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Shelly Peiken Talks Politics

Shelly Peiken, author of Confessions of a Serial Songwriter, has weighed in on tomorrow’s presidential election on her blog. She titles it ‘Eeny, Meeny, Miny-Moe.’ Check out the excerpt below:


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I don’t post about politics. I’d much rather stick to musical musings. But I keep writing about thissong and that session while chaotic un-presidented (not a typo) pre-election activities are in my face 24/7. I feel like I’m ignoring the elephant (and the donkey) in the room. So here goes…

I’ve always been a registered Independent. I pride myself on straddling the middle…reserving my options. (I also drive a convertible but rarely put the top down—shame on me—but when I do, I love it and I’m happy to have the choice.)

There’s a lot of unrest in this country. Voices haven’t been heard—voices that fear they still won’t be heard if we stay within the boundaries of established politicians, even if they are “qualified.” Nobody wants a dynasty.

Then again, to have someone who isn’t the most suitable change agent promise change, is also cause for dismay.

There’s no turning back now, however. We all knew about her privacy and his audacity when we voted in the primaries. We made our beds and here we are. I’ve unfollowed friends on Facebook to shield myself from the vitriol and sarcasm. I hope we learn from the toxicity and perhaps there’ll be a silver lining to all this madness in the future.


 

Read the full blog post here.


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Confessions of a Serial Songwriter is an amusing and poignant memoir about songwriter Shelly Peiken’s journey from young girl falling under the spell of magical songs to working professional songwriter writing hits of her own. It’s about growing up, the creative process – the highs and the lows, the conflicts that arise between motherhood and career success, the divas and schemers, but also the talented and remarkable people she’s found along the way. It’s filled with stories and step-by-step advice about the songwriting process, especially collaboration. And it’s about the challenge of staying relevant in a rapidly changing and youth-driven world

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John Kenneth Muir discusses The X-Files

Author of The X-Files FAQ, John Kenneth Muir, has reviewed the first episode of the television show The X-Files! Read below to see what he had to say.


00124644After far too long an absence from television, Chris Carter’s The X-Files (1993-2002) returned to television on Monday night with an episode titled, cannily, “My Struggle.”

That title — not coincidentally, I presume — is also the translated-to-English title of Adolf Hitler’s 1925 literary autobiography, Mein Kampf.

That historical fact may prove the key to understanding better this new starting point for the series.

When we consider Hitler and his particular “struggle,” we think immediately of genocide, totalitarianism, and fascism.

We think of a man who destroyed both individual freedom, and the lives of millions of innocent people. That autobiography, written in a jail cell, laid out one man’s mad dream essentially, for Germany and the world.

Unfortunately, Hitler made much of that mad dream a reality before his death.

And if viewers and critics believe that this new X-Files series doesn’t address those very same issues, they aren’t paying close enough attention.

The title should cue them in.

Specifically, our old friends Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dr. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) — now estranged — are informed of a terrifying conspiracy by an Internet celebrity and fear peddler: Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale). 

Think Alex Jones meets Glenn Beck, only better dressed.

O’Malley’s story of an “evil” conspiracy in “My Struggle” involves the invasion of America, illicit scientific experiments on American citizens, and the vast expansion of a totalitarian state. 

In other words, the tale concerns a 21st century threat to our freedom not entirely unlike the threat to Germany (and later the Allies) in the 1930s and 1940s.

I have often written of Carter’s powerful sense of anticipatory anxiety in relation to The X-Files, Millennium (1993-1996) and Harsh Realm (1999-2000). In the nineties, he feared that the Clinton Era of Peace and Prosperity couldn’t last. We were so distracted by the Economic Boom created by the Internet that many of us weren’t paying attention to the larger world.

And Carter was right, of course. The Age of Peace and Prosperity — the Roaring Nineties,if you will — came to a crashing end on 9/11/2001.

Read his review in its entirety here.


John Kenneth Muir was also interviewed by Geek Chic Elite. The interview is available below!

 

With twenty five reference books to his credit, author John Kenneth Muir’s latest release is called THE X-FILES FAQ, which explores the 1990’s series that aired on Fox for nine seasons. Recently, we had a chance to talk to John about the new book, the legacy of creator Chris Carter and what his thoughts were on the six part X-Files ‘event’ series.

Were you always interested in writing and how did you move into the world of literary critic?

