I just came across the Detroit-area band Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. Their sound paints dreamy folk/psychedelic soundscapes and they even do a passable cover of the Beach Boys classic "God Only Knows." Their EP is called "Horsepower," and you can get a free download at the Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. website.
The use of his name is rather interesting, and in a skewered way validates a lot of what we were striving for in the Budweiser years. By appearing in many new and unique media outlets, Dale Jr. transcended NASCAR fans/race fans (NOT always the same - but that's a separate blog topic for another day.) to become more universally recognized in pop culture.
You can see one of their videos (with some hilarious 'vintage' NASCAR uniforms) on my Tumblr blog, now know as Vanity is Expensive.
Get the story behind this photo at my new streamlined Tumblr blog. It's a fun locale for links, photos and videos that are too long for Twitter but too short for a complete blog entry. You can see ...these go to 11 by clicking the link. Enjoy.
I'm a fan of Todd Snider, the song-writin,' story-tellin,' folk-music singin' machine. He's also known for telling a series of ever-evolving hilarious stories during his live performances. Snider has penned some equally witty songs, including almost-hits such as "Beer Run" and "Talkin' Seattle Grunge Blues." (I did say almost...) He also wrote and sang "I'm an Alright Guy," which was almost recorded by Garth Brooks - but THAT hilarious story is meant for another day.
Recently, I came across a Snider bootleg that listed "The Bill Elliott Story" as one of the cuts, so I knew it was likely comedy gold.
So, with a warning that this is NSFW (for a lot of what Snider and his self-proclaimed "blue" language), click the player below to hear four minutes of Todd Snider's NASCAR story.
Wow. The USGP in Austin, Texas?! It's a great city and an oasis in a vast state of wackiness. The United States Grand Prix kicks off from an all-new track in/near Austin in 2012.
In the meantime, enjoy some sand between your toes with Team Red Bull... How do you like your donuts?On a musical note, I can't seem to get enough of Broken Bells these days.
I was digging through some old audio files and found a fun snippet from the good ol' days of 2000 when it was still known as the Winston Cup. Budweiser used their swamp buddies Frank and Louie to introduce the country to Bud's new rookie driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Click on the audio icon below to enjoy!
You might not have heard of Jim Marshall, but you've likely seen his work if you're a fan of rock and roll. Marshall passed away this week at age 74, leaving behind a long list of iconic images of music legends. (For samples of his work, you can find galleries from Rolling Stone and NME.com - or check out the official site at MarshallPhoto.com.)
Marshall captured the above image of Johnny Cash during one of the famous trips Cash made to perform in prisons in the U.S. The photo reportedly came about during rehearsal of a show at San Quentin Prison. "What is your message for the warden?" Marshall had asked, and Cash responded with an emphatic middle finger.
And that's what brings us to Dale Jr.
After his father's death in 2001, Dale Jr. had slowly returned to taking media opportunities, choosing carefully from the onslaught of requests. One of them was from Racer magazine, one of the few racing publications which combined quality writing and photography in a slick monthly package. Racer had been kind to Dale Jr. in the past, so it was an easy choice to agree to an interview and photo session for a cover story.
In the midst of the photo shoot in the showroom at Dale Earnhardt Inc., the photographer was making changes to the lighting set-up (aimed at getting the Bud car to shimmer in the polished black marble floor...) and Dale Jr. responded to his publicist with the flip of his middle finger. The photographer quickly snapped one digital frame of the gesture, much to the laughter of everyone including Junior, who said he wanted a copy of the shot.
Several months later, the Dale Jr. story appeared in Racer, complete with a full-page spread of him flipping the bird. Budweiser execs were slightly alarmed, but begrudgingly accepting, unlike some of his smaller associate sponsors, who did their best to make Dale Jr's life uneasy for a week. (It always seems like the smallest sponsor raises the biggest stink...)
Chapter two of the story came the next summer at Sears Point (nee Infineon), California. It seems Bay-area resident Marshall had taken note of young Junior's pose, and had sent an autographed and framed print of his famous Johnny Cash photograph. Among the many gifts bestowed on Junior through the Bud years, that one remains one of the most memorable.
Chilton was the leader of Big Star, a Memphis-born group of the early 70s who recorded three albums which were never commercial hits but are considered by an entire generation of musicians to be among the greatest post-Beatles records ever made. The Memphis Commercial Appeal first reported his death earlier this evening. You can see their story about Chilton here. You can also find the New York Times' report of his death here. NPR quoted Peter Buck of R.E.M. when they dubbed Big Star as "the unluckiest band in America."
