Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Master Of The Obvious

I just received an email promoting the release of Jimmy Page's Deathwish II Soundtrack on limited edition vinyl. Apparently the most exciting statement that Jimmy Page could muster about this project, splashed across the top of the email in large, colorful, italicized font, was:
"I've re-released this because I wanted it to be available again."
-Jimmy Page, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wait! Before You Submit Your Bid on Ebay!

Now that it’s officially Christmas time, you may find yourself looking for a gift for a Zeppelin-obsessed family member. But before you spend all your hard-earned cash buying them a present you know they would love ("The Object" from the cover of the Presence album), here's how to tell a real one from a fake:

Monday, November 21, 2011

3 Commercials Using Obscure Kinks’ Songs That I’d Really Like To See

For the fourth time in recent memory, a huge corporation has attempted to launch an ad campaign using a relatively obscure Kinks’ tune. First it was Hewlett Packer in 2004 using “Picture Book” to advertise their digital cameras and printers. Then it was Target using “Everybody’s a Star” in 2007 to advertise the Converse One Star brand. Then IBM quickly joined the fray, using "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" to advertise God-only-knows-what. Now, since the beginning of this year’s football season, I can’t watch a single game without being visually assaulted by this:

Every time it comes on (seemingly every commercial break), my wife comments on how weird the creature looks, and my 18-month-old daughter runs screaming from the room in terror. (Yeah, I know, every hour of television before the age of two contributes to the risk of A.D.D. – but football isn’t really TV, right?)

As always, the marketers are onto us. They know that using “You Really Got Me”, or “Lola”, or even “Sunny Afternoon”, would peg the corporations they shill for as out-of-touch posers. Those are our parent’s Kinks tunes. The cohort of people (me and my friends) who are now buying new cars, or new digital camera, or a new whatever-it-is-that-IBM-sells prefer to pretend we’re still cool by retaining an extensive knowledge of the back catalogue of quirky rock.

So I’m calling their bluff. Here’s 3 commercials using obscure Kinks’ songs that I’d really like to see. No, that I dare them to make. Trust me, dear marketers, these commercials would really appeal to the aging hipster denizens of my generation. As an added bonus, all the tunes are from Schoolboys in Disgrace – an album which describes as “way too campy for anyone outside of the dedicated,” and, “one of their least satisfying albums” – so the licensing costs are probably next to nothing! And I personally won’t charge a cent:

1. “Schooldays”

Key lyric: “Don’t think of the things that make you sad/ Just remember all the good times you had”

The song plays over rapid scenes of the following:

  • A dorky 16-year-old boy walks to school. It is clearly the 1980’s. He drinks a can of Tab. A bully grabs the can of soda, throws it, and then punches the dork in the face.

  • At school, the dork stands in front of his locker. A bully hocks a huge loogie into the dork’s face.

  • The dork sits in class. He raises his hand to say something. Unbeknownst to him, someone has stuck gum in the back of his hair. An attractive girl in class points at the gum and laughs. Soon the whole class is laughing and pointing.

When the guitar lick kicks in (at about 26 seconds):

  • It’s nighttime. The dork and a couple of his friends convince a homeless man sleeping in front of a liquor store to buy them alcohol.

  • The dork and his friends show up at a party with the alcohol. The other kids celebrate their arrival.

  • The kids play drinking games with quarters, then with cards, and then with a tape of The Smurfs on TV.

  • The kids violently throw up.

  • The kids make out sloppily. The dork makes out briefly with the girl who laughed at him that morning. When she finishes kissing him, she wipes vomit off her lips.

Then the corporate logo comes up: Budweiser.

Followed by the tagline: At Any Age, Drinking Helps You Forget

2. “The Hard Way”

Key lyric: “No matter what I do or say… You’re going to find out the hard way”

  • A car breaks down in the Lincoln tunnel.

  • A different car breaks down in a rough neighborhood

  • Another car breaks down in the Alaskan wilderness, with two long-bearded young hippies aboard (to raise the hipster factor, one of them is Devendra Banhart).

