The Big Pink-“Dominos”
Animal Collective-“My Girls”
Holly Miranda-“Forest Green Oh Forest Green”
Flobots-“White Flag Warrior”
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club-“Beat the Devil’s Tattoo”
Local Natives-“”Wide Eyes”
The New Pornographers-“Your Hands (Together)”
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros-“Home”
The Dead Letters-“Ghost of a Thousand Battles”
As a fan of Joanna Newsom (American singer/songwriter, harpist/pianist), I was overjoyed to receive her new disc the other day. I had planned on featuring it in a podcast, but after discovering that it is a 3 disc opus, where to begin. Shades of Sandinista. I’ve just begun to explore Have One on Me which I do believe will take weeks. Over 2 hours of music. Here’s the first two songs to whet your appetite.
“Have One On Me”
This article originally appeared in Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll #133 in 1994 (originally published in 1993). It is still relevant today. Read with great horror and amusement.
The Problem With Music
by Steve Albini
Whenever I talk to a band who are about to sign with a major label, I always end up thinking of them in a particular context. I imagine a trench, about four feet wide and five feet deep, maybe sixty yards long, filled with runny, decaying shit. I imagine these people, some of them good friends, some of them barely acquaintances, at one end of this trench. I also imagine a faceless industry lackey at the other end holding a fountain pen and a contract waiting to be signed. Nobody can see what’s printed on the contract. It’s too far away, and besides, the shit stench is making everybody’s eyes water. The lackey shouts to everybody that the first one to swim the trench gets to sign the contract. Everybody dives in the trench and they struggle furiously to get to the other end. Two people arrive simultaneously and begin wrestling furiously, clawing each other and dunking each other under the shit. Eventually, one of them capitulates, and there’s only one contestant left. He reaches for the pen, but the Lackey says “Actually, I think you need a little more development. Swim again, please. Backstroke”. And he does of course.
Every major label involved in the hunt for new bands now has on staff a high-profile point man, an “A & R” rep who can present a comfortable face to any prospective band. The initials stand for “Artist and Repertoire.” because historically, the A & R staff would select artists to record music that they had also selected, out of an available pool of each. This is still the case, though not openly. These guys are universally young [about the same age as the bands being wooed], and nowadays they always have some obvious underground rock credibility flag they can wave.
Lyle Preslar, former guitarist for Minor Threat, is one of them. Terry Tolkin, former NY independent booking agent and assistant manager at Touch and Go is one of them. Al Smith, former soundman at CBGB is one of them. Mike Gitter, former editor of XXX fanzine and contributor to Rip, Kerrang and other lowbrow rags is one of them. Many of the annoying turds who used to staff college radio stations are in their ranks as well. There are several reasons A & R scouts are always young. The explanation usually copped-to is that the scout will be “hip to the current musical “scene.” A more important reason is that the bands will intuitively trust someone they think is a peer, and who speaks fondly of the same formative rock and roll experiences. The A & R person is the first person to make contact with the band, and as such is the first person to promise them the moon. Who better to promise them the moon than an idealistic young turk who expects to be calling the shots in a few years, and who has had no previous experience with a big record company. Hell, he’s as naive as the band he’s duping.
When he tells them no one will interfere in their creative process, he probably even believes it. When he sits down with the band for the first time, over a plate of angel hair pasta, he can tell them with all sincerity that when they sign with company X, they’re really signing with him and he’s on their side. Remember that great gig I saw you at in ’85? Didn’t we have a blast. By now all rock bands are wise enough to be suspicious of music industry scum. There is a pervasive caricature in popular culture of a portly, middle aged ex-hipster talking a mile-a-minute, using outdated jargon and calling everybody “baby.” After meeting “their” A & R guy, the band will say to themselves and everyone else, “He’s not like a record company guy at all! He’s like one of us.” And they will be right. That’s one of the reasons he was hired.
These A & R guys are not allowed to write contracts. What they do is present the band with a letter of intent, or “deal memo,” which loosely states some terms, and affirms that the band will sign with the label once a contract has been agreed on. The spookiest thing about this harmless sounding little memo, is that it is, for all legal purposes, a binding document. That is, once the band signs it, they are under obligation to conclude a deal with the label. If the label presents them with a contract that the band don’t want to sign, all the label has to do is wait. There are a hundred other bands willing to sign the exact same contract, so the label is in a position of strength. These letters never have any terms of expiration, so the band remain bound by the deal memo until a contract is signed, no matter how long that takes. The band cannot sign to another laborer or even put out its own material unless they are released from their agreement, which never happens. Make no mistake about it: once a band has signed a letter of intent, they will either eventually sign a contract that suits the label or they will be destroyed.
One of my favorite bands was held hostage for the better part of two years by a slick young “He’s not like a label guy at all,” A & R rep, on the basis of such a deal memo. He had failed to come through on any of his promises [something he did with similar effect to another well-known band], and so the band wanted out. Another label expressed interest, but when the A & R man was asked to release the band, he said he would need money or points, or possibly both, before he would consider it. The new label was afraid the price would be too dear, and they said no thanks. On the cusp of making their signature album, an excellent band, humiliated, broke up from the stress and the many months of inactivity.