It would be sad if it took something as drastic as his death to finally shine a wider spotlight on the brilliance of Big Star, but it this prompts you to find and share in the joy of his recordings, I welcome you to see what magic they still hold. If you're unfamiliar with his work, here is a YouTube slice of one of his pop gems, The Ballad of El Goodo.
Big Star influenced a long list of critical bands, from R.E.M. to the Replacements (who wrote a song about him called - oddly enough - "Alex Chilton") and the Bangles to Counting Crows. Many, many bands covered his songs, from Wilco to Jeff Buckley to Cheap Trick - who re-recorded his song "In the Street" as the theme song for "That 70s Show."
It's hard to describe the impact Chilton's best work. The Big Star recordings combine shimmering guitar-oriented power-pop, complete with chiming guitars and angelic vocal harmonies. He and the band took the best of what the Beatles had pioneered in the 1960s and added an emotional rawness that wasn't heard again until the 90s with Nirvana. Chilton's ballads could be gorgeous and seeringly sweet ("Thirteen," "I'm in Love With a Girl" and "The Ballad of El Goodo," for instance) while his more guitar-driven tunes ("September Gurls" and "O My Soul") defined the alternative rock sounds for two decades to come. On top of the pop confection would fall his more dire songs which featured exposed nerves and emotion ("Holocaust" and "Kangaroo" on the third album).
Here's "Thirteen," which has been covered by Garbage, Wilco, Elliott Smith and many more.
If you find yourself wanting to sample more of Big Star, one should focus on the three original albums which were recorded in Ardent Studios in Memphis. "#1 Record" and "Radio City" were the first two brilliant records (now packaged as a single CD. iTunes offers both records for one price.) After co-founder Chris Bell left the band (he died in a car crash in 1978), Chilton carried on with drummer Jody Stephens to record the album known as "Big Star Third" - which is also known in musician circles under its alternate title "Sister Lovers." The third album is not as polished and produced as the first two, adding a tone of bleak and unbearable despair to the usual gorgeous songs.
Despite the critical success of Big Star, Chilton's largest commercial hit was recorded as a teenager. "The Letter" was sung by a gravelly voiced, 16-year old Chilton with his band The Box Tops. They had several other minor hits with "Soul Deep" and "Cry Like a Baby." His post-Big Star solo recordings were shaky efforts at best, as Chilton struggled with the utter commercial failings of Big Star and a nasty drug habit. He re-formed Big Star with Stephens in his latter years, recording and touring until his death. Before his fatal heart attack, he was slated to make an appearance this weekend with Big Star at the massive SXSW music festival in Austin.
As a final thought, here is Chilton's "Thank You Friends," with rare home movie footage of the band in the studio. Thank you Alex.
Check out this music video from the guys of OK Go. They're the ones who created the buzzworthy video several years ago of the band members doing a variety of synchronized moves on treadmills. This video took untold hours to design and set-up, and is completed with one continuous steadycam shot. It took them more than 60 tries over the course of two days to get the video right.
To learn more about the video was made, check out the interesting article from Wired. Check it out at Gadget Lab.
It's been a long while since I've written about music, and I was inspired this evening while listening to the chiming tones of the Jayhawks.
Though Minneapolis was a hotbed through the 1980s with rock and R&B acts like His Purpleness (ahem... Prince), the Replacements, Husker Du, Soul Asylum and the Time, the early 1990s marked the emergence of a self-described "incredibly loud folk band" known as the Jayhawks. They soon became one of the involuntary leaders of the American musical movement known by the interchangeable names of Alt-Country, Americana, No Depression, or (my fave) Y'all-ternative. (See also: Uncle Tupelo and Gram Parsons.)
The Jayhawks were led by the twin towers of singer/songwriters Gary Louris and Mark Olson, whose delicate voices blended in a glorious, silky manner which echoed the harmonies of the Everly Brothers and was compared to other famous duos like Lennon and McCartney and Difford and Tillbrook. These days, their soaring sound can be heard in acts like Keith Urban, who owes a debt of gratitude to the Jayhawks. (In their later albums, the combo also included former Kansan Tim O'Reagan on drums and harmonies.)
Here are a few of their finest and tastiest cuts... (Click the icon for the audio)
"Waiting for the Sun" from the 1992 album "Hollywood Town Hall"
"Blue" and "I'd Run Away" from the 1995 album "Tomorrow the Green Grass"
"I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" from the 2000 album "Smile"
Jade Gurss: BEAST
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