  • A young woman wearing fashionable glasses pours Castrol Motor Oil into her engine. She gets into the car and drives.

  • She drives past the car broken down in the Lincoln tunnel (she flips off the driver because he’s caused such horrible traffic). The driver of that car clutches his neck and screams out “I can’t breathe!”

  • She drives past the car in the rough urban neighborhood. The driver of that car is getting stabbed to death by hoodlums.

  • She drives past the car in the Alaskan wilderness. One of the hippies has eaten the other hippie to avoid starvation.

Then the corporate logo comes up: Castrol Motor Oil

Followed by the tagline: Christ, How Many Times Do We Have To Tell You – Change Your Freaking Oil Regularly! (Aren’t You’re The Same People Who Somehow Find The Time To Update Your Version Of iTunes Constantly?)

3. “The Last Assembly”

Key lyric “As I walked to the last assembly/ There were tears in the back of my eyes…”

A manager walks down the assemblyline of a large automobile plant. He is a tough-looking bastard, like a cross between Dick Butkus and the Ron Swanson character from Parks and Rec. He slowly walks past his workers. The workers themselves are tough-looking bastards, from the long-hair Sonny Barger wannabes to the straight-arrow Joe Plumber types, but they are fighting back tears. As the manager walks past each individual worker, that worker begins to cry. The manager struggles to hold back his own tears. Finally, at the end of the line, the manager stands beneath a banner that says “Thanks for 50 Great Years Ypsilanti! - Plant Closing Today.” Cut to: the factory as an abandoned, decaying piece of blight on the rust belt scenery.

Then the corporate logo comes up: Ford

Followed by the tagline: Don’t Be A Dick. Buy A Car Assembled In America.

Ed Watts is the author of U.S. Blues, a murder mystery set in the 1985 Grateful Dead parking lot scene (available on Amazon here). You can be further amused by his blog at

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Late Night Classic Rock Wars

Last Friday Jimmy Fallon did a spot-on impersonation of Jim Morrison on his Late Night show:

Jimmy's impersonation of Jim is incredible, the band impersonators are great, and I love the recreation of the background from the Door's Ed Sullivan appearance.

There's just one problem for me: I can't help but compare it to Conan O'Brien's satire of the Song Remains the Same on Late Night in the 90's. Conan obviously doesn't impersonate Robert Plant well, but his whole shtick had me laughing in a way that Fallon doesn't:

(One question has always haunted me about this clip - is that George Plimpton that Conan slays in the fantasy sequence?!)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Phish vs The Dead, Part 2 (Marley Covers)

For this installment, we will compare the two bands on their attempts to cover Bob Marley songs.

Criteria: Marley Covers

The Dead: On March 26, 1988, after taking a nice pull off his joint and sip of beer, Jerry Garcia decides to attempt covering Bob Marley's Stir It Up, even though no one in the band really knows the lyrics, and it's technically Bobby's turn to choose the song anyway (the band had just played Sugaree). Here's a video capturing the moment:

Phish: On August 11, 1998, presumably after a few pulls of their own, Phish surprised everyone by opening their show at the Star Lake Amphitheatre, Burgettstown, PA with Trench Town Rock. Rumor has it most of the fans mistook it for the opening of Harry Hood at first. Here's an audio clip from the show:

Analysis: After Jerry and Bobby stare at each other for a while, waiting for the other to sing, Bobby gamely tries. The attempt was so bad that it needed to be aborted a couple minutes in. Phish on the other hand pulled off a decent version of the tune. As one commentator on puts it: "the guys get the song’s sound about as right as four white New Englanders could ever get it".

