Newly RockHall-nominated Zombies to tour ‘Odessey and Oracle’ next year

Turns out The Zombiesnomination for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame wasn’t the only news relating to the historic British Invasion group to be announced this week.

Now comes word of a North American Zombies tour next spring–to continue to England and Europe later in the year–to include the final full-album performances of Odessey and Oracle reuniting all four surviving members of the group: lead vocalist Colin Blunstone, keyboardist/vocalist Rod Argent, bassist/vocalist Chris White and drummer Hugh Grundy (original guitarist Paul Atkinson died in 2004).

Also next year—in March—comes publication of a lavish, LP-sized coffee-table book, featuring lyrics for the Odessey and Oracle songs and many of their other classics, all handwritten by the songwriters and accompanied by original artwork from Terry Quirk, creator of the famous Odessey and Oracle album cover, and Vivienne Boucherat, who has conceived individual illustrations for each of its songs. Text will additionally include Zombies’ anecdotes behind the songs and their recording.

Released in 1968–ironically after the group had disbanded—Odessey and Oracle yielded The Zombies’ landmark hit, “Time of the Season,” the following year. It’s been widely acknowledged since then as a pop album masterpiece, with “Time of the Season” being used in numerous films and TV shows.

Blunstone and Argent, who enjoyed successful solo careers following the original Zombies demise, reunited in 1998 and then revived The Zombies name in 2004. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of Odessey and Oracle, the four surviving original Zombies performed three concerts at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire Theatre in March, 2008.

Last year White and Grundy again joined their former bandmates for select performances of the album in the U.S., in which The Zombies current lineup–bassist Jim Rodford, guitarist Tom Toomey and Steve Rodford (Jim’s son) on drums–also played. Those shows furthered the band’s remarkable resurgence as a major concert draw more than 50 years after they first hit big with “She’s Not There”—their 1964 single inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame just last year.

As many reviewers have noted, The Zombies today have somehow never sounded better.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations focus on 1970s and beyond

It’s been 10 years at least since I and a number of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee members were let go, ostensibly, the form email firing us said, to bring in younger ones more conversant in 1970s rock. Then a couple years ago there was a final bloodletting ridding the committee of virtually all nominators—many of whom had been on since the RockHall’s launch—who had any knowledge of the ‘50s and ‘60s, when rock ‘n’ roll really was rock ‘n’ roll.

Well, with today’s announcement of the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees, the turnover is pretty much complete. First time nominees Pearl Jam and Tupac Shakur, both in their first year of eligibility, are most certainly shoo-ins, with the other 17 nominees also coming mainly from the ‘70s and after.

Looking at the nominees from my g-g-generation, I’m happy to see The Zombies back on the list—one of the few ‘60s artists who sound just as good today as they did 50 years ago, when they broke artistic ground in the British Invasion. The MC5 are back, too, and also deserve to go in—though neither are no-brainers for RockHall voters with fading memories or who are just too young to remember. Other pre-‘70s nominees are first-timers Steppenwolf and Joan Baez—both deserving but likely too far back in the past, and five-time nominee Joe Tex, who will likely have to wait at least for his sixth.

The two other ‘80s acts—Jane’s Addiction and Depeche Mode–are both first-timers, and thanks to short-term memories would seem to have a good shot at going in unless Pearl Jam and Tupac cancel them out. That leaves 10 nominees—all from the ‘70s–which it’s been determined that I know little about, no matter that I wrote the first book on The Ramones.

Starting with punk/new wave, then, first-time nominee Bad Brains are worthy, but probably too obscure for a more mainstream electorate, who might prefer The Cars, back with their second nomination. On the R&B tip, I just don’t feel it for Janet Jackson and Chaka Khan (both second-timers), though disco’s Chic, with their record-setting 11th nomination, just might turn the trick this time, if only to put them out of their misery—plus Nile Rodgers and his late Chic co-founder Bernard Edwards just went into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Chicago went in last year, which may bode well for the softer ‘70s rock of Yes, now on its third nomination, and first timers Journey and Electric Light Orchestra, with ELO getting the nod here on merit.

The final two nominees—Kraftwerk and J. Geils Band—are significant, for sure, but probably also limited in the glitz factor that is now such a major part of awards recognition, even by what should be such a credible organization as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But credibility, as everyone knows, disappeared from the RockHall long ago.

Artistic risk and Gene Sculatti’s Binary Theory of rock ‘n’ roll


Usually I write something it’s pretty much over, unless I’m on the elliptical and my mind wanders, like the other day at the gym. For some reason I thought back to my Rock and Roll Hall of Fame piece from May. And then I was reflecting further on the definition of rock ‘n’ roll, and what “makes it so great.”

To recap, the RockHall, in responding to Steve Miller’s criticisms during his post-induction press conference, stated that what makes rock ‘n’ roll so great is that it can “ignite many opinions”–a characterization that I ignited as one big crock of shit.

I then took issue with Ice Cube, who said, also in his acceptance speech, that rock ‘n’ roll is neither instrument nor style of music, but “a spirit that’s been going on since the blues, jazz, bebop, soul, rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, heavy metal, punk rock, and yes, hip-hop.” I didn’t care much for this definition, either, especially since he pointedly left out country, not to mention polka.

Like I said, not many country stars are in the RockHall, with Johnny Cash the only one coming quickly to mind outside of Bill Monroe and Jimmie Rodgers-both inducted as “Early Influences.” Seymour Stein always argued for Conway Twitty, whose career began in the 1950s with the rock ‘n’ roll chart success of hits like “It’s Only Make Believe.” I’ll always remember my late, great friend Dave Nives, who held various marketing and a&r indie label gigs and correctly ascertained, after I brought him a CD by polka legend Eddie Blazonczyk, “This is real rock ‘n’ roll.”

What is real rock ‘n’ roll, then, or what we have called since the l970s, “rock”? I have little idea from looking at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, I thought, as I realized, with deep disappointment and mounting bitterness, that I’d only been on the machine for three minutes.

Then I drifted further into considering one of the main tenets of rock ‘n’ roll criticism, which these mostly old boys likely lifted from art criticism as a whole, that the rock ‘n’ roll artist must always take risks. As in crossing the street without looking? I wondered. As in throwing a pass from the one-yard-line on first-and-goal?

This is why I was never part of that old boys club. I never wanted my favorite artists to take risks. The Beatles could do it, for sure, but who else, besides, say Kenny Rogers?

Did I just say Kenny Rogers? Yes! By risk-taking criteria, Kenny Rogers is arguably the greatest rock ‘n’ roll artist of all time! The chronology: Houston native Rogers learned guitar and fiddle and played in a rockabilly recording band, The Scholars, in high school. He also recorded solo singles and performed on American Bandstand. Dropping out of the U. of Texas, he played bass in jazz combo the Bobby Doyle Three, and played bass on country star Mickey Gilley’s 1960s single “Is It Wrong.” He joined the Kirby Stone Four vocal group, then released a few unsuccessful solo singles before joining the successful New Christy Minstrels folk group–out of which the First Edition formed.

With the First Edition, Rogers scored the No. 5 pop-psychedelic “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” hit in 1968 and others including “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town,”
“Something’s Burning” and the distinctly country-flavored “Ruben James”–the band now billed as Kenny Rogers & the First Edition. Leaving the group, he then built a superstar country music career in the late 1970s and ’80s following the Grammy and Country Music Award-winning success of his No. 1 country hit “Lucille” in 1977; when it reached No. 5 on the pop charts, it also ushered in a remarkable country-crossover career generating a pair of pop chart-toppers in “Lady,” which was written and produced by Lionel Richie, and “Islands In The Stream,” his duet with Dolly Parton that was written and produced by the Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb. He also worked with The Beatles’ George Martin and mainstream pop producer David Foster. Besides Parton–who also recorded Rogers’ “Sweet Music Man”–Rogers had hit duets with Dottie West, Kim Carnes, Sheena Easton, Carnes and James Ingram, Nickie Ryder, Ronnie Milsap, Anne Murray, Wynonna, Alison Krauss and Billy Dean, and Whitney Duncan. He’s been represented on the charts in one way or other the last six decades, while spinning off a successful acting career–most notably his series of TV movies based on his Grammy-winning 1978 hit “The Gambler.”

