Friday, June 5, 2020

Slumgullion

Graphic from the Bandcamp homepage.

My favorite weekend of the year usually happens right about now. In 2017, on this blog, I dubbed it “A Cultural Cornucopia” that included The Old Town Art Fair; Wells Street Art Fair, Chicago Blues Fest, Printers Row Lit Fest; and the Andersonville Midsommarfest. A perfect time to invite out-of-town friends to Chicago and show off our city. None of that is going on this year, due to the coronavirus. There are ways to experience elements of those events, as you’ll see below. But let’s not forget how the major art fairs, concerts, and street festivals made us feel. Walking amidst people of every color and nationality, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, neighbors and tourists, almost all of them perfect strangers, we had a blast.

Depending on when you read this, you can get a serious blues fix on WXRT tonight. The long-running Chicago rock station is airing a recording of Buddy Guy and Junior Wells performing at the Biddy Mulligans venue in 1982. The show is part of the Live From The XRT Archives series, which has featured some major names (Robert Plant, Dire Straits, R.E.M., etc.) over the past few weeks. The shows run at 9:00 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights.

There are still a few hours left to help recording artists earn some extra money on their independent releases. Bandcamp is waiving its share of sales to support musicians impacted by the coronavirus. Several artists and indie labels are offering limited edition merchandise and donating their share of sales to worthy causes.

Tickets are now on sale for Rodney Crowell on March 27, 2021 at City Winery Chicago; Cryfest: The Cure Vs. The Smiths Dance Party on June 20, 2020 at Subterranean; Split Single on January 2, 2021 at SPACE; and the FitzGerald’s Drive-In Concert featuring The Waco Brothers and School Of Rock on July 3. The preceding listings are from the Early Warnings page of this week’s edition of the Chicago Reader. The full issue can be downloaded on the paper’s website.

The Chicago Reader is spearheading the recently established Chicago Independent Media Alliance and the Save Chicago Media campaign to help publications and radio stations affected by the coronavirus. The deadline for donating is midnight tonight.

Then June issue of the Illinois Entertainer can be viewed on the long-time rock music publication’s website. In addition to a cover story on Tim Burgess, there’s a feature on the Jay O’Rourke Band, and album reviews of Paul McCartney, Tuff Sunshine, Rush, and Daryl Hall and John Oates.

The Writing Workshop Of Chicago will present its annual Writing Day Workshop as a virtual event this year. Aspiring writers will be able to attend seminars and pitch their work to established literary agents. So if you’ve been working on your long-delayed novel while sheltering in place, or have read enough books recently to inspire you to write one of your own, the Writing Day Workshop is a great opportunity. It takes place online Saturday, June 27, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. See the website for admission price; a list of participating literary agents (pitching costs extra), and the full schedule.

I’ll be pitching my YA/Paranormal/Rock and Roll/Romance novel to four literary agents via SKYPE at the above-mentioned online event.

The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has begun African American Music Appreciation Month with a week-long tribute to Aretha Franklin. She was the first woman to be inducted into the Hall, back in 1987, and is best known for her recording of Otis Redding’s “Respect” 20 years earlier. African-American Music Appreciation Month began as Black Music Month, when it was initiated by President Jimmy Carter in 1979.

The Hollies Official Facebook page has started posting clips of drummer Bobby Elliott reading excerpts from his autobiography It Ain’t Heavy, It’s My Story - My Life In The Hollies. One deals with the first time guitarist Tony Hicks performed with The Hollies at the Cavern Club. Founding members Graham Nash and Allan Clarke joked about Hicks being so young (17 at the time) and promised the crowd he would serenade them with “The Teddy Bears’s Picnic.” Elliott notes the title of the band’s 1966 album For Certain Because was a line lifted from that children’s song, and that it was one of the best albums The Hollies ever recorded. I certainly would agree with him there.

The Record Store Day website proclaimed via email today that record stores around the globe are starting to reopen, with rules for social distancing. In the Chicago area, Laurie’s Planet Of Sound on Lincoln Avenue is now open 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Masks are required, and customers must use a sanitizer station before browsing. I didn’t see any mention of opening on the Reckless Records website, although some of its stores are open for pickup. Be sure to keep tabs on your favorite record stores and be ready to support them when they return.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Dear Sir Or Madam, Will You Read My Book?

Photo from The Writing Workshop Of Chicago Facebook page.

For the past five years, The Writing Workshop Of Chicago has staged a Writing Day Workshop toward the end of June. With so many events canceled due to the coronavirus, I was pleasantly surprised to learn via email that a 2020 version will be coming our way. It’s all online, obviously, but aspiring writers will still have an opportunity to attend seminars and pitch their work to established literary agents.

