Category Archives: Sort-of-Music-Related

Please Consider Supporting Toxic Melons’ Kickstarter

Hello Friends. So remember when I asked you all to send me $900 so I could go see Kanye West perform in Las Vegas? Well perhaps consider donating instead to Paul Fairbairn’s Toxic Melon’s Kickstarter campaign. Paul releases excellent power-pop under the name “Toxic Melons” and hoo-boy does he have a fantastic E.P. in the works titled “Four Play”. Not only did this guy get guitar hero Eric Dover to participate…he got Roger Manning. Are you a fan of Jellyfish? You know, that band I won’t stop blathering about that everyone who’s ever heard them loves? Well if you pine for those golden power-pop days of yore, supporting Paul’s Kickstarter is a great way to see those days live again, people!!!

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Yummy.

So far Paul’s been able to raise roughly half the amount of money he needs in order to put the E.P. out as a physical product (delicious, delicious vinyl!). I can’t stress enough how important just about everything related to this Kickstarter is to us power-pop fans. Jellyfish connection? Check. Brilliant-but-under-appreciated starving musician? Check. The promotion of physical media as a great keepsake/vinyl release? Triple check. I know all of you were planning on sending me to see Yeezus, but spend your money on Toxic Melons instead.

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Send Defending Axl Rose To See Kanye West

Hello. Well this is awkward. A few weeks ago I found out that Kanye West would be touring in support of his latest album/magnum opus THE LIFE OF PABLO. Normally, this would be great news except he wasn’t coming to the city I live in. I was pretty bummed out. Then, a few days after my birthday, my parents got to see Guns N’ Roses in Kansas City. While very happy for them, this also really bummed me out. I should have gone to that show, but unfortunately a new job and a new baby (plus lack of money) meant that I’d have to skip seeing GNR. I’m barely able to live with myself, people. I swore that the next time a “Holy Fuck!” artist went on tour I’d do everything in my power to go and see them.

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Which leads me to Kanye. I was once offered free tickets to see Kanye open for U2, but I had already made unbreakable plans was was forced to pass up the opportunity. My relationship with Kanye started in the fall of 2005. I was living in the dorms at the University of St.Louis-Missouri when hurricane Katrina hit. The kids studying in New Orleans were distributed to colleges all across the nation. I remember sitting on the front porch of my dorm building, smoking Camel cigarettes, when a van pulled up and deposited two such refugees. The school representative helped them with their luggage, gave them vouchers for food, and then basically said “good luck” and drove off. I could tell that these kids were shell-shocked and in need of help. I didn’t really know anyone in St. Louis at the time, having just moved there myself, so I sympathized with them. I took them out for lunch and we became friends. They introduced me to Budweiser (up until that point I did not know there was any variety other than Bud Light), Tyler Perry movies, and Kanye West. LATE REGISTRATION had just dropped and they insisted that I hear it. That was my gateway to rap music, a gift that continues to enrich my life over ten years later.

This year’s LIFE OF PABLO is my number one favorite album. It’s the album I listen to when I run and when I speed to fast on the highway. In short, I need to see this man, but I can’t afford a trip and concert without help. Please take a moment to consider donating to my Go Fund Me campaign.  It feels weird asking for this money, but at the same time you’ll be getting something out of this, too. For starters, I plan on writing extensively about both the lead-up to the concert, the concert, and my post-concert thoughts/feelings. Maybe some of you would pay to NOT get my thoughts on a Kanye West concert, to those people I say: “Why are you still reading this post?” I’m going to reward my top donors with a thank you package and wear the names of everyone who donated to the fund on a special t-shirt when (if?) I attend the show.

I promise not to be annoying about this and post about it ad nauseam. I also won’t make this a “thing” that I do for every concert I go to. I can afford a $35 ticket to see Weezer in the city where I live, I don’t expect people to pick up the tab on that sort of thing. I do feel like I’ve turned my readers onto good albums and songs over the years. And I know I’ve made you laugh (at least once) even it was at me and not necessarily with me…that has to be worth a buck or two, right?

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Can We Talk About Michael Stipe’s Beard?

Recently I was listening to a podcast and someone was talking about a benefit concert held on March 31st for the late (great) David Bowie at Carnegie Hall in New York. Among the many stars who came out to pay tribute to the Thin White Duke, was former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe. Stipe pretty much fell off my radar in 2011 when R.E.M. called it a day and ended their storied career. Growing up, my parents were really into mid-period R.E.M. going so far as to take me to see them play live in 1995 when the band was touring in support of their album MONSTER. Some of the later albums like UP and ACCELERATE were actually pretty good, even though most people probably didn’t take the time to listen to them.

