at www.RARWRITER.com      

--------------------"The best source on the web for what's real in arts and entertainment" ---------------------------

Volume 2 -2017




What happened to the list?

As the CCJ transitions to a model better geared to leverage social networks, we are moving away from our past use of email notification services. If you would like to be added to our internal email distribution, please send your request to Rick@RARWRITER.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter, which we will use to keep you notified of new features and news articles.


ABOUT RAR: For those of you new to this site, "RAR" is Rick Alan Rice, the publisher of the RARWRITER Publishing Group websites. Use this link to visit the RAR music page, which features original music compositions and other.

Use this link to visit Rick Alan Rice's publications page, which features excerpts from novels and other.



Use the RARADIO link to go to our radio page, where you will hear songs you are not likely to hear elsewhere.



"Music Hot Spots"




























Rick Alan Rice (RAR) Literature Page


CCJ Publisher Rick Alan Rice dissects the building of America in a trilogy of novels collectively called ATWOOD. Book One explores the development of the American West through the lens of public policy, land planning, municipal development, and governance as it played out in one of the new counties of Kansas in the latter half of the 19th Century. The novel focuses on the religious and cultural traditions that imbued the American Midwest with a special character that continues to have a profound effect on American politics to this day. Book One creates an understanding about America's cultural foundations that is further explored in books two and three that further trace the historical-cultural-spiritual development of one isolated county on the Great Plains that stands as an icon in the development of a certain brand of American character. That's the serious stuff viewed from high altitude. The story itself gets down and dirty with the supernatural, which in ATWOOD - A Toiler's Weird Odyssey of Deliverance is the outfall of misfires in human interactions, from the monumental to the sublime. The book features the epic poem "The Toiler" as well as artwork by New Mexico artist Richard Padilla.

Elmore Leonard Meets Larry McMurtry

Western Crime Novel











I am offering another novel through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing service. Cooksin is the story of a criminal syndicate that sets its sights on a ranching/farming community in Weld County, Colorado, 1950. The perpetrators of the criminal enterprise steal farm equipment, slaughter cattle, and rob the personal property of individuals whose assets have been inventoried in advance and distributed through a vast system of illegal commerce.

It is a ripping good yarn, filled with suspense and intrigue. This was designed intentionally to pay homage to the type of creative works being produced in 1950, when the story is set. Richard Padilla has done his usually brilliant work in capturing the look and feel of a certain type of crime fiction being produced in that era. The whole thing has the feel of those black & white films you see on Turner Movie Classics, and the writing will remind you a little of Elmore Leonard, whose earliest works were westerns. Use this link.



If you have not explored the books available from Amazon.com's Kindle Publishing division you would do yourself a favor to do so. You will find classic literature there, as well as tons of privately published books of every kind. A lot of it is awful, like a lot of traditionally published books are awful, but some are truly classics. You can get the entire collection of Shakespeare's works for two bucks.

You do not need to buy a Kindle to take advantage of this low-cost library. Use this link to go to an Amazon.com page from which you can download for free a Kindle App for your computer, tablet, or phone.

Amazon is the largest, but far from the only digital publisher. You can find similar treasure troves at NOOK Press (the Barnes & Noble site), Lulu, and others.



The Musical Revolution that Gave us the world today



For me, popular music -- which had gone through a long, abysmal period called the 1970s -- sprang back to life in the 1980s. It rode into the public imagination atop the burgeoning cable TV industry, which by the start of the decade was pushing Music Television (MTv) into households across the developed world and influencing style and social consciousness. In America, it made celebrities of the early Video Jockeys (Veejays), including Martha Quinn, Nina Blackwood, Alan Hunter, and Marc Goodman, who in retrospect seem like the most vanilla people imaginable to be associated with a social revolution, though that is exactly what theirs was. The world was heading into a period of technological and social change that would pry open the doorway to a whole new world -- one from which we would never return -- and it was happening at a time when we were in desperate need of a new direction.

