Thursday, July 13, 2006

St. Elvis

Elvis Costello once complained that successful rock musicians, unlike us working stiffs, age into a repertoire instead of into a pension. He neglected to mention that most successful rock musicians make more for an evening’s performance than most people make in a year, but that’s beside the point. The point is that Elvis certainly does have a repertoire, and much like a worker’s pension, he can leverage it any way he wants. At his show last night in Boston with famed New Orlean’s-based blues piano player and songwriter Allen Toussaint, Elvis put his past songs to good use. Toussaint and other members of the New Orleans music community, including a four-piece horn section, rubbed shoulders with members of the Attractions and spun out old Elvis hits with funk, blues and jazz inflections that paid a high dividend. Elvis invested wisely in these players, and his intentions were more than musical. He repeatedly pointed out the plight of New Orleans residents, and he repeatedly attacked the Bush administration. At one point, he singled out a tiny Bush doll the band had propped up on stage, calling it, “life size.” The stunt drew huge cheers, but one couldn’t help wonder how such a spectacle would be received in, say, Texas.

The band played more than Elvis’ songs. They moved with aplomb between his numbers, Allen’s and even a few covers, including a touching rendition of Paul Simon’s “American Tune,” with Elvis watching Allen in wonder while the latter played his piano, and with his characteristic poise, drew the melancholy out of the song like wine from a bottle.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

In an example of fabulous journalism, CNBC anchor Joe Kernan announced on air Monday morning that the $132 million opening of Pirates of the Carribbean was the most successful movie opening of all time, beating out James Cameron's Aquaman. The catch? Aquaman doesn't exist in the real world, only in the Hollywood alternative reality known as HBO's fantastic Entourage.

What's next? Will we be comparing the graduation rates of the US to Hogwarts? How about concerning ourselves with ramifications of flying vigilante crime fighters on the relevance of our police forces in major cities? Just teasing Joe, I wish Aquaman was real too.

I know you are all jealous

but last night I got to meet L.A. Guns. In case you don't know who they are they are they came to fame in the 80s with The Ballad of Jayne. I couldn't have met a nicer group of guys. It got me thinking, do 80s rockers still appreciate their fans? Yep they do.

All I'll say is it was fun.

In the past 2 weeks I've had the opportunity to meet Extreme and LA Guns. When I was in high school following these bands around I never had the chance to. It's a lot easier now to meet them yet the excitement is still there.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Live Fast, Flame Out Young, and Die of Diabetes at 60

Ok, that doesn't sound like the sexy glamorous swan song we typically script for our most star-crossed rock stars. But that's how it went for Syd Barrett, founder and original visioneer for Pink Floyd, before Dark Side of the Moon and well before the band became a therapy session for Roger Waters' post-WWII abandonment and mother issues.

But, I generalize.

Syd was a huge influence (you can hear it everywhere, but early David Bowie is probably the most flagrant, if imperfect, example). The mostly Barrett-written first Floyd album, Piper at the Gates of the Dawn, is a hugely underrated LP, and along with the early singles, show a unique whimsy all too often missing from rock music (and all too often mistaken for drug-addled nonsense).

Well ok, drug-addlement was the main ingredient of Syd's life story. It appears LSD and his pre-existing mental chemistry did not co-exist happily-- who knew?

After his fall from the band, the main marvel of Syd Barrett's life is that he was able to preserve his privacy, with the help of family and former bandmates, for nearly 40 years (well maybe closer to 35, depending on when you date his total dropout from public life.

Anyway, rest in piece Syd (ok, Shine on you Crazy Diamond-- I believe we are all required to say that today).
(Barrett in 2001)