“I’m interested in human beings,” Herbie Hancock tells Elvis Costello on tonight’s episode of Spectacle: Elvis Costello With… (airing Wednesdays at 9pm EST/PST on the Sundance Channel). Hancock, one of the crucial figures in 20th century jazz and winner of last year’s Grammy Award for Album of the Year (River: The Joni Letters), is speaking about his music in relation to its audience, about the bond between the origin of a sound and its destination. The manner in which he breaks down the particulars of performance—whether it be a Gershwin standard, some Headhunters funk, or early-‘80s robo-jazz—makes this episode of Spectacle one of the very best.
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There are certain performers and bands from your youth that leave an indelible mark. They have a profound influence in shaping your musical aesthetic and become the barometer, against which, all others will be judged. For some it is generally accepted “Godheads” like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. For others, it may be a band from your hometown only a handful saw perform. Often, these lesser-known acts disappear into the ether of your mind-only to come back in a rush of memories, triggered by a song or a friend recounting a time you hadn’t thought about in years.
One of those bands for me was Thelonious Monster, especially their dynamic, conflicted and, I assumed, dead singer/songwriter Bob Forrest. I say this because Forrest and some of his fellow band mates’ drug addictions were hardly a secret. Those lucky enough to have seen Thelonious Monster perform, often witnessed erratic performances, that oscillated between inspired and disastrous-sometimes within the stretch of a few songs. At the center of this storm was the transcendent, boho punk; Forrest.
Forrest was like a raw, exposed nerve. His reedy voice aching with the passion of a life spent living off the rails. I remember him walking out on stage, after the band had just abandoned it in a hail of finger pointing over who was responsible for that night’s meltdown. Forrest, hunched over, eyes obscured by dark sunglasses, began stomping his feet in 4/4 time. He delivered “Mercedes Benz” a capella as if he was channeling Janis Joplin. The words spilled over his lips. They sounded desperate, lonely and cathartic. When he finished, he asked for anyone with heroin to meet him at the end of the bar.
Thelonious Monster formed in Los Angeles in 1986, their name, a play on jazz great Thelonious Monk. They featured a revolving door of LA musicians over the course of seven years, releasing four albums on Epitaph, Relativity, and Capitol. The sound of these records was often as schizophrenic as the band itself. Psychedelic jams giving way to well-crafted pop or acoustic confessionals alongside “bar rock” were not uncommon. All were done with earnestness, highlighted by Forrest’s brutally honest lyrical self-examinations.
The band’s recordings featured music industry notables on both the production and performance side. X’s John Doe produced their third record Stormy Weather and Beautiful Mess contained a duet between Forrest and Tom Waits. Flea, Al Kooper, Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner and Dan Murphy, Benmont Tench, and others contributed over the years.
A trend developing during this long recession is corporate consolidation. The word “monopoly” might start rearing its ugly head if the rumored merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation were to proceed. Live Nation is a behemoth-sized concert promoter and licensing company that has drawn press for recent exclusive deals with Madonna and Jay-Z.
Meanwhile, Ticketmaster has a near lock on U.S. ticket sales and has ventured into artist management of late. The combined heft of those two companies would be enough to snuff out smaller players and would likely bring anti-trust examination from the authorities, according to the New York Times.
It’s the latest ubiquitous Internet app. You’ve got your Facebook account and your MySpace page, but want to share even more of yourself in little bite-sized bits. You just knew that the marketers would start jumping on this and they have in a big way. Twitter is now a vital part of any company’s viral marketing effort and musicians, those early adopters that they are, are fully on the bandwagon. Gabriel Nijmeh has compiled a massive spreadsheet posted on Google Docs tracking all the Twitter sites of everyone from Coldplay to Calexico. Users can add more sites to the document. How Web 2.0.
Yeah, PopMatters is on Twitter too.
New albums out this week that are available in full on lala.com for streaming…