The end of the 1960s arrived like a funeral, featuring the death of The Beatles and all the love-and-peace that they could possibly stand. The Fab Four had become a little surly, along with everybody else. In America, the Viet Nam War weighed heavily on young minds, and we were already feeling an escalation in the erosion of "the American Dream". People were tired, introspective, sick of celebrity artifice, and desperate for music that somehow captured the apprehension and anxiety that they were feeling in their lives. So we got James Taylor, with his sanitarium tales, and the reassuring wisdoms of Cat Stevens, both of whom are still around today, though their golden periods were brief, swept aside by a rate of change in public interests that was an early indicator of a fracturing in American culture that today has found expression in the myriad of niche programming available through Internet, satellite, and cable television services.

The early 1970s gave us mellow rock and revised editions of folk rock, along with the tailings of America's nascent experiment with punk rock. Punk had failed to expand beyond NYC, but it would re-emerge in the U.K. late in the decade with extraordinary impact. Bruce Springsteen emerged, melding brash attitude with folkie singer-songwriter sensitivity, and so perpetuated what was then a still-new strain of rock balladeer. Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon, both of whom had emerged in the 1960s, did some really mature and "important" work in the '70s, though both had changed, becoming more inwardly focused and outwardly dismissive of the changes all around them.

The epicenter of American pop music largely remained on the west coast, and out of Los Angeles we got a hybrid brand of Nashville Country called Country Rock. For a time, acoustic instruments were all the rage, but then there was a backlash against that with the appearance of dance-oriented Disco Music. R&B got very funky and very Black in its visual presentation, which seemed to create a unique no-Whites-aloud playing field for bands like Earth, Wind & Fire and The Commodores. It was quite different from the race-neutral way that R&B had been presented in the previous decade. (Consider the stage image of The Temptations, in business suits, versus that of the previously mentioned R&B acts, which ranged from African attire to futuristic space outfits, all signifying big changes in American culture, and all clothing that only Black folk could get away with.) Then there was a period of Jazz Rock, and we got the further emergence of Glitter Rock, which had roots dating back to the '60s.

Moving stealthily in the shadows through the entire period was David Bowie, who had been around in fringe roles for more than a decade but would emcee the opening of the new age - the Modern Rock era. That happened in two parts - that which saw the light-of-day via MTv, and the alternative sounds that found traction on the great "Modern Rock" radio stations of the day. KIIS in L.A. may have been cranking out Michael Jackson, but in San Francisco "The Quake" and later "Live 105" (the first morphed into the latter, existing today as a mockery of its former self) were spinning liberating tunes announcing a new attitude. Those stations, with music directors like Steve Masters, brought music in from the UK and other parts of Europe, and it is really that music that changed our culture into whatever it is today. It put Gay feelings and issues front and center, which over time softened cultural resistance to the acceptance of alternative lifestyles.

While MTv was being taken over by Hair bands and the Sammy Hagars of the rock world, the alternative-rock world was shaping an entirely other universe - the one that would prevail. And straddling that divide between old and new was David Bowie, whose alt roots went way back to the '60s, when he was producing Iggy Pop's first two solo LPs and writing "Lust for Life" on Ukelele. Bowie was an avatar of a new age, and he was perfect at it.

Best of Class

New Order: Rising in 1980 from the ashes of Joy Division, New Order was comprised of clever songwriters who crafted lovely melodies and thoughtful, haunted lyrics, while also immersing themselves in utterly forgettable dance music. What has survived the past three-plus decades is a group of pop tunes ("Regret", "Blue Monday", "Bizarre Love Triangle", "Perfect Kiss") that, along side the work of a few other stalwart acts, define '80s music.

