Thursday, November 23, 2017

Rock And Roll Holiday Gift Guide

First of all, a Happy Thanksgiving to all the American readers of this blog. Even if you’re not located in the U.S., it’s never a bad idea to take a few moments to consider the things you’re grateful for.

It’s that time of year when indie newspapers and major publications alike offer gift guides for their readers. Their choices are decidedly quirky and aimed at those with special interests or hobbies. It’s a great way to discover items you won’t likely encounter in your local department store. With that goal in mind, here’s the somewhat annual (I know I’ve missed a few years) Broken Hearted Toy Rock And Roll Gift Guide.

When I was at Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago this past August, I had the honor of meeting Vivek J. Tiwary, author of The Fifth Beatle - The Brian Epstein Story. It’s an eye-pooping, 135-page graphic novel tribute to the man who gave us The Beatles, and has won a number of awards. Tiwary, who’s also a successful Broadway producer, is currently bringing The Fifth Beatle to television as a six-part mini series.

For the vinyl lovers in your life, choose from the limited-edition releases coming to record stores tomorrow only for Black Friday Record Store Day. It’s not as massive as the April version, but there are lots of choices in every imaginable genre. Keep in mind, the earlier you get there, the better the selection. In yesterday’s post, I mentioned some of the artists participating, but I’d like to add something to my comments on the Dear December holiday album from The Minus Five. The band’s founding member Scott McCaughey is recovering from a recent stroke, and a portion of the sales will go to his medical fund. As noted in an email from Yep Roc Records, several well-known artists helped out on Dear December, including M. Ward, Ben Gibbard, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, The Posies, Kelly Hogan and Nora O’Connor.

Author Bill Bentley’s Smithsonian Rock And Roll - Live And Unseen hardcover book is the result of the Smithsonian museum asking fans in 2015 to submit photos they had taken at their favorite concerts. The Woodstock and Lollapalooza festivals are included, as well as gigs at the Whisky A Go Go. The photos include Chuck Berry, Bruce Springsteen, and other major artists.

For sci-fi, gaming, action figures, vintage toys, movie and TV memorabilia, and other collectibles, check out the Chicago Pop Culture Convention  at the Pheasant Run Mega Center and Ballroom in St. Charles this Saturday and Sunday. The event also promises cosplay, artists, sports memorabilia, and music in vinyl and CDs.

As reported in the most recent edition of Parade magazine, rock and roll fans can purchase photos of iconic musicians like The Doors; The Beatles; Crosby, Stills and Nash; Joni Mitchell; The Clash; Stevie Wonder; The Rolling Stones; Jimi Hendrix; Bruce Springsteen, The Who; and Bob Dylan from the Morrison Hotel Gallery. Books, posters, t-shirts, and tote bags are also available on the site’s marketplace.

After buying a pack of colorful David Bowie stickers at the Alice’s Tea Cup restaurant when my wife Pam and I were on vacation in New York, I was surprised to discover Last Craft, the company that makes them, is located in Chicago. The website also sells candles, clothing, stickers, tarot cards, enamel pins, and shoelace locks—aimed at new wave, goth, feminist, gay, lesbian, and witch consumers.

Also, be sure to check out the Facebook pages and websites of your favorite artists for exclusive music, apparel, and other items. Record label websites like Bloodshot, Yep Roc, and Fruits de Mer are always worth shopping, and The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame website has lots of inductee and exhibit memorabilia. Pledge Music, Go Fund Me, and other crowd funding sites are a good way to support your favorite artists and pick up autographed items. And you never know what rare treasures you’ll discover on eBay.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

When Black Friday Comes

The Black Friday version of Record Store Day has yet to achieve the success of the original that comes in April, but there are still enough vinyl treasures in a variety of genres to make a trip to your nearest record store worthwhile. The artists involved include Tori Amos; Chuck Berry; The Byrds; Papa John Creech; Steve Earle; Janis Joplin; Wes Montgomery; Queen; Southside Johnny; The Sundays; Tangerine Dream; Big Star; Muddy Waters; Chet Atkins; U2; Sparks; Sun Ra; The Turtles; The Brian Setzer Orchestra; Gram Parsons and The Fallen Angels; The Doors; Aretha Franklin; The Grateful Dead; Richard Hell and The Voidoids; John Lee Hooker; Lydia Loveless; Waylon Jennings; Ziggy Marley; Petula Clark; Procol Harum; The Raspberries; Otis Redding; and Neil Young. There are also various artists collections featuring garage rock, jazz, soul, and 1960s Los Angeles-area bands.

The colder weather, holiday celebrations, and an already established tradition of shopping department stores may cut down on your competition for RSD limited editions, but it’s still advisable to get out there early. Afterwards, you can celebrate your successful hunt over a hot beverage (in my case, a chai tea latte) at a nearby Starbucks, Argo, or Dunkin Donuts. Here’s a look at some of the records I’m hoping to snag this time around.

