Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gingerly Dipping My Toe In the Water...

So, I originally started this blog do really just write about things I wanted to write about. All music-related, yes, but I initially vehemently defied the trend and was not willing to solicit new music from people to review. I am thinking about starting to now, though...I think it would increase readership and take my blog up a notch in terms of visibility. What do you think? Am I betraying myself? It doesn't really feel that way. I don't have any interest in reviewing the newest and brightest, well-known records (even the not-so-well-known...I don't want to review anything that isn't either a) sent to me to review by a label/artist or b) something I feel passionate enough about and feel LED to review by my own inner whatever). But I want to feel like I am contributing to the musical blogosphere in a more meaningful, substantial way.

So, I am going to give it a shot. I am, heretofore, officially welcoming musical material to review. If you are a label/artist, you are welcome to send stuff my way. Send me an email at, and we'll figure out the best way for you to get me the material. A warning: I am officially declaring up front that if I find any material not worth my time to review, I will not review it.

Bring it on!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

So, I created a page for Dr. Pants. I could have created one under the Mixtape Jones moniker, but I am trying to unify under one brand a bit...I struggle every day with the fact that this blog is not officially connected with Dr. Pants in any way. It makes it a bit challenging to promote. I'm sure there are a lot of people out there that don't know "Mixtape Jones" is the leader of Dr. Pants, blah blah blah. Anyway, the point is that the page serves a dual purpose. First, it afforded me the opportunity to upload Dr. Pants music on to Blip, so that people can "blip" it. So far, that's been very successful. Second, it allows me to fulfill my "DJ" urge in a very real way. Last night (4/15...This will more than likely get published some time a week or two later than it was written), I scheduled a time to blip, from 10-11 pm. I announced it on the Dr. Pants Twitter account several times throughout the day, and a number of people listened. I'm not going to lie to you--it was REALLY fun. I am going to do it at LEAST once a week. Here's a playlist of the set from 4/15:


Awestruck, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love Sonic Youth, Pt. 1

Just finished reading Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth (David Browne). I have no reservations about saying that it's excellent. It is totally and completely worth your time if you are even remotely interested in Sonic Youth and the music that they have made over the last (almost) 30 years. Essential. It has spurred a number of thoughts in me, about the band, the book, and related topics.

I must initially get my one complaint about the tome out of the way: NO discography. I mean, maybe I can find that on their website (I'm kind of looking right now), but it would have been a fantastic thing to include. I can kind of understand the author not wanting to bother with the work, though, given the magnitude of such an undertaking. Their output alone is daunting, and the amount of material they have been involved in outside the band (solo projects, side bands, records by others they've released on their own indie imprints) is absurdly sizable as well.

I tried unsuccessfully to be a Sonic Youth fan for many years, starting, really, in high school. They were a band that I thought I might enjoy, given their tangential association with some other things that I was into. My first real experience of them came via the soundtrack to the movie Pump Up the Volume, featuring their song "Titanium Expose". I remember feeling it was "noisy", and also sounded out of tune. Ultimately, I categorize this feeling now as "not ready for it yet". I can think of a number of other instances with other music during junior high, high school and college that would fall into that same category. I borrowed a friend's copy of the Dirty album later on in high school, but still felt like I wasn't really getting it.

I tried again in college (and the year or two following). I managed to get pretty excited about their debut EP (simply titled Sonic Youth), but subsequent purchases (such as Sister and Daydream Nation) proved less enthralling to me at the time. I did decide to hang on to a couple of the instrumental EPs they released during that era, though, on their own SYR label. I pretty much gave up on becoming a fan at that point, though.

Then, recently (as in within the last year or so), something happened, and it's hard to explain what, exactly, it was. I have become fascinated with them, almost intrinsically (as if there's not an option for me to NOT be fascinated with them at this point). I've accumulated a number of their records in the last year, and I probably won't stop until I have them all. In this post (and possibly additional ones), I am attempting to explain my fascination.

