Apr 102014
 

Yesterday, on the eve of KISS‘ induction into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, I learned that Lou Reed cowrote a song for the band’s Bob Ezrin-produced concept album, The Elder. Certainly, upon the completion of this recording, Lou must have remarked that KISS and his Berlin producer captured his music the way it was meant to sound!

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Oct 162013
 

hof2014

Please list this year’s nominees for inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the order in which you think they should be included. If you don’t have the patience or interest in listing them all, please just list the top 5.

And the nominees are…

Nirvana, Kiss, the Replacements, Hall and Oates, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Chic, Deep Purple, Peter Gabriel, LL Cool J, N.W.A., Link Wray, the Meters, Linda Ronstadt, Cat Stevens, Yes, and the Zombies.

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Nov 212011
 

"You had me at Dick Clark as Hitler."

Once a year I try to listen to my lone Devo album, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! I want to love it. I begin to chuckle over it before I even drop the needle. Once I do, however, musically there’s not enough there for me to care about, no matter how much I try. I inevitably skip ahead to get my requisite laughs out of the song “Jocko Homo” before logging onto YouTube to marvel at their videos. Devo videos are amazing!

As an impressionable college freshman I got into The Residents. I bought Third Reich ‘n Roll and Meet the Residents as soon as I saw the album covers, without ever hearing a note of the band’s music. (Actually, come to think of it, I stole both records before ever hearing a note of the band’s music, but that’s a long story I might have shared once and I will probably share once more in the future…) The Residents’ album covers and concepts are amazing! I dig their “classic” albums enough to actually feel compelled to rank their musical output and cite “turning points” in their development, but without the record covers and overriding concepts, what would be the point of ever listening to The Residents? Without the medium of the 12-inch vinyl album cover could The Residents have ever existed? I don’t think so. What 18-year-old kid is going to log into the iTunes Store to sample and download a Residents album?

I’ve never liked KISS, but I’ve got to give them credit for their visual appeal. Sans makeup and pyrotechnics would KISS have been anything more than a “1-hit wonder” like Brownsville Station?

What artists are you attracted to primarily for their visual appeal, even long after you’ve bought and dug their records?

Previously: Music That’s Better With the Sound Turned Off: Devo

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Oct 032011
 

My neighbor's wife.

In a recent LA Weekly interview Paul Stanley, reported “good egg” and at one time the only member of KISS who it could be said did not need shamefully hide his face under a multicolored coat of greasepaint, explains the band’s long-running popularity:

I don’t necessarily want to buy a t-shirt with a guy on it who looks like my neighbor.

The 2 hours it took to apply the greasepoint is optional ever since the band first “unmasked” itself in the 1980s. Looking at Paul today, one is more likely to wonder, “Maybe it’s Maybelline.”

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Jul 232011
 

Sounds of the Hall in roughly 33 1/3 minutes!

This week’s edition of Saturday Night Shut-In seamlessly ties back to the previous week’s topics for discussion. It’s remarkable how Mr. Moderator does it, no?

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

[Note: The Rock Town Hall feed will enable you to easily download Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your digital music player. In fact, you can even set your iTunes to search for an automatic download of each week’s podcast.]

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Jul 212011
 

I’m gonna keep this simple: How on Earth can a man who will take a bullet for the right of any music lover to dumb things down once in a while hate KISS? Is it the blatant show-biz manipulativeness that turns you off? The fact that the band fooled a planet with their ridiculous makeup/monster schtick? Do you just not like music at the intersection of pop and “hard rock?” Are you turned off by their admittedly poor musicianship? Their idiotic lyrics? What is it?

Speaking for myself, the band gets a pass. I don’t “love” them — or even like them very much, if “liking” something means that you have to stand up and defend the verifiable quality of it. But they make me pump my fist, bob my head, and smile. They’re patently retarded, I get that. But only an extreme tight-ass would have a problem enjoying “Firehouse” or “Rock Bottom” or “Cold Gin” from that Alive! twofer.

I will say this: I just went out and reminded myself of the actual track list on the album, and it’s not a flawless double. In fact, I think I’d reduce it to a single-record deal. But that record would be a fun-fest for me, and for any other Rock-loving child of the ’70s who’s not afraid of donning the nostalgio-glasses every once in a while.

Come on, man! Loosen up a little! Switch to boxers or something!