There’s this band. They’re pretty ordinary, but they’re also pretty good, so they’ve attracted some attention. They’re signed to a moderate-sized “independent” label owned by a distribution company, and they have another two albums owed to the label. They’re a little ambitious. They’d like to get signed by a major label so they can have some security you know, get some good equipment, tour in a proper tour bus — nothing fancy, just a little reward for all the hard work. To that end, they got a manager. He knows some of the label guys, and he can shop their next project to all the right people. He takes his cut, sure, but it’s only 15%, and if he can get them signed then it’s money well spent.
Anyways, it doesn’t cost them anything if it doesn’t work. 15% of nothing isn’t much! One day an A & R scout calls them, says he’s ‘been following them for a while now, and when their manager mentioned them to him, it just “clicked.” Would they like to meet with him about the possibility of working out a deal with his label? Wow. Big Break time. They meet the guy, and y’know what — he’s not what they expected from a label guy. He’s young and dresses pretty much like the band does. He knows all their favorite bands. He’s like one of them. He tells them he wants to go to bat for them, to try to get them everything they want. He says anything is possible with the right attitude.
They conclude the evening by taking home a copy of a deal memo they wrote out and signed on the spot. The A & R guy was full of great ideas, even talked about using a name producer. Butch Vig is out of the question-he wants 100 g’s and three points, but they can get Don Fleming for $30,000 plus three points. Even that’s a little steep, so maybe they’ll go with that guy who used to be in David Letterman’s band. He only wants three points. Or they can have just anybody record it (like Warton Tiers, maybe– cost you 5 or 7 grand] and have Andy Wallace remix it for 4 grand a track plus 2 points. It was a lot to think about. Well, they like this guy and they trust him. Besides, they already signed the deal memo. He must have been serious about wanting them to sign. They break the news to their current label, and the label manager says he wants them to succeed, so they have his blessing. He will need to be compensated, of course, for the remaining albums left on their contract, but he’ll work it out with the label himself.
Sub Pop made millions from selling off Nirvana, and Twin Tone hasn’t done bad either: 50 grand for the Babes and 60 grand for the Poster Children– without having to sell a single additional record. It’ll be something modest. The new label doesn’t mind, so long as it’s recoupable out of royalties. Well, they get the final contract, and it’s not quite what they expected. They figure it’s better to be safe than sorry and they turn it over to a lawyer–one who says he’s experienced in entertainment law and he hammers out a few bugs. They’re still not sure about it, but the lawyer says he’s seen a lot of contracts, and theirs is pretty good. They’ll be great royalty: 13% [less a 1O% packaging deduction]. Wasn’t it Buffalo Tom that were only getting 12% less 10? Whatever. The old label only wants 50 grand, an no points. Hell, Sub Pop got 3 points when they let Nirvana go. They’re signed for four years, with options on each year, for a total of over a million dollars! That’s a lot of money in any man’s English. The first year’s advance alone is $250,000. Just think about it, a quarter million, just for being in a rock band! Their manager thinks it’s a great deal, especially the large advance. Besides, he knows a publishing company that will take the band on if they get signed, and even give them an advance of 20 grand, so they’ll be making that money too. The manager says publishing is pretty mysterious, and nobody really knows where all the money comes from, but the lawyer can look that contract over too. Hell, it’s free money.
Their booking agent is excited about the band signing to a major. He says they can maybe average $1,000 or $2,000 a night from now on. That’s enough to justify a five week tour, and with tour support, they can use a proper crew, buy some good equipment and even get a tour bus! Buses are pretty expensive, but if you figure in the price of a hotel room for everybody In the band and crew, they’re actually about the same cost. Some bands like Therapy? and Sloan and Stereolab use buses on their tours even when they’re getting paid only a couple hundred bucks a night, and this tour should earn at least a grand or two every night. It’ll be worth it. The band will be more comfortable and will play better.
The agent says a band on a major label can get a merchandising company to pay them an advance on T-shirt sales! ridiculous! There’s a gold mine here! The lawyer Should look over the merchandising contract, just to be safe. They get drunk at the signing party. Polaroids are taken and everybody looks thrilled. The label picked them up in a limo. They decided to go with the producer who used to be in Letterman’s band. He had these technicians come in and tune the drums for them and tweak their amps and guitars. He had a guy bring in a slew of expensive old “vintage” microphones. Boy, were they “warm.” He even had a guy come in and check the phase of all the equipment in the control room! Boy, was he professional. He used a bunch of equipment on them and by the end of it, they all agreed that it sounded very “punchy,” yet “warm.” All that hard work paid off. With the help of a video, the album went like hotcakes! They sold a quarter million copies! Here is the math that will explain just how fucked they are: These figures are representative of amounts that appear in record contracts daily. There’s no need to skew the figures to make the scenario look bad, since real-life examples more than abound. income is bold and underlined, expenses are not.
