Archive for the 'music' Category

Saturday is Record Store Day

Saturday is Record Store Day around the country. Support your local independent record store! Here in Manhattan the situation is tragic. With the demise of Tower, Virgin and HMV, there are few places where you can actually buy CDs, LPs, or videos.

Back in the late 70s and early 80s, I used to ricochet between Bleecker Bob’s and Rocks in Your Head in SoHo. Strangely enough, the former is still there on West 3rd St. Rocks is long gone, replaced by a real estate agency.

The days of flipping through bins and flirting with girls who were doing the same is relegated to “Hannah and Her Sisters” when Woody runs into Dianne Wiest. What a shame!

As much as I loathe Los Angeles, they at least have Amoeba Records. We just have greedy landlords. But check out the Record Store Day website. There are a few little shops left here and there. I’ll bet if all the people in the world walking around with little earplugs blasting music could hear the full sound of LPs or even well made CDs through a real stereo system and speakers, they’d faint. ( A whole generation of downloaders is missing the real thing. Too bad, kids.

For the best, most affordable speakers in the world:

Whitney Houston Struggles For a Comeback in the UK

Whitney Houston is not having an easy time of it.

She opened her tour last night in Birmingham, England after a brief hospitalization in Paris derailed her first dates. This is after a disastrous bunch of dates in Australia a few weeks ago.

The British reviewers were not kind. Even though Whitney tried with all her might to resurrect herself, the voice simply is not there. It’s almost heartbreaking to hear her just not be able to find even the voice she had two years ago at Clive Davis‘s Grammy party. Clearly, her instrument is injured.

There are a number of examples on YouTube. Here’s one, a short clip of “Saving All My Love for You”:

What is going on? It’s hard to say. Houston denies drugs have been involved, and we can only hope she’s telling the truth. Whatever is going on, this is not the Whitney even of more recent days. And it can only be frustrating as hell for her. She knows that somewhere  in there still lies what used to be the greatest voice of all.

Aretha Franklin: New Album, Movie, and (Successful) Diet

Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, is on a roll.

She’s lost 23 pounds on a new, healthy diet and she looks fantastic. “I’m working on the next 23,” she declared backstage last night at City Center where the Queen sang her signature hit, “Respect,” for Good Housekeeping magazine’s 125th anniversary show.

Not only was Aretha a vision in a white gown specially designed for her new slimmed down figure, but she had lots of other news. Her new album, the first in seven years, is coming to us in May via WalMart. “A Woman Falling Out of Love” was produced by Franklin with Bebe Winans and Gordon Chambers. Aretha told me she wrote two of the songs–she is always her best composer–and the album features a duet with the amazing Karen Clark, of the Clark Sisters.

Isn’t that enough?

Yesterday, the Queen of Soul huddled with two different Oscar caliber directors about turning her autobiography into a movie. It’s really going to happen. And the big names are being mentioned, like maybe Denzel Washington to play the famous Reverend C.L. Franklin, Aretha’s dad, and any number of actresses–from Halle Berry to Jennifer Hudson— to play Miss Aretha. Of course, Aretha’s incredible sisters, Carolyn and Erma, will be represented as well. (I did suggest that Miss Franklin check out Viola Davis for her movie, too.)

Franklin was in fine voice last night,too, although she said she could hear “cracks.” Her back up singers included two of my pals, the great Vaneese Thomas (sister of Carla, daughter of Rufus) whose parents were married by Reverend Franklin, and Fonzie Thornton, of the original Chic (with Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards and yes, Luther Vandross).

‘Aretha was the biggest star maybe but not the only one at GH’s star-studded event. She was actually introduced by no less than Candice Bergen. The other performer of the night, Meryl Streep, got her introduction from Nora Ephron, who in turn was brought to the stage by Liz Smith. (Meryl gave a recitation from a speech by Susan B. Anthony.) Brooke Shields was a very charming emcee, while Broadway’s Laura Benanti and Kelly O’Hara opened the night with a fully produced song and dance number. No, those Hearst types didn’t hold back a penny!

Other notables included Marlo Thomas (who appeared with a rejuvenated Miss Piggy), Martha Stewart, Jessica Simpson, Hillary Duff, Gayle King, Kristen Bell, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Ann Hampton Calloway (who sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”) and the effortlessly funny Sarah Jones. And our very own Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was there, too–she’s helping make a National Women’s History Museum a reality in Washington, DC on the Mall (

PS Kudos to my pal Liz Smith — she gave hilarious speech and was in top form. She said that she loved getting scoops and had been on plenty of “hit” lists–Frank Sinatra and Donald Trump‘s each–but that she had always endeavored to write gossip in a flattering way. She did, she has, she does, and I sure wish the glut of what passes for gossip today took a page from her book. That’s how you achieve longevity in this biz.

Live Earth Is Back, Plans Big Day in Chicago

Remember Live Earth, aka 07-07-07? It was the worldwide rock concert that ended with a Police concert at Giants Stadium.

Now Live Earth organizer Kevin Wall is announcing a new mega event for Chicago and the world on April 18th.

His Live Earth group is sponsoring the Dow Live Earth Run for Water– billed as the largest ever global water initiative ever.  Over a 24 hour period, there will be a series of 6K run/walks all over the world. The culmination of this will be a Chicago concert featuring the group Collective Soul and Grammy winning legendary performer “Soul Man” Sam Moore.

