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)  

50 Things I Loathed About 2015

1. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper died.

2. The CIA torture report remains classified.

3. Canada didn’t win the Womens’ World Cup.  At least they made it to the quarterfinals this time.

4. Hulk Hogan’s disgusting racism was exposed.  Hulkamania is dead.

5. The startling rise in global anti-Muslim hatred.  From vandalism and the torching of mosques to cruel remarks to ongoing mass surveillance to violent acts against women who wear hijabs and niqabs, Sikh men and others to the family who was forbidden from going to Disneyland to 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed being persecuted for making a clock to the constant torturing and droning of civilians in the Middle East and the despicably cold treatment of refugees fleeing in absolute terror, this decent community has suffered long enough.  It must stop now.

6. Jon Stewart ended his 16-year run hosting The Daily Show.  Trevor Noah has not made anyone forget that.

7. AJ Brooks left the WWE.  One of the best characters and performers of the decade thus far.  She’ll be missed.

8. Donald Trump’s racism and sexism.  It’s enough already.

9. Rob Ford has cancer again.  Hope he makes a full recovery.  Such an awful disease.

10. Despite being caught deflating footballs during a play-off game, The New England Patriots still won the Super Bowl.  Fuck the NFL.

11. Wes Craven died.

12. The NDP’s pitiful performance in the Canadian federal election.  Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to elect a leader who almost joined the Conservatives.

13. President Obama’s ongoing financial support of Middle Eastern dictators, most notably Sisi in Egypt and Netanyahu in Apartheid Israel.  The unspeakably cruel war against Muslims & Palestinians continues unabated.

14. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka was arrested for murdering his girlfriend.  Why did it take more than 30 years to close the case?  Vince McMahon and many of Snuka’s former allies have a lot of explaining to do, as well as the original investigators from 1983.

15. The horrific bombing of Doctors Without Borders hospitals in Yemen and Afghanistan.  Saudi Arabia and America have hands so bloody they are permanently stained.  These war criminals must be held accountable.

16. Bill Cosby’s endless gaslighting of his dozens of victims.  He’s already lost the public, now he’s going to lose millions in civil court thanks to several doomed-to-fail lawsuits.  (JANUARY 7 UPDATE:  And he could also go to jail for assaulting Andrea Constand, thanks to last-minute criminal charges filed right before the start of 2016.)  Good thing Cosby Show reruns are profitable.

17. Porn star James Deen, the latest high profile man to be accused of multiple rapes.

18. The “terrorism” episode of CNN’s The Seventies.  Apartheid Israel got off way too easily while the Palestinian struggle was all too briefly mentioned and often misrepresented.

19. Elise Labott was suspended by CNN for tweeting compassion for Syrian refugees, then apologized.  Fuck CNN.

20. Scott Weiland died.  Drug addiction is a fucking bitch.

21. All the awful movies I suffered through this year:  I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry; Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights; Hiding Out; Disorganized Crime; Consuming Passions; The Purge: Anarchy; Blended; Tammy; Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen; Resident Evil: Afterlife; Resident Evil: Retribution; Man Of The House (1995); The Money Pit; The Sender; The Secret Of My Success; Underworld Awakening (twice); Sex Tape; Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde; Prom Night (1980); Dragnet; See No Evil (2006); Maniac (1980); Stagefright: Aquarius; The Reunion; The Walking Deceased; Winnie The Pooh (2011); Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs; Ice Age: Continental Drift; The Messengers; A Night At The Roxbury; Curtains (twice); The Toolbox Murders (1978); Scary Movie 3; Scary Movie 4; Scary Movie 5; Evan Almighty; Horrible Bosses (mostly twice), Ouija; John Carpenter’s The Ward; Weekend At Bernie’s; The Man With One Red Shoe; The Dream Team; Summer Rental; See No Evil, Hear No Evil; Walk Of Shame; Zookeeper; Planet 51; Supercross; Leprechaun 2; Horrible Bosses 2; Sleepaway Camp; Money Train; The Monster Squad; Soul Man; 18 Again!; I Spit On Your Grave (1978 & 2010); Halloween III: Season Of The Witch; Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers; Halloween 5; Halloween: Resurrection; Halloween (2007), Halloween II (2009); Angel, Angel, Down We Go; The Lost Boys; The Boy Next Door; Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian; Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb; Turner & Hooch; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III; Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed; Unfriended; God Told Me To; The Lords Of Salem & House Of 1000 Corpses.

