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Showing posts from July, 2009

Radio, Radio: A Scientific Study of Cities 97

To start, I want to make it clear that I'm not going to write a comprehensive screed about the state of modern radio. Whatever problems radio has, it's had them for many years, and there are people who are much more informed and insightful on the topic than I am. Of course, you may wish to apply the conclusions drawn below more broadly, but that's out of my hands.

Instead, this piece is a scientific experiment of sorts, a detailed analysis of Twin Cities station Cities 97 (KTCZ-FM), a Clear Channel joint.

Why, you may ask, if I didn't not have a theory to prove about the state of radio, did I decided to perform this experiment? Well, basically it comes out of 10 years of tumultuous Twin Cities radio. When I first moved here in 1999, there were a few good choices for hearing new pop and alternative music. There was 104.1 The Point. It didn't last long and soon became an '80s station called Mix 104. Now it's 104.1 Jack FM. The 105.3 signal was Zone 105 when I m…

231. The Monkees: Then & Now...The Best of the Monkees (1986)

I've told this story before, but it bears repeating, especially because now it can be seen completely in context.

In the summer of 1986 I was 9 years old, and my mom shipped me off to Kentucky to spend two weeks with my grandparents. I was terribly homesick, and my mom tried to assuage this by sending letters and postcards. My step-dad also got into the act, sending me a tape for my Walkman along with a note that read, "I saw this and got it for you because I know they're one of your favorite groups." The tape was Then & Now...The Best of the Monkees.

That was the summer that The Monkees experienced a 20th anniversary career revival, courtesy of reruns on MTV and Nick at Nite. In fact, that revival was the reason for the existence of Then & Now.... The album was a cash-in. It also contained the first new Monkees songs since Changes in 1970: That Was Then, This Is Now, Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere, and Kicks.

In a continuation of their twisty band-member history, …

Hot Action Cop: An Interview

There are a couple of main themes in this story, and it's an old story told many times. One theme involves the pitfalls of perception, while the other concerns the elusive nature of dreams. The twin morals of the story are nothing we haven't heard before (don't be quick to judge and sometimes what you think you want isn't really what you want), but the specific players and events are, as always, new.

Consider Hot Action Cop, a Nashville band who in 2003 found themselves with a hit, Fever for the Flava. By all accounts the song was a wild success. It appeared on the soundtracks to several films, including American Wedding (aka American Pie 3). As of this writing the song has over 4 million plays on the band's MySpace page. If you go to YouTube and type "Fever for the Flava" into a search, you'll find videos of people using the song to test out their car stereo, middle school girls doing dance routines to it, and multiple videos where folks lip-synch the…

230. Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart (1976)

If you, like me, thought it was weird that the Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones made an album as the Monkees (Changes), then wait till you get a load of this.

In 1976, the Monkees had been dormant for 6 years. However, reruns of the old show were airing on Saturday mornings, generating some renewed interest in the band. An offer came around, as offers will, for the band to reunite. Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith, the two Monkees who quit the band, declined.

So instead, Davy and Mickey got together with Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, the duo who wrote many of the Monkees' hits. Unable to use the Monkees name, they choose to go by their last names (though I think Mickey, Davy, Tommy & Bobby has a certain ring to it). Billed as "the guys that sang 'em and the guys that wrote 'em" the band went out on a yearlong tour, which led to an album of new material. There's not much information about how successful the whole operation was, but obviously it wasn't lucrative…

229. XTC: Transistor Blast (1999)

Author's Note: While sorting through my files recently I came across the following forgotten review. I had previously labored under the delusion that my first album review was Wilco's Summerteeth, but this one preceded it by two months. It first appeared in the January 15, 1999 issue of the Augustana Observer.

Though they were on the brink of international success, the British band XTC were in serious trouble. It was 1982 and the band were in the middle of touring behind English Settlement, their most mature and best-recieved album yet. However, singer Andy Partridge had begun to have on-stage panic attacks. After one particularly bad spell of this gripping fright, Partridge told his bandmates he was finished touring, forever.

Now XTC have released Transistor Blast, a four-CD set comprised of some of the band's best live performances. Leave it to an unconventional group like XTC to release a live compilation 16 years after their last concert.

When the Beatles stopped toruing …

228. The Monkees: Changes (1970)

Really? That was my reaction when I first learned that Mickey and Davy made a Monkees album as a duo. Really?

Changes, the final Monkees album of the initial run, was recorded with Jeff Barry. Barry was a producer and songwriter who had previously worked with the group on More of the Monkees. Singer/songwriter Andy Kim (who later went to number 1 with Rock Me Gently) also helped out.

It's also worth noting that Barry and Kim were the writers behind a little song called Sugar, Sugar, by nonexistant band The Archies. It's hard to see this as anything but desperate. Afterall, the Monkees made such a valiant effort to be seen as credible artists on Headquarters. Hiring the men responsible for a bubblegum hit by a cartoon group seems to undo that work. Even though the group spirit of that album disappated, all four Monkees continued to write or co-write significant amounts of their own material on subsequent albums. Not so on Changes. Davy and Mickey are back to the way it was in th…

Baby, I'm a Star

If you have ever perused the sidebar over there to your right, you may or may not have noticed a blog of mine called Baby, I'm a Star. You may have visited once or twice. If you're especially astute, you probably noticed that I haven't posted anything there in 3 years.

The goal of Baby, I'm a Star is simple: I watch some of pop music's most famous and infamous films and then I write about them. Since there are literally hundreds of films to choose from, I initially picked 30 in 6 different categories (The Pop Music Movie, the Starring Vehicle, the Biopic, the Documentary, the Musical, and the Fake Band) to focus on. When I left off in 2006, I had written about 20 films.

In returning to the project, my ambition has expanded. So in addition to the 10 from my original list, I'll be watching and writing about 6 more films. My new mission is to post one per week, until the project is finally finished. I've also slightly redesingned the blog, and added an index for…

227. Paul McCartney: Flowers in the Dirt (1989)

It was 20 years ago today. Seinfeld and The Simpsons debuted, and the Detroit Pistons, Calgary Flames, Oakland A's, and San Francisco 49ers were all champions.

This is the fifth in a series of 5 reviews of seminal (well, depending on your definition of the word seminal) albums from 1989. You can read the other four here, here, here, and here.

At one point, I was so consumed with Beatlemania that I made a goal to track down any Beatle-related album, including tributes, albums by offspring (which is how I came to own The Secret Value of Daydreaming by Julian Lennon), and especially the solo albums of the four lads.

What eventually led me to abandon this goal was Paul McCartney. Let's face it, the solo work of the Beatles is largely mediocre, with occasional flashes of brilliance. Paul has contributed his fair share of both the former and the latter, but what makes him more problematic than the others is the sheer volume of his work. While the other three have all released approxima…