Friday, December 8, 2006

Another anniversary...

Hard to believe that it was 26 years ago today that John Lennon was killed. We all remember where we were that night, and that period of mourning is one memory that’s still very vivid for me. I was in the midst of a Beatles binge at the time leading up to it, reading up on the band and learning more about them and really getting deeper into their music catalog (beyond just the big hits), thus making Lennon’s murder even more poignant to me. I can clearly remember the day after at school (my Junior year in H.S.) just staring out the window during study hall and feeling so depressed, trying to make some sense out of it all. I gave that up years ago, though, and just chalked it up to fate, I guess. What really sucks is that Lennon had really matured as a person during the last five years of his life, and was no longer the reactionary figure and opportunistic grandstander he once was (not unlike phonies like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton today, for example), and it would have been interesting to hear what he had to say musically during the ‘80s had he lived, and even moreso during the aftermath of 9/11. I’ll never be known as a "tree-hugging hippie pacifist", but there is some merit to the whole "Give Peace A Chance" thing…

Accepting on behalf of Jethro Tull this year is...

That annual exercise in futility known as the Clammy—er uh—Grammy Awards is rapidly approaching, and this year’s nominees were announced yesterday. I have to give it up to the Grammy peeples—at least they’re consistent if nothing else! This year’s Album of the Year Award is a microcosm of what I find so laughable about this whole farce. We have the following vying for the same award: The Red Hot Chili Peppers, John Mayer, The Dixie Chicks, Justin Timberlake and someone/something called Gnarls Barkley. To me, this is like comparing a Trans Am, a Cavalier, a VW Beetle, a Yugo and a moped, respectively, for best mode of transportation! RHCP and Timberfake in the SAME category?!? At least in boxing, they have weight classifications to make things fair! This is akin to the Tazmanian Devil taking on the AFLAC duck! In the words of The Fonz, "It just AIN’T done…"

Of course, I finally came to the realization years ago that the Grammies are a sham, since the "Academy" gets paid off by the record company suits in exchange for nominations. How else do you explain how The Beatles only won like TWO Grammies and groups like The Who and Led Zeppelin were never even nominated! I think I’ll pass on that Grammy broadcast when it comes up in favor of a "Mr. Belvedere" rerun…

Must-See T.V.!

If you struggle like me to find something decent on TV besides tripe like "Dancing With The Has-Beens" and "Everybody Loves Everybody Who Loves Raymond", then I highly recommend tuning into "MXC—Most Extreme Elimination Challenge" on Spike TV. No, it’s not some lame reality show, but this crazy game show from Japan circa. 1986 that someone got a hold of and augmented it with American voices doing commentary on these crazy obstacle course competitions (many of which involve the contestants landing in water and/or mud) and it’s the funniest thing I’ve seen in ages. They tried to make it sound like ESPN guys doing play-by-play, complete with the sideline reporter whom they re-christened "Guy LeDouche" (Guy as in the French or hockey player pronunciation) and the master of ceremonies, whom they re-dubbed "Captain Tenneal". It’s on Spike TV channel late at night, and the first season is also on DVD. Trust me, it’s hysterical!

Who was He mad at this time?

Read in the paper the other day that last week’s snowstorm aborted the Gaither revival gospel concert scheduled at Kemper Arena. This begs the question, who was God pissed off at this time?  Rev. Pat Robertson and his ilk would have you believe that Hurricane Katrina was "God’s Wrath" for all those sinners in the Big Easy, so I have to ask, who was He aiming His wrath at by bumping off this concert?  All those evil gospel singers?  Was Madonna's "Like A Virgin" on the scheduled set list that night?  Or perhaps "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang"?

