Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pooh on the Swine Flu

Swine Flu mania is full effect. Those at Design You Trust had an interesting spin on the virus that's dominating the news.

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New British Sea Power Song

As I previously posted here in February, British Sea Power is set to release the soundtrack to Man of Aran in June. The Brighton, England-based outfit has reworked a few old songs, while also crafting a new batch of tunes for the re-release of this 1934 documentary. It'll be available as a CD/DVD set from Rough Trade. To get a preview, download "Come Wander With Me."

British Sea Power - "Come Wander With Me"

The awesome British Sea Power poster featured above showcases the Isle of Aran shaped as a shark map with place names, song titles and film references. Nice!

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Punk Rock Cop?

Heh. I took this photo in Union Square a few weeks ago. Is the NYPD punk rock? Psssh.

I want to start singing "New York City Cops" by the Strokes. But in this case, this is pretty cool. Odd, random and cool.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Flaming Lips Fracas

It almost didn't happen, but Oklahoma governor Brad Henry signed an executive order earlier this afternoon to make the Flaming Lips' song "Do You Realize?" the state's official rock song. High-five!

It all came to fruition last fall, when 20,000-plus people picked "Do You Realize," from the band's 2002 LP, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, to be the Sooner State's official anthem via an Internet poll. With more than 10,000 votes, the Lips beat out the likes of the All-American Rejects, J.J. Cale, the Call (yes, the new wave band!), the Ventures, and Wanda Jackson. The Oklahoma senate voted for it as well, however the House of Representatives kind of wrecked everything about a week ago, pulling the plug on featuring the song at all. It was all because of a silly t-shirt.

Rep. Corey Holland (R-Marlow) said he was "really offended" by Lips bassist/keyboardist Michael Ivins (pictured above in the shades and Red Wings jersey) for wearing a red t-shirt adorned with the familiar Communist symbols, a yellow sickle and a hammer, when the band visited the state Capitol last month. Uh, I guess the House of Representatives knows nothing about punk rock, let alone the basic idea that humans have the freedom of choice.

It doesn't end there, either. Republican representative Mike Reynolds also criticized frontman Wayne Coyne for dropping the f-bomb at the 2007 ceremony for the Oklahoma City alley named in the band's honor. Really.

In an interview with Billboard, frontman Wayne Coyne had a lot to say about the ridiculous controversy.

"You know, when it happened a couple of months back, that seemed surreal ... and then when all of this (controversy) started, I think everybody's knee-jerk reaction in the beginning was, 'Ah, we knew it was too good to be true. That's more of the Oklahoma we thought we were dealing with,'" Coyne said. "But it's not true, and I think that's the main reason I wanted to make sure I got to say something about it.

Coyne continued, "It's really just a few religious wackos that think they can tell everybody what to do. It's not even Democrats v Republicans. It's just a couple of these small-minded guys who are the most popular in their church and their little towns. In some ways it's so absurd, it can only make us look good and them look stupid. Honestly, it's just a dumb shirt. We're not communists."

"There are a lot of other great things that are happening in Oklahoma," exclaimed Coyne. "And you know for the governor to stand up and veto it and be on our side, it's such a great story in the end."

Truly awesome! What should New York's official state song be? And for my native Michigan? So many possibilities.

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In the Color

Don't laugh. You remember what it felt like to open a new box of Crayola crayons. IT RULED! As a wee lass, I LIVED for it. Whether it was a box of 8, 16 or 64, those little waxy color sticks were like friends. The red crayon was my favorite. In 1985, I was a red crayon for Halloween, while my sister was a yellow crayon.

C'mon, everyone loves the Sesame Street clip on how to make crayons.

Anyhow, did you know that the first box of Crayola crayons was sold in 1903 for five cents? It included the same colors made famous in the eight-count box: red, blue, yellow, green, violet, orange, black and brown.

Did you know that more than 100 billion Crayola crayons have been made in the last 98 years? Wowsa!

Also, I bet you didn't know that school teacher Alice Stead Binney, the wife of one of Crayola's founders, Edwin Binney, created the Crayola name. She took the words "craie," which is French for chalk, and "oléagineux" for oily, because crayons are made from petroleum-based paraffin wax, combining them for "Crayola" as we know it.

