Volume 3-2012



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The photograph used for the "Big Rock Candy Mountain" cover above is a 1940 publicity shot of Woody Guthrie and Burl Ives in Central Park. Their casual closeness mirrors the homoerotic storyline of the song, in which a burly bum recruits a young boy into an alternative lifestyle, at least for awhile.  Since first being released in 1928, everything about "Big Rock Candy Mountain" has been controversial, especially its liquor references and its cheerful championing of sloth and laziness. It has been released in many versions, and sanitized as a children's tune. In the bite of its true form it is a true product of the Depression Era, an artifact of a  yearning need to believe in a place of ease and plenty. In that, it is a story type as old as written language, represented by the mythical land of "Cockaigne" in Middle French. This may be why my generation has long wanted to believe that the real meaning of this "children's song" we all grew up with - we got the clean versions on daytime TV - was  that "big rock candy mountain" was code for cocaine. The true concept is far deeper than that, which is why it is this election cycle's offering. U.S. politics is a sort of Cockaigne that is offered up in a presidential election year, with hard choices related to both "the home guard" and "the union card".  Click on the cover above to have a listen and see if you don't think 1928 sounds a lot relevant in 2012.



Memphis Rock'N Soul Hall of Fame - A plea for good intentions

Tim Ryan - Tool Cool for Just One Band

Amy Lavere - Memphis Upright

8 Days to Amsterdam - Memphis Power Pop

Reba Russell - Memphis Queen Rips up "When Love Came to Town"

Matt Nathansan on the SF Links


We lifted this image from Not sure where they lifted it from.

Mr. Grumpy

In an effort to spare gentle readers from the sharp sticks and pointy stones that this site occasionally throws at our favorite cultural targets, all of our outright negative stuff will hereafter appear on its own bummer page, set aside for "Mr. Grumpy". This stuff is always rude and offensive, finger-pointing and filled with rage and judgment. Or, otherwise put, the best stuff on the site. This edition Mr. Grumpy picks on Bruce Springsteen, Steve Perry, Robert Plant, and Gordon Sumner, who we refuse to call "Sting".  Use this link to go to the grumpiest page in all of whatever it is we do here!.

Building a Cult Following

Were you under the impression that Lady Gaga, Jay-Z, The Grateful Dead, and KISS got to the top on sheer talent? Story on the Artist Management page.

Mawazine International Music Festival -

Do Lenny Kravitz, Mariah Carey and Jimmy Cliff know anything about the North African regime they are supporting? Story on the RCJ...









Learning from Jimmy Iovine

Interscope Records CEO Jimmy Iovine was featured in a recent piece in Rolling Stone, and it was one of those rare celebrity interviews that actually yield insight and useful information for people interested in music production and engineering. READ MORE...



(Click here)

New Releases on RARadio: "1,000 Leather Tassels" by The Blank Tapes; "We Are All Stone" and "Those Machines" by Outer Minds; "Another Dream" by MMOSS; "Susannah" by Woolen Kits; Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and other dead celebrities / news by A SECRET PARTY; "I Miss the Day" by My Secret Island,  "Carriers of Light" by Brendan James; "The Last Time" by Model Stranger; "Last Call" by Jay; "Darkness" by Leonard Cohen; "Sweetbread" by Simian Mobile Disco and "Keep You" from Actress off the Chronicle movie soundtrack; "Goodbye to Love" from October Dawn; Trouble in Mind 2011 label sampler; Black Box Revelation Live on Minnesota Public Radio; Apteka "Striking Violet"; Mikal Cronin's "Apathy" and "Get Along"; Dana deChaby's progressive rock




"The Musical Meccas of the World"









Original Musical Compositions and Select Covers

Fiction and Non-Fiction

Special Projects






Mr. Grumpy with Mrs. Grumpy outside of their grumpy home.

Mr. Grumpy Coughs One Up!

Terrible things that the publisher of has to say about your favorite celebrities and more!


