What Happened To The Best Of OMD CD I Ordered From Amazon.ca?

For the last three Christmases, a good friend of mine has given me an Amazon gift card.  In order to redeem it you have to have an active account.  Since my old one was apparently discontinued (probably because of a defunct email address and years of inactivity), I had to start a new one.  (I should clarify that my parents were the ones who used the old one and not very often, at that.)

No problem.  It takes two seconds to sign up.  Adding a gift card balance is just as quick and simple.

After searching Amazon.ca for music long coveted on my CD wishlist, I was able to spot some elusive titles I had been unable to nab at local record shops for years.

Back in early 2016, you only needed to purchase $25 worth of merch to get the free shipping & handling deal.  So, I bought a couple of titles right away.  And then, when I discovered they accept a Visa debit card, I was able to buy two more later on in order to use up the rest of the balance, also with free shipping.  Anything over my limit would be withdrawn from my seriously depleted account.  (Hey, experienced blogger looking to get paid over here.  Offers welcomed.  Send email or a DM.)

Just a few days after ordering, all my requested items showed up at my house.  Fantastic.

The following Christmas, Amazon.ca jacked up its free shipping & handling minimum to $35, so I ordered everything I wanted in one shot.  All my requested CDs showed up relatively quickly although my Matthew Sweet hits compilation could not be opened without breaking the case.  I don’t know how it got so stuck but once my dad got it open, I discovered the liner notes, the back cover and the disc were in perfect shape.  Thankfully, I had a spare case to replace the broken one.

That brings us to December 27th of last year.  Three days earlier, my friend once again generously gave me an Amazon gift card.  I ordered 4 CDs.  Two arrived on January 2 while another showed up the following day.  The fourth, The Best Of OMD, was scheduled to be delivered on January 4.

It never arrived.

So I vented in a tweet on Twitter which was spotted by the helpful folks who run the Amazon Help account.  They asked me if I had been sent an email about this.  Sure enough, in my in-box, was this notification:

“We recently learned that we may miss your delivery promise for your Amazon.ca Order…and apologize for the inconvenience. You’ll still receive the item and you can track the status of or make any changes to your order under Your Orders on Amazon.ca…”

When the disc didn’t arrive on January 5, I was told by the Amazon Help folks to sign in to my account and talk to someone with direct access to my order.  It took a few tries but I got on the live chat there.  I was told the following:

It seems, the shipment was possibly delayed by the carrier due to huge holiday deliveries. The carrier has apologized and states that ‘We’re working hard to process and deliver record holiday parcel volumes as quickly as possible. In some cases, customers may experience a delay in delivery. We continue to devote extra resources to serve you and apologize for any delays’. Usually this does not happen, please accept my sincere apology for this bad experience with us and I hope you can understand our limitations as well as of the carriers.”

I was then informed that I would receive a $5 “courtesy credit” that will go towards my next purchase.  And also this:

“I have requested a redelivery of your order on priority. The maximum time carrier would require is till Monday.”

To make sure I understood completely, I replied, “I appreciate that. So, just to be clear, [the CD] should be here no later than Monday?”

“Yes, correct. Thanks Dennis for understanding.”

It didn’t arrive on Monday.

After trying for over an hour to get back to the live chat (I later got an email from an Amazon rep who had seen me sign in even though I couldn’t see anything on my end), I gave up and wrote an email.  Just before bed late last night, I received an apologetic message from a different rep:

“As the estimated delivery date is already passed at this point, we can only presume that the package was lost during shipping. I sincerely apologize for the incorrect update.​”

I was to receive a full refund for my order (which was confirmed today).  They couldn’t replace the disc because The Best Of OMD was only sold through MegaHitRecords Canada (a third party) and not through Amazon.ca.  (They only “fulfilled” the order.)  I could always try again and re-order the CD (Ha!) or if the original disc magically appeared out of nowhere one day, I could let them know and just pay for the damn thing.  I could also refuse it (why would I do that when I want it?) and have it returned.

At any event, while I appreciate the credit, the restored portion of the gift card balance and all the apologies, I still would like to know what the fuck happened to this CD.  Because there is a Canada Post tracking number for the delivery, you can also track its progress on their site.  But much like Amazon, there’s no further update beyond December 28.

According to Canada Post, “The shipper [MegaHitRecords Canada] has created a shipping label for this item and has sent us electronic information.”

That’s followed by this alarming notice:

“If no additional updates are showing in Track, it means we have not yet received the item. We will track the item once we receive it.”

Wait.  Canada Post didn’t acquire my ordered disc?  (They only got the label to put on it?)  Then, where the fuck is it?

I’ve sent a message to MegaHitRecords Canada and hopefully they’ll have some answers for me soon.  (I’ll update if I hear anything back.)  What’s so puzzling about all of this is that 2 of the other 3 discs I ordered that did arrive as scheduled were also fulfilled by Amazon through other 3rd-party sellers with zero difficulties.

Furthermore, MHR has a 99% approval rating on Amazon.  One pleased commenter wrote yesterday, “fast delivery all good!”

Don’t tell Bernie but I’m part of the 1%.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
6:55 p.m.

UPDATE:  MegaHitRecords Canada responded yesterday apologizing for the undelivered CD but didn’t provide an explanation for why this happened in the first place.  (It remains a baffling mystery.)  I was told it was Amazon’s problem now since they fulfilled the order.

Originally, I was going to wait things out and see if the CD would actually show up within the next few business days.  After all, my most recent Internet bill was late.  Usually, I get it about a week or so before the payment is due.  Instead, it arrived on January 2nd, two days after the due date.  (I paid it immediately.)

But after thinking about it and discovering there was only one copy left of The Best Of OMD on Amazon (which is now curiously sold directly through them, not MHR Canada as before), I broke down and decided to buy it.  Thanks to that $5 credit I received and another helpful Amazon rep who made sure I still got the free shipping, I used my gift card refund to pay for it.  Now I should still have close to 4 dollars left on it (right now it’s zero) but at this point, all I care about is finally getting this goddamn CD in the mail.  I got the two-day shipping so it should be here on Monday.  Here’s hoping.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, January 12, 2018
1:16 a.m.

UPDATE 2:  Great news!  The second copy of The Best Of OMD CD I ordered arrived earlier this afternoon at my front door.  I am so relieved.  Many thanks to Amazon’s excellent customer service and all the folks running the @AmazonHelp Twitter account for all their assistance.  As for what happened to the original copy I ordered, it looks like it will forever remain missing.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, January 13, 2018
4:54 p.m.

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Published in: on January 9, 2018 at 6:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

What Sucked In 2017

1. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan died.

2. President Trump’s racist travel ban on Muslims.  The first version caused needless chaos at America’s airports at the start of the year until it was stayed by numerous lower courts.  The second version was also rejected.  And while the third is also facing legal resistance, the Supreme Court has decided to keep parts of it active for the time being.  So many innocent people have suffered needless aggravation and turmoil because of a paranoid moron.

3. Fist Fight.  The worst film of the year.  Doesn’t Ice Cube get tired of playing the Angry Black Guy who scares white people?  Zero laughs.

4. Jinder Mahal became WWE Champion.  Why?

5. Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington committed suicide.  Depression is a bitch.

6. The Best Picture cock-up at the Academy Awards.  Warren Beatty grabbed the wrong envelope (Best Actress) and instead of going off-stage to grab the right one, he stalled and handed it off to an oblivious Faye Dunaway who announced the winner as La La Land even though Emma Stone’s name was also visible on the card.  La La Land’s producers were almost through with their acceptance speeches when the mistake was finally corrected live on-air.  Because of incredible incompetence, a special moment was ruined for the real winner, Moonlight, which had otherwise pulled off a rare Oscar upset.

7. HMV went bankrupt.  I bought so many CDs there over the years.  They had such good deals, too.  What a loss for music retail.

8. The Killers’ Wonderful, Wonderful.  False advertising.

9. John Cusack accidentally blocked me on Twitter.  Someone please tell him to remedy this injustice immediately!

10. The persecution of Reality Winner.  She doesn’t deserve prison for leaking to journalists and she shouldn’t be in custody.  She’s no threat to anyone.

11. Jonathan Demme died.

12. OJ Simpson got paroled.  Does anybody believe he’s been fully rehabilitated?

13. Tortured whistleblower Matt DeHart got 18 months cruelly added to his already questionable sentence.  The lack of mass public outrage for his infuriating case is astounding.

14. Bill Cosby wasn’t convicted for assaulting Andrea Constand, thanks to two jurors in denial.  Thankfully, he faces a re-trial next June.

15. Ex-drug warriors in Canada jumping on the upcoming marijuana legalization bandwagon.  I’m so old I remember when Julian Fantino claimed with a straight face that legalizing pot was the same as legalizing murder.  Now he’s about to cash in along with other former cops & politicos while longtime activists and people of colour continue to be persecuted for no good reason.  Disgusting.

16. The ongoing genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.  Aun Sung Sui Kyi is no hero.  On her watch, innocent people are being brutally beaten, raped, tortured and murdered.  History will not be kind.

17. The murder of protester Heather Heyer during the Charlottesville protests.  White supremacy remains the most dangerous force in America.

18. Depeche Mode’s Spirit.  It doesn’t have any.  Easily, their worst album.

19. Julia-Louis Dreyfus was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Hope they caught it in time.

20. The Las Vegas shooting massacre where hundreds of country music fans were gunned down by a rich, disgruntled psychopath during an outdoor Jason Aldean show.  (His motive remains unknown.)  The Manchester shooting massacre where dozens of young Ariana Grande fans were murdered near the end of her UK show.  And the shooting massacre in a small American church where half of the small congregation were wiped out.  Toxic masculinity is terrorism.

21. Andre De Grasse hurt his hamstring which prevented him from running one last race against retiring track legend Usain Bolt during the World Championships.  The timing was awful.  In his last amateur competition, Bolt finished 3rd in the 100 metres.  De Grasse would’ve won.

22. The overexposure of Corey Graves on colour commentary on WWE television.  He’s supposed to be a heel yet he rags on Elias & a now-villainous Enzo Amore.  He’s not funny.  He gets into pointless arguments with his fellow announcers.  And he’s just plain annoying.  Matt Striker, all is forgiven.

23. Fifty Shades Darker.  Abusive relationships aren’t sexy.  And there’s still one more of these dangerous films to come.  Make it stop.

24. The endless smearing of Hillary Clinton’s growing list of critics.  It isn’t feminist to defend a war criminal.

25. The California wildfires.  Fort MacMurray 2016, only much worse.

26. Gord Downie died.

27. Jake Tapper attacked Linda Sarsour and the Women’s March movement on Twitter for honouring wrongly convicted revolutionary Assata Shakur, who escaped prison decades ago, on her birthday.  The nasally CNN blowhard trusts the FBI more than intelligent people.  Would you expect anything less from a Zionist?

28. Speaking of which, Apartheid Israel still illegally occupies Palestine with major financial support from several Western governments including my own.  Plus, Donald Trump announced America’s long established policy to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the latter of which he falsely declared the capital of the white supremacist state.  How long before a third intifada?

