weiland was a talented musician who succumbed to his addictions (as I write this, there is still no official cause of death, but trust me: the dude would still be here were it not for drugs). If you know someone who’s facing a similar battle confront them and tell them you’ll do whatever you can to support them.

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The Music Streaming Gods Giveth and Taketh Away…

Music streaming has been in the headlines this week in a big, big way. I’m sure you’re all aware that Apple threw their proverbial hat into the music streaming business this week with the launch of their new Apple Music service. Everything that I’ve heard about this service sounds a bit underwhelming. I’ve been with Spotify for so long now that Apple really needed something speculator to get my business. And despite what many pre-teens might think, Taylor Swift isn’t that spectacular thing. I get that Swift is the biggest thing in music right now (or whatever) and that she is one of the few acts still selling records, but her exclusivity on Apple’s Music service isn’t what I needed to sway me into changing.

I’m an Apple fan, but I don’t like how restrictive they are when it comes to the music  you buy from them. On top of that, I think the iTunes store is way overpriced, so I’m very reluctant to hop into bed with an Apple Music streaming service. I hope that Spotify can weather the storm and remain competitive. I’m glad that the music streaming field is widening, however I worry about splintering. The thought of many artists only being on one exclusive service is worrisome–how long will it be before fans will need several paid subscriptions just to have access to the bands they want?

I also worry about songs and/or bands vanishing overnight without notice. This has happened a few times with a couple of smaller bands that I like on Spotify, but this week there were two major cataclysms in the Spotify music library.  The Music Streaming Gods giveth and then taketh away! On Tuesday AC/DC showed up on Spotify! I love AC/DC and was luck enough to see them on their last tour a few years ago (when they were supporting BLACK ICE). Sadly, I’ve never really delved too far into their catalog–mostly because it was so hard to find electronically. I’ve been binge-listening to the older, Bon Scott-era albums that I’m not as familiar with as I should be (it’s all really great).

These minstrels will soothe my jangled nerves...

These minstrels will soothe my jangled nerves…

Of course, to maintain balance in the streaming universe, Prince decided to pull all of his music from every streaming service imaginable. This hit me much harder than you might expect. Last year, after he performed on Saturday Night Live, I fell head-over-heels in love with his latest album ART OFFICIAL AGE. Believe it or not, this was probably my most-played record from last year. It’s a big hit in my household, with even the musically fickle Mrs. Defending Axl Rose enjoying the hell out of the Purple One’s most recent album.

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I’d been toying with the idea of writing a review of ART OFFICIAL AGE for several months, but something always seemed to get in the way. I’ve purchased exactly one CD this year, The Darkness’ latest album THE LAST OF OUR KIND, but I‘m seriously considering heading down to my local record shop and picking up ART OFFICIAL AGE just because it bums me out that I no longer have access to it. Is that part of Prince’s plan? Tease us all with his music and then take it away so we all rush out to buy it? Maybe. Is he perhaps jealous of Taylor Swift, who’s decision to leave Spotify was (weirdly) a huge news-making event? I certainly hope he isn’t waiting for Apple to cut him a similar exclusive-deal. Prince has gone to war against the Internet in the past, last year he wiped all of his music from YouTube (a pretty impressive feat if you think about it). I hope these shenanigans are making Prince a shit-ton of money, because I think it may end up costing him most (all?) of his cultural relevance. By disappearing from the Internet, Prince could end up vanishing from history. Think about it, if kids today can’t watch his videos on YouTube or stream his music…does Prince exist for them? I don’t think he does.

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Reflections On BB King: The Legend Is Gone

When I was in High School I got into Blues music thanks to one caring English teacher and a bunch of 1960’s blues rockers. I was listening to Cream, Led Zeppelin, The Yardbirds, and Eric Clapton pretty heavily my senior year. Near the end of my last semester, I was assigned a research paper by my honors English teacher.  She suggested I write about the blues after she found out I was really into Clapton. This was probably the first time I ever considered writing about music, which looking back on it was pretty big moment for me.  Anyway, I went to the library and checked out a couple of dusty tomes on the history of blues music and over the course of writing that paper (which earned me an “A”) I feel in love with the blues. I’ve been hooked ever since.

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That’s how I first got into BB King. I picked up a copy of his greatest hits and by the time I had successfully digested that, his album with Eric Clapton, RIDING WITH THE KING, came out. RIDING WITH THE KING is a fantastic record and a brilliant primer for someone just getting into the blues, which was perfect for me. In a few short weeks I knew RIDING WITH THE KING top to bottom, I must have played it a hundred times.