This round: Phish

Tally so far: Dead 1, Phish 1

Friday, November 11, 2011

Heavy Meta-List

For reasons that no one can quite explain, VH1 has re-christened today, 11/11/11, “Heavy Metal Day” (or perhaps I should say “anti-christened”?). Theories abound for the reason behind the renaming, including: the resemblance between the number 11 and the devil horns hand sign, or that it has something to do with the classic Spinal Tap line ("But these go to 11…"), or the obscure fact that 11 was Aleister Crowley's favorite number. All we know is that these guys have obviously been kicking themselves ever since they missed June 6, 2006. Anyway, in honor of this day of metal, here’s my Heavy Meta-List, i.e. a list of the 11 (only seems appropriate) best lists involving heavy metal:

11. The Ten Funniest Heavy Metal Commercials
All of these commercials are hilarious, but the one that takes the cake for me is the Warrant 1-900 number. I had almost forgotten the time when bands were willing to fleece fans for $2 for the first minute, 45 cents each additional minute. The big question for me: are they actively trying to make it sound like a sex line? If not, why would they include these lines: "We like to do a lot of other things too", "It'll give you the warm, hard facts…" and the classic, "Our fans always come first." Are they in on the joke? Unfortunately, after Jani Lane's untimely passing in August, we're left to forever wonder whether the line truly offered something that tasted so good it would make a grown man cry…

10. "Brief Description of Metal Genres, as they are used as a reviewing and classification tool"
No musical genre worth its salt doesn’t have subgenres, and metal is no exception. This list untangles the knotty differences between "Death" and "Doom" Metal. The list-writer gets extra points for philosophical awareness, as he addresses the epistemological problem that plagues all lists in his very first sentence: "This cannot be a comprehensive listing of all the genres ever named or postulated.…"

9. Five Heavy Metal Concept Albums That Would Make Totally Awesome Movies
It has been postulated that metal bands that exclusively release concept albums could be a subgenre in itself, but unfortunately that subgenre did not make the previous list… The following list would be awesome in itself, even if it didn't inform me of an album that I’ve never heard of before but now feel the urgent need to track down: Nocturnus' The Key (which according to the list-writer "tells the tale of some (unnamed) astronaut dudes who use 'the key' to travel back in time to kill baby Jesus. I guess I don't really need to explain much more than that").

8. The Top 100 Heavy Metal Albums
The awesomeness of this list lies in the fact that it doesn’t confuse heavy metal with hard rock. Nothing but straight-up metal here. The top ten includes two Metallica albums (both pre-sell-out), three Iron Maiden albums, and even a Dio album! These guys are for real (they work for a website named Metal Rules, for crying out loud):
(For an example of a list that wimps out and combines hard rock with heavy metal, see VH1’s own: - which in itself kind of disqualifies VH1 from doing anything called “Heavy Metal Day”…)

7. Top Ten Myths About Metal
A list about lists can seem somewhat cannibalistic. Unfortunately, cannibalism is not debunked in this list that dispels the myths about metal:

6. Heavy Metal Board Games
Some entrepreneurial soul could probably save the world's economy with these ideas:

5. Top Ten Heavy Metal Books
Sometimes you need words to accompany all that headbanging. I fell in love with this list when it became apparent that the author subscribes to the perfectly plausible theory that “when the world finally comes to an end, the only living beings left will be Keith Richards and Lemmy Kilmister”:

4. Preventing Heavy Metal Poisoning
These rules are obviously meant for safely handling metals in the workplace, but I think they can also usefully be applied to the handling musical genre at home:

1.Use the least harmful product possible.
2.Buy only as much as you need.
3.Read labels. Know the potential hazards of what you are buying.
4.Store products in their original container.
5.Support and use established disposal programs and facilities in your area.
6.Become familiar with the symptoms of and first aid procedures for ingestion of substances containing toxic metals.