29. The political and criminal persecution of hundreds of #J20 protesters and journalists who covered the Inauguration Day march.  Even though it hasn’t led to serious, longterm prison sentences, the disquieting way it has been allowed to carry on for almost a year is an outrage.  Corporate media doesn’t care about human rights or independent journalists.

30. MSNBC broadcaster Joy Reid had to address old resurfaced blog entries that revealed she made homophobic remarks about Republican turned Democrat Charlie Crist.  I’m still waiting for her apology to Chelsea Manning.

31. Spain’s ruthless crackdown on Catalonia separatists.  Is it any wonder they want no part of your country?

32. Gitmo is still open with 41 prisoners remaining in legal limbo, most of whom are innocent.

33. The Phoenix pay system which has caused chaos for Canada’s public servants has still not been fixed two years after it was implemented.  Proposed by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, it’s now become a Liberal problem for Justin Trudeau.  What exactly was wrong with the previous system?

34. The re-embracing of Bush-era neocon war criminals by both CNN and #TheResistance.  Any movement that believes Bill Kristol, Michael Hayden, David Frum and James Clapper are trustworthy progressive allies after all the damage they’ve done to innocent people is a movement that deserves endless ridicule and collective scorn.

35. Erica Garner, the daughter of wrongfully murdered Eric Garner, died.  The struggle for justice must go on.

36. The cop who killed Philando Castle won’t serve a day in prison.  At least he lost his job.

37. The ongoing harassment of journalist Barrett Brown by the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Prisons.  It’s never a good idea to pick a fight with a truthteller who knows your darkest secrets.

38. The backlash to Kathy Griffin regarding her provocative photo of her holding a bloody fake head of Donald Trump.  They acted like it was his real head.  As a result, she lost an endorsement deal, can’t get booked in an American venue to do stand-up and was fired from CNN.  She won’t be co-hosting their New Year’s Eve show this year.  At least Europe still loves her.

39. Gothamist and DNAInfo were shut down because their billionaire owner opposes journalists forming unions.  Regardless of your view of unions (there’s plenty to criticize), retaliation is never acceptable.

40. Underworld: Blood Wars and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.  Two terrible endings to two terrible horror franchises.  Both Kate Beckinsale and Milla Jovovich, two talented actors, deserve so much better than to be stuck for over a decade in all this empty junk.

41. Monster Trucks.  It was completed years ago before being dumped without much applause in January.  Not even the wonderful Jane Levy could save this charmless shite.

42. Life, The Belko Experiment, XX and Rings.  What was that about a horror revival?  I’m not seeing it.

43. All the other terrible movies I saw this year:  Vampire’s Kiss, Head, A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, Over The Top, The Boss, Ghostbusters (2016), Beverly Hills Cop, Beverly Hills Cop II, Beverly Hills Cop III, The Purge: Election Year, Masterminds, Central Intelligence, Dirty Grandpa, Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates, Why Him?, Tusk, Yoga Hosers, McLintock!, High Spirits, Angry Birds, Hudson Hawk, Big Top Pee Wee, The Chaperone, Nine Lives, Ice Age: Collision Course, Superman III, Brewster’s Millions (1985), Cabin Fever, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, The Marine, Airborne, Casino Royale (1967), Beat The Devil, The Perils Of Pauline, Step Up Revolution, Wet Hot American Summer, Night Of The Comet, 31, My Boyfriend’s Back, Pure Luck, Wolf Creek, Wolf Creek 2, CB4, Elephant Boy, Phantasm Ravager, Grizzly, Neon Maniacs, Feast, Dead Alive, Tales From The Hood, Cathy’s Curse (both versions), The Freshman (1925), College (1927), Our Hospitality, Steamboat Bill Jr., Booty Call, Peter Pan (1953), Tremors, Losin’ It, The Adventures Of Ford Fairlane, Jaws 3, Jaws The Revenge, Silent Night, Joe Dirt, Black Dog, The Remaining, Home, Vacation, Batman (1966), Storks, Jetsons: The Movie, The Secret Life Of Pets, Orca, Daddy Day Care, The ‘Burbs, Rudyard Kipling’s The Second Jungle Book – Mowgli & Baloo, The General, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein and Blair Witch.

43. Sean Astin blocked me on Twitter.  Rudy, no!

44. All the botched reporting on the Trump/Russia investigation.  Woodward & Bernstein weren’t this sloppy covering Watergate.

45. I had a falling out with Eden Alexander because I criticized Hillary Clinton.  Twitter friendships are way too fragile.

46. Donald Trump’s dumb threats to North Korea.  He’s not the first US President to unwittingly convince that country to stock up on nukes.  Furthermore, the UN’s cruel sanctions won’t end the ebbing and flowing of stupid tension but it will needlessly hurt an innocent Korean population which is already happening.  A better idea would be to finally end the Korean War once and for all.

47. The Edmonton Oilers were eliminated in the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs after a tremendous season where they earned more than 100 points.  Bad refereeing, botched replay calls but also a lack of scoring when they needed it killed their first post-season in over a decade.  Next year’s prospects look bleaker.

48. Tom Petty died.

49. The endless jokes about Trump’s covfefe tweet.  He meant to write “coverage”, assholes.  Time to stop beating this dead horse.

50. All the hurricanes that hit the United States and Puerto Rico which still hasn’t fully recovered thanks to a negligent Trump Administration.

51. The ongoing drug war in the Philippines.  Duerte is a monster who needs to be held accountable.

52. Saudi Arabia’s devastating bombing campaign on Yemen which has led to a serious humanitarian crisis.  Why are Western governments still financially supporting this murderous, anti-democratic regime?  They have all blood on their hands.

53. Trump’s botched Yemen raids.  Civilian murders are rising and no one is raising hell about it.

54. The crackdown on Standing Rock protesters and journalists.  The way we continue to abuse Indigenous folks is an embarrassment and an outrage.  We’re a long way from reconciliation.

55. Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Frequently hostile to the press, shamelessly covering for a serial liar and completely discredited.

56. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka died without facing justice for murdering Nancy Argentino.

57. Crying Ashley was acing her final drive on Canada’s Worst Driver without weeping a single tear until she nearly ran into two pedestrians.  Were it not for host Andrew Younghusband pointing them out, she wouldn’t have hit the brake in time.  After admirably overcoming her fears while driving, because of this unfortunate miscue, she wasn’t able to graduate.  So close.

58. The horrific Grenfell tower fire in the UK.  The most tragic thing about it, besides the needless loss of life and displaced citizens, is the fact that it was completely preventable.

59. CBC’s Power & Politics invited Gavin MacInnes on as a guest.  Never put a Nazi on TV unless you can destroy them completely.

60. Queens Of The Stone Age frontman Josh Homme kicked a photographer’s camera so hard it hit her right in the face during an annual KROQ concert.  He then cut his face until it was bloody and then mocked the mighty Muse, one of the other bands on the bill.  Two insincere apologies followed.  What is wrong with him?

61. All those horror stories from passengers of various American Airlines including that poor man, a doctor named David Dao, who was dragged off a United flight because he refused to give up his seat to an employee.  According to Wikipedia, he suffered “significant injuries as a result: a concussion, broken teeth, a broken nose, and other injuries”.  After initially victim-blaming him, the airline eventually apologized and settled a subsequent lawsuit.  We hate to fly and it shows.

62. All the men and women who suffered numerous indignities because of the powerful men who harassed and abused them in various professional fields.  So much talent forced out because of toxic masculinity.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, December 31, 2017
7:55 p.m.

What Rocked In 2017

1. Whistleblower Chelsea Manning was released from military prison after having her draconian 35-year sentence commuted by outgoing President Obama.  She should have never been convicted in the first place.

2. President Trump pulled the United States out of the Trans Pacific Partnership.  The only good thing he’s done for the working class.

3. Roy Moore did not become a Senator.  Unlike most observers, I wasn’t surprised at allHe doesn’t believe women should work, vote or become politicians.  He hates Muslims.  He doesn’t believe in the separation of church and state.  He waxed nostalgic for the slave era.  As the Washington Post reported, he enjoyed stalking, harassing and assaulting teenage girls in his 30s.  And he’s a sore loser.  As of this writing, he still hasn’t conceded to incoming Senator Doug Jones.  In fact, despite the vote being officially certified, he has falsely asserted the accurate results were fraudulent because of, wait for it, Black people.

4. JBL finally left the commentary table on Smackdown Live after being a dick to Mauro Ranallo who ended up being moved to NXT.  His weekly obnoxiousness won’t be missed.  Added bonus: JBL blocked me on Twitter along with a whole lot of other folks.  Why?  Because we all tweeted positive things about Ranallo.  What a snowflake.

5. Anthony Scaramucci’s impromptu phone interview with Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker.  It cost him a communications job within the Trump Administration (he was fired before his first official day) but it was absolute gold.  Can Trump please re-hire him just for the material?

6. Martin Shkreli is in prison.  Too bad being a greedy asshole doesn’t result in a life sentence.

7. Queens Of The Stone Age’s Villains.  Still heavy and melodic but a lot funkier than usual.  Josh Homme emotes like no other.

8. Bill O’Reilly was fired from Fox News, but only after The New York Times revealed numerous multi-million dollar settlements he secretly made with women who accused him of sexual harassment and, in one case, verbal abuse, and ongoing pressure from a sort-of advertiser boycott (the ads were simply relocated to other Fox shows).  The once powerful bark has been reduced to an insignificant yelp.

9. The Festival Of Friendship on Monday Night Raw.  What does Chris Jericho get for humourously and touchingly work shooting his love and respect for “best friend” Kevin Owens?  A brutal beating and the loss of his US Championship at WrestleMania 33.  The high point of a very entertaining story.

10. Alien: Covenant.  Ridley Scott is incapable of making a bad Alien film.  Far scarier and gorier than its underappreciated predecessor, Prometheus.  Michael Fassbender impresses again, this time in two distinctive roles.  He should get nominated for an Oscar but won’t.

11. Coldplay’s Kaleidoscope EP.  In a year filled with so much bad news and haunting dread, leave it to Chris Martin and company to overwhelm you with their much needed inspirational beauty.  Your move, U2.

12. The new 280-character limit on Twitter.  How maddening it had been trying to précis your thoughts to one or several users with 140 and include a link so they would all fit in a single tweet.  I hate restrictions.  Now how about adding an Edit button?

13. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare For All push which attracted widespread support from Americans and even some prominent Democrats.  What was once considered impossible is now quite doable.  He would’ve won.

14. Raging racist Marine Le Pen did not become the President of France.  But she connected with more voters than her equally racist father.  The future might be more ominous.

15. “Who wants to walk with Elias?”  I pop every time.

16. The summer eclipse.  In some parts of Canada and the US, it was total.  In others, you could still see part of the sun.  The coolest part for my family was seeing it through a miniature light show in our downstairs bathroom.  Imagine seeing tiny circles shaped by growing then departing shadows off and on for hours.  Pretty nifty.

