Thursday, December 18, 2008

News: Morrissey Signs Deal with Lost Highway Records, Announces US Tour Dates

Actually William, it really is something...Word came today that Morrissey, he of gold lame shirts and pompadours, signed a release deal with Lost Highway Records, the Americana-based record company, for Morrissey's new record. "Years of Refusal" drops February 17, followed by a US tour that covers the east coast and midwest.

Morrissey has inked a U.S. deal with Lost Highway for the release of his new album, "Years of Refusal," Billboard can reveal. Due Feb. 17, the project will be issued in conjunction with the former Smiths frontman's own Attack imprint.

Lost Highway is an intriguing destination for Morrissey, as it is most commonly associated with roots- and country-leaning acts such as Ryan Adams, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett and Lucinda Williams. The label is also the U.S. home for Van Morrison and Elvis Costello.

"Refusal" will be supported by an extensive North American tour, including shows in three different New York venues (Bowery Ballroom, Webster Hall, Carnegie Hall).

The album was previewed for media last week in London, from where Polydor will handle the international release. First single "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" arrives Feb. 9; guitar legend Jeff Beck guests on the track "Black Cloud."

Track list for "Years of Refusal"
"Something Is Squeezing My Skull"
"Mama Lay Softly On The Riverbed"
"Black Cloud"
"I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris"
"All You Need Is Me"
"When Last I Spoke to Carol"
"That's How People Grow Up"
"One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell"
"It's Not Your Birthday Anymore"
"You Were Good In Your Time"
"Sorry Doesn't Help"
"I'm OK By Myself"

Morrissey's North American tour dates
Feb. 28: Boca Raton, Fla. (Mizner Park)
March 1: Orlando, Fla. (Hard Rock Live)
March 3: Jacksonville, Fla. (Florida Theater)
March 4: St. Petersburg, Fla. (Jannus Landing)
March 6: Myrtle Beach, S.C. (House of Blues)
March 7: Atlanta (Variety Playhouse)
March 9: Asheville, N.C. (Orange Peel)
March 11: Durham, N.C. (Durham PAC)
March 13: Richmond, Va. (the National)
March 14: Washington, D.C. (Warner Theater)
March 16: Montclair, N.J. (Wellmont Theater)
March 17: Pittsburgh (Carnegie Music Hall)
March 19: Buffalo, N.Y. (Center for the Arts)
March 21: New York (Bowery Ballroom)
March 22: Philadelphia (Academy)
March 25: New York (Webster Hall)
March 26: New York (Carnegie Hall)
March 28: Mashantucket, Conn. (Foxwoods)
March 29: Boston (House of Blues)
March 31: Ann Arbor, Mich. (Michigan Theater)
April 1: Columbus, Ohio (Palace Theater)
April 3: Milwaukee (Eagles Ballroom)
April 4: Chicago (Aragon Ballroom)
April 6: Minneapolis (State Theater)
April 7: Kansas City, Mo. (Midland Theater)
April 8: St. Louis (Pageant)
April 10: Dallas (Palladium Ballroom)
April 11: Houston (Jones Hall)
April 12: Austin, Texas (Bass Concert Hall)
April 14: El Paso, Texas (Chavez Theater)
April 15: Albuquerque, N.M. (Sunshine Theater) (Source)

NY Times Reviews New Clash Biography

Back in September, we'd posted about the new self-titled Clash biography that was about to be published in the UK. I haven't heard any first-hand accounts yet, but it's rumored to be the must-own for any Clash fan because this isn't any ol' biography, this one was actually written by Strummer, Jones, Headon, and Simonon and includes never-before-seen photos and commentary. Seems it finally came out in the States last month.

THE CLASH By Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon
Illustrated. 384 pp. Grand Central Publishing. $45

At first glance, the Clash is an unlikely subject for such deluxe treatment. The group blasted out of London as part of punk’s first wave; it opened for the Sex Pistols on the 1976 “Anarchy in the U.K.” tour, on which more than two-thirds of the dates were canceled out of terror, securing the new movement’s reputation. Over the next seven years — a neat parallel to the Beatles’ recording career, in fact — the Clash would create some of the greatest rock ’n’ roll of all time (Rolling Stone named “London Calling” the best album of the 1980s), only to split apart just as the band was achieving commercial success in the United States.

In the intervening years, and burnished by the singer/rhythm guitarist/folk hero Joe Strummer’s death in 2002, the Clash has become the lone punk representative in the classic rock canon. It has attained rarefied status as one of those bands with more books published about them than total albums released.

The text for “The Clash” is drawn mostly from interviews conducted during five days of filming for the Grammy-winning 2000 documentary “Westway to the World.” If this limited access doesn’t always allow topics to be pursued in the greatest depth, it’s enough to give a sense of the four personalities involved: Strummer, the group’s romantic conscience; the lead guitarist Mick Jones, the musical explorer with a head for pop; the bass player Paul Simonon, a rookie musician but the band’s soul and style guru; and Topper Headon, the stereotypical drummer just out for a good time (“Once I’d done my bit we were told to go home, so there wasn’t any trouble or damage bills”).