ColourLovers says: "Crayola crayons currently come in 120 colors including 23 reds, 20 greens, 19 blues, 16 purples, 14 oranges, 11 browns, 8 yellows, 2 grays, 2 coppers, 2 blacks, 1 white, 1 gold and 1 silver. Although Crayola crayons come in 120 different colors, the labels are only made in 18, which cover the full color spectrum. Nearly 3 billion crayons are made each year, an average of 12 million daily."

Thanks to Neatorama, too!

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Moz Pop Art

Boing Boing (via Popurls) is a beautiful thing. Over the weekend I stumbled upon this lovely bit of Morrissey-inspired pop art, Derek Erdman's piece entitle "FORTUNATE TEENS PARTY WITH MORRISSEY, 1994"

Here's Erdman's hilarious spin on the painting ... only meant for comic relief. It's not a true story. I mean, c'mon, you can't see Morrissey actually doing THAT?

"There is a seldom told story that Morrissey's tour bus broke down in small town Ohio in the autumn of 1994. A full day was necessary for the repairs to be completed and Morrissey and his band delighted local teenaged fans by stopping by a house party to drink beer and smoke marijuana. 'It was the time of my life,' remarks Tamara Marshall, who was hosting the party. 'My parents were out of town and I was told not to have a party, but once Morrissey showed up I knew I wasn't going to be a secret for long.' When asked what she remembered most about Morrissey's visit, Tamara answered, 'He didn't like Rolling Rock beer'."

Heeelarious! Dontcha love it?

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Acknowledging the 'Ghost'

David Thomas, founder of the proto punk outfit Rocket From the Tombs, and experimental rockers Pere Ubu, will bring his spoken word performance of "Ghost Line Diary" to the Bowery Poetry Club (308 Bowery, between Bleecker and Houston) Wednesday evening at 10pm. The piece was originally written and performed at the 14th Genoa International Poetry Festival in Italy in 2008.

In a press release, Thomas explains, "'Ghost Line Diary' is the journal of a man who wakes to the realization that he has become a ghost. And being an awkward sunuvabitch he applies geometry to the questions of Who, What, Where, When and How."

The Ghost Line Diary LP, available at Hearpen, will feature eight tracks as well as a spoken word program recorded at Palazzo Ducale at the 14th Genoa International Poetry Festival. A video performance of "X", captured by Francesco Di Loreto, will also be included.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Perfect Day

Scenes from Yonkers, courtesy of me. I hope you and yours enjoyed the gorgeous weather today.

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RIP Bea Arthur

My favorite Golden Girl, Bea Arthur, died at her home in Los Angeles today after a battle with cancer. She was 86.

Best known for playing Maude Findlay on the 1970s sitcom Maude, and Dorothy Zbornak on the 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls, the Emmy Award-winning actress became quite the pop culture phenomenon in the last decade. The witty, husky-voiced Arthur also appeared in countless Broadway productions, including Mame, in which she won a Tony Award in 1966 for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role as Vera Charles.

As a child of the '80s, I love her best as the Dorothy Zbornak (aka Dorothy Petrillo). She was quick and curt at times, especially with her ex-husband Stan or with Rose when she had some silly story about St. Olaf. But she was definitely heeeelarious. Remember when her mother Sophia (RIP Estelle Getty) would call her "Pussycat?"

My earliest memories are of watching the show are with my sister and my maternal grandma, while staying at my grandparents' house on Hammond Lake in West Bloomfield, Michigan in the summertime. Maybe it was the older woman/grandmotherly thing that kind of made us bond together, I don't know. All I know is that we had fun and Bea Arthur was a part of it.

"I'm not playing a role. I'm being myself, whatever the hell that is."
-- Bea Arthur

Bea Arthur, thank you for being a friend.

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Happy Birthday Miss Ella

Today marks the 92nd birthday of the First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald. Born in Newport News, Virginia, but raised in Yonkers, New York, Fitzgerald made her singing debut at 17 at the Harlem Opera House. She went on to collaborate with other influential jazz artists like Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and Duke Ellington and won 13 Grammys, for a career spanning 59 years. She is one of the truly great artists of the 20th century, one of pure, original talent and one of my very favorites. Fitzgerald passed away in 1996.

Yonkers paid tribute to Fitzgerald with a statue located south of the main entrance to the Amtrak/Metro-North Railroad station. Pictures are included below. Happy Birthday Miss Ella!

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Head on the Door

Morrissey's video for second single, "Something Is Squeezing My Skull" was release today via MySpace. The clip captures Moz & Co. playing live at the BBC Radio 2 concert in London in February. Lookin' good Solomon Walker!