Really, the guy’s done everything any critic could ask for and way, way more.

But otherwise, lets look at The Ramones, for example. Sure I like the Spector-produced End of the Century as much as the next guy–that is, if the next guy likes it–and I always loved Road to Ruin‘s country-flavored “Don’t Come Close.” And don’t forget, I wrote the fist book on The Ramones (Ramones-An American Band, if I remember correct)! But really, I and you really just want to hear “Blitzkrieg Bop” and “Beat on the Brat.”

Or Elvis Costello: Sure I love the country album Almost Blue produced in Nashville by Billy Sherrill, or The Juliet Letters with the Brodsky Quartet and Painted From Memory with Burt Bacharach, or any number of other artistic excursions beyond “Alison” and “Watching the Detectives.” But I always hope that when he performs with the band in concert, he goes back heavy on his second album, This Year’s Model, his first with The Attractions, and far and away his most intense rock record.

Which brings me, circuitously-and I’m off the elliptical and back home now-to Gene Sculatti and the Binary Theory of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Gene Sculatti, truly one of rock’s great theorists, is credited by U.K. author Jon Savage, in 1966: The Year The Decade Exploded, as one of the writers for the seminal rock magaine Crawdaddy who actually began using the word ‘rock’ to describe the new mid-‘60s experimental rock forms manifest on albums like The Beatles’ Revolver and Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. But what brings us to him here is his most brilliant Binary Theory.

Right up there with gravity, relativity and evolution, the Binary Theory—and I hereby admit that I’m pretty much a layman here, in terms of understanding such scholarly rock stuff—addresses the deceptively simple elemental principle that a rock artist initially does whatever he, she or it does (roots-rock, let’s say) and becomes successful doing so. They keep doing it the first few albums and tours, and then the success wanes. So they announce with great fanfare a new direction (dance music, let’s say), and enlist the top songwriters and producers in the field—but the ensuing record stiffs. So they announce a return to form (in our example, back to roots-rock) with even more fanfare (a.k.a. hooey), either admitting to the mistake of the failed new direction or more likely, blaming the record company and/or just-fired management.

“That’s the riff, yeah,” says Sculatti, taking a moment out of deep study in his ivory tower to talk down to a relative ignoramus.

“It’s important to distinguish the binary move, though, from such things as organic progressions like The Who evolving from lean, mean mods to arena-ready pomp-rockers, or mere trend-hopping, like the Beach Boys doing a 10-minute disco version of ‘Here Comes the Night’ off of Wild Honey, or the Grateful Dead doing disco on Shakedown Street. And it’s different from polymaths like Prince or Bowie, who could slip into new and different musical togs monthly and always wear them well.

“Then there’s the Stones, who pulled the binary as a canny, if brief, career move: ‘Oh, you think you know us only as noisy young rowdies? We’ll show you!’ Hence ‘As Tears Go By,’ ‘Lady Jane,’ maybe even ‘Play with Fire.’ And Elton, who starts as an earnest Band follower, all Americana’d up–but eventually realizes what a cul-de-sac that is and lightens up into the pop guy he really always wa,s i.e. ‘Crocodile Rock,’ ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,’ ‘Island Girl.’”

But “the real blatant binary cats are Kiss,” contends Sculatti, “who snag their biggest hit ever by momentarily abandoning bludgeon-rock for the reflective ‘Beth,’ and Alice Cooper. He starts out as a good solid rocker, gains some rep emphasizing the horror-show bit, but then–I’m almost sure pointed in this direction by management, who knew that songs about nightmares and dead babies wouldn’t get him into the Top 40–suddenly makes a complete U-turn and starts doing, and succeeding with, housewife-friendly ballads like ‘Only Women Bleed’ and ‘I Never Cry.’ I’m pretty sure I remember an interview with him later when he’d semi-retired and was doing the golf bit with Groucho: He said he could never go back to doing the immature shock-rock he’d become known for. Then, lo and behold, a few years later–and continuing well into the present day–he’s out there with the guillotine and all, right back where he started from.”

Sculatti kindly recaps.

“The binary is most often done by the act that dead-ends with whatever it first came to prominence with, so someone decides an about-face is the only rational move. Maybe it’s like Eno’s ‘oblique strategies’: Stuck for inspiration in the studio? Leave, go outside and stand on your head for 10 minutes or play hopscotch with the neighborhood kids–just do something different and your muse will return!”

Meanwhile, Sculatti, who’s also written for Rolling Stone, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Creem, Billboard, Mojo and other publications while authoring books including The Catalog of Cool, San Francisco Nights: The Psychedelic Music Trip, Too Cool and the Kindle book Dark Stars and Anti-Matter: 40 Years of Loving, Leaving and Making Up with the Music of the Grateful Dead, is issuing Tryin’ to Tell a Stranger ’bout Rock and Roll: Selected Writings 1966-2016, in both paperback and Kindle editions on Sept 21. The book collects more than 60 pieces from his prolific career. He’s also a featured participant in the just-released documentary Ticket to Write: The Golden Age of Rock Music Journalism.

Concert Highlights–Darlene Love at Damrosch Park, 7/23/2016

Four years ago when Darlene Love received the ASCAP Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award at the 2012 WhyHunger Chapin Awards Dinner, she wanted it made known that she was ready and willing for more work than her annual Christmas show bookings. Thanks to seizing the moment at the 2014 Academy Awards, when she helped accept the Oscar for 20 Feet from Stardom (being a central figure in the documentary about backup singers) and exploded into a spontaneous a cappella chorus of the gospel hymn “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” as well as her belated 2011 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she’s getting plenty of quality non-holiday work now, including her Lincoln Center Out of Doors show two weeks ago (July 23) at Damrosch Park.

In fact, her career is so big now that the show required two sets, the first consisting of songs from last year’s terrific Steven Van Zandt-produced, ironically titled album Introducing Darlene Love (it took 30 years to come into fruition, she explained), the second focusing on her 1960s career establishing hits produced by Phil Spector. Highlights of the first included Van Zandt’s show-opening “Among the Believers,” Elvis Costello’s “Still Too Soon to Know” (with her guitarist/bandleader Marc Ribler subbing for the record’s fellow Spector alumn duet partner Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers),and Jimmy Webb’s impassioned plea “Who Under Heaven.”

Besides Spector classics including “He’s Sure the Boy I Love,” “He’s a Rebel,” “Today I Met the Boy I’m Gonna Marry” and “Wait ‘Til My Bobby Gets Home,” Love showcased her own backup singers (Milton Vann, Baritone MacKenzie and 35-year Love backup signer Ula Hedwig) on songs including Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love,” which was produced by Russ Titelman, who was not only in attendance, but was once upon a time a guitarist in the Shindogs houseband of ‘60s pop music TV show Shindig!–of which Love, then also part of The Blossoms female vocal backup trio, was likewise a regular.

Russ Titelman (right) at Damrosch Park’s Darlene Love show (photo courtesy of Russ Titelman)

But the second half also included “Marvelous,” Walter Hawkins’ gospel classic that is also on Introducing Darlene Love, which she performs powerfully at every show as a tribute to her late backup singer and friend Patty Darcy.

Titelman, meanwhile, found Margaret Ross Williams, lead singer of The Cookies, also of ‘60s fame via the hits “Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad (About My Baby)” and “Chains” (covered by The Beatles), and also an important female backup vocal trio for artists including Neil Sedaka and Little Eva. Love’s contemporary, Williams noted how so many others of their time are now gone.

“Darlene is inspiring us to keep going in our own way,” said Williams, and with Love then three days away from turning 75, a video birthday greeting was screened prior to the second set with messages from the likes of Costello, Medley, Van Zandt, Hedwig, Paul Shaffer and Joan Jett, whose “Little Liar” she covered on Introducing Darlene Love and at Damrosch Park.

She closed with Spector’s “River Deep–Mountain High,” and while her Spector recordings made her legend, unlike virtually all the other Spector-associated artists, she’s long since furthered it on her own. And though it was a scorching summer evening, she made the obvious clear: “I’m not sweating, honey,” she responded to an incorrect observer. “I’m glowing!”

A warm Rock and Roll Hall of Fame salute to Steve Miller and Paul Stanley

New inductee Steve Miller did us all a big service Friday night at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when he criticized the organization for neglecting female rockers during his acceptance speech, revealed its mistreatment of inductees during his press conference, then lambasted the publicist for trying to cut him off.