While I'm at it, who was God mad at when that minister got electrocuted while Baptizing somebody a few months back?  What about when some church burns down?  Or when Billy Graham gets diarrhea?  Seems to me the so-called "saints" get the rubber end of the proverbial plunger just as much as the "sinners" do…

Thursday, December 7, 2006

My Top 10 Redheads of All-Time

Not unlike Charlie Brown, I'm a sucker for pretty redheads, so here's a list of my faves:

1. Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad (ABBA)
2. Jane Leeves (“Frasier”)
3. Kate Pierson (The B-52’s)
4. Sara Rue (“Less Than Perfect”)
5. Annie Potts (“Designing Women”)
6. Penelope Ann Miller (Awakenings)
7. Kate Winslet (Titanic)
8. Peri Gilpin (“Frasier”)
9. Belinda Carlisle (The Go-Go's)
10. Joan Cusack (Working Girl)/Jackie Zeman ("General Hospital") [TIE]

Honorable mention: Yvonne Craig as Batgirl on “Batman”--She wore a wig, thus was technically a redhead! Certainly the first one I ever lusted after at the tender age of five! And yes, Kate Pierson of The B-52's is renowned for sporting wigs in their stage act and videos, but her real hair is downright gorgeous, too.

Sara Rue of "Less Than Perfect" would have finished much higher on my list, but she dyed her hair blonde recently and actually disappointed me by losing weight! Dammit, I liked her the way she was! She was refreshing in that she was a pretty, normal-sized woman on TV with fiery red hair, and now she looks like all the other anorexic blonde actresses out there. Yawnnnn...

By the by, a lot of people don't realize that the most famous redhead of all, Lucille Ball, was actually a natural brunette. She was quite the hottie when she was younger too, like when she was in movies with the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges in the '30s and '40s. Lucy!!! You got some splainin' ta do!

The Crock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame

During a recent road trip to Cleve-Land (as Howard T. Duck pronounces it), I visited the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame Museum, and was quite impressed. A little pricey at 20 bucks a ticket, but well worth the trip if you’re ever up that way. I only had a couple hours to spend there, but probably could’ve stayed all day and still not really seen everything. Plus, it was kinda cool to see my name among the inductees as part of the famed Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting triumverate. I was pretty fucking brilliant for a 1-year-old, writing all those Motown songs and all. I really do wish they’d start sending me those royalty checks, though…

All kidding aside, and as cool as the museum is, I have some MAJOR issues with some of the inductees thereof. This is one subject that will elicit a very passionate argument from me--who belongs in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame, as well as who DOESN’T. It’s pretty obvious that they don’t have true Rock ‘N’ Roll people running this thing, based on some of the people they consider to be worthy of induction, while totally overlooking many others who are most deserving.

Take Bonnie Raitt, for example: I have nothing against her—she’s a pretty good slide guitar player and a decent singer, but I’m having trouble grasping how big an impact she’s truly made on Rock ‘N’ Roll. And considering that her biggest hit "Thing Called Love" is a cover version of a song by John Hiatt (who I think DOES belong in the HOF), I’m not all that impressed with her credentials. I just don’t get this one, apart from maybe because they feel guilty for not having enough women in the Hall. If that’s the case, I have two words for them: Pat Benatar! And here’s another one: Heart! You could probably even make a case for Linda Ronstadt (we’ll forgive her for that Nelson Riddle album thing!). The Go-Go’s are eligible now too, come to think of it. Even Joan Jett would be a step in the right direction...

Another example: Elvis Costello. Yes, he was influential in the New Wave/ Punk scene in the late ‘70s, but I think he’s highly overrated. If he’s in the Hall, then surely Nick Lowe should be—he was even MORE influential in the New Wave/Punk thing, and he writes FAR better songs! And even though I love Ritchie Valens, I have to question his status here too—his career was far too brief, and I think his induction was based more on his potential than his true impact on Rock ‘N’ Roll. Based on that theory, then the late Jim Croce should have gotten in long ago…

The Sex Pistols?!? Bollocks, indeed!!! The Clash? Puh-leeze!!! Miles Davis?!? He was a freakin’ jazz player! I’m not even convinced that Blondie or The Pretenders truly deserve the Hall—at least not yet. Not while bands like Rush, The Moody Blues, Deep Purple, the Doobie Brothers (in spite of the Michael McDonald era), Bad Company, Chicago, Grand Funk Railroad (we want the Funk!), Alice Cooper and many more are still waiting for induction. And why in blue blazes isn’t Van Halen there yet? They’ve been eligible for at least three years and (in spite of their current inner turmoil) should have gone in on the first ballot! After all, U2 got voted in the nanosecond they were eligible, didn't they?