Morrissey -Something Is Squeezing My Skull

Again, "Someone Is Squeezing My Skull," the second single from Moz's Years of Refusal LP, is out Monday in the U.K.

LOVE Josh Modell's geek obsession bit on the Mozzer at the Onion's A.V. Club, too. Catch Morrissey do "Sing Your Life" on the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson.

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'Sounds' of Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode, who just issued their 12th studio effort Sounds of the Universe on Tuesday, shut down Hollywood Boulevard last night via "Jimmy Kimmel Live." The English trio -- vocalist Dave Gahan, songwriter/guitarist Martin Gore and keyboardist Andrew Fletcher -- performed new single "Wrong" and radio hit "Personal Jesus."

I have to say that Dave Gahan looks quite fantastic. Now in his forties, the guy is practically ageless. It's nice to see the band out there and doing their thing after all these years -- they've stayed pretty true to their craft.

Depeche Mode's "Tour of the Universe" kicks off May 10th in Tel Aviv, Israel, and the North American leg starts July 24 in Toronto. They play NYC's Madison Square Garden August 3rd and 4th. See you there.

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Policy of Truth

"Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life."

-- Sophia Loren

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

I Love Love Love 'Unlovable'

For about five years now, I've followed Esther Pearl Watson's hilarious comic, Unlovable, in the back pages of Bust magazine. Lucky for us, the Los Angeles-based artist and illustrator has collected these strips for a 400-plus graphic novel, published by the Seattle-based Fantagraphics Books. The cover has glitter, too. LOVE it!

For those who aren't familiar, Unlovable is loosely based on a high school diary Watson found in a gas station bathroom while traveling from Las Vegas to San Francisco. Set in the late 1980s, you get to know about the teenage trials and tribulations of sophomore Tammy Pierce. Pierce's earnest attempts to fit in at school and with her friends is funny and endearing, and sometimes embarrassing. You root for Tammy as she swoons over the hottest boy in school, and you high-five her as she puts off the immature antics of her kid brother, Willis. You also cringe when she tries too hard to impress her BFF, Kimberly Conway and her pizza boy boyfriend, Erick. You wanna help her out in gym class (C'mon everyone, we all hated gym!). Through it all, Tammy Pierce keeps a sense of humor. Don't deny it, you remember it well. Those days were such a pain in the ass, but they were the best.

(Image 1: Bust Feb/March '08)
(Image 2: Bust Aug/Sept '07)

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He Knows I'd Love To ...

Ah yes, another Morrissey book for those loyal fans out there. This time, author Dickie Felton captures 30 real-life chance meetings between the adored one and his forever adoring fans in his book, The Day I Met Morrissey, out May 11th via Bootle Bruiser Books. If you don't know already, there are no fans like Morrissey fans. To say they worship him is pretty much an understatement. Last month, while attending the Webster Hall show, my friend Briana and I were laughing how we're still as mad for the Moz now as we were as teenagers. The closest I've ever come to meeting Morrissey was when he and security scurried past the merch table after the Webster Hall show. In 1997, when catching former Smiths frontman at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan, my old college roommate and I chased Spencer Cobrin and Johnny Bridgewood across the street to their hotel. They seemed to have enjoyed that. We just said hi.

Maybe one day? HA!

In other related Morrissey news, "Something Is Squeezing My Skull" will be the second single from his latest LP, Years of Refusal. Out April 27th in the UK, live versions of "This Charming Man, "Best Friend on the Payroll" and "I Keep Mine Hidden" are also included. Click here to order.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Just Because ...

Because we need something to smile about during this economic insanity.

The Key to Success Follow Your Heart, 1994
Photograph by Joyce Ravid

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Gold Against the Soul

One of my very favorite bands, Manic Street Preachers, will release their ninth album, Journal for Plague Lovers, their follow-up to the very underrated Send Away the Tigers (2007). Produced by the legendary Steve Albini, the 13-song set will be released May 18th via Columbia.

Journal for Plague Lovers will also include lyrics by Manics songwriter/guitarist Richey Edwards, who mysteriously disappeared February 1, 1995. His family declared him dead in November 2008.

