Till My Head Falls Off 04.18.03: My G-G-Generation

For Your Listening Pleasure
t.A.T.u. – 200 KM/H in the Wrong Lane

I could take the easy way out and blame my slight infatuation with this group on Claire Flynn Boyle, or I could just post a picture…

Is 1000 words enough? (Photo credit: Maxim UK)

News to You
I could use this part of the column to say something about what looks like the end of a successful campaign for American/Coalition troops in Iraq… or Michael Jordan’s last (?) NBA games… or, since this is a music column, about how Lisa Marie Presley’s album amazingly debuted at number 5 on the charts this week. But two things jumped out at me recently, that I haven’t really seen reported on ad nauseum (as opposed to the three items I just mentioned):

First, according to Billboard, a 28-year-old North Carolina man has been accused of trying to cash rapper Ricky “Slick Rick” Walters’ royalty checks. Steven Burke Glenn was arrested April 3 and charged with three counts of forgery, two of obtaining property under false pretenses, and one of identity theft, with “additional charges being considered.” May I suggest “being a complete moron without a license”? First of all, anyone who tries to rip off a celebrity ought to know better — if you’re going to steal someone’s identity, STAY AWAY from Donald Trump, Oprah or, yes, even Slick Rick, and stick with everyday Joe Shmos like, say, readers of this column. More importantly, though, you don’t screw with a cat just out of jail for shooting at his cousin!

This ain’t funny so don’t ya dare laugh / Just another case ’bout the wrong path… Indeed.

This one’s even more ridiculous… The newly launched Radar Magazine highlighted it’s debut issue with a focus on “celebrity monsters”, defined as “distinguished themselves in the areas of physical and verbal abuse, overweening arrogance, and by the imposition of a particularly nasty influence over the culture at large.” Now, who would you think is the number one celebrity monster? Suge Knight? Bill O’Reilly? Grover?

Oh, no… The top monster on Radar‘s list was… Jennifer Lopez. According to the magazine, “Jenny from the block” surrounds herself with an entourage that likes to yell, scream, and push people around. Now, having met her sister Lynda Lopez — who turned out to be very sweet and down to earth, and arguably much better looking than her sister — while interning at a local radio station a few years ago, I’d hate to think that J.Lo was the monster they say she is… but that doesn’t mean my cynical side doesn’t enjoy entertaining the idea that she’s much bitchier than her publicists would like us to believe…

Also on the list? Michael Moore and — surprise, surprise — Courtney Love….

My G-G-Generation
My segues keep getting better and better…

I realized that this week is the year anniversary of Layne Staley’s death (April 19, 2002) and the two-year anniversary of Joey Ramone’s (April 15, 2001), so that got me thinking about another significant rock and roll death — that of Kurt Cobain (April 5, 1994).

I admit it, I’m a pretty passionate fan of his. I’ve read Michael Azerrad’s excellent biography Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana, as well as Cobain and Who Killed Kurt Cobain?: The Mysterious Death of an Icon (Heavier Than Heaven is next on the list and I’ve strongly resisted the urge to purchase Kurt’s Journals)… I don’t own every bootleg, every recording that Kurt ever breathed on, but my collection of his music is nothing to be embarrassed about… I remember exactly where I was and how I felt when they found his body… I would have “Kurt Cobain Tribute” radio shows back at WHRW-Binghamton… I have become a huge Dave Grohl fan… I can’t wait for the fabled Nirvana Box Set to come out… oh, and I absolutely want to vomit whenever I hear or read anything about Courtney Love or Hole.

Now, I try to listen to as much of a variety of music as I can — within budgetary and time constraints, of course — and I have to admit, when I look at the hundreds of CDs I’ve accumulated through the years, there are some I know I’ll never, ever listen to again. (I still wonder what I was thinking asking my brother for that Fozzy CD.) But I always come back to Kurt, and I never get tired of my Nirvana albums, from Bleach to Unplugged.

It’s kind of interesting to take a step back and look back at that early nineties rock/grunge era:

Kurt and Layne (and I’m sure a few others that I’ll get beat up for missing)… dead.

Lollapalooza… making a comeback.

Chris Cornell… joined up with Rage Against the Machine (sans Zach de la Rocha) to form Audioslave.

Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlain from the Smashing Pumpkins… have formed Zwan.

David Grohl… with at various points, former Nirvana guitarist Pat Smear and Sunny Day Real Estate rhythm section Nate Mendel and Will Goldsmith, has formed the Foo Fighters (and he was recently featured on the latest Queens of the Stone Age album, along with former Screaming Trees member Mark Lanegan).

Sonic Youth’s Dirty… just reissued, and the band’s going strong.

Pearl Jam… well, Pearl Jam is Pearl Jam (more on them after I hit the April 30 concert at Nassau Coliseum).