                                                Artist News

OH F-Word

RAR NOTE: When my brother and I were kids, we would occasionally drop the "F-bomb" in conversations with our Mom just for the sake of setting her off. It was funny. My point then was that it is ridiculous to allow words like "fuck" to have any power at all over us. That now seems like an odd pitch from someone who makes a living peddling words with the expectation of manipulation and power, but as a kid it seemed implausible to me that a single, silly word could set people off so. "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" somehow breaks down into the most offensive true acronym in existence. (It's an acronym if it is pronounced as a word, otherwise it is a mere initialism, e.g., NASA versus NAACP.)  Perhaps because we use the word in so many ways - as an expletive, a descriptive, a generic catch-all (What the fuck?), a request, etc. - it long ago became an over-used cliché vehicle for simplifying our emotional response to whatever it is we are talking about. Perhaps as bad as leaning on cliché is the insistence on using the offending word loosely - it is a staple in the conversations of many, which to me immediately ranks them as louts  - when clearly it continues to offend large numbers of people. As a guy who gets pissed off every time I see Atlanta Braves fans doing that stupid "Tomahawk Chop" and moaning their Indian chant, I find open disregard for the sensitivities of others to be offensive, and outright stupidity to be even worse. For all these reasons, I wish people would grow the fuck up and stop using the word fuck. It just sounds stupid, doesn't it?



Takes One to Know One

Glenn Frey and the College Try

So here is a story that allows those of us who cannot gain admittance to the guilded world of Nashville pop music or those of its more citified counterparts to chuckle with satisfied amusement. Glenn Frey has been teaching at NYU this past semester, apparently prompted to do so after attending a Country Music Awards show a few years ago and hearing a series of poorly written songs.

Really? Poorly written hit songs out of Nashville?

This observation amuses because Nashville, as a personification of an insular industry, sees itself as the place where songwriting has gone to survive. Apparently motivated to counteract such an absurd notion, and rollback the tide of mediocrity, Frey took to the lectern to explain the intricacies of writing mediocre music as it is done in the larger cities, like L.A. After all, there are no poorly written songs becoming hits anywhere but in Nashville, right?

For those of us who were heartened many years back by Mojo Nixon's minor classic "Don Henley Must Die", i.e.,

"He's a tortured artist
Used to be in the Eagles
Now he whines
Like a wounded beagle
Poet of despair!
Pumped up with hot air!
He's serious, pretentious
"And I just don't care
Don Henley must die!
Don't let him get back together
With Glenn Frey!
Don Henley must die!"

...this is an amusing pot calling the kettle black type of story. Who ever suggested that the Henley-Frey songwriting team was any kind of a gold standard in pop music composition? Many, you might say, would say their long list of hit songs, including AM radio pabulum such as "Take It Easy", "Peaceful Easy Feeling", "Already Gone", "Tequila Sunrise", "Lyin' Eyes", "New Kid in Town", "Heartache Tonight", and "How Long" is all one need to offer in the way of evidence of their sublime songwriting skills. Agreed. These are many of the exhibits that have led Mojo Nixon and his adulators to believe as they do about Mr. Frey's counterpart, and the need to keep him distant from Mr. Frey himself.

According to a November 16 Associated Press story, the 16 students fortunate enough to fall under Frey's tutelage were not initially intimidated by their proctor because they didn't really know who he was. But when Frey started dropping the names of his songwriting mentors -  Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Bob Seger - the kids started to catch on. A.J. Smith, a senior studying music composition from Washington, D.C., said Frey helped focus the students on the songwriting process and the idea that all parts of their songs "should be something someone can feel and appreciate." He also said Frey noted that the Eagles even tried to make their guitar solos "sing-able" — thus the reason almost everyone knows the final minutes of the song "Hotel California." 

It is most certainly worth noting that "Hotel California" was composed as an instrumental by the Eagle's too-little heralded guitarist Don Felder. As Frey has noted, Felder had "been submitting tapes and song ideas to us since he'd joined the band, always instrumentals, since he didn't sing. But this particular demo, unlike many of the others, had room for singing. It immediately got our attention. The first working title, the name we gave it, was 'Mexican Reggae'."

"Hotel California" is arguably the best song in the Eagles catalog, and certainly a significantly greater musical achievement than any of those listed for Henley-Frey, who got songwriting credits for their lyrical contributions. So a grump such as I suspects that the fine Mr. Felder should rightly be the Eagle getting the university teaching gigs, but then life is like that. It makes me want to take in some Mojo Nixon.  - RAR        edit 11-26-12



Stuff the Music Industry Currently Likes:

From the Just Shoot Me soundtrack of our lives, and further proof that the end is past but it was so boring that no one noticed.

Gin Wigmore - "Black Sheep"

KO and The Knockouts -
"You're On My Mind"

The Dirt Bombs - "Chains of Love"

The Fondas - "Wanna Be"



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And So the Keys to the Kingdom Were Lost...

A 20th Century Singing Competition for Professionals


Our competitors:

·     Bruce Springsteen – Comes with a hemorrhoidal approach to vocalization, producing a sincere facsimile of what it must be like to squeeze a song out through badly swollen and torn tissues. But does sounding like singing is hard for a person make them competitive in this company? Yes, probably.

