Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Heal the World Foundation - more, or less, than meets the eye?

Back on June 26, I wrote a post about the death of Michael Jackson entitled Michael Jackson - more, or less, than meets the eye? One of the things that I touched upon was Jackson's charitable work. In the course of the post, I wrote the following:

The chief example of Jackson's potential is the Heal the World Foundation, the charity that Jackson created.

I then quoted extensively from the "About Us" page for the Heal the World Foundation. Here is part of what I quoted at the time:

Mr. Jackson officially founded HTWF in 1992, forming the nonprofit, however, the heart of his charity, healing the world, one person at a time, was Mr. Jackson's focus, even before the papers were signed and the foundation formalized, he was serving his fellow man.

I also happened to quote this:

From 2002-2008 the foundation was fledgling, along with its founder and lost its tax exempt status while reorganizing its focus and upper management....

In 2008 based on the demand from our supporters and the devotion of our volunteers, we restructured the charity under a new board of Directors and regained our tax exempt status. However, the charitable giving and work of HTWF was always moving forward and never ceased.

One man can do his part to HEAL THE WORLD and Mr. Jackson did take a step out of the charity for awhile as was necessary and understandable, but will never abandoned HTWF, nor his desire to serve his fellow man. When it is time, Mr. Jackson will lead HTWF into this generation and all generations to come.

Incidentally, back in June I noted that the Heal the World Foundation would probably edit that text very shortly. As of September 30, it still hasn't. I'm not exactly sure that Mr. Jackson will be leading HTWF into any generation in the future.

But, according to the Inquisitr, the Heal the World Foundation has bigger problems than a webmaster who is asleep at the wheel. It's now in trouble with Michael Jackson's estate:

Michael Jackson’s estate has sued a charity foundation for allegedly using his name and likeness without permission. Heal the World Foundation is being accused of unfair competition, trademark infringement and other violations.

The Inquisitr post also states:

The singer’s own Heal the World foundation, which he formed in 1992, is no longer active.

Well, THAT'S a little muddy. If you believe the Heal the World Foundation, the current entity is a continuation of the original entity, fully endorsed by Jackson. But if you believe John Branca and John McClain, the administrators for Jackson's estate, the new Heal the World Foundation is completely unauthorized.

I couldn't find any coverage that explicitly stated who was being sued, but in the process of looking, I discovered why the page that I referenced in June was never updated. It's apparently no longer the official website. That honor now belongs to And this site's "About" page lists the following officers:

Melissa Johnson, President
Mel Wilson, Vice President
Sandhya Deepak, Secretary
Mark Gainford, Director of Operations
Camilla Sayf, Director of International Relations
Michael Jackson, President Emeritus

Incidentally, the section on Jackson STILL includes the following language:

When it is time, Mr. Jackson will lead HTWF into this generation and all generations to come.

Not if Branca and McClain have anything to say about it.

From all outside appearances, Melissa Johnson started up the new foundation - I'm still not sure whether she had any position of authority in the old one - and Michael Jackson, who had obviously been undergoing some personal problems over the last years of his life, never got around to formally blessing her activities, or alternatively telling her to cease and desist. Now Branca and McClain, charged with protecting Jackson's assets, are going after anyone who doesn't have an ironclad claim of permission to engage in Jackson-related activities.

You'll recall that Branca and McClain already argued that Katherine Jackson had no valid claim to administer the estate. And if you're going to deny interests to a guy's mother, you'll do anything.

And they should. Branca and McClain were not appointed the world or anything. Branca and McClain were apointed to maximize the financial value of the deceased's assets.

If anyone wonders why some artists make more money when they're dead than they did when they were living, it's because the Brancas and McClains of the world can do their job, unfettered by hangers-on and by the artist him/herself. Brand managers don't care whether the brand's brother has money for groceries.

(Picture source, license)

Monday, September 28, 2009

White Town, "Your Woman"

Over the weekend, served up a song that I hadn't in...well, since the last millennium - White Town's "Your Woman."

A few facts about the song from White Town's page:

[Jyoti Mishra is] often regarded as a one-hit wonder for [White Town's] 1997 song “Your Woman”, which sampled a 1930s song called “My Woman” by Al Bowlly, which was featured in the Dennis Potter drama Pennies From Heaven. This single was often known not by its name, but by the title of the EP it originally appeared on - “>Abort, Retry, Fail?_”

White Town continues to perform live, and Mishra blogs about it. Sample:

The gig started off a little bit unevenly - I was trying to tune my acoustic guitar with the tuner pedal but the disco was so loud, the tuner was trying to tune that. So, I tuned up, hit an E chord and… chaos! My god! I finally had to get the bewildered DJs to turn the music down completely and then managed to get it right. Tuning up is one of things you take for granted, it’s almost an irrelevancy. Until it fails and then you realise how utterly boned you are....

What made me beam was seeing people singing along with songs that weren’t ‘Your Woman.’ There was a lad right at the front and I swear he knew the lyrics to everything from ‘We’ll Always Have Paris’ to ‘Death In Kettering.’ That’s basically 19 years’ worth of White Town covered! How flattering is that?

But it sounds like Jyoti got into music for the same reason that many guys get into music.

I was also pleased because there were sooo many cute girls within my sight. If I’m singing to women, inevitably, I sing better.

Or at least he enjoys it more. And it probably helps him take his mind off "Your Woman," which Jyoti considers extremely depressing. With reason:

So cut the crap and tell me that we're through
Now, I know your heart, I know your mind
You don't even know you're being unkind...

And now it's time for the sing-along chorus!

Well, I guess what you say is true
I could never be the right kind of girl for you
I could never be your woman

Good stuff. Glad I heard it again. If you want to enrich my coffers, buy the song (and the album) from the link below.

