Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Miss Nirvana

While our parents vividly remember the day John Lennon was shot, if you’re a music fan and you’re at least 25 years old the date April 8, 1994 probably resonates with you a lot more. If that date doesn’t ring a bell then let me remind you that it was the day music died for our generation. Kurt Cobain killed himself in Seattle that day and we lost one of music’s greatest talents who not only started an entire new music category (grunge) but also defied the rules in every way imaginable. Whether it was wearing a t-shirt that said “Corporate Magazines Still Suck” on Nirvana’s first cover of Rolling Stone or dying his hair with Kool-Aid for their first SPIN cover, Cobain was someone who probably had no idea how good he really was.

Fortunately, the rest of us did.

As the band’s most successful album, Nevermind took the music world by storm. Its first single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” quickly gained momentum thanks in part to significant airplay of the music video on MTV. By Christmas 1991, Nevermind was selling 400,000 copies a week in the United States. In January 1992, the album ousted Michael Jackson's Dangerous from number one on the Billboard charts and also topped the charts in numerous other countries worldwide. The month Nevermind reached number one, Billboard proclaimed, “Nirvana is that rare band that has everything: critical acclaim, industry respect, pop radio appeal, and a rock-solid college/alternative base.”

While we will never know the level of impact Kurt Cobain and Nirvana could have had if Cobain was still alive, their mark on music is unquestionable. Songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Lithium” and “In Bloom” hold up so well all these years later and I don’t think that will be changing anytime soon.

In the meantime, The Experience Music Project in Seattle has decided to honor Nirvana in the biggest and best way possible. The exhibit will be the home to the largest and most complete exhibit ever dedicated to Nirvana and the grunge scene when “Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses” opens at the EMP on April 16th, 2011. The exhibit, which EMP began gathering material for 15 years ago, will house over 200 Nirvana artifacts and countless never-before-seen photographs of Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl provided by those who were a part of the Nirvana legend.

The fact that Nirvana songs are now on both rock radio stations and classic rock stations is a shame in the sense that they are classic because the band no longer exists. In a perfect 2010 world Nirvana would be headlining tours with Pearl Jam and Cobain and Vedder would be singing together like Elton John and Billy Joel.

Although these days seeing an actual music video on MTV would be the equivalent of seeing a unicorn running around my apartment complex, I miss seeing Nirvana videos on MTV. Cobain is and will continue to be a music legend but I wish he was still around coming up with new songs, telling great stories and defying rock and roll.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Get Off Our Shores

I’ve been trying to avoid writing about this in an effort to not fuel the fire but I feel as though I have no choice. Jersey Shore is taking over the world and I’m afraid….very afraid. Because someone had the brilliant idea to give these people their own show on MTV (although it should be changed to RTV since its all reality shows and because I haven’t seen an actual music video on that station since the late 1990s) these people are inescapable. Whether it’s their photos in magazines like People or US Weekly, interviews on national talk shows like The View, local news shows in Denver or trolling around Miami, these people are everywhere.

In case you’ve been living under a rock this year the people I’m referring to are Paul “DJ Pauly D” DelVecchio,Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino, Sammi “Sweetheart” Giancola, Ronnie Ortiz-Magro, Jenni “JWoww” Farley, Vinny Guadagnino and Angelina “Jolie” Pivarnick. With nicknames like that how could MTV not give them a reality show? Wow.

While all of them are known in the pop culture world a few have seemingly taken over pop culture completely. Snooki has virtually become an icon between people dressing like her for Halloween and having an entire South Park episode centered around her. (If you haven’t already, YouTube “Snooki Monster” immediately). The Situation has a book deal and is all over the place doing promotions which is shocking because I can’t believe he has time for anything in between taking his shirt off and flexing his abs. Apparently JWoww was offered a spread in Playboy but turned it down for “other opportunities.” Was she referring to her clothing line, Filthy Couture? I wonder if she was going for the "Classiest Name Ever Award" when she came up with that. My favorite Jersey Shore story was told to me today by my good friend Mo who said that the cast is banned from 90 percent of clubs on South Beach. Only two of them will allow these fools to enter which is hysterical since drinking is one of their top three daily activities other than working out and tanning.