22. Kim Davis, the Kentucky public official who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.  Great.  Yet another right-wing martyr on the wrong side of history.  Can we please find a way to fire her?

23. The sudden, painful injuries of Seth Rollins, Cesaro, Tyson Kidd, Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton.  The WWE can’t afford to lose anymore top-tier performers.

24. Jared Fogle was exposed, tried and convicted of being a pedophile.  How much did Subway know?

25. My monthly Internet bill is now over 30 bucks.  Why is dial-up so fucking expensive now?

26. All the innocent Americans, mostly Black, wrongly murdered by police officers.  When will Black lives actually start to matter to law enforcement and the government?

27. Saudi Arabia persecutes and beheads way more innocent people than ISIS but keeps getting billions in military aid from the Obama Administration, the Cameron Administration and the now defunct Harper government.  Sickening.

28. The fascist campaign to defund Planned Parenthood thanks to discredited, suspiciously edited videos by an anti-abortion group.  If you don’t like abortion, don’t get one.  Let women decide for themselves what they want to do about their reproductive health.  It’s not your business, fuckers.

29. The ongoing persecution of Bowe Bergdahl.  Honourably discharge this good man already and let him get on with his life.

30. Barrett Brown, Chelsea Manning, Jeffrey Sterling, Matt DeHart and the Hammond brothers are all still incarcerated.  President Obama’s true legacy as the jailer of truth tellers who expose his criminal acts.

31. All the mass shootings in America.  The NRA and gun manufacturers must be challenged more forcefully in 2016.

32. The USA Freedom Act.  A very weak “reform” law.  How about defunding the NSA instead?

33. Donald Trump’s denunciation of former POW Bergdahl.  He’s not a “traitor”, asshole, he’s a torture survivor.

34. Rahm Emanuel is still the mayor of Chicago despite helping to cover up a police murder with his own police department for a year.  The living definition of a piece of shit.

35. Dusty Rhodes died.

36. Alan Kurdi and all the refugees who died trying to flee to safety from the wars in the Middle East.  We must take them in and give them a fresh start.  After all, we’ve been destroying their home countries for years.

37. Hillary Clinton’s mostly white feminist supporters.  You’re setting yourself up for disappointment.  Why not rally around Jill Stein instead?

38. NBC fired Donald Trump from The Apprentice then allowed him to host SNL.  Way to be consistent in your “values”.

39. Neither The Toronto Blue Jays nor The Chicago Cubs made it to the World Series this year despite both getting to the second round of the play-offs in their respective leagues.

40. The horrid, anti-democratic C51 was passed.  Don’t expect Prime Minister Trudeau to repeal it.

41. The horrible stampede at Mecca.  Because Saudi Arabia is a Western ally with oil, there is no justice.

42. The January & November massacres in Paris, France.  So much for “we fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here”.

43. CNN’s constant fearmongering about “terrorism” thanks to reporting every unsubstantiated Obama Administration talking point on-air.  Why don’t they just rename it the “we’re all gonna die network”?

44. Stephen Colbert’s first Late Show.  So bad I bailed about halfway through.  I’ve yet to sit through a full episode.

45. The 50 Shades Of Grey movie.  S&M Twilight.  The least stimulating sex scenes of 2015.

46. The Woman In Black 2.  The atmospherically spooky first one made sense.  Uneven number two wants to inspire a franchise it can never be.

47. Shameless Zionist Sheldon Adelson bought the Las Vegas Journal-Review.  This won’t end well.

48. Howard Stern’s deplorable smearing of Roger Waters who supports BDS and a free Palestine.  Apartheid Israel has the worst allies.

