Monday, August 29, 2011

Ten Years Gone

In June of 2001, I was interviewed for Celebrity Access, a website for "industry professionals." I was profiled as a retailer, a writer (at the time I was writing liner notes on a regular basis), and "a promoter's best friend: an industry-ite that even pays to go to concerts. He is not phased by the price of the ticket as long as he is not ticked off by the live experience."

Looking back, my answers are mostly cringeworthy. Plus, I don't agree with anything I said...mostly. The most hilarious? My take on B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill, which had just opened at the time.

You recently had a revelatory experience at B. B. King Blues Club & Grill.
I just went to B.B. King's for the first time. The room is beautiful and incredibly comfortable. Great sight lines, with an amazing sound system. Got there at 6 p.m. when the doors opened, and the staff was very friendly and accommodating. They let us sit and save a seat. The band (The Tubes) started at exactly 8 p.m. and played for 90 minutes. Kicked ass! Had a house salad, a couple of drinks and a filet mignon with mushroom risotto (which was voted unanimously by the table as "unbelievable!' And it was.) Truly good food. No one smoked, free mints in the Men's room, got home by 10 p.m.  I had a great experience

I hate B.B. King's. The place is a tourist trap/fire hazard. They will NOT seat incomplete parties. (Why would that policy change? I guess because it was accomodating. Can't be caught accomodating anyone in NYC.) They overpack the room. The staff bites it. What happened in 10 years?

Check out this trifecta-

How do you feel about Napster?
I have never used it. All I can say is that as a fan of all music, I want as much music as possible as often as possible. So, the easier it is to get the music, the better. As a store owner and record collector, I can't understand how downloading and listening to three songs off of the new Radiohead CD via Napster is a replacement for owning it. I don't want to sit in my office, in front of my computer, listening to music. But, considering it costs 16 cents to make a CD that costs $18.98 to purchase, and the fact that radio does not exist for people over the age of 17, Napster isn't a bad idea.
As a concert-goer , what do you like about the live experience? The possibilities! Seeing and hearing something you may never again. Elvis Costello five nights in a row at The Broadway Theatre in NYC, playing five completely different sets, with different bands, covering material from Daryl Hall to Prince to Mose Allison to Tom Petty to The Hollies! It is something I still talk about 15 years later.
Do the rising ticket prices turn you off?
It depends on the artist and the surroundings. A good example is $85 to see Bruce and the E-Street Band play their hearts out for three hours. Bad example: Rod Stewart charging $140 to sit outdoors on a beach. If it's an artist I want to see, in a comfortable venue, with reserved seating and an early start, $150, while unnecessary is not unacceptable. But, to spend $30 to stand nuts-to-butts in a hot club, where the beer is $6 to watch a band take the stage at 11p.m. is totally unacceptable. Rock 'n' roll doesn't have to be late at night. It's bullshit.

"$150 is not unacceptable." What the hell was wrong with me? I guess when I had some money and a job, money was no object if it meant seeing rock and roll. Ten years on, I agonize over a $50 ducat. I'm also really amused by "I don't want to sit in front of my computer, listening to music."


The interviewed ended with this: 
Career Disappointment
Watching the music industry go down the drain.
Best business advice received
"Ignore the imbeciles!"
Pet Peeve
People who ask questions, but don't really give a crap about your answers.

A lot has happened in ten years.

I thought of this interview a couple of weeks ago, when I received this email from my friend Jeff K.:

Saw Marshall Crenshaw last night with The Bottle Rockets. Crenshaw sort of mailed it in, but The Bottle Rockets cooked. Here they were playing in front of maybe a hundred people after being together what, twenty years? If i remember correctly, they were one of the first alt-country outfits and got a lot of good pub in the beginning, only to see their career kind of peter out. Made me think of a possible topic for discussion: 

Favorite band that never really made it.

Here's one more from the interview:

Do you foresee any breakout acts this year?
I'm still waiting for Marshall Crenshaw to break out, so I'm not a good person to ask.

Ten years on, and I am still waiting for Crenshaw to breakout. It's been only two years since "Jaggedland," his brilliant return to form. I thought that was the moment. Something inside of me still believes in songwriting. I still believe in talent.

There are a couple thoughts here, and maybe it would have better to have two separate posts. But, I'm running with it.

As Jeff posed:

Your Favorite Band Or Artist That Never Really Made It


Big Changes In Feelings About Either A Band Or Music In General.


Anonymous said...

I still can't get used to concert prices even when they're relatively reasonable - passed on the Go Go's/Girl in a Coma (who I really really love) this weekend at $40.

