Trying To Get To You

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Stax And The Soul Of Hip-Hop

Hip-hop is clearly the most impactful and important musical genre that has emerged in the past thirty years. And much of it has been built on the rhythmic foundations of soul. Stax has just released The Soul Of Hip Hop, a compilation of Stax songs that were used for tracks and beats in famous hip hop songs, including De La Soul, Rakim, DJ HiTek, Cypress Hill, DJ Muggs, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, DJ Quik, Ice Cube, Notorious B.I.G., Wu-Tang Clan, RZA and more. Featuring songs by Isaac Hayes, The Emotions, Booker T. and the MG's, William Bell and others, it's a great and funky look at the impact that Stax has had on hip-hop.

I spoke with the compilation's producer, Jonathan Kaslow, a former co-worker of mine at Island Def Jam. Jonathan is one of the most knowledgeable and passionate hip-hop and music fans I've ever known, so doing this interview was a true pleasure.

Q: What was the genesis of The Soul Of Hip Hop?

I'm a consultant for Stax, and I've been going back into the vault and taking multitrack masters from the Stax catalog (including the above title) and converting them to Pro Tools sessions. I then take sessions that I feel producers will be interested in and give them to use for sampling. An example of this would be producer Jake One who took the multitrack from "Masquerade" and created a beat that ended up as the music for the Freeway song, "It's Over" on his Def Jam album Free At Last. Some of the producers and artists working with the material are Dr. Dre, Kanye West and Ghostface Killah.

From that, we sort of came up with the “soul of hip-hop” idea – we wanted to educate people how influential Stax has been in the sound of hip-hop. We were in talks with Def Jam to try to make an album of new material using all the Stax multitrack masters. I had arranged something with Rondor Publishing to do a blanket license – but for various reasons, it got shelved.

Q: I know you as a enormous hip-hop fan – what’s your relationship to soul music?

I’ve always had personal relationship to soul music. My mom, Alison Miner, was one of the managers of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and she managed Professor Longhair for a while. So growing up, I was more exposed to the r&b and blues side of things. I wasn’t as educated about the Memphis sound. I discovered it through my love of hip-hop – going back to find where my favorite rap tracks came from.

There are some Stax artists that my mom booked for Jazzfest – she had booked the Staple Singers and Margie Joseph. So the circle of life – it’s incredible. My mom passed a few years ago, I’m working with the masters of the artists she booked, and I’m thinking “Who was my mom talking to to make this happen…was she talking to (Stax head) Al Bell?”

But my education came through hip-hop. I felt like I had to find my own sound. And hip-hop was that. Hip hop is the music of my generaton. But you have a moment when you’re a kid if you’re into hip-hop and if your parents have a big record collection. You have curiosity about how these sounds came. I'd listen to these old albums, and then I'd discover a track that one of my favorite rap songs was from and I'd be like, “Oh shit…that’s from that?” All these of these great rap songs are based on this old music. And when I’d try to find the hip hop sample, it all led back to Stax. I had no idea all this stuff happened in Memphis.

Q: One thing I noticed is that all of these songs come from the post-1969 catalog. The Stax catalog that is venerated is usually from the Atlantic era (up until 1968). But everything you have here is from the era after Stax left Atlantic.

Yeah – that’s a great point. Until I worked at Stax I didn’t have expertise in the catalog. It took me the last few years to learn it. And amongst the old-timers at Stax today, artists like Sam & Dave are the absolute pinnacle of the catalog. Absolutely – for them, it’s the pre-1968 stuff. But everything that moves me is from the post-1969 piece of the catalog when Stax got a lot funkier. For me, after 1969, things got much more interesting rhythmically. The BPM’s got to around 88 or 90…just the kind of tempos that would become perfect to rap to. And a lot of the beats that are sampled from Stax are just so perfect that they just loop it and do nothing else. They don’t have to layer it or anything. They’re perfect.

A lot of the artists in the catalog – Johnnie Taylor, Rufus Thomas, the Mad Lads – they went from that 50’s bluesy, doo-wop influenced sound to pure funk. Stax’s music from 1969-1974 brought us an era of music that for some reason, became the dominant sound in hip-hop from the late 80’s to the mid-90’s. For a guy like me from the hip hop generation, the later era of Stax speaks volumes more.

Q: Why would you recommend this to a hip-hop fan unfamiliar with Stax or old school soul?

For someone who grew up with hip-hop, but didn’t go beyond being a listener–if they never got into production, they can listen to this CD and really get the origins of hip-hop. We approached the project from the context of, “What are the most famous hip-hop songs that used Stax beats, and then what Stax songs comprised those.” A lot of soul fans are unfamiliar with the Mad-Lads, but for me, they’re more important than Sam & Dave. And the people that listen to the older part of the Stax catalog – they can get into it because it’s funky.

This whole project has been an education for the people on the Stax side. They’ve made money off of sampling – but they didn’t know what it was or how to make it interesting for them in a social context. A lot of people of the Stax generation – both artists and executives – would give sample clearances very grudgingly. But thanks to this project, I think the folks at Stax have an ever broader sense of the impact their music has had, and it's actually made them fans of sampling! Because if it wasn’t for the hip-hop generation, someone like me, I wouldn’t even have even 10% of the interest I do in this music. It’s been good for everyone involved.

Q: Do you have future plans with this project?

We have plans to do multiple volumes of this particular set. I want to create “the soul of hip hop” as a brand in that we can create an idea and a theme that is universal to this. It’s a bridge between generations between soul and hip-hop. What I’ve been doing with these is using the multi-track masters, which gives producers so many more options. When I opened the multi-track of David Porter’s “I'm Afraid The Masquerade Is Over,” I almost cried – for me, even though he's a legendary producer and songwriter, what he’s known for is that song, which has been sampled by Wu Tang Clan, LL Cool J, and Biggie. When I could hear the strings separate from the piano – if you mute out things, there’s an almost infinite amount of possibilities you can create. I’d love to give background on how these tracks led to hip-hop. Maybe even do a TV program and show how a hip-hop artist would approach these vaults.

It’s interesting how history is approached differently with rock and rap. In rock, artists will often be obvious and forthcoming about their historical influences - which can reach back decades. In hip-hop, so many of the artists, especially with their braggadocio, will try to portray themselves as a whole new thing – nothing came before, and nothing comes after. Yet the foundation of all their music is older.