Paul McCartney, Jimmy Fallon, and The Roots - A pair of Holidays Rule seven-inch singles, both with “Wonderful Christmastime” on the A-Side. The green vinyl version has The Decemberists singing Alex Chilton’s “Jesus Christ” on the flip side and the red version has Norah Jones singing “Peace.”

Cheap Trick - Christmas Christmas A 12-song holiday collection of original tunes and cover versions of The Kinks, The Ramones, Chuck Berry, and Wizzard.

The Minus Five - Dear December A 12-song seasonal collection from the quirky power pop band.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Ooh, You’re A Holiday

Some festive activities coming up in town.

WXRT overnight radio personality Emma Mac will be hosting Holiday Hours with Heineken at venues around the Chicago every Thursday through December 21. This week’s event at O’Shaughnessy’s on Ravenswood takes place tomorrow (Wednesday) night due to Thanksgiving. Mac will be at Fado, Elbo Room, Emerald Loop Bar and Grill, and Lottie’s in the coming weeks. The festivities last from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. and those who show up have a chance to win a Heineken’s guitar.

Vinyl fanatics can unwind with some live music after buying limited-edition albums and singles on Black Friday Record Store Day at Val’s Halla in Oak Park. Scheduled performers include Ellis Clark and Ary Jeebie; the Greg Jackson Combo; Decoy Prayer Meeting; Scott Williams Family Band; Phoenix; Tom Klein Experience; Phil Angotti; Black Friars Club; and Hamburglars.

Bloodshot Records will be spinning tracks from its various artists Christmas album 13 Days Of Xmas when it hosts a Holiday Pop Up Store on December 2 at its headquarters on Irving Park Road. The Chicago-based indie label is promising refreshments and snacks, along with exclusive holiday stuff like records, clothing, and signed memorabilia for sale. The event, which will run from noon to 7:00 p.m, ties in with Bloodshot’s seventh annual Stuffed Animal Drive, which collects soft toys and warm clothing.

Alt rock band whitewolfsonicprincess and garage rockers The Telepaths are holding a Toys For Tots Benefit Show on December 2 at Red Line Tap. Led by vocalist Carla Hayden and guitarist-vocalist James Moeller, whitewolfsonicprincess are veterans of Chicago’s holiday charity scene.

The Empty Bottle is hosting Warm, Safe and Sound, A Coat/Sweater Drive for Homeless Chicagoans  on December 21. Donating a coat or sweater will get you in to see the blues rock band North By North, psychedelic rockers Secret Colours, indie rock band The Handcuffs, and the coed indie pop duo Star Tropics.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Gee, But It’s Great To Be Back Home

I’ve offered excuses in the past for being AWOB (Absent Without Blogging) but this is a particularly valid one. My wife Pam and I were on vacation in Manhattan starting last Wednesday and just returned today. It was my first visit, and New York more than lived up to its billing as an eye-popping, multi-cultural, bigger-than-life entertainment mecca with delightful surprises and cultural icons around every corner.

All the credit goes to Pam for crafting an itinerary that included the best tourist attractions as well as places that appealed to our own unique interests. We walked at least 10 miles a day, including a journey up inside The Statue Of Liberty to her crown, and taking in the view from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. We mingled with the crowd in Times Square each night and listened to a lecture on immigration at Ellis Island.

We passed by The Ed Sullivan Theatre, where The Beatles performed and David Letterman held court; and got a quick view of The Apollo in Harlem. We joined the fans at the John Lennon Imagine memorial in the Strawberry Fields area of Central Park, and browsed the John Varvatos store where CBGB’s—the cradle of America’s punk scene—used to stand. Broadway retains its status as the most influential and star-studded theatre scene in the country.

As we passed through LaGuardia Airport today, a guard asked if I had any magazines or newspapers in my luggage. It’s the first time I’ve been asked that by airport security, and I answered that I had a ton of them. Luckily, it just involved her taking a quick look through my newfound collection. I’m hoping to post more about those New York publications, as well as some record stores and small eateries, in a future post.


Saturday, November 11, 2017


Photo of Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow from The Posies' Facebook page.

2018 will mark the 30th anniversary for The Posies, and some celebrations are in the works. Founding members Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow plan to tour as a duo starting in January, and and at some point, as a full band. Upcoming dates include New York, Boston, Memphis, Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Nashville. They’ll hit City Winery Chicago on January 31. A post on the band’s Facebook page states: “We will be doing material from four different decades in these shows. Good Grief! Special guests . . . mayhem . . . harmonies . . .” The Posies will also release deluxe reissue of their albums from the 1990s.

