I let out an audible gasp when I learned of the passing of Lorna Donley, singer and bass player for early-1980s Chicago post-punk group DA! I mean, I'm aware that people have to die, but when it's unexpected and a person that you never imagined dying, it's just so... shocking.
A librarian in recent years, Lorna was a celebrated figure in the Chicago punk scene. DA!'s 1981 "Dark Rooms" single on Autumn Records is a perfectly exquisite slice of Chicago stark-wave. Rest in peace, friend.
In the hyper-competitive race to be the worst people in the world, members of the Westboro Baptist Church consistently prove to be frontrunners. These idiotic, misguided busybodies plan to picket Lou Reed's funeral, because he "lived 71 years in proud sin" and was "the pied piper of perversion." Jesus, WBC, could your jealousy be any more obvious? Face it: Millions loved Lou Reed and his music; millions hate WBC's bigotry and would like to use Fred Phelps' head for a soccer ball. Someone please shoot a cannon loaded with elephant diarrhea at these wastrels.
Simultaneously test your knowledge of death metal and IKEA furniture at ikeaordeath.com. I did a terrible job, having only a slight interest in both... I guess I'm more of a fantasy metal/Target furniture kind of lady.
IKEA is that friendly shop where you get cheap furniture from the inside of a giant, unending warehouse. Black metal is the kind of music that sounds like someone screaming while trapped inside a burning church. They each possess a fervent fan base. And to tell you the truth, the names of the furniture in IKEA sound a lot like the names of black metal bands. Consider this quiz an educational way to learn the difference between the two. It doesn’t matter if you know who Burzum is or if you’ve ever sat in a Preben chair – it’s time to have some kvlt fun. Death to false furniture!
Solo artist and songwriter Jackie Lomax died while in England yesterday; he died in Wirral, were he was born. He was only 69. He currently had been living in the US, but was in the UK to attend a wedding of one of his children.
Lomax began his career in one of the first merseybeat groups, the Undertakers. The Undertakers were typical of all the hopeful beat groups—they spent time at the Cavern Club, had local residencies in Hamburg, Germany, and were signed to Pye. In all they released four 45s. Uh...of course, they also used the gimmick of performing dressed as undertakers! In 1965 the Undertakers toured the US and spilt up after touring, but decided to stay in the States. However, by 1967, after the American market had ground them up, the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein brought Lomax and his new group the Lomax Alliance back to England.
The Lomax Alliance made one single, but then Epstein committed suicide, leaving Lomax in the hands of the Beatles' label, Apple. Beatle George Harrison then smartly took over handling him and, with Harrison, Lomax recorded "Sour Milk Sea," a song Harrison wrote. After the single Lomax recorded an LP, his first, Is This What You Want?. From the deep soul of "Fall Inside Your Eyes" to the groovin' action of "Little Yellow Pills," it is an amazing album. On the album Lomax is backed by LA's famed Wrecking Crew studio players. Unfortunately, it was was issued just as the Beatles had officially split, so Apple was most focused on the final Beatles' releases; Lomax's record sunk.
After leaving Apple, Lomax joined Heavy Jelly—not the post-Skip Bifferty Heavy Jelly on Island, but another group known as Heavy Jelly. They only had one bluesy single, "Chewn In" b/w "Time Out" and a promo-only LP, Take Me Down to the Water, all on Head Records. After Heavy Jelly split, Lomax moved back to the US, signed with Warner Brothers, sorted out a group of former Lomax Alliance/Undertakers members, and proceeded to play. Together they recorded two more albums, albums NEARLY as great as his Apple LP, Home is in My Head and Three. He still didn't break through, however, so he again relocated to the UK and joined the super group Badger. When that group failed to break after an LP, White Lady, he moved yet again back to the US where he was picked up by Capitol. For Capitol he made two LPs—Livin' for Lovin' and Did You Ever Have That Feeling?—but he was dropped by 1977. After that, and during the '80s, he didn't work much. In the '90s he ramped up playing and by 2001 he had a new LP, The Ballad of Liverpool Slim. Since then he'd been playing, mostly West Coast dates, and had just finished up a new album.
He's one of those players that worked quite hard to develop something, and did—once he hit his stride his catalog is solid, but never scored a hit and thusly remained a bit of an unknown, an also-ran. I've always enjoyed his records, his voice is singular and the songwriting alway stop notch. Oh yeah, Lomax is also the stepfather of sleeze/fashion/art photog Terry Richarson.