It's true - it's a different relationship to history and the past. When I was 11 years old, I was way into the Geto Boys Can’t Be Stopped album, the one with “Mind Playing Tricks On Me.” The first song on side two of the cassette was “You Gotta Let Your Nuts Hang,” which Scarface is all over. I was at my mom’s in New Orleans – and I was going through my her record collection. She had managed the Wild Magnolias, who were this incredible band of Mardi Gras Indians. Their first album is seminal. I heard the loop from “Gotta Let Your Nuts Hang,” knew it was from the Wild Magnolias, and then when I checked the credits of the Geto Boys album, I was like, “I don’t see the song credited.”

So I told my mom, who then called band pianist Willie T, and she had me go to Willie T’s place and play him the Geto Boys. He listened and then said, “I’ve never heard of the Geto Boys, I’ve never heard this song, and no one ever contacted me about using it.” He ended up taking Geto Boys to court and won - I was a hip hop snitch (laughter) – and that money really helped him. Being around the New Orleans musicians growing up, I was taught that they’re the most important thing - and that you have to protect them. My mom taught me that history is a hugely important thing, and it can’t be let to fade in the background. Growing up in hip-hop I had a weird identity – I knew that it was built on the past, but it wasn't something you ever talked about. I think why there’s a lack of history sometimes is because of the socio-economic history of African-Americans in this country. It’s a very painful past sometimes, and I think denying the history can sometimes be a way to get past the pain.

You have tons of examples of that in black music history – middle class blacks in the 50’s and 60’s who hated the blues, and felt that that was old plantation shit to be left behind.

Yeah. I remember working at Def Jam when "Standing In The Shadows Of Motown" came out. The movie came up in a staff meeting, and a very high up black executive said to all of us, “You best keep me as far away from that shit as possible.” And I was like, “You don’t like Motown?” But for that person, their relationship to that music was very different from mine, and it was not to be discussed.

Download: David Porter - "I'm Afraid The Masqurade Is Over"

Buy The Soul Of Hip Hop at eMusic

Buy The Soul Of Hip Hop at Amazon MP3 store

Buy The Soul Of Hip Hop at iTunes

Monday, March 30, 2009

Theory Vs. The Real World

I get that the music business (the record business expecially) is struggling and may be at a loss in how to deal with their challenges. I'm not an apologist for the record business. I could write a long list of mistakes I believe they've made and others I think they continue to. But I am so exhausted reading the theories of techies and futurists who know very, very little about the real world of music.

Last night I came across a blog post by a guy named Albert Wenger. Wenger is partner at Union Square Ventures, a New York based venture capital firm. In his post titled, “A Coming Paradigm Shift In (Online) Music,” Wenger recaps the familiar shifts in the music business over the course of the past decade, and then writes of three companies/services that he sees as possible paradigm shifters. I’m not familiar with the services so I can’t comment. But what got my attention and raised my ire were the following sentences in his final paragraph:

Of course one immediate question about such a new paradigm is how artists will make money. I think it would be a grave mistake to be caught up in that question. For starters, it seems to me that over the course of history very little of what we now think of as great music was produced specifically because the people making it were concerned about making the music a commercial success (I was reminded of that this morning listening to “Breakfast with the Beatles”). (Bold and italics are mine - BL)

Really? Tell that to Motown founder Berry Gordy, who specifically designed Motown to be a commercial proposition, tailoring its sound at all times to the perceived desires of the marketplace - "The Sound Of Young America." Motown was not founded on the pure self-expression of the Artiste. Its production model was the automotive assembly line. Each single was created expressly to be a hit - and writers and producers were ordered to continue to use a musical style until it fell out of favor on the charts.

Mr. Wenger mentioned the Beatles in his post, so let’s write of the Beatles. While the Beatles clearly had a true passion for music, to say that they weren’t concerned with commercial success is utter hogwash. Paul McCartney once said, “When John and I used to get together to write, sometimes we’d say, ‘Let’s write a swimming pool today.’” And John Lennon was never more authentic when he sang, “Money (That’s What I Want).”

Great independent labels from the 50’s and 60’s like Chess and Atlantic were founded not just on a great feel for the black music market – they were founded on a desire to make a lot of money in the process. The men who ran these companies were not patrons of the arts - they were hustlers who loved the music, and loved the money they could make selling it. James Brown, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin…all of these great artists had their commercial considerations right alongside their artistic ones. One never negated the other.

The myth that art and commerce are separate – that “true” or “great” art has nothing to do with the desire for commercial success or financial reward is the cause of more inauthentic behavior amongst artists than anything I’ve ever encountered in the music business. I’ve met so many left of center, independently minded artists who either claim (or feel they need to claim) that they’re above commercial considerations, when the truth is the opposite. (And in my experience, those are the artists that are the most expensive to sign - when they say they don't care about money, that's when you have to hold on to your wallet.)

There’s nothing wrong with caring about commercial and financial goals. Yes, I believe that the art should lead, and that compromising the essence of your principles for a buck is what we call selling out. But when artists try to pretend they don't care for or desire money or commercial success - well, that's when things get phony. It's the worst way to try to attain credibility as it has nothing to do with true authenticity.

Because the music industry is so challenged at the moment, there are a ton of thinkers from outside of music who theorize and opine about what changes need to be made to the music business. That’s fine. But when these non-music people create theories that are on top of an utter ignorance of music, musicians and music history, well then something needs to be said. Theories and ideas are great – as long as people reading the theories get that there’s a gap between theory and the real world. A very big gap indeed.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Bootleg Friday: Simon & Garfunkel, 1969

I was listening to the iPod (on shuffle) last night on the way home, and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” came on. I was about to hit the forward button; after all, do I really need to hear “Bridge” again? But I let it play, and once more, I was taken in by the overwhelming beauty of the song, arrangement and vocals. If there’s a better gospel song written by a Jewish guy from Queens, I don’t know what it is.

So today’s Bootleg Friday is a Simon & Garfunkel show from November of 1969 in Oxford, Ohio. It’s from the same fall 1969 tour that the recent Live 1969 album came out on (through Starbucks) and it’s fascinating to hear the songs that would be released on 1970’s Bridge Over Troubled Water in sparser musical settings, played in front of an audience that had never heard these songs before. When Art Garfunkel introduces “Bridge” by saying, “Here’s another new song, probably my favorite, called ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water,'” you can’t help but smile, knowing what’s coming for the audience.

