Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What we need is awareness, we can't get careless

No time for a real post tonight, so I'm just going to point you to an exceptional article from the New York Times this week, about the legendary Clyde Stubblefield's crusade for royalties for the countless hits on which he's been sampled over the years.

(try and diagram that sentence for me, will you?)

Now, if you're looking for me to write a post that attempts to invalidate hip-hop as an art form for its frequent reliance on sampling, you've come to the wrong place. I think sampling can be pretty fucking artistic, in fact. And, no, I'm not talking about that garbage Puff Daddy was doing ten years ago.

I'm talking about my roommate and I -- both suburban white kids -- staring at each other in the living room of our college apartment upon our first listen to "The Chronic" and "The Predator", wondering where the hell Dre and Ice Cube had dug up those ridiculously obscure ( us) hooks and horn lines.

I'm talking about realizing for the first time that the fanfare introducing "Jump Around" was lifted off of "Harlem Shuffle".

I'm talking about the fact that I intimately know every single funky-ass drum fill to "Bust A Move", but don't actually know the first line to the song.

At root, I'm talking about the exuberance of being turned on to totally new music when a familiar artist delivers it to you in a new package. Ultimately, that is the beauty of sampling.

Some are apt to discredit Stubblefield because, well......because he's a drummer. And drummers rarely get songwriting credits. Hell, you ask even the mighty Hal Blaine how much he got paid for doing the tracks for "I've Got You Babe" or "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" or "Help Me, Rhonda" or "Age of Aquarius", and I'm willing to bet you the bottle of Guinness in front of me that he received not much more than his day rate.

But things should be different for rap and hip hop. Because unlike rock and roll with all its pretty guitar players, hip-hop has few - if any at all - of the distractions that prevent the listener from recognizing the core essence of this music is about the beat and how the MC's meter works around it.

Anyway, by now you know where I stand: when one artist has constructed such an overwhelming number of those beats, it's just plain wrong for him not to receive a writing credit or royalty or some sort of formal recognition for being the source artist (...and heaven forbid that the estate of James Brown lays some claim to any available cash, because God knows that bastard loved nothing more than docking his musician's pay).

Ok.....I think I was going to try and keep it short tonight, and now that I've brought up my feelings about James Brown, this post is absolutely on the verge of unraveling. Next thing you know I'll be on that asshole, Ray Charles.

Give the article a read and weigh in.

Monday, March 7, 2011

So Please Don't Ask Me Why I Love You.....

So.... Blabbermouth is reporting that Poison and Motley Crue are touring together. And this has the seventy or so remaining fans of 80's hair bands in a gigantic uproar, presumably because Poison are "poseurs" and the Crue are "rock".

Or something like that.

I couldn't really care less. I've seen the Crue twice, and I admit it was an awful lot of fun both times. But those guys are charades of the hedonists who wrote "Looks that Kill" and "Live Wire" thirty fucking years ago, and the more they try to flex their muscles and reclaim any credibility associated with that era, the sadder it makes me.

I'm relieved to say that I never saw Poison live, but I'd be lying if I said that I didn't like the majority of their singles. (What can you say? Most of their catalog is straight off the pages of the Cheap Trick songbook, and that formula happens to work.).

I am bummed, however, to learn that the New York Dolls are touring with them. I shouldn't be, but I am.

The Dolls are something special for me. My introduction to the band by way of a roommate happened to coincide with the era at which I began to play in a band of my own, and when I finally was beginning to embrace punk rock. I was already a devotee of the Rolling Stones and I had gone though a hair metal phase, so they were, in so many respects, a missing link for my musical tastes.

There were nights and nights and nights my musician friends and I lost in the living room of our dilapidated old Maryland farmhouse, jamming to "Trash" and "Personality Crisis" and "Give Him a Great Big Kiss" (the last of which I danced to with my godmother at my wedding this past weekend). These are some of my happiest memories.

During that same era, I picked up a copy of Johnny Thunders' stunningly tender "Hurt Me" album, a CD that provided much of the soundtrack to a terribly sad period of time that I was entering into just about ten years ago. As much of a gem as I find that disc to be, I can't say that I listen to it very often anymore. I guess that it just dregs up too many sad memories - particularly the title track, which just breaks my heart to this day.

So, yes, the Dolls are special to me.

I admit that I was cynical to their decision to re-form so many years after Jerry Nolan and Mr. Thunders had passed away - although less so after viewing the marvelous "New York Doll" documentary, which chronicles this reunion through the delicate eyes of Arthur Kane.

I also admit that I had a doubly-sour taste in my mouth when I learned that the band would continue the touring even after Mr. Kane himself passed away shortly after the reunion. (Yet, this somehow did not dissuade me from seeing the band with this new line-up not once, but twice. I guess I'm selfish like that.)

But touring with the Crue and Poison is just the goofiest goddamned thing I can think of. As bad-ass as Motley Crue may have seemed to me when I was all of 11 years old, I'm not sure they were ever as threatening as the transvestites adorning the Doll's first album - appearing so deviant, and bored and truly subversive. The Crue looked like characters from a movie; the Dolls looked like real, live sex workers. Touring with those guys, at any age, would seem to be a diminishment of that highly-effective image.

Poison, meanwhile, launched their entire careers off of a debut single which was, for all intents and purposes, "Personality Crisis", and (to the best of my knowledge) they never bothered to give the Dolls props for it. For that reason alone, I completely shun Poison and this tour.

But what this really proves is that at the end of the day, none of them are any better than the others. Punk is no more noble than metal. Metal is no more noble than hard rock. Hard rock is no more noble than glam.

They're all pretty much the same. In the words of fellow New York punks, the Dictators:

"What's it all about? Pussy and money.
I'm not trying to be cute, I'm not trying to be funny
Everybody lies about pussy and money
It's always going to be that way."