49. Wife beater Ray Rice won almost all of his back pay (some 3 million dollars) after successfully suing the Baltimore Ravens for firing him after his pitifully soft 2-game suspension.  The only good news is that he’s not currently playing in the NFL.

50. Gitmo is still open.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, December 28, 2015
2:52 a.m.

Published in: on December 28, 2015 at 2:53 am  Comments (2)  

50 Things I Loved About 2015

1. Omar Khadr was finally released from a Canadian prison.  He should’ve never been sent to Gitmo in the first place.  May he finally have his name cleared, his sight restored and enjoy his new life in his new home.

2. Same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States, ten years after Canada had already done so.  Better late than never, nonetheless.

3. The Triple Threat WWE World Heavyweight title match between Brock Lesnar, Seth Rollins & John Cena at the Royal Rumble.  A real treat to see most of it for free on Monday Night Raw the night after it happened.  (Remember that terrible January snowstorm?)  Brutal & gripping, it featured a breakthrough, daredevil performance by Rollins who would go on to have his best year yet.

4. Danko Jones’ Fire Music.  He’s still got it.

5. The Bray Wyatt/Roman Reigns Hell In A Cell match.  The feud never made any sense (“Anyone but you, Roman”?  What?) but these young talents worked hard nonetheless and delivered some memorably stiff spots.  Seriously underappreciated effort wrongly overshadowed by the disappointing Undertaker/Lesnar HIAC.

6. The unloved Sun News Network went off the air permanently.  It’s not missed.

7. The indefatigable Jason Leopold, the self-described “FOIA terrorist”.  Fitzgerald was wrong.  There are second acts in America.  Currently breaking countless important stories for Vice, I’d love to see him write for The Intercept.  He was right about the true significance of Hillary Clinton’s private email server scandal.

8. The FIFA reckoning.  The end of the Step Ladder era.  Good riddance.

9. Muse’s Drones.  Timely, spirited bombast pointed directly at President Obama’s illegal assassination program.

10. Professor and author Steven Salaita won a justifiable six-figure settlement from the UIUC after being wrongly dismissed before ever starting his new job there, all because he publicly opposed the 2014 Gaza massacre by Apartheid Israel on Twitter.  Talk about a vindictive screw-job.  He deserves better.  Thankfully, he found another job, wrote a book about his experience and is carrying on.

11. Seymour Hersh’s thorough challenging of the official Obama narrative regarding the assassination of Osama Bin Laden.  We’ve been lied to from the very beginning.

12. Team Canada’s record-setting Pan Am Games performance.  Will this lead to a higher Summer Olympics medal haul in Rio?

13. Wrongly persecuted journalist Mohamed Fahmy was finally released from an Egyptian gulag and returned to Canada, no thanks to John Baird and the Harper Administration.  His two years of torture are finally over.

14. Revolution Records opened in my city.  17 CD purchases thus far with hopefully many more to come.

15. Bill Cosby blocked me on Twitter.  Warren Kinsella blocked me after I blocked him first.  Why so fearful, fellas?

16. Lindsey Graham & Bobby Jindal’s failed Presidential campaigns.  Terrible Republicans with terrible ideas outmatched by worse Republicans with worse ideas.

17. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mostly compassionate refugee policy.  Why federal elections matter.

18. The escaped llamas.  Too bad they were captured.

19. Persecuted attorney Stanley Cohen was freed just before Christmas.  He should’ve never been imprisoned in the first place.

20. The return of Alberto Del Rio to the WWE.  Glad he beat John Cena for the US belt.  He’s in the best shape of his life and remains a killer in the ring.  All he needs is a solid rival.

21. The sudden legal trouble the obnoxious Martin Shkreli finds himself in.  No one sympathizes with anyone who jacks up the price of vital medicine by a considerable margin.  Greedy asshole.

22. Apartheid Israel and its right-wing supporters couldn’t prevent the US from making a deal with Iran with regards to their nuclear facilities.  Zionism is dying.