Here are the cities included in the world wide walk:

Buenos Aires, Argentina; Cape Town, South Africa; Chicago, IL, USA; Hong Kong, China; Jimbaran, Bali, Indonesia; London, UK; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Manchester, UK; Melbourne, Australia; Mexico City, Mexico; Milan, Italy; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New York, NY, USA; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; São Paulo, Brazil; Singapore City, Singapore; Stockholm, Sweden; Toronto, Canada; Washington, D.C., USA.

Beatles (Not) For Sale: Group’s Contract Sucker Punched EMI

Much has been made of the precarious situation with EMI Music.

Earlier this week, EMI thought it had a deal with Universal Music Group to license its music in Canada, Mexico, and the US. If the deal had gone through, EMI would have been $400 million richer. EMI’s parent, Terra Firma, owes Citigroup $190 million by June 12th such a deal with UMG would have been a lifesaver.

But the deal fell apart in the middle of the night right before it was signed. What happened, we wondered?

It turns out someone had the presence of mind to check the contracts held by EMI’s biggest acts, starting with the Beatles. And the contracts forbid EMI to license their records to another company. Cue up “You Can’t Do That.”

It wasn’t just the Beatles. I’m told such provisions exist with Pink Floyd, Coldplay, Norah Jones, and a few other EMI acts.

But certainly the Beatles are EMI’s crown jewels. Without them, a license deal would be valueless.

Sources say that when the UMG folks realized this, they pulled out at the last minute. EMI then went to Sony, almost made a deal there until that gang asked the essential questions.

“Another reason, too,” says a source, “is that there was no guarantee that Citigroup wouldn’t wind up with EMI anyway, and that there would be no EMI in a year. A multiyear license would be meaningless.”

Both  EMI and Terra Firma have until June 12th to come up with that $190 million. If they don’t, Citigroup will take over. At that point, one top insider surmises, the Beatles and others may try to leave. It could get interesting.

Of course, the irony is that EMI/Capitol is having a great run right now. If they weren’t under the mound of millions in debt, they’d be ok with Lady Antebellum selling like hotcakes.

MeatLoaf New CD: American Idol, Hugh Laurie, Jack Black, and… Roger Ebert

Meat Loaf was big in the late 70s with the hoary “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” the album “Bat out of Hell,” and an appearance in the cult classic “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

And then he wouldn’t go away.

He’s releasing a new album on April 19th called “Hang Cool Teddy Bear.” Apparently it’s a line from another cult classic, called “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” also from the early 70s. Guess who wrote the screenplay for the Russ Meyer directed spectacle of badness? None other than Roger Ebert. I’m sure he’ll give the album two thumbs up. Way up.

Otherwise, “Hang Cool” is populated by an odd group of musicians. They include actors Jack Black and Hugh Laurie (the guy from “House”) and Kara Dio Guardi from “American Idol.” Dio Guardi wrote at least one song on the album, too. So I guess we can expect Meat Loaf to mentor the “AI” kids before the season is over.

One name not included in the “Hang Cool” credits: Jim Steinman, who wrote and produced Meat Loaf’s biggest hits as well as “Total Eclipse of the Heart” for Bonnie Tyler. Loaf and Steinman have a long and contentious relationship.

There’s a good adjunct story to the Meat Loaf saga, by the way. Steve Popovich, who ran Columbia Records’ Cleveland warehouse, started his own label, Cleveland Records, in 1977. He signed Meat Loaf, and then licensed “Bat out of Hell” to Columbia. Popovich has been suing them ever since, periodically winning millions from the record label giant for unpaid royalties, etc. Loaf now records for RoadRunner Records.

Carly Simon Reunites with Cat Stevens After 34 Years

It was just a few weeks ago that Carly Simon went to London on a promo tour for her “Never Been Gone” album. Remember all that hoopla about “You’re So Vain” being about David Geffen? (It wasn’t.)

A lot happened to Simon in Blighty as we find out now. For one thing, today 2 million copies of “Never Been Gone” are bundled into The Mail on Sunday and its subsidiary papers. The Mail’s parent company licensed the album from Carly and printed up the massive number for its readers. All the UK will be humming Simon songs this week.

And there was more: one afternoon at her London hotel, Simon got a surprise visitor.

“I’d just gotten back from a day of publicity,” Carly told me. “I had mascara all over my face. And they said Yusuf Islam is here to see you.”

Yusuf Islam, of course, is the former Cat Stevens. The pair dated in 1969-70, and Stevens was responsible for helping Simon with her breakthrough second album, “Anticipation.”

“I hadn’t seen him since 1976,” Carly said. “My son Ben played “How Can I Tell You” for him”– a popular Stevens song from his heyday–“Ben does a wonderful version of it. We sang a song together, too. I cannot tell you how good it was to see him. He hasn’t changed. He’s just remarkable.”

Indeed, the two singer songwriter stars of the 1970s had not seen each other since ’76. But Carly says they’d talked on the phone a few times. She named one of her recent albums after Stevens’ song, “Into White.”

And “You’re So Vain”? Even though we know (wink wink) it’s about Warren Beatty, the secret remains safe. And later this week, Simon will hear, more importantly, whether her lawsuit against Starbucks’ Hear Music record label is going forward. Hear Music released Simon’s “This Kind Of Love” album in 2007 without telling her they were going out out business on the same day.

This put some clouds in her coffee, but Simon is a survivor. Next up: she’s recording a surprise album for this fall. Details to come…