What is eye opening on these songs is how powerful Art Garfunkel’s singing is on them. I had always thought of Garfunkel more as an appendage than as a true partner of Simon’s – but this show proves me wrong. And while the duo was backed here by their great studio band – drummer Hal Blaine, bassist Joe Osborn, pianist Larry Knechtel and guitarist Fred Carter Jr., they’re used sparingly and subtly, letting the strength, craft and skill of the songs and voices shine through.

Download: "Fakin' It" 11/11/69, Oxford, OH
Download: "The Boxer" 11/11/69, Oxford, OH
Download: "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright" 11/11/69, Oxford, OH
Download: "Why Don't You Write Me" 11/11/69, Oxford, OH
Download: "Bridge Over Troubled Water" 11/11/69, Oxford, OH
Download: "The Sounds Of Silence" 11/11/69, Oxford, OH
Download: "Bye Bye Love" 11/11/69, Oxford, OH
Download: "Homeward Bound" 11/11/69, Oxford, OH
Download: "America" 11/11/69, Oxford, OH

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Some Advice To Mr. Springsteen

Dear Bruce,

I haven’t gotten that email from you yet requesting my advice on the setlist for the new tour. Maybe it went into my spam folder. Strange. It probably just slipped your mind amidst all the preparations for the tour.

Anyway, I read the accounts of this week’s two rehearsal shows on Backstreets. Sounds like you made some progress on night #2, but I think Chris Phillips’s criticism is dead on – you don’t really have a new show yet. You’ve just added some new songs to a pre-existing framework. And I assert that you need a new show.

So I’ve constructed a working set list for you of 24 songs (you can expand on it later), based on the themes you’ve been talking about in interviews (“Our band was built on hard times”), the new album and of course, the need to get the crowd out of their seats, shaking their asses and rocking. I’ve put some alternate ideas for a few slots as well.

I’ve also compiled a list of songs that in my opinion, you should avoid, as well as a list of songs that you might want to either dust off, or try out with the band for the first time.

Here we go:

The Set

1. Cover Me (It rocks, it’s about hard times, and it’ll be a cooking opener – just no prolonged intros, ok? Count it off in the pitch black, and then when Max’s drums kick in, have the stage lights explode. They’ll love it – even your core fans that say they hate it will be like, “Yeah, that’s a pretty great opener.”)
2. Roulette (Uh, can we say financial crisis, anyone?)
3. Outlaw Pete (I’m not a big fan of this one, but I know it’s important to you to play it.)
4. My Lucky Day
5. Spirit In The Night
6. Working On A Dream (Bruce, I heard the rehearsal version – you brought the song a whole step higher. Bad move. Bring it back down to the original key.)
7. Seeds/Spare Parts
8. This Life (Sounded gorgeous in the rehearsal, but please drop the crowd participation part – too cheesy. Having the background vocalists is a great move though.)
9. What Love Can Do/Good Eye/Queen Of The Supermarket
10. Candy's Room
11. Cadillac Ranch/I'm Goin' Down
12. Leap Of Faith
13. Girls In Their Summer Clothes (Do it in the same key as the recorded version, ok Bruce? It's one of your greatest songs ever, and you bringing the key up on the Magic tour just didn't work - it killed the melancholy at the heart of the song which makes it so wonderful.)
14. Kingdom Of Days
15. The Last Carnival
16. Backstreets/The Price You Pay/Long Walk Home
17. Born To Run (It needs a new context to freshen it up, but you can’t not play it.)
18. Born In The U.S.A.


19. How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live? (Says it all, right?)
20. Open All Night (Rock it, baby)
21. Pink Cadillac (A little humor is nice.)
22. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
23. Land Of Hope And Dreams/Raise Your Hand (Totally different songs, I know, but in a way, they're very similar. Use em depending on your mood.)
24. Eyes On The Prize (You’ll have em weeping and raising their fist – perfect way to close it out.)

Warhorses That Need A Break For This Tour – Use Sparingly, If At All

Out In The Street
Thunder Road
Dancing In The Dark
No Surrender (unless you do it acoustic – then it would be lovely)
The Rising
The Promised Land
Lonesome Day
The Ties That Bind
She’s The One
Darlington County

No. Just no.

Mary’s Place
Bobby Jean
Waitin’ On A Sunny Day
American Land
Last To Die
Livin’ In The Future
Working On The Highway

Time To Take It Out Of The Closet

Better Days
Open All Night (see encores)
Highway Patrolman
Walk Like A Man
Spare Parts (see main set – put Nils on pedal steel for this bad boy.)
New York City Serenade
Lucky Town
When You’re Alone (acoustic version would be lovely)
One Step Up
The Price You Pay (see main set)
Another Thin Line

Time For An E Street Version

Maria’s Bed
Cross Your Heart
Real World
Long Time Comin’
All I’m Thinkin’ Bout
O Mary Don’t You Weep

I think with this as a general framework, you’ve got the makings of a kick ass tour. If I come up with any other ideas, I’ll definitely let you know. Let me know your thoughts - but don't have Little Steven call me about it, ok? He'll just tell me that you need to do all the songs from Disc 2 of Tracks. And when are we going to discuss the archivist/re-issue job? Call me before the tour starts, ok El Jefe?

Download: "This Life" 3/23/09, Asbury Park, NJ

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Radiant Fitz & The Tantrums

I’ve been enraptured with the songs on Fitz and the Tantrums debut EP, “Songs For A Break Up: Volume 1.” The Los Angeles based band's songs are luminous, well crafted and instantly memorable, with big, open choruses that sweep you up in their incandescent wake. They’re one part old, forgotten soul, one part Nuggets style garage rock, along with a dash of early "She's Gone" era Hall & Oates. Fitz’s voice has elements of Jack White along with echoes of dozens of forgotten one shot hit makers of 70’s AM gold, and he rarely fails to delight.

The production is definitely of the post-Mark Ronson school; retro feeling but with hints of modernity. The sound works for them, but they could stand to create a sound that is more uniquely theirs - if they do, they'll be even more formidable.