CIMMfest (Chicago International Movies and Music Festival) is back for its annual run at various venues around Chicago. The four day event runs through tomorrow and will screen films featuring David Bowie, Sharon Jones, Penelope Spheeris, Paul Butterfield, Public Image Ltd., X, Blind Boys From Alabama, System Of A Down, Dixie Hummingbirds, Circle jerks, Pansy Division, and others. Live music performances include a Sharon Jones and Dap Kings Tribute, Tom Rush, Lee Ranaldo, and Nth Power.

They’re still in love with him. A number of local musicians will join together at Martyrs on Lincoln Avenue this Monday, November 13 for Love And Happiness: The Music of Al Green.  John Mead (who’ll serve as host), Bill Brickey, Steve Dawson, and Alton Smith are going to pay tribute to the iconic singer, with help from Chris Greene, Jack Cassidy, Gros Nolle Polossi, and Lenny Marsh. The show starts at 8:00 p.m.

Saturday Night Live: The Experience, a multimedia exhibit celebrating the long-running NBC show, is currently running at the Museum Of Broadcast Communications in downtown Chicago. 

Phil Angotti will likely be showcasing songs from his latest album Such Stories when he performs at Montrose Saloon on Wednesday, November 15.

The Chicago Art Book Fair will run from Thursday, November 16 through Sunday, November 19 at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel on Michigan Avenue. The first annual showcase promises zine-makers from around the globe, book and comics artists, and self publishers. Admission is free.

Record Store Day Black Friday is a great opportunity to pick up one-of-a-kind vinyl treasures, either as holiday gifts or for yourself. You can also catch some live music throughout the day after Thanksgiving at Val’s Halla record store in Oak Park. The scheduled performers are Ellis Clark and Ary Jeebie; Greg Jackson Combo; Decoy Prayer Meeting; Scott Williams Family Band; Big Hair Trouble featuring Ellis Clark and Ary Jeebie; Phoenix; Tom Klein Experience 3:30; Ellis Clark and The Big Parade featuring Ary Jeebie; Phil Angotti; Black Friars Club; and Hamburglars.

WXRT Live From The Archives Volume 19 will be available on December 1 at Chicago area Target stores. A partial list of the artists involved has been posted on the station’s website and includes Phoenix, Cold War Kids, Sting, Portugal. The Man, Vance Joy, and Real Estate. All of these live performances were recorded in 2017.

Limited-edition 18 x 24 screen prints of artist Shepard Fairey’s dazzling portrait of Debbie Harry will become available for $75 each between 10:00 a.m. and noon on November 13 on his Obey Giant  website. The prints will be signed by Fairey and Blondie founding members Debbie Harry and Chris Stein.

The Empty Bottle is hosting Warm, Safe and Sound, A Coat/Sweater Drive for Homeless Chicagoans  on December 21. Donating a coat or sweater will get you in to see the blues rock band North By North, psychedelic rockers Secret Colours, indie rock band The Handcuffs, and the coed indie pop duo Star Tropics.

Tributosaurus, one of the Chicago area’s best known tribute bands, becomes Paul McCartney on December 6 at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue.

The Bill Graham Rock And Roll Revolution
 ends its run at the Illinois Holocaust Museum And Education Center in Skokie tomorrow. Graham is credited with helping the careers of Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, The Who, and Jimi Hendrix.

Congratulations to Rolling Stone on its 50th anniversary. The magazine is celebrating in various ways, including a recent two-part special on HBO and special printed editions. If you missed the TV special, it’s likely it will air again, and/or be released on DVD or Blu-ray.


Friday, November 3, 2017


The Bad Examples will be performing the energetic rock of “Not Dead Yet,” along with Squeeze-worthy gems like “Kill Amanda” and “Pictures Of A Masquerade” at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn tomorrow night. Billy Prine, younger brother of iconic folk singer John Prine, and his band are the opening act. Bad Examples lead vocalist/chief songwriter Ralph Covert will be back at the same venue on November 25 as Ralph Covert’s Acoustic Army.

Other highlights at FitzGerald’s this month include critically acclaimed singer-songwriter James McMurtry with Max Gomez next Saturday, and the Speed4Sarah Fall Fundraiser and Concert with Expo ’76 and Nasty Snacks on November 24.

IFP Chicago will celebrate 30 years of supporting independent filmmakers with a bash on tomorrow at Noisefloor on Erie Street. There will drinks, entertainment, and raffle prizes.

There’s a four-band showcase taking place at Silvie’s on Irving Park Road tomorrow night featuring Go Time!, Paul Coady And The Edsels, Letterbomb, and Too Much Saturn.

The 34th Annual Chicago International Children’s Film Festival continues through this Sunday at Facets on Fullerton, The Music Box on Southport, and six partner venues around Chicago and the suburbs. The films—several are animated—are divided into the categories of Tots, Big Kids, Tweens, and Teens.