Seattle's The Mountain 103.7 has gone off the air. From Seattlepi.com:
In a statement Friday, managers at Seattle’s home for warm, folky rock announced the station will be changing its format and operating under a different name starting immediately. The Entercom-owned station will continue to broadcast online at TheMountainSeattle.com and on HD radio at 103.7 HD2. But it won’t be available on FM any longer.
As for 103.7 FM's broadcast future:
Entercom said the new format would be aimed at appealing to women. “Our new Hot (adult contemporary), with its rhythmic format, will be everything our competitors are not, giving Seattle women a new radio choice,” Entercom spokesman Jack Hutchison said in a statement. Hutchison said the station will “reach Seattle’s modern women” who have “moved beyond the 18-year-old mindset.” The station is expected to play new songs as well as tracks from the past two decades.
I'm sold. I'll report back on the femme-y format after I spend some time soaking in it. In the meantime, please enjoy some woman-powered adult contemporary with a rhythmic format from the past two decades (that I will love forever).
Current pop culture may only remember Blue Öyster Cult from the now classic "more cowbell" skit from TV's Saturday Night Live, but BOC were in fact an important and prolific rock band with heavy progressive leanings. They were very relevant in the '70s and even had ties to the NYC punk scene. Deep ties: Allen Lanier dated Patti Smith for a bit. Keyboardist/guitarist Lanier had been with BOC since it formed as Soft White Underbelly in 1967, retiring from the group in 2006 and missing only a couple years in the mid-'80s. Lanier died of chronic obstructed pulmonary disease; he was only 67.
When I was a lad learning to play the drums, I was in a "band" with a hopeful guitar player, Brent, who was obsessed with BOC. We spent many Saturday afternoons playing most of their '70s catalog, including the "cowbell song."
Avant musician Tim Wright died this past Sunday, no official cause of death has been reported; he was 61. In 1975, Wright, a Cleveland native, joined up with ex-Rocket From The Tombs members Peter Laughner and Dave Thomas when RFTT split (he'd been their soundman), and together with Tom Herman, Scott Krauss, and Allen Ravenstine, they became Pere Ubu.
Wright was with Pere Ubu for the next three years and during that time he played bass on Pere Ubu's first two singles "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" b/w "Heart of Darkness" and "Final Solution" b/w "Cloud 149." He migrated to New York in 1978 and became the bass played with the, now relevant more than ever, No Wave group DNA. Wright was with DNA till they split in 1982.
Looking back, he was a godamn important player. Prior to his death, Wright was still working, he was writing, a tour tech and did some studio engineering.
This past Saturday night Mick Farren, a true revolutionary with foresight and hindsight, collapsed on stage during a performance at the Atomic Sunshine Festival in the Borderline Club, London, as he performed with a new lineup of his group the Deviants. I reckon, for a man like him, there couldn't be a more proper way to go, he died on stage with his boots on. He was only 69.
Farren was the kind of
hippie political activist who sought ACTION and pushed for change: he was a White Panther, and his band, the (Social) Deviants, were bound to free festival groups like Hawkwind and the Edgar Broughton Band. However, he wasn't a psychedelic cliché of flowers and incense; rather he was always dressed in black leather and came on like a Hell's Angels motherfucker, but being tough was just a facet of his able voice. He was incredibly smart, articulate, aware...he had a heart and worked for change.
I suppose at this point Farren is perhaps most remembered for his '60s band, the (Social) Deviants. They were a proper bunch of weirdos! The first Deviants LP, Ptooff! was something of a chaotic, pilled-up piss-up of a pop-art album. It's so weird...IT'S GREAT!! The band didn't know really how to play, but like all the bestest bands, it didn't matter. The two albums that followed, Disposable and The Deviants 3, were just as full of revolution, and drugs, but were slightly more structured as proper rock records. Uh...they were still raw and loose, but less about "art."
As the '60s came to a close, Farren, along with many other
hippies political activists, became angry and disillusioned. For all their work nothing had really changed and the music scene was gutted for cash, so the band split up. Farren then recorded a solo album, Mona – The Carnivorous Circus, but soon settled into life as a writer. Becoming a writer was not a stretch; he'd been concurrently writing and an acting editor for the underground paper International Times during the '60s. Then, in the '70s, he became a journalist for the NME and an author of fantasy novels; in all he wrote 23 novels and 11 non-fiction books, including this year's fantastic autobiography Elvis Died for Somebody's Sins But Not Mine. Occasionally tho', he'd still make music. In the late '70s he recorded a single, "Play With Fire" b/w "Lost Johnny" (Ork), the Screwed Up EP, and a fantastic album Vampires Stole My Lunch Money. By the '80s he'd moved to the US and worked with the MC5's Wayne Kramer on a couple of Kramer's albums. Through the '90s and into the oughties, he'd sometimes muster a group to play and record with, but he never formed a stable lineup. Eventually, unable to afford healthcare for his chronic asthma, he moved back to England.