And the strangest situation of them all: Stone Temple Pilots’ Scott Weiland is set to join the former members of Guns N’ Roses (not including Axl, of course).

While all of these artists try to reinvent themselves… or re-capture the magic from a decade ago… or just keep making music until it’s not fun anymore, I can’t help but wonder what Kurt Cobain would be doing if he was never killed in 1994. Would Nirvana still be together? Would he have gone on to work on rumored side-projects with folks like REM’s Michael Stipe, or (holding back the nausea) co-written a dozen hits with Courtney? Maybe he would have retired and spent time raising his daughter… or perhaps, he would have done like Michael Jordan (or, some may say, Pearl Jam) and refused to let go, sticking around too long past his prime.

Unfortunately for me, and a great deal of now twenty- and thirty-somethings that really empathized with him — not necessarily what he was singing about, but the emotion he expressed through his music — Kurt Cobain’s fate was to burn out rather than to fade away, and we’re left with some words and music to embrace every time we want to remember how we looked at life back in the early 1990s.

Feedback
Last week, I wrote about stage names, but reader Phil Watts pointed out a pretty good one…

Did you know that Mr. Tupac-impersonating-Cookie-Monster-soundalike Ja-Rule’s name is also an acronym? Dear GOD…you won’t believe how stupid this is:

Jeffery…

Atkins…

Represents…

Undying…

Loves…

Existence…

…JA RULE!

I’ll leave the jokes to you. You’ll probably have a field day with this!

Actually, Phil, I think that one speaks for itself. It doesn’t really worry me, though, since I have this sneaking suspicion that the “Ja Rule Era” will hardly be remembered when students whip out their hip-hop textbooks a few years from now…

I had a huge back-and-forth conversation with Reggie R. following my call to Eminem to step up to the plate. He made me think about a few things, and threw some excellent points out there… so here’s his list of top emcees of all time, that I promised him I’d include when I could:

I’ll go with the emcees that I’ve seen perform, control the crowd and just put on a real good show that just doesn’t should like playing their albums being played in front of a crowd. Here they are in no particular order:

1. KRS ONE – obviously has got numerous hits that fans know the words and like to throw in freestyles relevant to the era.

2. Doug E. Fresh – Master at keeping the crowd involved with his party anthems and his world famous human beat box routine. However, he still needs Slick Rick for a complete act.

3. Biz Markie – got similar attributes as Fresh except he can DJ as well.

4. Rakim – Everywhere I’ve seen him everybody just knows his music and just reacts to every song. Surprisingly laid back but the crowd is energetic even to this day.

5. Tupac Shakur – His performances were much better than you think. Raw style that the crowd just picks up on and always like to kick new songs at concerts.

6. Notorious B.IG. – His hits were just larger than life and the crowd felt it. He also liked to kick freestyles and mixed up his songs and usually had his guest appearances on his songs
with him.

7. DMX – His music people feel and his concerts are full of energy. Gets a little preachy at times but if you feel his prayers on his albums you feel his passion during his concerts.

8. M.C Hammer – I get heat every time I include him here. But his shows had the most energy in any rap performance period. His music wasn’t political or lyrical but just figure on who entertained a crowd better with his complete act.

9. Snoop Dogg – His chronic party anthems are what west coast music is all about. His concerts just kept fans hand wavin’ and C walkin’.

10. LL Cool J – Just a veteran at party anthems, crowd participation and his endless list of hits. Not to mention the way girls react.

Well there you have it. There are some other discrepancies as far as an emcee on wax but like I mentioned I chose the one’s I’ve seen perform. You know the phrase you use “… the most widely accepted and successful right now…” always scares me, because it includes all ranges of music listeners and not just rap fans. I also think if you asked Eminem who he thought was the top ten emcees he would probably say his name ten times. Thankx again for taking the time out and let me know who you think is the top ten.

Thank YOU Reggie — and if enough readers write in and give me their thoughts on this topic, I’ll be happy to address it again.

Fun With Spellchecker
What I typed: Axl, as in W. Axl Rose
Spellchecker’s suggested replacement: XL, as in “x-tra large” or the current SIZE of W. Axl Rose

Festival Update
Every time I turn around, there’s another festival announced! At least this one isn’t on Long Island… Japan’s Summer Sonic Festival — August 2-3 in Tokyo and Osaka — will include Radiohead, the Strokes, Travis, Puddle Of Mudd, Blur, Blink 182, New Found Glory, Blondie, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, the Doors, Placebo, the Datsuns, Starsailor, and…

wait for it…

wait for it…

CHEAP TRICK!

Beat THAT, Lollapalooza…

peace. love. moe.

– Matt

Till My Head Falls Off can be found weekly on 411 Music (old columns are archived in the pull-down menu below). Already hit everything on 411? You can find more from Matthew Michaels at moodspins and 1-42.