Sunday, September 14, 2014

From the archives (i.e., piles of newspaper clippings on my dusty studio-apartment floor) ...

Terje, you might find this interesting. It comes from Miriam Di Nunzio's interview with veteran music producer David Foster, published in the Chicago Sun-Times on October 16, 2009.

Q: Is it getting harder for you to make albums today?

DF: I really love the music of today. I love Beyonce, Rihanna, producers like Tricky Stewart, Kanye, Jay-Z, Sean Kingston. I love those records but I have no clue how to make these records; suddenly, you're 60 trying to think like you're a 16-year-old. I know my place. People who complain about the music business as they get older and say they "had to leave it" are full of it. The business leaves them. Nobody leaves the business. I'm still getting [excited] musically, even more so now that I don't have the pressure of radio. Now I just have to make albums.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

giving credit where credit was due 20 years ago

In today's New York Times Jon Caramanica writes about André "André 3000" Benjamin's reunion with Antwan "Big Boi" Patton to celebrate Outkast's 20th anniversary as recording artists, plus his role as Jimi Hendrix in the new film biography Jimi: All Is by My Side, written and directed by John Ridley, who won the Best Adapted Screenplay earlier this year for 12 Years a Slave. A couple of points stand out in Caramanica's article:

For the better part of his career, André 3000 has been a pioneer, sometimes to his detriment. Outkast was a titan of Southern hip-hop when it was still being maligned by coastal rap purists. On the 2003 double album "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below," which has been certified 11 times platinum, he effectively abandoned rapping altogether in favor of tender singing, long before melody had become hip-hop's coin of the realm.

I would argue that P.M. Dawn were far more ahead of their time than André 3000 in that department. By their third album, Jesus Wept (1995), frontman Prince Be had abandoned rapping altogether in favor of singing, but even on their 1991 debut, Of the Heart, of the Soul and of the Cross: The Utopian Experience, Be sang for the duration of the tracks "On a Clear Day" and "In the Presence of Mirrors":

In a possible nod to the duo's influence, rapper Childish Gambino, a.k.a. actor-comedian Donald Glover, covered P.M. Dawn's 1992 hit "I'd Die Without You" earlier this year for BBC Radio 1Xtra:

Here's another point of Caramanica's I disagree with:

His forays into fashion (Benjamin Bixby) and animated television (“Class of 3000”) would have made far more sense — and had a far bigger impact — a couple years down the line. In many ways, André 3000 anticipated the sound and shape of modern hip-hop ambition.

I don't care to argue his point about fashion, though I'm pretty sure Sean "Puff Daddy"/"P. Diddy" Combs's Sean John line of clothing came before André 3000's, but does Caramanica not remember Kid 'n Play's Saturday-morning cartoon on NBC in the fall of 1990?

Or MC Hammer's on ABC the following year?

Hey, nobody said pioneering had to lead anywhere good. Just ask the Donner Party.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"The future is now!"

"The future is now! Soon every American home will integrate their television, phone, and computer. You'll be able to visit the Louvre on one channel or watch female mud wrestling on another. You can do your shopping at home or play Mortal Kombat with a friend in Vietnam. There's no end to the possibilities!"

—psychotic cable-TV technician Chip Douglas (Jim Carrey) in The Cable Guy (1996)

Eighteen years later, however, I still haven't found that female-mud-wrestling channel. C'est la vie.

Friday, July 25, 2014

No one opens the door for a native New Yorker. (No one?) No one.

How did Odyssey's ready-for-prime-time 1977 hit "Native New Yorker" not find its way into the opening credits of a network sitcom back in the heyday of disco?

It was used to promote The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon earlier this year, with Fallon roller-boogieing down a New York City sidewalk, but why couldn't Busting Loose, a short-lived CBS comedy starring Adam Arkin as "a young man in New York City who has moved out of his parents' house to live on his own for the first time," according to the show's Wikipedia entry, give it a good home? What, not butch enough for you, Busting Loose?

Okay, I see your point.

To be fair, Busting Loose premiered in January of '77, and "Native New Yorker" didn't become a hit until that summer, apparently. That means the Barney Miller spin-off Fish, which debuted in February, would've been ineligible as well. (When a station in my hometown of Macon, Georgia, aired reruns of Fish in the summer of '83, it used Madness's then-current hit "Our House" in its promos, which is why Abe Vigoda and Suggs will be forever linked in my mind.)

However, the Mary Tyler Moore Show spin-off Rhoda was entering its fourth season in the fall of '77 and could've used some new platform shoes.

ABC's Makin' It didn't live long enough to see its theme song reach number five on the Billboard Top 40. That's because the show was canceled months earlier. (Oh, the humanity.) Besides, Makin' It centered on a native New Jerseyer, not a native New Yorker. (It's worth pointing out that Greg Antonacci, who was scary as hell in the final season of The Sopranos as one of Phil Leotardo's henchmen, was a featured player on both Busting Loose and Makin' It. He also made a couple of memorable appearances in those days on The Rockford Files, on which Sopranos creator David Chase was a writer.)

Welcome Back, Kotter, you could've used a boost in your final season (1978-'79) after John Travolta left for greener pastures on the big screen. On second thought, never mind—John Sebastian's melancholy but ultimately uplifting "Welcome Back" is a perfect TV theme song. No need for a quick fix of something that wasn't broken to begin with.

The same goes for Taxi, which debuted in the fall of '78. I love you just the way you are, Bob James's "Angela."

I guess it wasn't meant to be, "Native New Yorker," but keep your head up—I have a feeling you're gonna make it after all.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Greatest Backhanded Compliments in Rock History, Vol. 1

"Love between the ugly is the most beautiful love of all" —Todd Rundgren, "Does Anybody Love You?" (from A Wizard, a True Star, 1973)

Monday, February 10, 2014

rhythm and blues and authenticity

The Coup's Boots Riley, speaking to Chicago rapper ShowYouSuck (Clinton Sandifer) in the February 6 issue of the Chicago Reader:

The short answer is, the hip-hop audience hasn't changed. It's just the people who are willing to come to the type of hip-hop that we're doing has changed. And to be fair, the style of hip-hop I do is not the style of hip-hop that a lot of people are listening to, based on what gets played on the radio and what gets played on video shows. A lot of black folks are going there. But even those audiences—who listen to the radio and who watch those video shows, 106 & Park—it's mainly white kids too. It's just that certain kinds of music sell because of the idea that it has a largely black audience, and that's always been the trick.

Peter Guralnick has a book called
Sweet Soul Music in which he talks about one of the reasons that him and his friends were more into Stax Records as opposed to Motown Records in the 60s—they had this idea that Stax Records was more of the black culture than Motown was. It had this image behind it that this is what black people listen to. So what happened was, a lot of white kids started buying it.

But in his book, he interviews people and finds out that no, they were marketing it toward white kids with the idea of authenticity behind it. Who was buying it was mainly white kids, just like any product in the United States. But what does get sold sometimes is this idea of authenticity. And if you don't have a certain image, then you must not really be authentic. Because we all know, black folks only act a certain way. And if you're not acting that way, then you probably don't have many black folks who listen to your stuff. [

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cribbing dialogue from an Oscar winner is scandalous.

On the October 3 season premiere of ABC's Scandal, CIA shadow agent Rowan Pope (Joe Morton), who was revealed in the final moments of the second-season finale to be the father of protagonist Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), yells at his daughter, "I do my job so that fatty can watch reality TV, eat fast food, stare at the Internet, screw their husbands or their battery-operated products, and never use their teeny-tiny brains to think about the freedoms that I make possible—never think about the democracy that I make possible!"

Morgan Freeman, your legacy lives on.