Mark Ronson has featured “Breakin’ The Chains Of Love” on his East Village Radio show, but I think “Don’t Gotta Work It Out” is a superior song. With a pre-chorus reminiscent of the Spinners classic “Rubberband Man,” it then slides into a chorus that feels like turning the roof down on a 1964 Pontiac convertible on a brilliant Southern California day right about the time you hit Route 1. Gorgeous and gleaming stuff.

Download: Fitz & The Tantrums - "Don't Gotta Work It Out"

Fitz & The Tantrums MySpace

Fitz & The Tantrums Performing LIVE! that's right LIVE!!! "Breakin' the Chains of Love" from Fitz&theTantrums on Vimeo.

Friday, March 20, 2009

32 Years

Today is the 32nd anniversary of my mother’s death. I’ve debated whether or not to write about it on the blog for the past 36 hours or so. I am and have been deeply reluctant to write about her – I don’t want to seem mawkish or significant. And I sure don’t want anyone’s sympathy – I’ve been blessed in a multitude of ways. But I write anyway, because so much of who I am as a music person is from her – both in life and death.

My mother, Gerda Pastor, was born in 1931, in a little village called Nowy Targ, in the southern part of Poland, near the Czechoslovakia border. Her father, Max, was a contractor who bought various foodstuffs in the Polish farmland, and then sold them to Polish army posts. He had been an officer in the Polish Army during World War I, and he built upon those contacts to create a successful business. Max was a gruff man, and while loving, the real warmth in the house came from my grandmother Bronia, who my mom adored. She also had an older sister, Helene, who she had an up and down relationship with.

My grandfather knew by 1938 that there was no future for Jews in Poland. Anti-Semitism was all encompassing in Poland – my aunt told me years later that it was “everywhere you went.” The epithet “Dirty Jew” was commonplace and accepted at all levels of Polish society, and it followed my family, and all Jews everywhere. So they decided to get out. My grandmother had relatives already in New York, and they agreed to provide a sponsorship so they could attain visas. The process was ongoing in September of 1939, when Hitler invaded Poland.

My grandfather had managed to get American dollars in anticipation of leaving Poland, and with those, he proceeded to bribe their way out of Poland. Carrying as little as possible (what survives are some photos and a Candelabra that is at my father’s house), they got one of the last trains out of Warsaw before it fell to the Germans. They traveled to Romania, and then to Yugoslavia, where they got on the S.S. Rex, which sailed for New York and arrived November 15, 1939 (ironically, my day of birth, 31 years later). My mother was eight years old. Much of their family was still in Poland, and would eventually be murdered in Auschwitz, a fact that haunted my mother until her dying day.

Settling at first in the Bronx, and then in Washington Heights, my family began to adjust to life in America. My grandfather went to work as a dishwasher in the luncheonette that was owned my grandmother’s relatives, and did so without complaint. Then he became a line cook, and eventually, he owned his own dairy restaurant. There was no “English As A Second Language” type of program in the school system back then, so my mother and aunt (my aunt was 14) entered school without speaking a word of English. Within 6 months, my aunt says, they both could communicate passably in English. They adjusted.

What is important to know about my mother is that she was exceptionally beautiful, and her beauty gained her entry into a glamorous and sophisticated world. Men wanted to wine her, dine her, teach her, etc. (Emphasis on the “etc.”) She came to have a love affair with culture – film, music (especially opera), and fine art. She became a stylist, and she also wrote for several New York based art magazines as well acting as an agent for Vincent Cavallaro, who would later become my Godfather.

She absolutely adored New York, and was the quintessential New Yorker – smart, sophisticated, sexy, urbane, and in possession of what my father later called, “a very wonderful and timely streak of vulgarity.” She dressed uber-stylishly. I’m not sure I ever saw her wear a pair of jeans. Dresses or slacks. And always high heels. She spoke several different languages and traveled often – to Italy (on several occasions), France and Israel (she was an intensely devout Zionist). Later on after I was born and she was in her 40’s, a male friend of a neighbor of ours said upon meeting her, “Oh, you’re the Femme Fatale from next door!” She batted her eyes at him – she loved it.

She met my father through her work in June of 1966. He was running a company that manufactured womens shoes, belts and handbags, and she came to consult as a stylist. My father fell in love with her at first sight. “From the moment I saw her until the day she died,” he told me after she was gone, “there was no one else.”

When my father proposed, my mom had a few conditions. One of which was to have a child. My dad already had two kids and wasn’t keen on another, but my mom said she wanted to bring a Jewish child into the world that would replace the Jews that had been killed in the Holocaust. He accepted her conditions, and they married in November of 1968. Two years later I was born.

What I remember most about her in those years was her warmth. It was enveloping. When she was joyful, she could light up a room, and her laugh came from deep down within her, a soulful laugh. (My father loves to tell the story of how when they saw Mel Brooks’s “The Producers” in 1968, my mother the Holocaust survivor laughed so hard during the “Springtime For Hitler” scene that she peed in her pants.) She was physically demonstrative, generous with hugs and kisses for all.

She became devoutly religious as she got older, and I can remember how she would light the candles every Friday night to usher in the Sabbath. She would cover her eyes and say the prayer, and in those moments, she seemed almost taken by the spirit. I can see now that she was communing with something – maybe God, maybe the memories of Poland, or maybe just a spirit that she was attuned to. When she would tuck me in at night, we would always sing the “Shema” together, and it was done with an immense amount of love, but with more than a hint of sadness in there too. I didn’t know it then, but it was my first introduction to soul.

Her sadness became a real darkness at times. For whatever reason, she took the burden of the deaths of six million Jews upon her in some fashion, and it led her to drink. My dad told me well into my adolescence that I once asked him, “Why does Mommy act so different at night then she does during the day?” He traveled a lot for work then, so her drinking scared him to death, as she was responsible for looking out for me. It scared me too. I knew she loved me a lot, but the darkness she was enveloped in made her seem unreachable to me at times, and like all little kids, I blamed myself. And then I got angry and I diminished her in my mind. Every night when my dad would walk in the door, I would be thrilled – it was though the cloud above the house lifted, and I felt completely safe again.

I don’t want to make too much of her drinking. It was there and it happened, but we were a very happy family. I was very happy. I never wondered for a second whether my parents loved me. I could feel their adoration. And I adored them.

Saturday, March 19, 1977 started as a gorgeous, brilliantly sunny day. It had snowed several inches the day before, severely enough that they shut my 1st grade class down about an hour or two after we had arrived. I watched my usual Saturday morning cartoons – The Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner show, followed by the Shazam and Isis hour on the little black and white TV in my room, played outside in the snow, and then got dressed.