At least, that’s the easy read of the Clash lineup. The reality is that each one of the foursome comes across as thoughtful and serious about a project so superficially raw and explosive. The most effective part of “The Clash” is the band members’ plain-spoken retelling of their family lives: Jones and Simonon were both products of severely broken homes; Strummer, later known as the populist voice of punk, was the ­Turkish-born son of a diplomat and learned to rebel at boarding school. “I could see from an early age,” he says, “that authority was a system of control which didn’t have any inherent wisdom.”

For the children of an impoverished, racially torn England, punk was a way to fashion a new identity and strike back at an increasing sense of powerlessness. “Part of punk was that you had to shed all of what you knew before,” Strummer says. “We were almost Stalinist in the way that we insisted you had to cast off all your friends, everything you’d ever known . . . in a frenzied attempt to create something new.”

Even the band’s name was an instinctive reflection of the era. “We were in a confrontational situation all the time,” Simonon says. “There was a clash of colors, clash of people — it’s kind of self-­explanatory.”

Surprisingly absent from “The Clash” is much sense of the group’s political side. Though that aspect of the work has been exaggerated over time, this was, after all, a band that titled one album “Sandinista!” But in the musicians’ own telling, their activist side was far more intuitive than strategic. “We were just picking things out of the paper to write about,” Jones says.

Elsewhere, the guitarist adds, “I was always concerned about how a thing looked just as much as how it sounded and what it was about,” and one thing that certainly shines through in these lavishly illustrated pages is the band’s visual focus; some of the photos are simply breathtaking, and every last show poster and backstage pass demonstrates the group’s near-­perfect sense of style.

Each of the four contributes to this story, but time and again, it is Joe Strummer’s voice, his dramatic sense of language, that leaps off the page. He says of one song inspired by a line of movie dialogue that “it was like holding one end of a piece of string which had a song attached to it,” and as things start to go south for the Clash, he describes Jones as behaving “like Elizabeth Taylor in a filthy mood.”

A rock band is a mysterious thing. Somehow, every once in a while, a few individuals bump into one another, and they look exactly right together and share a focus and an aspiration and the right balance of musical similarities and differences. Then, suddenly, they don’t anymore.

“Whatever a group is, it’s the chemical mixture of those four people,” Strummer says. “It’s some weird thing that no scientist could ever quantify or measure, and thank God for that.” (Source)

Listen: Pressue Drop_The Clash

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New Springsteen Song in Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler"

I've already heard wonderful things about the new Darren Aronofsky film, The Wrestler from very discerning movie buffs, and they confirm that all the hubbub about Mickey Rourke's performance (yes, that Mickey Rourke), is the true Oscar-worthy performance that movie talking heads are saying. Can you really believe that the original person in line for the role was Nicholas Cage??

The best part of it, for both Aronofsky and the audience, is that Bruce Springsteen is, apparently, an old friend of Mickey Rourke and wanted to help him in any way, so he GAVE Aronofsky a song for the title track.

Rocker Bruce Springsteen earned a Golden Globe nomination on Thursday for Best Original Song for "The Wrestler," his song from the film of the same name - the latest step on what director Darren Aronofsky told Access Hollywood has been "a very surreal journey."
"Bruce just wanted to do it because he is a fan of Mickey [Rourke] and he wanted to help. He ended up writing us [the] song for free," Darren told Access at a junket for "The Wrestler" on Wednesday.

According to Darren, the process began when Mickey, who earned his own Globe nod for his starring role in the film, wrote the songwriter a letter that re-opened their relationship.

"They were friends back in the day," Darren explained. "They've been kind of on and off."

Bruce read the script and came up with a song, which he debuted for the director backstage after his summer performance at Giants Stadium.

"Mickey goes, 'You guys have some business to talk about, [I'll] see you later,'" Darren said. He left me alone with Bruce. And he grabbed his guitar and pointed to a seat - and I'm thinking, 'Oh my God, he is gonna play the song!' And I got stage fright for the first time in my life."

"I'm freezing up in front of the coolest guy in the world," he added. "But then we started talking and he was a really nice guy and he played the song. And I said, 'Why are you doing it? You know. What's the reason?' And he said, 'To be honest, I'm just a big fan of Mickey's and I'm been waiting for him to have an opportunity like this and I just want to help.'"Bruce's track surely didn't hurt the film on Thursday - the film earned three nominations at the Golden Globes, including Best Song, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama for Rourke and Best Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for Marisa Tomei.(Source)

Kind of like Aronofsky's films in general, "The Wrestler" is one of those sad and haunting songs that's simultaneously sparse and overflowing with emotion. I do have to note that I'm not super crazy about the opening and the "one-legged dog" metaphor necessarily, (uhh....no, Bruce, I have never seen a one-legged dog but I'll take your word for it), but those things are minimal because of the wallop the song packs overall.

Listen: The Wrestler title track-Bruce Springsteen

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

News: Don't Expect a Stone Roses Reunion

Ian Brown is the only obstacle to a Stone Roses reunion, the band's former bassist Mani said this week. And if the Manchester band are ever to get back together, it will be up to fans to twist Brown's arm.

"Me, John and Reni are up for doing it and Ian just needs some working on," Gary "Mani" Mounfield told the Channelbee website. Counting Mani, guitarist John Squire and drummer Alan "Reni" Wren, that's three-quarters of the band accounted for. But frontman Ian Brown is stone-hearted, and has hardly spoken to the others since their acrimonious split in 1996.

"Next year is the 20th anniversary of the first album," Mani continued. "It's the ideal time to do it. It's something I would love to do before we are all fat and bald. Start the campaign."