Ultimately, what blows my mind about Sonic Youth is how singular their approach is/has been. Their music is distinctly rock & roll...It has (mostly) consisted of short-ish songs with lyrics, performed by some permutation of the traditional rock band instrumentation (two guitars, bass, drums). Yet, this approach has always been skewed in a certain direction, including, but not limited to, bizarre tunings, feedback, drones, free-form improvisation, etc. There might be a few more elements, but ultimately, the list is fairly small, and their music is almost ALWAYS identifiable as Sonic Youth music. What results from all this is music that can be extremely complex and challenging, but almost always ROCKS. This is nothing short of miraculous.

I want so much to be able to claim such a thing for my own band/music. Complex and challenging, but it always rocks. It is mind-bogglingly difficult to conceive how one might go about creating an aesthetic around one's art that is both as singular and compelling as Sonic Youth's. We will continue to discuss this. Comments?

Friday, April 10, 2009

My iPod Makes Me Silly

Okay, so I had a realization the other day while I was grocery shopping. I do most of the grocery shopping for our little married-couple-family-unit, and I tend to do it with my iPod on. It really makes the whole experience less tedious...I dread the sight of the grocery store much less knowing that I will have exceptional jams to keep me company.

It's hard to say how the situation I'm about to delineate evolved. I don't really know how to explain the realization I had, other than to denote that it took place as I found myself giving the finger to the oatmeal shelf in response to the sold-out nature of K.C.'s oatmeal of choice. I did this in front of other customers, pretty much without caring at all. And I literally felt like the music was making me do it, or at least bringing me to the point where I was uninhibited enough to really express myself in the moment.

Immediately after that I thought about the preceding 20-30 minutes I had been in the grocery store. Much lip-synching had occurred during that time, as well as some physical grooving-out, I'm pretty sure. All of this without a care in the world in front of the other grocery store patrons.

I didn't feel embarrassed, I didn't feel silly, even. I felt liberated and justified. I felt as if I had been heading to this point my entire life and had finally arrived. I felt as though all my years had been training for when I, at long last, allowed myself to express outwardly what music does to me internally. I remember when I first arrived at college and started taking classes from my teacher/mentor Kevin Zoernig. Kevin was awesome in so many ways, but one of the things that was immediately endearing and fascinating about him was how, when he was listening to something (either a record or a live performance), he unabashedly, PHYSICALLY grooved out to it. His head moved, bobbed, rocked back & forth, with his facial expression constantly changing. It was one of the coolest things I ever had the privilege of witnessing, and I think that maybe, just maybe, I have been trying to get to that point of inhibition and connection since. What is the music doing to you? What do you WANT the music to do to you? If you allowed yourself to project outwardly how the music is making you FEEL, what would that look like?

I don't think I flipped off the oatmeal shelf because the song I was listening to made me particularly angry. I also don't feel any shame whatsoever about flipping off an inanimate object in front of other people. I think I flipped off the oatmeal because I was truly annoyed at the lack of the oatmeal I needed to buy, and I was just uninhibited enough to allow that frustration to express itself outwardly.

I think this is why music is amazing...It puts us in touch with things that we don't access otherwise.

To a Mother Concerned About File Sharing

Okay, I have to admit I was conflicted about this one.'s blog posted the following email they received from a concerned mother:

I have a teenage son who tells me his pirating music is no big deal. Since he is a musician himself, I point out to him that someday that’s going to be his money people are stealing. But he remains unphased.

He tells me the record sales make money for the record label, not the artist. He says that the artists make all their money from touring and live concerts. He thinks the pirated music promotes the concerts and therefore helps the artist make more money. I still don’t allow pirating in my house.

But tell me what you think - as artists out there having your work “shared,” are you just glad to have it being enjoyed, or does it bother you? Admittedly, he is stealing music that is recorded by major record labels, so maybe its different than the independent musician working for his living. But I’d still like to hear what you think.