The Smiths: Like New Order, The Smiths came from Manchester, England, and they did for guitar-rock what New Order did for synth-rock, which is to say that they gave it a signature character. The bulk of The Smith's musical signature belongs to guitarist Johnny Marr, whose deft layering of melodic guitar parts has no real equal to this day. And then there was Stephen Morrissey - Morrissey, as the world knows him today - who was perhaps the most gifted lyrical ironist to come along since Oscar Wilde.

The Cure: Robert Smith is The Cure, for most people, though he began his career with the band, in West Sussex, England in 1976, as just one of the boys. Smith is one of the most engaging songwriters and personalities of his era. He is the image of Goth, for many people, but is far more enigmatic than what one might imagine. Smith wasn't the main songwriter on the band's early work, nor was he the vocalist, which now seems unimaginable because The Cure cranked out a string of hits ("Let's Go to Bed", "Just Like Heaven", "Lovesong", "Friday I'm in Love") that one cannot imagine being written or sung by anybody else. Smith is a sneaky-good guitarist and arranger, and a one-off personality. The members of the band, other than Smith, have changed over the years, but The Cure have remained great. In Jason Cooper they have one of the finest drummers on the planet.

The Pretenders: Where The Smiths had Johnny Marr and The Cure Robert Smith, The Pretenders once had the late James Honeyman-Scott, who died of a cocaine-induced heart attack in 1982 at 25 years of age. Honeyman-Scott, like Marr and Smith, was an extraordinary visionary in the development of sophisticated guitar parts. In Chrissie Hynde, he had a songwriting partner and an alpha front-girl, a living incarnation of rock coolness, and one capable of continuing Honeyman-Scott's instrumental vision even after his death. He informs every Pretenders song to this day, like a brilliant, beautiful ghost that hovers protectively over the band's legacy. And Chrissie Hynde is a premier songwriter.

Psychedelic Furs: For most people, The Psychedelic Furs emerged from the soundtracks of those John Hughes teen-comedies (Pretty in Pink) of the '80s. Established in punk London in 1977, they had been around nearly ten years by the time Hughes was inspired to write a movie based on the name of one of their songs. The brothers Richard and Tim Butler, working collaboratively with band members, have developed a songbook that is consistently powerful, has few equals, and in Richard Butler they have one of the greatest character voices in the history of popular music - the Jeremy Irons of rock.

Second Tier Notables

The Clash: Many '80s rock enthusiasts are devoted to The Clash, the post-punk rockers who came out of London in 1976. Rolling Stone magazine named their 1979 London Calling album the "Best Album of the 1980s" (in keeping with a long history of absurd best-of lists). Joe Strummer and Mick Jones were well-connected in the London punk music scene, and they happened to come together as The Clash during a down period for popular music. They were the Nirvana of their period, in that sense, a B-level act that arrived in a C-level market. Strummer was a primitive, more artifice than authenticity. Jones was far more musical and lyrically inventive, and it is his songs that have been covered by others. They are grossly over-rated, which means they are huge!

Depeche Mode: For all the people who adored The Clash, there are at least as many people who hated Depeche Mode (which could be translated in French as "Fashion Dispatch"). They were a synth band populated with guys who in the latter '70s had been emulating The Cure and David Bowie in local outfits, before coming together in 1980 around new music technology. The sound of synthesizers fascinated young creatives, but it left much of the public suspicious of the legitimacy of music coming from chips rather than guitars. It probably didn't help their overall level of acceptance that their first UK hit was the dancy "Just Can't Get Enough", which is an awful song, but the kind that often works with the club set. The band lost founding member Vince Clarke, soon after they achieved success. Reportedly sick of promotional activities, he went off to form the band Yazoo, with Alison Moyet, and later Erasure with Andy Bell. With Clarke gone, remaining members Andy Fletcher, Martin Gore, and Dave Gahan went on to progressively darker and more introspective sounds, culminating with their 1989 Violator album, which yielded the alt-rock classics "Personal Jesus" and "Enjoy the Silence".

