Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Harry Belafonte is an American Hero

*** this is a very rare cross post from my main writing site

I have written a bit about Harry Belafonte over the years, but not nearly enough. I am afraid his magnitude may not be appreciated until after he is dead. Harry Belafonte is a great man. You know him as the banana boat guy. There is so much more music. He invented his own sound and style. Think of it, who else sings those happy reggae-ish calypso type catchy tunes? What the hell is calypso? I have no idea, as I hadn’t heard of it before Harry Belafonte. In fact, like Hunter Thompson and ‘Gonzo Journalism’, I am not sure it existed before Harry. There is nothing like it. As I said, you know the banana boat song (god, I hope so) but here are a few more. Yeah, he did ok with music. He was the first artist in history to sell a million records. Read that again. It wasn’t the Beatles, or Michael Jackson, or Nickelback, or Elvis.

Mr. Belafonte has also done so much more for humanity that transcends his music. You love Martin Luther King, right? Yes, we all do. What did you do, though? I mean, not just liking the guy or throwing up a quote to your facebook wall on Feb 1… but what have you personally done about racial segregation in the United States? Right. Me neither. Well, I did write this… but I am no Harry Belafonte. Oh, and I am not waiting until February to acknowledge black history. Here at I am Correct, every month is black history month, crackers! I digress, back to the story.

MLK famously wrote a book called ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’. MLK got arrested, a lot. That is kinda the deal with civil disobedience. Harry Belafonte was the guy who bailed him out every time. That is putting a target on your head. When MLK was locked up in the deep south, he was the most hated man in the country to those folks. In walks Harry and hands them the cash to set him free. That is balls of steel.

Oh, then he discovered Bob Dylan and gave him his first job. When Bob Dylan moved to New York in 1961, it was Harry who gave him his first job. Bob was Harry’s harmonica player. Are you thinking “how is that possible? Dylan is a terrible harmonica player?” You should be, it’s true. I don’t know what Harry saw in Dylan, but we owe him huge thanks for keeping Dylan afloat as he discovered his thing.

Am I going to tell you that Harry Belafonte also invented electricity, and puppies, too? Well, I can’t prove he didn’t.
Each and every one of you has the power, the will and the capacity to make a difference in the world in which you live in. … You should go through life knowing, "I am somebody."
Who said that? Mandela? MLK? Ghandi? Chad Kroeger? Nope, it was our boy Harry. How about this gem from Maya Angelou Harry Belafonte?
You can cage the singer but not the song.
He is still alive and recording and writing and generally being the great fucking human that he is. I am not claiming that Harry isn’t being recognized by society. Thankfully, he very much is. Just this week he is being honored by Harvard. Last year he was honored by the Kennedy Center. It’s a big deal there. I am not sure what they do, or what it means, but the president shows up. So, it’s a big deal.

So, the intellectual elite know all about him. I am not telling them the virtues of Harry Belafonte, I am telling you. Like you, I wasn’t invited to either event. They love Harry, whoever ‘they’ are. I just wanna make sure you do, too. Lastly, he is also impossibly charming. Here is from a year or two ago on the Colbert Report. I would embed it below, but it got pulled from youtube. So, here is a link from Colbert’s official (and very cool) site. Stay for the whole thing. At the 8:30 mark into the interview, they (Colbert and Belafonte) sing together. It’s pretty terrific.

I just found a biopic on Harry here. Can’t say how good it is, never seen it. Truth be told, I didn’t know it existed until 4 minutes ago. I am going to stream it now, it’s $3.