(Picture source license)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The RIAA goes to school

Kim LaCapria of the Inquisitr recently wrote a post entitled Actually indoctrinating schoolkids: the RIAA, which discusses the "Music Rules" site and its educational materials that it prepares for schoolkids to teach them right from wrong. I think that you can tell LaCapria's view on the matter, but here's a quote from the Inquisitr post anyway:

Earlier this month, parts of this country devolved into chaos when President Barack Obama made a speech to kids about such controversial issues as staying in school and achieving things.

While that tyranny was not allowed to quietly pass, far fewer people are aware of the RIAA’s foray into American classrooms. Giant corporation, vested interests in one-sided information prolifigating- what could possibly go wrong? The RIAA introduced curriculum for usage in schools to teach kids about the evils of “piracy” and “songlifting.” And though the message is not surprising, it’s not an accurate depiction of copyright concerns in the digital era, by any means, and instilling a sense of guilt in children who will do a large portion of their learning and research online is not just a disservice, it’s a handicap.

Now you know that I like to present at least two sides of a story - sometimes three - so I didn't want to let LaCapria's points go unchecked. I went to the RIAA's "Music Rules" site, but I noticed that the site had some Terms of Use. I figured that I'd better check out those terms of use before continuing; I've heard that the RIAA is kinda sorta insistent on those sorts of things.

Off-Site Links and Resources
The Music Rules! website contains links to external websites and references to outside resources available through government, nonprofit, and commercial entities. These links to external sites and references to outside resources are provided solely for informational purposes and the convenience of the user. The Recording Industry Association of America does not control, review, approve, or endorse these external sites or outside resources. Users should be aware that external sites may collect data or personal information. Once you link to an external site, you are subject to the privacy policy of that site. If you decide to access any site linked to the Music Rules! website, you do so entirely at your own risk. In addition, the external links and outside resources are in no way intended to represent an exhaustive listing.

Please note: Music Rules! web pages may carry part of the above statement with a link to further information. Clicking on that link will take you to this page.

Opinions and Interpretations
The Music Rules! website contains information gathered from many different sources. The opinions and interpretations expressed in the website do not necessarily state or reflect the views or policies of the Recording Industry Association of America, or any affiliate, contractor, or subcontractor thereof.

Privacy Policy
Providing personal information on the Internet is completely voluntary, yet different websites may do different things with that information. Before providing any personal information, you should familiarize yourself with the privacy policy of the site collecting the information. Please read carefully the Music Rules! website privacy policy (below), and the privacy policy of any external web site to which you provide personal information.

I. Information Collected and Stored Automatically
During your visit to the Music Rules! website, we will collect and store certain information about your use of the site automatically. This usage information does not identify you personally. We rely on this information to learn about the number of visitors to our site, the types of technology they use, and the areas they visit, in order to help us make our site more useful. Usage information may also be used for educational and scholarly research. We do not track or record information about individuals and their visits.

II. If You Provide Personal Information
If you choose to provide us with personal information, as in an e-mail message, we use that information to respond to your message. Personal information collected by the Music Rules! website will not be used for commercial purposes.

III. No Personal Information Collected from Children
The Music Rules! website does not collect personal information from children, meaning those under 18 years of age. We are concerned about protecting children's privacy and hope parents and teachers are involved in children's Internet activities.

User's Obligation to Obey Applicable Laws
While some of the images and documents in websites linked with the Music Rules! website may be in the public domain, others may be protected under copyright, trademark, and other intellectual property laws of the United States and foreign countries. Such laws generally prohibit (subject to civil and criminal penalties) the unauthorized reproduction, distribution, adaptation, display, and performance of protected works. It is the user's obligation to comply with these applicable laws, including, where necessary, seeking the advice of counsel regarding the application of the fair use doctrine to the proposed educational use of materials. Other federal, state, and local laws that may apply to the use of materials linked with the Music Rules! website are defamation, misappropriation, invasion of privacy, and/or publicity rights.

Neither the Recording Industry Association of America nor any affiliate thereof, nor any of their employees, nor any of their contractors, subcontractors, or their employees: (1) make any warranty, express or implied, or assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any text, image, or materials in any website linked with the Music Rules! website; or (2) represent that their use would not defame or violate or infringe upon the rights, including, without limitation, copyrights, trademarks, or any other intellectual property rights, moral rights, publicity rights, or privacy rights of any other person or entity.

Acceptance of Terms
By using this site, you signify your assent to these policies. If you do not agree to these terms, please do not use this site.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998
Pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, the agent to receive notification of claimed infringement is:
YMI, Inc.
90 Crown Street
New Haven, CT 06510 USA
Voice: 203-389-7283
Fax: 203-389-1512

The interesting part is the "Liability" portion. So even if LaCapria's accusations on what the RIAA is teaching are correct, it sounds like the RIAA itself says the information is unreliable.

So I guess I shouldn't bother and link to the unreliable Music Rules information. Whew! Glad I read the Terms of Use.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Thirty Seconds Over Hollywood - ASCAP/BMI "gouging" vs. "adequate compensation"

One of the nice advances of the Internet age has been the thirty-second song sample. These samples, which can also be found in selected music stores, give you the opportunity to preview a song before you buy it, and while they have probably resulted in people NOT buying particular music, they have also definitely resulted in people buying music that would be too risky to obtain otherwise. I've written extensively about thirty-second song samples in the past, and even in the age, thirty-second samples clearly play their part.

But this appeared in my Google Reader shares, courtesy Rob Diana. First, let me share Rob's comment:

just when you thought the music industry could not do anything stupider, they come up with another fantastic idea.

The idea is documented in this Techdirt post:

It's been really stunning to see just how little dignity groups like ASCAP and BMI have in trying to suck every last penny out of any kind of musical usage, without ever once considering the damage they're actually doing to songwriters. It's as if the folks who run these groups have no concept of the actual impact of their crazy demands....

I guess it should come as no surprise at all to find out that their latest target is the 30 second previews that you hear on iTunes or Yes, they're claiming that those 30 second previews should count as a public performance, and they want to get paid. Now. And they're asking Congress to make it happen -- because, as we've been learning recently, if you're inept at running an actual business, just go to the federal gov't and ask them to bail you out.