While I’m at it, I will strongly campaign for the most underrated band in the world--Paul Revere & The Raiders--to make the Hall. Sadly, no one takes them seriously because they were considered to be a novelty act with their TV shows and all (Revere’s current nostalgia act in Branson doesn’t help change that perception, either), but these guys could rock with the best of them! They sold more records than The (Young) Rascals, could blow the Beach Boys off ANY stage and were light years better than the Lovin’ Spoonful, yet they’re all in the Hall, and Da Raidas aren’t! Speaking of Spoonful, I think the Hall should have rescinded their membership after their gawdawful performance at the induction ceremony a few years back—it pays to rehearse, fellas!

And did you think I’d forgotten my favorite band of all, Kiss? Soitenly not! They’ve been the subject of much conjecture on this HOF thing, and members of the Kiss Army have ardently campaigned for their inclusion in the Hall, even though the band itself is pretty nonplussed about it all. My take is that Kiss deserves it for their music alone—I’d put their stuff up against Aerosmith’s and Queen’s best any day, and they’re both already in--but there’s NO denying the impact Kiss has had on pop culture, not to mention the way concerts (not just Rock) are staged today. Look how all that has transcended into other entertainment venues--sports pre-game shows, opening/closing ceremonies at the Olympics (Kiss was actually IN one of these), Super Bowl halftimes and even Garth Brooks or Shania Twain concerts--and you can clearly see Kiss’ influence. People love a show, and Kiss knew that long before everyone else did.

Hell, the bleepin’ Bee Gees are in the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame, and they aren’t even Rock! Meantime, I read somewhere that the Moody Blues have like zero chance of getting in--in spite of their vast body of work—and aren’t even being considered for the HOF. Poffeycock!!

Maybe one day the powers-that-be at the R‘N’R HOF will get it right, but then again, these are the same people who had Ricky Martin butchering Ritchie Valens’ songs at his induction ceremony, so I’m not holding my breath…

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The World's Most Dangerous Band(s)?

In the spirit of fantasy football, allow me to submit my "Dream Team” All-Star Rock ‘N’ Roll bands, comprised of some of my favorite musicians:

The 1st Team (LIVING)
Lead singer (male): Roger Daltrey (The Who)
Lead singer (female): Pat Benatar
Guitarists (3): Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen), Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Ace Frehley (Kiss/Frehley's Comet)
Bassist: Geddy Lee (Rush)
Drummer: Zak Starkey (The Who/Oasis)
Keyboardist (2): Elton John, Jon Lord (Deep Purple)
Principle songwriter: Bernie Taupin

Flautist: Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull)
Accordionist: Weird Al Yankovic

2nd Team (LIVING)
Lead singer (male): Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin)
Lead singer (female): Ann Wilson (Heart)
Guitarists (3):
Davey Johnstone (Elton John Band), Angus Young (AC/DC), Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick)Bassist: Tom Petersson (Cheap Trick)Drummer: Eric Singer (Kiss/Black Sabbath/The Cult/Alice Cooper)
Keyboardist (2): Ray Manzarek (The Doors), Benny Andersson (ABBA)
Flautist: Ray Thomas (Moody Blues)
Principle songwriter:
Pete Townshend (The Who)

1st Team (DECEASED)
Lead singer (male): Elvis Presley
Lead singer (female): Dusty Springfield
Guitarists (3): Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Randy Rhoads (Ozzy Osbourne)
Bassist: John Entwistle (The Who)
Drummer: Keith Moon (The Who)
Keyboardist: Billy Preston
Principle songwriter: John Lennon (The Beatles)

2nd Team (DECEASED)
Lead singer (male):
Freddie Mercury (Queen)
Lead singer (female): Janis Joplin
Guitarists (3): Duane Allman (Derek & The Dominoes/Allman Brothers); George Harrison (The Beatles/Traveling Wilburys); Buddy Holly
Dee Murray (Elton John Band)Drummer: Eric Carr (Kiss)
Johnnie Johnson (Chuck Berry)
Principle songwriter: Jim Morrison (The Doors)

Feel free to put yer own band together! It's only Rock 'N' Roll and I like it...

Leo P. For President!