Well, I began my career as a literary critic, I think it was when I was five years old. My parents had the knowledge or foresight to sit me down in front of a British science fiction series called Space: 1999 and the episode I watched was called ‘Dragon’s Domain’ and it was about the people in the year 1999 encountering this horrible tentacle monster that would suck people into its mouth and spit out steaming bones. I was five years old and this just sort of struck me, the idea of these people of the future, because then of course 1999 was the distance future as this was 1975, I thought the people of the distant future and all of their technology but they’re encountering a monster. It was like science fiction meets horror, high tech meets gothic, it just obsessed me and it started the next decade I guess, in the eighties, I read all of these things about shows that I love like The Outer Limits, Star Trek, Twilight Zone and no one had written a book about Space: 1999 and I thought one of these days I’m going to write a book about this show and the values it had as this sort of gothic show. So I went to college, I studied in film, I had a concentration of film studies and so I kind of learned the language of film through that and then I thought, but what if I could analyze Space: 1999 through film studies techniques and boom, I had my first book. By 1994 I guess I was twenty five, I had a contract for my first book about Space: 1999 using my film study background and I been doing it now for twenty years about other topics I love.

Read more here

Important things to do before shooting a music video!

Steve Gordon, author of The Future of the Music Business, gave a few tips on Digital Music News regarding the legal ins-and-outs of producing a music video. He also gives a brief history of music video followed by a survey of how successful artists have used and continue to use them to launch their careers. Click on the link below to read the entire article!


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1. Before Music Videos

Audiovisual presentations of music have existed since the first motion pictures containing sound.  In fact, the first Hollywood “talkie,” released in 1927, was a musical featuring Al Jolson called “The Jazz Singer.”  Before the invention of the video cameras, there were many musical short films featuring the performance of single songs, such as Frank Sinatra’s patriotic “The House I Live In (That’s America To Me).”

These films were sometimes shown before main features at movie theatres.  In the 1960’s, artists like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles started to make short form films of individual songs to promote their albums.  The dawn of what we think of as music videos began in the 1970’s.  For example, in 1975, Queen commissioned the production of a video for their new single, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” to show on Top of the Pops, a popular British TV show showcasing the week’s top hit songs.   In the U.S., Video Concert Hall, launched on November 1, 1979, was the first nationwide video music program on American television, predating MTV by almost three years.

2.  MTV and the Birth of the Era of Music Videos on Television

In 1981, MTV launched by airing “Video Killed the Radio Star,” and this began an era of 24-hour-a-day music videos on television.  The founders of MTV, including Robert Pitman (current chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia, Inc. (formerly Clear Channel)), convinced record labels to produce more videos and to give them to MTV for free, just as they gave free records to radio stations.  The pitch was that the videos would promote the labels’ records and increase sales.  The only money MTV paid the labels was a relatively small fee to secure exclusive rights to play select videos for a limited period of time.

For instance, MTV paid Sony Music $4 million a year for such rights.  By the mid-1980s, MTV grew to play a central role in marketing pop and rock music.  Many important acts of this period, most notably Madonna, Aerosmith, The Who, Phil Collins, John Mellencamp, Phil Collins and Billy Idol, owe a great deal of their success to the seductive appeal of their videos.  After years of controversy regarding the lack of diversity among artists on the network, MTV aired Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” “Thriller” and other videos, which helped Jackson become the best-selling pop artist of all time.

But by the late 90’s, MTV sharply decreased the number of videos it showed on its airways.  Former MTV president Van Toeffler explained: “Clearly, the novelty of just showing music videos has worn off.  It’s required us to reinvent ourselves to a contemporary audience.”  A decade later, MTV was playing an average of just three hours of music videos per day, preferring cartoons such Beavis and Butt-Head and, later, unscripted reality shows such as Jersey Shore.

MTV continued to play some music videos instead of relegating them exclusively to its sister channels (such as MTV Hits), but around this time, the channel began to air music videos only in the early morning hours and in Total Request Live or TRL, which aired the ten most requested music videos of the day, as voted by viewers via phone or online.  As a result of these programming changes, Justin Timberlake implored MTV to “play more damn videos!” while giving an acceptance speech at the 2007 Video Music Awards.  Despite the challenge from Timberlake, MTV continued to decrease its total rotation time for music videos in 2007 and shut down TRL in 2008.


Click here to read the article in its entirety!