The band talked about Edwards' lyrics via their website: "All 13 songs on the new record feature lyrics left to us by Richey. The brilliance and intelligence of the lyrics dictated that we had to finally use them. The use of language is stunning and topics include "The Grande Odalisque" by Ingres, Marlon Brando, Giant Haystacks, celebrity, consumerism and dysmorphia, all reiterating the genius and intellect of Richard James Edwards."

English painter Jenny Saville, best known for designing the cover of the Manics’s third album, The Holy Bible, lends her talents for a stunning second cover.

Journal for Plague Lovers:
1. Peeled Apples
2. Jackie Collins Existential Question Time
3. Me and Stephen Hawking
4. This Joke Sport Severed
5. Journal for Plague Lovers
6. She Bathed Herself in a Bath of Bleach
7. Facing Page: Top Left
8. Marlon J.D.
9. Doors Closing Slowly
10. All Is Vanity
11. Pretension/Repulsion
12. Virginia State Epileptic Colony
13. William's Last Words

British Sea Power's Martin Noble is also said to be working on a remix for "Me and Stephen Hawking." Stay tuned.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Iggy Pop Still Knocking 'Em Down

Happy Birthday to the coolest rocker on the planet and my favorite Detroiter, the godfather of punk Iggy Pop. The Stooges frontman turns a 62 years young today.

Pop is also prepping for the release of his 15th solo album, Préliminaires, out May 18th. Set for only 6,000 copies worldwide, this special box set includes the full album and a collector "Les Feuilles Mortes"/"King of the Dogs" seven-inch. Iranian-French author and illustrator Marjane Satrapi, best known for her book Persepolis, designed the album sleeve and contributed drawings to the album's 28-page book.

On his blog, Iggy says Préliminaires is less rock, more jazz and inspired by Michel Houellebecq's novel, The Possibility of an Island. Iggy even sings "Les Feuilles Mortes" (aka "Autumn Leaves") in French. J'adore Iggy Pop!

Pop also gives a shout out to my alma mater, Michigan State University (GO STATE)! The Detroit Free Press announced today that Pop supports MSU's decision to ban animal circuses from campus in the coming year, but is hoping the university will make it permanent.

In a letter addressed to the MSU Board of Trustees, and written on behalf of PETA, Pop stated:

"As students who are concerned about animal welfare have told you, performing animals are deprived of everything that is natural to them, including the ability to roam, forage and form families and friendships ... The circus industry is big, wealthy and powerful, and I'm sure that its leaders are encouraging you to reverse your decision."

Also, The Cure's Robert Smith turns the big 5-0 today. Yikes, Bob is THAT old? That make ME old, too, I suppose? For more on what The Cure -- who just played Coachella over the weekend -- is up to, check out the Cure blog ... Robert rambles on about free music, etc.

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Something to Consider ... Something to Remember

"Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.
Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.
This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays."

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Write It On Your Heart

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Jarvis Hearts 'Angela'

Who doesn't love the stylish wit of one Jarvis Cocker. The former Pulp frontman has always had his own sense of cool. Lucky for us, he's back with some new music. "Angela," the slick, garage rock-tinged first single from his forthcoming second LP, Further Complications, is available for a free download today! Head over to Jarv's official site to get yer grubby little rock'n'roll mitts on it.

For those completists out there, the UK version of "Angela" will be the lead track on a highly limited-edition compilation cassette of various artists to coincide with Record Store Day tomorrow, and as a limited edition 7” on June 15th featuring the exclusive B-side, "I Found Myself Looking For God."

Cocker's Further Complications is out May 19th via Beggars Banquet/Rough Trade and a US tour is expected to follow.

Here's some vintage hotness featuring the one and only Jarvis Cocker:

Pulp - "Common People"

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Record Store Day!

It's 2009 and the exciting process of going into an independent record store to buy that anxiously-awaited new album or a rare import by your favorite artist has somewhat become a thing of the past. I'm incredibly saddened by this. I lived for going to midnight release sales, getting the album on the day of! I loved rummaging through boxes for promo posters and stickers. Buying an album, CD-single, book, or the latest issue of Q, NME, MOJO or the now-defunct Select TOTALLY MADE MY DAY! Obsessively reading the lyrics and the liner notes of said album, I never tired of it. At least we still have concerts. But still, the beauty of purchasing an album you're so incredibly excited about, getting it home and discovering it for the first time, it's an amazing feeling. Or maybe I'm just a dork?