Regardless of how annoying I think these people are the fact is that they aren’t going anywhere. They are part of the pop culture lexicon whether we like it or not. There are t-shirts and all kinds of other swag that have been made for them. They are officially a brand. And, unfortunately, America is responsible for their popularity. Why do people like watching this show? How are they so enamored by a bunch of self-proclaimed “Guidos” and “Guidettes” with horrible accents? I watched a few episodes of this show to see what all the fuss was about and it’s basically The Italian Real World. What is the big deal? I guess we’ll have some time to figure it out since they are already shooting the next season and because in a recent interview Snooki announced that they could keep doing this show for the next nine years. It’s too bad…the next generation of MTVers didn’t stand a chance.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Desperate Housewives Is Finally Good Again

Thanks to some new blood, ABC’s nuttiest show is reminding viewers why they began watching it in the first place. Although many characters have come and gone since Desperate Housewives premiered in 2004, the two newest characters to appear on Wisteria Lane have caused quite a stir. 90210 alum Brian Austin Green plays Keith, Bree’s hot carpenter, while singer/actress Vanessa Williams plays Renee, an old college friend of Lynette’s. And both of them are bringing the heat. With his tattooed arms and abs that could be a character themselves, Green has come a long way from the David Silver days. And Bree has a crush on him which is even better – I love that he’s bringing out her inner-cougar. Speaking of cougars, Williams’ character is going through a divorce from a New York Yankee and is on the prowl. She’s ridiculous and hysterical which is why I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that she is the woman responsible for singing “Colors of the Wind” from the movie Pocahontas.

Welcoming the new blood to the neighborhood are vet stars Teri Hatcher as Susan Meyer, Felicity Huffman as Lynette Scavo, Melrose Place alum Marcia Cross as Bree Van de Kamp and Eva Longoria Parker as Gabrielle Solis. Susan has recently moved off of Wisteria Lane due to money issues, Lynette is dealing with a new baby and Renee moving across the street, Bree is busy trying to get busy with Keith and Gaby is dealing with the devastation of finding out that her eight year old daughter isn’t really her child.

While the show follows the lives of these of women, it has always really been about secrets and scandals. The Wisteria Lane women seem to live in a perfect suburban neighborhood but behind closed doors they deal with domestic struggles and the ups and downs of family life. Each woman has a very distinct personality and they are all very different. Over the years they have most definitely evolved into more likeable people – especially Gaby and Bree – and they have had storylines that were at times extremely unbelievable. That being said, this season has been very exciting and rather than focusing on crazy storylines the writers have decided to make these women more human by dealing with issues that are real and very serious.

I’m interested to see what kind of history Lynette’s husband Tom (Doug Savant, another former Melrose Place actor) has with Renee, what happens when Gaby and her husband meet the girl who is actually their daughter and of course what comes of the flirtation between Bree and Keith. I haven’t been excited for the next episode of Desperate Housewives is a long time and I think it says a lot about a series that has been on the air for six years. At 8 p.m. tonight I’ll definitely be watching.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wall Street Is For The Big Guns

In an effort to view history before going to the movie theaters I watched the 1980s classic drama Wall Street starring Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen (playing Dad to real-life and movie son Charlie) and Darryl Hannah (looking like a drag queen). My first impression of the movie was how astonishingly similar Charlie was to his father Martin and brother Emilio. (Emilio is not in the movie but every time I looked at Charlie I saw a bit of Young Guns Emilio).

As far as the movie goes, it is predictable put very sharp. Wall Street itself is made to look like a three right circus and Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is a young stockbroker desperate to become one of the big players. He struggles on his own but when he hooks up with power player and mentor Gordon Gekko (Douglas) he makes a ton of money as a result of what he is willing to do for Gekko, no matter what. Bud becomes wealthy, enjoying his mentor's promised perks, including a penthouse on Manhattan's Upper East Side and a trophy blonde, interior decorator Darien (Hannah). He even begins dressing like Gekko – suspenders and all. At one point Bud does ask himself “Who am I?” but doesn’t seem to change his tune until his mentor decides he wants to buy Bud’s father’s company, sell it off in pieces and take away the jobs of all its employees – including Bud’s father, Carl.