Advance: $ 250,000
Net royalty: $ -14,000
Record company income:
The Balance Sheet: This is how much each player got paid at the end of the game.
The band is now 1/4 of the way through its contract, has made the music industry more than 3 million dollars richer, but is in the hole $14,000 on royalties. The band members have each earned about 1/3 as much as they would working at a 7-11, but they got to ride in a tour bus for a month. The next album will be about the same, except that the record company will insist they spend more time and money on it. Since the previous one never “recouped,” the band will have no leverage, and will oblige. The next tour will be about the same, except the merchandising advance will have already been paid, and the band, strangely enough, won’t have earned any royalties from their T-shirts yet. Maybe the T-shirt guys have figured out how to count money like record company guys. Some of your friends are probably already this fucked.
Steve Albini is an audio engineer, producer, singer, songwriter, guitarist. He has worked with Nirvana, The Breeders, Helmet, Robert Plant, Pixies, PJ Harvey, Joanna Newsom among many others. Steve Albini is an artist.
The Clash first performed in the Boston area on February 16, 1979, at the Harvard Square Theatre in Cambridge, MA. It was a Friday evening and the band was scheduled to come up to the radio station for a late night interview with me. Unfortunately, it never materialized as our staff had just gone on strike. The new owners of WBCN had decided to fire half of the workers in order to break the union. We all walked out. Scabs were hired. Although we eventually emerged victorious, this is another story for another post. That evening at the concert Joe Strummer dedicated a song to me and wished all of us good luck in our struggle.
The Clash returned to Boston later that year and played the Orpheum Theatre on Wednesday, September 19, 1979. Sam and Dave were their support. After their performance the entire band joined me on my program as guest DJs. Here is a recording of what remains from that night in radio history with a increasingly drunken Clash playing their favorite songs, exposing their politics, battling with listeners and singing along to the Dave Clark 5 and the Village People! Yes, this did air live.
This article is reprinted from today’s New York Times. It’s another example of how the record business has failed to adapt in the 21st century. “There’s something happening here but you don’t know what it is…”
By DAMIAN KULASH Jr.
Published: February 19, 2010
MY band is famous for music videos. We direct them ourselves or with the help of friends, we shoot them on shoestring budgets and, like our songs, albums and concerts, we see them as creative works and not as our record company’s marketing tool.
In 2006 we made a video of us dancing on treadmills for our song “Here It Goes Again.” We shot it at my sister’s house without telling EMI, our record company, and posted it on the fledgling YouTube without EMI’s permission. Technically, this put us afoul of our contract, since we need our record company’s approval to distribute copies of the songs that they finance. It also exposed YouTube to all sorts of liability for streaming an EMI recording across the globe. But back then record companies saw videos as advertisements, so if my band wanted to produce them, and if YouTube wanted to help people watch them, EMI wasn’t going to get in the way.
As the age of viral video dawned, “Here It Goes Again” was viewed millions, then tens of millions of times. It brought big crowds to our concerts on five continents, and by the time we returned to the studio, 700 shows, one Grammy and nearly three years later, EMI’s ledger had a black number in our column. To the band, “Here It Goes Again” was a successful creative project. To the record company, it was a successful, completely free advertisement.
Now we’ve released a new album and a couple of new videos. But the fans and bloggers who helped spread “Here It Goes Again” across the Internet can no longer do what they did before, because our record company has blocked them from embedding our video on their sites. Believe it or not, in the four years since our treadmill dance got such attention, YouTube and EMI have actually made it harder to share our videos.
A few years ago, reeling from plummeting record sales, record companies went after YouTube, demanding payment for streams of their material. They saw videos, suddenly, as potential sources of revenue. YouTube agreed to pay the record companies a tiny amount for each stream, but — here’s the crux of the problem — they pay only when the videos are viewed on YouTube’s own site.
Embedded videos — those hosted by YouTube but streamed on blogs and other Web sites — don’t generate any revenue for record companies, so EMI disabled the embedding feature. Now we can’t post the YouTube versions of our videos on our own site, nor can our fans post them on theirs. If you want to watch them, you have to do so on YouTube.
But this isn’t how the Internet works. Viral content doesn’t spread just from primary sources like YouTube or Flickr. Blogs, Web sites and video aggregators serve as cultural curators, daily collecting the items that will interest their audiences the most. By ignoring the power of these tastemakers, our record company is cutting off its nose to spite its face.
The numbers are shocking: When EMI disabled the embedding feature, views of our treadmill video dropped 90 percent, from about 10,000 per day to just over 1,000. Our last royalty statement from the label, which covered six months of streams, shows a whopping $27.77 credit to our account.
Clearly the embedding restriction is bad news for our band, but is it worth it for EMI? The terms of YouTube’s deals with record companies aren’t public, but news reports say that the labels receive $.004 to $.008 per stream, so the most EMI could have grossed for the streams in question is a little over $5,400.