This Saturday (04.18), over 1,000 independently owned record stores across the country (and a slew of shops across the globe) will band together for the second annual Record Store Day. There will be special and exclusive CD and vinyl releases (Radiohead, Dandy Warhols, Bruce Springsteen, Sonic Youth, Iron&Wine ... etc.), in-store artist appearances and other rawk tomfoolery, recognizing the impact of indie music retail. Last year, Metallica got things started at the first-ever Record Store Day at Rasputin Music in San Francisco. And from now on, Record Store Day will be celebrated on the third Saturday every April. WOO HOO!

Artists such as Bob Mould, Franz Ferdinand, Glasvegas, The Gaslight Anthem, The Kills, and Manchester Orchestra are just a few of the hundreds of bands participating in in-store signings and performances.

So check out the Record Store Day website to see what stores in your area are participating in this incredibly awesome event. The Sultan and I will be hitting Generation Records, Other Music and more in the NYC.

I want to give a shout out to my favorite record store on the planet, Flat Black and Circular in East Lansing, Mich., who will be rockin' RSD with Ra Ra Riot.

Record Store Day is organized by the Music Monitor Network, the Coalition of Independent Music Stores (CIMS), Alliance of Independent Media Stores (AIMS) and Newbury and sponsored this year by NARM (National Association of Recording Merchandisers)

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Train Art

Someone obviously had a sharpie on hand while riding the Metro North. I caught this while heading to Marble Hill last Saturday.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Remembering "The Bird"

Sadly, former Detroit Tigers pitcher, Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, passed away today after an accident at his home in Northborough, Mass. He was 54. [Boston Globe article here]

My family attended a many Tiger baseball games in the '80s and '90s, and I grew up hearing a lot about "The Bird" courtesy of my Dad. He was a star the year before I was born, but with all these stories, I knew this guy was pretty special. His disheveled blond curls, nice-guy grin and larger-than-life persona charmed Detroit and the nation alike, for he became as popular for talking to the baseball or "manicuring the mound" as he did for his athletic prowess. His biggest fans were pegged as "Bird Watchers."

In 1976, 21-year-old rookie won 19 games and only lost 9, and led the American League with 2.34 ERA. That May, at his major league debut, he threw a two-hitter against the Cleveland Indians. But it was in June that Fidrych's true-celeb moment came into action. In front of nearly 48,000 fans at Tiger Stadium, Fidrych pitched a seven-hitter against the New York Yankees, wowing both Detroiters and fans watching the excitement via ABC's "Monday Night Baseball." Plagued by injury during his last years in baseball, Mark Fidrych retired in 1980.

"When you're a winner you're always happy, but if you're happy as a loser you'll always be a loser."

-- Mark "The Bird" Fidrych (R.I.P.)

*Fidrych was the first athlete to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone. During my internship in 1999, I scanned the famous wall of covers for Fidrych's beaming mug. My picture is featured above.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Work For Love

"There is time for work. And time for love. That leaves no other time."

-- Coco Chanel

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'What a day, eh, Milhouse?'

I wasn't allowed to watch The Simpsons when it first came out because my Mom thought it was anti-family, but these stamps are pretty awesome (I collect stamps, ok?).

Yesterday, the United States Postal Service unveiled the look of the forthcoming Simpsons stamps, set for a nationwide release on May 7. Fans should be thrilled to hear that these stamps will be available in booklets of 20 AND stamped postal cards in packs of 20.

So yeah, Simpsons fans (or stamp-collecting geeks), head over to to vote for your favorite Simpsons character! Voting concludes May 14. Also, enter your chance to win a limited-edition Simpsons poster signed by show creator and executive producer Matt Groening.

The Simpsons, the longest-running comedy in TV history, is currently in its 20th season.

For fun, let's remember "Do the Bartman:"

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Nicks Goes Her Own Way

I love Stevie Nicks. I really do. The woman has ruled the world for over three decades now, and with the information age expanding faster than the speed of light these days, she's one without a computer AND a cell phone. Sadly, I have no idea how we all did it before email and cell phones. BUT we did survive :)

In an interview with the Associated Press, the Fleetwood Mac songstress had nothing good to say about the Internet's reign over humankind as we know it, saying:

"I believe that computers have taken over the world. I believe that they have in many ways ruined our children. I believe that kids used to love to go out and play."