As for his first complaint, I always like thinking I was kicked off the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee years ago because I always spoke out in favor of Lesley Gore, Nancy Sinatra, Joan Jett and the Shangri-Las—not to mention males like The Turtles and The Hollies (Jett and The Hollies have since gone in), even though the form letter giving me the boot (along with a number of others) claimed that they wanted people who were more knowledgeable about 1970s rock—no matter that I’d written the first book on The Ramones.

So good on you there, Steve. Then again, as I’m from Madison, Wisconsin, I know how you inspired my homegirl Tracy Nelson’s signature song “Down So Low”–even if you did break her heart.

As for the RockHall’s treatment of inductees, he slagged the entire induction process backstage, in press accounts accusing the organization of disrespecting “the artists they say they’re honoring, which they don’t.” Here he specified licensing agreements between the show and inductees, and how they only gave him tickets for him and his wife while making his band and their wives fork over $10,000 per.

What I loved most, though, was how when the event’s publicist tried to stifle him, he stood his ground-—and then some: “No, we’re not going to wrap this up–I’m going to wrap you up,” he said. “You go sit down over there and learn something.”

What I’ve always hated about these award shows, or for that matter any major media extravaganza, is the way that media is herded and controlled (see Donald Trump media pens) like sheep—even if most of the time we are. Of course he wasn’t so much sticking up for the press and against big-event publicists as he was for himself and fellow RockHall inductees, but even an indirect slap at media manipulation, even among the most manipulatable, is to be applauded.

“This is how close this whole show came to not happening because of the way the artists are being treated,” he said, holding up two fingers very close together. And then he did wrap it up and walk off.

The RockHall tried to act diplomatic afterwards via a statement: “Rock ‘n’ roll can ignite many opinions,” it said. “It’s what makes it so great.”

Now there’s one big crock of shit statement! It’s the music that makes it so great, and it’s the many opinions that makes the The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so despised! In fact, it’s those opinions—a good many if not most of them stupid—that makes defining rock ‘n’ roll apparently impossible! Another new inductee, N.W.A.’s Ice Cube, makes my point.

“The question is, ‘Are we rock ‘n’ roll?'” Cube said in an acceptance speech in which he proclaimed that N.W.A. and hip-hop belong there next to the Beatles, Elvis and Chuck Berry, “and I say–you goddamn right we rock ‘n’ roll.” His explanation? “Rock ‘n’ roll is not an instrument. It’s not even a style of music. It’s a spirit that’s been going on since the blues, jazz, bebop, soul, rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, heavy metal, punk rock, and yes, hip-hop.”

You may have noted, as I most certainly did, that he left out country. Not many country stars are in the RockHall, with Johnny Cash the only one coming quickly to mind outside of Bill Monroe and Jimmie Rodgers—both inducted as “Early Influences.” Seymour Stein always argued for Conway Twitty, whose career began in the 1950s with the rock ‘n’ roll chart success of hits like “It’s Only Make Believe.” I’ll always remember my late, great friend Dave Nives, who held various marketing and a&r indie label gigs and correctly ascertained, after I brought him a CD by polka legend Eddie Blazonczyk, “This is real rock ‘n’ roll.”

Ice Cube didn’t say “polka,” either. But he—and N.W.A. mate MC Ren—got into a tiff with 2014 inductee Gene Simmons over the very point at hand.

KISS’s Simmons had told Rolling Stone that he was “looking forward to the death of rap,” that rappers didn’t belong in the Hall of Fame because they didn’t play guitar or sing—much as Phil Spector once told me that “rap music” is actually an oxymoron. In The New York Times shortly before his induction, Cube said he respected Simmons, “but I think he’s wrong on this, because rock ’n’ roll is not an instrument and it’s not singing. Rock ’n’ roll is a spirit. N.W.A is probably more rock ’n’ roll than a lot of the people that he thinks belong there over hip-hop. We had the same spirit as punk rock, the same as the blues.”

Here he invoked the “spirit” characterization of rock ‘n’ roll, that once again, takes precedence over the music itself. He added in his induction remarks that “rock ‘n’ roll is not even a style of music,” with Ren answering Simmons directly: “Hip-Hop is here forever. Get used to it.”

Never the type to suffer in silence, Simmons tweeted Saturday: “Respectfully, let me know when Jimi Hendrix gets into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame. Then you’ll have a point.” The next day Cube retorted, also via tweet, “Who stole the soul? Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Chubby Checker help invent rock & roll. We invent it. Y’all reprint it.”

Simmons’ final reply: “Cube, I stand by my words. [I] respect N.W.A, but when Led Zep gets into Rap Hall of Fame, I will agree with your point.”

Rolling Stone, covering the exchange Monday, quoted from a 2014 Simmons interview with “A few people decide what’s in and what’s not. And the masses just scratch their heads. You’ve got Grandmaster Flash in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Run-D.M.C. in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? You’re killing me. That doesn’t mean those aren’t good artists. But they don’t play guitar. They sample and they talk. Not even sing.”

But KISS and N.W.A. did have one thing in common, in addition to the capital letters. Neither band performed at their induction. As Cube told the Times (and echoed Miller), “we really didn’t feel like we were supported [by the RockHall] enough to do the best show we could put on.” In fact, the members of N.W.A. actually cut out early without taking questions.

KISS had long been shunned by the RockHal nomcomm, and by the time they finally were inducted, also chose not to perform, due to dissension among band members. This was hardly unusual: Paul McCartney didn’t even show when the Beatles were inducted in 1988, proclaiming that “after 20 years, the Beatles still have some business differences, which I had hoped would have been settled by now. Unfortunately, they haven’t been, so I would feel like a complete hypocrite waving and smiling with them at a fake reunion.” And none of the Sex Pistols were present in 2006 when they were inducted, Johny Rotten, contending in a handwritten letter that the RockHall was “a piss stain” and noting that the band would have to pay $25,000 to sit at a main table. And even at last week’s ceremony, inductee Chicago’s Peter Cetera didn’t show, and Cheap Trick’s Bun E. Carlos, who did attend and perform, complained on Facebook after how the other three originals had forced him out of the band.

“The spirit of rock ‘n’ roll means you follow your own path regardless of the critics and your peers,” Paul Stanley had said in his KISS acceptance speech, ironically presaging Cube’s speech Friday night: “Rock ’n’ roll is not conforming to the people who came before you, but creating your own path in music and in life. That is rock ’n’ roll, and that is us.”

Stanley also observed that KISS had stuck to its path for 40 years.

“Here we are tonight basically being inducted for the same things that we were kept out for,” he noted, and nodded to the fans. “Let’s not forget that these people make it all possible. We just benefit from it.”

I was reminded how, many years ago, I interviewed Paul for a Billboard KISS special, and told him that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was irrelevant without KISS.

“You know, we have our own Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” he said. “It’s in the record store bins.”

And really, what’s in the bins is what makes rock ‘n’ roll so great.

Glenn Frey: An appreciation

Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow’s statement summarized it succinctly: “As a founding member of The Eagles, Glenn Frey was an integral part of one of the most storied bands in pop history.”

He added, “Glenn’s untimely passing is a huge loss for the music community.”

Frey died Monday at 67, leaving prominent fans profoundly moved.

“Glenn Frey and the music he created alone and with The Eagles have been such an inspiration to me,” said country star Travis Tritt in a statement. “We first met at the video shoot for my version of [Eagles hit] ‘Take It Easy’ in 1993. He always went out of his way to acknowledge and encourage me ever since. I’m a better person, better musician and a better songwriter having met him.”

Tritt’s release of “Take It Easy” led to an Eagles reunion for the music video. Having broken up bitterly in 1980, the Eagles reconciled and fully reunited for their 1994 Hell Freezes Over tour.

On the other end of the musical spectrum, Paul Stanley of Kiss tweeted, “SHOCKED to report the death of GLENN FREY. Eagle & brilliant songwriter. We shared some memories at RRHOF [Rock and Roll Hall of Fame]. Shocked.”

Russ Titelman recalls a fortuitous meeting with Frey when he was producing Randy Newman’s 1974 Good Old Boys album.