Of course by "Start the campaign" he doesn't mean, "Let John, Reni and I write a heartfelt, conciliatory letter to Ian, putting the past behind us and emphasising our desire for forgiveness, friendship and the mutual generation of millions of pounds". What he means is, "Fans' peer pressure will break him!"

However, the last time Brown spoke out on the subject, he wasn't exactly enthusiastic. There was "no chance," he said, "not in the next three lifetimes," that the Stone Roses would get back together.

If Ian Brown puts the skids on the Stone Roses re-forming it won't be the only reunion plan scuppered. Yesterday, Johnny Marr declared that rumours of a Smiths reunion were no more than that. He told NME.com that he was committed to his current band the Cribs. "The stories circulating about a Smiths reunion are, as usual, untrue. I'm currently very excited about writing and recording with the Cribs for a new album to be released next summer and we're playing shows in February, so going back in time isn't in my plans."

Maybe an internet petition will change their minds? (Source)

Monday, December 15, 2008

News: Indie Acts Abound on New Aids Benefit Record

Some of the biggest names in independent music have banded together to record exclusive songs for "Dark Was the Night," a double-disc album whose proceeds will benefit the Red Hot organization's work with AIDS research.

In the works since 2006, the project is due Feb. 17 from Beggars Banquet and, as previously reported, was curated by the National's Aaron and Bryce Dessner. The lineup includes Spoon, the Arcade Fire, Yo La Tengo, the New Pornographers, Bon Iver, Feist, Cat Power, My Morning Jacket and Iron & Wine, among many others.

"I've been listening to some of these bands since I was in high school. Now they're peers of ours but sometimes you can't even believe that -- these are people I've idolized and respected," Aaron Dessner tells Billboard.com.

The National contributed the song "So Far Around the Bend," which Dessner says the band "didn't feel would make sense" on one of its own albums. "It has this pretty crazy orchestral arrangement; it's a little bit of a throwback song."

"Dark Was the Night" is also packed with intriguing collaborations, including Feist with Ben Gibbard and Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors with David Byrne, the Books with Jose Gonzalez, Aaron Dessner with Bon Iver and Bryce Dessner with Antony.

The latter is a cover of the early Dylan song "I Was Younger When I Left Home," which the artists did in one take. In the case of the Dessner/Bon Iver pairing, Aaron Dessner sent Bon Iver's Justin Vernon a piano instrumental, dubbed "Big Red Machine" in tribute to his Cincinnati hometown, in the hopes he'd "feel like collaborating. Then I was in Finland I got an email from him with a fully written song. It's incredible he could trace the music in the way that he did."

Those kinds of happy accidents are all over "Dark Was the Night," according to Dessner. "Bryce and I found ourselves in the midst of all of our peers and in a position to invite them to participate in this," he says. "Almost everybody was willing to donate their time and their music."

The Dessners are hoping to film some of the artists performing their songs to give "Dark As the Night" an online presence, and are planning to stage some "unique performances in New York and other countries" in the spring with as many of the contributors as possible.

Here is the track list for "Dark Was the Night":

Disc one:
"Knotty Pine," Dirty Projectors and David Byrne
"Cello Song," the Books featuring Jose Gonzalez
"Train Song," Feist and Ben Gibbard
"Deep Blue Sea," Grizzly Bear
"So Far Around the Bend," the National
"Tightrope," Yeasayer
"Feeling Good," My Brightest Diamond
"Dark Was the Night," the Kronos Quartet
"I Was Young When I Left Home," Antony and Bryce Dessner
"Big Red Machine," Bon Iver and Aaron Dessner
"Sleepless," the Decemberists
"Die," Iron & Wine
"Service Bell," Grizzly Bear and Feist
"Blood," Sufjan Stevens

Disc two:
"Well-Alright," Spoon
"Lenin," the Arcade Fire
"Mimizan," Beirut
"El Caporal," My Morning Jacket
"Inspiration Information," Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
"With a Girl Like You," Dave Sitek
"Blood Pt. 2," Buck 65 remix featuring Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti
"Hey, Snow White," the New Pornographers
"Gentle Hour," Yo La Tengo
"Another Saturday," Stuart Murdoch
"Happiness," Riceboy Sleeps
"Amazing Grace," Cat Power
"The Giant of Illinois," Andrew Bird
"Lua," Conor Oberst and Gillian Welch
"When the Road Runs Out," Blonde Redhead and Devestations
"Love vs. Porn," Kevin Drew (Source)


No, no one has died here folks, just a wallet that was lost and apparently, found by someone not in the Christmas spirit and tried to use its contents. So there's been a little drama here at BL&L Headquarters....

Back in a flash with great show photos and quite possibly, a review of Wilco's Baltimore show from the front row! Thanks for your patience...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

ATE's "Sometime Around Midnight" Named #1 Alternative by iTunes, 2009 Dates Announced

The Airborne Toxic Event's first single off its eponymous debut album,"Sometime Around Midnight" was named by iTunes as the #1 Alternative Song of 2008. The band, who recently finished a run of 30 shows in 30 days, announces today world touring plans for 2009, starting in the UK on January 20 in Norwich at Arts Centre. The US leg begins February 11 in San Diego. Prior to the start of the UK tour the band will be the musical guests on Late Show With David Letterman on January 13.