I was a kid in the '80s and I LOVED playing outside. While my family did get an Apple II C computer in 1985, I wasn't using it like kids use their computers nowadays. My friends and I were riding our bikes and having dance contests and talent shows. Sure, I love my Internet now, and appreciate the fact that the computer world has allowed me to have a career, I side with Nicks.

She adds, "I believe that social graces are gone because manners are gone because all people do is sit around and text. I think it's obnoxious."

I laugh at this because she's exactly right. During the Final Four last Saturday, I basically spent the entire two-three hours texting all of my friends and fellow Spartans during the Louisville/Michigan State game. What happened? I ended up with my first and WORST case of Carpal Tunnel. LAME! I should have been watching the game, relaxing ... right?

Nicks' Live In Chicago DVD And The Soundstage Sessions album are out now.

[Image courtesy of Nicks Fix]

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Beat of Shocking Blue

Hailing from the Netherlands, psyche-pop, folk-tinged foursome Shocking Blue achieved critical success in 1970 with their No. 1 hit, "Venus," later made popular in 1986 by the all-female English trio, Bananarama. Only recently have I discovered them, although I was familiar with "Venus" as a kid, I wasn't familiar with frontwoman's Mariska Veres' magnetic appeal. Her vocals are a near-match for Grace Slick, and her glossy girlish look is classic; Robbie van Leeuwen (guitar/vocals), Cor van der Beek (drums) and Klaasje van der Wal (bass) completed the lineup.

Shocking Blue also wowed fans with songs like "Send Me a Postcard," "Don't Marry a Railroad Man," and "Inkpot." Morrissey featured "Inkpot" and "Mighty Joe" (video featured below) in his pre-show music on his current tour in support of "Years of Refusal."

Before disbanding in 1974, the band sold 13.5 million albums. Sadly, Veres passed away from cancer in December 2006 at the age of 59.

For the indie purists out there, Nirvana covered Shocking Blue's "Love Buzz," which is included on Bleach. "Love Buzz" is also sampled in the Prodigy song, "Phoenix." Ladytron featured "Send Me a Postcard" on their 2003 compilation, Softcore Jukebox.

Shocking Blue - "Mighty Joe"

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With the Lights Out

Fifteen years ago today, I was shopping for new school clothes with my Mom and sister. It was my sophomore year of high school and we were out for spring break. It was a typically overcast spring day in Michigan.

Around 4pm ET, we were on our way home; I was in the front seat of my Mom's crimson 1989 Honda Accord, and my Mom was driving and my sister was in the back seat, but with her head propped in between the two front seats so should could gab with us appropriately. Naturally, I was manning the radio and I turned it to the Flint pop station, CK105 (WWCK 105.5FM) only to hear DJ Heidi say something about Kurt Cobain. It wasn't exactly clear what happened, so I immediately switched it to the Detroit alternative station that I worshipped, 89X (CIMX 88.7FM) to hear resident afternoon deejay Vince Cannova announce that Nirvana's Kurt Cobain was dead. He was 27. I was 16.

Once I got home, the phone calls from all of my friends were non-stop. My BFF and rock & roll partner-in-crime, Alyssa, called me from vacation in Hilton Head. We probably talked 10 different times that evening. She was stunned. Nirvana was her favorite band. Kurt Cobain was her favorite artist. I just remember standing in my parents' bedroom, with the television turned to MTV, talking to Alyssa about how insane all of this was. We watched in unison, over the phone, as Kurt Loder informed our generation that Cobain had died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head, most likely three days before he was found. We watched in horror as his wife, Hole frontwoman, Courtney Love, sobbed over the phone, reading her husband's suicide letter to the countless fans who gathered outside his Seattle home ("Peace, Love, Empathy ... Kurt Cobain"). This wasn't happening.

Over the next couple of weeks, Alyssa and I stayed obsessively close to MTV and 89X, both of our ears and eyes glued to any information regarding our alterna-rock hero. We bought every magazine, and Alyssa taped every tribute special on TV. But just three years before, when Alyssa and I were in 7th grade, we, like many of our peers across America, heard the angst-filled brilliance of "Smells Like Teen Spirit." As cliche as it might sound today, our rock & roll hearts were never the same. I taped the song off 89X and listened to it repeatedly for days on end in my room, while Alyssa taped the video from MTV, rewinding over and over each morning before we caught the bus to school. We LOVED this!