A Rush FAQ Excerpt

Backbeat Books presents the latest in the FAQ series: Rush FAQ! This book will tell the reader everything there is left to know about the world’s greatest rock trio. Despite the band’s overwhelming success, however, many music fans seem to be barely familiar with the Canadian trio’s existence. In the first chapter, therefore, author Max Mobley attempts to answer the question: Who the hell is Rush anyway?

 

Loud and Polite

How Three Nice Kids Learned to Rock Big and Loud

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Who the hell is Rush, anyway? They’ve been described as the world’s most famous Canadian prog-rock power trio of all time. But then, name the second-most famous Canadian prog rock power trio of all time. No doubt the name Triumph comes to mind for a handful of music fans—okay then, name a third.

Rush is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but the band is hardly a household name by the standards of popular music. They may be known in pop culture, but mostly as a joke, thanks to The Colbert Report or the hit comedy I Love You, Man, or maybe in reference to one of a dozen FM classic rock staples, or even the game Guitar Hero. In fact, their level of fame is actually at odds with their level of success, as told by the following stats. They have sold well over 43 million records worldwide—over 25 million in the US alone. Only the Beatles and the Rolling Stones have more gold and platinum records than Rush, who have an astounding twenty-four gold records and seventeen platinum (including three multi-platinum) records earned over their forty-plus-year career. They have played nearly two thousand concerts in North America alone, most at sellout or near-sellout capacity. Not bad for a band far from the mainstream.

And yet, if, ten years ago, you asked most Americans to name a popular artist who hails from Canada, they’d probably offer names like Alanis Morissette or Celine Dion, or if older than fifty, Gordon Lightfoot or Anne Murray. A few musos may have offered the name Neil Young, who hails from Toronto, although he has lived in Northern California for so long he is considered a California native by many Americans.

Pose the same question to Americans today and you’ll likely get the same names, plus Justin Beiber. The point is, it’s unlikely anyone will mention Rush’s three members (and proud Canadians): bassist, vocalist, keyboardist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer Neil Peart, unless, of course, the person you are asking happens to be wearing a Rush concert T-shirt.

Rush is perhaps the modern world’s most successful enigma, and certainly the world’s most popular cult band. Their Canadian roots, which they proudly cling to much the way U2 remains stubbornly rooted in Ireland, is part of the reason.

For many fans of rock and roll, Rush is as much a mystery as the territories between British Columbia and Ontario (i.e., the bulk of Canada). Their music is fiercely original and defiantly anti-pop (really, anti-categorization, for that matter). It often takes even Rush fans a few listens to fully get all that is looming and lurking inside one of the band’s highly arranged tunes. The rhythm section (Lee and Peart) is considered one of rock’s best, and it’s often one of rock’s busiest, yet they strive to make it all work—and it works like nothing else in rock and roll. Guitarist Alex Lifeson has the rare ability among guitarists to play only what the song needs—no more, no less. He is revered among well-known guitar heroes, and yet hardly a household name. The three men of Rush are sponges when it comes to absorbing musical and technological trends, and yet they are fanatical about serving their own muse, always insistent on following the noble equation: art over commerce. The band also invented another equation; let’s call it the Rush equation: Bigger = Better. And by any measure, not just the aforementioned stats, Rush is big indeed—in musicianship, in songwriting, in performance, in substance, and as an influence.

With one well-known exception (among Rush fans), Rush songs are not about sex or drugs, but fantasy realms, dystopian futures, steampunk adventure, and more often than not, the hopes and fears of humanity at its noble best and self-destructive worst. The band members are not handsome enough to be on the cover of their own albums (not that they’d want their mugs featured anyway), nor are they ugly enough to be considered outlaw-cool, like a Ramone or a Sex Pistol. Lee, Lifeson, and Peart are the ultimate anti-heroes and anti-rock star muso nerds. For anyone keeping score, in rock and roll, the difference between a true anti-hero and a quasi-anti-hero is that most true anti-heroes never end up on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

Rush never sought fame or fortune, they just wanted to play their interpreta- tion of rock and roll the best they can on bass, guitar, and drums, and then go home and be exceedingly normal. They don’t need fans; they need the music. But since they have fans—a devout and faithful legion millions strong—they insist on taking good care of them by playing three-hour concerts, sometimes fifty or more in a year, and offering loads of content and special features on their albums and DVDs.