17. Project Veritas tried to fool The Washington Post into believing that one of their dopey undercover operatives had been impregnated by a young Roy Moore.  Not only were they not fooled, they exposed the inept scam in two viral articles.  The value of skeptical journalism writ large.

18. Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.  This overrated fascist supported heartless stings on vulnerable Muslims, secretly infilitrating Black Lives Matter and defended agents impersonating journalists.  Good riddance.

19. The two-part A&E Elizabeth Smart documentary.  A remarkable young woman and her loving family recall her nine months of torture as a teen in the captivity of a hypocritical rapist.  Despite all the horror, vividly retold in unflinching detail, the shocking story has a happy ending.  She’s blissfully married with two kids, wrote a best-selling, acclaimed book about her ordeal and advocates for victims while her attacker is in prison for life.  Justice.

20. Big Wreck’s Grace Street.  Their third rocking album since their welcome reunion.  Now middle-aged, Ian Thornley, the Canadian Chris Cornell, is still angst-ridden and heartbroken.  I wouldn’t want him any other way.

21. Jeremy Corbyn’s strong showing in the UK election.  He singlehandedly exposed the media and the Tories for what they really are:  substantially weakened, morally bankrupt neoliberals.  Theresa May’s poor judgment as Prime Minister (she thought it was a good idea to call this election well before she had to) has sealed her fate.  Her forthcoming resignation is an inevitability.  The future is Labour.

22. Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles at WrestleMania 33.  The opening match which had one of the weakest builds of the year still somehow ended up being the best encounter of the entire show, one of the better events in recent years.  Shane O’Mac has redeemed himself after putting over The Undertaker in that lousy Hell In A Cell match.

23. Leah Remini: Scientology & The Aftermath.  David Miscavige’s worst nightmare.  Season one won a much deserved Emmy.  Season two should nab one, as well.  (What a gut wrenching series of shows it showcased.)  It’s not a benign church, it’s a ruthless, capitalistic cult that ruins lives.

24. The President Show.  Forget Alec Baldwin.  Anthony Atamaniuk’s pitch perfect Trump impersonation is far superior and darker.  The media-hungry leader of America gets the comic drubbing he deserves in the form of a fake talk show co-hosted with his own ass-kissy sidekick, Vice President Mike Pence (wonderfully shameless and secretly conniving Peter Grosz holding his own).  So, when’s fake Bernie Sanders getting his own show?

25. Foo Fighters’ Concrete & Gold.  A welcome return to rollicking form after the disappointing Sonic Highways experiment.

26. The downfalls of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Mark Schwahn, Jeremy Piven, Dustin Hoffman, Jeffrey Tambor, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Mario Batali, Israel Horowitz, James Toback, Louis CK, Mark Halperin, Danny Masterson, Al Franken and many, many others thanks to numerous reported accusations of sexual harassment and assault by hundreds of women and dozens of men.  A long overdue reckoning.  This is only the beginning.

27. Bowe Bergdahl was released from military prison.

28. Split.  Proof that The Visit was not a fluke.  M. Night Shyamalan has indeed revitalized his creativity by focusing more on his own complex characters than getting lost in big budget special effects.  James McAvoy delivers a memorable performance as a deeply troubled man with two dozen distinctive personalities.  And Bjork doppelganger Anya Taylor-Joy is also good as one of his troubled, kidnapped victims.  Along with her very fine appearance in The Witch, she’s a star in the making.

29. All the other wonderful movies I screened this year:  The Skeleton Key, Dirty Wars, Citizenfour, Life Itself, Heavy Metal, Gimme Shelter, Jimi At Monterey, A Christmas Carol (2009), The Shining, The Adventures Of Milo & Otis, Diamonds Are Forever, The Man With The Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, A View To A Kill, Dominion: Prequel To The Exorcist, Purple Rain, Class Of 1984, Firestarter, Neil Young: Heart Of Gold, Neil Young Journeys, Rust Never Sleeps, Ladies & Gentlemen The Rolling Stones, Katy Perry: Part Of Me, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Jungle Book (1967), The Witch, The Last Waltz, The Stranger (1946), Hitchcock, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, Whirlpool, Interstellar, Rocky Balboa, Twilight Zone – The Movie, All Things Must Pass, Nosferatu The Vampyre, Metallica: Through The Never, Streets Of Fire and Eddie & The Cruisers.

30. The Arcade Fire’s Everything Now.  More moving, well-crafted brilliance from Canada’s best band.  My favourite album of the year.

31. A&E’s superb Drew Peterson docuseries.  Despite being a foolish philanderer, it seems highly improbable that he murdered his pregnant wife.  What a miscarriage of justice.  He must be freed.

32. #MeToo.

33. Don Meredith, a married anti-sex preacher, resigned from the Canadian Senate two years after being exposed by The Toronto Star and The Globe & Mail as both a serial sexual harasser and a predator of a young teenage girl.  Stephen Harper sure knows how to pick ’em, doesn’t he?

34. Once wrongly incarcerated at Gitmo for over a decade until his release last year, Mohamedou Slahi’s best-selling but heavily redacted Guantanamo Diary was finally released without the redactions.  I would like to read it.

35. Robyn Doolittle’s Unfounded series in The Globe & Mail.  Sexual assault has not been taken seriously by Canada’s police departments for far too long.  And now, thanks to Doolittle’s dogged reporting, a number of them, including the RCMP, are re-examining their decision to drop so many investigations based on flimsy, sexist assumptions.  We’ll see if victims will finally see justice now.

36. Nine Inch Nails’ Add Violence EP.  Tortured emotions you can dance to.

37. The fall of Milo, the billionaire-financed racist transphobic dickwad who was one of the architects of the long discredited and dangerous GamerGate.  He got turfed from Twitter, lost his book deal (it was released independently and instantly bombed) and got fired from Breitbart (the far right website that launched him) because he condones predatory behaviour of underage boys.  He also couldn’t properly organize a “free speech” event featuring similar right-wing dopes, doesn’t write his own garbage (he has a team of ghostwriters, the lazy cunt), does karaoke with Nazis and his book editor’s harsh comments about his trashed book publicly surfaced.  The sooner he goes away forever, the better.

38. Toronto FC won their first MLS Championship.  The franchise isn’t even a decade old.

39. Impractical Jokers.  The Moronic Beatles of hardcore hidden camera improv.  Even the reruns are funny.  Larry!

40. Braun Strowman, especially when he was beating down Roman Reigns on Raw.  A monster heel with extreme agility who’s on the verge of being world champion some day soon.

41. Ariana Grande’s kindness towards the surviving victims who attended her Manchester show and were shot by a mass shooter.  And that tender moment where she stepped in for a young girl who was overcome with emotion while singing with a choir during a benefit concert following the tragedy.  Compassion is good.  We need a lot more of it.

42. The women of the Canadian Home Shopping Channel.  They should rename it The Milf Channel.  Oh my!

43. Colin Kaepernick’s quiet protest against police brutality.  He might no longer be a quarterback in the NFL but his kneeling during the national anthem has become a powerful statement against white supremacy.  We haven’t heard the last from him.

44. Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg at WrestleMania 33.  They accomplished more in five minutes than the entirety of their hesitant, meaningless encounter at Wrestlemania 20.

45. Michael Flynn, Omarosa, Sean Spicer, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and Tom Price all left The Trump Administration, some in absolute disgrace.  Expect more exits and embarrassing revelations in 2018.

46. Omar Khadr finally got compensation and an apology from the Canadian government for his wrongful incarceration at Gitmo and the horrific abuse he suffered for a decade.  May he live the rest of his life in peace.

47. Christy Clark is no longer the Premier of British Columbia.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, December 31, 2017
7:20 p.m.

Published in: on December 31, 2017 at 7:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Warren Beatty’s Secret Post-Oscars Playlist

Poor Warren Beatty.  He had one job to do at the 89th annual Academy Awards and it proved too difficult a task.  No, it wasn’t La La Land that had won Best Picture but Moonlight.  (Somehow, he was holding a duplicate Best Actress envelope.)  Not helping matters was the fact that it took forever to make the necessary correction.  By that point, the La La Land team had already delivered most of their acceptance speeches.

Feeling embarrassed by the whole preventable debacle, Beatty has been privately nursing his wounds through music, relentlessly punishing himself for his unfortunate error.  I happened to have gotten a hold of the playlist:

It’s A Mistake (MEN AT WORK)

Screwed It Up (LIMBLIFTER)

I Was Wrong (SOCIAL DISTORTION)

Fuckin’ Up (NEIL YOUNG)

I Started A Joke (BEE GEES)

Dare To Be Stupid (WEIRD AL YANKOVIC)

Karma Police (RADIOHEAD)

Not Right (THE STOOGES)

How Bizarre (OMC)

Dazed & Confused (LED ZEPPELIN)

Out Of Touch (HALL & OATES)

Help! (THE BEATLES)

Foolish Games (JEWEL)

No, No, No (DESTINY’S CHILD)

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (U2)

Wrong (DEPECHE MODE)

For Your Eyes Only (SHEENA EASTON)

Gotta Stop (Messin’ About) (PRINCE)

Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? (CULTURE CLUB)

Where’s The Love? (HANSON)

Something To Talk About (BONNIE RAITT)

Blurred Lines (ROBIN THICKE)

Causing A Commotion (MADONNA)

One Slip (PINK FLOYD)

Been Caught Stealin’ (JANE’S ADDICTION)

King Of Wishful Thinking (GO WEST)

I Missed The Bus (KRIS KROSS)

I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight (CUTTING CREW)

Thunderstruck (AC/DC)

Numb (U2)

Tragedy (BEE GEES)

My Favourite Mistake (SHERYL CROW)

Mr. Moonlight (THE BEATLES)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 27, 2017
6:28 p.m.

Published in: on February 27, 2017 at 6:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Lows Of 2016

1. David Bowie died of cancer two days after releasing his final studio album.  First, there was collective denial, then absolute shock and sadness.  His unexpected death set the tone for a miserable year.

2. Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States.  How much considerable, irreparable harm will he cause to the world?

3. Daniel Bryan retired from the WWE due to severe, unrecoverable injuries.  He was looking like the next John Cena.  Now he’s reduced to being a powerless “authority” figure on Smackdown, a supporting player on a reality show and a punching bag for The Miz.

4. Jian Ghomeshi isn’t in prison.  Rape culture is real.

5. The Fort McMurray fire in Alberta.  Such devastation.  It will takes years to rebuild.

6. Fifty Shades Of Black.  A horrifically unfunny “parody” of Fifty Shades Of Grey.  No more Marlon Wayans movies.  Please.

7. Gord Downie’s terminal brain cancer diagnosis.  May he live as long as he can and make as much good music as he is able.

8. The armed protest at the Oregon Wildlife Refuge.  What exactly did it accomplish other than mass ridicule?

9. The rise in racist hate crimes against Muslims, trans people, gays, Black people, Jews, Palestinians and Indigenous communities worldwide.  White supremacy needs to die already.

