My friend, Harvey Leeds, who helped develop innumerable artists at Epic Records, and who is now a manager extraordinaire, sent me this delightful new addition for my collection. Marky Ramone, the second drummer for the Ramones, replaced Tommy Ramone in 1978. (Of note, only the two drummers of the Ramones have survived). Marky stills drums but recently launched his own line of pasta sauce! I just had to share this. When I obtain a 2nd jar, I’ll sample the contents. Until then, it will proudly be displayed on the mantle.
“Suzy is a Headbanger” by The Ramones
In 1979 I created a punk rock dance club named Spit with Patrick Lyons, a local nightclub owner in Boston. Punk had grown beyond the live music venues and needed a place for like-minded people to gather and connect and dance. Initially open only on the weekend, I spun on Friday nights. On Saturday of this week there will be a Spit reunion and I will spin once again.
I have always had mixed emotions about reunions. Times once experienced cannot be recreated again. Plus, I live for new music and always have embraced the future. Yet, reunions do force one to pause and reflect. Punk revolutionized rock and influenced generations of musicians. Punk lived for the moment as there was “no future.” Well, the future is now and this will be some night! Preparing for my DJ shift this weekend, I have listened to volumes of songs from the day. Some have not stood the test of time, but others (though in some cases poorly recorded) still energize today. Here are a few that I will play at Spit.
Magazine-“The Light Pours Out of Me”
Gang of Four-“I Love a Man in a Uniform”
The Clash-“I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.”
Julian Schnabel is a world renown artist and filmmaker. His paintings are part of the collections of some of the great museums of the world including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney in New York, MOCA in LA and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. He directed such films as Basquiat, Before Night Falls, Lou Reed’s Berlin and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, the latter for which he won Best Director at Cannes.
In 1995 he released his one and only album produced by him and Bill Laswell. Anton Fier, Nick Skopelitis, Buckethead, and Bernie Worrell are some of the musicians of note. Naturally he was responsible for the art direction and the cover of the album. From my archives, this is a photo of a rare poster/print of the cover signed by Schnabel. The song “Juan Belmonte” is from that album entitled Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud.
“Juan Belmonte” by Julian Schnabel
Suddenly punk is alive as M.I.A. reinvigorates rock with the most intense in-your-face song in years. No compromise as she spits out lyrics over a sample of “Ghost Rider” by Suicide. The video is equally as powerful and profound. Rarely do videos enhance a song, but here it is a perfect adjunct and also stands on its own as a short film. Banned by YouTube. Not for the faint of heart, “Born Free” is the Song of the Day.
“Born Free” by M.I.A.
One of the marvelous advantages of the web is that when I hear a wonderful new song I do not have to wait to share it. With radio I had to wait for my airshift. And then generally I would only have time to play it once. Here, as soon as I hear it, I can post it. And we can listen to it over and over. The band is Stars. They are Canadian and all of the members are also part of the musical collective Broken Social Scene. From their forthcoming fifth album, The Five Ghosts, “Fixed” is the Song of the Day.
Karen Elson is a singer/songwriter. She is also a top fashion model and the wife of Jack White (The White Stripes, The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs). He produced the song and plays drums. Lest you think that this is some pretty chick slumming as a musician, this woman can sing and has an edgy downtown New York past. “The Ghost Who Walks” is from her forthcoming album of the same name.
“The Ghost Who Walks”
I’ve always been fascinated by Courtney Love. One of the more dynamic characters in rock, her personality is so strong and convoluted that she is polarizing to the extreme. My conversations with her have always been freeform, scattered, disturbing, amusing and thought-provoking. You never know when she might call or what she is thinking. But it’s Courtney’s world and you go along for the wild ride. Prominent women connected to male rock stars frequently get a bad rap. Courtney one of the prime examples. But we must never lose sight of the fact that Kurt loved her. Hole’s new album, Nobody’s Daughter, comes out next week. We featured the first single, “Skinny Little Bitch” when it was a free download in early March. Here is another track for the album, a side of Courtney that you may not be aware of. Very personal and mature with a hint of melancholy, what a long hard road it’s been. “Pacific Coast Highway” is the Song of the Day.