“Glenn pulled me aside at the Troubadour and said, ‘Hey, man. If you ever need any background singing on Randy’s record let us know,” recalls Titelman. “Glenn, [fellow Eagles] Don Henley and Bernie Leadon sang on three songs—‘Rednecks,’ ‘Naked Man’ and ‘Back On My Feet Again.’ Three years later he worked–with Don, [Eagles] Tim Schmit, JD Souther and [Eagles] Joe Walsh) on [Newman’s album] Little Criminals: He sang on ‘Short People’ and ‘Baltimore’ and played fantastic guitar parts on ‘Little Criminals’ and ‘Baltimore.’ But the most notable and most fun thing they did was on a song called ‘Rider In The Rain,’ Randy’s funny fake cowboy song. Glenn, Don and JD Souther sang beautifully. It sounded like Randy singing lead on an Eagles record. Humorous and great.”

Frey, said Titelman, “was certainly one of the best songwriter-singer-musicians that ever graced our stage. He’ll be sorely missed.”

Frey was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame [SHOF] in 2000.

“Glenn did our Songwriters Hall of Fame Master/NYU Session a couple of years ago and it was the first time I got to talk to him since the very old days when the Eagles signed with Asylum and I was at Atlantic, both Warner Communication companies,” says SHOF president/CEO Linda Moran. “His daughter, Taylor, was attending NYU and was in the audience, so Dad’s interview and his responses and active participation were even more spectacular than we could ever anticipate. He spoke masterfully and passionately about songwriting that night and it was obvious the important role it played in his life and in his career. At the small dinner party afterwards, we chatted about the good old days. Being as he now had short hair, was clean-shaven and wearing a suit, he looked and acted very differently than the young kid I met decades ago. He really had his act together and you could tell he was enjoying and appreciating life. He laughed when I told him that he had ‘grown up very nicely!’”

New York classic rock Q1043 station DJ Maria Milito represents so many in taking Frey’s loss hard.

“I gasped, then cried when I heard the news of Glenn Frey’s passing,” says Milito. “Whether you grew up in the ‘70s or you’re a millennial, The Eagles have been a thread in the fabric of your life in America. The writing team of Henley-Frey were America’s Lennon-McCartney. But because The Eagles were from the next generation of bands, it’s difficult to wrap my head around this. I just thought he’d always be around and The Eagles would continue to tour.”

Concludes Milito, “Glenn Frey was a part of our youth, and now another piece of growing up is gone.”

YouTube Discoveries: the Great Crepitation Contest of 1946

One thing about fart humor, it never gets stale.

Even at the 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where inductee Ringo Starr got a big laugh relating how one of the reasons The Beatles stayed friends on the road was living up to the pact that in the van, “if you fart, own up to it–because [otherwise] it will cause hell.”

I’m reminded of this now at Christmastime–and what kind of gift to get that special someone. And mainly because at Toy Fair earlier this year, farts were all the rage. One publicist in particular very much enjoyed showing me several modern variations on a classic theme, the Whoopie Cushion, at the Skyrocket Toys booth, which actually fielded a whole array of fart goods from its Prank Star line in addition to the gold standard cushion (“A Toot by Any Other Sound is Not as Profound!”)

First was the Fart Whistle: “Turn Your Whistles into Farts! Blow into the Handheld Whistle and it Sounds like a Whoopee Cushion.”

Then came the iFart Shuffle: “Who needs iTunes?!? The iFart Shuffle lets you Scroll through All of Your Favorite Farts with the Push of a Button. Additionally, it is the Ultimate High-Tech Whoopee Cushion. The Built-In Motion Sensor causes a Fart to Release when Someone Sits Down or Moves. Includes 1 AAA Battery.”

But wait! There’s more! The RC Mega Fart allows you to “Cut the Cheese at up to 20 Feet Away. Press the Button on the Remote and Trigger an Array of Farts on the Fart Box–Even Through Walls. Requires 3 AAA Batteries.”

And for the truly talented, the Fart Piano lets you “Discover your True Inner Talent. [by]Creating Musical Masterpieces with [keyboard-triggered] Gaseous Body Sounds! Cough, Sneeze, and Belch your way to the Top of the Charts. Includes 6 Different Sound Libraries and ‘Try Me’ Packaging to Play Songs in the Store. Includes 3 AAA Batteries.”

Then in May, Prank Star introduced two new Spring 2015 fart items: Fart Bubbles, “for those looking to blow out ‘lightly-scented’ fart bubbles with a unique bubble wand that features a gas mask topper,” and the motorized Fart Bubble Gun, which “blasts out a strong stream of cherry-scented fart bubbles, accompanied by real farting sounds that bring out the giggles in anyone!”

“There’s no denying that farts are always funny, for all ages,” quoth the publicist, Lindsay Edwards. “And what’s not to love about bubbles? So when you combine the two, you really get the best of both worlds–the fun of a bubble maker with the silliness of a fart. Fortunately though, these farts won’t clear a room.”

But really, I don’t give a shit about any of this (or, for that matter, Prank Star’s brown Poo-Dough take on Play-Dough (“Looks like the real thing…smells much better!”). I didn’t even ask for samples. But I was more than happy to return the “favor” in sending Lindsay something she’d never heard of, the legendary recording of The Great Crepitation Contest of 1946, more popularly known as “The Farting Contest,” since crepitation concerns a number of obscure and unpleasant medical anomalies (for example, “noise or vibration produced by rubbing bone or irregular degenerated cartilage surfaces together as in arthritis and other conditions”), in addition to the comparatively innocuous “a dry, crackling sound or sensation.” The closest we can get to our purposes would be: “‘Crunching’ of tissue caused by presence of gas, which may occur in lung disease.”

Now if you’ve never heard The Great Crepitation Contest of 1946, then, I hope this doesn’t spoil it for you. The best version I’ve found is Trillblow Records’ recording Battle at Thunderblow, Windesmear vs. Bloomer, Part 1. That would be England’s Lord Windesmear, “Champion of the British Empire,” opposite challenger Paul Boomer, a commoner from Australia (“I remember I used to make me mother and father laugh their bleeding head off when I let one go in church….”

The disc takes on the guise of a live sporting event, complete with pre-game interviews of the competitors, detailed descriptions—in all its rich pageantry—of all aspects of the competition as it unfolds, including the rules and traditions associated with the ancient sport, play-by-play reporting and analysis, and the noise of the many thousand spectators in the venue as they react to the proceedings and the the scoring announced by the field referee.

It’s as real as it gets without being real.

Back in 1946, of course, the word “fart” was no doubt shunned in commercial undertakings. That it’s pretty commonly accepted now is obvious, not just from Skyrocket and Prank Star’s catalog or Ringo Starr’s tale, but by the frequently used (though never by me) excuse, “brain fart.”

Whether or not The Great Crepitation Contest of 1946 actually originated in 1946 is one of many things about the recording open to question, as I’ve seen claims on the Internet that it was produced and played for World War II soldiers as a morale-boosting “V-Disc” (“V” for Victory) recording. One excellent source was this blog, rand’s esoteric otr, which hails it as “the granddaddy of all ‘party records’ and a recording surrounded by much rumor and misinformation.”

Rand relates that the recording was apparently produced, in the late ’40s, as an in-house joke by Canadian Broadcasting Crop. (though it may have surfaced as a V-Disc), making the purported late ’40s production a little late. The many fun-to-read comments on his post and on YouTube indicate that most people today who have heard it either did so from an old copy their fathers–or grandfathers–had, or more frequently, an uncle, or else novelty radio shows, especially the great Dr. Demento’s.

One guy noted how his dad had it on a 78 r.p.m. vinyl disc, and that he hadn’t heard it in 40 years. Another boasted of having an original aluminum acetate recording purchased in 1946, that he might sell, since it had “bothered my wife for 58 years.” For others it brought back memories of hearing it in college in the ’60s, or on family road trips when a father played it on cassette. Often it was the stuff of legend: “One of my uncles had this record when I was a child. Since he lived far away, his nieces and nephews heard him talk about it, but never actually heard it. I’m finally hearing it some 50 years after first becoming aware of it.”

Confessed another, “Some kid told me about this record on the school bus over 20 years ago. I thought he was making it up. Guess not.”

So extraordinary is the broadcast, in fact, that one commenter asked the obvious: Why is this not a sporting event that we can go see at an arena?”

