Today In Music History

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It’s time once again to look into music’s past for a reminder of what once was. Musicians are always up to something, such as making #1 hits, getting divorced or breaking up and going their separate ways. Here’s a glimpse of what was happening on October 28 throughout the decades:

-In 1956 Elvis Presley’s "Love Me Tender" was #1 on the Billboard Pop Chart.
-In 1968 John Lennon and wife Cynthia filed for divorce. Next up: Yoko Ono!
-In 1982 At the end of their UK tour, punk band The Jam announced they’d be splitting up.
-In 1997 R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry announced he was leaving the band after 17 years with them. The band did not break up even though decades earlier they had made a pact to break up if any member left the band.

And now it’s all history!

Quality music for free

The The University of Michigan School of Music offers a rich array of student and faculty performances that are open to the general public. These often free events are all on the University of Michigan campus including the Duderstadt Center, on North Campus, formerly called the Media Union. This Friday, October 26, the Symphony Band performs the premiere of New York City opera composer Daron Hagen's "Banner of My Purpose", an operatic scena based on a letter from a Civil War soldier to his wife written just before a battle in which he dies. Familiar tunes from West Side Story as well baroque and neo-classical pieces fill the evening. The performance will be at Hill Auditorium at 8 p.m. Check out other events on their calendar.

This Ark Is Your Ark

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The Ark’s 11th Annual Fall Fund Raiser features Odetta, Jimmy LaFave, The Burns Sisters, and Joel Rafael – in A Celebration in the Spirit of Woody Guthrie. This Ark Is Your Ark takes place Saturday, November 10 at 8pm at The Ark in Ann Arbor. There are four ticket levels currently available for purchase and a portion of the cost is tax deductible. Proceeds from the event will benefit The Ark and will assist in continuing to bring world-class folk music to Ann Arbor.

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.

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