I hafta admit I don't have many heroes, but Farren was always a bit a of a role model for me. From what I could tell, he always had his head/heart in the right place and he tried to remain somehow honest and pure. He never let his hope for something BETTER die; he knew what counted.
As Billboard reported this morning, Faye Hunter, bassist for the '80s college rock band Let's Active, has died.
Faye Hunter, the founding bass player with ‘80s jangle-pop band Let’s Active, died Saturday night of an apparent suicide, according to various reports. She was 59.
A friend of Hunter’s told the News & Observer newspaper, "I'm not shocked, but I am surprised about the timing,” adding, "She'd been talking about this for quite some time. The past three or so years were really bad."
Let's Active were a local North Carolina group, maybe best remembered as producer Mitch Easter's band. Although I was active in the NC underground during the '80s I only saw Let's Active once—I was on a date, I think it was in the spring of 1988. They were more of a college radio kinda band and part of the Athens thing. However, their music has aged well, at least the record Ms. Hunter was involved with—the first LA EP, Afoot, is solid, biting power pop.
Plagued by strokes and heart trouble the past few years, blues guitarist and all-around motherfucker James "T-Model" Ford died today from respiratory failure at his home in Greenville, Mississippi. He will be missed, like, he OWNED the lease on the grease! He played the sticky, gritty, groovy as FUCK, RAW-thentic Rhythm ‘n’ Blooze, Sookey style!
This man lived a life. Goddamn; dig his bio at Fat Possum to sort out his early years. Uh, and remember, this was ALL before he learned to play a guitar.
T-Model's credentials are impeccable; if anything he's over qualified. He was born James Lewis Carter Ford in Forrest, a small community in Scott County, Mississippi. T-Model thinks he's seventy-five but isn't sure. He was plowing a field behind a mule on his family's farm by age eleven, and in his early teens he secured a job at a local sawmill. He excelled and was later recruited by a foreman from a bigger lumber company in the Delta, near Greenville, and eventually got promoted to truck driver. Between that and working in a log camp T-Model was sentenced to ten years on a chain-gang for murder. He lucked out and was released after serving two. He says, grinning, "I could really stomp some ass back then, stomp it good. I was a-sure-enough- dangerous man."
Ford didn't know how to play guitar till he was in his late 50s—a guitar that was left for him after his fifth wife left him. He taught himself to play by trying to play like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, but not knowing how to properly "play," he invented his own picking style and a way of locking his shit into a heavy groove. He played out for years, but wasn't "discovered" till 1995, by the folks at Fat Possum. It didn't take long till he'd recorded his first album, Pee-Wee Get My Gun, and begin touring, him and his drummer Spam. In the late oughties, after releasing a handful of albums on Fat Possum, he hooked up with Seattle locals GravelRoad, switched to the Alive Naturalsound label, and recorded two more LPs, The Ladies Man and Taledragger. His health began to decline and he backed off touring last year; I think the last time he played here was 2010. I was fortunate enough to hang out with him just once, maybe in '98, he was playing the Showbox. I can't remember much of what we talked about, we were drinking, but he was a nice fella, disarming; much less of the motherfucker he was known for being in his first life. RIP, T-Model.
Robert Calvin "Bobby" Bland, best known as Bobby "Blue" Bland, died yesterday. He was 83. Based in Memphis when he started singing, Bland will be remembered for his long string of deeply influential R&B records; his voice was singular, so distinctive that you always knew when a Bobby record was playing.
He began making records in the early ’50s, but it wasn't until the late '50s that he charted in the R&B top ten with the swingin' "Farther Up the Road." He charted again in 1959 with "Little Boy Blue." Now, I LOVE all his '50s sides, they're great, BUT it was really in the early '60s he hit his stride.
The obvious important sides, I'd say, are "Stormy Monday," "Turn on Your Lovelight," "Don't Cry No More," "Cry Cry Cry," and "I Pity the Fool." Uh...all'a those jams were recorded in a three year period. And damn if he could take a sad wobbly R&B song like "St. James Infirmary" and make it even more forlorn and so, so BLUE. Amazing. Then, as R&B morphed into soul, he kept right up with sides like "Shoes," the pounder "Yum Yum Tree," and this one, "These Hands (Small But Mighty)..."