Before 9/11, I never had much use for newspaper columnists and/or pundits who weren’t on the Sports page, but Leonard Pitts, Jr. has become a major favorite of mine. He’s one of the few columnists in the papers these days who I actually look forward to reading. Pitts doesn’t really lean to the left or the right (though the conservatives label him a liberal, but then again consider the source…), and ironically, I first became familiar with his work via a conservative friend (yes you, Tom!) in the aftermath of 9/11 (as did a lot of people, I think) with a piece he wrote that began "You monster. You beast. You unspeakable bastard..." Leonard P. is very down-to-earth and well-written, and like singer Don Henley--whom I praised yesterday--he has a way of cutting through the B.S. in his work. It’s refreshing to read someone’s stuff and feel like I’ve learned something while not having been talked down to. His column just today was about the whole Michael Richards thing and how so many black people are suddenly (and rather hypocritically) revising their own policies on using the N-word. A brief sampling: “…are you telling me that nearly 20 years after hip-hop made that word unavoidable, it takes some white TV actor losing his mind to make black folks see what should have been obvious all along?” That’s just a sample, and I urge everyone to hop on the Miami Herald website and check out his previous columns, which deal with many other topics besides racism, by the way--his post-Katrina stuff is particularly good. I’d love to see this guy run for President, too. Hell, I’d vote for him…

The Hottest Band In The World, Indeed

I’ve been a Kiss fan for exactly 30.5 years (to the day, no less), which is probably longer than I’ve done anything else in my life (apart from breathing), so I’ll no doubt be yapping about them a lot on this blog. I am most pleased with their new triple-DVD set entitled Kissology, Vol. 1--1974-77, which features five—count ‘em—five full-length concerts from their heyday when they truly WERE the hottest band in the world. I didn’t get to see Kiss live in concert until the ’79 Dynasty tour (which was a good, but not great show, as it was the beginning of the end for the original foursome at the time), so the Tokyo and Houston concerts from 1977 on the DVD give a pretty good taste of the band during the height of their popularity (and why they didn’t use the audio from these for the Alive II album instead of the crappy-sounding L.A. Forum shows, I’ll never know!). They also loaded the DVDs up with several TV show appearances, including the “Paul Lynde Halloween Special” from 1976--which was the first time I ever saw them on the tube--as well as clips from “Midnight Special”, “Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert” and ABC’s “In Concert” (bless you, Dick Clark!).  This DVD is worth it alone for clip of their infamous “Mike Douglas Show” appearance—the band’s first exposure on national TV, albeit to an audience of middle-aged housewives like my Mom, who watched ol' Mike religiously. I’ve always meant to ask her if she happened to be watching the day Kiss was on, and if so, did she have to reach for the smelling salts?

I’d previously seen bits and pieces of the concerts and TV show clips on other bootleg videotapes and “official” Kiss video offerings, but this is definitely the most comprehensive collection so far, and totally worth the 20 bucks to see a young and hungry Kiss (and a THIN Gene Simmons!) at the top of their game, or as Paul Stanley has been known to preach during Kiss concerts in recent years, “WHEN IT WAS REAL!!!” (which, come to think of it, also refers to his hair!). I hear there are two more future collections in the works too, and I’m betting Vol. 2 (Vol. “Deuce”?) will include their infamous TV movie Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park, and their even more infamous “Tomorrow Show” appearance with Tom Snyder where Ace was drunk off his ass and pissing Gene and Paul off.  It’s “Cold Gin” time again…you know it’ll always win!

Monday, December 4, 2006

Issues And Assholes

Just a few random items to get the ball rolling...

--I read in the paper today that those guys who heckled comedian Michael Richards and set him off on his infamous tirade are now in cahoots with some lawyer in an effort to milk a little moolah out of the deal, in addition to whatever in-person apology Richards was/is going to give them. Gee, what an ordeal those poor guys have been through! Can you imagine the suffering--oh the humanity!! While I certainly don't condone what Richards said/did, I have yet to hear anyone call into question the behavior of these heckler bozos in the first place for taunting him. Last time I checked, heckling was considered rude in our jungle, and these yutzes were out of line to begin with. They merely learned the hard way what some of us already knew--Richards is not that funny anyway! I was never a big "Seinfeld" fan, although I know he was a fan-favorite on the show playing a quirky character (sort of a male version of Phoebe on "Friends", perhaps).  I only found him to be marginally funny on the old ABC "Saturday Night Live" ripoff called "Fridays", so I can't picture him being all that hysterically funny as a stand-up comic. As for the hecklers, if you're that dissatisfied with the show, then get off your lazy ass and leave instead of ruining the show for everyone else! Apart from maybe getting their ticket money refunded (and even THAT is a stretch!), these yahoos don't deserve a damn thing for their "suffering"! What a country...

