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At last it can be told: Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, from hip-hop’s seminal and legendary Run DMC, officially and completely blew the roof off the Tip at a secret birthday party this past Saturday night. The recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, performing with local DJ Sol, rocked the mic for four tunes, including an incendiary “Walk This Way,” and then posed for pics with everybody and their brother/mother/cousin — including not a few gobstruck D/C creative directors. Word.
“He designed posters for the Rolling Stones; was best friends with Jimi Hendrix; and served as the creative director for the original Hard Rock Cafe…; he even penned a best-seller… Back in the 1960s, Aldridge was as deified in the world of graphic design as the Fab Four were in music. John Lennon even appointed Aldridge the group’s official design consultant.”
“In addition… he was known for his 1968 poster for Andy Warhol’s film Chelsea Girls, in which he transformed a woman’s naked body into a veritable Chelsea Hotel… [and] produced psycho-surreal images for the Rolling Stones, the Who and Elton John (the cover of the 1975 album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy).”
And that’s not even half the story. But we couldn’t be more excited to say he’ll be telling more of it this June 19 at Duncan/Channon’s sixth Toast of the Tip event, where he will also be autographing copies of his new memoir/art anthology, The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes. As his Beatle bosses once put it: a splendid time is guaranteed for all.
On this Easter Sunday of Passover weekend, we should all be grateful for the latest resurrection of Terry Adams — he of the perennially passed-over NRBQ, America’s greatest cult band.
His new album’s called Holy Tweet. And while it’s not out till the end of the week, it got a sweet review from Ben Ratliff in today’s Times, and you should definitely plan on appending it to your music collection. And even if you don’t grok it at first, even if it seems too silly or too poppy, too accessible or even too willfully obscure, you’ll eventually discover that you’ve not only had a good time, but learned something. And then you’ll see the genius of Terry, the Hohner Clavinet-slapping heart of the Q.
NRBQ (which stands for New Rhythm & Blues Quintet/Quartet) were a Next Big Thing when their first self-titled album came out on Columbia in 1969. On the other hand, I was just another NBT-aspirant, nose to the glass of New York’s 48th Street music row, when I first encountered the band, parading in self-consciously single file down the opposite sidewalk. Even the way they walked seemed unique and, I would soon discover, uniquely Q.
“Disneyland for music fans,” I call it, which is why I’ve been faithfully attending South-by-Southwest since 2005. Mostly I’m a fan of rap, hip-hop, DJs, electro-pop and punk. And there’s lots of it at SXSW — along with just about everything else, from indie rock to classic rock to folk, soul, metal, country and more.
Husband Serg and I beeline to downtown, where the action happens. Thanks to our suitemate, Thuggy Fresh, we get into the VIP area of IODA’s party at Emo’s Annex, where we’re greeted with tall cans of ice cold Lone Star. Welcome to Austin!
No matter what you think, it’s not a sign of age. I’ve been devotedly reading the New York Times obituary pages since I was a lot farther from kicking the bucket than I surely am now. My long-lived mother, who also reads the obits every day, calls them “the Irish funny pages,” evidently because the Emerald Islanders carry an innate affinity for tales of the recently departed. So perhaps, being half-mick, that’s where I get it.
Just to clarify, I’m not merely a connoisseur of individual obituaries. My first assessment, as I flip from the headlines to page 32 (or thereabouts) each morning, is of the whole page, the morbid gestalt. And that is based on the quantity of the day’s obits, the quality of the memorialized (a function of their celebrity, historical prominence, quirky expertise and the like) as well as the interplay of the different stories. And once every year or two, there is an obituary page that really stands out — a juxtaposition of unusually compelling biographies or simultaneously dead celebrities or stories that perfectly dovetail with your own interests. Or just some really good writing.
And sometimes it’s a single story so epic it carries the day by itself. And frequently, I’ve noticed, those are about World War II combat veterans. My all-time fave is of a US bomber pilot who was just about to drop his lethal load on Germany when he himself was accidentally bombed from above by one of his own compatriots. The explosions almost destroyed the plane — and him — but, bloodied and broken, he continued on to his target and then managed to head home, where he survived a spectacular crash-landing. It’s cinematic heroism of a sort we lily-livered contemporary paper-pushers can barely imagine. Tragedy, and a little bit of comedy, too. And, as obituary, unbeatable.