I also remember a cassette of Nevermind being passed around my 8th grade band class. I, of course, grabbed it, took it home and made myself a copy. That same year, some kid had the CD box (remember when CDs came in elongated boxes?) for Bleach hung up in in his locker, which was across from mine. Another fun story is when Alyssa saved up her $2-a-day allowance for lunch to buy In Utero on the day it was released (she did this for Pearl Jam's Vs and Suede's self-titled album). And, during MTV's 1993 New Year's Eve special, I had to babysit. But once I put the kids to bed, Alyssa came over so we could freak out over Nirvana's performance.

Twenty-seven seemed so much older back then. All of my and Alyssa's favorite rock artists seemed to be 27 at the same time, too: Evan Dando, Billy Corgan, Liz Phair, Lush's Miki Berenyi, Dave Navarro, Juliana Hatfield. Twenty-seven was just too young. It was just too bizarre that he was gone, and that our favorite band, wasn't going to be around anymore. I remember watching Pearl Jam on Saturday Night Live shortly thereafter, and after their performance, Eddie Vedder opened his jacket to show the letter "K" over the heart of his green shirt. Yeah ... there's a part in each of us that still knows what that feels like.

Kurt Cobain, we hardly knew you. R.I.P. Kurt Donald Cobain (1967-1994)

**This Friday, April 10, Nevermind, the only Nirvana cover band officially endorsed by the Cobain family, will play an all-ages show at Motor in Seattle. A third of the proceeds from the show will go to the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee, whose mission is to build a youth center and memorial park in Cobain's hometown of Aberdeen. For more info, check out the Kurt Cobain Memorial site. [From The Seattle Times]

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Got to Be Good

"When I'm good, I'm very good; but when I'm bad, I'm better."

-- Mae West in I'm No Angel (1933)

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Mr. E's Beautiful Blues

If you haven't gotten your hands on Things the Grandchildren Should Know, the debut book by EELS frontman Mark Oliver Everett, DO IT NOW! Everett's (aka 'A Man Called E' or 'E') memoir is a touching masterpiece, one marking his survival of losing his entire family, while also crafting out an impressive career as a singer/songwriter. I absolutely fell in love with this book, so much that I read it one day.

Everett's Dad was physicist Hugh Everett III, who founded the quantum mechanics theory as we know it, and at 19, Everett found his father lying dead in his bed after a heart attack. His sister Elizabeth endured years of schizophrenia, and committed suicide in 1996, while Everett's mother Nancy, died of lung cancer two years later. Sadly, his cousin Jennifer Lewis perished during the September 11th attacks in 2001, for she was a flight attendant on the plane that struck The Pentagon.

Despite experiencing more than his fair share of emotional turmoil, Everett achieved critical success with the EELS' debut album, 1996's Beautiful Freak. Quirky first single, "Novocaine for the Soul" was a buzz at MTV, college radio and mainstream alternative radio. (That song reminds me of my freshman year at Michigan State University so much ... it blared from nearly every dorm room at East Wilson Hall that fall). Everett has gone on to release a host of great albums, including Electro-Shock Blues (1998), Souljacker (2001), Shootenanny! (2003), and Blinking Lights And Other Revelations (2005), and my favorite, Daisies of the Galaxy (2000). His music has also appeared in film (Yes Man, all three Shrek movies, American Beauty) and television (Queer as Folk, Homicide: Life on the Street, Scrubs).

While reading this book, I was reminded of my conversation with Everett in spring of 2000, and even then, Everett was super cool. He was boyishly sweet, yet with a fun twinge of sarcasm. We joked about the kids who went ape-shit and set fire to Woodstock the previous summer. Everett was playful in his remark, which was something along the lines of "drunk kids should stay out of the mud."

No one should be forced to be the last of the family line before the age of 50. But in this book, it's Everett's candid sense of humor, both wry and charming, that leaves you with a sense of hope.

Thanks to this book, I got reacquainted with the beautiful music of the EELS. His simplistic lyrical candor is incredibly loaded, it tugs at everyone's heartstrings. Mark Oliver Everett is just and honest-to-goodness good guy, and one who consistently delivers incredible music in this hyper-sensitive and shifty music world.

Do yourself a favor and fall in love with Things the Grandchildren Should Know. It'll warm your heart.

**EELS' seventh LP, Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire, is slated for a June 2 release via Vagrant Records. First single, "Fresh Blood," will available on iTunes with the B-side "Devil's Dog" April 28.

[Mark Oliver Everett photo courtesy of]

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