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beatlesarehere

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“The Beatles liberated young people from Victor Borge, Robert Goulet, Steve and Eydie, and the demented sing-along-with-the-bouncing-dots schlock immortalized by Mitch Miller. The Beatles liberated young people from bland show tunes, ethnic hooey like ‘Volare’ and ‘Danke Schoen,’ and stultifying novelty tunes like ‘Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh’ and ‘Mr. Custer.’

The Beatles held out hope that life might actually be worth living, that popular culture need not be gray, predictable, sappy, lethal. To this day, what I feel toward the Beatles is not so much affection or reverence. It is gratitude.”

Joe Queenan, humor writer

Before Cars on BainbridgeWe all know Dave Grohl’s story. Drummed for Nirvana. Played on Nevermind. After Kurt Cobain died, he switched to guitar and started Foo Fighters, then proceeded to win Grammys and sell millions of records.

But what of Nirvana’s previous percussionist, Chad Channing? The one who left the band before it became huge, the one who toiled in obscure clubs; who cut a swath through Europe; who helped bring Seattle music to the world; who played on Nirvana’s debut album, Bleach. What of him?

[Above photo: Before Cars, 2013. From left: Chad Channing, Andy Miller, Paul Burback, Justine Jeanotte.]

We here at TNB Music would like to extend a swift kick in the ass with a steel-toed boot to 2012, with menacing threats to never, ever show its ugly mug around here again. That said, this open heart surgery of a year has yielded a rich trove of enduring albums and songs, and as we impatiently wait for 2013 to pull up out front and beep its glorious horn, the intrepid writing corps at TNB Music now pause to share our favorite offerings from 2012.

To our readers, colleagues, conspirators, confederates and harried editors, we wish you all a happy, healthy and hopelessly sexy new year.

-Joe Daly

TNB Music Editor

 

In late ’70s New York City, kids forming underground bands often drew from the Ramones and their brethren. Punk rock rejected the sanitized mainstream music of the era, seeking to recapture the excitement of pre-Beatles rock n roll.

Long Island native Slim Jim Phantom took a different path when he formed Stray Cats with Brian Setzer and Lee Rocker in 1979. He had discovered rockabilly, a style of music that predated rock n roll. Rockabilly in 1979 seemed out of place, at least on the surface, but upon further examination, it made just as much sense as punk. “[Rockabilly is] the most American music,” says Phantom, who plays drums. “Gene Vincent wasn’t affected by the British. Eddie Cochran wasn’t affected by the British.”

One is hard-pressed to find a more festive American than Andrew W.K. The muti-talented musician, artist, motivational speaker and TV host announced his arrival with his 2001 debut I Get Wet, and its narcotically-catchy anthem, “Party Hard.” The ensuing decade saw the classically-trained musician release a slate of hard-charging rock albums celebrating the time-honored art of partying, as well a record full of J-pop covers and an album featuring only improvised piano pieces. He has published advice books and delivered motivational speeches at some of America’s most prestigious universities, including Yale, New York University and Carnegie Mellon. Anything but a vapid party animal, Andrew’s unwavering positive attitude and magnetic charisma saw him recently commanding headlines amid rumors of a State Department appointment as Cultural Ambassador to the Middle East.

So you’re sitting around with some folks discussing musical tastes. One says he’s into the Who and glammy rock. The other likes psychedelia.  A third mentions his fascination with death metal, but he also appreciates Britney Spears.  That third person doesn’t exist, does he?

He does if he happens to be Mark Brooks.

Comedian Jim Florentine might well swing the biggest pair of brass balls in stand-up comedy—no small feat in a genre where bulletproof cojones are an occupational prerequisite. Most comedy and music fans know Jim from his duties co-hosting VH1′s That Metal Show, but Jim first crept into the pop culture limelight years before through recurring appearances on MTV’s subversive hit show, Crank Yankers. He has since appeared in myriad television shows and movies, and although Jim proceeded to win an Emmy in 2004 for his work on HBO’s Inside the NFL, his most enduring achievement may well be that this month, he released the worst comedy album of all time. On purpose.

In 2011 right here at The Nervous Breakdown, Duke Haney commented the following about an essay of mine on, among other things, the pop group ABBA:

“I always thought of Agnetha and Frida [the female members of ABBA] as affectless, to the point where I made a joke about them in [Haney's novel] Banned for Life, something about a German girl having a fixed expression that reminds the narrator of Raggedy Ann or ‘one of those girls in ABBA.’ I remember seeing them on TV when I was a kid, barely moving while lip-syncing their latest chart-buster, as if they were battery-operated mannequins; yet they don’t come across that way to me now. On the contrary, I see emotion flickering in their faces, Agnetha in particular.”