23. Daniel Bryan won the InterContinental title in a decent multi-man ladder match at WrestleMania 31.  A shame he didn’t get to have a long reign.  He has the most miserable luck.

24. Much to my surprise, President Obama outright rejected the Keystone XL pipeline extension.  Where were the protests for all the other US pipelines, including the existing XL which Obama quietly authorized?

25. The United States began restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba.  One of the few positive accomplishments of The Obama Administration.

26. Cranky, stubborn, journalist hating, Stephen Harper supporter Earl Cowan.  Hilariously out of touch with reality.

27. CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou was released from prison.

28. Diane Sawyer’s interview with Caitlyn Jenner.  Fascinating and deeply revealing.

29. All the good movies I saw this year:  Veronica Mars, Tarzan (1999), The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane, Prince Of Darkness, The Hitcher (1986), The Thing From Another World, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Halloween (1978) and National Treasure.  Plus two great ones:  Comic Book Confidential and The Drop.

30. The Bushwhackers’ acceptance speech at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony.  Hilarious and endearing.

31. Norton Security only required one massive download after installation.  My last Norton Antivirus required dozens.

32. The Stephen Harper era in Canada is over.  We lost so much international respect and credibility these past nine years.

33. Brandon Flowers’ The Desired Effect.  Happily stuck in the 80s.  The more I hear him sing, the more he reminds me of a young Billy Joel.

34. Wrongly incarcerated and severely tortured for over a decade, British family man Shaker Aamer was finally released from the hell that is Gitmo.  May he find peace and tranquility and sue America for as much as he can get.  Here’s hoping his torturers get prosecuted someday.

35. Big E, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston, the current WWE tag team champions.  “New…Day rocks.  New…Day rocks.”  They’re also very funny, especially on commentary.  I’m loving the trombone.

36. Jorge Ramos.  Get rid of Anderson Cooper and replace him with this fearless journo who is just as tough on President Obama as he is on Donald Trump.

37. The Wyatt Family/Team ECW extreme rules match on Monday Night Raw the night after TLC.  No blade jobs necessary.  This one had plenty of memorable spots:  Braun Strowman flying over the announce table, Bubba Ray Dudley catching a flying kendo stick, Strowman clotheslining a falling Tommy Dreamer off the apron, Strowman carrying Dreamer then running and crashing through a barrier & Erick Rowan splashing Rhino through a table for the deserved win.

38. The Iggy Pop segment during the Miami episode of Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown.  The whole show should’ve been about him.

39. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s numerous scandals.  He’s right at home in the Republican Party.

40. David Sirota and the International Business Times.  They did first-rate reporting on numerous shady, corrupt Presidential candidates.

41. Seth Rollins cashed in his Money In The Bank briefcase to win the WWE World Heavyweight title at WrestleMania 31 during the Brock Lesnar/Roman Reigns match.  A good story with a great ending.

42. CNN’s The Seventies.  Despite its flaws, a riveting history lesson.

43. Ontario’s new progressive sex ed curriculum.  Why didn’t this exist when I was in school?

44. The Guardian’s eye-opening series on the once secret American drug war gulag Homan Square.  The Chicago PD remains as ruthlessly corrupt as it’s always been.  Spencer Ackerman deserves a Pulitzer.

45. The Palestinian BDS campaign continues to be a major pain in the ass to Apartheid Israel and its hypocritical, in-denial supporters.  May it continue to do so until the occupation finally ends.

46. The Intercept.  Now so much more than just a place to read the latest infuriating NSA disclosures.  An increasingly vital website.

47. Larry Wilmore’s relentless mocking of serial drug rapist Bill Cosby.  He’s hasn’t forgotten about you, motherfucker.  Neither have I.

48. Nicki Minaj calling out Miley Cyrus on the MTV Video Music Awards during her acceptance speech (too bad it didn’t lead to a Hell In A Cell match) and Kanye West’s hilariously moronic acceptance of his Vanguard lifetime achievement award.  Paul Heyman needs to teach him how to cut a coherent promo already.