I’ve found this event to be extremely helpful in the past. Aspiring writers tend to view literary agents more as roadblocks than doorways, but getting face-to-face feedback shines an entirely different light on the process. (Granted, the faces this year will be on screens via SKYPE.) I’m currently editing my most recent novel based on the advice of an agent who told me she liked the fun, twisty plot but had issues with the dialogue and voice.* I’m amazed at how much better it reads now.

So if you’ve been working on your long-delayed novel while sheltering in place, or have read enough books recently to inspire you to write one of your own, the Writing Day Workshop is a great opportunity. It takes place online Saturday, June 27, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. See the website for admission price; a list of participating literary agents (pitching costs extra), and the full schedule.

*I wasn’t sure exactly what ‘voice’ meant until I read Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious trilogy. There’s a consistent and fun tone to these novels that moves the action along while keeping the reader entertained. It’s the best example of voice I've found.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Saturday Slumgullion

Ellisong Studios is currently selling t-shirts, posters, and stickers to help fund its upcoming documentary Out Of Time - The Material Issue Story. The film concerns the power pop band, which along with Liz Phair, Smashing Pumpkins, and Urge Overkill, brought major media attention to Chicago’s vibrant music scene in the early 1990s. Out Of Time is due out in 2021.

Led Zeppelin’s 2012 concert film Celebration Day began a four-day run this afternoon on the band’s official YouTube channel. The two-hour-plus performance itself actually took place in 2007, and includes most of Led Zeppelin’s biggest hits.

On the topic of music documentaries, an article by Jon Bream in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune (picked up from the Minneapolis Star Tribune) recommends several films that can be watched on streaming services or DVDs. Bream’s list includes documentaries about Bob Dylan (Don’t Look Back), Al Green (Gospel According To Al Green), Los Angeles punk (The Decline Of Western Civilization) Sixto Rodriguez (Searching For Sugarman), Amy Winehouse (Amy), David Crosby (David Crosby: Remember My Name) and a number of others.

Dion started with The Belmonts back in the late 1950s, and these days, he’s recording with Jeff Beck, Bruce Springsteen, Joe Louis Walker, Van Morrison, Brian Setzer, Joe Bonamassa, Sonny Landreth, Steven Van Zandt, and other famous musicians. The Bonamassa-produced Blues With Friends album is available for pre-order on Amazon, and a number of the tracks are already available for purchase in digital format.

Tickets are now on sale for Sinead O’Connor at City Winery Chicago August 18 through August 21, 2021; Tom Rush at City Winery Chicago November 19, 2020; and Sunshine Boys and Bobbleheads at SPACE September 5. Sunshine Boys have just released their second album, Work And Love, and it’s a solid follow-up to their stellar 2018 debut Blue Music.

Chicago area illustrator Terry Murphy recently posted a video on YouTube documenting her process for designing a t-shirt for the Pino Farina Band. The band’s song “Ocean Deep” plays while Murphy takes viewers through the process. The shirt can be purchased online for a limited time at the Waist Up pop up store. Murphy has illustrated several children’s books and is a member of the Society Of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Full disclosure: I’m also a member of the same northwest Illinois chapter of SCBWI as her, and she has given me some essential advice about my novels over the years.

Manchester Lemon, the U.K. website that champions rock bands such as Oasis, Stone Roses, and The Smiths that have come from the city of Manchester, will open its online store tomorrow. It should be interesting to see what they have for sale.

Jimy Sohns and Jerry McGeorge from the original Shadows Of Knight have reunited and recorded a garage rock single titled “Wild Man” that’s now available on Spotify and other streaming services. It’s first time they’ve worked together since 1967. The Chicago-based Shadows Of Knight first gained national attention back in the 1960s with their cover of Them’s “Gloria.”

Friday, May 29, 2020

The Sound He Appears To Make

Peter Howarth of The Hollies

Cameos on the chorus. The Hollies have created a video for an Unlocked version of their 1974 hit single “The Air That I Breathe” featuring current members performing it in isolation. It’s a particularly good showcase for lead vocalist Peter Howarth, who was also impressive performing an acoustic version of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” on a clip that was previously posted on the band’s Facebook page. The bare bones arrangement serves the song’s romantic sentiments well, and there’s an additional uplifting message in these difficult times.

Fans will no doubt welcome an opportunity to see the band since it cancelled its U.K. and U.S. tours due to the coronavirus. Some fans will see themselves in the clip—literally. A while back, The Hollies sent out a request via emails and social media for people to film themselves singing the extended chorus at the end. I was one of those who responded, and can be seen on the bottom right corner of a montage that appears around the four-minute-thirteen-second mark. I’m actually more excited by the prospect of The Hollies continuing to create videos like this while fans around the world are unable to see live concerts.