It’s decisions like these that have earned record companies a reputation for being greedy and short-sighted. And by and large they deserve it. But before we cheer for the demise of the big bad machine, it’s important to remember that record companies provide the music industry with a vital service: they’re risk aggregators. Or at least, they used to be.
To go from playing at a local club once a month to actually supporting yourself with music requires big investments in touring, recording and promotion — investments young musicians can’t afford. My band didn’t sign a contract with EMI because we believed labels magically created stars. We signed because no banker in his right mind would give a band the startup capital it needs.
Record companies, on the other hand, didn’t used to expect that all their advances would be repaid. They spread the risk by betting on hundreds of artists at once, and they recouped their investments by taking the lion’s share of the profits on the few acts that succeeded.
At least, this was all true when we signed our deal in 2000. Today, as the record industry’s revenue model has collapsed with the digitization of its biggest commodities, companies are cutting back spending on all but their biggest stars, and not signing nearly as many new acts. If record companies can’t adapt to this new world, they will die out; and without advances, so will the futures of many talented bands.
In these tight times, it’s no surprise that EMI is trying to wring revenue out of everything we make, including our videos. But it needs to recognize the basic mechanics of the Internet. Curbing the viral spread of videos isn’t benefiting the company’s bottom line, or the music it’s there to support. The sooner record companies realize this, the better — though I fear it may already be too late.
Damian Kulash Jr. is the lead singer and guitarist of the band OK Go.
The devastation in Haiti may no longer be the story du jour but the suffering continues. Linkin Park’s non-profit effort, Music For Relief, launched an initiative a few weeks back to help raise money to support relief efforts in Haiti. An album of exclusive tracks from various artists is available for free download at musicforrelief.org in exchange for a suggested donation of any amount.
Hear the album here at Music For Relief as well.
Download to Donate to Haiti
1. Not Alone-Linkin Park
2. Mother Maria (featuring Beth Hart) – Slash
3. Never Let me Down (produced by Mike Shioda of Linkin Park and Chad Hugo of The Neptunes) – Kenna
4. Butterfly – Weezer featuring Allison Allport on Harp
5. Still (Acoustic, Vancouver Sessions) – Alanis Morissette
6. Resurrection – Lupe Fiasco and Kenna
7. We Are One – Hoobastank
8. The Wind Blows (Skillrex Remix) – The All-American Rejects
9. It Must Be Love – Enrique Iglesias
10. Typical Situation (live) – Dave Matthews Band
11. Slipstream (Slimmed Down Mix) -The Crystal Method featuring Jason Lytle
12. Gold Guns Girls (Mike Shinoda Remix) – Metric
13. Times Like These (Live From Red Rocks) – Jack Johnson
After many years, Mary Lou Lord today speaks opening and movingly about her relationship with Kurt Cobain. So intimate, so personal, rarely do we have the opportunity to delve so deeply into the heart of an artist. At the end of her writings, listen to her voice and her music.
“Ok, so I barely pay attention to Wikipedia and most things related to myself. Can’t stand it. Never could. Don’t have the time, blah, blah….BUT tonight, I gave a good look at my Wiki page, and I DON’T LIKE IT!!..I have no patience for learning much internet negotiating, and I don’t know how to EDIT the page!!..So, if anyone can edit the entire part that mentions Kurt Cobain, I would be grateful. I know that when I want to know something about someone, it’s the first place I visit, and I dont want people to have a shitty impression, or a false impression of me, just because some moron whith nothing better to do said stuff was so…….( THE WIKI PAGE HAS SINCE BEEN EDITED..thank you guys for your help with that!!) however, there is still a bunch of false info still floating around certain corners of the interweb, so I am still going on with writing this…
Visiting my own page tonight made me slightly ill….I DON’T WANT that shit to be the first thing people see..I don’t want it to be referenced at al!!!l..I’ve perhaps done myself a dis-service by not talking about “what exactly happened” openly when he was alive, or even given a proper interview with a proper writer, and gotten the whole truth out right there, right then, but I thought it best to just keep my mouth shut about the whole thing. (Not to mention, I ALMOST couldnt believe it all myself. One of the only mentions I made (and Kurt was alive at the time), was that the song “some jingle jangle morning” was in fact written about him. Big deal. Small local paper, the writer was a friend, and it was true. Courtney love went into a rage. I have no doubt in my mind that she made him (they faxed a lot back then) fax a letter to the paper claiming that all I said was untrue…Ah Courtney, how you doin’ now sister? WHO THE FUCK exactly believes ANYTHING she says ANYWAY??…
Yes, I sit here nearly 18 years later and YES there are things I am pissed-the-fuck off about!..The things she about me (from Rolling Stone to anyone who would suck up to her and listen) were FALSE and certainly DID NOT come out of Kurt’s mouth…for one thing (and yes, it’s somewhere embedded in Wiki), as beautiful as I thought Kurt was, the “infamous” episode that “supposedly happened in the back of a van” NEVER even occurred!! !!..My “thing” with him wasn’t based on a “sexual” escapade between band guy/groupie type thing. That’s fucking gross, and I wouldnt stand a guy that was like that (there’s PLENTY of dip shit bimbos out there, and many of them WAY hotter than me to boot!!.We ALL know (those who really knew him) that he wasnt like that either…He would have been MORTIFIED, afraid of, AND sickened by chicks like that…
One huge observation I also made was how this woman who was SUPPOSED to honor him, cherish him, etc, could blatently be-little and DIS HONOR his character and memory, by the” bj statement ” she made (in a HUGE Rolling Stone COVER piece btw, just months after he passed away) about me…NOT ONLY was she putting me down, but she didnt EVEN stop to think, that she was ALSO ripping HIS character apart ( by making “the Dark Van bj” statement…The “episode” included TWO people…NOT just one..On top of all that, and the saddest thing, is that it wasn’t even true. It all came out of a very sick, twisted, “DARK VAN” of her OWN mind…HOW FUCKED UP IS THAT?? ..I do often think of him..it’s impossible not to..a song on the radio, an old video, the pictures I have etc.. I am writing all this NOW perhaps because I want to set the story straight not just for me, but also for HIM. He wasnt even there to defend himself, and I’m sure as shit that he would have cringed at what (his own wife) said about him.
