Nov 222010

Have you seen any worthwhile rock on the tube of late? I’m really looking forward to the Lennon thing on PBS tonight, so much so that I’ll probably forget to watch it and/or DVR it. Feel free to send me a note reminding me of it later tonight, OK?

I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to see The Boss last week on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, right? I thought He was pleasantly charming, from His appearance as His younger self in a duet with Fallon as Neil Young through His time chatting with Fallon and then playing with The Roots, Little Steven, and Roy Bittan. His version of “Because the Night” made me appreciate, as always, His generosity in giving that song to Patti Smith, who made it something special.

This weekend Florence + The Machine appeared on Saturday Night Live. She/they were incredibly annoying, like Annie Lennox done by the tone-deaf Cher.  Not that I ever expect to, but I don’t get it. At least Lennox could carry a tune. The band’s use of a plus sign rather than an ampersand makes me wonder if there’s ever been a good band that used a plus sign.

Other than that I caught a Jimi Hendrix doc on Ovation centered around his Monterrey performance that never fails to amaze me, an interesting history of Da Blooz on the same cable network, and some episodes of the always-entertaining That Metal Show. What a genius format for presenting a genre of music that otherwise doesn’t interest me in the least!

Surely I’ve missed something else worthwhile. Do tell.

Sep 212010

“Saint John Lennon,” by Raphael Labro (courtesy of

Here’s a helpful new addition to the RTH Glossary, originally courtesy of Townsman pudman13, if short-term memory serves.

Based on the critical Teflon of its namesake, John, the Lennon Pass describes the point when an artist is granted a critical “lifetime pass” for accumulated subpar works based on the emotional/spiritual/humanitarian connection rock fans have with said artist’s landmark works and cultural influence. The Lennon Pass may be thought of as a form of rock ‘n roll sainthood.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with an artist getting the Lennon Pass. Even music fans who do not particularly care for said artist may admit that the pass is merited. The Clash – and Joe Strummer in particular – are a band frequently cited for getting the Lennon Pass. If she hadn’t done so with the surprising success of Easter, High Punk Priestess Patti Smith solidified her Lennon Pass when she returned from her 40 days and nights in Michigan, having established a family with Fred “Sonic” Smith only to lose him to cancer shortly thereafter.

Perceived martyrdom or any form of death, however, is not a requirement for the Lennon Pass – and I don’t mean to make light of these losses. Despite being a curmudgeonly, overweight artist who’s put out little of real interest in more than 30 years, Van Morrison holds the Pass. Bruce Springsteen is another frequently cited recipient; however, some non-believers go out of their way to question His worthiness. Heck, some rock nerds even go out of their way to tear down the works of Lennon himself.

In extreme circumstances the Pass, once granted, can be revoked. Lou Reed is an example of this, having finally had his Lennon Pass revoked after a career-full of failed attempts at spiting the Lennon Pass Committe when he started parading around with that new tai chi addiction.

Simply being an acknowledged Great Artist and/or wildly popular does not ensure the granting of the Pass. The Rolling Stones, for instance, lost all hope of receiving the pass once Mick Jagger crossed all lines of good taste by appearing on stage in football pants and Capezio slippers and then participating in the so-called “Rock Crime of the Century,” Ja-Bo. Despite their best efforts in the studio and across Third World nations, U2 have been unable to acquire the Lennon Pass.

Sep 072010

Prove it all night!

In a recent thread Townsman bostonhistorian referred to Bruce Springsteen as the “Golden Retriever of rock…Eager to please, tireless, good looking, and dumb as a post.” This is a keen observation. We may learn more about our rock legends by seeing them through the lens of the canine world. What breed of dog would you assign to the following artists, and why?

  • Bob Dylan
  • Paul McCartney
  • John Lennon
  • Patti Smith
  • Robert Smith
  • Bono
  • Paul Weller
  • Rick Buckler
  • Billy Gibbons
  • Prince
  • Jeff Lynne
  • Seger

Any other rockers as breeds of dog come to mind?

Aug 082010

Rock ‘n Roll Iwo Jima

On some as-yet-undetermined date in some as-yet-undetermined city (surely a United States city), Bruce Springsteen and His E Street Band struck the powerful, unifying, healing pose that’s come to be known through the Halls of Rock as Rock ‘n Roll Iwo Jima. This is a pose that had never before been perfected on stage, not by Seger, John Mellencamp, or U2. Today we will attempt to define this term for future generations of musicians, rock critics, and music lovers, and we will begin to trace its development.

Jul 282010

The Rock ‘n Roll Caterer takes five, in 1985!

Years ago, when my wife and I were first dating, we ran into one of my old musician friends on a street corner. His long hair and slacker Shaggy Rogers facade hid the fact that he was a gentle, thoughtful guy whose only vice was sweets. After continuing on our way, she said something like, “Band members have this reputation for being tough and cool, but whenever I meet them they’re usually the nicest people in the club.” From 1978 through the 1980s, Penny Rush-Valladares interacted with rock stars galore while running Backstage Cafe, a concert catering company in Kansas City, Missouri. In the process, Penny became a member of the Kansas City rock scene herself. From both the tales on her website, Rock and Roll Stories, and our conversations about her her experiences, it quickly became clear that Penny was among the many nice ones in the rock scene, super nice.

But this hard-working, rock ‘n roll-loving hippie (in the best sense of the term) isn’t beyond dishing more than her patented turkey dinners. In the course of our talk we gain some shocking insights about the likes of Roger Waters, Neil Diamond, and Bob Dylan – not to mention a story about Van Halen that’s more disgusting than I would have thought possible. A key detail about a diminutive purple presence in the ’80s rock scene explains so much, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. In the true spirit of the Halls of Rock, Penny brings a cheerful attitude, a bruised-but-not-beaten sense of idealism, and the willingness to let it all hang out. You won’t run into a Penny on any old street corner.

Penny’s website chronicles some of her earliest rock ‘n roll stories, including her night with The Beatles; we start with her entry into rock ‘n roll catering.

RTH: Can you summarize your work as a rock ‘n roll caterer? How did you get started as a caterer for touring musicians? You were initially based out of a certain venue, right?

Penny: Well, yes and no. I worked out of the Uptown Theatre in the beginning, helping another woman and learning the ropes. But it soon extended out into other venues. It was in its infant stages and we made it up as we went along. Basically we had to come up with a little dressing room food for the artists and some crew dinner for 20 or so guys. The reason I got involved was because I loved going to concerts and wanted to be backstage, so I soon realized there was a need for food and I knew that was something I could do.

It just kept evolving and demands from the artists kept getting more involved and official. A contract “rider” came along, which listed all the particular needs of each act and their food requirements were included. So it didn’t take long for me to start specializing in concert catering. I never wanted to do other kinds of catering, because I was only doing it to be backstage.

Jul 172010

There is one thing that bums me out the most about the legacy of The Clash: that the song “London Calling” is generally considered their anthem and stock song for modern-day artists to cover.

It’s not that I don’t like the song “London Calling”; it’s a keeper, but I consider it most valuable as a set up for what follows on the band’s breakthrough album by the same name. I also consider it a song that only The Clash have the right to play. Of course, maybe that’s why the song has taken such a high place in the band’s legacy, but musically the song leaves me wanting a lot more that I typically expect from a Clash song. If I could erase one thing from The Clash’s legacy it would be this song as the go-to song for artists like The Boss to cover. If a blowhard like The Boss (with or without Elvis Costello, a blowhard I love) must cover a Clash song, I wish it could have been a song with a little more to it, like “Death or Glory.”

How about you, what would you most like to see wiped clean from the legacy of a favorite artist?


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