“Pacific Coast Highway” by Hole
In honour of Earth Day here are links for free downloadable pocket guides for sustainable seafood. As the oceans become depleted through over-fishing, pollution and fish farming practices that are harmful to other fish populations, it is helpful to know which fish to order in restaurants, your local market or at the sushi bar. From the Monterey Bay Aquarium you can download a pocket guide for your particular area of the US. From the WWF there are links for various parts of the world in the native languages.
As an avid scuba diver, I have witnessed the dramatic deterioration to the health, abundance and the environment of the fish population over the past 25 years. In some parts of the world pollution and garbage have turned the waters into toilets. Living coral reefs are dying. Some fish farming techniques require twice as many fish from the sea to feed the an equivalent farmed fish. These guides will help ensure that you are consuming fish that are in abundance, farmed properly and healthy.
Green Day’s epic album American Idiot has been successfully transformed and enhanced for the Broadway stage. Charles Isherwood in today’s New York Times gives it an overwhelming positive review. Here are his words and 3 songs from the Broadway cast recording.
Rage and love, those consuming emotions felt with a particularly acute pang in youth, all but burn up the stage in “American Idiot,” the thrillingly raucous and gorgeously wrought Broadway musical adapted from the blockbuster pop-punk album by Green Day.
Pop on Broadway, sure. But punk? Yes, indeed, and served straight up, with each sneering lyric and snarling riff in place. A stately old pile steps from the tourist-clogged Times Square might seem a strange place for the music of Green Day, and for theater this blunt, bold and aggressive in its attitude. Not to mention loud. But from the moment the curtain rises on a panorama of baleful youngsters at the venerable St. James Theater, where the show opened on Tuesday night, it’s clear that these kids are going to make themselves at home, even if it means tearing up the place in the process.
Which they do, figuratively speaking. “American Idiot,” directed by Michael Mayer and performed with galvanizing intensity by a terrific cast, detonates a fierce aesthetic charge in this ho-hum Broadway season. A pulsating portrait of wasted youth that invokes all the standard genre conventions — bring on the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, please! — only to transcend them through the power of its music and the artistry of its execution, the show is as invigorating and ultimately as moving as anything I’ve seen on Broadway this season. Or maybe for a few seasons past.
Burning with rage and love, and knowing how and when to express them, are two different things, of course. The young men we meet in the first minutes of “American Idiot” are too callow and sullen and restless — too young, basically — to channel their emotions constructively. The show opens with a glorious 20-minute temper tantrum kicked off by the title song.
“Don’t want to be an American idiot!” shouts one of the gang. The song’s signature electric guitar riff slashes through the air, echoing the testy challenge of the cry. A sharp eight-piece band, led by the conductor Carmel Dean, is arrayed around the stage, providing a sonic frame for the action. The simple but spectacular set, designed by Christine Jones, suggests an epically scaled dive club, its looming walls papered in punk posters and pimpled by television screens, on which frenzied video collages flicker throughout the show. (They’re the witty work of Darrel Maloney.)
Who’s the American idiot being referred to? Well, as that curtain slowly rose, we heard the familiar voice of George W. Bush break through a haze of television chatter: “Either you are with us, or with the terrorists.” That kind of talk could bring out the heedless rebel in any kid, particularly one who is already feeling itchy at the lack of prospects in his dreary suburban burg.
But while “American Idiot” is nominally a portrait of youthful malaise of a particular era — the album dates from 2004, the midpoint of the Bush years, and the show is set in “the recent past” — its depiction of the crisis of post-adolescence is essentially timeless. Teenagers eager for their lives to begin, desperate to slough off their old selves and escape boredom through pure sensation, will probably always be making the same kinds of mistakes, taking the same wrong turns on the road to self-discovery.