10. Mr. Fuji died.

11. Gitmo is still open.

12. CM Punk lost his first UFC fight in the first round.  Years ago, Brock Lesnar lost his first fight as well and went on to become World Champion.  So there’s still hope for The Straight Edge Superstar.  He’ll be back.

13. Krystal on Canada’s Worst Driver 12.  An unrepentant narcissist who is an absolute maniac on the road.  The sooner her license is permanently suspended, the better.  Host Andrew Younghusband deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for tolerating this phone-addicted brat as well and for as long as he did.

14. The phony “Bernie Bro” smear from Clintonistas desperate to keep the Vermont Senator from becoming the Democratic nominee for President.  Not only did this erase the millions of women who supported Bernie Sanders (especially Hillary Clinton’s numerous feminist critics and women of colour), it was dastardly and downright insulting.  In the end, Donald Trump is the next US President, so good job, you stupid idiots.

15. Gawker went bankrupt after losing a court case to balding, overtanned racist Hulk Hogan.  Fuck you, Peter Thiel.

16. The very funny Garry Shandling died.  He spearheaded two of the most influential sitcoms of all time:  It’s Garry Shandling’s Show and The Larry Sanders Show.  He was a great Emmys host, too, and a quiet mentor to so many other comics in need.

17. Prince died of a prescription drug overdose.  The incredible legacy he leaves behind which doesn’t even include the thousands of songs he never released.

18. Zack Ryder’s one and only InterContinental title reign lasted exactly one day.  Why do his pushes always seem like ribs?

19. Doris Roberts died.  Both Barones are gone now.

20. Brexit.  The United Kingdom isn’t so united anymore.  What other European nations will follow Ol’ Blimey’s risky lead?

21. George Michael died on Christmas Day.

22. The endless civil war in Syria.  So many villains who should be prosecuted for war crimes.

23. Palestine is still illegally occupied by Apartheid Israel.

24. Matt DeHart is still in prison.

25. The lack of justice for mostly Black and Indigenous victims of police brutality.  The racist status quo cannot and must not continue to protect murderers and torturers of the state.

26. James Ellsworth.  Enough.

27. Chelsea Manning attempted suicide twice (which she was punished for) as she continues to be persecuted and tortured with solitary confinement for exposing deplorable war crimes by the American government.  Release her immediately and let her transition already.  She’s suffered enough for her uncommon courage and conviction.

28. All the terrible films I saw this year:  Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Pixels, Hot Pursuit, Bad Teacher, The Lazarus Effect, Get Hard, the Black Christmas remake, Johnny English, Johnny English Reborn, Damien: Omen II, Born In East LA, The Wedding Ringer, Identity Thief, The Heat, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, No One Lives, Night Of The Creeps, Bending The Rules, The Last American Virgin, Bloodsport, The Last Exorcism Part II, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, Basket Case, Krampus, Dolls, Jessabelle, Brain Damage, Wolfcop, The Haunting In Connecticut 2: Ghosts Of Georgia, Street Trash, Zombie High, We’re The Millers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Masters Of The Universe, Observe And Report, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, Silent Night Deadly Night, Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2, Here Comes The Boom, Let’s Be Cops, Death Wish II, Death Wish 3, Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, Death Wish: The Face Of Death, Three Fugitives, Evilspeak, Ride Along, Ride Along 2, Knucklehead, Hatchet, Meatballs, Meatballs Part II, The Gallows, Daddy’s Home, The Out-Of-Towners remake, 22 Jump Street, Ted, Hotel Transylvania, Hotel Transylvania 2, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Funhouse, Critters, Critters 2, the Conan The Barbarian remake, Swing Parade, Africa Screams, At War With The Army, Check And Double Check, The Flying Deuces, Deathouse (AKA Silent Night, Bloody Night), The Smallest Show On Earth, My Favourite Brunette, The Perfect Score, Cheech & Chong’s Animated Movie!, And Now For Something Completely Different and The Great Rupert.

29. Only some Russian Olympians were banned from competition in the Summer Games in Brazil.  Why not all of them?  All their Paralympians were barred.  Why the double standard?

30. Cody Rhodes left the WWE.  Even he got sick of being Stardust.

31. MuchMoreMusic was yanked off the air.

32. New2You quietly closed its Lime Ridge location.  I bought so many cheap CDs there over the years.  I will miss it dearly.

33. Ryan Lochte.  What the hell was he thinking?  Oh right.  He wasn’t.

34. Russ Feingold wasn’t able to get elected back to the Senate.

35. “Iron” Mike Sharpe died.  Why isn’t he in the WWE Hall of Fame as a jobber?

36. Amber Heard’s damning testimony about her abusive ex-husband Johnny Depp.  She deserves better and he should be ashamed of himself.

37. The desperate campaign to outlaw the peaceful #BDS movement against Apartheid Israel.  Try as they may, AI and their Western governmental allies cannot stop the inevitable end of violent colonial Zionism.

38. Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds both died during the same week over the Christmas holidays.  Doubly sad.

39. Montreal lost in the MLS final to Seattle.  Boring game.  Penalty kicks are a terrible way to settle a scoreless draw.

40. The Chris Jericho/Dean Ambrose asylum match at Extreme Rules.  Too long and too slow.  No wonder the audience in attendance stayed quiet for most of it.  If it wasn’t for the thumbtacks, the ending would’ve been terrible, too.  Don’t expect this silly concept to be repeated.

41. The overcrowded announce table on Smackdown Live.  Does the WWE not realize that we don’t need three terrible colour commentators all at once?

42. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi.  Michael Bay reimagines the most politicized moment of the misbegotten Libyan invasion as a long-winded action epic.  No thanks.

43. The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 32.  If McMahon hadn’t jumped off the top of Hell In A Cell, would anybody be even talking about this match?  And what was the point of the stipulation if it was never going to be honoured?

44. Radiohead finally released a studio version of True Love Waits and it’s dreary.  I prefer the more moving live version from the I Might Be Wrong EP.

45. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.  Exceedingly manipulative and annoyingly sexist.  I only laughed twice.

46. Ride Along 2.  Will Kevin Hart ever make a good comedy?  Just as bad as the original.

47. The constant, dangerous scaremongering about Vladimir Putin and Russia.  Democrats will blame anybody but themselves for their pathetic electoral performance this year.  Soul searching is not their strong suit.

48. Damien Sandow was fired from the WWE.  That’s not the way you treat The Intellectual Savior Of The Unwashed Masses.

49. The Forest.  The concept is far better than the execution, unfortunately.

50. Rodrigo Duterte, the psychotic leader of The Philippines, who openly admitted to murdering his citizens as part of his horrific War on Drugs.  No wonder he’s an ally of the American government.

51. The Liberals lied about the deal to sell weaponry to Saudi Arabia.  Now it’s up to a Canadian court to decide whether it should be honoured.  It shouldn’t.

52. The overblown incident in the House of Commons when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accidentally elbowed an MP from the NDP during a contentious vote.  Trudeau wasn’t the one who needed to apologize repeatedly.  When even feminists criticized the controversy, you know it was nothing.

53. Kellie Leitch.  Loathsome, dishonest, racist, elitist.  The perfect face for the modern Conservative Party of Canada.

54. Obama & Congress will give 40 billion dollars to Apartheid Israel to help it continue propping up its endless, illegal occupation of oppressed Palestinians over the next decade.  If Netanyahu’s truly upset about the Iran Deal and the USG’s refusal to veto the latest UN condemnation of illegal settlements, he’ll reject the money.  You know he won’t, though.  Because #BDS is hurting Apartheid Israel’s economy.  And Zionism needs welfare to survive.

55. The ongoing, heartless persecution of Palestinian activist and torture survivor Rasmeh Odeh.  End her ordeal and clear her name already.

56. No one has gone to prison for murdering Baltimore resident Freddie Gray.

57. One stubborn juror led to the mistrial of North Carolina police officer Michael Slager who murdered Walter Scott as captured on video.  It’s Rodney King all over again.  Even actual footage isn’t enough to get a conviction for a white cop killing a black man in America.

58. 49 people were murdered at a gay club in Florida by a man who may have been gay himself.  Awful, just awful.

59. The news media’s early, constant coverage of Donald Trump and his long-winded rallies without much scrutiny of his record during the Republican primaries.  Are you happy now, Les Moonves?

60. The ongoing suicide crisis in the Canadian Indigenous community.  We are failing these kids.  We must do better.  We must listen to their concerns and directly address them.

61. Kurt Eichenwald.  He supported the wrong Democrat.  He’s not to be trusted.  And he’s a whiny bitch, too.

62. For the first time in about half a decade, the WWE split its roster again by putting half on Raw and half on Smackdown.  Not only that, they’ve added more championships so now each show has its own World Champion, mid-card-Champion, Tag Team Champions and Womens Champion, plus show-centric pay-per-views.  So lame.  Why return to such a failed concept?  The Raw vs. Smackdown rivalry is phony.  You all work for the same goddamn company!  No wonder your TV ratings suck so bad.

63. The failed coup in Turkey.  It gave authoritarian Erdogan every excuse to crack down on whatever democracy was still left in his troubled country.  Why hasn’t he been kicked out of NATO?

64. There wasn’t a single person of colour nominated for an acting Oscar.  Because of the public outcry, I suspect 2017 will be very different.

65. Media Matters For America going all in for a loser.  Still with Hill, jackwads?

66. Alberto Del Rio left the WWE.  Again.

67. The moral cowardice of Aung San Suu Kyi.  She doesn’t give a damn about the ruthless persecution of Rohingya Muslims in her own country.  Despicable.

68. Nat Turner and Casey Affleck are in contention for Academy Awards next year but face serious accusations of sexual assault and sexual harassment, respectively.  Turner faced a lot of scrutiny and didn’t handle it particularly well, while Affleck, a likely Best Actor nominee, just hosted Saturday Night Live and has routinely been given a free pass.  After decades of protecting Bill Cosby, the entertainment press needs to address this with Affleck directly.  Innocent lives are at stake.  Turner’s victim committed suicide.

69. The Nightly Show was cancelled just as it was finding its satirical voice in the insane world of American politics.  Comedy Central should’ve had more faith in it.

70. Bowie’s Blackstar wasn’t nominated for the Album Of The Year Grammy.  A huge, insulting oversight.

71. Muhammad Ali died.  He was an asshole to Joe Frazier but I’ll always respect his opposition to Vietnam.

72. Corey Graves and Byron Saxton at the Raw commentary table.  Absolutely no chemistry whatsoever.

73. Alan Rickman died.  He may have been a villain on-screen but he was a mensch in real life.  His public support for Rachel Corrie, an activist murdered by Apartheid Israel, should always be remembered.

74. The Wars on Drugs, Black people, Indigenous communities, trans, gay, lesbian & bisexual folks, sexual assault survivors, journalists, whistleblowers, prisoners, women, Sikhs and Muslims continues unabated.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, December 31, 2016
1:38 a.m.