INXS: Out of Australia, INXS was another band that formed in 1977 but hit big in 1980, just as the "Modern Rock" era was dawning. The band's front man, Michael Hutchence, was the Jim Morrison of his day, with sultry good looks, an athletic bearing, and an attitude of infectious self-confidence. In Hutchence, the Ferriss Brothers (composer and keyboardist Andrew Farriss, drummer Jon Farriss, guitarist Tim Farriss) found the perfect complement to their sophisticated rock, which ranged from big sprawling power ballads, to funky edge rock, to dance music. The band developed a great songbook, and they are probably way under-appreciated as arrangers, because all of their song's are beautifully orchestrated and choreographed.

Billy Idol: Who would have imagined that the clownish Billy Idol, who had haunted London's punk scene in the Sex Pistols period, would turn out to be one of the great rock survivors. Billy hasn't changed an iota from his snarling, posing, spiky-haired youthful self, when he seemed contrived specifically for MTv. His camera-ready attitude was a beautiful thing to see, almost to the extent that Idol's songbook sort of snuck by critical review, which it actually deserved. "Eyes Without a Face" and "Flesh for Fantasy" are tremendously nuanced and atmospheric, "Forgot to Be a Lover" stands with any Elvis-inspired rocker ever done, and "White Wedding" was the song we played when my wife and I were married, so f-you! (I stuck that in there just for a little Billy-tude, but baled on the vulgar language.)  Billy Idol has been doing months-long residencies in Las Vegas over the past year, and he sometimes shows up with his own special hour-long show on Sirius XM, where he plays stuff he personally likes. It's actually not that interesting.

Siouxsie and the Banshees: Wow, bad press everywhere. I have never heard any media person ever have a nice thing to say about Susan Janet Ballion, who the world knows as Siouxsie Sioux. Journalists have openly despised her abusive nature in interviews, often suggesting that her nasty attitude is exacerbated by alcohol abuse. It's a shame, because she has been one of the brightest lights in all of modern rock history. She was also around in the Sex Pistols '70s, but her punk attitude is more than equaled by her art-school approach to interpreting songs. She has a rangy voice that rings with authority, and she arranges it in psychedelic soundscapes that seem to attract other worldly energies, making each of her songs as much a psychic as a musical experience. I have no idea what songs like "Peek-A-Boo" or "Kiss Them for Me" are about, but I love listening to them.

Thomas Dolby: Thomas Dolby is now a Professor of the Arts at Johns Hopkins University, though he still finds time to do Chautauqua-like appearances, where he plays his hits - often accompanied only by his electronics - and talks about music, creativity, and technology. He has Silicon Valley connections, and he has been the music director for the TED series. It all just seems so right for a guy who arrived on MTv as a sort of mad scientist singing "Blinded Me with Science" and "Hyperactive". He was, in fact, a harbinger of a future age, when other science-minded guys like him (Trent Reznor and will.i.am come to mind) would somehow connect the worlds of popular music and computer science.

The Pet Shop Boys: This is the best-selling duo in U.K. history. Neil Tennant (main vocals, keyboards, occasional guitar) and Chris Lowe (keyboards, occasional vocals) launched their project in 1981 and turned a bunch of cheeky up-tempo pop attitude into a dance fantastic. The Pet Shop Boys covered the cornball ballad "Always On My Mind" and dueted with the venerable Dusty Springfield on "What Have I Done to Deserve This?". They captured a strange sense of unease with their '80s world, and a strong satirical bent, with atmospheric pump-ups like  "West End Girls", "It's a Sin", "Go West", and "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)". The Pet Shop Boys always sounded smart, even when they were being silly.

English Beat: Known as The Beat in the UK, and later as General Public, the band was fronted by Dave Wakeling and the ska rapping Ranking Roger, making the English Beat one of only a few big Black/White acts of the '80s. Wakeling wrote the three-chord classic "Save It for Later", which is infectious enough to sound fresh 30 years after the fact.

