David Bowie, the Starman whose musical career spanned six decades and touched countless fans, died yesterday, Jan 10, peacefully surrounded by family after an 18-month battle with cancer. He was 69 years old.
As the world reacts in shock and dismay after losing the one-of-a-kind pop star and musical auteur, words don’t seem enough to convey the utter void left in his loss. So, I’m spending the day instead being immersed in the rock and roll bliss he left behind for the world. Here are five essential David Bowie songs to get lost in.
I don’t know why, but when I read the news this morning, the first thing that came into my head was Bowie’s whispering at the beginning of “Queen Bitch,” the first Bowie song I can remember hearing and remember playing endlessly. It’s been stuck in my brain ever since.
I could have made a list of just the spacey songs Bowie recorded in the 70s and as Ziggy Stardust, from “Life on Mars” to “Starman.” I’m listening to them all today, but for some reason “Space Oddity” is the one that is making me cry. Truly, the stars look very different today.
“Let’s Dance” is a classic. This song and Bowie’s “Modern Love” always make think of being a child listening to the radio in the 1980s. Hearing it now takes me back to that feeling of innocence and wonder. Brilliant.
Born out of a jam session between Bowie and rock legends Queen, “Under Pressure” is officially one of Queen’s most popular songs, though Queen guitarist Brian May told Mojo magazine in 2008 that, “David took over the song lyrically. It’s a significant song because of David and its lyrical content.” I couldn’t agree more.
Bowie’s final album, Blackstar, came out just two days before his passing. It’s been confirmed by producers to be Bowie’s farewell opus, as the songwriter apparently knew his end was near. That makes the lyrics and content of his final video, “Lazarus,” all the more potent. The autobiographical dirge opens with the line “Look up here, I’m in Heaven” and ends with a chorus of “Oh I’ll be free, ain’t that just like me?”
Rest in Peace, David Bowie.
It’s a dark day for punk rock, as news broke earlier that the former New York city music club CBGB, famed for their pioneering punk shows, is being transformed into a themed airport restaurant. While that atrocity sets in, take back a bit of your punk rock side with a seasonal selections of Xmas tunes done by hardcore legends.
The Ramones – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)”
A staple at the late CBGB, the Ramones cut to the quick in this punk rock Cristmas classic. SImple hooks, effortless vocals, this 1989 song is a favorite punk anthem every holiday season.
The Vandals – “Oi! to the World”
I love the Vandals. They’re fun and messy and celebratory, and the band here offers up the ultimate drinking anthem to toast the holiday. Jingle bells back the hardcore riffs in a silly, but sing-along inducing hit.
The Damned – “There Ain’t No Sanity Clause”
Inspired by a Marx Brothers line and deliberately tongue-in-cheek, this 1980 release from UK punk pioneers the Damned is decked out with jangly guitars and a shimmering tamborine. Old St Nick even makes a cameo at the end.
Fear – “Fuck Christmas”
Impact – “Punk Christmas”
Little known Welsh punk rock band Impact only released one album as far as I can tell, a Christmas album. Fast as Hell, fun and punchy, this one’s a spirited gem.
Merry Christmas, punks!
Santa Rosa surf punks the Illumnignarly take things to the next level with pummeling rhythms and lightning fast guitars. Though they’re an instrumental outfit, these guys know how to tell a story, as evidenced in their funny and fast music video for the song “Tall Can.”
Following a tale as old as time –waking up late for work– the video follows our intrepid hero as he attempts to deliver a pizza while hipsters and jerks try to keep him down. Directed, shot and edited by Timmy Lodhi with Khan Videos, this is a great way to get primed for the weekend.
The Illumnignarly play next Friday, Sep 18, as the house band for North Bay Cabaret’s True Fiction, the Quentin Tarantino-inspired variety show in Santa Rosa.
I just couldn’t get going this morning. Between the cloudy skies and my comfy bed it took all my might to move. So, before I even ground up the coffee, I put on Bucc Nyfe.
The Santa Rosa punk rock trio gets my blood pumping and head rocking with their high energy rock and roll. Tight beats and heavy distortion shake the sleep from my eyes, while the emotionally-driven lyrics and nostalgic themes take me back to the days before I needed coffee to get going in the morning.
If you’re still sleepy, hit the track below and thank me later.
Tonight, Bucc Nyfe headlines an electrified show at 775 After Dark in Sebastopol with the help of rockers Bang! Bang! and Bumblin’ Bones. 7pm. $4.
Looking at the music listings in this week’s Bohemian, it struck me that there are a host, a horde, a gaggle, a ton, just a whole lot of music legends playing in the North Bay this weekend. From Nicasio to Napa, here’s a breakdown of the who’s who of musicians playing live concerts in Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties over the next three days.