Techdirt links to a somewhat more balanced CNET article:

At a time when many iTunes shoppers are still fuming over Apple's first-ever increase in song prices, the demands by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), and other performing-rights groups, would likely lead to more price hikes at iTunes. For many, this would also undoubtedly confirm their perception that those overseeing the music industry are greedy.

For those reasons, composers and songwriters will struggle to sell their case to the public. But these royalty-collection groups say they're at the bottom of the music-sector food chain and aren't trying to gouge anyone. They say their livelihoods are threatened and wonder why movie studios, big recording companies, TV networks, and online retailers are allowed to profit from their work but they aren't.

Many are trying to cast this as a "poor iTunes vs. the big bad record companies" battle, in which iTunes is sticking up for the little guy - in this case the customer. But look at it from the songwriter's point of view - when the songwriter is Rick Carnes of the Songwriters Guild of America.

Until last October, music publishers were able to pocket 10 percent of the retail price for a song, according to Steve Gordon, a copyright attorney. This meant that for a $2.99 ringtone, the publisher could make 30 cents and typically split half with the songwriter.

But the labels are now threatening to choke off that extra income. Record companies claim songwriters and music publishers charge too much and want prices restricted to a rate of 9.1 cents per song.

But before that change was discussed, you could make a ton off of ringtones. Just ask Merv Griffin - whoops, you can't ask him, but you can read this story:

[Griffin] once found a check for a large sum on his desk and couldn't figure out how he had earned it. According to a story in Rolling Stone magazine, Merv couldn't figure out why someone was paying him huge royalties for the song he penned for his show "Jeopardy."

The ditty had become a top-selling ringtone.

Of course, a ringtone is not a song sample. (Or is it?) Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate authoritative sourcing for the original statement from ASCAP or BMI regarding compensation for thirty-second song samples; all of the articles that discuss the matter solely seem to link to the opposition. Here's an opposing view, for example:

The Digital Media Association (DiMA) filed an amicus brief today in the case of ASCAP vs. AT&T Mobile asking the federal district court to rule that 30-second music preview clips are “fair use” and do not justify public performance royalties as demanded by songwriter and music publisher representatives.

“DiMA supports fair compensation for copyright owners,” stated Jonathan Potter, Executive Director of DiMA. “DiMA members pay tens of millions of dollars in royalties to songwriters and publishers for online music sales. But the performing rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI and SESAC) who represent songwriters and publishers demand additional payment for the preview clips that facilitate these online sales.”...

“Internet retailers sell an extraordinary percentage of all recorded music,” continued Potter. "The iTunes Store is America’s largest music retailer, and, Best Buy and other DiMA members use 30-second clips to sell both CDs and digital downloads. If ASCAP succeeds in pressing its demand for a new payment for these previews, Internet music retailers would be disadvantaged simply because they are selling online, and songwriters and music publishers would be getting a royalty for the preview on top of the appropriate and well-deserved royalty that is paid when the music itself is sold.”

I did find an ASCAP statement from Paul Williams, but it only dealt in generalities:

I am concerned that if music is not fairly valued or compensated, then a successful career in music will be increasingly out of reach. The viability of our industry, and in turn our greater economy, depends upon making sure that young creators have the opportunity to pursue music as a profession, not just a hobby or a vocation.

Now bearing in mind that I have been unable to locate ASCAP's specific argument, I do have to wonder - if the concern is whether or not artists are being adequately compensated, why fight the battleground over A SMALL PART of a song?

On the other hand, if you strip away all of the big companies, such as the Sonys and the Apples from the equation, this boils down to a battle between the individual songwriter who makes the music and the individual consumer who wants to buy it. If you put the question to a majority vote, naturally the consumers are going to win the vote, and the songwriters are going to lose. But if ASCAP and the Songwriters Guild are right, then all of us are going to lose if people choose to stay away from the songwriting profession.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A journey of three hundred miles begins with but a single stretch (Steve Perry and the Dodgers)

Perhaps my opinion will change if this actually happens, but if I ever write a huge massive worldwide hit, I'll grant anyone the right to cover it or parody it, provided that I am adequately credited and compensated. For example, if I write a touching piece about the joys of Shetland Sheepdogs, I would not object if Snoop Dogg turned it into a raunchy piece about the joys of loose women in the LBC.

Now of course, some people feel differently about who performs their work. There are several instances in which Republican politicians used songs from famous musicians, and since most musicians are Communists, they naturally objected. (Seriously, anyone who would select "Born in the U.S.A." as a feel-good song really needs to read the lyrics a little more closely.) And even Weird Al Yankovic, who takes great efforts to get permission to parody songs (primarily to ensure HIS compensation), got his signals crossed when he wrote "Amish Paradise."

The truth of the matter is, however, that a songwriter doesn't have a lot of control over where his or her song is performed. H/T to Fred Roggin for this story from Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle about a particular song by Journey, and who's using it:

Steve Perry, the former lead singer for Journey, will be at Dodger Stadium wearing his Giants cap as usual when the team plays there this weekend and he will leave before the eighth inning, as usual, but not to beat the traffic.

Late last season, the Dodgers started playing Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' " before the bottom of the eighth inning every night as a rally song, and Perry leaves before they do.

"I have to," he said. "I don't want to hear it."

Why? Because Perry is a diehard Giants fan who cannot stand the fact that the Dodgers "hijacked it first" and use it to win games.

More here.

And, San Francisco Giants, I guess that "Who's Crying Now" is available.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A sampling of the reactions to Mary Travers' passing

Yes, I'm taking a slightly more dignified tack in discussing the death of Mary Travers than I did in discussing the death of Jim Carroll. You see, their music was quite different. And all that I'm really doing here is providing links to others' thoughts on Travers' music.

Popeater: "Travers' voice helped carry the trio's greatest hits including 'Puff the Magic Dragon,' 'If I Had a Hammer' and 'Leaving on a Jet Place.'"