They then asked music bloggers to post a response TODAY (4/16) and email a link back to them. Here's what I have to say:

Here's my question: is EVERYTHING he is pirating on a major label? I mean, have we gone through it with a fine-tooth comb, and made sure that nothing independent or on an indie label snuck through? What if his tastes start to change and he starts to listen to a lot more indie music? Will he really be able to change the habit after he has already become so accustomed to getting all his listening material for free? I totally agree that, for the most part, most artists signed to labels, especially major labels, don't make a very large share of their income from record sales. But pretty much EVERYONE else who is a recording artist DEPENDS on this as part of their bread & butter. I am not a big fan of the major labels...I agree that they have shown nothing but greed in their reaction(s) to the file-sharing epidemic. Ultimately, though, it is all about the attitude, the attitude that MUSIC IS WORTH SOMETHING. I will, more than likely, always feel that when I put my blood, sweat and tears into making a record, creating something that I deem good enough to expose to the world at large, that record is worth paying for. How is anyone who is NOT on a major label ever expected to make a living creating art if the world decides that it should all be free? Indie artists don't always have the ability to tour to offset this lack of income, either. It's an expensive undertaking to bring a 4-piece rock band on the road (this being the ONLY reason that you have not seen a badass, monumentally awesome Dr. Pants tour...3 out of 4 of us are married, and have bills to pay. I am going to have to figure out how to put these guys on salary if we ever hope to do this).

Music shouldn't be free, not because a record label needs to make money, but because the majority of recording artists aren't on labels, and their music is worth paying for. Period.

Even then, we're only talking about ownership. We're talking about a CD, MP3 or some other type of audio file that one can listen to anywhere, not just on these here world wide webs. When we start talking about the internet, streaming audio, online radio, the dilemma becomes more complex. I have to admit, it would be REALLY great if I could get an ASCAP royalty every time someone played my song on or or any of the other online music services. It's like, in order to have a world where people have the option of finding quality music to listen to online (as opposed to the wasteland that is terrestrial radio), we've had to sacrifice the possibility of helping quality artists make a living from what they do. Please don't hear me say that I'm not grateful for these services; I am incredibly humbled by how many people have blipped Dr. Pants. I just wish that there was some sort of way I could get paid for that. At this point, I can only hope that enough blipping, etc. occurs that people will decide to pay to download my stuff from iTunes or wherever.

I hope I am not raising a firestorm (maybe I secretly, unconsciously hope that I am, but I don't think so). This is just the honest perspective of an independent artist who sincerely desires to make a living from it. If I do manage to make a living from it, the music will only get better...I promise. I will spend waaay more time working on it in that scenario.

Okay, now that I've said my peace...The sound file for my first iMix, Great Power Pop, is up and listenable. Go check it out. I'll hopefully have files up for a couple more of them by next week.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Announcements/Zappa by Barry Miles

Hey, folks. A couple of things...

First, I am super-psyched to tell you that I am getting audio up on as many of the mixtape entries as I can, thanks to! I can create an audio file of the mix there (or each side of a mix) and then embed it in a blog entry! So far, I have files up for Clam Snout and the Soundtrack Spotlight: 1989 entries, so go check 'em out!!

Second, I am hoping to start doing some writing for some other blogs and sites, and I have a lead or two, so I'll keep you posted about that. And now, without further ado:

So I recently read Barry Miles’ Frank Zappa biography, called simply Zappa. I haven’t really looked online for other reviews of the book; I don’t know if others feel about it the same way I did. I imagine some of them must—it’s not exactly the most favorable view of the man, his work & his life.

Once I had finished the book, I kind of felt that Miles’ goal was to put Zappa on trial. It’s almost as if, now that he’s been dead a while, Miles felt that we can stop talking about what a genius the guy was and finally address what a jerk he could be. I don’t really understand his motivation. Mind you, a few of his corrections to Zappa’s version of events were welcome, but most of it seemed like it was designed to tear my/our image of the guy down.

I can’t imagine that Gail Zappa or any of her children were in favor of the book, or gave it their stamp of approval in any way. No one seems more interested in protecting the legacy of Frank Zappa than his widow (all the more ironic given the tales of Zappa’s adultery and marital troubles delineated in Miles’ text). I guess, ultimately, Miles was attempting to portray Zappa as a human being, rather than some genius on a pedestal, but I don’t think anyone in the Zappa family wants to see his/her deceased husband/father’s name dragged through the mud.

Miles’ basic accusations toward Zappa are that he was incredibly bitter, incredibly cynical, a jerk, a thief (all the issues with Zappa taking credit for the early Mothers of Invention members’ contributions are raised and paraded about), unrealistic in his expectations of his audience, and an inattentive, absent and downright lousy father. Miles seems to have no sympathy for the man, either, as if all of the issues that caused Zappa trouble in his interactions with the world and other people must have been completely his fault. I understand that we all have choices in terms of how we let the difficult aspects of our lives affect us, Mr. Miles, but there are grounds, especially since he’s not around to defend himself, for some sort of benefit of the doubt to be given. I’m sure that, like most of us, there were a lot of ugly moments where Zappa was doing the best he could.