“American Idiot” is a true rock opera, almost exclusively using the music of Green Day and the lyrics of its kohl-eyed frontman, Billie Joe Armstrong, to tell its story. (The score comprises the whole of the title album as well as several songs from the band’s most recent release, “21st Century Breakdown.”) The book, by Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Mayer, consists only of a series of brief, snarky dispatches sent home by the central character, Johnny, played with squirmy intensity by the immensely gifted John Gallagher Jr. (“Spring Awakening,” “Rabbit Hole”).
“I held up my local convenience store to get a bus ticket,” Johnny says with a smirk as he and a pal head out of town.
“Actually I stole the money from my mom’s dresser.”
“Actually she lent me the cash.”
Such is the sheepish fate of a would-be rebel today. But at least Johnny and his buddy Tunny (Stark Sands) do manage to escape deadly suburbia for the lively city, bringing along just their guitars and the anomie and apathy that are the bread and butter of teenage attitudinizing the world over. (“I don’t care if you don’t care,” a telling lyric, could be their motto.)
The friend they meant to bring along, Will (Michael Esper), was forced to stay home when he discovered that his girlfriend (Mary Faber) was pregnant. Lost and lonely, and far from ready for the responsibilities of fatherhood, he sinks into the couch, beer in one hand and bong in the other, as his friends set off for adventure.
Beneath the swagger of indifference, of course, are anxiety, fear and insecurity, which Mr. Gallagher, Mr. Esper and Mr. Sands transmit with aching clarity in the show’s more reflective songs, like the hit “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” or the lilting anthem “Are We the Waiting.” The city turns out to be just a bigger version of the place Johnny and Tunny left behind, a “land of make believe that don’t believe in me.” The boys discover that while a fractious 21st-century America may not offer any easy paths to fulfillment, the deeper problem is that they don’t know how to believe in themselves.
Johnny strolls the lonely streets with his guitar, vaguely yearning for love and achievement. He eventually hooks up with a girl (a vivid Rebecca Naomi Jones) but falls more powerfully under the spell of an androgynous goth drug pusher, St. Jimmy, played with mesmerizing vitality and piercing vocalism by Tony Vincent. Tunny mostly stays in bed, clicker affixed to his right hand, dangerously susceptible to a pageant of propaganda about military heroism on the tube, set to the song “Favorite Son.” By the time the song’s over, he’s enlisted and off to Iraq.
In both plotting and its emotional palette, “American Idiot” is drawn in brash, primary-colored strokes, maybe too crudely for those looking for specifics of character rather than cultural archetypes. But operas — rock or classical — often trade in archetypes, and the actors flesh out their characters’ journeys through their heartfelt interpretations of the songs, with the help of Mr. Mayer’s poetic direction and the restless, convulsive choreography of Steven Hoggett (“Black Watch”), which exults in both the grace and the awkwardness of energy-generating young metabolisms.
Line by line, a skeptic could fault Mr. Armstrong’s lyrics for their occasional glibness or grandiosity. That’s to be expected, too: rock music exploits heightened emotion and truisms that can fit neatly into a memorable chorus. The songs are precisely as articulate — and inarticulate — as the characters are, reflecting the moment in youth when many of us feel that pop music has more to say about us than we have to say for ourselves. (And, really, have you ever worked your way through a canonical Italian opera libretto, line by line?)
In any case the music is thrilling: charged with urgency, rich in memorable melody and propulsive rhythms that sometimes evolve midsong. The orchestrations by Tom Kitt (the composer of “Next to Normal”) move from lean and mean to lush, befitting the tone of each number. Even if you are unfamiliar with Green Day’s music, you are more likely to emerge from this show humming one of the guitar riffs than you are to find a tune from “The Addams Family” tickling your memory.
But the emotion charge that the show generates is as memorable as the music. “American Idiot” jolts you right back to the dizzying roller coaster of young adulthood, that turbulent time when ecstasy and misery almost seem interchangeable states, flip sides of the coin of exaltation. It captures with a piercing intensity that moment in life when everything seems possible, and nothing seems worth doing, or maybe it’s the other way around.