At around 1pm we left in my father’s rust colored Dodge Dart to go to the library. He drove, I sat in the passenger’s seat so I could be his co-pilot, and my mom sat in the back seat. We were all in good moods. None of us wore seat belts. A few minutes after 1pm, we were traveling through an intersection when we were struck at full speed by another car that ran a blinking yellow light. We spun out and crashed into a telephone pole.

I remember vividly looking to my left, and seeing my father moaning and writhing, his eyes closed, in obvious agony. His moaning was an unbearable and frightening sound, but I was so disoriented that everything occurred to me in the moment as surreal. I had slammed stomach first into the glove compartment, but was strangely not in much pain. I was just scared, stunned and in shock. I heard sirens arrive quickly, and a policeman emerged to help me get out of the car. When he pulled me out, I turned to the right and saw my mom, unconscious, her head resting against the right window, a trickle of blood coming down her ear. I took the policeman’s hand and was led to a waiting ambulance. There was a crowd of onlookers at the scene, the looks on their faces both horrified and concerned. I turned around one last time and looked at the car, twisted and mangled beyond recognition.

My father, fortunately, suffered relatively light injuries (a broken rib and a black eye), but my mom never regained consciousness. While I underwent surgery for a ruptured spleen that the doctors detected after shortly after arriving at the hospital, the doctors told my father that while I was going to be fine, my mom had suffered massive brain damage from her head slamming into the window at the moment of impact, and she wasn’t going to make it. They had to tell him three times before it registered. She died a little past midnight on Sunday, March 20, 1977.

Even now, 32 years after, I find it difficult to really be with the enormity of what happened that day. But obviously, one part of my life ended on that day, and another one began. I soon forgot what my mom’s voice sounded like, and I can’t recall it consciously, but there are times that I’ve dreamt of her (I like to call it “getting a visit from her”), and when she speaks, it’s her authentic voice. She’s there within me, always.

My love and appreciation for music, for literature, for art and beauty – that’s her. What I heard in soul music from the moment I first heard Otis Redding - that deep sadness along the irrepressible joy, sometimes apart, sometimes entwined – well, that’s an experience of life that I understood, and understood young, probably too young. Soul music, at its best, is an acknowledgment of the harshest blows that life can give, coupled with an indominitable resiliency and will to keep going.

That will to keep going despite it all is why Springsteen’s music has meant so much to me, why the line “It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive” from “Badlands” is one that never fails to move me to the core of my being. And it’s why I have so little listening of much of the post-modern music (yes, I’m talking to you, indie rock) that is at the vanguard of music today, so much of which is more head than heart, that takes its risks in the realm of form instead of emotion, revels in distance as opposed to connection, that in its cool, drains much of the joy out of song and performance.

When I’m in the studio with an artist or when I’m writing about a piece of music that I love and want you and everyone else to love and appreciate, that’s my mom within me. And it’s how I do my best to honor her memory, and keep her being alive. My mother used to quote a line from Puccini's Tosca, which declares, “I lived for art and I lived for love.” What else are you going to live for?

Download: Louis Armstrong - "West End Blues"
Download: Bruce Springsteen - "Across The Border" 11/26/96, Asbury Park, NJ

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Sacrilegeous Etta James

It goes without saying that gospel music is a fundamental building block of soul. Some of soul’s most iconic artists – Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin and Al Green – sang gospel, were raised in it, or left secular music to go back to it. Simply put, it was part of the fiber of their being. And the importance of the church in African-American life has been historically paramount – especially during the years of Jim Crow and segregation.

Etta James was trained in gospel, and perhaps that’s why hearing her 1973 cover of Randy Newman’s “God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind)” was so shocking to me the first time I heard it – it was the first time I ever heard a gospel based soul artist be sarcastic about God.

Newman’s original version, on his epochal album, Sail Away, is sung with a weary and almost regretful detachment. Etta sings it with a knowing and burning anger. When she sings in God’s voice, she sings with a mocking relish toward her subjects that is almost sensual – caressing each syllable like she was curling up next to someone in bed after a long and immensely pleasurable night. It's a remarkable cover.

As the critic Robert Christgau wrote, “To hear this gospel-trained ex-junkie turn 'God's Song' into a jubilantly sarcastic anti-hymn is to know why pious blacks consider blues devil music.” At the very least, the song reinforces my belief that if there is a God, She’s a hottie with a very evil sense of humor. That’s my kind of sacrilege.

Download: Etta James - "God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)"

Cain slew Abel Seth knew not why
For if the children of Israel were to multiply
Why must any of the children die?
So he asked the Lord
And the Lord said:

Man means nothing he means less to me
Than the lowliest cactus flower
Or the humblest Yucca tree
He chases round this desert
'Cause he thinks that's where I'll be
That's why I love mankind

I recoil in horror from the foulness of thee
From the squalor and the filth and the misery
How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayers you offer me
That's why I love mankind

The Christians and the Jews were having a jamboree
The Buddhists and the Hindus joined on satellite TV
They picked their four greatest priests
And they began to speak
They said, "Lord, a plague is on the world
Lord, no man is free
The temples that we built to you
Have tumbled into the sea
Lord, if you won't take care of us
Won't you please, please let us be?"
And the Lord said
And the Lord said

I burn down your cities-how blind you must be
I take from you your children and you say how blessed are we
You all must be crazy to put your faith in me
That's why I love mankind
You really need me
That's why I love mankind

Monday, March 16, 2009

Good New Band Alert: Tent Revival

Last month I received a six-song demo by the South Carolina five-piece Tent Revival, and I continue to be incredibly impressed with what I've heard. Comprised of former members of I-Nine, a once promising band that experienced a major label nightmare among the worst I've ever heard, and Owen Beverly, the Mississippi based singer who has gone through his own major-label purgatory, the band is just beginning to tour down south.

Their material is intense - a twisted sort of folk/rock that is passionate with an apocalyptic edge. There is nothing casual about their attack. But even in their first demos, they have carved out their own sound and identity; uniquely southern in the old Gothic sense. It burns, howls and rocks and resonates with an unapologetically eclectic edge - there aren't many (if any) bands that bring to mind Faulkner and Hendrix (the bassline is straight out of "Hey Joe") in the same song. And with the accrued wisdom of their experience, I can't wait to see how they grow, and what they come up with next. This is powerful stuff.