Gigantosaur, the full-length debut from Tiny Bit Of Giant’s Blood is now available on a limited-edition vinyl version, as well as on CD and digital formats. The Chicago-based quartet of club scene veterans offers guitar-driven and spooky glam rock with a consistent vein of satirical humor.

Doctor Who fans of Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams AKA Mr. Pond) most likely enjoyed watching him and actress-musician Ines de Clerq performing Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” in a living room setting recently on Instagram.

Australian power pop outfit The Jangle Band’s new Metro Hotel EP is now available on frontman Joe Algeri’s Egomaniac Bandcamp page. It’s another melodic effort, particularly on the title track and “Dusk Till Dawn,” and having five vocalists results in some terrific harmonies. Check out the acapella singing on “So Long (stax-o-trax vocal mix.)”

Sharon Lee and Karen Lynn of The Bookends showed their expertise in recreating 1960s garage rock and pop on their Far Away But Around album a few years ago, and now the duo is back with a new single titled “She’s Got It!” The new track exudes a fun espionage ambience that wouldn’t be out of place on an Austin Powers soundtrack. Lee’s bass drives the irresistible beat and both band members sing. The song is available as a digital download on Amazon and Apple music.

The Pretenders have released another song in digital format from its upcoming Hate For Sale album. “Didn’t Want To Be This Lonely,” got its first airplay yesterday on Zoe Ball’s BBC Breakfast Show. Like the previously released title track and “Turf Accountant Daddy,” this new song has the ramped-up energy and lyrical bite fans have come to expect from The Pretenders. “Didn’t Want To Be This Lonely” tackles the complicated emotions of a woman kicking her abusive mate to the curb and adjusting to being alone. Hate For Sale, comes out July 17.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Saturday Slumgullion

According to a Facebook post from Lorinda Murphy (Jeff’s wife) on the Shoes: Official Fan Page, a new seven-inch vinyl single from Shoes will be coming out on the Spanish label You Are The Cosmos June 15. “The Joke’s On You” and “Wrong Idea” previously appeared on the band’s 2012 album Ignition. The single will likely be available in America from Get Hip Recordings.

Legendary jazz performer/composer and radio personality Ramsey Lewis will celebrate his 85th birthday via a 50-minute concert (including encore) that will be live streamed next Saturday, May 30. Tickets for the intimate performance are $20 and can be purchased Stageit website. A portion of the proceeds will benefit The Jazz Foundation Of America.

Australian power pop outfit The Jangle Band will most likely live up to its name again when its new Metro Hotel EP comes out next week. Frontman Joe Algeri can be seen promoting its release with his usual offbeat humor on The Jangle Band Facebook page.

The 2020 edition of the CHIRP Record Fair and Other Delights take place on October 3, after being moved from its usual spring-time arrival. It’s still being held at the Local Plumbers Union Hall on Washington Street. Hosted by CHIRP Radio 107.1 FM, the event offers an amazing selection of rare vinyl, CDs, posters, and other memorabilia.

Tickets are now on sale for Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary GeneseeTheatre on October 4; and Chris Hillman. Herb Pedersen, and John Jorgenson at City Winery on October 25.

Yesterday’s edition of the Chicago Tribune carried Variety writer J. Kim Murphy preview of summer movies. The earlier films will show up Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc, but from July on, Murphy covers ones that will have a theatrical release. Of course, the one that caught my eyes was director Peter Jackson’s The Beatles Get Back, which is due out September 4.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Incoming

WXRT continues to bring on the big names in its Monday-Wednesday-Friday night series Live From The Archives. The local station has already aired vintage concerts from Blondie, Roxy Music, Robert Plant and others, and this Friday (May 22), it’s offering a 2008 performance by R.E.M. at SXSW. As noted on XRT’s website, the band had just released its Accelerate album at the time and was eager to unveil hard-edged songs such as “Man-Sized Wreath,” “Supernatural Superserious,” and the title track onstage.

WXRT has supported R.E.M. from the early 1980s. I still remember being blown away by “Wolves, Lower” the very first time I heard it on the station. When the DJ announced it was from a new band called R.E.M., I bought its Chronic Town EP within a few days. Who could have guessed back then how many great songs would emerge from R.E.M. albums in the coming years. Tomorrow night’s 90-minute concert begins at 9:00 p.m., and can be streamed via WXRT online.