Music by Green Day; lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong; book by Mr. Armstrong and Michael Mayer; directed by Mr. Mayer; choreography by Steven Hoggett; musical supervision, arrangements and orchestrations by Tom Kitt; sets by Christine Jones; costumes by Andrea Lauer; lighting by Kevin Adams; sound by Brian Ronan; video and projections by Darrel Maloney; technical supervision by Hudson Theatrical Associates; music coordinator, Michael Keller; music director, Carmel Dean; associate choreographer, Lorin Latarro; associate director, Johanna McKean. Presented by Tom Hulce and Ira Pittelman, Ruth and Stephen Hendel, Vivek J. Tiwary and Gary Kaplan, Aged in Wood and Burnt Umber, Scott M. Delman, Latitude Link, HOP Theatricals and Jeffrey Finn, Larry Welk, Bensinger Filerman and Maellenberg Taylor, Allan S. Gordon and Élan V. McAllister and Berkeley Repertory Theater, in association with Awaken Entertainment and John Pinckard and John Domo. At the St. James Theater, 246 West 44th Street, Manhattan; (212) 239-6200. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
WITH: John Gallagher Jr. (Johnny), Stark Sands (Tunny), Michael Esper (Will), Rebecca Naomi Jones (Whatshername), Christina Sajous (the Extraordinary Girl), Mary Faber (Heather) and Tony Vincent (St. Jimmy).
The Original Broadway Cast Recording – American Idiot
“Boulevard of Broken Dreams”
Natalie Merchant (former 10,000 Maniacs lead singer) has released her first solo album in almost seven years. Developing the theme of the relationship of mother to daughter, Natalie set 26 poems to music. Featuring primarily 19th and 20th century poets, the music ranges from Cajun to chamber, Chinese folk to jazz, bluegrass to R & B and includes over 130 musicians. Here are three from Leave Your Sleep. Music poems by Laurence Alma-Tadema, William Brighty Rands and Gerard Manley Hopkins.
“If No One Ever Marries Me”
“Spring and Fall: To a Young Child”
The official start of the summer festival season kicked off again in the California desert this weekend past. Well over 100 bands performed at the Coachella Festival, but for the first time in concert history a number of scheduled bands could not make the journey due to the volcanic ash emanating from Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland. Bad Lieutenant, Talvin Singh, Delphic, Hypnotic Bass Ensemble The Cribs, Frightened Rabbit and Gary Numan all had to cancel. The latter two are featured here.
Frightened Rabbit-“Nothing Like You”
Today is National Record Store Day, a day to honour all who love browsing for music, basking in aura of like-minded individuals searching for that one song that will give us momentary transcendence. Here is a photograph of one such record from my collection that I lovingly secured from the import section of Discount Records, a retailer in Boston long out of business. (more…)
In our ongoing discussion of what musicians actually earn, we turn to this excellent article and graphic from Information is Beautiful. Of particular note, we see how little income an artist realizes from streaming music. In this example, for a musician to earn a monthly minimum wage of only $1160 she has to have her song streamed on Rhapsody 849,817 times per month. For a complete spreadsheet breakdown go to: http://tinyurl.com/y3z7f5u
I’ve always admired Yoko Ono. Her music, her art, her spirit. John Lennon fell madly in love with her and understood that love was more important than the expectations that the world projected on him. She was his inspiration, his muse. We should all be so lucky to find such love. (Fortunately, I have.) Yoko phoned me one afternoon in the early 80s to discuss her new album. As the conversation turned to John I referred to him in the past tense. She gently and tenderly steered us into the present indicating that John was with us now and always will be. “Give Me Something” is a short minute and a half song by Yoko from Double Fantasy (released three weeks before Lennon’s murder). It has been remixed into a longer version by the Junior Boys and both can be heard here as the Song of the Day.
“Give Me Something”
“Give Me Something (Junior Boys Remix)”
Marina & the Diamonds-“I am not a Robot”
Dum Dum Girls-“Jail La La”
Serena-Maneesh-“I Just Want to See Your Face”
Goldheart Assembly-“Last Decade”