The band has been wowing music fans both with the album and live shows. Drowned In Sound, one of the most influential UK blogs wrote that the band's live show is "quite astonishing...Musically there are elements of the likes of Modest Mouse, a more sensible National or even a less pretentious Arcade Fire." NME wrote, "If You haven't seen TATE, you should." Spin named them "Band Of The Day" immediately upon hearing the album.

"Sometime Around Midnight" is still climbing the charts and getting added to playlists five months after it was initially released to radio, and is now in the Top 15 of Mediabase's chart. The song's accompanying video is currently "Video of the Day" at AOL (here).

2009 Tour Dates

Thu Jan 22 - Norwich, UK - Arts Centre
Fri Jan 23 - Halye, UK - Sandshifter
Sat Jan 24 - Nottingham UK - Bodega
Sun Jan 25 - Leeds, UK - Cockpit 2
Fri Jan 30 - Glasgow, Scotland - King Tuts
Sat Jan 31 - Derby, UK - The Royal
Sun Feb 1 - Cardiff, Wales - Barfly
Tue Feb 3 - Manchester, UK - Ruby Lounge
Wed Feb 4 - London, UK - 100 Club
Fri Feb 6 - Paris, France - Fleche d'Or

Wed Feb 11 - San Diego, CA - Delta Room @ House of Blues
Thu Feb 12 - Los Angeles, CA - The Fonda
Fri Feb 13 - San Francisco, CA - Bottom Of Hill
Sat Feb 14 - Sacramento, CA - The Blue Lamp
Tue Feb 17 - Portland, OR - Doug Fir
Wed Feb 18 - Vancouver, BC - Media Club
Fri Feb 20 - Boise, ID - Neurolux
Sat Feb 21 - Salt Lake City, UT - SHO
Mon Feb 23 - Denver, CO - Bluebird Theater
Thu Feb 26 - Des Moines, IA - The Vaudeville Mews
Fri Feb 27 - Minneapolis, MN - Triple Rock Social Club
Sat Feb 28 - Chicago, IL - Shubas
Sun Mar 1 - Columbus, OH - The Basement
Mon Mar 2 - Pittsburgh, PA - Mr Smalls
Wed Mar 4 - Toronto, ON - El Mocambo
Thu Mar 5 - Ottawa, ON - Zaphod Beeblebrox
Fri Mar 6 - Montreal, QC - Les Saints
Sat Mar 7 - Boston, MA - Paradise
Mon Mar 9 - West Chester, PA - The Note
Tue Mar 10 - Asbury Park, NJ - The Saint
Wed Mar 11 - New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom
Thu Mar 12 - Washington, DC - Backstage @ The Black Cat
Fri Mar 13 - Chapel Hill, NC - Local 506
Sat Mar 14 - Columbia, SC - Five Points
Sun Mar 15 - Atlanta, GA - The Drunken Unicorn
Tue Mar 17 - Dallas, TX - The Loft
Wed Mar 18 - Houston, TX - Meridian Red Room
Tue Mar 24 - Scottsdale, AZ - Martini Ranch
Wed Mar 25 - Las Vegas, NV Beauty Bar
Thu Mar 26 - Pomona, CA - Glass House

Monday, December 8, 2008

Meet my lovely new friends....

And both for under $600 no less (used obviously). It serious I tell you, I think we're in love...

BritPop By Way of Brooklyn: Locksley

Locksley is a name that may sound a bit foppish, but there's nothing foppish about this four-piece group from Brooklyn, NY. Named after the British village where Robin Hood supposedly originated, Locksley plays tough Britpop, garage rock under lovely Liverpudlian harmonies, and includes two brothers, Jordan and Jesse Laz. So it's no wonder they're not only opening for one of the original tough Britpoppers Ray Davies on his current solo tour, but also acting as Davies' backing band. No word at this time whether the Laz brothers resemble the Davies' brothers though...

We’re Locksley. We listen to just about any music we can. Our first album, Don’t Make Me Wait, has been compared to the music from the 60’s quite a bit, especially the Beatles, a generous compliment by any measure and not inaccurate in our initial aims. The sixties are definitely a jumping off point for us. Everyone needs a jumping off point and that’s ours, because we like good songs, songs that you can just sing while you’re walking around or showering or driving. Songs that you can sing along with, I guess is the point. But we also like music that’s a little bit fast and/or exciting which is why we love the Ramones and the Stooges and Richard Hell and The Strokes and The Rapture and Dr. Dre and Wham and Miss Independent by Kelly Clarkson. So, there it is.

It's not all pop-goes-the-fuzzy guitars though for Locksley, there's definitely some other things happening there, so be sure you listen to more than one track.

She Does-Locksley
Why Can't I Be You-Locksley
All Over Again-Locksley

(Locksley and Ray Davies are playing the 930 Club here in DC this evening. Click here for remaining dates for this tour.)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Jarvis Cocker talks fame and excess

Jarvis Cocker wants to reinvent the wheel. Again. Thirteen years since Common People, a stomping vignette about a rich girl sexually slumming it, brought Pulp's unique brand of kitchen-sink pop to the nation's attention, he's off again. This time, he's going on the road, determined to create a new type of spectacle. "I want it to be part show, part lecture, and part disco." He smiles at the ridiculousness of it all. Jarvis has got a lovely smile - knowing, a little bit ironic, but ultimately sincere.