The Highs Of 2016

1. Hillary Clinton will never be President of the United States.  When you run an incompetent, uninspired, foolhardy campaign, screw over your Democratic opponent and his left-wing supporters thanks to your corrupt political and media allies and then blame everybody else for your own neoliberal stupidity, you get what you deserve:  utter and complete humiliation.

2. Game 7 of The World Series.  One of the most competitive, unpredictable and exciting championship games not only in baseball history, but in the entire history of sports.  It is a damn shame Harry Caray never lived long enough to see his beloved Chicago Cubs end their notoriously brutal 107-year slump.  Cleveland blew it.

3. David Bowie’s Blackstar.  Released 8 days into the new year, I never heard a better album.  Poignant, cathartic, masterful.  He couldn’t have ended his recording career on a higher note.

4. OJ: Made In America.  An epic, thoroughly revelatory documentary miniseries that puts the travesty of the OJ Simpson double murder case in illuminating and often uncomfortable historical context.  Infuriatingly fascinating.

5. Mauro Ranallo joined the WWE as a play-by-play commentator.  It’s so refreshing to hear the actual names of wrestling holds being called again.  Now if only the company would find him a decent colour man instead of saddling him with three unimaginative seat fillers.  Where’s his Bobby Heenan?

6. Jerry “The King” Lawler blocked me on Twitter and no longer does colour commentary for the WWE.  This misogynistic sleaze wasn’t worth following or listening to in the first place.  He did me a favour.

7. Persecuted journalist Barrett Brown was finally released from prison.  May he continue to sing like the proverbial canary.

8. Iggy Pop’s Post Pop Depression.  You can never go wrong writing songs with Josh Homme.  Too bad he’s going to lose the Best Alternative Rock Album Grammy to Bowie’s Blackstar next year.

9. Leah Remini’s Scientology & The Aftermath series on A&E.  A fittingly skeptical companion to the excellent, eye-opening Going Clear movie I finally screened this year.  David Miscavige’s cult is in serious shit.  Time to stop treating it like a religion.  Revoke its tax-exempt status and start making indictments.

10. Portugal won Euro.  Ronaldo’s redemption 12 years in the making.

11. Roger Ailes was forced out of Fox News after being sued for sexual harassment.  Is his most famous political operation going to survive?  Let’s hope not.

12. Despite hundreds of ill-fated attempts, the CIA could not kill Fidel Castro who died of natural causes as an old man.  Will Cuba continue to fight against the scourge of imperialist capitalism?

13. Rob Riggle’s set during The Rob Lowe Roast on Comedy Central.  Absolutely killer.  The wretched Ann Coulter got it the worst.

14. Batman: The Killing Joke.  A surprisingly dark animated version of the graphic novel that deserved a more traditional and longer theatrical release.  Far superior to the disappointing Mask Of The Phantasm, it features a much stronger performance from longtime Joker Mark Hamill.  We could be spared the mercifully brief musical number, though.

15.  The #NoDAPL protest at Standing Rock in North Dakota.  A noble cause that is literally life and death for an already marginalized and brutalized Indigenous community.  We must all rally around these heroic water protectors.

16. Mohamedou Slahi was finally released from Gitmo.  The best-selling author deserves reparations and an apology for his disgusting torture at the hands of the United States government.  Absolutely shameful.

17. The Getaway by The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  They take five years now to put out new albums but the wait is always worth it.  Still funky and instantly accessible, even in middle age.

18. Corrupt, decrepit racist Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio lost his latest bid for re-election and was indicted by the Department of Justice.  The end is near for this fascist monster.  Finally.

19. The Triple Threat number one contender’s match between Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar at Fastlane.  Fantastic action despite the expected outcome.

20. Green Day’s Revolution Radio.  I’m glad Billie Joe Armstrong got sober.

21. The List Of Jericho.  Sheldon Cooper called.  He wants his funny gimmick back.  Uh oh.  I just made the list.

22. The Lazarus soundtrack.  Three more David Bowie gems.  Plus, Dexter sings!  A genuine surprise.

23. Canada won 22 medals at the Summer Olympics, 16 of which were earned by women including the hardworking soccer and rugby squads, their best effort in 20 years.  Penny Oleksiak, Andre De Grasse, Rosie McLennan and Derek Drouin were among the standout individual athletes who excelled in Brazil.

24. AJ Styles’ debuted at the Royal Rumble, feuded with Chris Jericho, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and John Cena, and became WWE Champion.  Superstar of the year.  His Extreme Rules match with Reigns in particular was filled with entertaining spots.

25. The AIDS Crisis and Greed Is Good episodes of CNN’s The Eighties.  There remains no cure for both.

26. Weezer’s “White Album”.  Their record sales may have plummeted but Rivers Cuomo hasn’t forgotten how to craft a catchy alt-rock sing-a-long.

27. All the good films I screened this year:  The Omen (1976), Misery, The Visit, Anthony Shaffer’s The Wicker Man (first version), Ginger Snaps, Crimson Peak, Fantasia 2000, Rockshow, Elvis: That’s The Way It Is, Mission: Impossible III, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Maltese Falcon (1931), Satan Met A Lady, The Desert Trail, the original Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, the original D.O.A., the original Psycho, Monterey Pop and Shock.

28. The Miz’ passionate promo on Daniel Bryan during Talking Smack.  The most entertaining mic work he’s ever done.  The Yes Man could’ve easily shut down his argument.  He walked off the set instead.  What a mistake.  The segment may have single-handedly revived the fortunes of the InterContinental Champion.

29. Game two of the Montreal/Toronto MLS semifinal series.  The first time Canada has gotten legitimately excited about mens soccer in 30 years.  An atmospheric juggernaut with plenty of goals, rain, smoky flares and suspense.

30. The Tragically Hip’s final concert on CBC.  Bittersweet and engaging from start to finish.

31. The Tragically Hip’s Man Machine Poem.  Certainly not their best offering but if it’s their final musical statement, it will certainly suffice.  After 30 years, they’re not afraid to experiment with new sounds and ideas.

32. The term “Divas” was finally retired by the WWE.  All women who wrestle for the company are now superstars like the men.  It’s about goddamn time.

33. Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair for the renamed Womens Championship at WrestleMania 32.  Incredible spots, high drama, tremendous workmanship.  It should’ve been the main event.  An honourable mention to the ladder match for the InterContinental strap.  A fine exhibition for the future of the company.

34. The hour-long debate between “Donald Trump” and “Bernie Sanders” on @Midnight.  Hilarious.

35. Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool.  More melodic elegance as Thom Yorke beautifully mourns the end of his relationship to Rachel Owen who sadly died of cancer this year.

36. Kevin Owens.  Bam Bam Bigelow without the tattoos and better promos.  His elevation to the main event in just two years is a testament to his considerable skill as a performer.  And he’s Canadian.

37. Braun Strowman.  Turns out he’s much more effective without Bray Wyatt.  And he might be the fastest big man in the business today.  A monster heel with great potential.  He looks like he belongs.

38. WikiLeaks.  The #DNCLeaks and the #PodestaEmails exposed The Democratic Party for what it actually is:  cynical, snobby, clueless and neoliberal.

39. Watching Blu-rays for the first time.  Man, oh man, what a world of wonder I’ve been missing.  Thanks Mom and Dad!

40. The guy from Edmonton who found an escaped cat under a train and took him home before reuniting him with his relieved owner from Saskatchewan.  A Festivus miracle.

41. Hot Hot Heat’s final album.  A hooky farewell from one of Vancouver’s finest.

42. Nancy Grace’s Headline News show was finally cancelled.  Even CNN can’t stand her anymore.

43. The Last Man Standing match between Kevin Owens & Dean Ambrose at the Royal Rumble for the InterContinental title.  It’s no wonder Owens is World Champion on Raw now.  Stellar.

44. Kings Of Leon’s Walls which stands for We Are Like Love Songs.  It should be doing brisker business.  Not a bad song in the mix.

45. Smackdown started broadcasting live.  No more spoilers leaking out days in advance.

46. Billy Talent’s Afraid Of Heights.  Punchy and political at times, rocking and rolling all of the time.

47. Tom Mulcair was given a no-confidence vote by the NDP.  He was never a true socialist.

48. Bernie Sanders’ historic campaign for President, the most successful Jewish candidate in American history.  If it wasn’t for the Clintonistas, he would be moving into the White House next month.  They screwed him like the ignorant assholes they are.

49. Brooke Henderson won a major LPGA tournament as a teenager.  More success coming in 2017?  Let’s hope so.

50. Milos Raonic made the Wimbledon finals, a first for a Canadian tennis player.  Too bad he didn’t win.

51. The Golden State Warriors record-setting regular season win-loss record.  Unfortunately, Cleveland came from behind to snag the NBA Championship from them in the finals.  LeBron James will not be denied.

52. Mark Rylance upset Sylvester Stallone for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  Score one for the anti-Zionists.

53. Dean Ambrose cut up Chris Jericho’s silly Lite Brite jacket.  The Scarf Era has begun.  Drink it in, man.

54. Every Womens Championship match on Raw between Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair.  The best TV rivalry of the year.  I don’t understand why the WWE doesn’t allow The Boss a longer title run.  She deserves one.

55. Pearl Jam is going into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame next year.

56. The #CureForKenza campaign.  This adorable little girl has a second chance at life.  May she make the most of it and thoroughly enjoy her childhood.

57. San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem protest.  It’s a shitty, racist song and we don’t need to hear it anymore.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, December 30, 2016
11:41 p.m.

Donald Trump’s Secret “Inspirational” Playlist

The 2016 US Presidential election is less than two weeks away.  If polls and news reports are to be believed, Hillary Clinton will be replacing Barack Obama as the head of the American federal government in late January 2017.  Feeling embattled at every turn now, her Republican opponent Donald Trump is perhaps desperately clinging to the ever fainting hope that he can still pull off the impossible.  To keep up his spirits, he frequently turns to this secret playlist for much needed inspiration.