BB King, who was pretty much always touring, was scheduled to play in Kansas City (where I was living at the time) and I knew I had to go. My dad and my sisters came with me, and it was a concert I’ll never forget. It was a drizzly evening and unfortunately the show was outside. The seats were wet but it luckily didn’t rain on us too much while we waited for the show to begin. John Haitt opened for BB King, he was promoting his album THE TIKI BAR IS OPEN, and we were all impressed with him.  My sister Amber was particularly smitten with Haitt, which looking back on it is pretty amusing since she was into bands like Hanson and The Backstreet Boys up until that point.

Man, what a great show. Thanks for the memories, BB.

Man, what a great show. Thanks for the memories, BB.

I remember BB King sitting on a wooden stool during his performance. He balanced Lucille upon his knee, like a grandfather tenderly holding his grandchild. He was old, and clearly not in the best health, but his voice was still strong and his guitar playing was still exceptional. After playing for about an hour, he took a short break then came back and played a few more songs. And then he was done. There was no encore, which I thought was strange, but not unexpected considering BB’s age.  Everything about that concert felt historic and important, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

I’d read a few weeks ago that BB King was very sick and that he was essentially broke. Initially I was upset to learn that such a respected, successfully musician had no money, but upon further reflection I realized that this cemented BB King’s place in the pantheon of great bluesmen. To die penniless is almost as important as song writing when it comes to the blues. BB King’s health had been poor since I was a child, so the fact that he lived (and played) as long as he did is kind of a miracle. I know that 89 years isn’t nearly long enough, but that’s what we got from BB King and I’m grateful.

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The topic of BB’s death came up today and someone asked me “why was that guy such a big deal?” I’m paraphrasing, but that was basically the question. I didn’t really have a very good answer at the time, mostly because I’m terrible at thinking, but after giving it some thought I think I know why BB King was so important. BB King was the most famous blues musician alive. He was an ambassador of an entire genre of music, how many other artists do you know that fit that description? BB King was a mentor to generations of artists and his influence is still felt today in the world of blues and rock music. He transcended age, race, socioeconomic status, everything. Today marks the end of an era, not just the music world but in the popular culture at large.

Rest in peace, BB King.

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Blur Is Back With “Go Out”

It’s been over 10 since the last blur album. Think about that for a moment. Ten years is a long time. I never thought the band would return from the land of dead bands–but they have. Apparently Blur recorded a whole album in Hong Kong of all places, out of sheer boredom! Titled THE MAGIC WHIP, this miraculous album comes out at the end of April. The first single, “Go Out” has been released…and it’s pretty damn good!

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“Go Out” is a fairly typical brit-pop rocker with laid on a bed of weird, distorted guitar noise. The band has also released a strange, asian cooking show-themed music video for the song. Weird? You bet. Quintessentially Blur? Of course. Check it out, and try to remember, it’s not 1995.

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I Made Jack White’s Guacamole Because…Rock ‘n Roll!!!

When I first heard “Fell In Love With A Girl” way back in 2002, I had no idea that people would still be talking about Jack White in 2015. I liked the song well enough, but I wrongly predicted that White’s career (and impact on the music industry) would be as lengthy as The White Stripes breakthrough hit. I was thoroughly puzzled by White initially. I remember seeing White creepily perform “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” on Saturday Night Live and writing The White Stripes off completely. Look, we at Defending Axl Rose can’t all be right 100% of the time. Sometimes things slip by me. And don’t forget, when The White Stripes came on the scene there was a lot of strange rumors about Meg being Jack’s wife-sister…so you can’t blame me for dismissing them.

I quickly corrected my view of The White Stripes when the band released ELEPHANT in 2003. When  Mojo magazine declared it the band’s “British” album, I quickly went out and bought it on CD and red-and-white colored vinyl. That’s right, I dropped $45 on the album before I’d even heard “Seven Nation Army.” ELEPHANT was rousing, epic rock album that blew me away and immediately made me a fan and follower of White. I still think he’s weird (sometimes a little too much for his own good), but he’s the closest thing my generation has to a true rock god.

Oh my God, do a Google image search for "Jack White Guac."

Oh my God, stop reading and go do a Google image search for “Jack White Guac.” Seriously.