Bland ran into to some money issues in the late '60s and broke up his band. He kept working, of course, and in 1971 he found himself on ABC Records in the hands of producer Steve Barri. They produced a couple notable albums—His California Album and Dreamer—but his blue based relevance trended away. As a result, in the late '70s he attempted disco—it didn't work, and by the early '80s he was back to his blues roots where he remained. I know he was 83, but it was too soon—he still had some shows to play next month...
Folk musician Richie Havens died this morning of a heart attack. He was 72.
Havens is perhaps best remembered from his incendiary Woodstock performance/vamp of "Motherless Child," a song thereafter called "Freedom." He actually opened Woodstock and was kept on, stalling, for three hours!
Broooklyn born,and first a group vocalist, he relocated to Greenwich Village as a poet and then became a portrait artist, but the Village 's heavy folk scene drew him in. Once he began playing, he recorded records for the Douglas label, then Verve Forecast, so, tho' his Woodstock performance may have introduced him to a wider audience, he was already a seasoned part of the early-'60s groundswell of underground/beat culture. Like, he'd already begun his ascension when he opened Woodstock. In the '70s he had his own label, Stormy Forest, acted some, and eventually began educating kids about nature. He co-founded the Northwind Undersea Institute and The Natural Guard.
Havens was not a pop musician; he reached for more and was able to grab it, and make it his own. He was never a commercial singer, he took pop hits and recrafted them into his own versions of dramatic and soulful flight; he never changed to suit nobody. In his words, HE MADE MUSIC!! One of my fave quotes of his is from an interview a couple years ago, I think it was his 70th birthday:
"I don't feel one iota different from the day I walked into Greenwich Village" 50 years prior. "Everything I hoped for has happened," he told Billboard. "I never had a bad day on stage. I don't think I'm ever going to go away...least while I'm alive."
Of course he left us too soon, but what a fantastic outlook on living a life; it was all a blessing. Godspeed, Mr. Havens.
I know Schmader's post has to do with pop, mine don't; these are my picks.
Introducing the Prime Sinister, she’s a mother to us all
Like the dutch boy’s finger in the dyke her arse is in the wall
Holding back the future waiting for the seas to part
If Moses did it with his faith, she’ll do it with an army
Who at times of threatened crisis are certain to be there
Guarding national heritage no matter what or where
Palaces for kings and queens, mansions for the rich
Protection for the wealthy, defence of privilege
RIP Maggie, she never did give those kids their milk back....did she?
Now that E and M's dreams have come true, let us decide once and for all: Which lugubrious pop song celebrating the death of Margaret Thatcher do you prefer?
Exhibit A: Elvis Costello's "Tramp the Dirt Down":
Exhibit B: Morrissey's "Margaret on the Guillotine":
Denver outfit BLKHRTS keep showing up in music writers' dreams as the unbelievably musically literate rap startup who sample '80s synth pop and art house films (as if that's never happened before), but what they do differently for me is effortlessly combine the excruciating aesthetic of goth/black metal with rap (an idea which has previously only been fit to set on fire and roll down a hill). Embodying the original spirit of Ice-T's pig-hating hardcore project Bodycount—afropunk sans gutiars, poetic at their densely black center—BLKHRTS' lust for heavy, shortness-of-breath causing synth and percussive raps are establishing them as the gothic architects of the cloud rap church (or CHRCH, as it were).
Keyboard Kid, as you may know, is a local hero and co-founder of the very influential, infinitely positive based movement, who's sensitivity to popular culture invades his every beat. His prolificacy has moved his music beyond the based movement and into the purview of every rapper —from Seattle to Oakland, Miami to New York, and parts inbetween— who hopes to someday release a mixtape, by offering his beats to bidders high and low (true story: I even bought a beat from him once). His latest Based In The Rain 3 and Rare Drops From The Water experiment with his Water God persona and it's control over the foggy sounds that are the life giving elements of the cloud.
Also making an appearance are Jewels Hunter and Iron Mic. 8pm, $7
Apparently, local er... sunny, surfy, lo-fi twee dreamers Seapony are fed up with the whole "pretty music" thing.
"This month, Seapony will tour Japan for the first time, followed by a European tour in May. These overseas shows are the swan song for the old Seapony, the one you know and love. After years of countless bloggers carelessly lobbing the word "twee" around and falling back on the same adjectives to describe our music (sunny, surfy, lo-fi, dreamy), we've had enough. It's time to leave the sunshine and enter the shadows. We hope our fans follow us on this journey, but we realize this change in direction won't please everyone. Look for our new album DEATH BY SEAPONY later this year." —Danny Rowland, Seapony
When reached for comment, Hardly Art publicist Jason Baxter said, "We're just trying to be supportive right now—hoping they get it out of their system before we receive any more harsh emails from tearful teens."