1. Hard As A Rock (AC/DC)

2. Moist Vagina (Nirvana)

3. Lick It Up (Kiss)

4. I Feel You (Depeche Mode)

5. She’s Tight (Cheap Trick)

6. The Bad Touch (Bloodhound Gang)

7. Can I Touch You…There? (Michael Bolton)

8. Grab Them Cakes (Junkyard Dog)

9. Feel U Up (Prince)

10. I Wanna Touch You (Catherine Wheel)

11. I Can’t Wait (Nu Shooz)

12. Squeeze Box (The Who)

13. Squeeze Toy (The Boomtang Boys)

14. Kiss You All Over (Exile)

15. Butterfly Kisses (Bob Carlisle)

16. Tongue (R.E.M.)

17. Slide It In (Whitesnake)

18. Kiss On My List (Hall & Oates)

19. I Wanna Be Your Underwear (Bryan Adams)

20. Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey)

21. Devil Inside (INXS)

22. Jack U Off (Prince)

23. Tiny Girls (Iggy Pop)

24. Breaking The Girl (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

25. Crash Into Me (Dave Matthews Band)

26. Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush)

27. Up The Hill Backwards (David Bowie)

28. She Ain’t Pretty (Northern Pikes)

29. Witchy Woman (The Eagles)

30. Evil Woman (ELO)

31. Nasty Girl (Vanity 6)

32. It Wasn’t Me (Shaggy)

33. Wrong (Depeche Mode)

34. Bang And Blame (R.E.M.)

35. Today I Hate Everyone (The Killjoys)

36. Break It Down Again (Tears For Fears)

37. White Lines (Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five)

38. That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore (The Smiths)

39. Burning Down The House (Talking Heads)

40. White, Discussion (Live)

41. Don’t Let It End (Styx)

42. Don’t You Forget About Me (Simple Minds)

43. I Wanna Be Adored (Stone Roses)

44. Don’t You Want Me? (Human League)

45. I Alone (Live)

46. Waiting For A Miracle (Bruce Cockburn)

47. Things I Do For Money (Northern Pikes)

48. White Riot (The Clash)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, October 27, 2016
1:51 a.m.

Published in: on October 27, 2016 at 1:51 am  Comments (1)  

Prince: An Appreciation

He was signed by Warner Bros. when he was 20.  But they lied to the world when they promoted him as an 18-year-old prodigy.  Flamboyant like Little Richard, a colourful showman like James Brown, and a devastating shredder like Jimi Hendrix, Prince Rogers Nelson further bridged the musical gaps between funk, soul and rock as he would go on to become one of the most prolific singer/songwriters of all time.

And now he’s dead. Recently sent to hospital for what was reportedly the flu (new reports claim he was suffering from “severe dehydration”), his 57-year-old body was found earlier today at his home in Minnesota.  It’s not clear yet what exactly happened.  Surely, it wasn’t influenza.

When I was a kid in the 80s, Prince was all over the Television and radio airwaves.  Not a year went by when he didn’t have either a new studio album, a new live album, a new movie, a new soundtrack to that movie or a new song and video out.  Looking back, you wonder if the man did anything besides create and play music.  He must’ve been a light sleeper.

After releasing a couple of soul albums in the late 70s, one ignored and one that went platinum thanks to his first big hit, I Wanna Be Your Lover, Prince’s first full-length critical breakthrough was 1980’s Dirty Mind.  Village Voice critic Robert Christgau famously noted in his exuberant rave of the LP, “Mick Jagger should fold up his penis and go home.”

Prince never looked back after that.  The following year, he offered Controversy.  The superior single edit of the overlong, rather warped title cut intensified his already highly sexualized, religious fervor as he addresses rumours of his sexual identity.  (He was often presumed to be gay because of his fondness for falsetto vocals and seemingly feminine presentation.  He wasn’t.)  The single edit remains one of his greatest songs.

By 1982, after building a strong black following, he finally started appealing to white kids thanks to his highly acclaimed double album, 1999, which spawned numerous smash hits like Little Red Corvette, Delirious and of course, the political title song.   (Like David Bowie’s Fantastic Voyage, it warned of the still real danger of a nuclear holocaust.)  Speaking of the latter, every verse was originally supposed to be harmonized with members of The Revolution, his second backing band.  (The Time preceded them.)  But Prince decided to individualize the vocals so that each harmony part would get a line of its own to sing which made all the difference.  The apolocalyptic 1999 would go on to become one of his most enduring musical signatures.

In 1984, Prince was ready for the big screen as he unveiled Purple Rain, his only fictional film to receive praise.  (Under The Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge did not fare as well.  The concert picture, Sign O’ The Times, however, was critically acclaimed.  It played on MuchMusic for years after its 1987 theatrical run.)  The fantastic soundtrack became his Thriller, his most popular collection of recordings, some of which were captured live.  (It has sold about 15 million copies in North America alone.)  Just before the album’s unveiling, Prince felt it lacked an anthem, so he quickly put together a new song that would feature his best guitar solos, most especially the one that ends the track.  Long before he became a Jehovah’s Witness, Let’s Go Crazy cheekily addresses The Rapture without being annoyingly overt (unlike the full version of Controversy which directly references The Lord’s Prayer).  The result was Prince’s second number one single.  (When Doves Cry, which also features his first-rate guitar playing, was his first.)

The Purple Rain soundtrack, the first one that gave credit to The Revolution, was loaded with other memorable songs like the beautifully epic title track (which peaked at number 2), I Would Die 4 U and the lascivious Darling Nikki which bothered Tipper Gore so much it ended up on the Filthy Fifteen list.  Foo Fighters later covered it in 2002 and it became a minor alt-rock radio hit despite being a B-Side.  (As a thank you, during his Super Bowl halftime show in 2007, Prince covered their 2005 single, Best Of You.)  In 1985, the soundtrack would win the Best Original Song Score Oscar and would be nominated for the Album Of The Year Grammy.

For the rest of the 80s, Prince would continue to offer quirky, mass appeal singles:  the anti-drug Pop Life, Rasberry Beret, Kiss (another number one later covered by Tom Jones & The Art Of Noise), I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man, U Got The Look (with Sheena Easton) and the funky Alphabet St.  In 1987, the same year he presented Sign O’ The Times, Prince produced his darkest collection of songs.  Growing fascinated with the burgeoning hip hop movement, The Black Album was going to be his Christmas release.  Warner Bros. balked at putting out another Prince album so quickly after the multi-platinum double release of Sign O’ The Times.  But, in the end, he second-guessed himself.  Despite the production of a small number of vinyl copies (the survivors of which became very valuable collector’s items fetching thousands of dollars each), The Black Album would be cancelled.  It would go on to become one of the most bootlegged lost albums over the next 7 years.

Lovesexy would take its place in 1988.  (The Alphabet St. video urged fans to not buy The Black Album bootlegs.)  It included a rerecorded version of When 2 R In Love, the only Black Album track to see official release at the time.

With the hope of finally taking a break, Warner instead convinced him to do another soundtrack, this one for a new Tim Burton film.  Red hot after the overrated Beetlejuice, he directed Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger and Jack Nicholson in Batman, the biggest hit of 1989.  Prince’s stellar soundtrack, which I originally had on tape but is now very hard to find on CD (I’ve managed to locate three used copies in recent years, though, two of which I bought for a buck apiece), ended the decade with an emphatic exclamation point.  Batdance, an exhilarating, film dialogue-heavy montage of many of the soundtrack’s songs (including non-album B-Side 200 Balloons) and featuring yet another classic rip roaring solo, would also hit number one.  Another single, Scandalous!, didn’t fare nearly as well chart-wise but it is a lovely ballad nonetheless, another vivid showcase for his trademark falsetto.  Curiously, the video for Partyman would feature the full 7-minute version whereas the soundtrack only has the 4-minute single edit.

After Graffiti Bridge flopped in 1990 (Thieves In The Temple did crack the Top 10, however), Prince rebounded with his new backing band, The New Power Generation, in 1991 with Diamonds & Pearls.  The orgasmic Cream would be his final number one smash.  The pretty title cut would peak in the Top 5.

In 1992, Prince signed a lucrative multi-album deal with Warner, his longtime label.  He would immediately regret it.  Despite learning about copyright law in high school, Prince belatedly realized he didn’t own any of his masters.  His next album that year (Prince logo.svg) would become his new identity in 1993 (along with The Artist and The Artist Formerly Known As Prince), an unpronounceable symbol (referred to as the Love Symbol) that references both sexes.  (To be fair, it inspired cool guitar and stage designs.)  Prince logo.svg featured his last great single for Warner, the jazz-inflected Sexy M.F., one of the rare times he rapped on record.

After announcing his new identity, which baffled the music world and gave comedians plenty of material, Prince decided to get out of his contract by offering a succession of albums within a three-year period which deeply annoyed Warner.  They hated the idea of flooding the marketplace because it meant lower profits.

Prince didn’t care if they sold or not.  He just wanted out.  Some of the music he released during this period had been languishing in the vaults for years including The Black Album which finally surfaced officially in November 1994 but with a catch.  It would only be on sale for 2 months before being supposedly pulled from record shops in late January 1995.  (5 years after its release I still managed to find a new copy for 6 bucks.  I’ve seen at least one used copy available for 20 but that was a while ago.)

Just a few months before that, Prince released the acclaimed Come which finally corrected a longstanding error.  The cover revealed he had in fact been born in 1958, not 1960 as Warner had falsely promoted for years.

During a memorable September 1993 performance on The Late Show With David Letterman, Prince performed a track from The Gold Experience, an album that wouldn’t be available until 1995.  (I would love to own the damn thing on CD but good luck finding it today.)  The word “SLAVE” was written on his cheek, his way of protesting what he saw as an unfair arrangement with Warner.  Gold Experience included The Most Beautiful Girl In The World, another falsetto ballad that hit the Top 5 in 1994 and was previously issued on an EP that year, the Top 20 hit I Hate U and P Control, yet another hooky ode to the vagina.

After the releases of the unloved Chaos & Disorder and the Girl 6 soundtrack (curiously released under his old name) in 1996, Prince released his first post-Warner collection, the three-hour Emancipation, which featured his last Top 40 hits, a cover of The Stylistics’ Betcha By Golly Wow! and The Holy River.  Instead of signing with another major, he starting shipping CDs of his music over the Internet (they would eventually surface in stores not always with the same track listings, though) including Crystal Ball (available in three, four and five-disc incarnations) which captured numerous outtakes from past album sessions for a number of scrapped projects including a few that featured his child-like alter ego Camille (not including previously released rejects like non-album B-sides Shockadelica and the catchy Feel U Up which could’ve been a hit like U Got The Look, all of which are on The Hits/The B-Sides).

Meanwhile, Warner would continue to occasionally release new Prince material leftover in their vaults (one such collection was actually called The Vault) plus a number of hits packages, the best of which remains The Hits/The B-Sides in 1993.  It features Nothing Compares 2 U (which Sinead O’Connor famously covered in 1990) and the original version of I Feel For You (a big hit for post-Rufus Chaka Khan in 1984).   I guess he never recorded Manic Monday, the hit song he wrote for The Bangles.

Although the two discs of hits were also available as individual releases (The Hits 1 and The Hits 2), the 20 non-album B-Sides were exclusive to the three-disc set.  I was personally very lucky to finally nab a new copy at HMV just a few years ago.  It’s another hard-to-find release, but even when you do spot it, it’s not always affordable.  (I once saw a used copy that cost 30 bucks.  New ones can run as much as 60 to 70.  My copy was 10 but free with a gift card.)

In 2000, by this point long past his commercial and artistic prime, Prince belatedly announced he was reverting back to his birth name, although he would continue to incorporate his highly mocked symbol in his live shows.  No longer a Top 40 fixture, he would however have one last multi-platinum hurrah in 2004.  (To be fair, he would also have two final Gold albums in 2006 & 2009.)  Musicology received his best reviews in years and thanks to a clever promotion (it was given away with concert tickets), it charted well.  His performance with Beyonce at the Grammys that same year inspired a recurring Saturday Night Live sketch.