Thank you, Harry Belafonte.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Courtney Love - what to do

I like Courtney Love.  I love how she sings, and love her songs.  I love her bravado.  I love her hot body (link nsfw).  I love that she is still standing. I love that she never apologizes.  I love that she will get naked at the drop of a hat.  I defend her every chance I get.  She gets an unfair TON of shit.  Every time something happens the world jumps on her for being 'skanky' or 'no talent' or 'coattail riding' etc etc.  Yes, Courtney Love is an asshole.  Guess what, she is a rock star.  You forgive Axl, and Mick.  You forgave John Lennon.  John Lennon was a HUGE asshole.  He was a colossal prick who personally broke up the Beatles because he was insecure that Paul's songwriting was better (and it was).  John Lennon put a cigarette out on a Picasso at the Playboy mansion.  (editors note to self:  it was a Matisse)

I admit there is a double standard for women we can't shake.  For example, I keep saying she is being unfairly judged because she is a woman.  If you were to log all her antics and compare them with any other great rock star and take out the gender identifiers... she would pale to most great male rock stars.  So, I castigate you for being shallow.  Yet, I freely admit  a BIG part of why I love Courtney is because I have a crush on her crazy ass.

But then, I have to think of all she has done.  To me, it IS a big deal if someone is an asshole, even if they are a rock star.  It's not a dis-qualifier for me, but I take notice.  I think how Kurt once famously wore a brilliant t shirt on the cover of Rolling Stone that said "Corporate Magazines Still Suck".  Yet, after Kurt died, Courtney sold his diaries and had excepts published in Time.  This is pretty much everything Kurt was against, and she knew that on every level.

This was tough to forgive.  Then, we look at her masterpiece album, Celebrity Skin.  That is an excellent rock album on absolutely every level.  It's catchy, it's deep, it's heavy, it's angry.  It's great!  Look very closely.  Wait, don't bother.  You don't even know where to look, I will look for you.  Courtney didn't write those songs.  Billy Corgan and her guitarist (Eric Erlandson) wrote it.  You should know that Billy and Courtney were  BIG item long ago. Lived together, and actually went to court to fight over a cat when she moved out.

Then, she went gonzo against Dave Grohl.  Sadly, through Kurt's demise and will, Courtney became the primary stakeholder in the Nirvana catalogue.  This meant the two remaning guys couldn't do ANYTHING Nirvana related without going through Courtney.  Stuff like box sets, retrospectives, remasters... all had to go through Court.  Dave Grohl is a god among men.  If you hate Dave Grohl; you hate puppies,  rainbows, and free cocaine.  So, just to be a dick to Dave Grohl (which she has now openly admitted) she blocked any and all Nirvana projects.  That is why Sublime put out 10 records after Bradley died and Nirvana did one.

See, she didn't need the money.  That is past tense.  She just two weeks ago admitted she blew through 27 million dollars of 'Nirvana money'.  Her words, not mine.
“I know that’s a lifetime of money to most people,” she said to Sunday Style last weekend. “But I’m a big girl, it’s rock ‘n’ roll, it’s Nirvana money, I had to let it go.”
You know the old parable about 'first, they came for the jews... I did nothing.  It didn't impact me.  Then, they came for the old and infirm.  I did nothing.... etc etc.  Well, it has come down to this.  Very recently, a recording engineer released some interesting Hole tapes.  He was hired to do live sound at this venue (so his work was specific to the venue, not the band.  That might be pertinent to know, I am not sure).  Now, we know she consistently inconsistent on stage. She rambles a lot, forgets all the words, and storms off stage more than Axl Rose and Axl Rose combined!

Take a look at this photo

That woman on stage is Courtney's assistant.  Let's call her 'fuckface who is in the goddamn way.'  This gal was on stage filming the show from her iPhone for the ENTIRE show.  That is beyond weird, it is selfish and disrespectful to the audience.  You paid $40 to see her assistant stand front and center all night.  At that show, she was better remembered for not finishing a single song.

Yet... she can perform on rare occasion.  Also, on rare occasion, the excellent songs get a chance to shine... as witnessed here.  This is this a full show on Youtube.  It is pro shot and pro sound, and she is topless the second half of the show. It is a great performance overall, and a rare moment for Courtney.  Here, I will embed it below because it is such an overall great performance for her.  I show you this to be even handed.  I have always been a fan of hers, though she makes it so goddamn tough.  Note, after the 1 hour mark, note she is topless.  That is rock and roll.

