Hard Rock has a cafe at the brand new Yankee Stadium, and, along with the prime real estate, gets thirty seconds every game in front of 50,000 fans on the hi-def Jumbotron. Not surprisingly, they tossed the opportunity to agency of record, D/C, which cooked up a modern mashup of the old chestnut “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” as sung by New York-area rock stars.
The spot was mostly shot at the stadium the day before it opened. And the musical cast included Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, en route to a plane to Cleveland for his induction into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame; Bronx native and Yankees fanatic Ace Frehley of Kiss; Scott Ian of Anthrax; Little Steven Van Zant; the Bacon Brothers (Kevin and Michael); the Dictators’ Handsome Dick Manitoba, another Bronx-bred Bombers fan; and Bernie Williams, the retired Yankees star — and hot-shot guitarist — now making his own promising play for rock stardom.
In addition to the scoreboard, the spot will be aired on the TV systems at both the Yankee Stadium and Times Square cafes.
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.
I’m not the first to tout NRBQ — Elvis Costello left out the “cult” part when he called them “the best band in America” and Penn Jillette said they were the “best band in the world” — but I could’ve been. My life has crisscrossed theirs at odd intervals for 40 years.
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.
Microsoft has officially launched a Seadragon app for the iPhone. Which means you can now browse high-resolution photo collections on your iPhone — including the Hard Rock memorabilia collection (as seen on the Hard Rock memorabilia website, conceived and designed by D/C and built by Vertigo).
So if you’re out and about and overcome by a sudden and insatiable need to see Morrison’s ripped leather pants, you totally can. Here’s how:
Ecto Bathsheba, Groynbusters (Frilly Underthings). Take one part Arvo Part, one part Weird Al and one part Goblin Cock, mix with strong psychedelics, re-mix with grain alcohol and, voila, the greatest record ever made.
Fraidycat Freeway, Far Tortuga (Testpattern). Noise sisters from S.E. Portland go unexpectedly Americana. Echoes of the Band, Jayhawks — plus, just a lot of echo (hey, enough with the slapback, Constance!). Caveat: it’s a radical departure from Narc. But, thankfully, pretty harmonies can’t entirely mask the rage beneath: “Forest fires burn inside/Raped your swan on West Burnside.”
Blueish, Tim Hatter (Elk). Even if the last time you cried was when you were a little kid and your father took your puppy to the pound to have it put to sleep because it shit on his bed because you hadn’t housebroken it properly, Hatter has a rare gift for getting under that burnished leather emotional scar tissue of yours.
Chromium Picolinate, Barcalounge Express Dream (F-stop). It goes against every fiber of my being to enjoy these neo-Kraut Rock electron dribblers. But damned if every decade or so — just when I’ve forgotten they exist — B.E.D. doesn’t re-emerge from the Bavarian forests of Bertel Hopkins’ imagination with a blippy concoction that is to pop what Link Wray was to Connie Francis. If Connie Francis had been named Brumhilde!
Fort Wayne, The Jims (Erstwhile). Like a Rolling Stones for the ’00s, but without bass or drums. Or money. Or, well.
Schedule in the Laboratory, Esther (Archback UK). Esther is chart-topping, paparazzi-bait humongous in Limeyland, but has yet to get a break in the colonies. Too bad for us. Because her unholy marriage of Adele, Estelle, Shakira, Duffy, Robyn, Beyonce, Enya and Lulu, with a little Cher and Madonna thrown in, is guaranteed to get your Yank booty shaking — even if your Yank booty’s middle-aged, hairy and made of cottage cheese.
Tell, Not (Elemental Physics Barn). Not exactly your typical E.P.B. band. Maybe because it’s really a band, instead of a technological construct (yeah, I know, wtf?!?). The aptly-named Not is the veteran rockabilly singer Narvel Felts’ side-project supergroup with Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, Black Oak Arkansas’ Jim Dandy Mangrum and Paul Westerberg(!). Nuff said?
Last Will and Testament, Edgewater (New York Prime). Blasting out of Brooklyn’s latest hipster hotbed, lower-west Boerum Hill, Edgewater singlehandedly returns classic rock to the outskirts of metal — in a thoroughly modern cap and gown. Best line: “I’m shivering/But you’re the one who’s cold.” Indeed.
Wayyy Out 2 Lunch, The Money (Bulbous Toe). Post-hip-hop pioneers star in a post-ecological concept album about the first manned — and, of course, womanned — mission to Venus. Full of witty metaphors (Venus is both a planet — and a ho) and artfully stoned rambles, the Money men completely redeem themselves from the execrable Arrrgggh and, if even possible, improve on the incendiary mixtape version of this released in July. A landmark achievement, up there with BrouHaHa’s PaXXX AmeriKKKana.
Bub, Kennedy Bledsoe (Texas A&M). Drew Bledsoe’s bastard son is a bitch of a country guitarslinger. His first indie release since being unceremoniously dropped — after one album! — by Capitol Nashville finds him (finally) getting back to his roots as an unintelligible drunken yowler whose lyrics are impossible to understand — but who nonetheless manages to communicate universes of deep, raw feeling. Will change the way you look at football (I think it’s football; might be foosball; might even be food or Kung Fu).
Honorable mentions: Abbatoir Bouquet, Blast Furnace (Gelding). Onomatopoiea, Arnold Dilney & the King’s Cross Poetasters (Zed). Alphabets of Undergarments, Fetch the Donkey (Itch). Telemachus Cherry, Afterparty (Too Late to Stop Now). Invitation to the Flogging, Infidelicatessen (Brackish). Dromedary Torquemada, Ian Poons (Constructive Criticism). Number II, The Fart Ark (Lawrence Harvey’s Lack of Affect).
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.
Anyway, Nappy Brown.
I’m ready to sign on.
I’ve never quite shared the ardor. But I’ve long been fascinated by the socio-musico impact of these guys. More than just a fave rave of a certain demographic (thirty-something males?), they seem to represent to those fans — 80,000 of whom turned out in Golden Gate Park last night — some sort of watershed, a defining moment. A musical moment, for sure, but one that also goes well beyond.
A Beatles for their times.
And if you’re as suprised by that notion as I was (maybe not, 35-year-old dude), trust me. It’s based on unassailable empirical data — mostly close observation of guys like Joe Oh and Mike Lemme.
But let’s talk about Lemme.
For sure, Radiohead goes beyond the musical for this guy, a designer by avocation and trade. And you get what he’s “hearing” when you see the show. Where other bands load up on the latest in technological fidelity, the highest of def, for their video projections, Radiohead is cool enough and smart enough to understand that to go forward technologically, to refresh the whole concept of video projection at this point in the game, is to go backwards.