Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Wednesday, Jul 22, 2009

It is undeniable that Jeff Buckley’s posthumous legacy has turned the little-known avant-garde artist into something of a pop legend. Indeed, his record label’s persistent desire to churn out Buckley infused live song collections is almost unparalleled. With no less than nine releases since his death, the hunger to consume all things produced by the late musician has become a point of obsession for some of his followers. Now, with the release of Grace Around the World, another series of performances and a DVD can be added to the already overflowing collection of so-called “rarities”.


In this, the listener is privy to some of the first live recreations of Grace, which (despite my reservations), turned out to be as enthralling and devastating as the original work itself. It is obvious from listening to this material that Buckley was an artist consumed entirely with his own image and performance. On this, the original tracks extend into long, free-flowing productions, which suggest that Buckley was more preoccupied with experimenting than promoting a mainstream musical persona.


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Tuesday, Jul 21, 2009
F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong. Artists as various as Roky Erickson, Brian Wilson and Shuggie Otis prove there are second acts in American popular music.
Roky's Birthday Cake (7/15/09) Photo by G. E. Light

Roky’s Birthday Cake (7/15/09) Photo by G. E. Light


F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong. Nowhere was this more self-evident than the night of Wednesday July 15th at Antone’s in Austin Texas, around 10:30 pm when headliner and birthday boy Roky Erickson strode to the stage and burned through a pounding 90-minute set of rock and psychedelia, necessarily concluding with his first big hit: The 13th Floor Elevator’s “You’re Gonna Miss Me”:


Roky launches into

Roky launches into “You’re Gonna Miss Me” Photo by G.E. Light



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Monday, Jul 20, 2009
Rain dancing in India's long awaited Monsoon to OthrSdeOf80's R&B tracks.

4:30. Back inside to the A/C. It’s raining outside and I’m out of breath. Out of breath but not hopeless. I exhausted myself dancing under the rain on the rooftop. I danced- rehearsed—on the rooftop and made out with the rain. I can do this here in India; folks probably chuck it off to monsoon dance. Unless it’s immediately money-making, unless I show quick returns on investment, then this behavior would be considered crazy back in America.


My neighbors here in Delhi have heard monsoon ragas, perhaps since they’ve known life. And knowing this heat…! Really!!! The break is dynamic. I, too, celebrate the rain (I worship the sun in winter).


There’s little better than dancing in the rain. Yet, somewhere through my creation—fumbling with my earphones, which I keep pulling out as I move, so I have to restart. Somewhere in this dance I do, the rain forces me to arch my back. This choreography is truly inspired. It comforts me knowing that man others are dancing beneath this force, too, perhaps even right now. Yet, I see no one else and all rooftops are emptied. Yet, this is Delhi, there are people everywhere and someone is bound to be watching.


I bow back and let the rain fall on me. My hips are fully pressed forward, legs absolutely straight, knees locked; neck stomach, back and thigh muscles fully engaged. This beat has me going. And the rain, the rain, lightly but briskly slapping my concrete rooftop, silences this city. And I am calmed.


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Friday, Jul 17, 2009
Years before Milli Vanilli, Baltimora featured an actor playing the part of a singer.

More than 70 years after Edgar Rice Burroughs first saw his Tarzan of the Apes novel published, Baltimora had one of the biggest hits of the ‘80s with “Tarzan Boy”. A perfect dance pop confection incorporating playful lyrics about “monkey business on a sunny afternoon” with Tarzan’s iconic yell, the song spent an incredible six months on the Billboard Hot 100 beginning in October of 1985, eventually peaking at #13. A few years later, “Tarzan Boy” returned to the chart for three more months after being featured on the soundtrack of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III and on a popular commercial for Listerine mouthwash.


Jimmy McShane, the flamboyant Irish front man for Baltimora, died in 1995 from complications resulting from AIDS. Six years later, Tom Hooker, a successful Italo Disco performer and producer in the ‘80s, revealed that while McShane appeared in the Baltimora videos and on their record covers, he wasn’t the vocalist of the group. Instead, McShane was lip-synching to the voice of Maurizio Bassi, the man who produced Baltimora.


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Wednesday, Jul 15, 2009
With his brown skin, button nose, and chemically straightened hair, it significantly matter that Michael Jackson was black not white, male not female, from a poor family, not rich one. Unsurprisingly, he sought to re-map the globe.

Please play more Michael Jackson. He is an original humanitarian. Michael Jackson was more than a pop star; he defined modern popular music. It’s basic ignorance that leads anyone to continue to discredit the way this artist lived. Fans, and anyone else listening to the words written, composed and performed by Michael Jackson would not be so greedy, angry and stupid of the sort that leads us to destroy the planet and divide people.


Earth Song, Heal the World, and of course, We are the World. This man clearly propagated ‘love’ as the way forward. This nation desperately needs to reconcile with Michael Jackson and come to terms with the fact that we created a monster. In spite of the self-mutilation, abuse of credit and addiction to “consumerism,”—you know, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll—we cannot deny that he was an apt mirror of this society. As a pop star, Michael Jackson mirrored the iconic status the United States enjoys in the world- and embodies the unreconciled contradictions as well.


I’m startin’ with the man in the mirror.
I’m asking him to change his ways.
And no message could have been any clearer:
If you wanna make the world a better place,
Take a look at yourself, and
Make that change.



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