XTC: After forming in 1972 and surviving for 10 years as a band trying to find itself, XTC finally got traction with a couple Colin Moulding tunes - "Making Plans for Nigel" and "Generals and Majors". Those tunes put XTC on the map in the U.K., in the early '80s, and eventually led their label, Virgin Records, to pair them with producer/musician Todd Rundgren, which became a legendarily acrimonious association, albeit a successful one. XTC's more prolific songwriter - Andy Partridge - hated Rundgren and his corporate mission, which was to turn XTC into a hit stateside. Partridge's incendiary "Dear God" was the focal point, with Rundgren committed to the song even knowing that it might create a firestorm of criticism in the U.S., where orthodox Christian religious views are held sacrosanct. Partridge kept the track off their Skylarking album, which was remastered and re-released after DJs started playing "Dear God" like a bootleg track and it became popular. Partridge has excelled at writing fearless political and social diatribes, like "Peter Pumpkinhead", and unusual and infectious pop, as with "Senses Working Overtime". While band members have gone off to separate projects (always did), the individuals are still around today, and Partridge is still fighting with Todd Rundgren who called him a "pussy" on Mark Maron's podcast.

SALON INTERVIEW WITH PARTRIDGE: Salon did an interesting interview with Andy Partridge last year. A painter who designed XTC's cover art, Partridge at the time was writing songs for The Monkees. Read the article here for more on that.

Squeeze: Back in the day, there were music critics who treated Squeeze songwriters Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook as the inheritors of the Lennon-McCartney mantle. I'm okay with that. While lyricist Difford and composer Tilbrook never achieved Beatle status, they wrote a raft of great songs that were crafty in ways that evoked the Beatle formula. Squeeze never made it to playlists beyond the the Alt-Modern Rock in the U.S., though they were big in their home United Kingdom during the New Wave of the late-1970s.

Howard Jones: Known as a defining figure in '80s synth-pop, Howard Jones had ten top 40 hit singles in the UK between 1983 and 1986, including six top ten. His 1984 album Human's Lib went to number one. Around the world, he had 15 top 40 hit singles between 1983 and 1992. He grew up in a musical family and honed his chops in a band with his brothers, before going on to the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, getting into Buddhism in a big way, playing in a few bands, and then renting the Marquee Club in London to showcase for record labels. It worked. Jone's music was upbeat, optimistic, a little spiritual, and very bouncy. "Do you feel scared? I do, but I won't stop and falter" from "Things Can Only Get Better" still inspires.

UB40: While I don't know if this Birmingham band was really the inspiration, but UB40's story sounds a lot like that of the movie band "The Commitments". Named after Britain's unemployment application form, "UB40 formed in mid-1978 when guitarist Ali Campbell, together with the rhythm section of drummer Jimmy Brown and bassist Earl Falconer, began rehearsing charting reggae songs in addition to some of their own original compositions. They were soon joined by several of their friends, firstly percussionists Yomi Babayemi and Norman Hassan, and then saxophonist Brian Travers and keyboardist Jimmy Lynn. Robin Campbell, although initially reluctant to commit to forming a band with the others, was invited to join once again by his brother..." (from Wikipedia). UB40 was a good vibe, and they are still around today, having sold over 70 million records worldwide.

Talking Heads: Talking Heads formed in 1975 in New York City, the art-band collective comprised of David Byrne (lead vocals, guitar), Chris Frantz (drums), Tina Weymouth (bass), and Jerry Harrison (keyboards, guitar). They were headed to the Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame, assisted by producer Brian Eno and filmmaker Jonathan Demme, who helped them create indelible images through their "Stop Making Sense" movie project. The nerdish David Byrne, who may have inspired the creators of "The Big Bang Theory" has had a wonderful post-Heads career as a songwriter exploring eclectic Latin sounds. He has been a clever ironical lyricist and social observer.