--Speaking of which, is there anyone besides me that's sick of this Borat thing already? Everytime I open a magazine or read the paper, there he is with that geeky smile on his face! If you rescramble the letters in Borat, you get "abort", which in his case sounds like a damn good idea. He has to be the most overrated, over-hyped something-made-out-of-nothing since the Blue Man Group! I predict a long career for him in Branson (opening for William Hung). What a country (again)...

--There's a TV ad for Enterprise rental car that just kills me. It shows this guy "Moose" getting all pimped-out for his high school reunion, to which he'll be driving in a rental car from Enterprise, ostensibly to "get there in style". Yeah right, I'll impress my old shallow-as-shit classmates who I haven't seen in 20 years with a fancy car that doesn't even belong to me--that'll show 'em! Way to go, Moose...

--While I'm on TV commercials, I have to rant about John "Booger" Mellencamp and his lame new song on the Chevy commercials. I've loathed his music for years (to me, he's the Jerry Seinfeld of Rock 'N' Roll--a whole lotta songs about nothing), but the ONE thing I always respected about him was how he rejected corporate advertising to sponsor his concert tours and generally disdained kowtowing to big business in general. So now what's he doing? Shilling for Chevy! What's up with that, Big John? Your records ain't selling so hot these days, so you better grab that paycheck from GM, huh? All the while disguising it with a shovel-full of phony patriotism to boot. You sly dog! For a Bruce Springsteen wanna-be, ol' John Cougar Summercamp sure don't act like him...

--I know this is a bit dated, being a month after the elections and all, but I didn't have a blog then, so I'll say it now: Although I never doubted this for a moment, do we need any further proof about what a walking/talking bowel movement Rush Limbaugh is after his comments on Michael J. Fox, accusing him of faking his condition? This coming from a man who was supposedly going deaf a couple years ago?!? One could accuse the BFI (Big Fat Idiot) of faking his condition too, so I'll do the honors. True story: I tuned into Limbaugh on the radio one day just after the 2004 election and--I'm not making this up--the first thing out his mouth when the show came on was, "Wait a second, hold on--it's way too loud in here!" Now, how could anything be too loud for someone who's supposedly deaf? Go get stuffed, Rush!

--Lest anyone think I'm too negative, let me finish tonight by singing the praises of singer Don Henley, albeit for a song that's almost 25 years old. The more I listen to his 1982 hit "Dirty Laundry", the more I love it--what a prescient song when you look at today's TV news media! Back when the song came out, Walter Cronkite had just retired, CNN was still in its infancy, Anderson Pooper was in puberty and Fox TV didn't even exist yet, let alone Fox News Channel ("We Distort, Then Deride"), yet the lyrics of "Laundry" so accurately encapsulate the current state of TV news. Bill O'Reilly could sing the line, "I coulda been an actor, but I wound up here/I just have to look good, I don't have to be clear" and he'd be telling the truth for once! Katie Couric could probably handle the final verse of the song, "We can do the Innuendo, we can dance and sing/When it's said and done, we haven't told you a thing/We all know that crap is king--give us Dirty Laundry!" Amen to that, brothers and sisters! This is why I generally avoid TV news anymore--it's all sensationalism, titillation, tease, tease, tease, yet no semblance of substance--I get my news out of the paper or off the 'Net now. Anyway, getting back to Mr. Henley, I initially didn't like his work (both solo and with The Eagles), but over the years, I've made peace with him and have grown to love his music--he has a unique way of cutting through the B.S. and getting to the heart of the matter (pun intended). His Eagles song "Get Over It" is another favorite of mine--a brilliant stab at trashy TV talk shows. What's more, he sings in my key! Excellent work, Mr. Henley, and give my regards to Geraldo Rivera!