In the final 12 years of his life, Prince never stopped creating and performing, although he would considerably dial down the lust in his lyrics because of his new found religion.  He continued to churn out new records on an annual basis and he remained a popular concert attraction.  (He had just played a couple of shows in Toronto a few weeks ago.  His last concert, part of his Paisley Park After Dark series at his home estate, happened over the weekend.)

His sudden death comes just three months after the shocking demise of David Bowie.  Like the creator of Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke, Prince was a major influence on subsequent generations of performers, both black and white, trans, gay and straight.  His sexually charged lyrics pushed the boundaries of acceptability way more than Madonna ever could. (There’s no way she could’ve gotten away with writing songs like Jack U Off, Head and Scarlet Pussy.)

Prince’s often horny songs were ubiquitous and brilliantly accessible to a mass audience, never more so than in the 80s and early 90s.  For someone so weird, soft-spoken and distant (he rarely gave interviews), he had surprisingly global appeal.  He was unusual enough to excite young audiences thirsting for something unique.  And yet his decision to sing more often than not in an inoffensive high register (a huge risk that could’ve resulted in unintentional laughter, although he did come close to becoming a self-parody at times) and his remarkable gift for well-crafted arrangements allowed him to win over more conservative pop traditionalists.  There’s no denying he had flat out, incredible musicianship.  He was as much as master of the electric six-string as more celebrated axmen like Eddie Van Halen and Jeff Beck.

But he could also be prickly.  Owners of Prince fan sites and bootleg distributors of his long coveted and voluminous unreleased recordings often felt his wrath in the form of lawsuits and public criticism.  A unrepentant control freak, he was not pro-Napster.  (He also didn’t want any of his songs parodied by Weird Al Yankovic who gave up asking for permission after a while.)  And although he would eventually return to work within the major label system, he wisely avoided traditional, longterm deals.  He would continue to offer new material online right up until last year.

And now he’s gone.  My reaction to his death is curiously more subdued than Bowie’s.  I hadn’t heard a Prince album since Musicology.  (The library copy I once borrowed I unfortunately broke by accident.  Not a good way to spend 20 bucks.)  And while I greatly admire many of his singles and especially his Batman & Purple Rain soundtracks, I have never felt the need to own everything he did.  On the contrary, I never stopped listening to Bowie.  (I’m loving Blackstar at the moment, his last release.)  In the last several years, I made it a point to add as many of his CDs to my collection that I could find for as little money as possible with a few more still to seek out.  With the exception of that elusive Gold Experience, on the other hand, I have all the Prince I need.

In the days and weeks to come we will surely learn more about his sudden death, as mysterious and odd as the man himself.  But for those grieving for the early end of another 80s icon, there is the warm comfort of the vast legacy he leaves behind.  Plus, now that the stern gatekeeper of so many unheard goodies is no more, how soon before that enormous trove of material long buried from the prying eyes and curious ears of a soon-to-be insatiable public begins to be unearthed?

More than 45 years after the death of Jimi Hendrix, we’re still getting new albums from him.  Prince is about to give him some much needed competition.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, April 21, 2016
7:28 p.m.

CORRECTIONS:  Only Prince’s debut release was ignored.  His second album went platinum and spawned his first Top 40 hit, I Wanna Be Your Lover.  It was 2000, not 1999, when Prince announced he was Prince again.  P Control from The Gold Experience was wrongly listed as P Patrol.  Musicology was his last “multi-platinum” success but by no means his last certified album.  He would acquire two more Gold records by the end of The Aughts.  And sadly, having rewatched the Controversy video a couple of times today, I realize that Prince isn’t wearing his infamous assless chaps, just leggings and bikini underwear.  All of these corrections have since been incorporated into the original piece.  I regret all the errors.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, April 24, 2016
9:45 p.m.

UPDATE:  It was a drug overdose.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, June 3, 2016
1:54 a.m.

Published in: on April 21, 2016 at 7:28 pm  Comments (2)  

Bowie

I thought it was a hoax.  I really did.  There’s no way it could be true.  No way.  Someone is playing a cruel trick on us all.  Surely.  Hopefully.

But it is true.  David Bowie is dead.  His son, the filmmaker Duncan Jones, confirmed it on his Twitter account late last night as did Bowie’s longtime producer and friend Tony Visconti.

Less than two weeks ago in this space, I had just recounted the number of Bowie entries I had written in 2015.  There were five.  And I had noted the upcoming release of what will now be his final studio album, Blackstar.  Just three days after its release, he’s gone.  The reason:  cancer.  Fuck.

David Bowie’s sudden death at age 69 is shocking for a whole number of reasons, most notably the fact that so many of us didn’t even know he was sick.  (According to an official press release by his social media accounts, his struggle with the disease lasted a year and a half.) (JANUARY 12 UPDATE:  He had liver cancer and only a few people knew his diagnosis.)

It’s long forgotten now but there was a time when Bowie was a hardcore hedonist, a committed pleasure seeker who sought women, drugs & alcohol in ever copious amounts.  He was so strung out on cocaine for much of the 70s, he stopped eating regular food for a time, limiting himself to green vegetables, usually lettuce.  He thought aliens were out to get him.  He got drunk so many times in Berlin his worldview became bleak & helpless hence the dark music he would make at the end of the decade, his increasingly dangerous addictions fuelling his thankfully temporary fascination with fascism and Nazis.

How he survived one personal & professional crisis after another is a testament to his incredible endurance and adaptability.  Besides his terrifyingly self-destructive habits, Bowie was screwed over by his then-manager Tony DeFries, a toxic business arrangement that took years to end and left him in serious financial upheaval.  His first marriage, an open relationship with his former muse Angela (Duncan’s mom), ended acrimoniously the same time he wanted to divorce himself from RCA, the label that released almost all of his most famous, influential material.

The fact that Bowie even made it to middle age in spite of all this adversity, debauchery & trauma is shocking in its own right.  And downright admirable.  (I haven’t even mentioned Mark David Chapman, John Lennon’s jailed assassin, who also contemplated murdering Bowie before ultimately targeting the former Beatle.  It was the rare topic the usually accessible Bowie declined to discuss for obvious reasons.)  It’s important to remember that there was a time where it looked like he wouldn’t even survive the 70s.

But survive that treacherous decade he did.  Not only did he survive, he grew in stature despite releasing music that few felt was better than the classics in his first full decade, although he was never short on good songs and albums.  As he gradually cleaned himself up, only one bad habit remained:  cigarettes.  In pictures and countless TV interviews, Bowie was often never without one between his fingers.  It all caught up to him before a gig in 2004.

Bowie was in significant pain.  Ever the trooper, he went ahead with the two-hour show.  Immediately afterward, he sought medical treatment.  A pinched shoulder nerve was the initial diagnosis.  But when the problem remain unsolved, a second physician stunned him with the truth.  He was actually having a minor heart attack.  (An emergency procedure finally gave him relief.)  This doctor gave him an ultimatum:  give up the cigarettes or further put his health at risk.  Bowie finally gave up the smokes.

As a result, he would drastically scale back his public appearances.  Oh sure, there was a movie or TV role here, a special live gig there.  But for the most part, he would finally enjoy prolonged periods of privacy with his second wife, the model/actress Iman, and their now teenage daughter Alexandria.

Then, three years ago, out of nowhere, a new single followed by a new album.  The Next Day was Bowie’s first new studio effort in a decade.  (It was released in at least three different versions on CD alone.)  Recorded in secret very slowly over two years, it received glorious reviews upon its unveiling and deservedly so.  By the end of 2014, another new recording, the Grammy-nominated Sue, was included in Bowie’s most expansive greatest hits collection to date, the sprawling but by no means comprehensive 3CD set, Nothing Has Changed, which highlighted 50 years of music making.  A reworked version is on Blackstar.

Throughout his surprise return, Bowie had avoided engaging with the press.  He left that to Tony Visconti who produced all three recordings.  (However, when he won a Brit award in 2014 he did release a thank you statement while hoping Scotland would remain within the United Kingdom.  Remember the failed independence referendum they had?)

Now we know why.  Bowie saw his time was running out and by God, did he make the most of it.  MuchMusic aired about an hour of his videos earlier today, mostly from the 70s and 80s.  At the end, they aired new clips for Blackstar and Lazarus.  In Blackstar, it appears the mystery of Major Tom is finally solved.  His now skeletal body still in its spacesuit is discovered lying in permanent peaceful slumber.  In Lazarus, Bowie spends half of the time in bed and in the last scene climbs into some cabinet before closing the door locking himself in.

Death was often a theme in Bowie’s repertoire long before he ever got that awful cancer diagnosis.  Whether covering Jacques Brel’s My Death during the glammy Ziggy days, chronicling the disappearance and reappearance of Major Tom in Space Oddity and Ashes To Ashes, respectively, or addressing his own mortality in Dead Man Walking, the end was never far from his mind.

Neither was sex.  Consider the nude makeout scene, a tribute to From Here To Eternity, at the end of the China Girl video.  (I have to admit his buttocks were spectacular.)  Or Rebel Rebel.  Or Drive-In Saturday.  Or Time.  Or Suffragette City.  Or any number of songs in his vast, eclectic catalogue.

Bowie was never ashamed of his sexuality.  In fact, he’s quoted on the back cover of one of his most recent biographies admitting to being cheerfully promiscuous during his first flush with fame.  But when he met Iman, as he noted in an interview later on, he was already thinking of names for their children on their first date.  Although they only had one, they were happily married for more than 20 years.

These days, when a celebrity comes out of the closet, the world shrugs.  But when Bowie declared he was gay in 1972 (while promoting the Ziggy Stardust album), it was a proverbial earthquake.  Men in rock were expected to be macho, supremely virile, barechested conquerers like Robert Plant and Iggy Pop.  They were not supposed to be outrageously effeminate like Little Richard.

Bowie cleverly realized that by shocking his audience with non-traditional statements and moves like declaring he was homosexual (although he was indeed a macho, supremely virile ladykiller himself), he would stand out.  (His hero, Little Richard, a black man from the segregationist South, could never get away with that.)  Playing around with gender identity not only suited his image, it gave his songwriting a clear focus and identity.  It effectively separated him from the pack even if John Lennon initially dismissed it as “rock and roll with lipstick”.

Ziggy Stardust, you could argue, is the first fictional trans rock star.  Both Suffragette City and Lady Stardust employ female pronouns.  The gender of the protagonist of Rebel Rebel is never specified.  (“She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl.”)  Other songs like John, I’m Only Dancing seem to suggest a male character is only pretending to pass for straight when he’s really bisexual  (“She turns me on/But don’t get me wrong/I’m only dancing”).

The gambit worked in the free spirited UK but Bowie struggled for a similar break in the more sexually repressive America.  (It took three tries to get Space Oddity into Billboard’s Top 40 over six years.)  None of his glam anthems crossed over into the mainstream at the time.  It wasn’t until he directly addressed the US in Young Americans with his more soulful approach that he finally achieved the recognition he had long coveted.