I’m still heartbroken that The White Stripes are no more, if you want to know the truth. I like The Raconteurs and love The Dead Weather, but I miss those glory days of red-and-white albums. White’s solo records haven’t really done much for me, but to tell the truth I’ve never really given them much of listen. White has given me so much over the years, I really owe it to him to sit down someday and study both BLUNDERBUSS and LAZARETTO in depth before writing them completely off.

Anyway, like the rest of you, I have been breathlessly following Guacamole-Gate, the dip-themed scandal that has embroiled Jack White these past few weeks. For those of you living under a rock, here are the basics: Jack White played a concert at the University of Oklahoma earlier this month. The school’s newspaper used the Freedom of Information Act to acquire the contracts involved with the concert. These documents were published in the school paper and revealed the amount of money the school paid to have White perform, as well as White’s tour rider. While I was a bit surprised it only cost the school $80,000 to have Jack White perform, the press (small and large) have jumped on the tour rider which included a recipe for Jack’s guacamole.

Ah, tour riders. Do these things ever not make an artist look crazier than a bag of cats? The purpose of tour riders is to ensure that bands and their staff are comfortable while setting up and waiting to perform  a gig. Let’s face it: being a traveling musician is not fun and glamorous. Can you imagine sharing one bathroom with everyone in Metallica? Or splitting a meal with Wolfgang Van Halen*?  Then there’s the small army needed to setup and tear down even the most modest of stages. Tour riders ensure that these hardworking folks get all the brown M&M’s they so desperately need.

Speaking of brown M&M’s, the most famous rider in all of rock history is the Van Halen rider that specified that the band have a large dish of only the brown colored candies. This demand made the band  poster children for rock excess, but over the years Eddie Van Halen has claimed that his odd request was made out of safety! According to Eddie, the band used this request to judge how compliant venues were with all of their requests. If the brown M&M’s weren’t done right, the band reasoned, then maybe the super dangerous lighting rigs weren’t done correctly either. I hate to side with Eddie (because agreeing with him stokes his ego) but the dude has a point.

Jack White’s rider requested that the venue make a bowl of homemade guacamole and included details instructions on how to make it. These instructions are Van Halen-specific, going so far as to tell venues what sort of knife to use on the avocados (a butter knife, presumably to avoid smooshing the soft fruit). The recipe even includes instructs venues to use the avocado pits and lime juice to prevent the guacamole from browning.

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“Subject to budget and advance” naturally…

When the rider hit the interWebz, the music world was shaken to the core. So much ink was spilled over this non-story that earlier this week, Jack White issued a long, semi-rambling statement about this rider. Essentially, he was sick of being asked about the whole affair and chastised the student reports for making something out of nothing. White’s management group issued a statement saying that White and their other artists would be boycotting the University of Oklahoma because of this incident. Of course, White had nothing to do with that particular decision. He even went so far as to say that he’d forgiven the student reporters and holds no ill will towards Oklahoma.

For such a strange guy, White’s response to the so-called scandal was surprisingly down-to-earth. The only disappointing part of White’s statement, in my opinion, was the revelation that the guacamole recipe wasn’t actually Jack’s:

“Anything on the rider is for the band and the crew. This “guacamole recipe” is my hilarious tour managers inside joke with the local promoters, it’s his recipe, not mine. It’s just something to break up the boredom, seeing who can make it best. Though I wouldn’t know because I’ve never had it. I can’t even make kool aid let alone cook any real food enough to have a “recipe.” sorry, I don’t have that talent.”

Great. So first The White Stripes break up forever, and then I find out Jack White can’t even make the most basic of party dips. What’s next, Bono will never be able to play guitar again? I know I’ll never be a musical genius like Jack White, but if I realized that if I could make this guacamole then there would be one area where I’d have him beat! Thus, I decided to use the recipe to make his manager’s dip. I went to the store and acquired the ingredients necessary for this magical rock ‘n roll creation. Then I rolled up my sleeves, put on some White Stripes, and got to work.

When you follow the recipe, this what you end up with:

So how was it? Well, if you follow the directions to the letter, you end up with something less like a dip and more like avocado salad.

Sorry, Jack. That isn't how I like my guacamole.

Sorry, Jack. That isn’t how I like my guacamole.

I’ll be honest, I fully intended on following the recipe to the letter, but I couldn’t abide such hippy-dippy gauc. Also, I’m really lazy. It was so much easier to just shove everything into my food processor.So that’s what I did. The results, while not 100% Jack White approved, was still pretty stellar.