Another played along–as you’ll better understand shortly: “I routinely scorn the use of the farting post.” Of course I particularly related to “Someone recorded it on a cassette in the early ’70s and left it in my car, it went great with a couple joints!”

Indeed, I may well have heard it originally under similar circumstances in my teens, perhaps, but for sure, long after I and my friends, unknowingly on my part, used some of the fart terminology in it, presumably, in categorizing our own farts, especially “flutterblast.” I say presumably because with us it kind of took on an open-ended French pronunciation, I would think, flattabla, the “a” sound in all three cases more like the “eah” in yeah.

Flattabla was then reduced to just plain flatta, and further taking on the verb form of fla (“fleah”), as in, “He fla”–which worked for both present and past tense, none of us being cunning linguists. I’m sure there’s a pronunciation symbol for it somewhere.

According to Wikipedia, the “clandestine” recording was produced in the ’40s “allegedly by Canadian Broadcast Corporation staff” and “in the manner of a seemingly real radio broadcast” with narration by sportscaster Sidney S. Brown (whom I’ve seen identified elsewhere as a DJ), with “sound effects” credited to his producer Jules Lipton. The event takes place at the “Great Maple Leaf Auditorium,” and showcases the understated brilliance of the sportscaster as compared with, if I must say, the stench of today’s coverage of actual sports.

I’m thinking of the great BBC golf commentator Peter Aliss, the only one who comes to mind who’s comparable in terms of vocabulary and respect for the competition, as it were. Brown, in fact, is so good it’s like you really are there–like you can actually sense the “breeze,” so to speak, if not smell the effects, that is, of course, if you’re not laughing too hard to hear his descriptions of such unique-to-the-contest items as the removable “zephyr window” of the challenger’s trunks (“literally translated from the French”), the “simple eloquence” of the Farting Post (“about four feet high and decorated with red, white and blue bunting up to about nine inches from the top, “the bare top section worn smooth by the grip of many hands in previous contests,” and everything else–of which there is plenty–relating to this “centuries-old sport.”

Best, though, is its scoring system, and Brown’s extraordinary command-and application-of it. He makes note of the first fleeber delivered since 1750, how the challenger opened with “a beauty! a beauty…I think that was a triple flutterblast, yes, that’s what the judge signals…and another of the same, and another 25 points, followed by one, no two, I beg your pardon, three fuzzy farts in rapid succession! It’s amazing how this man can change pace in style of offering by a slight simple shifting of his buttock area.”

And then, “a flooper, a flooper, a perfectly executed flooper” and then a follow-up flooper–“a very difficult maneuver” and only “the second time in the history of this sport that a follow-up flooper has been achieved in open competition.”

Then there was “a little freep–a very hazardous fart because of the danger of flotching,” and Boomer went on to score an unprecedented 123 points, beatng Windesmear’s record by four points. Yet the great champion was “not in the least disconcerted by the brilliant performance of the challenger.” He even gave in to Boomer’s (and his seconds’) protest and removing the gold-tasseled “Zephyr Window” fringe of his bottom attire, since it might add a “whistle” or some other sound and thereby increase the value of his efforts, “and after all, in a closely fought contest like this, every little advantage must be jealously watched.”

His Lordship then proceeded to disdainfully blow a freep right in the challenger’s face, and while it was a mere two-pointer, “to throw one away is a gesture of defiance [and] demonstrates the spirit of dash and recklessness [that] has made the Englishmen the champion that he is.” And in a “final gesture of contempt,” the champion scorned the use of the farting post, the awestruck Brown reported.

Yet after opening officially with “three sislers in a row” (I’m laughing again out loud just writing this!) followed by “one, two, three—four fragrant fuzzies in rapid succession! It’s a pleasure to see the ease and comfort with which His Lordship releases his farts. Perfect technique–80 points in the first 30 seconds of the post.”

And then, “something’s wrong!” The judges signaled a plotcher—“a very bad plotcher”—and penalized Windesmear 15 points. But Windesmear recovers with “a beautiful thundersbreak…a beautiful bit of windbreaking virtuosity…a most difficult fart to perform without plotching,” and worth 30 points. A 10-point trillblow followed by a “resounding single flutterblast…a lovely change of pace” left him three points short of a tie.

“The excitement is going unbearable,” said a palpably tense Brown, before Lord Windesmear’s “final bid.” “One more fuzzy or two small freeps [and] it’s all over but the shouting.”

And for sure, His Lordship had heroically come from behind, so to speak.

“Just one more of those little two-point freeps and the contest will be over,” Brown reiterated.

And then, one of the great shocking finales in Crepitation Contest history, or that of any sport: “Oh, he shit!” a breathless Brown exclaimed. “The champion is disqualified!”

A few moments of stunned crowd noise and Brown returned.

“Ladies and gentlemen, as a special service feature we have brought you direct from the ringside of the Maple Leaf Auditorium a blow-by-blow description of the first Crepitation Contest held under international auspices. This broadcast replaced midweek meditations usually heard at this time.”

But honestly, this written description, while quite good, hardly does The Great Crepitation Contest of 1946 recording justice. Simply put, it’s the best piece of sports broadcast journalism ever, real nor not, and it gets better every time you hear it.

The Fall of the House of Bessman, Chapter 3

One thing I’m good at–real good–is burning bridges. Sometimes before they’re even built.

I burned two great ones a few weeks ago, two writing opportunities of the kind that never come my way. One of them I actually went after–something I never do, not after being turned down every single time for years and years and years.

Don’t ask me why when the reason is obvious. I’m not now nor never was considered one of the big boys in music journalism, not with a trade paper background. Music journalism is the lowest of the low to begin with, and trade music journalism is on the bottom of the bottom.

Now I’m not saying I’m as good as the guys at Rolling Stone or the other outlets where every writer wants to be and every artist wants to be written about, but I’ve certainly been around at least as long as any of them and worked as hard and deserved better than seeing one top editor get up from the subway car I happened to coincidentally enter, leave and then go into the next one to avoid me. Or another top editor cut me off in the middle of a conversation with Elvis Costello like I was invisible and inaudible, which clearly, I was. Or another top editor see me at a club and instead of at least courteously acknowledging me, practically puke and walk away.

So I never ask anyone anymore when I know what the answer’s gonna be. But a gal pal sent me a notice from Craigslist and I looked at it and it looked so appealing that against my better judgement, I applied: “Content Writer for Blog & Social Media (Virtual, Part-Time) (Flatiron).”

It was listed by a company that provides digital marketing services for small businesses. “We’re rapidly growing and we need a smart, ambitious, and detail oriented Content Writer to help with blogging and social media content (both internally and for clients),” the listing read, offering compensation per article “based on experience.” Telecommuting was fine, it continued, noting that the position was “a perfect match” for someone looking for part-time work, the opportunity to “work virtually, on your own time,” and to write articles “on a wide variety of topics.”

Having blog/social media writing experience was required, they emphasized. “You want to work virtually, on your own time, [and] enjoy writing and editing articles on a wide variety of topics.” This is all too good, I thought, and then it got better: “We will also provide training to bring you up to speed on our content requirements.”

Do not apply, it directed, “UNLESS you can prove you possess the following: Excellent, professional communication skills via email and phone.” Great! They didn’t say in person!

“Ability to learn very quickly…” This I can wing.

“Friendly, upbeat personality and a desire to help people…” Pushing it, but not breaking.

“This position is part-time, and virtual….” And I’m part-time, and virtual!

The overview then stated that the primary role of the position was “to write blog articles and social media posts for our business and our clients’ businesses,” this requiring phone calls and emails with project managers.

Still good, so far. But now came the submission factor: To be considered, you had to email your resume with the subject line of “Content Writer for [the company name],” and provide the article title of the most recent blog post on the company’s website. The blog post article was easy enough, but I haven’t had a resume in, well, closer to 40 years than 30, so I sent my most recent bio and figured that would be fine. But after a few weeks of no response, I figured maybe it wasn’t fine. So I went to the company’s website and found a phone number and called it, but the automated answer didn’t provide any directives or messaging option I felt comfortable with.

So I sent an email to the general company mailbox explaining that I had answered the Craigslist notice but never heard back, and that I was so sure I was the perfect fit that I wanted to make sure they’d received it. Another couple weeks went by, yet I still wasn’t giving up—much to my own great surprise.