3. Ten Best Black Sabbath Songs
There's nothing snarky or funny to say about this list. Black Sabbath is, and will always be, just plain awesome:

2. What it feels like to Ranked 100 out of 100
Although this is not a list, it contains a very interesting discussion about lists by someone intimate with the metal genre. The Guitarist of Soundgarden talks about what it felt like being named #100 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time:

1. Best Cover Versions Of Metallica's "Enter Sandman":
This list achieves the number 1 spot because it's actually about the music, and it demonstrates the surprisingly far-reaching influence the genre has had over time. These covers range from the unintentionally humorous (Pat Boone), to the intentionally humorous (Richard Cheese), to the starkly beautiful (Youn Sun Nah), to the surprisingly earnest (Ween). And sitting atop the list is a moment of unforgettable kickassness (which never fails to remind me of the scene in Star Wars when Obi Wan allows Darth Vader to strike him down, thereby become more powerful than his disciple could ever imagine)… Motorhead's cover of "Enter Sandman":

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Post on the Hidden Track

Today I had one of my pieces posted on the Hidden Track website. Read it here:

What I didn't realize when I wrote the piece was that Frampton is still performing - see this recent, kind of depressing article, which contains a quote from "the owner of Hot Poop" (WTF?):

Occupy Wall Street to Police: Synchronicity Was the Worst Album Ever

David Crosby and Graham Nash played in Zuccotti Park yesterday for the Occupy Wall Street protestors. The New York Times covered it in this awesome little article:

The post includes a video of them singing "Teach Your Children Well", but for me the highlight was this line:
As the men played, a sign hung from the tree behind him: “Demand: Return Bankruptcy Protections to All Student Loans.” On the park’s western edge, one protester marked the occasion with a more musically inclined offering: “Dear Police, Synchronicity Was the Worst Album Ever.”

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Youtube Grants a Wish

The Wish You Were Here "Immersion Set" was released today. According to USA Today:

The most sought-after unreleased song in the Pink Floyd catalog is an alternate version of the title track Wish You Were Here found on new versions of the 1975 album out today. Jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli, who was recording at London's Abbey Road at the same time, joined the band in the studio, adding an impromptu, haunting mid-song solo. Of the entire ongoing campaign of refurbished Pink Floyd releases, that track is "perhaps the best piece we have, because no one has heard it before. We all thought it had been lost forever," says Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. "When I hear it, I'm astonished, really, that we didn't go, 'Of course, we must have that.'"

Now, thanks to the magic of youtube, you can hear it right now for free:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Zep IV's XL Anniversary

Today is the 40th anniversary of the release of Led Zeppelin IV (originally released November 8, 1971). To mark the occasion, here is one of the best descriptions of the album ever. It's from's top 100 albums of the seventies. They ranked Zep IV at #7, with the following explanation:
007: Led Zeppelin IV [Atlantic; 1971]

We must be lying to ourselves: There is no way this album should not be #1. If my fellow PFM writers could go to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 's memory-erasure clinic and wipe out everything related to this record and band-- the radio overplay, the Spinal Tapjokes, Robert Plant asking, "Does anybody remember laughter ?"-- and hear IV again for the first time, it would be at the very top of this list. Because when the riff from "Black Dog" hits you for the first time, you come face to face with God. Nothing is bigger than Led Zeppelin IV. It tears your skin and grinds away your doubt and self-hatred, freeing the rage and lust and anger of cockblocked adolescence. Listening to this album is like fucking the Grand Canyon.

Some people call "When the Levee Breaks" the album's true epic, because it sounds like the blues while "Stairway to Heaven" sounds like druids. But that was the fucking point . Zeppelin understood that you spend your days under the weight of shit, so they show you the way out with a moronized stewpot of myth, Tolkien and California daydreaming, a place where you can pray for greatness from battles you'll never fight. Zeppelin spanned it all, because they knew sometimes you wield the Hammer of the Gods and sometimes you just get the shaft.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

"The Medium is The Menace"

Recent article about how technology is destroying the imagination, from the angle of a songwriter. In true rock nerd fashion, the author weaves a discussion of Marshal McLuhan in with Bob Dylan, Lennon & McCartney, bar chords, and The Black Death of 1350. The irony of all this being posted online is not lost on me: