Saturday, October 30, 2004

While remembering John Peel's legacy, I discovered two things. The bad news was that my Babes in Toyland and Billy Bragg Peel Sessions were among the CDs stolen from my apartment in 1993 that I never replaced, in part because I had trouble remembering which CDs were taken. The good news is that, in reading the memorial posting from David Gedge on the Cinerama/Wedding Present site, I found that the Wedding Present are back together and are releasing a new album next year.

Incidentally, the 1993 thieves only got stuff from the beginning of the alphabet, so I still have my Wedding Present Peel Sessions.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

I was shocked and saddened to learn of the death of British DJ John Peel. Best known in the U.S. to hardcore music fans for his name attached to Peel Sessions radio studio recordings, he was a lifelong champion of great music. He joined the BBC with the launch of Radio 1 and was its only remaining original DJ. Throughout his career, he continuously sought out new music and shared it with his audience. Many artists are chiming in with tributes, acknowledging that they owe the launch of their careers to his early exposure. The most thorough and appreciative coverage of his work and its influence comes from the UK, such as the BBC and

When attending the Reading Festival in 1990 and 1991, I got to experience his fantastic taste first-hand. I was initially struck by just how great the music was between sets and only learned afterwards that he was spinning the discs.

I interviewed Peel in 1991, I think as part of PR campaign to promote the U.S. release of Peel Sessions and attempted launch of syndicated radio show. The show never took off, but it was the best interview I ever conducted. It wasn't entirely surprising since he talks for a living, as opposed to the musicians I interview who pick up guitars because they're not comfortable talking to people. But he was funny, humble and full of amusing anecdotes.

I've been playing some promo CDs with his announcing. He explained that he didn't earn any royalties off the Peel Sessions. They were the result of an agreement with the musicians' union when BBC Radio 1 was launched that all shows must include a portion of live music, meaning something recorded in the BBC studios. As he noted, this meant they were able to play works in progress, unusual groupings of musicians and artists who hadn't otherwise entered a recording studio yet. Next up on my CD player: Peel Sessions by Babes in Toyland, the Wedding Present and the Chameleons.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Concert Recommendations: Mission of Burma, Metro; The Cramps, The Vic Theatre; both shows 9:00 p.m., Saturday, October 23

One big frustration of music journalism is the lack of real impact. Publicists and writers don't like to admit it, but press alone doesn't sell records, certainly not the way radio airplay does. So it's gratifying when the written word has a significant effect on connecting worthy music with an audience. Such is the case with Mission of Burma. The band broke up in 1983, ahead of their time musically and in terms of the supporting infrastructure needed to support the kind of music that was ahead of its time, namely a network of specialized clubs and non-commercial radio stations. But inspired by their inclusion in Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991, where they were among 13 influential bands profiled, the band reunited in 2002. They toured to glowing acclaim and now have a CD of new material, ONoffON and are on tour again.

The only problem is that the show conflicts with the Cramps. Based purely on the amount of sweat generated in an average performance, Cramps frontman Lux Interior is the hardest working man in show business. The guy gives his all, stomping around the stage in high heels, tearing off most of his clothes, even vomiting on stage in the middle their set at the 1990 Reading Festival while barely missing a beat. And his lovely wife Poison Ivy Rorschach is an underrated guitarist with a huge, distinctive sound. If that's not enough, try these three words: "Elvis Fucking Christ!" It's the highlight of last year's Fiends of Dope Island.

Which show gets the edge? I'm going with the Cramps because it's my first concert in almost four months, my first time leaving my baby with a sitter for the evening, and the Cramps are a sure thing. Television's reunion tour also earned rave reviews but I found them too cerebral, making me hesitant about MoB; however, drummer Peter Prescott's Volcano Suns were so amazing in 1990 that I saw them twice in just over a week, the second show being the best three-band line-up I've ever seen (on between the Unrest and the Wedding Present). So there are no losers except those who skip both shows.

Mission of Burma play the Metro, 3730 N. Clark, Chicago, at 9 p.m. on Saturday, October 23 with Eleventh Dream Day and Pit er Pat.  The Cramps play the Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago at the same time, with the Gore Gore Girls and Ladies and Gentlemen.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

I can bitch and moan about Rolling Stone's music coverage for a variety of reasons, but occasionally they get it right. And sometimes they get it right in retrospect, too. is running the magazine's original article on the Ramones, when their eponymous debut was released in 1976.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Just saw the ad for the new REM album. When did Brendan Fraser replace Peter Buck?