New York Times: "Ms. Travers brought a powerful voice and an unfeigned urgency to music that resonated with mainstream listeners. With her straight blond hair and willowy figure and two bearded guitar players by her side, she looked exactly like what she was, a Greenwich Villager directly from the clubs and the coffeehouses that nourished the folk-music revival."

The Music's Over: "Mary Travers is best remembered as one-third of the iconic folk trio, Peter, Paul and Mary. Formed in 1961, the trio gained world-wide acclaim during the ’60s folk revival with such hits as “If I Had A Hammer,” “Puff The Magic Dragon,” and their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind.” They were one of the premier folk groups for many years to come."

HistoricUpstart: "I had two records of them growing up, and I used to crank up the volume and lay down right next to the speaker and sing my heart out to the beautiful harmonies." (H/T Myrna)

The Guardian: "Prettier than Bob Dylan, less hectoring than Joan Baez, she made the idea of sipping overpriced coffee in a downtown dive, while a guitar player sang songs of freedom seem like the greatest thing in the world."

Life in Claremont: "We had several of their records which I would listen to at bedtime on my Sears record player next to my bed. Mary's voice was particularly enchanting to me."

Political Byline: "On a personal note, My mother loved this group as a young lady and still does to this day. With my Mom and many of the other young people at the time; politics was the farthest thing from their minds. They were just enjoying the good music and singing. I am also well aware of the politics of this woman and the other members of the group. However, I do believe a bit clarification is in order. I believe that the liberalism of this woman’s era was not the same stripe of the liberalism of today. It is sort of hard to explain, there has been books written about it. It was the Kennedy Liberalism and not the kind of Liberalism of Barack Obama." (H/T The Atlantic Wire, which also links to the Guardian piece and several others)

(Unfortunately, neither Flickr nor Wikipedia had pictures available for commercial use. Stands to reason.)

More people who died! Died!

I know that a lot of people think of "The Basketball Diaries" when they hear the name Jim Carroll, but I primarily think of him as the singer of "People Who Died."

The Guardian remembers him also:

In my mind, Carroll will always be the creator of one of the most underrated albums of all time. 1980's Catholic Boy seems to be New York's missing musical link between drugged-out beat-clown acts such as the Holy Modal Rounders and the darker sound of Richard Hell. It has 60s style Spector-ish songs like Day and Night, lyrics about girls staying in bed to read Raymond Chandler, synthy love songs to the city and a lot of Raw Power-style garage rock. Carroll's sound walked the line between the coming precision of new wave and the scruffiness of 1975.

It is far from a forgotten record, but it's never received anywhere near its dues. New bands don't nod to it as a major influence, nor does it grace greatest album lists. I'm amazed by the music geeks who only mutter in response to my proselytising: "Oh yeah, I heard that album was OK. Not got a copy myself."

The article then specifically talks about the song I mentioned.

Take his most famous song, People Who Died. The music sounds like he should be singing about asking a girl to the dancehall, but instead Carroll's lyrics describe various friends he's lost, charting their ends from overdoses, leukaemia, gang murders and suicide. The list only stops for the sinisterly joyful chorus that repeats at the end of each verse:

"Lots of people who died, died/They were all my friends and they died."

It is a simple and unsentimental celebration of the short lives of a bunch of stupid kids, who never lived long enough to know better. With its power chords and brazenness, it is far more moving to me than some bloated tribute song, with full orchestra. I'll be playing it loudly in his memory.

If you'd like to do the same, go for it.

More here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Revisiting Patrick Swayze

Back on April 2, I was in the middle of publishing a series of posts about the musical activities of the Brat Pack. On that day, I posted something about Patrick Swayze's "She's Like the Wind" - a song that not only appeared in the Patrick Swayze movie "Dirty Dancing," but was also sung by Swayze - and co-written by Swayze.

Sadly, we have to return to Swayze, who just passed away.

While The Music's Over mentioned the accomplishment above, it also noted some of Swayze's other musical endeavors:

Swayze achieved success as a song and dance man on stage, starring in such musicals as Guys and Dolls, Goodtime Charley and Chicago.

But The Music's Over also notes Swayze's contributions to...hip-hop. Hip Hop is Read discusses this in more detail:

His unintended influence on hip hop culture can not be understated and mustn’t be undervalued. The term “Swayze” (and, as a nod to his film, “going ‘Ghost’”) became popular in the early ‘90’s, employed as a synonym for “leaving”, “going” or “disappearing”. Like much of the slang to emerge from pop culture of the last twenty years or so, this term was berthed from the hip hop lexicon, featured within the rhymes of notable emcees.

Well, unfortunately, Swayze is Swayze. But his contributions, even when he left his shirt on, are recognized by many.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Whitney Houston will address the issue that had to be addressed

When a major label musician or music group launches an album, all of the middle managers and PR experts and social media experts and everyone else need to construct a plan for how the album is going to be launched. Great effort is taken to construct the appropriate plans, budget the appropriate resources, and execute the appropriate public relations strategies.

There's a singer named Whitney Houston. I've previously covered some aspects of the marketing push behind her new album (namely the "sizzle reel"), but all of the photos and crowd pictures and song samples and everything else only answer part of the questions that we have about the singer, who has been absent from the public eye for so long.

So, at about the time the album was being released, Whitney Houston appeared on Oprah. But before Houston appeared, Oprah had a question.

Before Oprah Winfrey sat down with Whitney Houston for her first post-"crack is whack" interview...the talk host wanted to make sure the resurgent singer was up to the task. Her response? She wanted to "tell the truth" about her troubles, namely her high profile fall from R&B superstar to drug-using punchline.

Now many would not consider Oprah Winfrey a professional journalist, but Winfrey certainly knows her audience, and what they are expecting out of an interview. Once Winfrey was assured that the interview would deliver what the people wanted, she became as much a publicist as Houston's record label or Houston herself.