Despite Rush’s considerable financial success (thanks to one of the most loyal fan bases in all of music), they have never ever taken for granted what they get to do for a living. The band’s work ethic has as much to do with their success and fan base as does their talent. That is at the core of their body of work—over forty years of touring, twenty studio albums, twelve live albums, nine live DVDs, and, thankfully, there is no end in sight.

Not bad for three tragically unhip kids from suburban Toronto.

Like Liverpool to the Beatles, Dublin to U2, Southern California to the Beach Boys, and countless other examples, Rush’s homeland and their family ties have played a huge role in who they are and how they seized the day.

 

Still Peakin’ at the Beacon

On June 1st, the legendary Allman Brothers Band officially announced their final tour dates, ending a 45 year long career. They will performing, of course, at the Beacon Theatre, their traditional New York City home. ABB has been tearing up the Beacon for decades now, including a powerful bout of performances celebrating their 35 year anniversary. Author Randy Poe reminisces about the profundity of these performances in his book Skydog: The Duane Allman story. Enjoy the excerpt below!

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Still Peakin’ at the Beacon

One night at the Beacon I looked down and realized, I was the only one left on the front line.” – Gregg Allman

It’s a Friday night in New York City. In the tradition of more than 150 previous Allman Brothers Band shows at the Beacon Theater, the joint is packed tighter than a subway car at rush hour. This is a ritual that shows absolutely no signs of losing its decade-and-a-half-long head of steam. Throughout the week, the band has been giving the crowd exactly what they’ve come for: exemplary musicianship, a light show straight out of another era, an impressive array of guest musicians sitting in night after night, and classic songs from the Allman Brothers Band’s 35 year career. In fact, on this night – March 26, 2004 – the band and audience are celebrating exactly 35 years of Allman Brohters history. the first half of the show includes plenty of old chestnuts – “Statesboro Blues”, “Can’t Lose What You Never Had”, “One Way Out” (with guest guitarist Lee Roy Parnell sharing slide duties with Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes) – as well as “Rockin’ Horse” and the heart-wrenching  “Old Before My Time”, both from Hittin’ the Note, the band’s well-received album of the previous year. As if that weren’t powerful enough, after the intermission there is a seismic shift upward in the energy level as the band opens the second set with “Mountain Jam.” All of us behind the stage – “grizzled road warriors, music industry veterans, various ABB family members, assorted friends and associates – are struck by the stepped-up intensity. The backstage chatter stops. We inch forward, ignoring the white stripes painted on the floor that both the fire marshal and tour manager Kirk West have already pointed out as the line not to be crossed under any circumstances (excluding, presumably, fire.). The “Mountain Jam” drum solo has begun. The other band members drift offstage. Whether or not he’s conscious of the anniversary date at this moment, Jaimoe has figuratively caught fire. The years fall away as the trade-offs between Jaimoe and Butch seem to conjure the same magic they had at the Fillmore East more than three decades ago. The only difference is the adddition of Marc Quinones on percussion, bringing congas, timbales, and cymbal crashes into the mix. After the drummers have done their thing, the rest of the band returns to the stage – but instead of resuming “Mountain Jam” they segue into “I Walk on Gilded Splinters.” The song was originally written and recorded by Dr. John, but the version that comes to my mind tonight is Johnny Jenkins’s 1970 rendition with Duane Allman on dobro. Duane stays on my mind as Gregg Allman begins to sing “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More”, the song he wrote immediately after his brother’s death. The historic night ends with encores of the Otis Redding ballad “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember” and “Southbound” from Brothers and Sisters – the first Allman Brothers album without Duane. Watching the band walk past me as they head offstage and into the night, I wonder if the set list for the second half of the show was intended as a tribute to Duane Allman, or if it was simply a selection of great songs that worked well together in that sequence. I also think back to the show of three nights earlier and a rather unsettling moment that has stuck in my head. At the Tuesday night Beacon show, the band’s pre-encore closer was “No One to Run With,” one of the standouts from their 1995 album, Where It All Begins. The lyrics tell the story of a man whose friends have all left town. As Gregg sang, the screen above him was filled with images of musicians now gone. The New York crowd, amny of whom probably weren’t even born at the time of Duane Allman’s death, had virtually no reaction as flickering images of Duane appeared on the giant backdrop. Footage of Berry Oakley was met with the same eerie silence. A few cheers could be heard when pictures of former ABB bassust Allen Woody came up, but when Jerry Garcia’s face splashed across the screen, the crowd erupted in a loud roar. Garcia’s voluminous contributions to American music and culture notwithstanding, observing the audience’s reactions – or lack thereof, with respect to Duane and Berry – was nothing short of disconcerting to me. I couldn’t help but wonder if Duane Allman has begun to fade from the public’s collective memory – even from the memories of many fans of the very band that bears his name. A year earlier, the Allman Brothers had added “Layla” to the set list – an overt tribute to Duane. Did the audience who attended Allman Brothers concerts that year really grasp the connection, or were they simply cheering the band’s decision to cover an old Eric Clapton record? In September 2003, Rolling Stone published its list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time,” placing Duane at Number 2, just behind Jimi Hendrix. “I thought it was a very wonderful gesture,” Gregg told Hittin’ the Note‘s John Lynskey. “And I thought, ‘You made your mark, man. You didn’t make any money, but you made your mark.'” Rounding up the top five Rolling Stone‘s roster were B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Robert Johnson – pretty impressive company for a kid from the South who didn’t even live to see his 25th birthday.