I have a daughter. So does he. someday he might have grandchildren. I am also writing this for them. Thisstory (My Story) is NOT REALLY a BIG deal AT ALL anymore in MY life, or in “our lives= readers, fans, etc”, but someday, our children (mine, his) or grandchildren, will probably seek out EVERYTHING that defined who we were as people (especially on a personal (non-rock star guy) level for him…I WILL NOT SIT BACK AND LIVE WITH BULLSHIT WIKI PAGES AND OLD OLD DARK RUMORS THAT SOME BITTER JEALOUS WOMAN started out of rage, insecurity, and greed while years later regret that a child or grandchild of mine might stumble upon some strange false statements lying dormant on some web page out there in cyberworld….There was a short time between Olympia and constant touring (1993 or so), when I lived with my parents who I loved, who were in thier late 70’s. Courtney somehow got a hold of thier # and would call incessantly leaving INSANE messages on thier answering maching in the middle of the night ..She would ramble, threaten me, threaten them, etc…(Whaat?)..She would say things I’d rather not care to reapeat and some things were barely co-hesive anyway. I rember my father (who was a 76 yr old retired fire-fighter) giving me a look of absolute confusion after listening to some of these rants, and saying one of the most profound observations of Courtney I’ve heard yet…He simply said ..”Mary, she’s just not one of us”….
I don’t know…I see that she is coming out with a new record (whatever) and that she’s lost custody…again….AND I ran into my stupid Wikipedia page and the whole thing FINALLY has made me want to LET IT BLURT!…Fuck it fuck it fuck it….!!!! Also, I just read N.Horby’s Juliet Naked. I think it sparked something off..Being a musician, I guess it was impossible to NOT identify with the Tucker Character in the book. It’s a new age now, and everyting is on the internet…I myself could care less if I became another “fucker” (the Tucker character’s nick name on the internet meaning “Fake-Tucker” to the world in cyberspace who DIDNT know the truth about the REAL Tucker).. but I know my daughter WOULD care. In the end, that’s all that matters. This is for her…..and for Frances.
Ok…so here goes…what exactly happened….
It all started with my friend Philip Welsh…Around 1988 I was playing in the subway (met Phil on green line, govt center (possibly the worst busking pitch EVER)…and Philip was nice and I would see him daily and chit chat about the covers I was playing etc…He seemed to know a lot (I was a BIG folky at the time..John Gorka, David Wilcox, Aztek twostep, Tom Paxton, Passim all the way) and I asked Philip to make me a mixed tape. Next time I saw him he presented to me one of those casette tape-holders containing something insane like 8 or 10 mixed tapes!!! HOLY SHIT !!! On these tapes were music that I certainly wasn’t familiar with….It was stuff like Cows from Atlantis, the Holy Modal Rounders, Half Japanese, TV personalities, the Verlaines, the Pastels…and sooo much more..Philip had a vast knowlege of underground music and this beloved kooky box of mixed tapes was really ( of course I could go into a nutty story of how I met REM in 1984, and how bizarre it was to take them on a schenic sight seeing spree in Salem ma (my home town), but that’s for another time…Who didnt love REM back in the day)… (but that’s alll another story entirely)…But this box from Philip, that MAGICAL box , was really the start. Thanks Philip!! I LOve you (billy)
I had begun playing in the subway full time because I needed money and it was better than being a waitress (which I never would have been good at anyway)..and one of the main focuses was on songs by Shawn Colvin..I absolutely adored her. She also had no record out yet (remember…this was WAY before internet and there was no place to find the music if there was no record out yet)..so, I deemed it my mission in life to play her lovely songs as to the delight of people who wanted to hear awesome songs…I did this for a long time until her first cd actually came out!..(over the course of that time, she was to become one of the best friends I’ve ever had the pleasure of having)…so, Shawn’s songs were alive and well, and certainly didnt need me playing them to be alive..Yay Shawn!