·     Steve Perry – The journeyman singer suffered traumatic events as a young girl that left him incapable of singing below a 4th register C, but eager to sing an excruciating 7th register A with embarrassing self-revelatory emotion.

·     Robert Plant – Pleasant human voice, but his feline genetic code often overwhelms his better senses and in those long, long moments, he caterwauls like a wanton alley cat, which is frightening for everyone in ear shot and is probably the source of myth and legend. He ripped the cosmic envelope that separated this world from that, allowing in a host of very similar hair creatures who were/are also prone to screaming.

·     Sting – He isn’t, of course, really “Sting”, because Sting is a well-known sword that Tolkien meant to be used on people like Gordon Sumner. We enter this competition pretty certain that this guy is an Orc.  Gordon, as we shall call him, became well known for removing the bottom end of every note he sang, handing tonal responsibilities over to a bass playing technique known as “What-is-this?-I-have-never-seen-this-instrument-before”, which became popular among non-musicians. Later in his career, Gordon took vocal training that allowed him to sing in a less grating way, but then so much of his style rests with the character of his Orcan soul.



“What are we listening to?” my 17-year old daughter asked. She has this way of phrasing questions with answers already embedded, and I have come to interpret her real meanings. In this case, we were listening to Bruce Springsteen perform “Jungleland”, and her review was “Change the station, this is crap!” And how is one to argue with that? Sure, Springsteen plays a nice little piano figure over and over, and over and over, and then some more, and then sings the same song he always sings, just changing the names and locations.  It is the formula that made him famous, beloved to New Jersey natives most of all.

Springsteen has a vocal range of some notes in a single octave, but thank goodness as a poet he is…well, he is still crap, just a pseudo-Dadaist without inspiration beyond what he saw around his apartment.

It is worth noting that “The Boss” – a title that stands as a clumsy spin on the sobriquet of another New Jersey native, Frank Sinatra, and his “Chairman of the Board” thing – is not even on the radar of today’s young people. If they know him at all, they tend to see him as a bore; a noisy, out-of-date annoyance from another time who can’t stand up to comparisons to today’s singers. Think Bruno Mars and Neo. Next to them, Springsteen sounds like a guy who never had any training to develop his limited skills. That worked in 1971, at least better than it does today.


You know who the kids today do like? Steve Perry.

Kids like to sing along with old Journey records, for reasons that completely allude me, and it is no accident that Journey became a staple of the “Glee” soundtrack. However sappy their songs, particularly a confection like “Don’t Stop Believing”, kids in 2012 seem to respond to the vocal and compositional dynamics. And they admire Steve Perry’s pipes, which among this group of singers are probably the most pure. But then again...


Sappy pop tunes with dynamic range seem to work, and screamers remain in vogue for the still-going-through-pubescence set. Robert Plant, the father of the heavy metal vocal style that makes non-devotees want toss their radios out of their car windows, is popular as hell today, as beloved as Ozzie Osbourne, who is not that distantly related. And then there are all the other bastards, which is the calling card one must carry to be accepted into the Metal community. They all sound essentially the same, just lesser or different versions of Robert Plant in full psycho mode.


What would the world of disparate returns and riches be without the self-nullifying among the storied elite? Why, exactly, Gordon Sumner is in that elite category owes a lot to the dearth of musicality that also allowed the rise of Bruce Springsteen and Steve Perry. By the time The Police hit, some of the world was so sick of Country-Rock and Disco that it needed to puke, and this happened to coincide with the birth of MTV, which was puke incarnate. The Orc Sumner was perfect for that, because at one time he was young, blond and pretty in a sculpted sort of way. But he was always a jerk, like an Orc would be expected to be. And he was always phony as a three-dollar bill, an early enlistee in the faux world of midi composition and musical arrangement. A lot of looping in Police material, which was a precursor of things to come, like the bluish glow of the real “Sting”. Sting revealed to the world that it doesn’t take a lot of talent to string together big beds of notes when all you are doing is clicking on a computer program. One suspects the fraudulent Sumner was driven by guilt to do something about his vocal style, which in his early years sounded high out of his natural range, and had the intonation of finger nails on old car paint. But around the time that he did the soundtrack for Leaving Las Vegas he began to retreat to more comfortable keys, and his sound became richer. But he’s still “Sting Sumner”, weighted to irrelevance by his own certainty of self-importance. His points are all lost through apparent misapprehension of higher purpose, beyond “Sting”, the phony appropriation of his self-revealing shallowness. You know any other 60-year old men who have given themselves a special moniker? Or any that weren’t clever enough to come up with something not quite so clichéd as a name from one of the most popular books in all of English literature? I think when you are past sixty, “Sting” as an appropriated name translates into “Stupid”.