So, why did I tell you about the recording engineer guy.  Well, one of the shows he recorded at that venue was Hole.  He never got paid for his work, so he kept his masters.  This guy was an audio recording engineer, which means he was plugged straight into the board.  It means he can isolate tracks.  So, he did that with the Hole show.  The results are below, and it's bad.  Really, really bad.

Now, generally speaking, I love isolated audio tracks.  I think they are man from heaven.  Here is an example.  Listen to this - its David Lee Roth doing his audio for 'running with the devil'.  It's powerful.  You can literally hear his confidence and charisma through his voice.

So, what am I with?  She can't sing well, can't remember her own songs, can't write her own songs, worked aggressively to destroy Nirvana's legacy post Cobain suicide.  She freely admits not only that she lost 27 million bucks, but casually dismisses it as not her money, anyway.  "Whatever, it's gone.  It was just Nirvana money.'  Tell that to Grohl and Noveselic's wife and children that it was no biggie you not only hoarked their money, but then you blew.  and you didn't feel bad about it.

I just can't defend her anymore.  Not sure I should.  Oh, and before you comment with something stupid like 'good riddance to her, she is a no talent assclown' - work to prove your point, please.  Agree or disagree, I love either if there is some intelligence and thoughtfulness to it.

Ok, Courtney.  You are on your own now.  Go marry Scott Weiland and leave us all alone.

*** oh, one last thing.  I watched this clip a few times as I was preparing this piece and I found something even MORE lame than her inability to play a single chord.  At exactly the 1 minute mark you see two guitarists on stage.  Neither is the other guitarist, Eric Erlandson.  So, when playing live, they needed FOUR guitarist to play simple power chord rock

*** did I just compare Courtney Love to both German death squads and John Lennon?  You bet your ass I did. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Bob Weir - live solo acoustic

Bob Weir is the guy from the Grateful Dead who wasn't Jerry Garcia.  You know him, and his voice.  He did 'Truckin', their biggest hit aside from 'Touch of Grey'.  Bob has been with Garcia and the Dead since he was 16.  He has also spent virtually all that time overshadowed by Jerry... in every possible sense.

For example, I have tons and tons of Grateful Dead live shows: bootlegs, dvd's, official releases - the works.  On almost every one, it is impossible to hear Bobby's guitar.  Even when Bobby sings (which is 50% of the time, that is why its sad how marginalized he's become).  It was easy to marginalize him, we thought.  He didn't seem like a great talent on guitar, and not nearly as enigmatic as Jerry.  I knew Bobby was good, though.  I saw him about 20 years ago do a live acoustic show with Rob Wasserman.  It was terrific.  He did stripped down versions of a lot of his hits.

I never thought Bobby was great, though.  That was until recently.  A few years ago, he started an online recording studio, TRI studios.  He does songs with friends, in really high def quality, and gets the chance to shine.  Watch this:  holy shit.  Bobby is amazing, and I nevet knew it.  He really is a good guitar player.  It is tough when you sit next to Jerry for 40 years.  I regard Jerry Garcia as unquestionably the best guitarist in all of rock.  I put him higher than Hendrix, Stevie Ray.

Jerry has been gone for almost 20 years now.  So, we have had to lean on Bobby, and Bobby has delivered in every way.  Everyone left in the Grateful Dead continued to tour after Jerry passed.  They have been in many difference incarnations, and rarely have all the survivors played together.  Also, they wisely forever dropped the moniker 'Grateful Dead' after Jerry passed.  Here are just a few bands off the top of my head that have spawned in the wake of Jerry's passing:  ratdog, futhur, the Dead, Phil and friends, 7 walkers, scaring the children...

Back to Bobby.  Bobby joined the band when he was 16.  Bobby is 66 now.  He has spent his entire life in the Grateful Dead family.  Bobby is always on tour, generally with 2 or 3 different bands.  Last year, he did a solo acoustic tour... which is pretty much all I have been waiting for.  I find nothing on earth better than a talented musician alone with an acoustic guitar.  Example - I got to see Elton John do a solo show.  Just him and a piano.  It was probably the best concert I have ever been to.  It is also something Elton John does not ever do, for some reason.  On the other hand, if you gave me free tickets to see Elton John with an entire orchestra (which is how he tours) I wouldn't be interested.  Another example - Dave Matthews band is great.  Dave Matthews solo acoustic is transcendent and amazing and life affirming.  I am lucky enough to have seen him many times like this.