Echo and the Bunnymen: The Bunnymen formed in Liverpool in 1978, with vocalist Ian McCulloch, guitarist Will Sergeant and bassist Les Pattinson, and later drummer Pete de Freitas. They were something like The Arctic Monkeys of their time, rich with animal energy and wicked smarts. They were on the UK charts within two years and developed an early cult status that survives to this day. McCulloch, Sergeant, and Pattinson tour to this day.

The Cult: The Cult came together in England in 1983, and they are still around today, purveyors of a heavy metal Goth rock that is muscular, dark as The Doors, and mystical in a Led Zeppelin kind of a way. Heavy-duty rockers, who moved to L.A. years ago where they struggled with the lifestyle, The Cult is one of those rare heavy-rock bands whose music I crank up on the radio. Producer Rick Rubin worked with them in their later incarnations to give them a little more polished sound.

REM: If Squeeze inherited the Lennon/McCartney mantle in the U.K., Athens, Georgia's R.E.M. probably gets that nod stateside. They were good at writing folk-rock tunes that used the jingle-jangle Rickenbacker sound that recalled The Beatles for so many. R.E.M. featured drummer Bill Berry, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist/backing vocalist Mike Mills, and lead vocalist Michael Stipe, whose voice is one people enjoy listening to. Some consider theirs to be the first alternative rock band, in that they were doing something very independent of the other types of popular music around in 1980. They come across as artists, in a low profile sort of way - a perception furthered by the earnestness of Michael Stipe's signature sound.

Bryan Ferry: Ferry's band Roxy Music was really pretty much over by 1982, but Bryan Ferry himself has to be referenced in any discussion of the Modern Rock era. He was really a contemporary of David Bowie, but he is something like the last surviving crooner, with a thick, lush, and classy sound. Still touring today, Ferry is a like a wonderful dinosaur, a living reminder of an earlier strain of big band singer.

Annie Lennox: Scottish singer Lennox came to prominence with Dave Stewart with the arty Eurythmics, spinning smart and worldly tales with grand themes and far-ranging insights. Like Bryan Ferry, Lennox is an honored as a national hero, she with an Order fo the British Empire (OBE) Officer medal for her civil service, and he with a CBE, making him a Commander for his civil service. Not sure why he gets to be a commander, and Annie a mere officer, but so goes the world. Lennon is a great singer, a powerful female symbol even while representing an androgynous identity, and she seems like someone who wouldn't bullshit you, which puts an edge of authority on every note she sings.

Berlin: Comprised of Orange County kids, Berlin came together in 1979 with clear designs on the then-new MTv. They had the look, particularly in front girl Terri Nunn, who had sharp, exotic features somewhat along the lines of Deborah Harry. Nunn might have been the better singer, and Berlin had some interesting hits with "The Metro", "Sex (I'm A...)", and "No More Words". Then they scared really big with "Take My Breath Away" from the 1986 film Top Gun. Though I was not a fan of this band at the time, those first three songs sound surprisingly good when I hear them now on Sirius XM.

B-52s: What can you say about the B-52s, who emerged with R.E.M. out of Athens, Georgia in 1976. Fronted by Fred Schneider (vocals), Kate Pierson (vocals, keyboards), and Cindy Wilson (vocals, percussion), the band was huge fun, amazingly able to churn out keenly crafted pop rock that was rhythmic, cleverly composed, and often funny. That fronting trio worked like some gay version of a comedy trio that had never existed before but somehow seemed really familiar. They were like listening to a conversation between a funny guy and his close friends. Everything about them was open and inclusive, a really sweet humanity at the core of all they did, and fine musicianship to boot.

Beastie Boys: The Beastie Boys are one of the nicer things to have ever happened to crossover music. Michael "Mike D" Diamond (vocals, drums), Adam "MCA" Yauch (vocals, bass), and Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz (vocals, guitar) came out of New York City in 1981, a punk band that found success doing Hip-hop, and then crossover success by broadening their range to include power rock. And they did it all with extraordinary music and comic timing. Flat-out great.