Winfrey refers to a Diane Sawyer interview from 2002. Here's an excerpt from what Houston said to Sawyer:

Presumably Houston is in a different frame of mind now. It's impossible to read her intentions to know whether this is a therapeutic experience for her, a cynical album promotion experience for her, or whether she just knew that this was going to happen and that she might as well get it over with.

Regardless of Houston's true intentions, it appears that the interview, which will air later today, will address many of the questions that have been in the minds of fans all these years.

But let's forget about cocaine and everything else for the moment. Here's the title track to "I Look To You."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

OK, one question for Taylor Swift fans...

As I write this, the tubes are exploding over Kanye West's unsolicited (or possibly arranged) interruption of Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the VMA Music Awards. PopEater:

When Taylor Swift won Best Female Video for 'You Belong With Me,' Kanye jumped onstage, grabbed the mike from the country singer's hands and did what he does best.

"Yo Taylor, I'm really happy for you, I'm a [sic] let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time," he yelled, to many boos. Swift had beat Beyonce's 'Single Ladies' for the award.

But I have a question for Taylor Swift fans. When is Taylor Swift gonna remix a Daft Punk song like that other guy did?

This embeddable video courtesy Heh. Check this...haters...

Truthfully, the musical introduction to this live version of Kanye West's "Stronger," recorded live at the 2007 V-FEST Concert, is impressive. Here's BBC's review of West's appearance:

Mud wrestling, commercial overload, over-priced fast food, diverse acts, persistent downpours and the not-so-sweet smell of portaloos... it can only be the annual return of the V Festival at Weston Park in Staffordshire....

Rap superstar Kanye West made a predictable late entrance but soon had the crowd in the palm of his hand. However, the bass was so loud it drowned West’s beautiful string septet who played as his backing band. Jesus Walks, Gold Digger, Touch the Sky and current chart success Stronger received huge roars.

By the way, I previously talked about the song "Stronger" in an October 2008 post. That's when I shared the 30 Seconds to Mars version of the song.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Costa Mesa cover band

"You Can Call Me Al," "Riders on the Storm," "Use Me."

Outside Arriba Baja Grill, Metro Pointe (near South Coast Plaza), Costa Mesa, California.

Friday, September 11, 2009

We don't got the beat no more - Phil Collins hangs up the sticks

I haven't really dealt with Phil Collins in any of my blogs in several years. In fact, the last time that I discussed Phil Collins in detail was on April 2, 2004, when I published the transcript of an exclusive interview that I had with Collins. In fact, it was so exclusive that it's hard to be believed, if you get my drift.

The one part of the interview that was believable was a link that I made to a picture at Phil Collins' website. The picture illustrated a calendar entry from August 4, 1970 in which Collins wrote, "Got job with Genesis."

I wrote that over five years ago, and the picture is no longer online.

And Phil Collins' website no longer exists.

Ditto for his drumming career:

Phil Collins has revealed that he will never drum again because he is suffering from a painful spine injury. My response to this was instant: of course he's never going to drum again, he's 58!

That's what Paul Lester said in an article about aging rock stars. Lester sourced a Daily Mail post, in which Collins noted that he could still sing, but that the drumming position was now too painful for him.

Perhaps some think of Collins primarily as a singer, but one must not forget that he was also a drummer from the progressive school, which meant that what he did was often interesting. Listen to the juxtaposition of drumming styles in this one minute thirty second clip:

And don't forget Collins' presence on Brian Eno's "Another Green World." Here's what had to say about Collins' contribution:

"Over Fire Island" features Phil Collins's (of Genesis) unwavering drumming while Eno darts in and out with sliding synthesizer notes and a prepared tape. A tremeloed hiss quickly comes and goes, like radio static.

Ground and Sky:

There are five songs with lyrics, and all are successful to varying degrees. Among these, "Sky Saw" utilizes a well-structured build-up of processed guitars, Fender Rhodes, and open-fifth violas, all undercut by the funky interplay by Brand X's rhythm section, Phil Collins and Percy Jones....

Collins and Jones also prove to be a great fit on the tracks that they appear — a somewhat unexpected result, considering how different this music is from Brand X's jazz fusion.

But Collins has been everywhere musically, from Eno to jazz fusion to 60s covers and roll.

Now two things should be mentioned about Collins' presence that day. Collins, of course, was a half-substitute for the deceased John Bonham during the Philadelphia Live Aid show. (Considering Bonham's power, it was advisable at the time to have two drummers in Philadelphia.) And, of course, that was Collins' second performance that day, since he had played earlier in the day in London. (The Concorde was obviously still flying back in 1985.)

But Collins' music career extends well before 1985, and in fact well before 1970. His movie debut, as a matter of fact, was in "A Hard Day's Night" - as an extra.

One more clip, previously shared by Steven Hodson. I must admit that I am unfamiliar with the Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. Perhaps I should become familiar, after hearing this.

P.S. Several years ago I remember KROQ's Kevin and Bean interviewing Dave Grohl. By this time Foo Fighters had become very successful, and Kevin and/or Bean made the point of noting that Grohl had emerged from the background of Nirvana to become a singing bandleader...just like Phil Collins. I don't recall that Grohl reveled in the comparison.

Who is qualified to judge music?

While people in the United States are discussing Ellen DeGeneres' fitness to be a judge for American Idol, people in the United Kingdom are discussing the fitness of the Mercury judges. For the record, here are the judges and their occupations:

Janice Long
Former BBC Radio 1 DJ, now of Radio 2

Charles Hazlewood
Noted British classical music conductor

Jude Rogers
Guardian music columnist

Arwa Haider
Metro newspaper music critic

George Ergatoudis
Head of Music, BBC Radio 1

Conor McNicholas
Former editor of NME. Now editor of Top Gear magazine

Mike Flynn
Jazz editor, Time Out magazine

John Kennedy
DJ and presenter of X-Posure new music show on XFM

Mark Findlay
Head of Music, Global Radio

Dean Jackson
DJ BBC Radio Nottingham

This begs the question - what are the minimum qualifications to judge the quality of music in a particular genre?

