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February 27, 2007

Police on my Back (and in my Wallet)

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I am unfortunately at that age where the rock band heroes of my 20’s are now in the sellout stage of their career. Nothing says “God am I old? than hearing the opening riff to Blister in the Sun in a Wendy’s hamburger ad.

Besides selling their songs to Madison Avenue to shill for cars and soap, the easiest way for a band to make money off its legacy is to go on a “reunion tour.? Although the nostalgia acts of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s have been doing this for years, the practice has now infected so called “alternative/punk? bands.

The Pixies really jumped-started this trend with their wildly popular tour of 2005-06. Now it’s hard to really blame the Pixies as they were criminally overlooked during the time that they were putting one amazing album out after another. Since they didn’t make a whole lot of money then, it’s only appropriate that they collect a premium from those not cool or old enough to get them the first time around.

The Police are the latest to suck lucre from the nostalgia teat. Now of course the Police were MTV stars in the early- to mid-80’s and their albums sold well and were critically acclaimed (Outlandos d’Amour still plays a prominent place on my I-Pod). Plus Sting has been a mega-star for years and Andy Summers and Stuart Copeland have had nice careers. But after a performance at the Grammys that didn’t even come close to meeting the anticipation, they have decided to go on tour.

Of course no big rock star tour these days can move forward without corporate sponsorship. The Police have teamed up with Best Buy and if you are a Reward Zone enrollee, you even get a day or two head start in buying tickets. Again a practice that is not new but has been usually limited to fan club members. Don’t worry, the Police have that angle too, once you pay $100 for the privilege of being a fun club member.

Now I’m fine with the whole corporate sponsor thing -- if the bands or teams I like can keep ticket prices down because they are also getting some $$$ from Bud Light, no big deal. The Police, however, are still charging a premium for their tickets, even with the Best Buy Sponsorship. For a mere $52 (plus service charges) you can get a nosebleed seat at the X to see the Police. Want to get on the floor? oh that will cost you $92 (plus service charges). Want to get close to see Sting’s finely toned abs? That will be $227 (plus service charges) please.

Thankfully I’ve moved on. I am sure The Police will clean up just fine without me and Sting can pay for a new fitness regime. However when Andy and Stewart begin that reggae rhythm and Sting starts singing Raaaaaaahhhhhxxxxxaaaaaannnne, you don’t have to put on that red light… do you think they’ll get the irony?

February 23, 2007

Friday Random Top 10

Here it is! In the tradition of American Idle, every Friday I will turn the I-Pod to shuffle and see what it spits out. This Friday's Top Ten:

1. X Offender – Blondie
2. I Got You Babe – Sonny and Cher
3. Lithium – Nirvana
4. Temptation – Joan Armatrading
5. Suspicious Minds – Elvis Presley
6. Pretty Little Missy – Louis Armstrong
7. Important in Your Life – Jonathan Richman
8. Climbing Up the Walls – Radiohead
9. Pretty Boy Floyd – Woody Guthrie
10. Satan Gave Me a Taco – Beck

Nice mix. Won't ever hear that combination on the radio! What's your top 10?

February 19, 2007

What Can Britney Spears Learn from Bob Dylan?

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So where were you when you heard Britney Spears shaved her head? That thought crossed my mind as I was thinking about the Weisman Art Museum’s cool new exhibit: Bob Dylan’s American Journey 1956-1966. The exhibition was originally organized by the Experience Music Project (EMP) in Seattle with Bob Dylan’s cooperation, but has an additional Minnesota bent as the Weisman beefed up Dylan’s Hibbing background, including the theatre marquee owned by the Zimmerman family. The exhibit follows Dylan from Hibbing to the University of Minnesota and on to the Greenwich Village folk scene where Dylan threw himself into one of popular music’s most fascinating intersections of art, politics, and lifestyle. There he eventually found himself massively famous as one of the first true rock stars and the man who “electrified? contemporary songwriting. The exhibit ends with the making of three of the rock canon’s greatest works: Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde.

If you’re a Dylan fan, there’s not a lot new here. There’s the obligatory yearbook picture, beat-up guitars and autographed album covers. Screens show Dylan in concert and in interview, most of which can be seen on Dont Look Back or No Direction Home. For the uninitiated, there are kiosks describing each of Dylan’s albums through Blonde on Blonde with a short review and an analysis on the album’s importance. Listening booths allow one to hear from the album and other songs recorded at the same time. There are also a couple of rare early recordings available for listening. I particularly was interested in some of the original typed-up or handwritten song lyrics, with edits. Also there was a Greystone Hospital t-shirt of Woody Guthrie’s. I thought that was kinda cool. There is also a hilarious review of Dont Look Back by the Cleveland Plain Dealer that was obviously written by someone way too old to “get? Dylan.

The exhibit ends, as does Scorsese’s documentary No Direction Home, with Dylan’s motorcycle accident of 1966 and his subsequent withdrawal from the public spotlight. Dylan disappears literally at the apex of his art and fame. Of course we all know Bob Dylan did return to the public spotlight, perhaps not the cultural touchstone of the mid-60’s but someone who still makes pretty important contributions musically some 40 years later.