A new series called Manic Mondays On Friday with Susanna Hoffs and Friends kicks off tomorrow afternoon on the We Are Hear YouTube channel at 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time. Hoffs and co-host comedian-musician-writer Tam Yajia will be joined by Fred Armisen, Cecily Strong, and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea. So expect some comedy along with the music. We Are Hear helps raise money for musicians affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In other Bangles news, the band is offering an autographed CD bundle deal of Ladies and Gentlemen . . . The Bangles and Sweetheart Of The Sun for $60 over the Memorial Day weekend. 

As reported by Miriam Di Nunzio in today’s edition of the Chicago Sun-Times, Dennis DeYoung of Styx and Survivor/Ides Of March frontman Jim Peterik will headline the FEED Chicago Virtual Summer Fest on June 4. Donations will definitely be welcome, with funds going to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Longtime Chicago recording artist Michael McDermott will also be on the bill, along with popular local cover bands Sixteen Candles, Wedding Banned, and Boy Band Review. Whenever I mention Peterik on Broken Hearted Toy, I remember how he was the first musician I ever interviewed—back when I was on the staff of the Chicago Illini newspaper at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Saturday Slumgullion

If you missed John Taylor of Duran Duran interviewing Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles on social media this past Thursday, you can watch the 45-minute discussion now on YouTube. Each of them came across as engaging and down to earth, and there’s an obvious friendship between these two that dates back to the 1980s. In addition to learning how both loved music from early childhood, it was interesting to hear how Hoffs drove to the studio where Prince was recording to pick up a demo cassette of “Manic Monday.” He had been impressed with the video of The Bangles’ “The Hero Takes A Fall” and hoped they would record a song he wrote specifically for them. Hoffs still has the cassette. She also revealed she’s working on music to record once she’s able to get back to a studio, and is writing a novel. I found that last bit particularly inspiring since I’ve been polishing my rock and roll novel lately. Good luck to us both.

As mentioned by writer Abdel Jimenez in the Business section of today’s Chicago Tribune, several star athletes and entertainment celebrities will participate in a Sweet Home Chicago benefit for the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund starting today (May 16) at 5:00 p.m. The event will be broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago, and streamed on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. Comedian/actor/writer Deon Cole (Blackish, Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien) will host. Jimenez notes in his article that nationwide, the COVID-19 Response Fund has raised over $32 million.

Things I recently learned from Instagram, Part 1. According to the Legends Of Music page, Elvis Presley was a huge fan of Dean Martin, and once called him “The King Of Cool.”

The Go-Go’s have moved this summer’s tour dates to 2021, but those of us who’ve been fans from the start will be able to watch the The Go-Go’s documentary tonight on Showtime. I first saw The Go-Go’s at ChicagoFest on Navy Pier; then later in Grant Park, and a few years ago at Ravinia. They always give their fans a fun, highly active show.

The other morning while listening to WXRT, I heard DJ Richard Milne mention that rock critic Bill Wyman has created a list for New York agazine titled All 165 Pink Floyd Songs Ranked From Worst To Best. Wyman notes in his introduction that 2020 marks the 50th Anniversary of Floyd’s debut The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. He places the title track of Wish You Were Here at number one. Six tracks from The Dark Side Of The Moon are listed in the top twenty.

Tickets are now on sale for Rock and Roll Playhouse Presents The Music Of The Grateful Dead for Kids June 14 at Thalia Hall; Rock and Roll Playhouse Presents The Music Of Bob Marley for Kids July 26 at Thalia Hall; Boz Skaggs at the North Shore Center For The Performing Arts on July 20; and the CHIRP Radio Showcase featuring Bringers, God Awful Small Affairs; and Flamingo Rodeo at GMan Tavern on November 12.

The above listings are from this week’s edition of The Reader, which had a very limited distribution but is available online via the weekly free paper’s website.

Things I recently learned from Instagram, Part 2. According to the Rock And Blues Muse page, Graham Nash recently told CBS Sunday Morning that he’s composed about six new songs while maintaining social isolation.

Tanya Donelly and The Parkington Sisters have released a bit of their Go-Go’s cover “Automatic” as a preview of a full album of them performing well-known songs by The Pretenders, Leonard Cohen, Wings, Linda Ronstadt and other artists. Their haunting take on “Automatic” suggests these new versions will be imaginative reinventions of the originals. The album is due out on the indie American Laundromat label in August.

Things I recently learned from Instagram, Part 3. Actor Christopher Eccleston, known for portraying John Lennon, as well as The Doctor on Doctor Who, posted a photo of himself holding a tea towel with the names of The Hollies, The Smiths, The Fall, Happy Mondays, Joy Division, The Charlatans, Inspiral Carpets, and The Ting Tings printed on it. The towels can be purchased at the Salford Lads Club website. The club provides opportunities for local young people in sports and arts.
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