Download: "Lake Of Fire"

Coverage Of The Billboard Music & Money Symposium

I attended the Billboard Music & Money Symposium in New York on March 5th, to cover it for The Music Void, a London based music industry website. Here's a link to my coverage.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Bootleg Friday: Grateful Dead & Etta James, 1982

As 1982 turned into 1983, the Grateful Dead, as per custom, were onstage at the Oakland Auditorium, bringing in the new year. Their set that night was an uneven one, and during a somewhat tepid "(Turn On Your) Lovelight," Grateful Dead rhythm guitarist and vocalist Bob Weir brought Etta James on stage, and immediately, the energy shot up several notches. The combination may have seemed an unusual one, but Etta brought the Dead back to an important part of their roots - when Pigpen, an unruly and low down blues and r&b devotee, fronted the band.

With the Tower Of Power horns behind them, Etta fronted the band for a four song mini set, including her own "Tell Mama," Jimmy Reed's "Baby What You Want Me To Do," Wilson Pickett's "In The Midnight Hour," and Otis Redding's "Hard To Handle." I don't know if the Dead were "the baddest blues band in the land," as Etta called them, but the combination for what I'm sure in the moment was a pretty amazing end to the evening.

Download: "(Turn On Your) Lovelight" 12/31/82, Oakland, CA
Download: "Tell Mama" 12/31/82, Oakland, CA
Download: "Baby What You Want Me To Do" 12/31/82, Oakland, CA
Download: "Hard To Handle" 12/31/82, Oakland, CA
Download: "In The Midnight Hour" 12/31/82, Oakland, CA

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What Artists Can Really Learn From Springsteen

I have to admit that I find it vaguely surreal to encounter Hangin’ On E Street, a horribly named, but sort of cool page on Bruce Springsteen’s website that has several videos of indie artists talking about Springsteen’s influence. As a long time Springsteen freak whose teenage years coincided with Born In The U.S.A. mania, I remember a time, basically from about 1985-2000, that loving Bruce as I did could not have been considered more uncool, especially in the alt/indie leaning circles that I was traveling in. I guess the memories of those dumb bandannas have faded, and enough people now know that “Born In The U.S.A.” isn’t a jingoistic anthem.

Most of the artists on the page talk about Bruce’s songwriting, his live shows and some allusions to his “authenticity.” Fair enough. But what new and developing artists would do well to know about and take from Bruce is the keen critical eye he took to his own material and performances in the early years - continually reshaping his songs and performances, taking them up several levels in the process. It was this restless spirit applied to his own work, that more than anything else, separated Springsteen from almost every other rocker of his time - and led to him being who he became as a singer, songwriter, recording artist and performer.

Springsteen’s debut, Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ, released in January of 1973 was a good but not great album. A compromise between his rock roots and the singer/songwriter he had been signed as by John Hammond, the album was poorly recorded, and did not adequately capture Springsteen’s roots as a rocker. The songs tumbled in a torrent of imagery, and while many of the songs were great, the tepid arrangements didn't adequately reveal the quality of the songs.

In 1973, Springsteen’s shows with the band (they weren’t officially the E Street Band yet – that came in 1974) were good and sometimes excellent, but not nearly at the level he would soon reach. Springsteen was finding his way – figuring out what worked and what didn’t. Songs stayed close to their recorded versions, but Springsteen experimented by dropping unreleased songs into his set to gauge audience reaction, an almost unheard of practice in rock. (The great exception to this would be the Grateful Dead, but once their songs debuted live, they rarely altered.)

Download: "Spirit In The Night" 1/31/73, New York, NY
Download: "Blinded By The Light"
3/2/73, Berkeley, CA
Download: "You Mean So Much To Me" 7/31/73, Roslyn, NY
Download: "Santa Ana" 4/24/73 Philadelphia, PA

In 1974, Bruce Springsteen transformed as a live performer. The first key step was the firing of drummer Vini Lopez in February, and the substitution of Ernest "Boom" Carter in his place. Carter brought both power and a funky, syncopated groove to the drumming stool, and the power of the songs began to shine. Given a solid rhythmic foundation, Springsteen now felt comfortable to play with his own arrangements, elasticizing them and altering them. In that process, he made his live experience unique every single night - and began to create the enormous groundswell of fan and critical momentum that led to Born To Run.

(Compare the two versions of "Walking The Dog," one recorded with Lopez in January of 1974, and one with Carter, recorded about five weeks later in early March, 1974. The difference is staggering.)

Download: "Walking The Dog" (w/Vini Lopez) 1/29/74, Nashville, TN
Download: "Walking The Dog" (w/Boom Carter) 3/3/74, Washington, DC

Download: "Spirit In The Night" 6/3/74, Cleveland, OH
Download: "Kitty's Back" 7/14/74, New York, NY
Download: "Lost In The Flood" 10/19/74, Schnectady, NY (w/Roy Bittan & Max Weinberg)

Springsteen was not content to simply write a song or play a performance. His obsessive drive caused him to write and re-write lyrics, tweak arrangements and continually look for what he could put in the songs and the shows to take them to the next level. Versions of "Born To Run," "She's The One," "Jungleland" and in early 1975, "Thunder Road" debuted, all in either slightly ("Born To Run") or vastly different ("Jungleland," "Thunder Road") form then how they would be released a year later on Born To Run.

Download: "Born To Run" 7/13/74, New York, NY
Download: "Jungleland" 7/14/74, New York, NY
Download: "Wings For Wheels (Thunder Road)" 2/5/75, Bryn Mawr, PA

Most artists would have been content with those three songs - all were good, and "Born To Run" was already great. But Springsteen was unsparing of himself and so dedicated to the vision in his head that he wouldn't compromise. Draft after draft of lyrics were written until, as Springsteen said later, "they were stripped of cliche." Arrangements were re-thought and re-shaped until their power was maximized.

I've worked with more than a few artists, and I've never encountered any that were willing to be that unsparing with their own work, and it's that element of his greatness that I would advise developing artists to take on. It's also the most difficult one to emulate - but that's what separates the merely good from the great. And now more than ever, if you're going to have a possibility for being a lasting musician, you've got to be great.