P.S. A former music judge is looking for work:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

She's our baby this week

Remember Whitney Houston's new album? The Inquisitr announced that it's number one on the Billboard charts this week.

And, by the way, the final album name included neither "Whitney" nor "Houston." The album name? "I Look To You."

Speaking of resurrections...Barry and Robin Gibb!

Public Image Ltd. isn't the only old band that's resurrecting. The Bee Gees are also re-forming...but they're not reforming as the Bee Gees. Bang, in the Inquisitr:

Robin and Barry Gibb are “getting back together” six years after the death of their brother, Maurice, who died of a heart attack following surgery for an intestinal blockage in 2003....

Robin and Barry...announced shortly after Maurice’s death they would not use the Bee Gees name anymore when performing, although Robin wouldn’t rule out the possibility last summer.

He said: “We decided that on an emotional level. Whether or not that will change, we don’t know. It’s a personal thing and we’ll do it when the time is right”.

I had always figured that they had formed as a band just before NEMS employee Robert Stigwood found them, but their history as a band goes back to the 1950s:

The trio made their performing debut in 1955 as the Blue Cats, performing a brief set of Lonnie Donegan and Tommy Steele covers at the Manchester club where their father's group was playing. In 1958 the Gibb family emigrated to Brisbane, Australia. There the boys regularly played at area talent shows and other amateur showcases, occasionally performing songs composed by Barry. They changed the name to 'The Brothers Gibb' but soon shortened this to simply 'the Bee Gees'. In 1959 they were spotted by disc jockey Bill Gates, who soon became the group's manager and played their demo tapes on his radio show. An 18-month residency as the house band at the Beachcomber Nightclub in Surfers Paradise allowed the group to hone a set of original material composed by Barry, and in 1962 they signed to Festival Records.

But I was aware that the band, shortly after hitting it big after returning to England, broke up:

Internal friction and problems with drugs and alcohol were, however, tearing the Bee Gees apart, and in the middle of 1969 Robin left to begin a solo career. He had a major hit with 'Saved By the Bell'. In the meantime, Barry and Maurice, the latter of whom had recently married singer Lulu, continued alone, working on film Cucumber Castle and the country single "Don't Forget to Remember". Drummer Peterson left also and filed a lawsuit claiming rights to the Bee Gees name. The year-long court battle which followed prevented the Bee Gees name being used and the group lost virtually all of its chart momentum.

Both Barry and Maurice issued solo singles, neither being a hit.

Eventually Robin returned, and the Bee Gees released one of their best songs, "Lonely Days." Then they got bigger, with "Jive Talkin."

Then, in case you didn't know, they got really, really big with "Saturday Night Fever." This clip of "Stayin Alive" doesn't include John Travolta, but it certainly shows the Bee Gees' image during the peak of their fame.

While Rick Dees was an RSO artist, and there were other RSO artists (such as younger Gibb brother Andy), the Bee Gees were clearly the largest stars on RSO.

While their super-fame passed, as super-fame always does, they still hold a place in musical history, not only for their massive disco hits, but for their work before and after, which was often of high quality.

With one exception. Every band releases a clunker, and I have a personal distaste for the song "I Started a Joke." And the joke is on you if you dare to listen:

OK, I'm going to share one more Gibb-related video - one in which the Gibbs don't appear, and one which wasn't an RSO release. Here are Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton:

And you have to admit that Dolly looks better in a high-slit dress than Maurice ever did.

See Songfacts for the Gibb connection.

Another Rotten band resurrected

John Lydon, a/k/a Johnny Rotten, never took Neil Young's advice of burning out rather than fading away. He persists, and occasionally resurrects his old glories. The Sex Pistols (with original member Glen Matlock replacing the late Sid Vicious) have re-formed and toured, and now it's Public Image Ltd's turn. Stereogum links to a press release:

Public Image Ltd Return
Press Release:
September, 7th 2009

PiL December 2009 Live Dates

Public Image Ltd are set to return for a series of very special performances for the first time in 17 years.

London’s Brixton Academy will play host to one of the most innovative and influential bands in music history on Monday 21st December, over 20 years since they last played the famous venue.

John Lydon, Lu Edmonds, Bruce Smith and Scott Firth will also tour nationwide in celebration of the 30th year anniversary of the groundbreaking ‘Metal Box’ album, kicking off at The Birmingham Academy on December 15th.

John Lydon-
“I sound like a bag of kittens thrown down the staircase”

Public Image Ltd will not only be celebrating the anniversary of ‘Metal Box’ but also showcasing the unique sounds of singles such as ‘Public Image’, ‘Death Disco’ and ‘This Is Not A Love Song’, to ‘Rise’ and ‘Seattle’, with many further surprises in store.

After fronting the Sex Pistols John Lydon formed Public Image Ltd in 1978 with their experimental sound fusing Rock, Dance, Folk, Ballet, Pop and Dub PiL are regarded as producing some of the most diverse music of the post-punk era. As a band the music and vision constantly evolved like no other, culminating in an incredible live experience.

Now these 2009 December shows are set to re-create the Christmas vibe that was at the forefront of PiL’s first ever UK gigs on Christmas Day and Boxing Day in 1978 at The London Rainbow Theatre.

Lu Edmonds- Multi instrumentalist and former guitarist in The Damned Lu joined PiL in 1986 recording and playing on the album Happy? and co-writing the album ‘9’ adding yet another dimension to the PiL sound.

Bruce Smith- Former drummer in The Pop Group and The Slits became percussionist for PiL also in 1986 playing and recording on the albums Happy? and ‘9’. Seen as a drumming virtuoso Bruce Smith brought his unique style into the fold.

Scott Firth- A bass player/multi instrumentalist that has collaborated and played with a variety of top musicians and bands including Steve Winwood, John Martyn, Elvis Costello, and The Spice Girls.