News of the death of Jimmy Carl Black seems as good an excuse as any to re-visit the extraordinary (and that doesn’t necessarily mean good) group of which he was a famous part. I’m talking about the Mothers of Invention — what later came to be known as Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, after its single most famous part.
In truth, I didn’t even remember what Jimmy Carl Black played (drums). But I did remember what he said, the words unspooling from that hangdog face with a goofy, ironic earnestness: “I’m the Indian of the group.”
Even more, I remembered what he wore, especially, second from right, above, on the Mothers’ We’re Only In It for the Money album. A high-waisted, scoop-neck dress.
Of course, they were all in drag, with aggressively girly outfits beneath thinning hair, scraggly beards, or, in Jimmy’s case, trademark puffy eyes, goatee and long, black, 1940s-wavy locks. They stared at the camera, scowling or sincere or slightly discombobulated — but never mugging or laughing. And, in drag or out, they easily took the prize as ugliest band in the world (and that does necessarily mean good).
If there was one guy I’ve held close to my miserly little rock snob heart, lo, these 75 years, it’s Napoleon Culp.
You don’t know him.
Though even I didn’t know him until this morning, when to my shock and dismay the digital New York Times informed me of the passing of a 78-year-old gospel and R&B singer from North Carolina who was born Napoleon Culp, but performed as Nappy Brown.
You don’t know him either.
And isn’t that the point? He was my secret. My invincibly winning gambit in the compulsive bloodsport of musical oneupsmanship. The one name I could reliably whip out in a crowd, and nobody would know.
Sure, John Goddard knew who he was. And the first time I walked into Village Music, John’s jampacked, soon-to-be-legendary little record store in Mill Valley, and saw a new album by Nappy Brown in the “Artists We Really Like” bin, I was staggered. In those days before Google or iTunes, I had not only assumed no one knew Nappy, but that he had already taken my secret (his existence) to the grave. (And, of course, in those days before Google and Wikipedia, I also had no idea of Nappy’s long-gone ‘50s glory days.)
But Goddard — well, he’s so cool he had a copy of my book in his store for 20 years. Literally, one sad, permanently unsold copy of The Noise (and I never said a thing, btw). John is part of that .001% who know Nappy Brown — along with every other musician you think no one else knows. I mean, I would never consciously compete with Goddard. But that’s not really a problem because like a lot of hardcore record nerds he doesn’t turn up at very many social occasions. And now, alas, his store is closed.
Some rock stars hide their contraband in the most curious places, he discovered. But it’s not something Joe Levy cared to fully elaborate on, as he shared his less salacious — if no less amusing — tales of ten years as Rolling Stone music editor and go-to rock critic on MTV, VH1 and elsewhere. The third in Duncan/Channon’s Toast of the Tip speaker series, the evening played to an enthusiastic, sold-out crowd at the agency’s historic dive-bar-in-the-sky, the Tip.
Editor in chief of Blender since February, Levy was stopping in SF en route to the VMA’s in LA, where he was sure to see his friend, and the show’s opener, Britney Spears. In an interview with recovering rock critic Duncan, Joe allowed that his all-time fave rave is Pavement — but only after confessing that A Chorus Line was among the first three records he ever purchased. He shared insights into the collapse of the music business and the rise of a gazillion bands on the Internet — and, arguably, of a new golden age of music. And he strongly seconded the buzz for English rocker Pop Levi, whose “stereo” video is a dawning YouTube sensation. Finally, he touted a band he’d seen at South-by-Southwest, but whose name he couldn’t remember until later (get out your notebooks, obscure band afficionados): Racine.
All in all, Joe Levy brought the heat (literally — it was a record 93 in downtown) and did his part to prove that, at the Tip, as the ancient motto on the wall says: “We never give you the shaft.”