(Thanks to Brucebase for the photos.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Acapella White Soul Of The Belmonts

I’ve always thought that 50’s rock has the short end of the critical stick. It's simplicity and unpretentiousness is often confused for lack of depth But the range of rock, r&b, and pop that emerged in the second half of the decade is some of the most awe-inspiring American music there has ever been.

Besides the “founding fathers” of rock and r&b – Elvis, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, et al, I’ve always had an enormous love for Doo-Wop. The beauty of the voices and harmonies in Doo-Wop have always occurred for me as some of the most impossibly romantic pieces in the rock canon – and some of the best. And included in that canon have to be Dion and the Belmonts.

The Belmonts had a illustrious career backing Dion in the 50’s, with hits like “I Wonder Why,” “Teenager In Love,” and “The Wanderer.” But as Dion’s heroin habit grew in the 60’s, the Belmonts left to go on their own. They had a couple of hits on their own in the 60’s, and then broke up.

Reuniting in the early 70’s at the dawn of the first rock n’ roll revival, they released what I consider to be the greatest acapella album ever, Cigars, Acapella, Candy. With an eclectic group of covers including hits from the 50's, 60's and early 70's, the arrangements are brilliant and immensely moving. "Street Corner Symphony," the last track on the record, is a mind-blowing medley of 50's hits that is so beautifully arranged that you might just laugh with pleasure at how fine it is. It's an album that never fails to please, and it gets my highest recommendation.

Buy Cigars, Acapella, Candy at Amazon

Download: "Da Doo Ron Ron"

Friday, March 06, 2009

Bootleg Friday: Talking Heads, 1977

Talking Heads seem to be in the air these days. Whether in their obvious influence in bands like Vampire Weekend, or David Byrne’s continuing influence as both musician and thinker, their legacy continues to resonate even more powerfully with the passing of time.

It seems weird to me now, but the first time I ever heard “Take Me To The River” was via the Talking Heads version, not Al Green’s. Talking Heads were a staple of mine as a kid. As a band with lots of MTV exposure in the channel’s early years, songs like “Burning Down The House” were lingua franca anyone who grew up in the early 80's.

For me, they were a band whose pleasures were to be more fully explored and discovered. Speaking In Tongues and Stop Making Sense gave way to Talking Heads ’77 and Remain In Light, two albums that I still cherish, and were a gateway into a further exploration of CBGB alumni like Television, Blondie, Richard Hell & The Voidoids and more. (I was already a Ramones fan.) Sure they were art-damaged (usually not my thing at all), but I always loved the tremendous sense of humor in their music, as well as some of the best bass playing I’ve ever heard, courtesy of Tina Weymouth.

Today’s Bootleg Friday is a selection of six songs recorded in San Francisco in December of 1977. Of special note is “The Big Country,” my favorite Talking Heads song, and one of the most incisive and brilliant pieces of American alienation I’ve encountered; it's a commentary on the American heartland before anyone had invented the distinction "red state."

I see the shapes,
I remember from maps.
I see the shoreline.
I see the whitecaps.
A baseball diamond, nice weather down there.
I see the school and the houses where the kids are.
Places to park by the factries and buildings.
Restaunts and bar for later in the evening.
Then we come to the farmlands, and the undeveloped areas.
And I have learned how these things work together.
I see the parkway that passes through them all.
And I have learned how to look at these things and I say,


I wouldnt live there if you paid me.
I couldnt live like that, no siree!
I couldnt do the things the way those people do.
I couldnt live there if you paid me to.

I guess its healthy, I guess the air is clean.
I guess those people have fun with their neighbors and friends.
Look at that kitchen and all of that food.
Look at them eat it guess it tastes real good.

They grow it in the farmlands
And they take it to the stores
They put it in the car trunk
And they bring it back home
And I say ...


I say, I wouldnt live there if you paid me.
I couldnt live like that, no siree!
I couldnt do the things the way those people do.
I wouldnt live there if you paid me to.

Im tired of looking out the windows of the airplane
Im tired of travelling, I want to be somewhere.
Its not even worth talking
About those people down there.

Download: "Uh Oh Love Comes To Town" 12/3/77, San Francisco, CA
Download: "The Big Country" 12/3/77, San Francisco, CA
Download: "New Feeling" 12/3/77, San Francisco, CA
Download: "Thank You For Sending Me An Angel" 12/3/77, San Francisco, CA
Download: "Psycho Killer" 12/3/77, San Francisco, CA
Download: "No Compassion" 12/3/77, San Francisco, CA

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Music Fan And Label Executive Writes In

A friend and contributor writes:

For the sake of full disclosure, I’ll get this first part right out of the away. I’ve worked for a record label in one way or the other since 1996. Amazingly, like mostly everyone left on the label side, I survived major label regime shake-ups, company consolidations, near-deranged executives stomping around expensive hallways with a false and exaggerated sense of self that would make Dick Cheney look like Mahatma Gandhi. And that was just in my first year as an Assistant.

In the 13 years that followed, I've watched the label business get shrunk to its core. To say that it’s a shadow of its former self is an understatement that can only be totally understood if you experienced major label life at the height of their power. As survivors (a badge not worn with honor, but more with a sense of numb mystification), we now spend our time taking bets on which major retail chain will be the next to go out of business. We do this mainly because betting on week 1 album Soundscan numbers lost its luster about a half decade ago. But I’m not here to talk about all that doom and gloom. There’s already enough of that to go around.

Feeling a little nostalgic, I’m here to reminisce about that magical time a decade ago when I spent most of my waking hours in my studio apartment glued to my computer downloading songs from Napster. On a 56K dial-up modem no less. Looking back it now, that moment in time had the same impact on me as my first CD purchase years before it. The album was Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Figuring out how to get the wrapping off the blister pack…popping the disc in CD player and listening to the album for the first time in its entirety. I sat on an orange bean bag on the marble floor of our basement unable to move. And not because I was stoned, although that would have made it even better, but because the SOUND was so awe inspiring. And much like everyone else, I started re-buying the key album titles in my collection to try and re-capture that same moment. Over and over.

The Napster experience took it one step further. I now had access to everything. Dylan outtakes I’d only seen at Bleecker Records on expensive Italian bootlegs. They were now mine for the taking. All of them. Right away. Even on some studio recordings, it never occurred to me that the SOUND was many generations removed and that the files themselves were shitty compressed versions of their former selves. I didn’t care. And neither did anyone else outside of the hardcore sound geeks. Convenience trumped it all. And of course, this was in pre-iPod world.