I just finished writing a book filled with suicide, psychosis and the elusive meaning of life.  I turned it in and spent three solid weeks lying on my living floor, watching old metal videos and trying to untangle my brain.

My writer sort-of-mentor friend called while Judas Priest was ripping through “Diamonds & Rust”.

“Did you know that for at least one night in Memphis, K.K. Downing was the King of Rock and Roll?” I said when I picked up the phone.

“What?” she said.

“Never mind,” I told her, stabbing the TV mute.

Interview magazine recently published a uniquely compelling interview featuring the unlikely duo of astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to ever walk on the moon, interviewing rocker Jack White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, seven thousand other bands, side projects and one-offs). White, who never met a trend he didn’t buck, conceived the idea when the magazine solicited his thoughts on who might conduct his interview. Someone’s people called someone else’s people, an agreement was struck and thus flowed a thoroughly fascinating dialogue between these two disparate symbols of American culture.

 Flashing sign at the biker bar in the hills of Tennessee:

PARTY THIS FRIDAY WITH BLACK OAK ARKANSAS!!!

Black Oak Arkansas (“BOA”) was more southern than Skynyrd, raunchier than Blackfoot and raised more hell than Molly Hatchet.   BOA was backseat sex with white-haired witches; Jesus and the Devil and Arkansas shine; triple-axe attacks of hillbilly rock;  and the “scary basso profundo growls and testosterone-fueled antics of lead vocalist/showman James ‘Big Jim Dandy’ Mangrum.”

From All-Music Guide:

“The band toured extensively, building a reputation as a raw, incendiary live act that made up for occasional musical deficiencies with energy and the explicit sexuality of Mangrum, who flaunted his body at every opportunity and became known for such antics as miming sex with the washboard he used for musical accompaniment.”

The late eighties were a great time to be a fanboy of weirdo new wave ladysingers from outer space (mainly Britain). It seemed like every time you turned on your new favorite show, 120 Minutes, some wackadoodle dame dripping with otherworldly moxie was popping up sporting a leotard or a tutu or a completely bald head, leaving your mouth gaping in wonder at the sheer brilliance of it all. You had your helium-voiced ethereal fantasist (Kate Bush), your ferocious and feline Weimar Republic throwback/riding crop enthusiast (Siouxsie Sioux), your tiny elfin powder keg (Bjork of the Sugarcubes), your scary trannie android (Annie Lennox of Eurythmics), and your testy and tempestuous ingénue (Sinead O’Connor). All of these ladies had allure to burn and the musical chops to back it all up.

 

One of the galvanizing urges between movie buffs and music fans is a powerful love of lists. Whether the subject is “Best Sports Movies” or “Top Five Songs About Underwater Life,” we fans love the debate almost as much as putting our own lists in order. As a longtime fan of the film writing of TNB’s Associate Arts & Culture Editor Cynthia Hawkins, I needed to know her essential movies about rock and roll. She graciously obliged me and below are what we feel are ten essential movies about rock and roll. We prepared our lists separately and merged them after they were complete so as not to influence each other’s comments. In the case of one of the movies, this proved both telling and extremely amusing.

Nowhere has the difference between music fans in the US and those in the UK been sharper than in regard to The Darkness–the UK glam rockers whose 2003 debut, Permission to Land, went quadruple platinum in the UK. Among the staggering number of awards that album collected, its third single, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” was deemed “The Best Rock Song of the Noughties” by Classic Rock magazine.

In the US, that song didn’t even make the year-end top 100 for 2003. Sure, we heard the excitement building across the Atlantic and we watched the UK tabloids go ga ga over vocalist Justin Hawkins’ meat suit and prodigious appetite for the Epicurean life. We heard the music, too–mainstream US radio flung “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” into heavy rotation but the American media failed to embrace the band with even a fraction of the enthusiasm of their British counterparts.

So what gave?

 

It’s the time of year when every music outlet in the galaxy publishes its list of the year’s most notable music. Lists are to music fans what salt is to cooks–you can’t enjoy one without the other. We here at TNB Music are loathe to spurn a tradition as hallowed as a year-end list, and as 2011 has given us a truly stunning amount of fantastic music, we commemorate the year’s greatest sonic accomplishments.