And it might not have been as successful as it was were it not for the last-minute inclusion of the brilliant Fame, a blistering commentary on how shady managers ruin the charmed lives of rock stars, entirely inspired by a productive, late night bitch session with Bowie’s now close friend & supporter, John Lennon, who sang back-up vocals.  It hit number one.

Young Americans also benefited from the participation of Luther Vandross, then a young, hungry soul singer who Bowie hired to do arrangements and his own backing vocals.

From there, Bowie would undergo another dramatic transition to the cold detachment of Germanic electronica, first teased on the excellent Station To Station (which featured the hit Golden Years and the epic title cut with its slow build before its exceptional disco climax) then fully embraced on the laconic Low and “Heroes”.  Bowie has little memory of Station To Station’s creation because he was high on cocaine the entire time.  It was the last time he would make an album during punishing, successive all-night sessions.

When STS was ready to go, Bowie was riding in the back seat of his limo in Los Angeles one typically sunny afternoon when he spotted a familiar face walking down the street.  It was the troubled Iggy Pop, the former Stooges frontman.  (Bowie produced their third album, Raw Power.  His original mix remains controversial.)  He gave him a lift and eventually played him his new album.  Desperate to get something going again after his band flamed out for the second time, Iggy readily agreed to Bowie’s generous offer to tour Europe with him.  They ended up living in France and a then-divided Germany for a brief period.

The gesture solidified their friendship for years (although things cooled in the late 90s) and launched Iggy’s solo career.  Bowie helped spearhead The Idiot and Lust For Life (he convinced his label RCA to sign Iggy hyping him as the next Alice Cooper), both released during the UK punk explosion.  (He later produced Iggy’s eventual breakthrough, Blah Blah Blah, which included Real Wild Child.)  He even played keyboards in Iggy’s own touring band.  (They appeared on The Dinah Shore Show together, believe it or not.)  Years earlier, when another friend, Lou Reed, was similarly struggling, Bowie, fresh off his Ziggy Stardust triumph, produced Transformer, the album that spawned the classic Warhol Factory tribute, Walk On The Wild Side.  Bowie also penned Mott The Hoople’s biggest hit, All The Young Dudes, while also recording his own version.

After Lodger and Scary Monsters (both filled with classic hits and killer album cuts), the one-two punch of Under Pressure (with Queen) and the five-year-old Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth (with Bing Crosby), still the greatest modern Christmas song of all time, and the Baal EP, Bowie would be welcomed back to the American mainstream with Let’s Dance (which featured an unknown guitar slinger named Stevie Ray Vaughn).  Its blockbuster success genuinely startled him.  Combining dance music with the blues was seen as a unique hybrid.  Bowie never expected it to be his biggest album.  (It was nominated for the Album Of The Year Grammy.)  The title song would be his second and final US number one.  China Girl, originally recorded by Iggy on The Idiot, became a worldwide Top 10 giving The Jean Genie/Ziggy Stardust inspiration his first taste of financial stability.  (Bowie recorded other Iggy tracks on his next two albums.)

However, unable to relate to his new expanded audience and now uncertain about where to go next (he was also probably conflicted about the restoration of his fortunes after being screwed by DeFries which also had to have contributed to his reticence), Bowie greatly scaled back the edgy experimentation that defined his 70s work and played it safe with the covers-heavy Tonight (a good but not inspired collection) and the heavily criticized Never Let Me Down.

By the end of the 80s, Bowie was determined to get back on track.  The formation of Tin Machine with guitarist Reeves Gabrels and the Sales brothers (who played on Lust For Life) might not have panned out quite the way he intended, but it did spring him from his cushy, unfulfilling creative prison.  Never again would he feel the suffocating pressure of softening his avant garde ideas for mass appeal.

After Fame was remixed for Pretty Woman & Changesbowie (it was augmented by a nifty, visually arresting video) and Rykodisc reissued Bowie’s Polygram & RCA albums (many of which contained rare bonus tracks), Bowie resumed his solo career, first with Real Cool World (from the awful Cool World movie) and the album Black Tie White Noise which features a number of songs inspired by his second wife Iman who he had just married.  Standouts on the latter include Jump They Say (about his late schizophrenic brother Terry) and the belted out cover of I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday where he out-Morrissey’s Morrissey.

For the rest of the decade, Bowie’s alt-rock cred rose substantially even though the Let’s Dance audience had moved on.  Nirvana covered The Man Who Sold The World to much fanfare for MTV Unplugged.  (Bowie was often annoyed that fans thought Kurt Cobain wrote it.)  Nine Inch Nails joined him on tour.  And the guitar work on The Smashing Pumpkins’ Zero was clearly an unsubtle homage to Boys Keep Swinging.  Meanwhile, his hard rock edge returned.

Outside’s spoken word segments are skipable but not the songs, most especially The Heart’s Filthy Lesson, Strangers When We Meet, Hallo Spaceboy (the last Major Tom song) and A Small Plot Of Land (featuring the great pianist Mike Garson who played on Aladdin Sane).

The boisterous Earthling saw Bowie embracing jungle.  Best known for Little Wonder and I’m Afraid Of Americans (Trent Reznor’s remix is superior to the album version), it was released the same year he turned 50.  (In celebration, Bowie had a birthday concert at Madison Square Garden which featured guest musicians Dave Grohl, Lou Reed, Robert Smith, Frank Black and Billy Corgan.)

Bowie ended the 90s with the flawed but moving …hours which gave us the beautifully philosophical Thursday’s Child and the rocking, Stooges-inspired The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell.  The Dreamers features one of his most soaring late period vocals while This Isn’t Happening showcases one of Reeves Gabrels best hooks.  (A fan who won a songwriting contest wrote the lyrics.)

When Toy was scrapped (it later leaked online), Bowie presented Heathen instead.  (Slow Burn is a seriously underappreciated single, another great vocal showcase.)  Then came Reality and all its multiple versions.  The stellar New Killer Star was nominated for a Grammy.  Fall Dog Bombs The Moon, which was inspired by Dick Cheney of all people, is cutting social commentary about the collective indifference of rich, unaccountable sociopaths.  And his hurried, Spanish-inflected version of The Modern Lovers’ Pablo Picasso challenges one’s affection for the more relaxed original.

I could go on and on and on about this man’s life and career.  We haven’t even talked about his acting, how he played Andy Warhol in Basquiat, the villain in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (the soundtrack has a number of bouncy Bowie originals), the detached alien in The Man Who Fell To Earth and Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation Of Christ.  I haven’t mentioned his championing of bands like The Ramones, The Talking Heads, The Cure, Kraftwerk (V2 Schneider from “Heroes” was a direct tribute to the leader of the German foursome), The Polyphonic Spree and The Arcade Fire (who he performed live with during a Fashion Rocks event).  What about all the songs he did for other movies like Absolute Beginners, When The Wind Blows, The Buddha Of Surburbia and The Falcon & The Snowman, to name but four.  Nor have I run down his very funny Late Night With Conan O’Brien appearances.

There’s just so much, too much to document in a single tribute which is fitting after all.  Because there isn’t one song, one B-side, one concert, one album, one movie, one TV show or even one interview that singularly defines David Bowie.  You can try but it’s incredibly difficult.  There are just too many high points to choose from.

That said, let me highlight one moment of brilliance that is often overlooked.  In 1999, Placebo convinced Bowie to add his vocals to a single version of Without You I’m Nothing.  It’s this take that was added to their singles collection, Once More With Feeling.  Listen to the original album cut.  Then listen to the Bowie version.  Which one is the definitive one?

Do I even have to ask?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
3:53 a.m.

CORRECTIONS/CLARIFICATION:  In paragraph 6, I wrongly asserted that Bowie had “survived overdose after overdose”.  As he noted in an interview excerpted in the terrific BBC documentary, David Bowie: Five Years, he had come close to overdosing without actually doing it.  The original, erroneous phrasing has been excised and that first sentence has been tweaked to reflect the change.

Regarding paragraph 9, Bowie was wrongly diagnosed with a pinched shoulder nerve by the first doctor he saw who prescribed him muscle relaxers.  It was a second doctor who told him he had suffered a minor heart attack (he actually had a blocked artery) which resulted in a successful emergency surgery.  With the exception of the muscle relaxers and the blocked artery, all of this information has been added with the errors removed.

Finally, this piece was written in 2016, not 2015.  And yes, I just noticed this mistake now.  The correct year is now in place.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 15, 2016
4:28 p.m.

Published in: on January 12, 2016 at 3:53 am  Comments (2)  

Donald Trump’s Secret Song Choices To Replace Hail To The Chief

He had been threatening to do it for decades and no one took him seriously.  Even when he finally declared last June, he was still considered a longshot, a joke, a delusional plutocrat doomed to embarrass himself on the international stage.

But seven months later, however improbable it may be, the blatantly, unapologetically racist & sexist Donald Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican Presidential nomination.  Ever since he made his now infamous announcement, he has polled extremely well with potential right-wing voters, thanks in no small part to excessive, not always critical cable news coverage.  (I’m looking at you, CNN.)  Whether that will actually translate to caucus and primary victories remains an open question.  (The first vote is in Iowa on February 1st.)

Nevertheless, Trump is already making plans, prematurely.  How convinced is he that he’ll become the 45th President of the United States?  He’s contemplating replacing the traditional entrance theme, Hail To The Chief, with something more suitable to his abrasive, contemptible style.

Here is the secret list of songs he’s planning to choose from:

1. The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies (Faith No More)

2. Can’t Help Thinking About Me (David Bowie)

3. Walking Contradiction (Green Day)

4. Cocky (Kid Rock)

5. Hair (The Cowsills)

6. Better Get Used To It (Big Sugar)

7. Bigmouth Strikes Again (The Smiths)

8. My Big Mouth (Oasis)

9. I Don’t Care (Ramones)

10. All You Need Is Me (Morrissey)

11. Dodo (David Bowie)

12. Loser (Beck)

13. The Wall (Pink Floyd)

14. Back Off Bitch (Guns N’ Roses)

15. Hate (Iggy Pop)

16. Whatever (Iggy Pop)

17. Yeah, Whatever (Moev)

18. National Front Disco (Morrissey)

19. King Of Kings (Motorhead)

20. We Are The Champions (Queen)

21. Brilliant Disguise (Bruce Springsteen)

22. Mad World (Tears For Fears)

23. Simply The Best (Tina Turner)

24. The Right Stuff (New Kids On The Block)

25. Can I Play With Madness? (Iron Maiden)

26. Dum Dum Boys (Iggy Pop)

27. Cult Of Personality (Living Colour)

28. You’re So Vain (Carly Simon)

29. In A World Called Catastrophe (Matthew Good)

30. November Spawned A Monster (Morrissey)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, January 10, 2016
4:41 p.m.

Published in: on January 10, 2016 at 4:41 pm  Comments (1)