The Yep-Roc label seems to specialize in artists of all genres who are former next-big-things. I would also point out that any artist wanting to be the next-big-thing should not let Steve Earle near their album (thinking of the disbanding, disappearance and fade away of the V-Roys, Cheri Knight, and Ron Sexsmith).

Back in the proggy early 70's, albums like War's live album baffled me. That's it, a one or two note solo? 4 sides of that? Now I grab any copy I see of Platinum Jazz in the budget bins. ditto early Ohio Players.

cmealha said...

My first instinct is to name artists that I thought deserved more recognition like Todd Rundgren or Roy Wood but they've had a fair amount of success even if I don't think it measures up to what I thought it should be. The next thought was of artists like A Girl Called Eddy who's disappeared and Mike Viola of the Candy Butchers who is a consistenly great songwriter.

vanwoert said...

I couldn't agree more with your sentiments about Marshall Crenshaw. I saw him on a local colege campus in the fall of 82 and remember thinking that I was watching some one who would someday sell millions of records. Matthew Sweet,The Raspberries and The Iron City Houserockers seem to fall in this catagory. As far as how your taste changes, I don't think mine has, I am just more honest with myself and others about what I like ( I sing along to "Brandy" in front of people now)

Anonymous said...

It's not too late for the Posies to make a comeback!

Anonymous said...

The biggest change in music for me might be Spotify, which has totally accelerated the already accelerating access-to-everythingness of modern music fandom. So far, been using it mostly to check out albums I'd never pay for but always been curious about, like Elton John's Blue Moves. (Actually, maybe I would pay for it now that I've listened to it a couple times. Ambitious and interesting, seems like he was listening to a lot of classic, Sinatra-era pop at the time...) There are huge, sometimes irritating wholes in Spotify's library, but at the same time have found some satisfyingly obscure stuff.

Oh, and speaking of the proggy early 70s, I can now also say that Tales of Topographic Oceans isn't quite as horrible as it's cracked up to be. Or at least the first LP-side-length track isn't. But then I got bored.

Bruce H

A walk in the woods said...

Your Favorite Band Or Artist That Never Really Made It:

Note that this comes with a qualifier: what do we mean by “never really made it”? Is that someone who had 2 LPs and then became a janitor? Is that someone like Jonathan Richman who is unknown to 99.8% of people on earth but at least has made a nice living for almost 40 years, never having to clock in at an office?

My fave of the moment is Solomon Burke. When he died a couple years ago, I got interested in him. Then seeing Mick Jagger & Raphael Saadiq romp thru “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” on the Grammies piqued my interest even more.

So last week I got my first Burke LP, after 30 years of being a music fan. I’m blown away! It’s a different type of soul than allllll the other1,000 soul albums I own. And my thought as we listened to this last night for the first time was, “How come this guy wasn’t HUGE????”

He made it, but he wasn’t huge. Sorry, Solomon.`


A few thoughts and of course I have to start with caveats and conditions ...

Two artists who "never really made it" ...

Two names come to mind but ...

A) they are both Canadian so might not be on the radar in the centre of the universe and ...

B) I get a feeling they each don't want to be / choose not to really make it:

Fred Eaglesmith is a brilliant singer songwriter / Americanna performer (can a Canadian sing Americanna?) who has been in the business for 30+ years and tours something like 300 days a year. He is cranky, runs his own record label, bla bla bla but in a world where Guy Clarke, Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle get some attention people really should listen to Fred and he should be as big as those guys.

And ...

Joel Plaskett should be a rock and roll god. I sent you a Joel Plaskett song for that Friday mix where we all contributed. Rock, Pop, Indi, full band, acoustic, ... in the business for years and years, a bunch of albums, a pile of awards, CBC Radio indi cred, and the best live performer you'll ever see, ... Why this guy isn't on every playlist I'll never know. But I get a funny feeling that when Joel makes a few bucks he'd rather go to a Bruce Springsteen show rather than be Bruce :-)

Check em both out.

As to your second question ... I'm in the middle of an interesting project where I'm going through my LPs and ripping them to my computer. Not that I would say I had great taste as a teenager I am impressed that the records I pull out of the box are all pretty good. There is something about the power of music (at least for me) that sets off weird and deep brain synapses as I put the disk on the platter, clean the record, hit the play button, lower the needle, ...

Maybe I just don't play the really dopey stuff lurking in those LP crates but I don't see any really cringe inducing music in my collection. I can't say the same about some books I read in the '70s and '80s or movies I watched. I can listen to Prince's Purple Rain just fine but had the misfortune to see the movie recently -- yikes!