Time and mortality just keep on keepin' on, taking the SECOND English guitar picker in a single week. Last week Alvin Lee, today, Peter Banks. He was only 65. FUCK. Banks is prolly best known as the guitarist in the original lineup of prog dinosaurs Yes. He actually named the band and helped to craft the sound and direction they'd become famous and/or hated for.
Banks' first band, the Syn, was the group that crafted the classic "I'm Grounded." Uh...if that one track was his only known recording it would have been enough to garner him an enduring legacy. After the Syn split he joined a short-lived group called Neat Change. A group known for just one single, "I Lied To Auntie May;" a pop song written by Alan Bown and the Herd's Peter Frampton. When he was tapped by former Syn partner, bassist Chris Squire, to join Squire's group Mabel Greer's Toy Shop and a nascent version of Yes was formed. Y'all, I'm not really a guitar wanna-be worshiper kinda record nerd, but I fucking LOVE almost everything I've ever heard Banks play, especially the first Yes LP, Yes!! That album is a TOP TEN rock record in my house; it's just so fucking beautiful. Its melody and grace are delivered with a calculated force unlike any other album. Like, you REALLY can hear the sike-group-makes-the-jump-to-prog on this album.
Dig, Yes, live, from German TV's Beat Club. Banks' bit ends at the 20:10 mark.
After their next LP, Time and a Word, Banks was sacked from Yes in and replaced with Tomorrow guitarist Steve Howe. Banks went on to play with a handful of other groups, session work, recorded a handful of solo records, and formed groups Flash and Empire. He kept a real low profile in the '80s, returning in the '90s with more solo records.
Also: Anyone who gives the slightest shit about Banks, prog and/or '60s/'70s rock I can't recommend THIS recent Peter Banks interview enough. It's great, candid and full of period details.
One of my fave guitar pickers, Alvin Lee, died today from "complications following a routine surgical procedure." Ugh...and he was only 68?!?
In 1957, inspired by Elvis Presley and the rock and roll tidal wave that followed, Lee took up playing guitar; he was 13. Soon, after hooking up with pal Leo Lyons, he began forming groups, and in 1962 was playing with the Jaybirds; a local band with a solid reputation. The Jaybirds eventually scored a residency at the famed Star-Club in Germany, a residency which ended in 1966. Once back in England, after a line-up shift and name change to Ten Years After, they secured a residency at London's the Marquee Club and were signed to the Deram label. Within a few months Ten Years After shot to fame, well...underground fame. Like a lit fuse, they were off, constantly touring, they played Woodstock, Isle Of Wight and recorded, seriously, a near endless stream of albums!!
Tho' he was a proper English blues/boogie player, top English blues/boogie player no less, and TYA WAS a blues band, Lee could write proper lysergic groovers, glam anthems, AND longhaired radio-friendly rock. I was always stuck how he'd lay his leads/melody lines over powerful yet simple riffs and own 'em with such skill. I swear he turned heavy harshness into sweet melody with sheer force of will—all the while with his eyes shut, always with his eyes shut! In fact, their most commercial album A Space In Time is testimony to Lee's versatility. In 1974 Ten Years After split and Lee went "solo," kinda. He later formed Alvin Lee & Company, then Ten Years Later, he wanted to get back to the blues, you know...and there he stayed.
Guitarist/vocalist/sitarist George Harrison—who was born 70 years ago on this day in Liverpool, England—wrote a lot of beautiful, timeless songs for the Beatles*, of course, and his 1970 solo LP All Things Must Pass is worth the considerable shelf space it takes up. But when you want to get down to the core of Harrison's real greatness, you need to break out Wonderwall Music, his daring 1968 soundtrack to the film Wonderwall (which I still haven't seen for some reason).
Wonderwall gave Harrison free rein to flaunt his Anglo take on Indian music and to indulge in some of his stranger, more psychedelic proclivities. There's not much cohesiveness, but there are plenty of brilliant, concise passages of exotic allure and scattered instances of a multimillionaire's engaging follies. Unbelievably, Wonderwall Music reached #49 in the US charts in 1969, according to Wiki.
Happy birthday, George. (I know you can read this.)
* A partial list would include "Don't Bother Me," "Think for Yourself," "Taxman," "Blue Jay Way," "The Inner Light," "Within You Without You," "It's All Too Much," and "Only a Northern Song."