Thursday, July 28, 2022

Best Magazine Reads: The story leading up to the Violent Femmes’ classic debut album

MOJO Magazine recently told the story. Here are the highlights:

  • Bassist Brian Ritchey came up with the band name while he and drummer Victor DeLorenzo backed up other performing bands around Milwaukee.
  • A friend soon recommended they check out “pint-sized Lou Reed imitator” Gordon Gano.
  • In high school, Gano wore a bathrobe to school every Monday as if to say, “You got me out of bed for this?”
  • Getting shows was initially tough because Milwaukee loved heavy metal, so they started busking in the street. One day they did it outside the venue where The Pretenders were playing and Chrissie Hynde invited them in to play a couple of songs.
  • The album was made at a studio that had once been a Playboy club, and they had little hope anyone would ever buy it. But the recording made its way to Slash Records, which didn’t ask for anything to be changed.
  • Released in April 1983, it got tons of college radio play.
  • Gano is a religious guy who incorporated these themes and taboos into his songs, such as Black Girls, which he wrote because he
    liked black girls and they liked him and he married a black girl.
  • Gano licensed Blister in the Sun to Wendy’s Hamburgers and Ritchey sued him. But they’re still together as a three piece. In fact, I’ve got tickets to see them at the 9:30 Club in October.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Magazine Reads: The sad story of Big Star is nicely summarized by MOJO Magazine

Big Star has a deep and fascinating catalogue as arguably the founders of power pop (if you for some reason don’t include the Beatles, Stones, and Who). Further, the Nashville band was the bridge between those legendary groups and the explosion of power pop in the 80s, with the likes of the Replacements and R.E.M. MOJO Magazine recently had a great feature, and here of the best info nuggets from it:

  • Leader Chris Bell was sexually fluid, which probably isolated him a great deal at that time (the 1970s) and place.
  • Co-leader Alex Chilton, before he died, surprisingly said he didn’t think much of Big Star.
  • They were shunned on one trip to New York by a record exec as “Beatles wannabes.”
  • While the record label pushed back their #1 Record release several months, the band got antsy, with Andy Hummel punching Bell in the nose and Bell retaliating by breaking Hummel’s bass into three pieces. Then, Hummel poked holes in Bell’s guitar. Bell bought a new guitar and charged it to Hummel. Real healthy band. No wonder they didn't last long.
  • Part of the problem with Big Star never being as big as they should have been was that Ardent’s publicity department did a good job securing lots of positive press, but people couldn’t find the album stocked in stores.
  • Bell left before the excellent second record, Radio City, although some of the songs had been co-written by him, and Hummels’s exit made their third, Third/Sister Lovers, essentially a two piece.
  • In 1978, Bell’s car hit a telephone pole and he died instantly. This was after he had taken up working in a restaurant.
  • In 2010, Big Star was set to play a reunion show at SXSW when Chilton unexpectantly died and soon thereafter Hummel died of cancer.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

TV Snide: June 2022

TV Show of the Month: Breaking Bad (Netflix): It took several years to finally finish, but once my 14-year-old son binged the whole series in a few weeks, I felt obliged to rip though the firth and final season. The Walter White story is one of the best TV shows ever. It's the story of a non-descript nobody played by Brian Cranston (the dad from Malcolm in the Middle of all people) turning into a family-loving, carwash-owning monster who can control cartels, neo-Nazis, the DEA, and the CIA. Gripping at every turn, all the way through the end. 5 out 5 stars

Stranger Things Season 4 Part 1 (Netflix): This show just keeps chugging along and perhaps getting better and better. The kids are almost no longer kids anymore as they fight creative new monsters and Hooper attempts to escape a Russian prisoner work camp. Can't wait for next month's release of the second half of the season. 4.5 out of 5 stars

Movie of the Month: Licorice Pizza (Lufthansa flight): This coming-of-age tale is among Paul Thomas Anderson’s great films, like Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, and Punch-Drunk Love. His strength is never plot, but rather great vignettes that, when tied together, begin to form intriguing character studies. Alana Haim is mesmerizing as the older girl serving as the object of Cooper Hoffman’s affections as they swindle the likes of Bradley Cooper, Sean Penn, and other big stars throughout picturesque Los Angeles. 4 out of 5 stars

The Lost Daughter (Lufthansa flight): Olivia Colman plays a selfish mother who reflects on her youth while vacationing in a small beach community. The flashbacks show how she left her new family to carry out an affair with another star of the Italian translation academic community while the present shows her subtlety sabotaging another young family led by mom Dakota Johnson. A minor story but a dark and moving take on the complexities of having children and the loss of freedom it causes. 3.5 out of 5 stars

Novel of the Month: Swimming Home by Deborah Levy: I wanted to read something kind of set in the Tuscany region of Italy while traveling there this month, and I thought this was, but it turned out to mostly take place in the South of France. That said, what I imagined the swimming pool, one of the story’s protagonists, to look like in my head turned out to be exactly what my swimming pool in Tuscany looked like. All that may be a bit more interesting than this book, which is a minor but entertaining and quick tale of a poet who has an affair with a young, usually naked, muse right under the glare of his wife, daughter, and friends. Odd but better than ok. 3.5 out of 5 stars

Being the Ricardos (Amazon Prime): Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem are compelling as the leads in this talkative Aaron Sorkin vehicle. It tells the story of Desi Arnaz saving Lucille Ball's neck from a rumor that she was a Communist, while their marriage and sensational TV show wound down. 3.5 out of 5 stars

Death on the Nile (Hulu): I love Agatha Christie novels, but this production with Gal Gadot and Kenneth Branagh was pretty unwatchable. Couldn't finish it. No rating.