His mini tour is partly to celebrate 30 years of Rough Trade records, home to the Smiths and, more recently, bands such as Arcade Fire and British Sea Power. Although Jarvis has only recorded one album on the label, his first as a solo artist, he has been managed by Rough Trade's Geoff Travis and Jeanette Lee for the past 15 years.

He's 45 now and wearing a reclusive-pop-star beard - black with a few sprigs of silver - but is otherwise little changed. He's still a stick insect of a man. A trendy stick insect, mind, with his carefully cultivated designer-Oxfam look: grey jacket, blue cords, a tie that thinks it's a cravat, spectacular specs and stack-heeled leather shoes taking him up to 6ft 4in.

We meet at Rough Trade, where we have been lent the marketing manager's office. I am sitting behind the desk, Jarvis in front, like a job applicant. I offer to swap places, but he seems to like the subservient role.

Back in the 1990s heyday of Britpop, there were three headline bands - Oasis with their no-nonsense classicism, Blur with their arty rock, and Pulp with their literary pop. Cocker sang and wrote the words, which resembled short stories written by a down-and-dirty Alan Bennett - the sour nostalgia of Do You Remember the First Time?; the bitter vengeance of I Spy, addressed to the husband he has just cuckolded and the world that has failed to embrace his genius; the pulsing desperation of The Fear when he realised success has made him even more insecure than he was in the first place. Often he was the hero, or anti-hero, of his own songs; sometimes he would appear in the third person; occasionally he adopted a female persona.

Cocker's epitaph could well be, "Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true." He grew up in Sheffield, a shy, gawky boy who was desperate to be a pop star. One of his heroes was Scott Walker, who became a huge success and then ran away from fame. Cocker continued to strive long after most would have given up, and eventually his band also became huge. He loved music and performing, but he hated success even more than failure and, like Walker, did a bolt. The "glory years", as he calls them with that smile, seemed to happen at hyper-speed. On one album, he was anticipating the big time and the perks it would bring; on the next he was despairing at the sell-out he had become.

I tell him that what I love about his songs is that he sounds as if he has spent a lifetime eavesdropping. "Yeah, well I have, I suppose," he says. His father left home when he was seven to make a life for himself as a DJ in Australia. From then on, Cocker remembers listening in on the chatter of his mum and Auntie Mandy, whose husband had also walked out. "I learned most things about the adult world from eavesdropping on my mother and her friends. There was another friend whose husband had also fucked off, so they discussed the various blokes they were dating. They'd talk in the kitchen over a cup of coffee and I knew if they shut the kitchen door they'd be discussing something quite juicy so I'd go and listen."

Despite the famous song, when he was growing up his family were considered anything but common. After all, he was called Jarvis, his sister was Saskia, his grandfather had a successful DIY shop, and they lived in a big stone home set back from the road, which had once been the manor house. It was only when he went to Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design as a mature student at 25 that he discovered what really posh people were like - people such as the Greek girl in Common People who wanted to sleep with him, largely because of his accent. He says he found it quite liberating to discover he was working class, after all.

Cocker is one of pop's great observers, and he has never observed anybody quite as closely or as critically as himself. I ask him what he thinks he's good at and what he's rubbish at. "Erm ... well ... I don't know. I guess I'm fairly insistent and maybe consistent. If I decide I'll do something, I generally will." He speaks slowly, pedantically, in an Eeyoreish monotone. Sometimes, he sounds so lugubrious you can forget how funny he is. "Pulp existed for 12 years before we got famous. Now, you could say that was just lack of imagination, but it's some kind of quality isn't it? Tenacity." He pauses. "You could also say it was sloth."

But he could also say he stuck with it because he loved it? "Yes, I think so, otherwise I wouldn't have kept doing it. The main thing I don't like about myself is an absurd level of self-consciousness that makes any sort of social encounter an ordeal for me."

He recently went on a trip to the Arctic with 40 artists and spent the weeks beforehand worrying how he would cope socially. In the end he enjoyed it, and he has determined to become more sociable. "I've been going out a lot more. You have to try yourself out on other people, don't you?" I ask him if his wife, the French stylist Camille Bidault-Waddington, thinks he's antisocial? "She thinks I'm a bit autistic, basically." They live in Paris with their five-year-old son, Albert. Has Cocker made friends in France? "Maybe three or four. You don't need more than that, do you?"

If he were so shy, why on earth did he want to be a pop star? "Oh well that's easy to answer because it's a way of being sociable but at a safe distance. You're on a stage but people are a bit away. You're singing songs that are a personal expression, but you're not doing it individually to people; you're doing it to a mass of people. I find it much harder to be open with someone I'm intimate with."

And that, he says, has always been the problem with him and his relationships. "Every woman I've had a relationship with has found this maddening; the fact that I will talk about anything on the stage, and reveal all this stuff, and yet when I'm at home, I clam up and won't discuss anything intimate or personal."

But he does express himself honestly in music? "Yes. But it must be unhealthy if you only express yourself in that area and you don't express yourself in your real life. That's a bit fucked up, isn't it?" He often turns his statements into a question. If he didn't express himself through music, wouldn't he go potty? "Yeah, I'd explode. As I say, that's what I think art's for."

In some ways success was great - the acceptance, the feeling that people were finally listening. But, he says, apologising for another paradox, he lost the most important thing to him - his invisibility.