Who are you kidding, there are no losers in this crowd. All of these contemptible crappers have already won big in the game of life’s singing competition. That one of them can’t sing at all, and that the other three are annoying as hell, is irrelevant now, because these four somehow snuck over the wall that protects us from deteriorations in cultural quality. And they, and hordes of others exactly like them, have diminished our communal sense of what quality music may all be about; “may” because its value and meaning and purpose has all been subjugated by the commercialization of the unhelpful, the Kanye Wests and Britney Spears of the world. The creeps in this competition let all those lesser people in to corrupt our sonic worlds, our sense of musical art.

So the winner? The winner is the Devil, of course, for music as defined by the menstruations of those above, is a temptation to foolish thoughts and shallow perspectives. Springsteen, Perry, Plant and Sumner have won the right to stand atop the mountain of mirth made by an industry that took music away from adults forever, and put it in the hands of very young, rather like turning control of the world over to the winner of a singing competition judged by Simon Cowell, Christine Aguilera, Randy Jackson, Paul Abdul, Lady Gaga, and Cee Lo Green.



Merry Christmas!


Regular readers of will recognize this as my annual holiday Neil Young/Bridge School Benefit rant and part of an on-going peeve at what has happened to the California K-12 educational system. Nothing personal here against Neil or his family, nor any of the students or parents of students at the Bridge School. The issue is all about public funding, which we need a lot more of to meet the needs of special needs and run-of-the-mill students. (Advanced students always seems to find ways to take care of themselves.) One cannot gain by entering these emotionally charged grounds, however worthy the debate. It brings to fore our most vociferously-defended passions: our kids and our money. It is odd, or so it seems to me, that in a period in which home schooling is going through a boom in popularity, that we have this other special interest group focusing on getting into the very public school system that the parents of home schoolers want their kids out of. The mainstreaming experience that we seek for our special needs students is the same that some among us seek to escape. There is the state of California public school funding issue in a nutshell, with points of view driven by personal stakes and self-interested points of view, which is inevitably the bottom line in democracy and political debate. The current funding dilemma, with huge portions of local public school funds going to special education programs, is the result of California taxpayers being unwilling to fund systems that don't diminish the prospects of many in hopes of improving the prospects for a few. - RAR

Would Neil Young Please Retire?

Bridging Embarrassment

Here (video below) we have the inestimable talents of Axl Rose and Neil Young joined together to remind us all that no one other than Neil Young can sing a Neil Young song, and when Neil sings them they don't really make much sense. Neil's alto-soprano voice does cut through though, which has always been the authority behind Young's unique power to please.

On the other hand, his annual Bridge Benefit Concert, from which this video appears to have been bootlegged, is an annual discomfiture complete with special needs students from the Bridge School seated on stage behind a parade of rock acts that usually don't behave with great decorum. The whole thing is a fund raiser for the Bridge School, which endeavors to prepare special needs students for mainlining into the public school system.

While understandable as a parental objective - I would likely support this if I had special needs kids - in practice the mainlining of special needs children into public schools has been disastrous to the California educational system, sapping school budgets to provide for the few at the expense of the many. It is well-intentioned work gone off the rails, which is fairly typical of California's proposition-based legislative process.

Neil Young's high-profile annual event unfortunately deflects the public's attention from what has become a critical public policy issue, i.e., what is the public responsibility for caring for an individual's special needs child? I am all for using public funds to help with the development of these children, but it must be accompanied by appropriate funding increases. You cannot just take funds from existing programs and move them into special needs support.

As a father of two high school-aged kids, the husband of a special education teacher, and the acquaintance of many other special education teachers, I feel like this Bridge School benefit is bullshit, a shrill whine over the sound of thunder, very like Neil Young's own weird musical and film documentary legacies. It seems to me Canadian citizen Young - correct me if he has become naturalized as a U.S. citizen - who has resided in the United States since 1966, ought to petition his mother country for financial help, if his royalties aren't doing the job. For the sake of we California citizens, whose share of the pie Neil seems more than happy to take, I hope he keeps doing these duets with Axl Rose. That should finally kill off that long-over-served Neil Young influence. - RAR


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©Rick Alan Rice (RAR), December, 2012