Before this happens Carl warns Bud about Gekko but Bud is convinced that his father is just a blue collar worker and Union president who could never make it to the big time. Eventually Bud realizes his father’s instincts are right when Gekko wants to destroy the very company his father has helped build for the last 24 years.

While the acting is superb (Douglas won an Academy Award for Best Actor) the technology, especially the computers and phones, are extremely dated to say the least. I forgot how good looking the Sheen men are and how handsome Douglas was in his heyday. While the film is full of snappy one-liners the big phrases are “greed is good” and “money never sleeps” which are, as the new trailers have indicated, carried into the recently released sequel.

I can’t wait to see Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps for several reasons: 1) I appreciate the fact that the studio moguls waited 23 years for a sequel rather than the usual move which is to spit out another sequel as soon as humanly possible. 2) The first movie was good and pretty much left the door wide open for a follow-up so I’m very curious to see what happens next. 3) Even though I think Shia LaBeouf is kind of a tool I’m interested to see what he does with what I assume to be a protégé role similar to Charlie Sheen’s.

Whether or not the sequel measures up to the original remains to be seen but if the acting and dialogue is as good in 2010 as it was in 1987 then I’ll buy into Gordon Gekko’s bullshit all the way to the theater.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Solomon Burke

Unfortunately 10/10/10 will be sadly remembered as the day we lost another music legend. Solomon Burke, a pioneer in rock and R & B died unexpectedly today on an airplane when it arrived at an airport in Amsterdam. He was 70 years old. While the name Solomon Burke may not be instantly familiar, you know his music.

After Ahmet Ertegun signed Burke to Atlantic Records his career took off. His shows were raucous R&B revues, as he sang in a pink robe and gold crown. Atlantic producer Jerry Wexler called Burke "the best soul singer of all time."

Classic songs you’ve heard and should download if you haven’t already:

“Cry to Me”
“Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”
“Don’t Give Up On Me”
“Just Out of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms)”
“If You Need Me”
“You're Good for Me”
“Got to Get You Off of My Mind”
“Tonight's the Night”

Burke made his last record for Atlantic in 1968, but his hits had staying power and pop culture appeal. Just to name a few: John Belushi and Dan Akroyd performed “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” in The Blues Brothers in 1980, Patrick Swayze sang “Cry to Me” to Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing in 1987 and Peter Gallagher performed “Don’t Give Up On Me” on an episode of The O.C. in 2005.

Known as “The King of Rock and Soul,” Burke has been covered by artists including Otis Redding, Bruce Springsteen, and the Rolling Stones. Burke was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 and won his first Grammy in 2003 for Don't Give Up on Me, on which he covered Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson and Van Morrison. In recent years, he performed on a throne with a massive band.

He left behind 21 children, 90 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren, many of whom toured with him and pursued music careers of their own.

His final album, Hold On Tight, is due to be released later this month.

Burke was flying to Amsterdam because he was scheduled to perform a sellout show on Tuesday. Even at 70 years old he was still showing audiences what it meant to be the King of Rock and Soul.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Can’t Argue With An Epic

On September 26, 2010 Titanic’s Gloria Stuart died in her L.A. home after being treated for lung cancer. She was 100 years old. While most of us remember her as the elderly Rose (young Rose was played by then newcomer Kate Winslet in flashbacks) Titanic was by no means Stuart’s first rodeo, as she started acting in 1932. She is pictured here from back in the day - to say she was stunning is an understatement.

Although Winslet and Leonard DiCaprio were clearly the stars, Stuart’s part in Titanic was extremely important and her recollection of one of history’s greatest disasters was emotional and relatable. Even at age 87, Stuart was sharp, focused and extremely believable.

I recently watched Titanic for the first time in awhile and honestly I think I like it a little more every time I watch it. Whether you like romance, action, history or drama, this movie has it all. I still remember where I was the first time I saw it in theatres – a place called Riviera Theatre in Miami, Florida that no longer exists. The place was packed full of people of all ages and genders and although I knew how good the movie was then I first saw it I had no idea what was going to come next.