I had subscribed to the CEO/founder’s promotional tip emailing, and saw that on one of them, he’d left his email address. So I went ahead and emailed him directly, reiterating how I’d applied and wanted to make sure he was aware that I was his guy. Another couple weeks went by, and then all of a sudden I got a response, apparently to my original Craigslist application.

It was from a gal at the company, who wanted to call me and discuss the position. I gave her my number, set up a time, and she called on it. It was a fairly general conversation lightly covering my exerpience and why I was interested in the position. She then said that she’d be sending a list of formal questions later in the day for me to fill out and email back.

She did.

“Below are questions we would like you to answer via email. Please draft a brand new email (do not reply or forward this email) addressed to [the founder/CEO] and write in paragraph format. The subject of the email should be ‘[Content Writer] Interview Information.’”

The email then declared that the founder/CEO was “expecting an email [reply] no later than 12pm EST Friday,” two days later.

He was going to get my email response in less than two hours, but it was highly unlikely it was what he was expecting, that being: “For your previous 3 projects, please answer the following questions: 1) On a scale from 1-10, How would your previous client rate you on each of the following: resourcefulness, attention to detail, and ability to meet deadlines? Include examples to back up your expected ratings.”

I was stumped. But I gave it a try.

“I’m not sure I can answer this satisfactorily. Most of the writing I do is self-published by way of and–for which I have no deadlines, write what I want, and as such, am fully satisfied.”

So I gave myself a “10” and sent links to my three most recent pieces at examiner: coverage on a battery manufacturer product launch, “for which the subject was greatly pleased in email response,” I reported; an appreciation piece on the late rock ‘n’ roll singer Billy Joe Royal, “who was a friend. Again, the people I spoke with or helped in terms of contacts were greatly pleased via email response”; and my piece on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations, “which, predictably, received mixed responses on Twitter and Facebook, with some agreeing with me, others taking strong opposing views.”

I also mentioned that I’d just turned in a book proposal solicited by a literary agent regarding a proposed John Mellencamp art book, and offered that he had expressed complete approval with it, though he’d be making some revisions and formatting changes. I could and did say it was extremely well-written. I said, too, that two weeks earlier I’d turned in brief bio blurbs on all the Songwriters Hall of Fame nominees—being a member of the organization and its nominating committee. “No great writing there, but totally acceptable for what it was and on time. As they haven’t been published yet I cannot provide them.”

And I related how I’d been hired in July to write a press release for Billy Gibbons’ new solo album, and that while I didn’t have a copy of that, either, it was a rush job, and the company was so happy with it they’d just hired me to do another one.

Next question: “If we asked your previous client what is your biggest weakness, what would he/she say? Include example(s).”

I was already sensing a pattern, and one not particularly propitious.

“I’m sorry but I really have no idea how to answer this question. I most certainly do not have any examples.”

The third question showed that there was a pattern, indeed definitely not propitious.

“If we asked your previous client what is your biggest strength, what would he/she say? Include example(s).”

I was honest: “I’m afraid it’s looking more and more like I’m going to be striking out on this interview. I can only assume that any previous client would express approval with my work on all counts. If you read my bio, you’ll see I’ve been doing this for 40 years in all kinds of writing outlets.”

But I kept going—right into a brick wall.

“Please describe your biggest success and biggest failure since graduating college.”

This should pretty much have killed it. I tried to be as lighthearted as I could: “If this doesn’t finish me off, nothing will! I flunked out of high school. My biggest success is that I’ve built and maintained a solid reputation as a self-taught and self-made journalist. My biggest failure is having been stereotyped primarily as a music journalist, and worse a trade music journalist. Hence, I had a difficult time breaking into bigger and better paying consumer venues, though in all fairness, I could just as easily have been regarded, rightly or wrongly, as not up to par elsewhere. This is why I thought [company name] might be an excellent opportunity.”

Last question: “Will you be able to schedule personal reference calls with previous clients as a final step in the hiring process?”

“Of course,” I said. It seemed better than “Fuck you.” Either way, I didn’t expect to hear back.

On to the second opportunity, which somehow turned out even worse.

It started with a most unexpected—and much appreciated—solicitation.

“After checking out your work, the editors and I would love to invite you to start writing on [a new online media outlet].” So read an email from the site’s “editorial director.”

I was shocked, needless to say. I didn’t think anyone “checked out my work,” let alone knew who I was.

The rest of the email looked to be boilerplate, explaining how to log in to “our easy-to-use creator tool and begin writing.” What made it so attractive was that it also said you get paid 70% of the revenue from advertising—not that I have much idea what that means. I only know I get maybe 20 cents a story at, nothing at And unlike examiner, they also promised to “share your story as widely as possible on social media and via email, and we help it get traction by featuring and promoting it on our site.”

“Happy to discuss further…,” I replied. She thanked me for the response, then wrote, “Do you have questions that I could answer over email? Otherwise, I’d be happy to jump on the phone to discuss further. If you want to grab a time when we’re both free using the tool in my email signature, we can connect as soon as possible. Looking forward to it….”

I must have felt a twinge of discomfort. I had plenty of questions, and she didn’t seem to want to talk to me so much as email. And the bit about “the tool” in her email signature only added to my queasiness.

“The tool in your email signature?” I wrote. I hadn’t noticed the “Book an appointment” link.

“Sorry. I’m stupid. Now you know,” I wrote back after she re-sent the link. I then clicked on it and booked an appointment for later in the day. That’s right: I “booked an appointment” and called her at the appointed time.

Now I had noticed in her previous email that once you submit an article, “your story gets professionally edited and packaged to succeed online by one of our top-tier digital editors.” I told her that I was a bit concerned by having an editor, since I haven’t really had one since my Billboard days 10 years ago now—-and most of the work I did there until the bitter end was as the music publishing editor, so I pretty much edited my own stuff even then. But I also told her that I was surprised that she knew who I was and grateful that she thought enough of me to want me to write for the new site–and that I was excited about the prospect of being paid more than 20 cents a story.

“I enjoyed talking with you and again, very much appreciate your interest,” I emailed her maybe two hours later. “I reworked a music piece I put up on my site earlier today and submitted it, mainly to get a quick idea of how it works.”

Not only would it be not quick at all, but not pleasant at all, either.

Now, the site said that re-submissions were okay. But my writing on is generally more personal if not first-person, which would have been okay, too, but I didn’t feel like being so casual anywhere else–let alone just put up an exact same piece from my site as a first submission here.

I did add, “I’m sure I’ll have plenty of questions down the line,” not knowing that there would be only one question: “What the fuck happened to my copy?”

Now one other thing from the boilerplate that comes into play: “We’re on a special mission to put power back into the hands of those like you who create amazing content online. We believe that if your ideas are valuable, 1. you deserve a talented editor, and 2. you should never give them away for free.”

So I’d rewritten an okay concert story/review about a Terri Lyne Carrington show at B.B. King’s that I’d posted on my site, short but sweet. I made it even shorter, no more than five graphs, and went with the format of the site, including the asked-for hyperlinks and “visual media.”

“Thanks Jim, looking forward to seeing how it turns out!” she had closed. So did I, and I did the following day after receiving an “A Story needs your attention” email from the site’s “workinprogress” address gently telling me it needed more work: “Thank you for submitting the story ‘Terri Lyne Carrington brings “Love and Soul” to B.B. King’s, with help from Valerie Simpson.’ This is a great start, but we noticed a couple of elements in your piece that need work before we can publish it. Here are our comments and ideas on how you can make your story even better.”

Under “Editor Comments,” it said, “Would you mind adding an opening paragraph for more clarity please?”

I cringed. My first piece for a new outlet—one that solicited me! How could I have submitted something that needed “more clarity”?

I looked for the piece on the site. Failing, I replied, “First, I can’t find my article that needs work.”

No response. I kept looking and found it—though it wasn’t remotely what I had sent.

“I found the article and over half of it is missing.”

I had copied the piece from my site, pasted it into the new site’s template, edited and modified it and inserted all the links and artwork. Didn’t think of saving it anywhere—big mistake, since they appeared to have chopped off the opening graph (and accompanying video embed), and a couple other graphs in the body.

Didn’t hear back and sent another email, then advised the original editor who had approached me to begin with, who was “looking forward to seeing how it turns out.”