Your pal,

HVB

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Mar 292011
 

Paperback edition of Josh Wilker's Cardboard Gods

One day last year I was paging through an issue of Entertainment Weekly when I arrived at a spread they run every few issues, containing about 4 pages of gift ideas. It’s the sort of seemingly paid marketing/alluring editorial hybrid feature that typically bugs me, but EW does it so well. It’s rare that I don’t read that section without briefly considering purchasing some fancy electronics item that feeds into my deep sense of nostalgia. The people who put together that section have a remarkable knack for knowing what feeds the emptiness of a middle-aged, middle-class man’s consumer life. How I miss the days of being so excited over the release of a new Elvis Costello record that I was once willing to follow my friend’s idea of breaking into his friend’s parents’ extremely permissive house to listen to our new purchase over a bone, I think to myself. Next thing I know I’m seeing if I can justify dropping $299 on an mp3 player/clock radio that’s in the form of a Close ‘N Play phonograph.

One day a book recommendation caught my eye, an actual, affordable hardcover book. Maybe it was part of one of these marketing-driven spreads or maybe it was part of the book reviews section—after you’ve read EW for a while it’s easy to lose all distinctions between marketing and editorial. Whatever. The book was called Cardboard Gods, by someone named Josh Wilker. The review read, in part:

A baseball-loving loner deciphers his complicated childhood through his old box of trading cards. . . . Wilker’s book is as nostalgically intoxicating as the gum that sweetened his card-collecting youth. [Grade:] A —Entertainment Weekly

There was no need for excruciating self-analysis and consideration of this item’s ability to fill The Void. I put a big lower corner dog ear on that page of the magazine (ie, my “important point to revisit” dog ear rather than the smaller placeholder one at the upper corner of where I left off reading) preparation for my next trip to the “library.” I re-read the review a few more times, each time getting more excited at the prospect of revisiting my own life as a baseball card collector, solitary baseball board-game player (and more importantly, manager and league commissioner), and generally desperate kid who was in need of the power provided by the sport’s over-arching history and frequent periods of anticipation (ie, what non-baseball lovers call “all the boring parts”). A couple of days later, without hesitation, I picked up a copy of Cardboard Gods and proceeded to tear through it, cover to cover, in the course of a weekend.

The book was everything I could have imagined, with color reproductions of a mid-’70s–era baseball card kicking off each chapter’s meditation on what that player’s card meant in the lovingly dysfunctional childhood world of its author. It was so much fun to tap into another kid’s relationship and chew on life’s inner meanings while contemplating baseball cards of the likes of Rudy Meoli, Mike Kekich, and Mike Cosgrove (no, not that one). This wasn’t some thumbsucking attempt by Wilker to explain away his life according to an in-vogue branch of pop psychology or the agenda of a “special interests” group, as is too-often the case these days. This book was nice and messy—and truly personal, the way we were more comfortable being in the Do Your Own Thing 1970s. In the words of fully satisfied moviegoers of my youth, I laughed and I cried.

Soon after reading the book I found Wilker’s Cardboard Gods blog and became a regular visitor there. I wrote him a gushing e-mail and over the course of a few e-mail exchanges learned that he was also a music obsessive. Baseball: check. Music: check. Good egg? Highly likely! A few weeks ago I read that Cardboard Gods was being released in paperback. I wrote Wilker and asked if he’d consent to a Rock Town Hall interview that would attempt to further bridge the relationship between baseball and music and their roles in the predominantly male means of sharing personal information. Good egg that he is, Wilker was all for this chat. If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend checking out Carboard Gods, both in book and blog form. Batter up!

RTH: The Cardboard Gods blog preceded your book, right? (I was late to the party, learning of your book before being directed to the blog.) Was there a turning point in writing the blog that you realized you actually could organize a full-blown memoir through the prism of your card collection?

Josh Wilker: For most of my adult life I have been on the lookout for things that might develop into a book, a habit that has almost always crushed the life out of whatever it is that might have otherwise developed organically if I just gave it some space to grow. And I started the blog as an anti-book in a way, since I’d just finished several years working on a novel that I wasn’t able to sell and I was a little discouraged and just trying to have some fun. That said, I think I had the feeling almost immediately, like a tug on the end of a line, that there was something going on with the baseball cards, but I consciously tried to put thoughts of a book aside for a while and just have fun and go wherever the cards wanted to go.

RTH: Baseball in the mid- to late-’70s, like the world of your childhood, experienced a latent period of counterculture-rooted self-awareness. As a boy were there certain players who best represented your family’s new world? Were there other players you felt represented the “square” world your family was leaving?

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