About this time 1989, I met a fella named Jim Neill in a record store in Salem Ma. I heard hime talking to the guy at the front counter and I decided I wanted to meet him. My strategy was to ask the counter guy in a really loud voice (hoping jim would hear my question and if HE (jim) were interested in my question, I decided that would make me interested in him!)..so I asked “Hey, do you guys have the new Shawn Colvin cd??” ..Jim’s head spun around “You like Shawn Colvin”?? (remember, NO ONE knew her yet)…”ah yes, she’s a friend, and I adore her” said I….Jim and I instantly bonded. Turned out Jim was working for a company called Ryko disk in my home town of Salem. I had just returned from College in London, and we decided to move to lower Allston and be room-mates.
In November or so of 1990 Jim was driving to work. I had hitched a ride with him to visit my parents that day. At around 8 in the morning a SONG came on the car radio. “what is this Jim”? (Jim knew everything about music)..he didnt know what it was. No cells then, and dj never said…BUT that song stayed in my head. A few weeks later I met a guy named Dave Gwiazdowski who was a dj on wers. I met him in the subway at Park st (well, I din’t actually “meet” him… I thought he had great hair and there was just something cool about him, so I decided to follow him. Yep, right there and then I packed up my busking shit and hopped on the same train he got on. I followed him all the way to central sq. He went into the middle east. I followed him into the back room where the bands played. I had no idea who he was, or who he was going to see..I didnt balk at the cover charge, just HAD to know this guy…Later that night after about 2 hours of stalking him (he’s the ONLY guy I’ve EVER “followed” by the way), I finally I got up the guts to say hello…Turned out that he was a dj on WERS (the same station I had heard THAT) song (the one with Jim in the car) weeks before that I couldnt get out of my head. Dave turned out to be an awesome ,awesome guy, and we have remained great friends to this day. We had lots of fun fun times back then…seeing band after band, talking about music, making tapes, etc. I would ride him on the back rack of my bicycle from Cambridge to boston night after night!! I was very very strong back then. Went to the gym 7 days a week, ran 4 miles a day…you getit. (Glad I had the good sensabilities to stalk Dave Gwiz!)
It occured to me that perhaps Dave would know THAT song I had heard on the radio station he worked at a few weeks before. I sang it (hummed the melody) for him….”Oh, I think that’s a band called Nirvana” he said….Ah,”make me a tape!” I said. So, Dave made me a tape. It was Bleach..I loved it….about 3 months or so later, Dave informed me that that band I liked “Nirvana” was coming out with a new record and that he had an advanced copy…Ah,”make me a tape!” I said…so, he did….HOLY shit SHIT! Again, I fell in love with it..I loved Bleach, but this was SOMETHING ELSE!!!…this was special.!!So, this was probably April or or May of 1991..(not exactly sure, but I had that tape for a while)……I listened to it all summer and learned to play (really shitty versions of course) most of the songs on that tape!…For some reason, I never bothered to see what the band looked like, and stuck with the tapes, and didnt have a record player anyway. never really gave a shit about what bands looked like. no internet. no wiki. no money…fuck it…loved the tapes!
At around that time I was REALLY REALLY into Teenage Fanclub…I had seen them at the middle east (probably with Dave (who probably to this day loves the fact that I “stalked” him), and they blew my mind!!!! I met them at the middle and had a great talk with Jerard Love about Scotland, the music, all the stuff nerdy-musos talk about …oh, and also I forgot to mention that about a year before all this, I had discoverd Daniel Johnston..Probably right around 1988…I heard a song on the radio (speeding motorcycle) and called the radio station and asked who “That woman singing about the motorcycle was” “That’s not a woman, that’s Daniel Johnston”…”where can I get his records?” …radio guys says to go to “in your ear” I go and YAY NO RECORDS!! it appears he ONLY had casettes….I bought all they had…Hi How are you, Yip jump, etc…also got some Sentridoh..(I think)….ok, so fastforeward to August 1991…I was in a band with Jason Hatfield called Chupa…Jason loved to play practical jokes and on the night of Sept 21st or so, he left a message on my machine saying in a very Scottish accent “hello, this is Jerry Love, and I am hanging out at the Rat tonight and you should come round”..What is Jerry doing at the rat I thought? (he’s the dude from teenage fanclub)..also, that same day, Dave (my radio friend), told me I should come to the rat to see The Melvins (cause I would like the singer’s hair he said….I had a thing for BIG hair back then)…so, I was all confused but liked the Melvins and was hopefull that jerry would be there (although before I got to the show I realized it was probably Hatfield fucking with me)…Anyway, I went to the show…Melvin’s were great. Buzz’s hair was great!…Dave was there…bunch of people I knew were there….Good times.