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Winter is coming! Stipe is totes ready for Movember.

Anyway, Stipe’s bizarre rendition of Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” was a hot topic on this podcast, so I decided to pull up a video of it online. I found a clip very easily, and while the sound isn’t great, everyone who wasn’t there needs to watch it. Is the cover that great? It’s okay, I suppose (it’s a bit talky for my taste). But that’s not what I’m here to discuss today…no, I’m more interested in that beard Stipe is rocking.

When and where did he get that thing? My wife saw him and said he looks like fantasy writer/procrastinator George R.R. Martin (though not fat). Me? I think Stipe is slowly turning into a Jack Skellington version of Santa Claus. The beard/facial hair is all the rage these days, so I get why Stipe would sport a little growth now that he’s out of the spotlight…but the beard he’s rocking these days is epic. Believe me, as a guy who sometimes has a beard, it takes serious commitment to have a beard that full and bushy. Known for his shiny-happy-chromedome, hair is not the first thing one thinks of when thinking about Michael Stipe. This beard changes everything though. From now on, when I hear FABLES OF THE RECONSTRUCTION I’m going to think about Stipe’s bouffant, salt-and-pepper beard swaying back and forth to the rhythm.

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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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Dancing In The BLOODMOONlight with Van Morrison, King Harvest, and Thin Lizzy

I’m sure I’ve bragged about it before, but I have a near-supernatural ability to recall the names of songs. When driving together, I frequently drive my wife nuts playing the “what song is this?” game. She hates it. She never knows the name of the song. Unlike me, she didn’t fill her head with useless musical trivia and is unable to name both the song title and artist (and sometimes even the album) to every random classic rock castaway. I bring this up because recently, I was wrong. And though I come across like a smug professor, I actually really enjoy the (albeit rare) occasions where I do not recognize a song or artist. I sometimes feel like Alexander The Great, sitting alone with no more worlds to conquer. When a new/old song hits my radar I feel the thrill of discovery I’ve mostly lost while listening to classic rock radio**.

Which is why my world was recently turned upside down by Pandora recently with “Dancing in the Moonlight.” First of all, please don’t confuse this song with the fantastic Thin Lizzy song “Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In It’s Spotlight)” off their classic 1977 album BAD REPUTATION. No, I’m talking about the hit single from 1972 released by Van Morrison. At least, I always thought this was a Van Morrison song. But I was wrong. “Dancing In The Moonlight” does have a very ‘70s Van Morrison-ish vibe and would have fit nicely on Van Morrison’s classic album MOONDANCE (though it came out two years later). In fact, I attribute my own person confusion to “Moondance.” Sure, I guess it was weird to think that Van Morrison had two moon-themed songs during this time period, but I’ve always found the guy kinda strange. Anyway, I was wrong: “Dancing In The Moonlight” is actually a King Harvest song. What a silly mistake, right?

"Everything is serious and sad"

“Everything is serious and sad”

So who the hell was King Harvest? Well the reason why I’d never really heard of them (and you probably haven’t either) is that they were one-hit wonders. That one-hit being “Dancing In The Moonlight.” According to a quick Internet search, the band was formed in Paris, France by a group of Americans. The brother of the their drummer, a guy named Sherman Kelly, wrote the song in 1969. I think that’s a pretty cool story: guy writes song, gives it to his brother’s band, they have their one-hit. Everybody wins. Except for me, the guy who 43 years later is walking around thinking it’s a damn Van Morrison song.

Besides the obvious references to the moon, both songs share a similar jazzy feel. King Harvest’s lead singer, Dave Robinson, is a very fine vocalist and shares enough similarities to further compound the confusion. Though to be honest, a real Van Morrison fan would instantly spot the difference as I did when I listened to both songs back-to-back (800 times while writing this post). The production on the ’72 released “Dancing In The Moonlight” is scratchier and masks Robinson’s voice in a way that (at least to me) does make him sound like a younger Van Morrison. I’m assuming “Moondance” sounds better because a superstar recorded it with a superstar’s recording budget. Perhaps I could have avoided all this confusion had someone just spent a little more money. I’m looking at you, King Harvest.

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Listening to all three songs, I think that King Harvest’s song is more akin to Thin Lizzy’s “Dancing In The Moonlight” in that it’s a simple, joyous ode to hanging out late at night, dancing. Van Morrison’s song is more complex and has 100% more saxophone. Also, because it’s Van Morrison, the track is fun but in a really stuffy, intellectual way.