Finally, the thing that becomes most apparent throughout the text is that Miles doesn’t seem to really LIKE Zappa’s music that much. I mean, why would one even bother to write an exhaustive biography of a musician who one didn’t even care for? I can’t imagine such a massive waste of time. Miles seems to be fairly impressed with Zappa’s orchestral work, but that’s really about it. Nary a kind word is levied on pivotal albums like Apostrophe’ or Joe’s Garage—in fact both of those albums suffer at Miles’ pen. Any praise for Zappa’s early work with the original M.O.I. is tarnished by the insistent harping on the unjust treatment of the members of that ensemble. It’s almost as if there is some sort of personal feeling of betrayal that Miles is acting out. Either that, or he has somehow avoided being touched or affected by Zappa’s music in any way, which again brings me back to the question: if you don’t really care for the music, then WHY BOTHER?

If you’re interested in reading something about the man, skip this one. Highly recommended texts on Zappa include:

The Real Frank Zappa Book-Frank Zappa w/ Peter Ochiogrosso
A text that receives a great deal of venom from Miles’ tongue…he almost takes Zappa publishing his own version of certain events personally.
Frank Zappa’s Negative Dialectic of Poodle Play-Ben Watson
This is a fascinating and impressive academic analysis of Zappa’s albums and music. It really breaks down the “conceptual continuity” idea in a cool way. Not for the flippant, but essential for Zappa fans.
Relix, Issue #33-2
The cover story is a really great overview of the man’s career from the point of view of the jam-band community. It exhibits a healthy, yet still reverent perspective.

I hope you folks don’t feel like I’ve been posting too much Zappa stuff recently. I have a couple of other things in the pipeline that aren’t Zappa-related, so be patient.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Secret Story of Jon Bon Jovi's Brother

Repost this on your own blogs to keep Jimmy’s memory alive!!

The Secret Meaning Behind Bon Jovi’s "Lost Highway"

When Bon Jovi’s latest release, "Lost Highway", hit stores this past June, the press for the record focused primarily on the "new direction" of the music, and its countrified feel. What no one talked about was the inspiration for this record, because, quite frankly, no one had any clue what the true inspiration really was.

Whispers have been heard in the music industry lately, whispers about an event in Jon Bon Jovi’s life that had a huge impact on him. This event, in itself, wouldn’t be so significant if it didn’t reveal so large a story.

Some time in 2006, there was a death in Jon Bon Jovi’s family. His brother Jimmy passed away. Not many people even know the name Jimmy Bon Jovi (or Bongiovi, as their surname was originally spelled), but the few that are familiar with the name know that it belonged to a man whose musical talent eclipsed that of his brother on every level.

Jimmy Bon Jovi was three years older than his brother Jon. The two grew up making music together, and when Jon assembled his band in the early 80’s, Jimmy assumed an "honorary member" role, mentoring Jon and his buddies as they worked on demos (in their uncle Tony’s studio) and began to make records and tour. The night that Jon met Richie Sambora, Jimmy was right by his side, and allegedly told Jon that he should let him join the band.

During the band’s earlier years, Jimmy attended every recording session, helped Jon write songs (usually uncredited), and encouraged his brother in every way possible, while working on his own music on the side. Jimmy had been putting aside songs for a debut album since about 1983, and was almost finished recording them when another pivotal event in the Bon Jovi brothers’ lives occurred.

Jon stopped by the Empire Rock Club in Philadelphia one evening in 1986, just to have a couple of drinks and relax. The band booked at the club that night was Cinderella, whom Jon was quite enthused about. History says that he took them under his wing and subsequently let them open for his band on the Slippery When Wet tour. What he really did was refer them to Jimmy, who mentored them while they made their first record. Jon didn’t have time to work with them during that period, as he and the band were hard at work writing songs for what would become "Slippery When Wet". Some time towards the end of Cinderella’s sessions for its debut "Night Songs", a falling out occurred between Jimmy and the band, and this would prove to be the first blow that contributed to Jimmy walking away from the music business for good.