"The way that I work is reacting to things that are going round and listening and picking up on what's going on, and to do that you have to be anonymous, basically. So my natural habitat disappeared. Then it becomes very internalised and that's not good for anyone."

There is a famous quote from his drinking, druggy days that sounds embarrassingly self-congratulatory. I recite it back to him. "I had access to the most quality fanny available." Ah, he says, that's taken out of context. "It is a bit embarrassing, I suppose, but it wasn't meant in a show-off way. It was more that they're the rock'n'roll cliches; they're the things that are supposed to bring you happiness, aren't they? You make it, and you're bathing in champagne and you can snort as much cocaine as you want and fuck as many beautiful women as you want. Then you find you can do those things, but they don't actually make you very happy."

How long did it take him to realise? "About six months."

Early on, he says, he really did believe Britpop was a new dawn - not just musically, but politically. If the alternative, rather than the mass-produced, could be embraced by the mainstream in pop, maybe that would be the harbinger of social change. "I had high hopes that it would be some kind of revolution within English society. But I think the mainstream is too strong. It's flowing too fast. These little jagged things go in there and they get smoothed off straight away."

What kind of revolution had he envisaged? "What makes society and life interesting is diversity, so if something that embraced that diversity could be accepted in the mainstream that would mean mainstream society would be more open and accepting. And that's what excited me about it. That that could happen."

He says he's always been a bit naive, and it was hardly the first time he had been pulled up short from his dreams. "I'm always going through these false dawns. It was the same the first time I went to a rave. I thought, this is fantastic, people are dancing all night, they're all being friendly to each other, they're not really drinking, it's not about pulling birds or having a fight. And I thought, that's got to have an impact on society. When they go home after being all loved up and talking to everybody and being really inclusive, how can that not have some knock-on effect in normal life? And yet it didn't." He smiles, baffled. "That was the last spontaneous youth thing. I can't think of anything that's not been stage managed since then."

Once the photographer's camera is on him, Cocker seems to relax. He explains why he wears heels. "It's like, what are you going to gain from wearing flat shoes? You're still tall, so why not just go for it? I admire that about Beth Ditto - she just goes, 'Here you are, that's it.' I think it's great. By not being ashamed of it, and accentuating it even, you turn it into something quite positive rather than something you're ashamed of."

The worst thing, he says, was seeing gangly, geeky Jarvis turned into a brand. "If you're an inadequate person, you make this thing called a group to give you something in life that you've got some control over, a little bit of a fantasy to escape things. And then that thing becomes popular. So that very personal almost self-medicating thing you've invented gets taken way from you and becomes a product. And in some way, your personality and your funny clothes and your funny glasses also become a product. So you start feeling you're part of some capitalist system. Something personal has been made into a commodity that is considered valuable. And I hated that." On This Is Hardcore, he compares himself to a pornography worker who has been violated through every orifice and then given the heave-ho. "But you have to realise you're complicit in that act. You're taking your clothes off in the first place."

In 1996, at the height of his fame, he protested at the Brit awards when Michael Jackson turned himself into a contemporary Jesus for a performance of Earth Song. Cocker invaded the stage and waggled his bottom disrespectfully in the direction of Jackson. There was a tremendous hoo-ha, which resulted in performing children receiving minor injuries as security tried to get Cocker off stage. It led to Cocker being labelled the antichrist by the press the next day, although he was later feted for ridiculing Jackson's messiah complex. This one act branded him more than anything as Cocker, the situationist prankster. He is all too aware that this is the first thing many people associate him with. Again, he knows he has no one to blame but himself. "I guess lots of people have one particular incident that overshadows just about everything else they've done in your life. Although I don't regret it as a moral action, the fact it will be the first line in my obituary is just a little bit disappointing. I'd like to think I'd given more to the world."

He says that after Pulp, he almost walked out on music for good. It was only when he was on the verge of quitting that he realised how much it all meant to him. Even though he's spent most of the intervening time in Paris being a dad and recovering his anonymity, he's involved himself in a surprising number of projects - writing songs for Marianne Faithfull, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Nancy Sinatra, curating the Meltdown festival, making music videos for bands, lecturing on lyrics, working on his second solo album and now the tour. And more than ever, he's determined to make it special - hence the mix of gig, lecture and disco. "Even when we were deeply unsuccessful we used to cover the stage with tin foil or hang things from the stage. People used to take the piss out of us, but I always thought it defined it as a night that's not the same as every other night in that venue - I think it shows a bit of respect for your audience."

Does he think this time around he can have success without becoming a commodity? "Well I hope so; otherwise I'm fucked."

He had been about to hit 40 when he considered walking away from music before. "I just thought, 'You're too old to be in a band.'" Does he think that he's too old now he's 45? "Yeah, but who cares? I am too old. I have resigned myself to the humiliation that goes with it now." I laugh. "I have!" he protests. "I have, because I realise it's the only thing I was born to do". (Source)

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex opened Tuesday in NYC's SoHo District. Much of the famous remnants of CBGBs, like the club’s tattered awning, cash register, and flier-covered phone booth, wound up here too (instead of Las Vegas someplace as was the rumor awhile back before CBGB owner Hilly Kristal died of cancer awhile back). If you're heading to NYC for the holidays, consider checking it out...even with a $22 entry fee, I've heard it's quite choice.