After Titanic became the biggest movie of 1997/the universe people flooded the record stores for copies of the soundtrack. We got CD shipments in on Tuesdays and for weeks (or maybe it was months) we had lines out the door of people who wanted – no NEEDED – that album. I don’t know whether these people really loved that Celine Dion song that much or if they wanted to get a piece of the movie in any way they could. Especially since it wasn’t coming out on VHS for awhile. At that point DVDs were unheard of so people had to wait until September 1998 for the tapes – and the movie was actually released on two tapes because it was so long. How’s that for a blast from the past.

Anyway, Titanic was an epic movie in 1997 and it still holds up. The dynamic between Winslet and DiCaprio was unprecedented and that hasn’t changed. Some have said that Titanic is our generation’s Gone With The Wind and I don’t think that’s a stretch by any means.

There is no denying Titanic’s impact as it accumulated a grand total of $1,843,201,268 worldwide. That's a lot of digits! It became the highest-grossing film in history and remained so for twelve years until Avatar, also written and directed by James Cameron, surpassed it in 2010. Titanic also won 11 out of the 14 Academy Awards it was nominated for including Best Picture, Director and Original Song. This movie has been talked about for the last 13 years and will continue to be talked about for many decades to come. Rest in peace Gloria, you’ve earned it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Announces 2011 Nominees - For Better Or Worse

A few days ago the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame released its 2011 nominees and the list, as per usual, is very eclectic. While some deserve to be nominated (Alice Cooper, the Beastie Boys and Bon Jovi, etc.) there were some questionable choices as well (i.e. Donna Summer for crying out loud). Anyway, here they are:

Alice Cooper – Love him, his eye makeup and the fact that his a self-proclaimed rock and roll villain.
Beastie Boys – With their rock and roll infused rap verses, they are truly pioneers of hip-hop and music as a whole.
Bon Jovi – While many haters think they are just 80s metal has-beens Bon Jovi’s legacy goes much deeper and, as their recent country album proves, much more versatile.
Chic- Dance/pop/disco all sounds the same…not impressed.
Neil Diamond – Who doesn’t love “Sweet Caroline”?!
Donovan – Remember the song “Mellow Yellow”? Yeah, that about sums it up.
Dr. John - Funky southern music that makes you want to hang out on a porch somewhere in New Orleans and drink whiskey.
J. Geils Band – Best known for movie montage favorites like “Centerfold” and “Love Stinks,” this unique band has been hard to ignore for years.
LL Cool J – Although those initials make me bias LL Cool J really is a rapper for all audiences.
Darlene Love – Really? Was she nominated for all those Christmas albums she released?
Laura Nyro – A huge voice that’s been holding up for decades.
Donna Summer – I’ve never been a fan of disco and although there are plenty of people out there nostalgic for her songs I am not one of them.
Joe Tex - With his James Brown-esque sound and funk 2011 may just be his year.
Tom Waits – That low baritone with a razor sharp edge gives me the Johnny Cash chills but I’m not sure if he’ll make the cut this year.
Chuck Willis – A mix of doo woop and R & B, Willis’ voice is why we miss music from the 1950s.

Also, as always, there were a few acts that had been mentioned as potential nominees but will have to wait till next year:

Joan Jett – She’s responsible for some of my favorite lyrics of all time: “I love rock and roll so put another dime in the juke box baby.” When will it be her turn?!
KISS – A shocking oversight considering their massive fan base and sound.
Rush – So many geeks love this band but I’ll take a pass.
T. Rex – One of those 1970s bands that were the epitome of rock and roll. There time could be just around the corner.
The Smiths – “Please, please, please, let me get what I want” has never been so appropriate.

Artists become eligible for the Rock Hall ballot 25 years after the release of their first single or album, so there is clearly a long wait to begin with. As a result, those who feel that they were snubbed and have been around for many decades probably feel as though they’ve been waiting centuries. The final list of 2011 inductees will be announced in December, and the induction ceremony -- the Hall's 26th annual event - will be held March 14, 2011 at Manhattan's Waldorf Astoria.