Punk’s Not Dead. The Regrettes, an L.A.-based band that blended vintage punk, the 1960s girl group sound, and a defiant spirit on its Feel Your Feelings Fool debut, has a gig coming up on November 30 at House Of Blues in Chicago. They’ll be supporting co-headliners The Interrupters and Swmrs. The Regrettes have visited Chicago at least twice already, for appearances at Riot Fest and Schubas.

The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles just might be ornate enough to pass for a ballroom when The Sweet performs there on at on March 31. Tickets are now on sale on the venue’s website.

Tickets went on sale earlier today for Los Lobos at SPACE in Evanston on December 9, Anne Heaton at SPACE on December 28, and Guided By Voices at Empty Bottle on December 30.

If it’s not too early to make holiday plans, The BoDeans will be at City Winery Chicago on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Saturday Night Live: The Experience is now running at the Museum Of Broadcast Communications in downtown Chicago, and judging from the press it has been receiving, the exhibit, to quote Wayne and Garth, is “Excellent.” The suburban Aurora basement studio where Wayne’s World was filmed is just one of the sets that has been recreated for the exhibit. You can even pose on the couch in your ripped jeans and baseball cap while reciting your favorite catch phrases from the skit. The exhibit’s format of a typical SNL work week includes props and costumes, as well as a representation of the Wednesday table read, where everyone involved with the show would go over that week’s script.

The Safes, a Chicago-based band whose punk/garage rock Record Heat and Thanks To You albums were favorably reviewed here on BHT, have a record release party for their latest release Tasty Waves coming up at Beat Kitchen on November 22. The Differents (who were very impressive at Martyrs’ last Saturday), Little Boy, Jr., and The Hustle are are also on the bill that night.

The Social Act, one of the first bands I interviewed for the Illinois Entertainer back in the late 1980s,  have been working on a new album, and they’ll be performing at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue on December 15. Razorhouse will also be on the bill that night.

The Bill Graham Rock And Roll Revolution continues its run at the Illinois Holocaust Museum And Education Center at 9603 Woods Drive through Nov. 12.

Desiree Burcum and Tina Teske, longtime members of the Famous In The Future comedy group, will be performing at the Lady Laughs Comedy Festival in Madison. WI tomorrow night. Their Sketch-She (Improv & Sketch) show goes on at 7:00 p.m. at the Artemis Bow Stage. Burcum is a Marilyn Monroe fanatic, so I wonder if she knows about Milton H. Greene’s new book The Essential Marilyn Monroe: 50 Sessions. It has 154 photos that have been previously unseen by the public.

In the Garden of Atlantis, a fashion show benefit for Elements Ballet, will take place on November 18 at the Hairpin Arts Center in Logan Square. Models on the runway will be sporting Atlantis-inspired fashions from Rebirth Garments, MJ Ernst, and Amara Black. There will also be art, photography, dance performances, and a reading of a new novel by Miata Boayue.

There’s going to be a Skanksgiving 80s Ska Revival at The Beat Kitchen on November 25 featuring Heavy Manners, DJ Chuck Wren, and Max And The Invaders. Admission is $15, doors open at 8:00 p.m.

The Second Disc website recently reported on a new box set of seven-inch singles that were originally released only to members of the Official Beatles Fan Club from 1963 through 1969. The records are packaged in reproductions of the original sleeves.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Record Store Day Black Friday - For The Vinyl Junkies On Your Holiday Gift List

Traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving is when bargain hunters swarm retail outlets, battling for the best prices on items for gifts or for themselves. In recent years, it’s also become a challenge for vinyl aficionados hoping to acquire limited-edition releases. Record Store Day Black Friday is the seasonal version of the original RSD that takes place every April. The timing has been ideal for nabbing one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts.

This year, some of the more interesting Black Friday releases are literally Christmas gifts. Cheap Trick’s Christmas Christmas is a 12-song album with original holiday tunes and cover versions of The Kinks, Wizzard, and The Ramones. Paul McCartney is releasing a new version of “Wonderful Christmastime” he recorded with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots on two separate seven-inch singles. The red vinyl one has Norah Jones singing “Peace” on the B-side and the green vinyl one has The Decembrists performing “Jesus Christ” on the B-side.

Also, The Minus Five, the Scott McCaughey-led band that excels at mixing quirky ideas with catchy indie rock arrangements, is releasing Dear December. It’s hard to figure how titles like “Musical Tribute To The Oscar Meyer Weiner Wagon” fit the holiday theme, but it is a white vinyl album with an Advent calendar inspired cover. I’m hoping to post more about Record Store Day Black Friday as it gets closer.

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