As I was leaving the club (the show was pretty much over and some people were leaving), There were 3 guys trying to get in saying thier name was on the list…the door guy was being a prick “what’s your name again (to the guys) , I dont see it on the list”….”Nirvana” the little one said. “nope, not on list” said prick…..I stop in my tracks (I was almost out the door)…”hey”, you should let them in” I said in a sort of shocked that he wouldnt let them in kinda way…”who the fuck are you”? says prick (to me)…I decided to go back down stairs in the hopes that they might make it in, and of course to tell Dave that the “Nirvana” band were here and trying to get in….Before going back down into the Rat I just remember shaking my head and saying to the prick door guy” you really should let them in”….
About 10 or so minutes later, they came down stairs…..There were probably 15 or so people left, finishing thier drinks, hangin out with the Melvins, merch, etc…Then after a few minutes, the little guy with the blonde hair came up and said, “Hey, thanks for helping us get in”…”ah shit, I said, the show’s been over for a while, and that guy (the prick) was being a prick”..( I knew the blonde guy was in Nirvana (cause they said “Nirvana” to the prick,, but I didnt know which one he was..still had never seen thier picture…he could have been a roadie for all I knew)..So, this is the point where I actually met him…””um, what are you guys doing here” I asked…he said that they were doing a show at Metro>(not sure where it was) the next night, and they had just gotten in and wanted to see the Melvins. “Ah…ok…I really like your band”…”you know us” “yea…a little (I lied…I had owned Nevermind casette for months but couldnt get Dave in trouble so didnt say so)..Yea, “where are you from”…oh, Olympia huh, Capital right? “yea”..Oh..THEN, all of a sudden, someone came by me and says “Hey MaryLou, heard you playing in the Subway, it was great”…Kurt says…”You play music? …in a subway???” “um yea”…..whooa…what kind of stuff do you do> ..Um, folk songs..By the way, I know youre in Nirvana , but which guy are you? “Oh, I’m the Singer and play guitar”…(right around here is when I started to shit myself)…ONLY because I loved them sooo much ( no one else could have given a shit yet, really, Nevemind wasnt even out yet!)…So, he then says, “what kind of folk songs”..ah, you might not know it (for some reason I thought ONLY me and a few others liked what I liked (and that is actually true)…so I spout off…”Daniel Johnston, Teenage Fanclub, The Bats, the Clean, The Vaselines, etc…” The look on his face was PRICELESS…”Have you heard any of these bands”? I ask…”Do you want to go upstairs and talk “” he says……
We went upstairs and had one of the most insanely intense comversations about life, music, life, music, and life and music that I'[ve EVER had in my life. There was this insanely instant connection and as 2 approached, I asked where he was staying “the howard JOhnson’s”( was right down the street)…I asked if he wanted a ride. “sure”…ok….we leave the bar, and I start unlocking my very old bicycle with a great rack (on the back)…he see’s it says “I thought you said you were gonna give me a “….”I know” I said…”you sit on the back”…So, there it was…I was on my 1966 columbia peddling Kurt Cobain around Boston….We got back to the hotel after a little ride around Boston, and sat on the big wall in front until about 9 in the morning (never even went in the hotel)…just shooting the shit, and knowing that we each had met someone special…
He told me to meet him at about 4 the next day at the Rat and that he would take me to the show which was on Lansdowne st…It was some kind of party thing for wfnx, and a record release of thiers of sorts….I went to the show and it was amazing!!..I heard them play all those songs that were on my beloved advance copy of Nevermind casette and it all just completely blew my mind. There was this great “feeling” in the air, and I KNEW I was part of it. I was WITH him RIGHT at the very APEX of the WHOLE thing. That night after the show, Kurt wanted to hang out where I lived and listen to the many records I mentioned that I owned…(well, I lived with the records. Some were mine, but mostly,…they actually belonged to Billy Ruane and there were thousnads and thousands of them.I was house sitting for Billy at the time. I think he let me live in the place for free as long as I alphbetized the records…I think I got as far as “C” there were SOO many)…I remember I had this really wierd picture of Lester Bangs on my wall that I used to drag around from apartment to apartment with me. It was from a very rare book of photos by a guy named Michael I think called “pumping Irony” “do you know who that is? he looked more like meathead from all in the family than Lester Bangs, and it didnt say “leseter Bangs on the pic itslef…but Kurt said…”Lester Bangs”?..Whoa I’d met my match…anyway, at this point, we had had a few drinks, and I rarely drank at all back then..I didnt smoke, didnt drink, went to the gym every day and rode big people around on my bike…but this night i had a few, and decided to have fun…We had a dance party curtesy of Billy Ruane’s record collection)) ….this went on till about 4 am, then …..I HAD to ask him ..”do you want to play some songs with me?”..Well, this was funny cause it was my guitar there, not his, and he’s a LEFTY.(I’m a rightly)..so he struggled (and it was funny) to get out a few chords…he immediately got frustrated and said…”you play for me”…(shitting myself again at that point)….so, I played…I honestly cant remember all the songs I did, but I KNOW that I played “Polaroids” which now is so so ironic and bizarre for me ….He had such a look of intensity while I played it and he (I know) was absolutley blown away by the lyrics..(he told me so)..the line where it says “Begging for love in a Suicide threat”…so wierd now…This was 1991…Sept 23…I remember …Then, next what happened (and this really really blew his mind…) was that I continued to play and I got up the guts to play about 6 songs that I had learned from Nevermind ( I had owned it for months …remember), and it WASNT even out yet!