“They rejected it,” I emailed, “and when I went to see why I found two-thirds of it missing—arbitrarily cut up. Of course I didn’t save it.”

She responded: “Hi Jim, unfortunately this is a technical bug. We should be able to retrieve the story–apologies for the glitch in the system, we’ll have it fixed ASAP.”

I was reassured. “Thanks,” I emailed back. “They said they wanted a new opening graph, but I had no idea what they meant.” Then I added, in a following email, “And you should know that before contacting you, I sent three emails to “Don’t hesitate to contact us on ‘workinprogress’” and no response to any of them.”

Finally, I did hear back from them, with the dreaded, “Hey Jim, I hope all is well”–something people always say when they know full well it’s all for shit. I didn’t immediately respond with, “Hey, asshole. If all was well you wouldn’t be emailing me!”

He identified himself as “the editor who edited your piece. We apologize for the technical error. If you have your copy saved, would you mind resubmitting your work? We’ll get it up on site with speed.”

Thanks, pal, but “I don’t have it saved. No idea what you did to it.” I forwarded this exchange to the first editor along with “This guy edited it. Now asks me to resubmit and he’ll put it up with speed. No mention about changes. Makes absolutely no sense.”

He came back with, “My mistake. Here’s your restored text below that was saved prior to the glitch. Please resubmit and we apologize again for the technical error.”

What he had sent me was the shite that I’d already seen on the site–my mangled copy, that is, not the original. Essentially, it was three paragrapsh taken from somewhere in the middle of the piece, such that no one was identified by full name, let alone anything else. There was no beginning, though they might have kept the end. And there were two video clips, when I’d embedded at least three.

“This is not at all what I submitted and of course it makes no fucking sense. Neither does what I was originally sent by [you],” which was the bit about “the great start” but the need for “an opening paragraph for more clarity.”

“What I submitted,” I continued, “and what I did not save, was at least three times what you have sent me here, along with another video. I still have no idea what your problem was with the original piece that I submitted and did not save, never imagining this could happen.”

“If you do not have the original piece that I submitted, let me know and I will rewrite now, a week after the fact. But it would be great if you would let me know what was wrong with it to begin with, though I can’t imagine what that might have been.”

Now, am I out of line here? Am I not being clear? Apparently not.

“Jim. It appears we have a bug on our end. What I just sent was all the available text from your latest draft that you resubmitted. If you have the time to rewrite, we’d appreciate it and we’ll get it up.”

By now I was preparing to hang myself. This guy is not paying attention, and we’re going around in circles. If I wasn’t yet dizzy, I was still damn near throwing up.

I addressed him by his first name, then wrote: “This was NOT my latest draft. I only sent ONE finished piece [two days ago]. It was perfect as best I recall. Is this ALL that you have seen of the piece? Are you saying you did NOT receive the original piece with three videos and six or so paragraphs? Like I said, if all you got was what you just sent me, of course there was a problem. If you do in fact have my original submission, you will save me a lot of time other than that I’ve already wasted.”

This exchange I forwarded, too, to the original editor, who, by the way, had told me from the outset that she had come to this new gig from Huffington Post. So I told her how Arianna had once asked me to write for her, and how I’d submitted a great piece, only—you guessed it—to never hear back from anyone there. And so I never heard back from this person, either. No one thought to call me–perish the thought–nor did I want to “book an appointment” again. So I gave up.

Now in fairness I should say that a month or so later I saw an email from the guy that I never noticed after he sent it, probably the next morning.

“Hey good morning, Jim,” it read. “Yes this is all of what I’ve seen of your piece in any capacity. So there’s an error on our end with submissions that may have cut off your original text. Please let me know if you’d be willing to resubmit and we’ll take care of it ASAP.”

It was sent from his iPhone.

I’m not one to cut off my nose to spite my face. I’d just as soon slit my throat than scratch my neck. I didn’t respond. By then that ship had not only sailed, but sunk. I’d gone down with it.

About this time I received an unexpected email from the girl from that first gig, that I’d filled out that application for.

“After further review, we have decided to not move you forward in the interview process,” she wrote. “This was a tough decision and I want to thank you for your interest and for sending all of the requested information.”

I wrote her back saying I was surprised that she even let me know, and that I appreciated it. And there ends the good news.

For it was also around this time that I realized just how dead and buried I really am.

It started with an invite to cover the latest in a series of All for the Hall benefit concerts in New York for the Country Music Hall of Fame. When I was at Billboard, I was given a seat at a dinner table. Then when they had one three years ago I wasn’t even invited.

I did get invited this time. At least I thought so. It was an email with the particulars, and I responded, saying that I’d be there, in a return email to the publicist named at the bottom, whom I didn’t know, whereas I once knew everybody there. I never heard back, and as it got closer to the date, I started getting nervous.

I emailed the publicist again, then called her and left a voicemail. No response. Called her again, then the gal whose name was below her on the email. No response from either.

Day of the event and I figured I could go and not be let in, or I could stay home and have to answer for not showing up. I went with the former, and sure enough, the gal at the gate didn’t see my name on the press list. I asked for the head publicist on the email notice, who hadn’t returned calls or emails. I was not happy and I let the first gal know it.

She called the head publicist on her cell, and she came up and explained that I was for sure not on the list, that the press allotment was full, and that she had responded to me by email. I told her if she had I hadn’t received it, then told her to give my regards to Kyle Young, the head of the Hall of Fame, whom I’ve known probably 30 years. I knew she wouldn’t, and I knew he wouldn’t have cared anyway.

I left, saying my final goodbye to the Country Music Hall of Fame. I felt like my career, which began in country music, had now ended in country music–and said goodbye to that, too.

Then again, within days I was confronted with something that both began and ended shortly after I was let go at Billboard some 10 years earlier.

After my friend and editor-in-chief Tim White died (he took me with him, I always say), they brought in Keith Girard, from nowhere in terms of the music business, but with reportorial experience at The Washington Post, as well as editorial roles at Washingtonian magazine and business publications. I liked Keith, but as in the case of Tim, I was the only one who did. He was out within the year, as I recall, settling for a lot of money, no doubt, in a settlement following a $29 million dollar suit, filed with his female senior editor, over “gender and race-based discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliatory firings, intra-office sabotage, and other wrongdoing.”


As I’d befriended Keith, he was nice enough to offer me a very good position at his next venture, a Long Island news and entertainment paper called The Improper. As usual, the position never materialized in the manner it was presented (weekly salary, health insurance), and I did maybe three or four pieces for it before realizing I’d been had.

The Improper
still exists online, but I only know this because with everything else going on, I got an email “to bring your attention to [some-artist-I-never-heard-of’s] upcoming solo show in New York. I thought that a preview of review of this exhibition would be an excellent fit for The Improper Magazine. Please let me know if you’d be interested in featuring this exhibit.”

Now I still get calls and emails and social network messages asking me to cover things at Billboard, so I can’t be that surprised that The Improper popped up suddenly out of nowhere. But for this one, at least, I didn’t bother responding.

But here’s one where I did respond, much to my regret and humiliation. It was to interview Dave Stewart about his forthcoming “groundbreaking musician and producer shares never-before-told stories of his life in music” memoir—or review the book or otherwise feature Stewart.

No, the foreword “from longtime friend and collaborator Mick Jagger” didn’t hook me, and I wasn’t much of a Eurythmics fan—and didn’t really agree with the email subject claim that he was “Eurythmics Frontman.” But Stewart had worked with my dear friend Boris Grebenshikov, Russia’s hugely popular Soviet era answer to Bob Dylan, and I figured talking with him about Boris would be fun and different for both of us.

“Def interview,” I emailed the New York book company publicist who approached me. She came back with, “Just wanted to let you know that the Dave Stewart manuscript should be ready this Friday; I’ll send along a copy then. Do you want to nail down a date for the interview? All best….”

I must have missed this for my next response was, “Sorry didn’t get back earlier–had to knock off two book proposals myself this week and didn’t see until now. Any time is good…thanks!”

Which brings us to the fun part.

“Hi Jim, do you have time the afternoon of the 28th or the 29th?”

Innocent enough, but even then, I should have seen this next one coming, at least 10 years away.

“Does Billboard have a run date in mind? We’re asking that all interviews be run on or closely surrounding the publication date of 2/9/16.”