49. This line from The Jim Gaffigan Show:  “You look like every bad guy on Downton Abbey.”  Killer.

50. Adele’s Hello.  The woman’s got pipes.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, December 28, 2015
2:16 a.m.

Published in: on December 28, 2015 at 2:16 am  Leave a Comment  

5 Rock Songs That Slyly Reference 5 Other Rock Songs

Before they were rock stars, they were fans:  impressionable kids who scoured the racks at their local record shops looking for something, a single or an album that would change their lives.  Once they found it, they took it home and played it to death while obsessing over every detail of the packaging until it was all committed to memory.  Then they would return to find something new and repeat the process all over again.

Even after they started their own bands and achieved their own level of success, they never stopped being fans.  From time to time, they even recorded their own versions of their childhood favourites with varying results.

But sometimes the best way to pay tribute to a classic song is to be subtle.  Instead of doing a full throttle remake, why not just make a quick passing reference in one of your originals?  Like a direct lyric lift or a sample.

These five bands did just that:

1. Rush honours Simon & Garfunkel in The Spirit Of Radio (1980)

Drummer Neil Peart was a fan of CFNY, the tiny FM alternative rock station that would introduce the likes of Elvis Costello, the Sex Pistols, U2 and countless other cutting edge acts to Toronto-area listeners beginning in 1978 while also playing the latest from Neil Young and The Who, two revered influences on the burgeoning movement.

As a tribute to the station, Peart wrote the lyrics to The Spirit Of Radio, one of CFNY’s early ad slogans, which became one of the key singles from the 1980 album, Permanent Waves.

In the final reggae section of the song, singer/bassist/keyboardist Geddy Lee sings:

“For the words of the profits are written on the studio walls/Concert hall”

That’s a sly reference to this lyric from Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sounds Of Silence:

“And the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls/And tenement halls”

Peart was mocking the corroding influence of the commercial music business on individual creativity.

Ironically, The Spirit Of Radio would only receive sporadic airplay on CFNY, much to Rush’s disappointment.  It would be spun far more often on local competing classic rock stations.  In fact, it still is.  It wasn’t until Catherine Wheel was commissioned by the station to do a cover for the Spirit Of The Edge Vol. 2 compilation in 1996 that the song, albeit in this remade form, was finally put in high rotation.

2. Bush references David Bowie in Everything Zen (1994)

Ultimately derided as Nirvana clones (they were really trying to sound like The Pixies), this English foursome couldn’t produce enough modern rock hits to ever win over their increasingly unimpressed critics.

Their first album, Sixteen Stone, quietly debuted just before Christmas in late 1994 and would go on to spawn five singles which flooded alt-rock stations for the next two years.  (The last one, Machinehead, continues to be a jock anthem at numerous sporting events today, most notably hockey.)

Of all the Sixteen Stone hits, none was better than their debut offering, Everything Zen.  At the start of the second verse, singer Gavin Rossdale sings:

“Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow/Dave’s on sale again”

After the massive UK success of his fifth album, The Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars in 1972, David Bowie’s record company RCA decided to release a single from his previous LP, Hunky Dory, in order to cash in on his sudden fame the following year.

Smart move.  Life On Mars? went on to become a Top 5 smash despite being two years old.  (Strangely, it was never released as a single in North America.)  At the start of the second verse, Bowie sings:

“It’s on America’s tortured brow/Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow/Now the workers have struck for fame/Cause Lennon’s on sale again”

Bowie was referencing future close pal John Lennon who would release the Imagine album in 1971.  (Four years later, they would collaborate on Bowie’s first US number one smash, Fame, which gives that portion of the lyric unintentional prescience.)  In turn, Rossdale was giving a tip of the hat to Bowie who actually didn’t release any new CDs in 1994.  Presumably, the Bush frontman is referring to his 1993 solo comeback, Black Tie White Noise.