In its own way, the infancy period of Napster was like going to a NYC strip club in the pre-Giuliani years and finding out that you COULD have sex in the champagne room if you could afford it. And not only could you afford it, you didn’t even have to be a Wall Street guy or a ball player. You actually walked out with the stripper’s real digits. And she returned your call! Silly analogies aside, in the years that followed, we now know that we (the record music biz) did everything mostly wrong. The list is too long and too painful to go over although for me, #1 with a bullet is still the RIAA’s idea of an attack campaign that essentially justified suing its own consumer base. Decision makers actually sat in a room, looked at each other and went “that’s a great idea!” And unbelievably so, some people even bought into it. A well-known manager (you won’t figure out who), once told me “The RIAA is doing a great job, they’re teaching kids a valuable lesson, because their parents aren’t telling them that what they’re doing is outright stealing.” My response back? “Hey do you know what kids in College dorms do if they have extra money? They buy a 500 gig drive. And fill it with content. Then another kid down the hall buys another external hard drive and they TRADE them…They don’t seem so scared to me…Maybe they’re scared anyone in their right mind would price a shitty album at $18.98 for 2 good songs. I mean shit; buy 5 of those suckers and you can get 40,000 songs in a box…for free!” The manager looked at me as if I’d just stolen his merch rights. But returning to the topic at hand, the actual reason for this missive isn’t actually so much about what we did wrong (and continue to do wrong) but about something else that indirectly ties into this mess we’ve found ourselves in for a decade now-- the death march of the album. Actually, forget about the march. It’s already buried. And believe me, I’m one to talk first hand; I own about 6,000 of them. CD’s that is.

The album experience in a pre-Napster world was a wonderful place indeed. Transformational works from Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Coltrane, Led Zeppelin, Public Enemy, Cash, Aretha, Miles, The Stones, Elton John, Nirvana changed the world. The list is long. But guess what…that world is now D.E.D. Finito. Over. Done. Will it come back? Maybe one day…but not anytime soon.

The album world has been a replaced by the record companies biggest fear—a world completely dominated by singles where the Digital Soundscan chart has literally replaced the Billboard Top 200 album chart as the chart to pay attention to. It’s probably the only chart left that actually has labels “oohing and ahhing” on Wednesday mornings when Flo-Rida or Eminem shatters a new digital single sales record. These #’s (400, 500, 600 thousand units sold) is precisely what the ALBUM chart used to be. Except for one minor detail…instead of building an $8, $10, or even $12 per unit business, we’re now surviving on a .60 cent per unit model.

10 years since the beginnings of Napster, the album has turned into the type of dead animal that you seeing rotting on the side of the road. It’s the type of cadaver that you want to slow the car down for just to get a good look at the corpse. What’s replaced it? A never-ending series of playlists - the modern day version of cassette mixtapes. And you know what; I’ve made my peace with it. I’ve found closure. Because at the end of the day, I’ve come to realize that I LOVE the idea of singles. And not necessarily singles per se, but individual, stand alone tracks. I don’t need ALL of Give ‘Em Enough Rope by The Clash. No really, I don’t. And I love the idea of p. Songs that you wouldn’t have DREAMT of putting side by side can now peacefully co-exist. And nobody has to know. And because the worldwide domination of the iPod has made music more insular than ever, we have no problem lining up artists and songs that really have no place being on the same set list so to speak, let along in the same iPod!

In a pre Napster world, no one would have dared to play certain songs out loud from fear of being made fun of or possibly humiliated. But now, it doesn’t matter. The idea of being ironic by including song X next to Y in your computer or digital player is no longer an issue. If anything, it’s become practical. The shame is gone. Because as it turns out…you actually LIKED those songs! You can now breathe easier and let go of that repressed feeling of “what would so and so think of me if they actually knew I was listening to a Loverboy song?”

Think I’m kidding? Check this out. Among the playlists I’ve created, I have one that I particularly love called AOR AND OTHER?! It includes 72 songs (some with commonality, some not) including tracks from April Wine, Visage(!), Asia, Plastic Bertrand (because time has been kind to “Ca Plane Pour Moi”, turns out it’s actually minor pop punk gem), Red Rider (“Lunatic Fringe”), Shooting Star (a mid-west minor league band who had 1 radio hit with “Hang On For Your Life”), Frida (from Abba) old Saxon, Genesis’ “Paperlate” (great pop song), R.E.O. Speedwagon (if Daughtry wrote a song like “Time for Me To Fly” people would shit themselves with excitement), Survivor (pre-“Eye Of The Tiger”) and the list goes on and on. Not to sound like Bill Clinton but let me just be perfectly clear about this…I find zero irony in any of these songs. I wouldn’t make devil horns to any of them. Not even to the colossal live version of “2 Minutes To Midnight”—as near to a Pop song as Maiden will ever get.

So what the fuck is my point? These songs make me feel good. Together, they create some type of retarded schizophrenic panoramic collection that no Razor & Tie compilation could have cooked up (love those too btw, so no diss here). Some of these songs could easily exist on a Kansas City classic rock station or on L.A.’s Jack FM. Some are just here because they’re insta memories. Wait, “No One Like You” from the Scorpions just came on.

Do I miss the album? Every once in a while. But not as much as I thought as I would. My modern-day version of the album has morphed into something different. It’s been replaced by digital bootlegs of outtakes/live albums and B-sides that I’ve amassed over the years. Those too have also been turned into variety of playlists or folders containing deeper playlists. Music, much like life itself has morphed into an A.D.D. blog-tastic type world where attention spans are rolled in 90 second sound bites. And trust me when I tell you that music networks (or what’s left of them) do research on this type of thing. It’s a proven fact. Because they’re not even so much competing with each other anymore, they’re competing with YouTube. And here again, that’s why playlists have become what they are. No one pays attention to anything anymore. We’re so completely messaged and devoid of patience that by compiling dozens and sometimes hundreds of songs into one continuous running order, we have the option to quickly skim through all of them. Just like we skim through a radio stations on a car stereo.

I should be bummed that my business has turned into the quagmire that it’s in, but who’s got the time? Not when I can make another New Wave Of British Heavy Metal playlist!