The Clash looked down from a wall-size 1978 photograph at a roomful of workmen sawing, measuring, painting and lugging. Vintage amplifiers were wheeled in from the chill outside, passing by plexiglass exhibition cases, Bruce Springsteen’s tarp-covered 1957 Chevrolet and a 26-foot scale model of Manhattan. Then came the heads-up.

“Here comes the phone booth,” somebody said, and in rolled the wooden phone box from CBGB, plastered with decades-old stickers like a punk sarcophagus. Workers stood it up beside graffitied wall sections from that landmark club, along with two of its loudspeakers and a metal frame for the “CBGB & OMFUG” awning that hung over 315 Bowery until the place closed two years ago.

These were among the hundreds of artifacts being prepared for the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex NYC, a $9 million branch of the Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. The Annex, in a 25,000-square-foot basement space at 76 Mercer Street in SoHo — upstairs, facing Broadway, is an Old Navy store — was created as a smaller, quicker offshoot of the headquarters.

A trip through should take about 90 minutes, and costs $26; in Cleveland, where admission is $22, the full experience takes four or five hours. As in Cleveland, you can hardly turn a corner in the Annex without bumping into a smashed guitar, yellowed lyric sheet or pointy bustier.

But the Annex was also designed as a New York-centric temple of rock culture, said Joel Peresman, president of the Hall of Fame Foundation, on a tour one crisp afternoon this week. In addition to having a special gallery for local musicians, the Annex will open with an exhibit honoring the Clash, the British punk giants who kept a particularly high profile in the city. (That shot from 1978 was taken under the West Side Highway by Bob Gruen.)

“The legitimacy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we’ve established that over 25 years,” Mr. Peresman said. (The foundation, which inducts members into the Hall of Fame, was founded in 1983; the museum in Cleveland opened in 1995.) “But in New York you have to prove yourself, whether you’re a sports team or a museum. We have an important story to tell. And you have to have something interesting and compelling; otherwise, New Yorkers are going to blow it off.”

It will be tough for any pop history buffs — whether they first encountered the Rolling Stones on “The Ed Sullivan Show” or in the recent documentary “Shine a Light” — to resist goodies at the Annex like David Byrne’s big suit from the film “Stop Making Sense,” a blue sequined dress from Tina Turner’s final tour with Ike, Michael Jackson’s handwritten lyrics to “Billie Jean,” and Prince’s coat from “Purple Rain.”

There are also teenage letters between Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel and at least two items that tell the story of Elvis Presley: his motorcycle jacket and his Bible. Some of the pieces are lent from Cleveland, and many, like a tape of a private Bob Dylan show in 1961, have never been exhibited before. And for those with particular memories of CBGB: Yes, they will have a urinal from its notorious bathroom.

Temporary exhibitions will change about twice a year; the Clash show, “Revolution Rock,” runs through the spring.

The Annex uses high technology at nearly every stop of the six galleries. Visitors, 100 at a time, are to enter in 15-minute intervals and encounter first a seven-screen “immersive theater” resembling a small club, complete with stools. They will be given headsets made by Sennheiser, a high-end audio company, which play music programmed for each exhibit, as well as sound for videos; the device is guided by wires beneath the carpet that detect a visitor’s presence.

“You’re seeing, hearing, feeling — getting the full experience,” said Stacey Lender of Running Subway, a New York-based production company that helped design the Annex.

The Annex is part of a broad expansion plan by the Hall of Fame organization to draw both tourists and financing to its main branch.

“This allows us to tell our story and reach sponsors we never could in Cleveland,” said Terry Stewart, the president of the museum, in a phone interview. More annexes are being considered for other cities, including Memphis, he added.

The museum’s growth is not without risk, and the New York Annex has a three-year lease that will be renewed if the branch is successful, Mr. Peresman said. To open it, the museum teamed with Running Subway and two other producers, Jam Exhibitions and S2BN Entertainment, a new company led by Michael Cohl, the veteran concert promoter and former chairman of Live Nation.

The partners have financed the project and will operate it, although the museum retains oversight of all aspects. Running Subway has produced “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” on Broadway, as well as multimedia concerts pairing live orchestras with films of Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland.

The Annex has been under way for about two years, Mr. Peresman said, and various sites were considered for it, including some in Midtown. But the downtown space suited the subject matter better: somewhat gritty, somewhat flashy and a stone’s throw from many of the Greenwich Village clubs and other historic spaces highlighted on the museum’s detailed, white polymer model of Manhattan.

And as workers rolled in equipment, storage containers, large amplifiers and bits of CBGB, the movement at the museum’s entry — nondescript, since the building is in a landmarked zone — had more than a little resemblance to the load-in rituals that happen at clubs throughout the city every afternoon.

“There are certain things you just can’t quantify,” Mr. Peresman said, “that are just a vibe. Being in this place, it just felt like the right vibe.” (Source)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Folk Legend Odetta Dies at 77

(Odetta at the 1963 March on Washington)

In the movie "Hairspray" when Pia Zadora said, "Hey cats, let's put on Odetta and iron our hair," I got the joke because like a majority of people my age, I knew who Odetta was but never owned any of her tracks or listened to her. A folk star in the 1950s, Bob Dylan as well as Harry Belafonte and Joan Baez claim Odetta as an influence. She's probably best known in the US for her performance at the March on Washington in 1963. Odetta was a living legend but, like most true living legends, she wasn't played on the radio or spanned across age groups much these days. However, she was still performing up until November when she was hospitalized for heart disease. She was a big fan of Obama and was to sing at Obama's Inauguration, something utterly appropriate given Odetta's work for the civil rights cause, and this opportunity was the reason her manager believed she was still alive. Sadly, Odetta died yesterday of her heart disease at the age of 77.