Off to listen to Fred and Joel. I'll worry about blasts from the past next.

Nice post -- thanks Sal.

Jeff Matthews said...

A favorite example of an artist that never really made it but who has had a reasonably track record of (under appreciated) excellent albums might be Grant Lee Phillips, either with Grant Lee Buffalo or solo. Another would be Peter Case, with and without the Plimsouls. Mike Ness and Social Distortion?
In the category of most under-recognized but brief talent has to go Lewis Taylor, whose Lost Album has to be one of the best record I have ever heard. His lack of success and general disillusionment with the music scene apparently led to his complete retirement from the industry and he has disappeared.

jeff k said...

The Bay City Rollers


Not for reasons of unpopularity, but could you imagine the result had the members of Blind Faith clicked?

Crenshaw, definitely. I remember so clearly the almost universal acclaim he got at first (The Village Voice being a notable exception).

Southside Johnny is another for me. Blue Rodeo has made some of the best albums I own, but I don't think they could sell out my livingroom. Moby Grape, Rockpile, and I'd actually put the Ramones there, as their sales never matched the quality of their songs.

Sal Nunziato said...

Lewis Taylor is a fave; an unknown treasure that channels Todd Rundgren, Prince, Marvin Gaye and Paul McCartney at every turn. Yet Jeff, you are now the umpteenth person who has mentioned "The Lost Album," but makes no mention of his other 3, all of which are brilliant.

He's also covered Beefheart's "Trout Maks Replica" which I am pretty sure I posted here at some point.

soundsource said...

I'm still thinking about band or artist that never really made it but the answer to the other question is boring for me
lynyrd skynyrd (who needs em if you've got the allmans, boy was I dumb) and
Led Zeppelin, who needs em if you've got Jeff Beck w Rod Stewart, boy was I dumb again)

Anonymous said...

James McMurtry is one of those artists that everyone should know but he has pretty much slipped through the cracks for most. Too Long In the Wasteland is a better album than most ever release.

John Hiatt makes good, often great records and is playing City Winery. Same goes for Ian Hunter. Ian is an amazing writer and artist even in his 70's.

I guess the music that has changed my opinion the most is the singer-songwriters of the early 70's. I like it more and more as I get older. I think I play Jackson Browne more now than ever.

Troy said...

Props to jeffk for bringing up Blue Rodeo. Absolutely a band that should've made it. Terrific live band, and their latest album, The Things We Left Behind, is one of my favorite albums released in the past 5 years.

But my #1 choice for 'should've made it' is a local Chicago boy, Michael McDermott. His song 'A Wall I Must Climb' should've been the start of something big, rather than the one hit wonder. He has put out some terrific albums.

elizabeth said...

absolutely agree with "a walk in the woods" - I love Solomon Burke which, I believe, is the result of a review you did at one point, Sal. I was familiar with his early work but never to the point of my soul singers favorites like Wilson Pickett. Then my husband asked for one of his new albums a few years ago after reading a rave review. That led to us seeing him when he played a concert here. Even though he never moved from his chair - throne - it was an electrifyng performance. I felt his loss enormously and am immensely glad I had seen him person. Still wish I could again. What a voice!

Changing taste? I think it's a sign of the sad state of music in the mid-seventies that I ever bought Kansas or Boston. Nails-on-a-chalkboard now.

Eric said...

"What happened in 10 years?" like the risotto inclusion/radiohead obsessional comments..

@jeff--social d made it, they're still cranking, especially live

Anything Should Happen said...

I'd go for obvious choices Jason Falkner and Mike Viola. Paul Steel maybe.

I could never understand why The Records weren't massive and spent most of the 80's pummelling people with XTC not understanding why people didn't get them.

I understand now, but I still love them.

Why Nick Lowe's picture isn't on everyone's wall is a mystery.

James McMurty is ace as mentioned, never loved Peter Case without The Plimsouls as much with them.

Superstar were the great Ninetines lost band, at least as good as TFC if not better and McAlinden preceded Superstar with the wonderful BMX Bandits.

Oceansize had something that never quite materialised. The Supernaturals should have been a modern Squeeze.

I'll stop there.

Anything Should Happen said...

BTW Sal!

Did you never get round to fixing those CD shelves properly to the wall?

Albert said...

Here's how it might've loved a band or solo artist for years who "never quite made it"...suddenly people take notice...the demographics change so the music has to be geared to keep that newly found momentum going...ultimately they cease to write songs the way they did when you fell in love in the first, not so lovable anymore...maybe to the masses, but not to you...I pray that bands I like "never quite make it" 'cos to me, "making it" means music that I like...I know that's selfish...and I am...