Meanwhile, earlier in the year, Jimmy had finally entered his uncle Tony’s studio to record the tracks for his first album, titled "Walking Off The Blues". The music had a feel to it that reflected the times, in that it had some of the same flavor as Bon Jovi’s work during the same period, but it also had an ease and a grace to it that gave it a similar feel to some of the Beatles’ best music. As sessions wound down for the record, Jimmy called Jon and told him that he was pretty sure he had created a masterpiece. Jimmy’s record label had decided to wait and release the record after Bon Jovi’s next album, so that there wouldn’t be any competition in terms of sales. Jimmy thought that was a good idea, and waited patiently for his moment in the sun. Almost as an afterthought, he added a cover of Paul McCartney’s "With a Little Luck" to the album.
When it came time for Bon Jovi to record what would become the first mega-selling album of its career, Jimmy was in attendance at all the sessions, as usual. He offered advice when he felt it was welcome, but was put off by the presence, for the first time, of outside songwriter Desmond Child, who he felt was trying to steal his brother’s band from him. Child, conversely, was unimpressed with Jimmy, and didn’t do much to warm the atmosphere between them. In spite of all this, Jimmy did contribute his song "Never Say Goodbye" to the album, although, in line with his own expressed wishes, the song was not credited to him.

As "Slippery When Wet" approached its release date, apparently Jon and Jimmy got together for a drink one evening. Jon apologized to his brother for the way the sessions had gone, and for the atmosphere that Desmond Child’s presence had created. Jon wanted Jimmy to join Bon Jovi as a full-time member of the band for their upcoming tour. It would be the perfect way to prep the audience for Jimmy’s solo record, Jon said. Jimmy was reluctant…The single for "You Give Love A Bad Name" was already starting to pick up some steam, and Jimmy was mainly interested in music, and not in the whole rock and roll circus he knew his brother was about to enter into. An unfortunate allergic reaction to a chemical used in the hairspray ubiquitous to Bon Jovi’s onstage look during the period pretty much sealed the deal for Jimmy—he would just stay home and wait for his record to come out.

An actual release of "Walking Off The Blues" was not to be, however. When Jimmy’s label heard about his decision, they took the record off the release schedule, reportedly telling Jimmy in a phone conversation, "This is the eighties. No one has time for Brian fucking Wilson now. Call us back when you want to be a star." One test pressing of the record had already been done, and to this day, those are the only copies that exist of Jimmy’s lone album. Those who have heard it say that it was potentially the key album of the entire hair metal era—that it could have "legitimized" a music that to this day has trouble getting critical respect. It could have made late eighties pop metal the most revered style of rock & roll of the 20th century. Had "Walking Off the Blues" been released, it’s possible the alternative revolution wouldn’t have even occurred. Also, many have said that the aforementioned cover of "With a Little Luck" redefined that song’s potential, and that Paul McCartney’s version pales by comparison. Most people are holding on tight to their test copy of "Blues". In fact, there’s only been one sighting of a copy on Ebay to date, and it sold for over $10,000.

After Jimmy’s dream was shattered, he retired from the music business for good, taking a construction job back in the boys’ hometown in New Jersey. It is said that every time Bon Jovi finished an album, from "New Jersey" through "Have a Nice Day" (the last album recorded while Jimmy was still alive), Jon would either come by the house and play it for his brother, or send him a copy, if he couldn’t get home. The only thing Jimmy would ever say in response to his brother’s new music was, "You’re one step closer, man. One step closer."

Jimmy Bongiovi, Jon’s brother, friend, mentor and musical superior, died in New Jersey in 2006. His memory lives on in the music of Bon Jovi’s new album, "Lost Highway". The song "One Step Closer" is presumed to be about Jimmy, and inspired by his cryptic affirmations for Jon’s music over the years. There’s even a hidden reference to Jimmy’s long lost album in the lyrics, with the phrase "with a little luck" turning up in the song more than once.

More than anything, though, the album title is revealing, because Jon Bon Jovi is looking for his brother, Jimmy, but he’s not going to find him.

Please repost this, so that the memory of Jimmy Bon Jovi and his talent is properly honored.