This brings me back to Britney Spears’ shaved head. Clearly I won’t argue that artistically or culturally Dylan and Britney Spears belong in the same discussion. Britney Spears parlayed an above-average rack and a come-hither personae into a vehicle to become world famous and to sell crappy dance music to pre-teen girls. Dylan is Dylan. However, it is clear from both that fame can be soul crushing. In No Direction Home, you can see it in Dylan’s eyes. The inane questions, the burden of being the “conscience of a generation,? the ever increasing expectations of an adoring public, the need to feed the media blast furnace. Dylan’s motorcycle accident was a means by which he could get away from all that. Start anew. The fact that we are still talking about Dylan, going to museum exhibits, buying his music and attending his concerts 40 years later is proof he made the right choice.

So where were you when you heard Britney Spears shaved her head? I wonder if Bob Dylan, when he heard, thought back to that motorcycle accident and how he dealt with overwhelming fame. Do you think Britney Spears will do the same?

February 16, 2007

Friday Random Top 10

Here it is! In the tradition of American Idle, every Friday I will turn the I-Pod to shuffle and see what it spits out. This Friday's Top Ten:

1. Somewhere - Soundgarden
2. Theme from the Valley of the Dolls - k.d. lang
3. Season of the Shark - Yo La Tengo
4. Koka Kola - The Clash
5. Meet Me In Heaven - Johnny Cash
6. Like a Hurricane - Neil Young
7. Very Ape - Nirvana
8. Trashed Aircraft - Guided By Voices
9. Drinkin' and Cheatin' and Death - The Waco Brothers
10. Take These Chains From My Heart - Hank Williams

Wow! Now that's what I call an All Star Line up with a bunch of killer songs. What's your top 10?

February 14, 2007

Steve Jobs is Right

Recently Steve Jobs, head of Apple, publicly came out against DRM (Digital Right Management). DRM, for those who don’t know, is the software that recording companies put on legally downloaded music so that it cannot be shared. It’s why you can’t play songs downloaded via I-tunes on your Zune or use switch all those songs from Rhapsody to your new I-pod.

Steve Jobs basically says don’t blame Apple for DRM, it’s the record companies that are making us put DRM on all our downloaded songs. Apple would rather make songs available DRM-free. Now of course Apple could probably do more to change the record company’s behavior regarding DRM but in the end he’s right. DRM has got to go.

When I buy a CD (which I still do too much of), I can play it on my main stereo, my computer, a boombox, my car, my kids can play it on their boomboxes. I can bring it to my neighbor and play it and if I forget it at his house, he can play it without me around. When I get sick of the CD, I can sell it to Cheapo records and someone else can then buy it and play it on their stereo equipment. However, when you legally download a song this flexibility is not available. Depending on what program you are using, downloaded song are restricted to what computer it can be played on, the number of times it can be played, subscriptions have to be maintained in order to continue to listen to a song, and of course you can’t change .mp3 players because the song will only play on certain players. And the record companies wonder why millions of songs are downloaded illegally every year?

Now I don’t envy the recording industry. It is very simple to illegally download a song onto your computer. An eight-year-old with moderate computer skills could probably do it. I understand their concern about rights infringements and paying artists for their songs. However the current system with DRM does not work and only encourages people to illegally download music. A simple, DRM-free, legal means to download music is needed that allows anyone who downloads a song to have the same listening flexibility as someone who purchases a CD. Until the recording industry recognizes this fact, wholesale illegal downloading of music will continue.

What do you think?

February 12, 2007

10 ways the 2007 Grammys Sucked

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1. A three-song tribute to The Eagles
2. The Doors get a lifetime achievement Grammy
3. Lionel Ritchie singing Hello
4. Earth, Wind and Fire? Burt Bacharach? Smokey Robinson?

(aside, I am talking about the 2007 Grammys even though the above items make it seem like I’m reviewing the 1977 Grammys)

5. Wolfmother’s award is not televised
6. Flaming Lips’ award is not televised
7. Scarlett Johanson and Don Henley’s “patter?
8. Prince, one week after rocking Miami, gets to say one word
9. Carrie Underwood singing Desparado
10. James Blount – Beautiful

Sorry, this list isn't David Letterman funny, but the show was too soul crushing bad to make fun of. And to think only two short years ago Green Day and Kanye West absolutely crushed at the Grammy’s. Is it no wonder the Grammys teeter on the inconsequential?

February 9, 2007

Friday Random Top 10

Here it is! In the tradition of American Idle, every Friday I will turn the I-Pod to shuffle and see what it spits out. This Friday's Top Ten (first one with my new I-pod!):

1. Still Worth Nothing – Guided by Voices
2. Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones
3. Wedding Song – Peter, Paul & Mary
4. Long May You Run – Neil Young
5. Learn How – Mission of Burma
6. I Like Trains – Fred Eaglesmith
7. Mindless Child of Motherhood – The Kinks
8. Out of the Picture – Son Volt
9. Parasite – Kiss
10. Alison – Elvis Costello

How did the Wedding Song get in there? I think my new I-pod is defective. What's your Top 10?