It better look JUST like this...

It better look JUST like this…

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while now and tonight’s blood moon phenomenon got me thinking about this mix-up. I know I’m crazy, but am I crazy in regards to this mix-up? What songs have you wrongly attributed to other artists? I’m sure that this happens all the time to music fans. Please share you semi-embarrassing gaffs below in the comments (unless you’re gonna tell me about how you were confused by Steelers Wheel “Stuck In The Middle With You,” everybody thought that was Dylan).

 

**Sure, I like listening to a lot of new music, but classic rock 1959-1985 will always be my specialty.

 

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Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon

There’s a commonly held belief that successful people are all assholes. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I judge the guy sitting next to me in traffic in his fancy BMW: man, that guy must be jerk to have so much money. And while the world certainly has no short supply of Gordon Gecko-wannabes climbing the ladder of success by stabbing people in the back, it is possible to be a tremendous success without being a terrible person. Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon is a documentary about a guy who made a lot of people rich and famous—but he did by being nice.

Now, I’m sure you  have two questions right now:

1. What is a “Supermensch”?

and

2. Who the hell is Shep Gordon?

Mensch is a Yiddish word that means “a person of integrity and honor.” A Supermensch is someone with an almost super-human level of goodness. Shep Gordon is a talent manager who rose to fame after moving to California in the late 1960’s and essentially helped break Alice Cooper into the popular consciousness. He also managed to create the celebrity chef, overthrow the unfair practice of not paying black music acts for live appearances/concerts, help start one of the first independent film companies (the first to be headed by a woman), and make friends with the Dalai Lama.

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The early days of Gordon’s career are probably the most fascinating parts of the documentary. He moves to California to be a parole officer in 1968. After promptly quitting (he was a “longhair” and didn’t fit in) he almost immediately meets Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. It was Hendrix who suggests that Gordon become a manager (for no reason other than the fact that Shep’s Jewish). He becomes a drug dealer to the some of the 1960’s most famous musical acts before opting to leave the danger behind and manage Alice Cooper. The philosophy Gordon employed to make Alice Cooper a household name is both genius and a bit nuts. Gordon cultivated negative press for the band. Why would he do that? Well, Gordon knew that if he could make parents hate Alice Cooper the kids listening to rock music would love Alice Cooper. From rigging a mobile billboard to “breakdown” in the middle of London’s busiest intersection at rush hour, to tossing a live chicken on stage (RIP that chicken)—Gordon learned to become a master manipulator.  Soon parents were up in arms over Alice Cooper, and Gordon was laughing all the way to the bank.

Turns out the story behind the rise of Alice Cooper is full of really funny stories. I think the best early Alice Cooper story was the time a promoter wanted a female folk act and booked Alice Cooper. Ever the savvy businessman, Gordon went along with the mistake! I think I’d pay almost anything to see the look on those peaceful hippie faces when the freakish Alice Cooper took the stage at that concert. Once the Alice Cooper band took off, Gordon had to fight Frank Zappa (of all people) to get their first album out. All of this Alice Cooper stuff is really interesting, and I kinda wish the documentary was just about those early days.

Gordon with Alice Cooper.

Gordon with Alice Cooper.

Once Alice Cooper gains infamy and riches, Gordon tries his hand at managing other acts. Supermensch delves into Gordon’s relationship with R&B legend Teddy Pendergrass and how he helped the world’s best chefs become overnight millionaires by hawking spices and Tupperware. Gordon’s had an impressive run and it’s interesting to learn that the guy who helped invent Alice Cooper also “invented” Emeril Lagasse. He uses the same nice guy tactics to make everyone he touches into success.

What’s so menschy about Gordon? His business philosophy seems to be that everyone should walk away from the table a winner. He does whatever it takes to promote his artists, but always in an honorable way (unless you are a chicken). A good example is the motel rooms used by the fledgling Alice Cooper band. In the early days, the band was trying to relocate from LA to Detroit and on the way the band played concerts. Because they were unknowns, the band had no money for motels, so Gordon paid with bad checks. As soon as the band took off and made money, Gordon went back and re-paid all the motels they’d screwed over.