Birmingham, 02 Academy, December 15th 2009
Leeds, 02 Academy, December 16th 2009
Glasgow, 02 Academy, December 18th 2009
Manchester, Academy, December 19th 2009
London Brixton, 02 Academy, December 21st 2009

Tickets go on sale 9am Friday, September 11th.
Buy online at or Tel 0844 576 5483 (24hrs)

There will be a special ticket pre-sale via PiLOfficial.Com. Details will be announced Tuesday, 8th September...

For Press Enquiries please contact Adam Cotton at The Outside Organisation Ltd

So you have Lydon, two people who joined PiL in 1986, and one person who has played with the Spice Girls (among others). Paul Lester has a problem with that:

Public Image Ltd's debut single, Public Image, was released in October 1978, making it, along with Magazine's Shot By Both Sides, Gang of Four's Damaged Goods and the Banshees' Hong Kong Garden, one of the records that ushered in the post-punk era. It was a period of incredible musical expansion that saw white rock bands dabble for the first time with disco and dub. John Lydon's second outfit played a pivotal role in that exciting development.

Or, at least, the early incarnation of PiL did. There were many versions, featuring a series of drummers, but it was when Lydon teamed up with guitarist Keith Levene and bassist Jah Wobble that the group produced their most groundbreaking work.

And maxkitty has weighed in:

Just sounds like Mr. Lydon having another wank.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Looking back at Rick Dees and his Cast of Idiots

On my Facebook account, I just wrote a parody note entitled "What if President Carter had spoken at Wakefield?" It consisted of a long look back to high school events from other 30 years ago, and in the course of the post-note comments I made a shocking admission:

I am not proud to say that I owned the entire Rick Dees album. (On cassette.)

Several years after I graduated from Wakefield, I moved to the Los Angeles area and had the opportunity to listen to Rick Dees on a daily basis, if I so desired. As time went on, I desired to listen to him less and less, and was very happy when Ryan Seacrest replaced Rick Dees at KIIS-FM...only to be disappointed when Rick's tired routines popped up elsewhere on the radio dial.

But back in the 1970s, Dees' routines were fresh and least to me. (Maybe people in Memphis were getting tired of him.) And yes, I did own the Rick Dees album that included "Disco Duck."

I figure that some of you are familiar with the title track, a novelty track in which a guy with a duck voice was enjoying the disco beat - "get down mama!" This gave Dees a healthy dose of national fame, which he used to appear on "The Midnight Special".

The album included some other songs in the same vein ("Dis-Gorilla," anyone?), but two of the other songs still stand out in my mind today. Let's start with "Barely White," in which a man with a deep voice is completely unsuccessful in picking up a woman..."I stuck out tonight, even though I'm Barely White." I actually enjoyed the song, and still enjoy it today, but Wilson & Alroy (who, as you may know, have very high standards) absolutely despised the song:

Ostensibly a parody of a certain R&B singer, with the Caucasian-American Dees performing both the egotistical seducer and his reluctant female prey in mock "black" accents, it manages to be at once incredibly offensive and totally unfunny... a magic combination. It's definitely worth a spin just to hear how ill-conceived and clueless an attempt at humor can be: the concluding watermelon reference is jaw-dropping.

The thing that strikes me, though, is that Rick Dees, a working DJ at the time the song was released, emerged unscathed from the experience, and is working in radio to this day.

For, record...I don't even recall the watermelon reference. Maybe my opinion would change if I did.

The other song that I recall fondly is called "The Peanut Prance." Coincidentally, my Facebook parody obviously focused on President Carter, and Rick Dees used his same formula - put a duck, gorilla, or whatever into a disco situation - and did the same with Jimmy Carter. I'd say more about the song, but I already wrote about it, and one of its co-authors, in an October 2, 2008 post. And that post referenced a July 11, 2005 post. But I'll repeat the joke with which Dees closed the song...and the album.

kissing 2 girls with mononucleosis will not give you stereonucleosis.

But those are just some of the highlights from this album. All Music Guide has the complete track listing:

1 Disco Duck
2 Barely White (That'll Get It Baby)
3 Bionic Feet
4 Flick the Bick
5 Disco Duck (Instrumental)
6 Dis-Gorilla
7 Doctor Disco
8 Bad Shark
9 He Ate Too Many Jelly Donuts
10 The Peanut Prance

I can't even recall some of these songs any more, but "Bad Shark" managed to parody both "Jaws" and "Shaft" simultaneously, and "He Ate Too Many Jelly Donuts" was about another Memphis resident.

Oh, and you know how kids moan about how their moms throw away their old baseball card collections? Well, someone has retained this album, and is selling it new...for $73.58.

Friday, September 4, 2009

When boy bands grow up

I like pop music.

There. I said it.

Of course, I happen to consider the Clash and the Sex Pistols as pop music bands, but that's beside the point for this post, because I'm starting off by talking about the Backstreet Boys. While many of you probably said "Bye Bye Bye" to them years ago...excuse me for a moment...





Where was I? Oh, yeah, the Backstreet Boys. As I was saying, I like their stuff, and I haven't shared "Incomplete" in a while, so here goes.

But according to PopEater, this song, like their previous ones, suffered from a lack of control by the band. They've rectified that:

Despite the benefits of success, some pop stars still don't have a say in their creative process. With their seventh studio album, 'This Is Us,' the Backstreet Boys are trying to change all that....

Instead of being told who they were going to work with and what songs they were going to sing, Backstreet started calling their own shots and personally contacted the producers they wanted to work with. Nick Carter called T-Pain to see if he was interested, while the whole band reached out to RedOne, Jim Jonsin and others.

Artists taking control of their own music is nothing new - as time went on, the Beatles exerted greater control over their music, and Jimmy Page ensured that Led Zeppelin controlled their sound throughout their career - but it's rare for boy bands to get that type of power. But then again, the Backstreet Boys are not unique in that regard.