Interestingly enough, Bowie himself referenced another song in Life On Mars?  While the female protagonist is watching the fictional, unnamed film in the chorus, he sings “look at those cavemen go”.  As noted by Wikipedia, that’s a direct reference to a 1960 song called Alley Oop by a forgotten band called The Hollywood Argyles.  (“Look at that caveman go!“)

3. The Tea Party pays homage to Joy Division in Fire In The Head (1995)

Another band who knows a thing or two about having their egos bruised by the critics is this Windsor, Ontario trio.  Often dismissed as “Jim Morrison fronting Led Zeppelin”, which is only partially correct (the band has freely admitted deriving inspiration from the English metal pioneers), The Tea Party were actually more influenced by Joy Division.

Case in point:  the 1995 single Fire In The Head from their third album, The Edges Of Twilight.  At the end of every verse, deep-voiced frontman Jeff Martin croons with his higher-voiced self:

“This is the way/Step inside”

That just happens to be the chorus for Joy Division’s Atrocity Exhibition, the opening track from their second album, Closer.  (Atrocity Exhibition was also the name of an experimental J.G. Ballard novel.)

Tired of comparisons to The Doors, The Tea Party named their fourth album Transmission (also the name of an early non-album Joy Division single) and added keyboards to their already unique sound.  By the end of the decade, they were one of the most successful bands in Canada, half-accurate critical descriptions be damned.

4. Garbage quietly samples R.E.M. for Stupid Girl (1995)

The fourth single from the first Garbage album was their Top 40 breakthrough.  The drum hook that plays throughout the track is from The Clash’s Train In Vain which, curiously enough, was their first Top 40 achievement.

But there’s another unoriginal drum part not credited in the liner notes that pops up during several instrumental breaks.  If you listen closely, you’ll notice a quick rat-a-tat-tat sample from R.E.M.’s Orange Crush.

So, why wasn’t this noted?  A number of quick web searches didn’t provide any answers.  (My guess:  a secret financial deal was reached without the need for credit which, as Alan Cross has noted, is pretty standard for the industry.)  Maybe when the 20th Anniversary edition of Garbage, the band’s self-titled debut, comes out later this year, we’ll get the full scoop.

5. The Killers tip their hat to David Bowie in Mr. Brightside (2004)

This one I just noticed recently after buying the Hunky Dory CD.

In the last verse of Queen Bitch, his glammy tribute to Lou Reed, Bowie sings about being isolated, cold and envious in his hotel room.  At one point, while continuing to observe his male companion “down on the street”, he reports:

“So I throw both his bags down the hall/And I’m phoning a cab/Cause my stomach feels small”

In Mr. Brightside, frontman Brandon Flowers is tormented in the aftermath of an ended affair.  In the second half of the song’s only verse where he punishes himself by dreaming about his ex getting involved with another man, he sings:

“Now I’m falling asleep/And she’s calling a cab/While he’s having a smoke/And she’s taking a drag/Now they’re going to bed/And my stomach is sick”

Earlier, near the end of the first verse of Queen Bitch, Bowie sings:

“I just can’t see her letting him go.”

In Mr. Brightside, in the midst of his imaginary nightmare, Flowers observes:

“But she’s touching his chest now/he takes off her dress now/letting me go”

These similiarites between the two sets of lyrics (both songs deal with jealous lovers) are not a coincidence.  Flowers has openly declared his admiration for Bowie in the press for years.  In fact, in 2010, he said his music changed his lifeIn a 2013 interview with Entertainment Weekly, he admitted that the bassline for All The Things That I’ve Done was stolen from Slow Burn, an underrated Bowie single from 2002’s Heathen.  In that same interview, he revealed that as The Killers were starting to generate material, he was very much into 70s glam rock, Lou Reed’s Transformers & Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust in particular.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, July 26, 2015
10:18 p.m.

CORRECTION:  I can’t believe I screwed this up.  The Tea Party lyric stolen from Joy Division is “This is the way/step inside” not “aside”.  My apologies for this stupid mistake.  The text has finally been corrected.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, July 8, 2017
4:17 a.m.

Published in: on July 26, 2015 at 10:18 pm  Comments (1)