Those Ghastly 80s, Part II: Why People Should Love The 80s

The decade has a bad reputation; I personally find it difficult see past hair bands playing pointless power ballads with vapid lyrics, or how Joe Piscopo was considered sexy, or how at Live Aid, Phil Collins played in London, jumped the Concorde, then played in Philadelphia… and people cheered! People cheered because Phil Collins played music. You can’t tell me that wasn’t just a messed up decade. But fixating on 80s pop culture’s ludicrousness only prevents us from appreciating some truly great music. The punk scene of the 70s evolved into alternative in the US (The Replacements, Violent Femmes, and They Might Be Giants) and ska revival (Two Tone) in the UK (Dexys Midnight Runners, Madness, UB40, and The Jam.)

Those Ghastly 80s, Part I: Why People Should Hate The 80s

As far as “classic rock” goes, the 80s were a bad decade. For two decades, so many rock stars like Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Elton John, all of Fleetwood Mac, even my hero George Harrison had been doing drug (and hard ones at that,) but by the beginning of the 80s, so many had overdosed, Lennon was shot, and so rock stars everywhere were saying, “Maybe I shouldn’t kill myself with drugs.” The 80s thusly became a time for rock stars to detox, and, with their attention diverted toward not dying, their music suffered.

My First Love? Love On The Rocks

I don’t know if I would like Neil Diamond nearly as much as I do were it not for Will Ferrell’s unique interpretation of the man, but needless to say he does not get enough credit from rock circles as he should. His music, though oft disregarded as bubblegum, has contributed as much as Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and all of the other authors from the sixties-era Tin Pan Alley.

Even if you don't like to dance....

...check out Los Gatos at the the Firefly Club where they play every Thursday night. The quintet headed by local drummer Pete Siers draws on more traditional Latin beats like in the music of Mongo Santamaria and Tito Puente. PKO Records who distributes their new cd, "Insight" describes it as "a brilliant compilation of elegant boleros, delightful pachangas, firery mambos, relaxed cha cha chas, and exotic, 6/8 Afro/Cuban dance music." Dancing instruction for beginners starts at 7:15 p.m.

Why I Listen…

To Music
I heard R.E.M.’sMan on the Moon” on the radio this morning. As I sang along the “Yeah, yeah, yeah”s, my mind was transported back to October 2004. I climbed the stairs in Cobo Hall to those seats even the nosebleeders scoffed at to see The Boss, wsg R.E.M., John Fogerty, and Bright Eyes in tow. I never heard R.E.M. before, but they were so bright and jangly, so the next few weeks, I dove into their music. But listening to R.E.M. today didn’t just remind of the concert or October/November of ‘04, it reminded me of who I was at nineteen.

The impending death of the used bookseller

A provocative article on Entrepreneur.com recently profiled several industries on the verge of extinction. Among the condemned: record stores, newspapers, and used bookstores.

As the article notes, newspapers aren't really going to die; they're just going to change. But what about those book and record stores? It would perhaps be more accurate to say that independent bookstores and record stores are under threat. Sure, a few widely successful independents will remain. But even iconic independents are finding it harder to stay open.

What do you think? Are independent book and record stores disappearing? Should we even care, in the age of the long tail thrift and accessibility of Amazon and Barnes & Noble? Or will such stores simply adapt like their allegedly-doomed newspaper brethren?

Why Is The World In Love Again

They Might Be Giants may only be two guys named John, a guitarist and an accordioner, but the music that they produce is something else. The lyrics—funny, tragic, weird, poetic, meaningless—are backdropped by consciously bizarre, irresistibly catchy, and off the wall rocking music. After twenty years, they have but two gold albums to their names, a few minor hit singles. They’ve made serious records, kids records, TV themes (Malcolm In The Middle, The Daily Show,) and unique music videos. And I am happy to say (now that I have my ticket) that They Might Be Giants are coming here to the Michigan Theatre, November 14th.

Yes, It Is Really As Good As They Say

Looking at a quite expensive double LP reissue of The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds in PJ’s Records, I scoffed at the storeowner’s claim I was holding the greatest album ever made. How could the band responsible for “Kokomo” and… that song Uncle Jesse sang with the Rippers on “Full House” make the greatest record ever? Regardless, I figured I’d try it and ran to the Downtown library (this happened in those dark days before my employ at AADL) to check it out. The new version has the original mono as well as a stereo remix—a surprise coming from deaf-in-on-ear Brian Wilson. I elected to go stereo. I didn’t much care for it. Mono elicited the same reaction. But after the tenth time, I loved it.

Solos, Soli, Flat Picking, Shredding, Mind Blowing, And Cetera

While explaining to me the merits of John Mayer, my friend, who has not similar but overlapping tastes, said he was first drawn into the sordid world of Try! and Continuum when he heard a John Mayer song on the radio, and it had an actual guitar solo. Music for the past ten years has focused on vocalists and not bands, so a guitar solo in a song on the radio can be cause for jubilation, but a solo good does not a song make.

Equadoran musician and friends perform

Canterbury House, an Episcopal campus ministry offers a concert series open to all. This Tuesday, the Winona Taxo University for Cultural Exchange, a unique educational initiative between North and South America will be holding its first concert at Canterbury House. Ecuadorian musician, Oscar Santillian, Ann Arbor folk musicians Laz and Helen Slomovits and students from The University of Michigan School of Music Jazz Department will play music that features a blend of both cultures. Canterbury House offers a great mix of innovative musical performers from jazz, electronic and folk genres.

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