February 8, 2007

Twins Ballpark Woes(?)

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I think everyone feels the same way this guy does because it is becoming increasingly clear that Hennepin County and the entity that owns some of the land slated for the new ballpark are coming to loggerheads over the acquisition of the last parcels of land for the new ballpark. The City Pages had a good article on this subject this week and my good buddy Shane at Greet Machine has been lamenting over the land acquisition for weeks now. To further muddy the waters, a couple of Hennepin County Commissioners said over the weekend that they are pursuing alternative ballpark locations within the County! Which if true would surely need state legislative approval and would definitely delay the ballpark opening at least one year if not two.

But is it true? Are the County/Twins really serious about a different ballpark location? Is the land acquisition process really in danger of slowing down or stopping the development of a Twins Ballpark at the Rapid Park site? I argue no it’s not.

First if you need some background on this subject, please go over to Greet Machine. Shane’s site is the only place where you are going to get all the inside information on the ballpark. Plus it’s well established that all the parties involved (County, Land Owners, Twins Officials, Sid Hartman, Politicians, etc.) read the site and from time-to-time and slip nuggets of information to Shane.

The fact is that the County/Twins are moving full steam ahead on the Rapid Park site. Just today there is an article in the Strib that indicates that the ballpark designers have come up with a solution to the bike trail that intersects the ballpark site. In addition, the Twins are still planning to reveal ballpark renderings on February 15th. But more importantly, the County IS quietly taking steps to acquire the Rapid Park site.

The fact is that the County will be able to gain control of the land through the Quick Take process. In fact I think LPII (Land Owners) has even agreed to this. That's the key. The County/Twins can go forward with design, move dirt around, put out bids for construction, etc. During all this somewhere in the bowels of the court system the eminent domain process is going through the meat grinder. Twelve months from now we will have a ballpark design, perhaps a ballpark name, City/County approvals are in place, permits issued, infrastructure being built, contracts being let, sales tax revenues being collected, and the eminent domain hearing will end. Either the County has enough $$$ or it doesn't. If it doesn't THEN there is consternation. Either we have to hit up the Twins for more land acquisition costs or go back to the legislature. It will be tough at the legislature but with the fact that the ballpark is a real deal now (designs, permits, contracts, etc) even the son of Phil Krinkie would be hard pressed to say no to authorizing the County to pay a little more than $90 M for land/infrastructure (I'm sure there would be no need for additional sales tax revenue).

Right now I think all we are seeing is some public posturing by the County and LPII so that they look like the heroes and the other guy looks like a goat when these bumps occur. It's something that happens every day in complicated real estate deals however with a high profile project like the Twins ballpark, it's just getting a little more sunshine. That’s all. Until I hear otherwise, I look forward to seeing the new renderings next week.

February 7, 2007

Prince at the Super Bowl

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O.k. admit it. When you heard Prince was playing at the Super Bowl halftime show, your shoulders kind of sagged didn’t they? You thought “here’s another lame halftime show by a performer past his prime, just another nostalgia act who’s gonna ride his hits in order to pimp his I-tunes sales figures.? You know that was your reaction. It was my reaction.

Then something wonderful happened. Prince rocked the house in the Miami rain! No surprise that he started off with Let’s go Crazy. Pretty predictable opener. But then Prince started to rip it up on guitar and all of a sudden its was damn, that’s right Prince plays a mean-ass guitar. Now here comes the medley, but it’s all covers… was that Prince channeling Hendrix covering Dylan on All Along the Watchtower? The Foo Fighters’ Best of You? Now it’s a version of Proud Mary that would do Ike and Tina proud. What’s that marching band doing there? My Lord they’re kicking ass too!!

You know what’s coming next but it still blows you away: Purple Rain, in the rain with the stage and rain bathed in purple light, the marching band in some sort of Tron outfits and Prince laying it down like it’s no one’s business with guitar work that would put Eddie Van Halen to shame all happening behind some sheet and his shadow is ten feet tall looking like he is stroking his guitar/giant phallus all while the background singers are crying “purple rain, purple rain? and if you’re a Vikings fan you mist up because all those bottled-up emotions from years of Super Bowl futility are being exorcised by a 5’4? singing imp with a funny-looking guitar. Finally the performance ends, you’re thrilled that you’ve just seen a Super Bowl halftime show that rivals U2 as the best ever and man are you now ready for some football.

Here is a another review of Prince’s performance that is way over the top. If you wondered why Prince wasn’t electrocuted on that wet stage, this article will be of interest.

What did you think of the show?

February 1, 2007

No Top Ten

Since I am enjoying the florida sun, I am not doing a top 10. Hopefully this video tides you over.