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The serrano peppers added just the right amount of heat. I love spicy foods and this dip didn’t let me down. I would like to add that if you plan on making this dip, be sure to have a hungry crew of guitar techs coming over–the recipe yielded a ton of guacamole.

Delicious!

Delicious!

 

*I bet you thought I’d gotten over making fun of Wolfgang. You thought wrong.

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(Un) Joining A Fan Club

At the end of last month I left the Guided By Voices fan group on Facebook after I realized I’m not really a fan. Oh, I love GBV and still regard them as one of my all-time favorite bands, but I’m not a “fan.” The term “fan” is short for “fanatic,” something I only came to realize on August 24th when I woke up and checked the band’s Facebook group. The night before the group had played a live-streamed concert at New Jersey’s famed Stone Pony club. I haven’t seen the footage, but everyone online was chatting about how incredibly drunk/out-of-control lead singer Robert Pollard got as the night progressed.

"How's my drinking?"

“How’s my drinking?”

Guided By Voices is a phenomenal indie-rock band that rides the bizarre line between power-pop and prog rock. They’re known for short, incredibly catchy hooks. But the band is also just as famous for their incredibly drunken live shows. I’ve seen the band four times; twice the band was so drunk it ruined the show. The first time I saw the band was the best, and that was because they drank only a handful of Miller Lites. In recent years, the band has taken to drinking from bottles of tequila and Crown Royal. It’s mostly a shtick, Pollard take a nip and then passes it to the crowd. When I last saw the band live in June, I was relieved that the band was taking it easy as far as the drinking was concerned.

Then the show in August at the Stone Pony happened. Fans on the Facebook group page were clearly divided the morning after the show: some were horrified by how drunk Pollard had gotten, while everyone else seemed to pile on those concerned people and tell them it was “none of their business.” Pollard’s wife even jumped into the fray, defending her husband’s health and state of mind. I was shocked at how angry the thread became, after all everyone in the group likes GBV’s music. I felt like all the comments of concern were valid and made in a respectful way. And yet, everyone who dared ask if Pollard should drink that much was attacked and vilified. The comments defending Pollard’s drunken behavior came from people with really old looking profile pictures, so I knew these weren’t dunder-headed frat boys. Clearly some (but not all) of these people had substance abuse issues themselves. Perhaps that was why the energy of the Stone Pony thread became so poisonous. I love GBV, but not so much that it degrades my common sense. And that was when it hit me: I’m not a fanatic.

I have worried for some time that Pollard’s drinking was due, in part, because of fan expectation. The joy of going to see a live GBV show has twisted into a sickening mix of music and watching Pollard get lit. Could we all be enabling a guy to essentially kill himself? Worse yet, were we guilty of killing the goose that laid the golden pop song? I don’t know Robert Pollard personally, so my desire for him to go on living is pretty selfish—I just want him to keep making albums. Death by booze is both a rock cliché and a terrible thing for fans to thrust upon an artist. Pollard is an adult, older than myself by several decades, so what he chooses to do to with his mind and body is up to him. I can let Bob “be Bob,” but I discovered I couldn’t take part in the online GBV fan community. I’m not a fan in the truest sense of the word—I’m not a fanatic. I’m still able to think for myself and form my own opinions. I love GBV but I can still view them objectively, both as musicians and as regular people. Robert Pollard is not an infallible pop demigod (Pop Zeus, if you will); he’s flesh and blood. I can’t make Pollard stop drinking, but I can remove my voice from the chorus of people online chanting, “Chug! Chug! Chug!”

The older I get, the less fanatical I am when it comes to musicians and authors. I respect a lot of bands, but I no longer feel the need to (angrily) defend the actions of people I’ve never met simply because I like their albums or books. I’m taking a measure, adult approach to my appreciation of all art. I judge the work by itself and I don’t judge the (wo)man who made it at all. Every online fan group/webpage I’ve frequented seems to hold only two camps: people who hold their idols far too high and people who derive pleasure from antagonizing the first group. I don’t fall into either category. I’m not in anyone’s fan club.

 

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Beatles For Sale: My Rant Against The American Reissued Beatle Albums

Last month The Beatles American albums were re-issued in a large, expensive boxset. Back in 2009, when the remastered CD’s were issued, I gladly handed over my hard-earned currency for better packaging and most importantly, higher sound quality. While no doubt an opportunity to get my money again, the remastered Beatles albums gave me something I didn’t already have: better sound.  The sound quality, especially on the first few albums was vastly superior. Rather than shitty fake stereo mixes, fans were given pure mono as God, and George Martin, had intended.