Red Hot Chili Peppers: It has to be something about Anthony Kiedis and Flea. These two were knocking around L.A. in the early '80s, and apparently germinating a style of rock-rap that grew in powerful and profound ways despite this duo's inability to maintain a consistent supporting lineup. Somehow every guitarist and drummer they have added temporarily to their lineup (except Dave Grohl, who has no talent) has excelled in a huge way. Listening to Chili Peppers tract, and particularly the stuff played by guitarist John Fusciante, is one of the great pleasures in modern music. And Flea, who recently started taking formal bass guitar lessons, must be one of the greatest bass guitarists of all time. He and Kiedis seem to know a thing or to about building a sound.

Adam Ant: Adam and the Ants was a theatrical rock project fronted by singer-actor Stuart Leslie Goddard (aka "Adam Ant"). They scored 10 UK top ten hits from 1980 to 1983, and they were a popular MTv video group. I never paid any attention to their stupid songs, until I listened to them 30 years later and decided they were great. Go figure.

Modern English: Modern English, who still tour to this day with four of their original five members, came out of Colchester, Essex, England. They did one of my favorite songs of all time, "I Melt with You".

Bauhaus: Bauhaus formed in Northampton, England in 1978, and they introduced the world to a couple guys who would go on to be really important in the Modern Rock world. One was Peter Murphy (vocals, occasional instruments), the other Daniel Ash (guitar). After the dark Goth rock of the art-band Bauhaus, Peter Murphy would go on to a solo career, and Ash would have success with Bauhaus veteran David J (bass)  with Love and Rockets. All of those bands have cool in common, a kind of worldly smarts, and I love to listen to Peter Murphy's voice. Bauhaus was a great band of musicians. Their cover of Iggy Stardust is equal in all ways to Bowie's original, and their "Bela Lugosi's Dead" is a perpetual Halloween favorite.

Manchester, England:
Rock Nursery

What must be in the water in Manchester? Dating back to the 1960s, Manchester has consistently churned out pop music acts that have defined the pop music of their periods. It seems to defy the laws of reason and to be statistically improbable. Consider this sample list, starting with the first arrivers on the pop scene:

  • The Hollies
  • Herman's Hermits
  • Freddie and the Dreamers
  • The Mindbenders
  • Joy Division
  • New Order
  • The Smiths
  • The Stone Roses
  • James
  • Swing Out Sister
  • The Chemical Brothers
  • Oasis
  • Simply Red
  • Electronic

Manchester is England's third-most visited city. It has a population only slightly larger than 500,000 people, but as a port city it has been at the center of Britain's commerce and technology since the Industrial Age. It is hard to find a U.S. analog as a city of similar size so rich with pop music history, though the trend has seemed to lose strength in recent years.

The photograph above is of Manchester's Canal Street nightclub area, which has been an important epicenter for Gay rights. Perhaps not surprisingly, a significant share of the music coming out of Manchester has been had a noticeably Gay voice.


In Their Own Category:
The Ramones

Everybody loves The Ramones, and why not? In a world of serious phonies, the quartet, comprised of punks from Queens and Forest Hills, were seriously chill in a comedic sort of way.

They committed to three chord rock, and the world is a better place for it. The Ramones were civil servants, a cathartic refresher in a world of hard edges and bad attitudes. They made stupid wisdom and put smiles on faces almost universally.

The Ramones toured for 22 years, doing 2,263 concerts, calling it quits in 1996, after a tour with the Lollapalooza music festival. By 2014, all four of the band's original members, lead singer Joey Ramone (1951–2001), bass guitarist Dee Dee Ramone (1951–2002), guitarist Johnny Ramone (1948–2004) and drummer Tommy Ramone (1949–2014), had died.