He looked absolutely shocked..I had never really said HOW MUCH I liked his band (didnt want to come off as a dork or get in trouble for pre-owning Nevermind)…so, it must have been wierd for him…a dude from Aberdeen, not very well known (especially in the chick department) and here comes me with my Daniel Johnston/kooky bike/love of Teenage Fanclub /Vaselines,, AND KNOWING the Nirvana LP inside out, before it was out!!!!…Ok, so if ANYONE is reading, are you getting this?.>???This was a fuckload more than a fictional BLOWJOB (No, sadly (should have for all the shit I took about it anyway) I didnt go there)..that Courtney MADE UP!!
The next day we hung out again….Kurt really wanted to play in the subway (it really intrigued him)…so. we went all around trying to find a girl named Janet Macanerny (sp?) who I knew was a lefty (but only remembered later that she simply flipped it around (didnt actually change stringing)…so, we had a fun day, hanging out around Cambridge, going to record stors, riding subways, him meeting my subway friends on our quest to find Janet…amazing day….. and then again that night saw Nirvana again, and once more, happy to have another dance party w Kurt in Billy’s living room…
There are some people that you meet and you know that there is something profound going on…it’s not a matter of “how much time was spent” with them…it’s a wierd thing..I’ve had this only with a few other people before, but not many……one of them was (like Kurt) also a piscese…He is also a singer…same thing..TC, you readin? do you remember?
I’m trying to put the time context stuff in order here so, forgive me if my dates are wrong.
There were some dates on the tour I attended…I went to the Baby head show in RI which was nothing but amazing, hung out after, etc, and I think New York was next. I awoke the morning of that show to Kurt on my answer machine.( I had driven back to Boston after the RI show because I was with my friend Danelle who had to get back to go to work)… He siad, Take a bus, take a plane, take a train, take a boat….I want you here with me…at that time I had a full time job at Mystery Train records, and I had to convince someone to cover for my shift. I hopped a grayhound to NYC and didnt get there till late. I met up with my friend Deb (who God bless her saved every piece of shit rant that Courtney was to spew YEARS later on a very new web site called “America Online” in 1995, in her infamouse “HOLE” folder….(that’s a whole nother story)…So, Deb and I got to the show (I think Deb came?) and it was nearly over, but I made it to the backstage and Kurt came up to me with a huge smile “There you are!!!” he exclaimed…He introduced me to Kim Gordon and Thurston and a whole bunch of other people. After the show we went to a big party for someone who worked for MTV…Then, we went to a club until about 5 in the morning…What was really, really fun about this, is that they had a jukebox filled with nothing but disco, and Kurt Cobain himself ( I know, hard to picture), danced his ass off….
Ok, so, you see there is at least a little story developing here, but I have to pick noodles up from the floor…DO you want me to continue, or should I someday write a book?”
“His Lamest Flame”
In 1979 The Clash were winging their way to America for their first American tour. “The only band that mattered,” the Clash were an inspiration and a call to arms for all that rock ‘n’ roll could be. The Clash in Boston will be explored in the days ahead.
Thankfully Cypress Hill and Tom Morello have not been deluded. They know that we live in a right wing country. George Bush and his cronies did not lose. They merely took a vacation. While bankrupting the country thru greed and wars (and in the course enriching themselves), they fooled us into believing that there was a glimmer of hope for equality and change. But they merely took a break to shift the blame back to the left. Their ability to establish misinformation as truth is uncanny. The only way to effect real change in this country is in the streets. As we learned from the Howard Zinn in The People’s History of the United States, whether it was the labor movement, civil rights, the Vietnam war, gay rights or women’s equality, real change happens when people take control of the institutions which begins when people rise up.
Cypress Hill – Rise Up (featuring Tom Morello)
We had some friends over the other night who wanted to watch the opening ceremony of the winter Olympics. Hopefully you didn’t waste precious moments of your life viewing this sorry excuse for a spectacle. It was like a bad high school production with a large budget. Ok, let me say it straight. It sucked! Sorry to my friends North. And as the commentators fell all over themselves telling us how wonderful it was, I could not help thinking that it certainly was not the Canada that I know and love. Musically it did give proper deference to Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, but the rest were American Idol wannabes. Where was Neil Young or even Rush for that matter, the latter at least having a prominent cameo in the popular film I Love You Man. Here are few other artists that I think of when I think of Canada.