Happy Birthday, Joey Ramone!

Happy birthday to punk legend, Joey Ramone! Right up until his passing in 2001, Joey continued to revel in his love of music. If You Like the Ramones author Peter Aaron saw this love first hand on a night in the late 90s when he saw Joey at his favorite hang-out spot on the Lower East Side. This excerpt from If You Like the Ramones tells the story of this profound moment:

 

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Anyway, on one of those nights I was sitting at the bar, about two or three empty stools down from Joey. Manitoba [of the Dictators] was spinning a great compilation of British Invasion stuff, classics by the Beatles, the Zombies, the Hollies, the Yardbirds. Just one gem after another. Other than the music, not much was happening. Once in a while Manitoba or I would make some little observation about one of the tunes, but that was all. Joey was just sitting there in silence, lost in thought with his drink in front of him and that famous avalanche of black hair hiding his face. He was stock still. I wondered if he’d fallen asleep on his stool. But, then, after a few more of the nuggets on Manitoba’s tape had gone by, something wonderful happened.

The Who’s “The Kids Are Alright” came on: a ringing D chord by Pete Townshend, then his voice in harmony with Roger Daltrey’s—I don’t mi-i-i-ind—before Keith Moon’s drums bring in the next lyric—Other guys dancing with my gir-r-r-l-l. After those first six seconds, the whole band comes in and the song explodes. And when it did on this particular night, Joey’s head shot up as if he’d been shaken from a daze, jolted with electricity. He looked around the near-empty room. “All riiiight …” he purred, barely audible, as his eyes met mine from across the rims of his trademark granny shades. He smiled for a second, slowly nodded. And that was all. He put his head back down and returned to nursing his booze, staying silent for the duration of the night.

It was a fleeting glimpse. But it was a perfect snapshot. It summed up what Joey and his bandmates—cofounders guitarist Johnny, bassist Dee Dee, and drummer/producer Tommy Ramone, and later drummers Marky and Richie and bassist C. J. Ramone— were all about: an undying love of and unshakable belief in rock ’n’ roll and all of its transformative promise. A love of great songs that make you feel good from the first moment you hear them and never fail to do the trick after that. I mean, how many times must Joey have heard “The Kids Are Alright”? The Who was his favorite band. He saw the group on its first U.S. tour in 1967, opening for Herman’s Hermits, a pivotal experience, he said many a time af- terward. He probably bought the single of  “The Kids Are Alright” when it came out, and wore out that and all the other tracks on the Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy anthology. I even saw him sing the song once, complete with lasso-swinging, Daltrey-esque microphone action and the Dictators backing him up, at his 1998 birthday gig at the now-gone Coney Island High on St. Mark’s Place (in an exam- ple of cosmic symmetry, Joey and Pete Townshend even have the same birthday: May 19). Yet hearing that song for the umpteenth time that night at 2A still clearly and greatly thrilled the vocalist. It got him tapping his hi-topped foot. Maybe made the back of his neck a little warm and tingly, gave him a few goose bumps here and there. It put that little grin on his face and got him to forget about whatever was bugging him for two minutes and forty-five seconds. Even made his night. I’ve treasured the moment ever since.