Fuck me.

I went with the first part first.

“Either is good,” I said, then lowered the boom–onto my own head: “Wouldn’t know about Billboard. They fired me over 10 years ago.”

“Hi Jim,” she responded. “so sorry about that.” Maybe she was. “I’ll make sure our database is updated.” Maybe she did.

“Who are you writing for these days?”

I’m sure she loved this one: “,”

Or maybe she didn’t.

I waited to hear back from her, and when there was no immediate reply, I thought, no way she won’t respond. And as soon as I thought that, I felt that twinge again, somewhere deep in the back of what’s left of my brain.

It was, “the curse.” My best friend in high school who beat me to the rope a few years ago always got on me whenever I said something like “This can’t possibly happen,” or any statement prefaced by “never” and any variation thereof. It’s the curse, he said, effectively guaranteeing that whatever can’t possibly happen will indeed come to pass, usually with no wait.

And so it did here, though I did have to wait a few days for verification.

For the Dave Stewart book that was being sent to me that Friday never arrived. The book publicist never followed up on setting a time that 28th or 29th for my interview. No explanation given, no “sorry, we just don’t care about or”

I wasn’t even worth the absolute most minimal professional courtesy. Still, it would only get worse.

The first missile came from LinkedIn, of all places.

“Hi Jim! Thanks for accepting my invite!” acknowledged another publicist, this one from L.A..

“Would love to further network with you. Are you currently writing for any magazines? Either way though, always a pleasure to meet!”

Either way, I wondered, just how much of a pleasure?

“No magazines,” I answered. “Just websites that don’t pay, including my own. I’m afraid I’m about the most anti-social networker in the world.”

Somehow this only encouraged her.

“You replied to my message–that’s far from being anti-social :).”

Social networking graces over, time for the kicker.

“May I share something with you? We’re hoping to get an exclusive at Billboard –do you still write columns for their site? We are working with a new and innovative record label (with a partnership with INgrooves/UMGD for distribution) that’s releasing a track on the 23rd of October (and video being released Nov 6th)–showcasing two popular social media artists (with a combine reach of over 2 millions followers). Ideally, we’d love to discuss a feature on Oct 23rd highlighting the new song and artists, connecting it to the new record label, and then another feature for the video release on the 6th of November–but obviously, whatever would make sense. May I send additional information–including the track link for you to take a listen?”

Of course, I’d stopped reading after “an exclusive at Billboard.” I came back with my stock answer: “Fired over 10 years ago.”

“Oh wow. Thats a while ago. My apologies.” The she Linked me Out. This was followed in very short order by a pitch I actually caught.

“On Saturday December 5th, the public television series MY MUSIC will present Close To You: Remembering The Carpenters, airing on PBS and Public Television stations nationwide,” the pitch began, and being a huge Carpenters fan forever, I was hooked right away. And besides the PBS special, there was a companion DVD and three-CD box set with all the Carps’ U.S. singles and B-sides.

“Grammy and Oscar-winning songwriter Paul Williams is available for a limited number of interviews,” the pitch continued. Now Paulie, whose Carpenters catalog includes “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “Rainy Days and Mondays” and “I Won’t Last A Day Without You,” is an old pal, as I quickly informed: “Def want to talk to Paul! He’s an old pal! Shouldn’t be a problem….”

And I’m sure it wouldn’t have been, nor would fulfilling my desire for the CDs.

I should have said “never” out loud.

“Hey Jim, do you think there’s a chance of getting a feature on the front page of Examiner or the A&E section? Since this is a nationwide broadcast event about a group beloved by so many, I’m wondering if what kind of placement I can tell Paul to expect. I don’t mean to create an obstacle here, I just know that that’s a question that will come up.”

Oh, I see. You don’t mean “to create an obstacle.” Funny, you didn’t mention any of this in your pitch, asshole. Ye olde bait-and-switch.

But wait! There was more!

“CD’s are unfortunately in short supply. Since our goal is to raise awareness about the 12/5 broadcast, would you be open to reviewing the documentary instead? I can see about DVD availability, but can for sure send you a digital link.”

Short supply, you say? I only want one! I really am out of the business!

“No longer interested,” I wrote back on my Samsung. It was either that or “Fuck off.”

But it was kind of a good one, this dip-shit trying to negotiate “front page of Examiner” with a measly independent contractor who would have nothing to do with placement. Then again, rare is the PR person I deal with who has any understanding that is merely a template for any writer who can arrange words into a sentence.

So now, I figured, it’s impossible to be insulted any worse, let alone any more, at least until 2016.

But I had invoked the curse.

“We haven’t had the opportunity to touch base,” began the pitch, “but I wanted to extend an invite to attend an exclusive Sony Hi-Res Audio event in New York City on November 12 at 4:00 pm at the Columbus Circle Best Buy.”

I might well have gone, except that this was addressed, “Hi Alyssa.”

“Thanks,” I replied. “My name is Jim.”

Lesley Gore

I was on the nominating committee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for several years before being unceremoniously dumped, ostensibly because they were looking for people who were more knowledgeable about the 1970s (that I wrote the first book on The Ramones, apparently, was of no consequence), but I like to think that it was because every year at the nomcomm meeting I would put up Lesley Gore for nomination.

So it’s not my fault that she’s not up where she belongs, though when I started my own Rock ‘n’ Roll Pantheon, she was one of the first inductees.

Lesley was also one of the first stars I met when I moved to New York in 1982. It was at the Chem Bank at 57th and Broadway, where the Cash Box office was–where I worked. I’m sure I was the ultimate geek when I went up to her and introduced myself and then started slobbering all over her—as well I should: After all, “Judy’s Turn To Cry” was one of the first records I ever bought. I still remember the great B-side, “Just Let Me Cry.”

It remains one of those wonderful things in my career and in my life that I got to know her so well as the years went by. But I didn’t know she was sick. I should have figured it out when she stopped responding to phone calls and emails the last few months, but no, I just figured she was busy and gave her space.

I really should have figured it out last month at APAP—the Association of Performing Arts Presenters annual trade conference at the Hilton, where she was scheduled to showcase. I tweeted my excitement and got there early to surprise her—but she wasn’t there, and no one knew why.

I emailed her again, no response. And then I got carried off with work and whatever else gets in the way of the important things in life.

I’m thrilled to see so many wonderful tributes to her now on Facebook and Twitter. My tweets followed Mark Lindsay’s tweet announcement in the middle of the afternoon. I was at Toy Fair at the Javits Center, the annual toy trade show full of thousands of toy manufacturers and dealers, a business centering on fun and joy and happiness, and suddenly, incongrously, I was fighting back tears.

“It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Lesley Gore in rock ‘n’ roll history. That she’s not in the Hall of Fame is true travesty,” I tweeted. When I got home I called Lou Christie, who knew Lesley since 1963, when she had “It’s My Party” and he had “The Gypsy Cried.”

“We stayed friends for all these years,” Lou said, fielding the calls we make at such times. “She was hard and tough, baby. She’d want me to tell you that, too! And she knew she was very talented and very smart and had a great sense of humor. I loved the sound of her voice, and she was a better singer than most people knew. And she went out there and put it all on the line.”

I’ll have more to say about Lelsey shortly and not so personal at I just wanted to get this up now quickly, and with a couple videos. But first I should say that although I knew her very well and loved her very much, I’m not at all alone in either regard. As I told a Facebook friend who offered condolences after reading my tweets, while it surely is a personal loss for me and more so for Lou, it’s personal for anyone who feels it. Lesley touched us all, and we’re all the better for it. And sadly, Lesley was hardly alone among female rock artists (Connie Francis, Nancy Sinatra, The Marvelettes, The Shangri-Las, etc., etc.) in suffering unforgivable neglect by those who should most know better—The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominating Committee.

So here’s video of two legendary rock ‘n’ rollers and longtime friends and contemporaries who aren’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

And while there are so many Lesley Gore hits to remember her by—most obviously her proto-feminist anthem “You Don’t Own Me”—here’s one to help us smile through the tears:

Finally, big thanks to Chris Matthews, who an hour or so ago on Hardball, amidst all the overblown coverage of Saturday Night Live’s 40th anniversary special and the pseudo-singers and celebs it honored, saw fit to run an old Lesley clip and simply, succinctly state, “A loss for the world.”