Enter (I told you this was coming) the Jacksons.

Throughout their young lives, the Jackson Five were pretty well restricted in what they could do, first by their father, and then by the Motown machine. Even when the Jacksons (minus Jermaine) broke free of Motown, they found themselves under the control of Gamble & Huff - an updating in their sound to be sure, but not necessarily a Jacksons sound. So they insisted on artistic control, left Gamble & Huff, and recorded Destiny. And while some of the songs were written by outside songwriters, the biggest hit, Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground), was written by Michael and Randy Jackson and produced by the band itself. And Destiny was followed by Triumph and Victory, and while one could argue that the success of Victory was partially due to the incomparable success of one band member at the time of the band's release, the fact remains that this former controlled boy band was able to carve out a successful career while being in (using the words of their younger sister) "control."

Will the Backstreet Boys carve out a comparable level of success as they call their own shots? Time will tell.

OK, Second Spin has vinyl...and CDs...and people

Yeah, now THIS blog is talking about Second Spin, and I haven't even set foot in the store yet. If you don't know, Second Spin is a store that has just expanded and opened a location in Ontario, California at Ontario Mills. See this post and this followup for information.

The latest comes from Liset Marquez:, which is a new used CD/DVD store at the mall, was promoting an in store performance by Boys Like Girls (yes that is the band's name) on Monday.

I guess someone needs to tell Liset that they also have vinyl.

So anyways, the band website says that Boys Like Girls will be at the Mills at 6:00 pm Monday. Here's their short-term in-store schedule:

Monday, September 7th @ 6 PM
Ontario Mills Mall
4758 East Mills Circle
Ontario, CA 91764

Wednesday, September 9th @ 7 p.m.
ZIA Records
1940 W. Chandler Bvld,
Chandler AZ 84224

Thursday, September 10th @ 4 PM
Best Buy
310 Commerce Blvd.
Fairless Hills, PA

Thursday, September 10th @ 8:30 PM
Looney Tunes
31 Brookvale Avenue
West Babylon, NY

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Life IS easy in the United Kingdom

Remember the dispute between YouTube and the Performing Rights Society in the United Kingdom? The one that kept music off of YouTube in that country? If you don't, then you may not have read my previous posts on the topic - back on June 2, April 22, and March 10. Yes, the dispute has been going on that long.

Well, the dispute has been settled:

Google (GOOG) executives wouldn’t disclose how much they’re paying songwriters for the rights to play videos that feature their songs, but said they would be cutting PRS for Music a single check that covers the length of the deal. The new pact will extend through June 2012 and will retroactively stretch back to the beginning of this year.

The German dispute (see my April 2 post) isn't settled, but there's a glimmer of hope:

The deal may provide a blueprint for resolving a similar dispute between the video site and a German rights society.

Peter Kafka expressed no such hope for the Warner Brothers tussle (see my Feburary 7 post). But at least SOMETHING is moving forward.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

When you only look at a part of a band's career

I've previously discussed whether records are obsolete. What about singles?

This thought struck me as I read an Inquisitr post that catalogued the Beatles' top 40 selling singles in Britain.

The top five positions were all occupied by songs that were released in the first part of the Beatles' recording career, when Beatlemania was at its peak.

For, those songs are:

1 She Loves You
2 I Want To Hold Your Hand
3 Can’t Buy Me Love
4 I Feel Fine
5 Day Tripper/We Can Work it Out

From there you notice little anomalies. For example, number 6, "Hey Jude," was released as a single in 1968 and, to my recollection, was never put on a regular album in Britain, which meant that the single was the only way to get it.

Which brings up a point - namely, by the time that the fourth Beatle (Paul) had left the band (the other three had left at times, but only John left permanently), singles mattered a bit less than they did when "She Loves You" topped the charts. If you just judge the Beatles on their single career, for example, you miss "Sgt. Pepper" entirely.

Not that singles ceased to matter to the Beatles - at least three of the singles on the list were issued after the Beatles broke up.

23 Free as a Bird
25.Beatles Movie Medley
30 Strawberry Fields Forever (re-issue)

Missing - "Got To Get You Into My Life," a US single in the mid-1970s that may not have been released on the other side of the pond.

"Free as a Bird," of course, was the song that was released with the most hype, since it was a Beatles song in which one of the Beatles was dead.

Of course, if you're just looking at individual singles, you're missing the albums, which were significant even in the Beatles' early recording period. For me, the best part of the album entitled "The Beatles" isn't the song "Back in the U.S.S.R." - it's the fact that "Back in the U.S.S.R." becomes "Dear Prudence," which becomes "Glass Onion," which eventually becomes "Cry Baby Cry," followed by "Revolution #9," followed by "Good Night."

Then again, I don't listen to music radio as much as people did in the 1960s. Times have certainly changed...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Digitally Imported ( is on Facebook

Last Friday, I ran a post in my Empoprise-MU music blog entitled NTN Buzztime is on Facebook. It began as follows:

I should have thought to search for this before, because Facebook has everything. But I happened to run across NTN Buzztime's Facebook page recently.

Well perhaps I should repeat the same introduction all over again. I was looking at thejadekitsune's StumbleUpon account (she reviewed my Empoprise-BI business blog 3 months ago) and noticed that she has recently selected as one of her favorites.

Although I like (especially on my mobile phone, since it's the only available option on my older phone), I admit that I haven't visited the site in a while. So I was pleased to discover that, like everyone else, now has a Facebook fan page.

A random thought about the Gallaghers' unpleasantness

If there was so much bickering, how in the heck did they come up with the band name "Oasis"?

According to Wikipedia:

Oasis evolved from an earlier band called The Rain....Liam suggested that the band name be changed to Oasis. This change was inspired by an Inspiral Carpets tour poster which hung in the Gallagher brothers' bedroom. One of the venues the poster listed was the Oasis Leisure Centre in Swindon.

Yeah, Oasis in the Gallagher brothers' bedroom. Odd beginning, and an odd end.