Speaking of Special Cases, what about...


Kraftwerk - German for "power station" - must be one of the most enigmatic groups in Modern Rock history. The band had an enormous influence on the Modern Rock of the 1980s, though they were formed in the early 1970s as part of Germany's Krautrock genre. Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider were way-early adapters of electronic instrumentation, including synthesizers, drum machines, vocoders, and self-made instruments. That was not strictly a German thing, but it seemed to suit the German character in some way and so came to be associated with that genre. Remember the Dieter character from Saturday Night Live? ("Now we dance.")

Synth Pop didn't exactly take the world by storm, but ten years after KraftWerk began plying their craft electronic instruments took hold in '80s Modern Rock, and Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider became Gods. They have had enormous influence on Synth Pop, Hip-hop, Techno, Ambient, Post-punk, and Club music, and in January 2014, the Recording Academy honored Kraftwerk with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Still, have you ever listened to a KraftWerk track? I find that there is something strange about them: that at first they sound really cheesy, like synthesized instrument voices often sound, and the electronic drum sounds corny, and the robotic accents and fills, the string sections, they all sound terrible, and yet I am still listening, and after awhile I find myself sort of entranced by this thin, tinny sound that now doesn't seem so bad; in fact, I sort of like it. That's KraftWerk to me. It is odd and different, even though it is so very yesterday, and so impossible for me to fully integrate into my understanding of its appeal.


Video Didn't Kill the Radio Star...

But Somebody Was Right About the New Technology

Remember when MTv premiered and the first video it played was "Video Killed the Radio Star", by The Buggles?

MTv spent most of its first years trying to convince the pop music-loving world that a new era had arrived when people would expect all of their new music to arrive in the form of a video, as an audio and a visual sensory experience. That led every upwardly-striving act in the world to imagine that a new door to the music kingdom had just opened, providing a new level playing field, where unknowns could suddenly achieve fame.

That was, of course, ridiculous because only people well-connected in the entertainment industry had the resources to deliver on this new standard. Bands without visual appeal somehow imagined that video would capture qualities in them that were not revealed through mere observation, and the whole false premise fell apart rather quickly, even for the MTv success stories. The video format lost its new luster as audiences tired of watching inanity projected over beats, and the video age passed.

What MTv did capture, however, was that technological change was reshaping the pop music landscape. Music was being digitized, to great fanfare at first (people loving the clean sound), which created the file-sharing period of Napster and others. Music lovers began to devalue the music they loved by sharing it freely, even when they did not have the copyright authority to do so.

The rest is history. Record sales collapsed, and the big labels scrambled for legal avenues to stop the free distribution of their products, and to develop their own technologies for corralling the new music marketplace back to their advantage. This is what eventually gave us our steaming services, like Spotify, through which labels can use licensing agreements to protect their financial interests. Still, it is a far different world from the one that grew from unit sales of vinyl platters with grooves cut into them to send vibrations to your stereo stylus and rich audio to come crackling into your music space through your tweeters and woofers.




Going Back, and back, and back...

Use this link to go to the previous edition, where you will find additional links to other archived editions.


Arts & Entertainment News Feed

The CCJ at RARWRITER provides a steady stream of news feeds from a variety of sources. Use this link to visit the Music News page.


Looking for something in the RARWRITER.com archives? Type the item you wish to find in the custom search field below, then click on the magnifying glass to see a list of previously published articles relevant to your query.




New on the Music Page

Young Beard


Bobby Rush

Mathias H. Tjønn

Juliana Hatfield

No Nets

Jason Rylan

Jamie Kent


The Sunday Paper

Charlie Hunter Quartet

Jinx Jones

Deborah Crooks


60 Years of Musical Bests




Interested in Filmmaking?

Use this link to gain insights into the ins-and-outs of preparing your script, producing your film, and getting it into distribution.





Copyright © November, 2017 Rick Alan Rice (RARWRITER)