So, Bobby Weir sitting on stage by himself with an acoustic doing all his Dead hits is the best thing on Earth.  In fact, a year before this I actually reached out to his production company and offered to book and promote Bobby doing a solo show.  He had been doing many one off nights as a solo act, but never a proper tour.  I wasn't sure how good it would be, though.  Like I said, he isn't known as a great anything.  He was great. He was amazing. he was also chatty, and funny, and engaging.  Yes, Bobby talks.  No doy, you say.  Here is the thing, though; the Grateful Dead NEVER EVER spoke on stage.  Not a single word, not ever.  There was no 'it's great to be here in Denver', or 'this next one is a classic'.  Nothing.  Not ever a word.  It appears that was a Jerry Garcia rule of sorts, because both Bob and Phil are chatty bastards.  Of course, you would be too after 40 years of being pent up on stage.

I got to see him play a nice and small venue - Paramount Theater - in downtown Denver, CO.  We also had great seats.  I am used to seeing the boys in a football stadium.  Or, of course, Red Rocks.  Seeing Bobby up close in this small venue felt more like hanging out in his living room.  It was intimate, and Bobby worked hard to make it so.

I was also curious as to how a Dead song would hold up on a single instrument.  See, there are a zillion members of the Dead.  They even had 2 drummers.  So how would Bobby do?  What would Bobby do?  I got to see he is a hell of a guitar player, and a very unique style.

He opened with awesome 'Music Never Stopped'.  This is such a great song.  I mean, look at this lyric, it tells you everything.  "the sun went down in honey.  The moon came up in wine".  Aw heck, just watch this.

The night was amazing.  He looked and sounded amazing.  His song choice was terrific.  Like Jerry's solo shows, half the set was Dylan songs.  This is always fine by me.

Like Dead shows, there was no set list.  That is something unique to the Grateful Dead... no set list.  I know virtually everything about music, and I can tell you there is NO band who doesn't do a setlist.  Now, some bands will do a setlist the day of the show (like Pearl Jam).  Most bands, though, do the exact same set from night to night.  This is for practical reasons, like lighting cues and guitar changes.  The Dead, though (like Bobby and Jerry solo) make up the setlist as the show goes on.  So, note, two pieces are unique to the Grateful Dead and it's members subsequent tours:  no setlist, and a different show every night.  This was practical for the Dead, as fans follow the band from city.  No one wants to go on tour and here the same songs.  So, this way...  not only do you not know what songs are coming up... neither does the band.

Like Phil, we took Bob for granted.  We gave all our love and focus and energy to Jerry.  It was easy to do, I assure you.  Only when we lost Jerry did we stop to appreciate the others, and their musicianship and contributions.  Recently, Bobby canceled all of his remaining dates for 2014for health reasons.  This scares me, since Bobby has never canceled a tour in 50 years.  If you get the chance, go see Bobby.  Ideally, if you can, see Bobby and Phil together.  God, between Dead shows and their offshoot bands, I have probably seen them together between 30 and 40 times.  Problem is, they are getting old and slowing down.  Phil isn't really touring anymore, understandably.  He's in his 70's and has been living in a tour bus for 50 years.  With Bob's recent health scare, who knows what the future holds.

Let me tell you, though; these guys have absolutely gotten better with age.  Most musicians get better with age.  Except... singers generally lose their higher range.  Well, Bobby sounds exactly the same as when I started chasing the band back in 1989.  Dig this, I lucked out.  My first Grateful Dead show was filmed at released.  I was at this show.  Also, quite awesomely, some of these Bobby solo shows are for sale.  I highly recommend getting one.  Actually, get as many as you can.  As I mentioned, the songs changed from night to night.