"All you need is ca$h"-The Rutles

“All you need is ca$h”-The Rutles

These American re-issues are another story altogether. As far as I’m concerned, this is a disgusting money-grab with no redemptive quality for fans. The Beatles so-called American catalog exists because of corporate greed, which is the same motivating factor behind that bastardization’s re-issue. For those of you unfamiliar with what happened to the Fab Four’s albums in America, buckle-up because it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

In 1963, after failing to break into the US, The Beatles were poised to finally conquer the Yankees. Capitol Records, the American counterpart to the band’s UK label EMI, was sitting on small pile of Beatle records. Rather than do the logical thing (i.e. issue the albums as they had been issued in England), Capitol decided to issue all new albums. Instead of releasing albums with 14 songs, as they’d done in England, The Beatles American albums were comprised of 12 songs.  And instead of simply cutting the number of songs down, the songs were swapped around in a confusing jumble.

Another major issue was The Beatles singles. In England it was considered bad form to sell people one song twice, so any song issued as a single was never included on major albums. Thus, songs like “She Loves You” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” were never included on any British Beatles album.  Since this was not the practice in the US, Capitol Records reconfigured the American Beatle albums to include the band’s popular hit singles.

Further clouding the waters, a small independent label called Vee-Jay had the American rights to the band’s first album from 1963 to 1964. Vee-Jay got the rights to this material after Capitol Records initially passed on the Beatles in America. Thus, the band’s album PLEASE PLEASE ME was being circulated prior to Capitol’s involvement as INTRODUCING…THE BEATLES.

That’s how the American Beatles catalog got so messed up. This is how we got records like THE BEATLES IV which contains songs from BEATLES FOR SALE, HELP!, and music from the “Ticket To Ride” single. All of the Beatles records up to 1967’s SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEART’S CLUB BAND are a confusing mosaic of the band’s British output. The madness (mostly) ended with SGT. PEPPER due to the band’s insistence that their albums appear the same everywhere due to the artistic vision they had for that album’s concept.

usa_beatles-vi

The American albums became something of a footnote when they were abandoned completely in the 1980’s when the band’s albums were first put onto CD. Were American fans puzzled when the British albums were released digitally? I’m sure they were, but that was decades ago. In the meantime, people like myself grew up only knowing the proper British albums. Which brings me back to the American reissued albums: who is this supposed to appeal to? Who is supposed to be forking over their money for these? Older fans who might actually remember these albums have by now long adapted to the British releases. Younger fans have never known anything but the British albums. And at this juncture in history, I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of Beatle fans who wish to own the band’s music already do…and anyone buying the band’s records for the first time would surely buy the recognizable, iconic, British albums.

It felt strange rebuying the albums in 2009, but at least I was getting something new with the improved fidelity. But let’s be honest, the 2009 remasters were a double-dip, plain and simple.  So if the 2009 digital remasters, which I’d argue are worth the money, were a double-dip then these American reissued albums are a triple-dip. This is a product aimed squarely at the hardcore Beatle fan, the one that has to own everything with the band’s name on it.  This is a product meant to be purchased and placed on a shelf still in it’s plastic wrap.

Perhaps if I had the money, and the inclination to continue hoarding physical media, I would fall into that camp/trap. But alas, an 800 mile-cross-country move has changed the way I look at money and the owning of material goods. With this American albums reissue, The Beatles have crossed over into the horrible George Lucas/Star Wars money-grab territory.

I’m a Beatles super-fan, I’ve owned multiple copies of each of these records. Hell, I’ve owned LET IT BE in four different formats (cassette tape, vinyl LP, original CD, remastered CD).  But even as a superfan, I can see no reason to own these reissued American releases.  I don’t need different, less-iconic artwork and a swapped around track listing. In short, I don’t need these albums. I never knew them and I don’t feel it necessary to start now.

This reissue ruffles my feathers because it smacks of desperation—the last act of a band with nothing left to sell me. But that’s not true, there is one thing I’d love to buy from The Beatles. One thing that I’ve never experienced that the band continues to deny me. I speak of the lost documentary Let It Be, the legendary film the band made while writing and recording LET IT BE the album. I’ve never seen this footage, largely because it captures the breakup of the band and paints the musicians in a less-than-favorable light.

I understand that I have capitalism to thank for my Beatles albums, and that their corporate masters have every right to keep selling the same material from now until doomsday. But I wish they’d exhaust the vaults completely before they just pump out the same material over and over.

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