I was surprised to learn that Supermensch was directed by Mike Myers. Yes, that Mike Myers. The SNL alumni fell on hard times after his film The Love Guru tanked at the box office and in a deep depression, the comedian ended up spending two months at Gordon’s house in Hawaii. So while I think Shep Gordon is probably a genuinely nice guy…I do think the film veers a bit too far into hero worship. There’s some dark stuff in the film, but it’s largely glossed over. That’s a bit disappointing, but makes sense when you learn that the man behind the camera probably owes his sanity (maybe even his life) to the film’s subject.

Overall, Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon is a fascinating glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of the entertainment industry and a great way to kill an hour and thirty minutes.  Supermensch is currently streaming on Netflix and is available on iTunes.

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Please Visit Trope And Dagger, Save My Ankles

Hey friends, could you all do me a favor and check out a post that I wrote over at Trope And Dagger?

What’s Trope and Dagger? It’s a really rad pop culture blog that my old dorm buddies Aaron Wilson and Andy Primm run. They write about TV, films, video games, and even post short fiction. These guys do a way better job of putting out great content on a regular basis and deserve your attention.

Today a post I wrote about the 1991 action-film Point Break went up. Would you do me a kindness and check it out? If this post doesn’t get at least 14 views I’m gonna cry and Andy will break my ankles. I need my ankles to not be broken. Fun fact: did you know that Flea from The Red Hot Chili Peppers plays a menacing surfer goon in Point Break? It’s true.

"Yo dwag, 14 views or Immagonna break this fools ankles..."

“Yo dwag, 14 views or Immagonna break this fools ankles…”

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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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Southern Complexities: Lynyrd Skynyrd & Guns

There’s no denying that Americans love guns.  The American identity if one of rugged independence, rather than have other people solve our problems we’ve always wanted to solve them for ourselves.  Guns let us do that.  The American West was tamed with men and guns.  Living on the frontier provided many Americans their only opportunity to own land, which has always been another important component of the national identity. The problem of the frontier life is that it’s remote and generally lawless, thus the necessity for a gun.  Having a gun was a matter of life and death: guns are powerful tools. With a gun a man could feed his family, protect his livestock, and fight off the most dangerous thing on the frontier—other people.

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Rural America still possesses many of the same qualities that made the frontier so dangerous, which is why the gun culture is strongest there.  That said, at this point, the national identity of the rugged, independent cowboy is so ingrained in our culture we don’t even think about it. It’s for this reason that people living in cities still worship at the altar of the might gun. All of this would be mildly fascinating if the tool in question were a hammer or a screwdriver…but a gun is a tool designed to kill, so the prevalence of gun culture is a bit more important.

And while I certainly wouldn’t call Jacksonville a rural community, Lynyrd Skynyrd did originate in the South where the gun culture is strongest.  Not surprisingly, the band has a complicated relationship with guns. The band’s 1975 album NUTHIN’ FANCY opens with the track “Saturday Night Special.” The song’s title refers to cheap, easily accessible handguns that are typically of a low caliber and even lower quality.  The song features three verses, each highlighting the mayhem created by a gun: a thief breaking into a house and shooting an occupant dead, a man who shoots his friend after drunkenly accusing his friend of cheating at poker, and finally the possibility of shooting oneself when drunk on whiskey. The song’s chorus features the lines: “Mr. Saturday night special/got a barrel that’s blue and cold/Ain’t no good for nothin’/but put a man six feet in a hole.”  The song’s final verse suggests that for everyone’s protection we take all these guns and toss them into the ocean.

The sentiment behind “Saturday Night Special” is strong and it’s surprising that this track would not only be the leadoff song on NUTHIN’ FANCY, but this song was a modest hit for Lynyrd Skynyrd.  The band had to know that their fan base held a strong contingent of gun-owners. Unlike the twisty meaning of “Sweet Home Alabama,” there is no mistaking the motivation behind Van Zant’s lyrics in  “Saturday Night Special.”  But as plainly didactic as “Saturday Night Special” is, things are never cut and dry with Lynyrd Skynyrd. The very next track on NUTHIN’ FANCY, “Cheatin’ Woman,” is about killing an unfaithful lover with…a handgun. Murdering a lover is a common motif in blues music, and for a band as deeply entrenched in the blues as Lynyrd Skynyrd to write a song using this motif isn’t particularly surprising. I do find the choice of track order interesting, did Lynyrd Skynyrd intentionally sequence “Cheatin’ Woman” and “Saturday Night Special” back-to-back in order to make a larger statement? While on the surface it may seem surprising that the band would follow such a progressive-minded song like “Saturday Night Special” with a song like “Cheatin’ Woman,” this duality is found throughout the band’s catalogue.

