In 1962, NBC was nervously looking around for a replacement for Jack Paar on the successful Tonight Show. Programming chief Mort Werner went scouting and came upon a young comedian who worked with a pliant sidekick named Ed McMahon. Back in New York, he announced his discovery: “I’ve found an unknown.” Ten years later, pressed […]
The kid heard about it late morning on Thursday. First thing, he got in the car and drove from Des Plaines out to Carpentersville, near Elgin. He saw his brother-in-law, got the tape, and roared into Chicago. By quarter of three, he was in position, in the hematology and oncology ward of Children’s Memorial Hospital. […]
TRAVELING WILBURYS VOLUME ONE Traveling Wilburys Wilbury Records 25796-1 There was a time when the rock ‘n’ roll super session seemed almost meaningful. Clapton and Winwood–together! Beck and Stewart and Truth! Crosby and Stills and Nash and Young! It was thought that opposites–John and Paul-style–could somehow attract, calm each other’s excesses, and produce good music. […]
The Balancing Act’s calm, cool, and collected appearance belies an almost hysterical amalgam of textures and influences rioting beneath the acoustic surface. Steely Dan rhythms appear in one song, Flying Burrito Brothers harmonies in the next. Similarly, as soon as you have one lyrical fixation pegged–floors, roofs, and furniture figure prominently on the group’s new […]
A Compendium of Holiday Classics–and We Don’t Mean “Little Drummer Boy”
“Make sure you mention the sheet-metal workers–the backbone of the CTA!” hollers a man in the stairwell. The man, by no coincidence, is in fact a sheet-metal worker, and the stairwell he occupies provides access to the southbound platform of the Belmont station of the Howard el. In the small area beneath the platform, between […]
Eugene Burger thinks believing is the difference between a good magician and a bad one–and he ought to know.
On his third full-length record, Every Dog Has Its Day, prodigy producer and ultrapop songster Mitch Easter continues his search for the perfect hook. There’s a drama to his efforts and a poiignancy as well: it’s a noble task but a hopeless one too, and sooner or later one realizes that that’s not really what […]
Halfway through his show at the Riviera, Billy Bragg, as is his wont, digressed into a short monologue before his new song “Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards.” This song is the standout track on Bragg’s new record, Workers Playtime; it’s a luminous, transcontinental fantasy that begins in Cuba, rockets out to a nuclear test […]
On the basis of fairly extensive experience with Santa Cruz, California, I report that the students of the University of California there can be divided cleanly into four distinct groups. In steeply descending order of group size, they are: those who like it there and take drugs; those who don’t like it and take drugs; […]
The rain, indecisive all morning, asserted itself just as we got to Maxwell Street. My first visit was a soggy mess; droplets muddied the road and fell, not very faintly, over the living and the dead and the hubcaps and the bootleg Head & Shoulders and the platanos and the sneakers. Sheets of plastic paper […]
In the process of single-handedly atoning for Australia’s past contributions to popular music–the Bee Gees, Olivia Newton-John, Men at Work–Midnight Oil may come to rank with U2 as the Commonwealth’s hard-rock leaders. Like U2, the Oil has a clean muscular sound; with four musicians, however, Oil’s sound is more ornate and the arrangements more diverse. […]
People like Jimmy Page were influential with rock’s proletariat in a way that intellectuals like Dylan or Joe Strummer could never hope to be. Part of this was an ability to cloak himself in an effete ethereality (in contrast to Robert Plant’s cartoon sexuality) that typified him as the great bodacious rock star of the […]
Camper Van Beethoven you know about: the absurdist cowboy funksters from Santa Cruz, California, whose new record (and major-label debut) Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart, fulfills the promises and more of every indie band of all time. Live, the Campers provide something akin to a heavy-metal hoedown–but you knew that. The act to see Friday night […]
Are we really upset with Albert Goldman, who wrote the despicable biography, or with John Lennon, who lived the lamentable life?