NPR ran a piece on her this morning, including an interview with her from a few years back. The interviewer and Odetta were talking about songs, including "Amazing Grace," and the interviewer asked if she would do him the honor of singing a verse a capella, which she did. You know how sometimes the sound of a distinctive singer can pop a million adjectives in your head simultaneously? How sometimes a voice has that certain something to it that strikes your deepest core? THAT was this single verse of "Amazing Grace" by Odetta, I'm not kidding. It's not at all surprising that her voice was deemed the "voice of the Civil Rights Movement" because it was this rich buttery amalgam of sadness and longing, of tenacity and pluck, of hope, of joy. And paired with that song especially, that voice made you truly believe in the pristine goodness of man, if only for a moment.

I couldn't locate a proper mp3 of it a capella but you can go listen to it here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Morning Benders and The Submarines to Tour Early 2009

Berkeley, CA's The Morning Benders are heading back out on the road to co-headline with those Ipod-commercial lovelies, The Submarines. Having just wrapped up a cross-country tour supporting Ra Ra Riot, which followed US Tours with The Kooks and We Are Scientists, this new round of dates starts early 2009.

North American Tour dates:
01/30/09 - Costa Mesa CA @ Detroit Bar
02/01/09 - Tucson AZ @ Club Congress
02/03/09 - Austin TX @ Stubb’s BBQ
02/04/09 - Dallas TX @ The Pontiac Garage
02/06/09 - Atlanta GA @ Drunken Unicorn
02/07/09 - Chapel Hill NC @ Local 506
02/08/09 - Washington DC @ Black Cat Backstage
02/09/09 - Philadelphia PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
02/10/09 - New York NY @ Mercury Lounge
02/11/09 - Brooklyn NY @ The Bell House
02/13/09 - Boston MA @ Middle East
02/14/09 - Montreal QC @ Il Motore
02/15/09 - Toronto ON @ Drake Hotel
02/17/09 - Chicago IL @ Schubas Tavern
02/18/09 - Minneapolis MN @ Triple Rock Social Club
02/20/09 - Denver CO @ Hi-Dive
02/21/09 - Salt Lake UT @ Kilby Court
02/23/09 - Vancouver BC @ The Biltmore Cabaret
02/24/09 - Seattle WA @ Chop Suey
02/25/09 - Portland OR @ Doug Fir Lounge

Monday, December 1, 2008

World Class Fad: Shows This Week

All sorts of goodies this week...

Tonight! Tuesday, 12/2: Snowden (with Twin Tigers and Illinois) @ DC9-$12

When we saw Snowden this year at the Monolith Festival, we said "What makes them interesting is that the band has a great shoe-gaze fuzzy pop sound with a pretty hefty backbeat. And that was the sound in the middle of monolithic stones, imagine how it will fill DC9...Keep an eye cocked towards the bassist, she's amazing to watch.

Friday, 12/5: Nada Surf, Delta Spirit, Jealous Girlfriends) @ 930 Club-$12

Ok, I'm late to the Nada Surf train, I'll admit it...blame it on that damn "Popular" song played nonstop for a long period of time by someone I once knew, and I wanted no part of the Surf. But then at SXSW 08 I caught Nada Surf lead singer Matthew Caws singing with Roguewave, which got me to see Nada Surf when they played DC shortly thereafter, and realized my mistake. So very good are the Surf; Caws can make a venue of 1000 people seem as intimate and personal as if they were playing someone's living room.

Be sure to get there in time to see the Delta Spirit. Man are these guys good. Keep an eye out for drummer/keyboardist/vocalist Kelly Winrich, what a talent. No wonder he was so pooped after their October Rock and Roll Hotel show (that bottle he's holding was just a funny prop, we swear!)

A barn burner of rock and soul, Delta Spirit will make you dance, lift your spirits, and reveal the beautious sound that is the top to a metal trashcan.

Here are more of my shots of their October Rock and Roll Hotel show...it was sweaty, it was packed, it was inspiring.

Sunday, 12/7: Stewart Lupton (with Howlies and King Left) @ DC9-$8

In our review of the initial release of Lupton's new band, The Child Ballads, we wrote Briefly, "Cheekbone Hollows" is a bluesy toe-tapping lo-fi version of Lord Byron poetry. Which is all perfectly logical if you know that lead singer/acoustic guitar player Stewart Lupton a) was previously the lead singer for the critics' darlings and direct influencer of The Strokes Jonathan_Fire*Eater, and b) returned to DC after the dissolution of JFE, enrolled in George Washington University, landed the Lannan Poetry Fellowship, and studied poetry, medieval studies, and modern art history. Lupton's baritone voice reminds me of Marc Bolan posing as an Exile on Main Street-era Mick Jagger, all sputtering with smoldering bravado and bad-boy grittiness.

This DC9 show appears to be Lupton solo, but you'll be nonetheless entertained. He's also damn funny so be ready to chuckle one minute, then choke up the next while his his lovely poems are spoken amidst "Cheekbone Hollows" tracks and Dylan covers.