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The simplest explanation for much of this duality in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s music is that the songs are not necessarily always autobiographical.  Ronnie Van Zant never shot and killed a woman, and just because he wrote a song about doing so doesn’t necessarily mean that he was giving murder an endorsement.  The same could be said for Van Zant’s position on gun control in “Saturday Night Special.”  Perhaps that song was written from the perspective of a wormy city dweller? I highly doubt that, however, because “Saturday Night Special” is so impassioned and so against what band like Lynyrd Skynyrd would be expected to write about.

Another reading of “Saturday Night Special” might be that the band is railing not against guns per say, but the rather the dangers of impulsivity. The song’s name is derived from a cheap, easy to acquire firearm.  The tragic deaths littered through the song are the result of rash, spur of the moment decisions: a thief stumbles upon a man inside the home he’s robbing and a drunk man gets in a heated exchange with his friend over a game of cards.  There are a lot of Lynyrd Skynyrd songs about slowing down and practicing various forms of moderation.  The issue of impulsivity in regards to violence first raised its head on the band’s debut album 1973’s (PRONOUNCED LEH-NERD SKIN-NERD) in the song “Gimme Three Steps.”  While not a hit when first released, “Gimme Three Steps” has become a staple on classic rock radio.  In “Gimme Three Steps” we again see someone rashly brandish a firearm.  The song’s narrator is at a bar, talking to a woman, when a man storms in with a gun and threatens him.  Rather than act tough or mouth off, the narrator asserts his innocence (“Wait a minute mister/I didn’t even kiss her”) and then asks for the titular three steps in which he can make a hasty exit. The criticism in “Saturday Night Special” appears to fall on firearms themselves, until the very end when Van Zant sings about tossing all the guns into the ocean before “some fool” comes around with a gun.

What’s fascinating about this song is how it’s essentially a song about not fighting. Beating a hasty retreat in the face of danger is universally an uncool thing to do, but somehow Lynyrd Skynyrd were able to write a (awesome) song about doing just that. Both songs feature guns and do not fit the typical tough-guy mindset seen in a lot of popular music. And in both songs, the violence (or threat of violence) is senseless and not in anyway glorified.

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It’s worth noting that the band’s fourth album GIMME BACK MY BULLETS and its title song has nothing to do with guns or ammunition.  Apparently, the song is a reference to the Billboard music charts, which used typographical bullets.  On the official Lynyrd Skynyrd website, the band states that over the years fans who misunderstood the lyrics literally threw bullets at the band when they performed the song live. Rock songs, like all good poetry, sometimes requires more than a simple surface reading in order to be fully understood.  A band like Lynyrd Skynyrd, with its hard-charging guitars and Southern connotation is both embraced and written-off by many music fans without giving them the proper amount of contemplation.

Oh, dear...

Oh, dear…

Lastly, the current incarnation of Lynyrd Skynyrd recently put out an album titled GOD & GUNS. Obviously at this point Skynyrd is not the same band that wrote “Mr. Saturday Night Special,” thanks to both the passage of time and the deaths of key members of the band. Still, I think the track “God & Guns” off the album is a fascinating departure from the classic era’s stance on guns. I’ll confess that I haven’t spent much time listening to this album (because the one time I did, I found it to be rather disappointing), but perhaps in a future post I’ll examine it more closely.

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Overpaying For Concert Ticket PreSales Suck Or How I Learned To Relax And Love LiveNation (NOT)

About a week ago there was a major announcement in Defending Axl Rose-land: The Replacements were going on tour. Luckily for me, one of the stops would be my hometown of Denver. The band reformed about a year ago for a few festival dates, but I wasn’t able to attend any of those. This announcement was the second-chance I never thought I’d get. Once the initial thrill of a Replacements tour dissipated I was left with one thought: these tickets are going to cost a fortune.

Anytime a legendary band re-forms and goes on a reunion tour there’s a ton of money to be made. The Replacements broke up in 1991 and though they’re highly influential, I don’t know anyone personally who actually likes them. So I had no idea just how highly coveted would these tickets be. I’m a terrible judge of popularity—the larger populace more often than not greets the things that seem incredibly important to me with a resounding “meh”. Still, there was no way in hell I was going to pass up a chance to see The Replacements, so I resolved to see them. No matter what. Come hell or high water. *Insert other cliché here*.

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My first move was to see when tickets would go on sale, so I hopped online and went to the band’s trusty website…which immediately linked me to LiveNation. Fucking LiveNation. When I clicked that link I swear my computer made a cash register sound. I won’t bore you with my own personal tale of poverty; I know that there are people worse off. But let’s just say that despite being paid a handsome salary as President & C.E.O of Defending Axl Rose Industries; I don’t have an unlimited supply of funds. Anytime I deal with LiveNation I end up spending double what I thought I was going to pay. Going on their website is akin to being pulled over by a police car. Scrolling through the website is just like rolling down the window and forking over my driver’s license. How much, I think, is this shit going to end up costing me?

LiveNation’s website indicated that The Replacements tickets were going on sale to the public on Friday but that there was a “Presale” the day before. Gripped with a nerdy fear that I might not get to go due to a lack of tickets, I instantly jumped on the hope that this mysterious presale offered. There was zero information explaining what the rules or requirements of the presale was, so I had no choice but to set a timer in my iPhone and check back at the time of the presale.

I know exactly none of you care what my opinion of presales is, but I’m going to tell you: I hate them. Essentially presales are insulting to most fans, rewarding the lucky few who possess a Visa Rapid Rewards Card or who belong to KQRC’s Morning Madness Fan Club. Want the privilege of buying overpriced tickets before anyone else? Sign up for our annoying ass mailing list. Despite being such a massive music nerd, I have no love for fan clubs and don’t think I should have to give the Kaiser Chiefs my personal info to score tickets to their show before all of you other sweaty basement dwellers.

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When the day of the presale came I hit up LiveNation’s website to see if they’d explain what hoops I’d have to jump through to score tickets. It turned out the presale wasn’t for a credit card or fan club I didn’t belong to…it was for a local radio station and users of the LiveNation app! The idea of downloading a free to app to score a code to buy tickets a day early didn’t seem so bad. I went to the App Store and quickly downloaded the app. Then I spent five minutes or so setting up an account with the app. Then I navigated to the Replacements concert within the app, thinking there I’d be allowed to purchase tickets for the show. Nope.

I was treated to a rage-inducing notice that tickets would go on sale the next day. Well played, LiveNation. The whole purpose of the app-only presale was to get me to stupidly download their app and give them my information, which I happily did. Too bad I wasn’t paid in kind for my cooperation. I double-checked myself, just to make sure I hadn’t missed something. When I was sure that I hadn’t, I angrily deleted the app from my phone. Then I went back on LiveNation to see if I was confused or had missed something. The website insisted that as an app user I’d be provided with a code I could use for the presale. I resigned myself to having to wait a day to buy tickets. Then about 20 minutes later I downloaded the app for a second time and tried it all over again.

Pissed off and feeling foolish, I decided to double-down on the amount of time I was going to waste on this presale and went back to LiveNation’s website in order to file a complaint. At the very bottom of their page I found a FAQ/Help link. There I found a section about presales which offered this nugget of wisdom:

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Guess what, LiveNation: FUCK YOU.

I couldn’t believe it, could it really be that simple? Did all I need to do was type “beatbox” and I’d magically be allowed to give them my money? Yep, it really was that simple. I deleted the app off my phone for the second time and swore under breath. Then I dropped $121 I didn’t really have on concert tickets. Much like songstress Jewel, these foolish games are tearing me apart.

I get that with this presale LiveNation wanted me to download and use their app, but without doing what they said it was going to do (i.e. give me a code to buy presale tickets) it makes it look like LiveNation doesn’t know what it’s doing. Being a multi-million dollar company, this level of incompetence casts LiveNation in an evil, manipulative light. So which is it, LiveNation are you incompetent or evil?

Sadly it doesn’t matter if they’re evil, because even though I wasn’t happy with them, I still gave them my money. What choice did I have? I guess I could have waited a day and half and gone down to the venue to purchase tickets, but I’m not even sure if I can do that anymore. And waiting on tickets can mean missing out on shows, especially when scalping computers swoop in to buy up all the tickets for those shady online re-sellers.

I can’t even remember the last time I bought tickets anywhere other than online. Much like cable companies, LiveNation and other giant ticket sellers have all us music fans by the balls. I love seeing bands play live, but I hate everything about buying concert tickets. As the music industry shrinks faster than the polar icecaps, I get understand that concert revenue has become increasingly important. I get that high tickets are paying for my evil, music streaming-ways. And if I truly love a band, I’ll pay way more than I should to see them in concert, but why do ticket retailers like LiveNation have to give me an electronic wedgie when I try to give them my money?

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