Tonight, rock and roll power couple Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo storm the stage at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa. This summer marks 35 years of partnership for the singer and guitarist, who have been married since 1982 and who still tour constantly, bringing the battle cries and ballads to the North Bay with a 35-year Anniversary CD/DVD package available.
In Petaluma, the retro-swing and big band sound of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy can be heard as the opening night concert of the annual Petaluma Music Festival. A first this year for the event, the show tonight features a special VIP dinner and drinks package available at 5pm as well as general admission tickets just for the show, which starts at 7:30pm. The Petaluma Music Fest continues all day Saturday as well, with headliners Nahko & Medicine for the People, the Woods Brothers and ALO all on hand.
Also in Petaluma on Saturday is longtime ska and funk ground breakers Fishbone, playing Aug 1 at Zodiacs downtown. Now celebrating 25 years together, the band has cultivated a following for their dynamic one-of-kind sound and electrifying live shows.
Saturday also sees several talented singers and songwriters appearing throughout the area. At the Green Music Center in Rohnert Park, Natalie Cole keeps the torch of her family’s musical dynasty burning brightly with a concert at Weill Hall. Cole will be performing hits from her 40 years as a singer, including the “Unforgettable” tracks she famously recorded with her late father, Nate King Cole.
Over in Napa, the Uptown Theatre presents Nashville Hall of Fame member Mary Chapin Carpenter in a show that is very nearly sold-out. After performing with full orchestras last year, Carpenter returns to the acoustic intimacy of her country folk roots, joined on stage this time by longtime friends Jon Carroll (piano) and Austin Nevins (guitars). Give the Uptown a call at 707.259.0123 to reserve spots or get on the wait list.
Sunday boasts a couple of shows so popular, they’re already out of tickets. Rancho Nicasio’s pairing of guitarist Elvin Bishop, harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite and BBQ on the lawn was too irresistible for patrons to pass up. It’s totally sold-out.
In Petaluma, Lagunitas Brewing Company’s annual “Coahoma to Sonoma County Blues Festival” is already sold-out for early admittance, meaning that you can show up, but it’s going to be crowded in front. Still, there’s no problem with listening to veteran Texas songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard while enjoying a tasty brew in the back. Bill Abel, Markus James and Layla Musselwhite also play that show, which is free and open to the general public at 11:30am.
“Weird” Al Yankovic is turning into a fantastic insult comic.
He has released two videos so far from his latest album, “Mandatory Fun,” and aside from being spot-on parodies of two of the most popular songs of the year, they are beautifully dickish in an inarguable way.
“Tacky,” a riff on Pharrell’s “Happy,” highlights the terrible fashion trends of Crocs, stripes and plaid, and the idea of taking selfies with the deceased at a funeral. The video features several comedians, mostly notably Jack Black, who is tacky defined with his high-waisted pants, rhinestoned fanny pack and obsessive twerking. It does such a good job of pointing out the stupidity of all these actions and looks, that anyone finding themselves associated with anything mentioned in the song should feel immediate and extreme shame. Then never do that thing again.
“Word Crimes,” a take on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” is basically Yankovic being a grammar Nazi. Dangling participles and contractions aside, he belittles those who use numbers for letters and single letters for full words (unless you’re Prince). It’s sweet release for that inner word cop that wants to spring out and beat the mob of uneducated slobs senseless with their own words. Yankovic has saved us much embarrassment and heartache.
The videos are part of his 8 videos in 8 days project, which in itself is a riff on Beyoncé’s latest release. Bey put out an album of 15 songs and 17 music videos available only on iTunes in December, with complete secrecy before its release. It sold a million copies in less than a week. Yankovic will release a full album in physical form, but has hinted that this album, the last under his current record contract, might signal a change. He says on his blog that he’s “weighing his options.”
Here’s hoping those options include a deeper delve into insult comedy.we
Last week, it happened for the fourth time. The radio alarm went off, and a “Morning Edition” host announced the death of a Ramone. Groggy and dispirited, I brushed my teeth, made coffee, put on a Ramones t-shirt—cheesy, I know—and went out to face the world, which otherwise continued as normal.
And then the funniest thing happened. I felt great all day.
Tommy Ramones was 65. A lot of the headlines read something like this: “Tommy Ramone, last surviving member of seminal punk band The Ramones, dies.” Which is only semi-accurate, since three former but non-founding Ramones are still with us: Marky, who replaced Tommy on drums in 1978; Richie, drummer during the Marky-less period between 1982 and 1987, and C.J., who replaced bassist Dee Dee in 1989. Emphasizing this seems in keeping with Tommy Ramone’s unassuming public demeanor. He was okay with the spotlight, but preferred to be out of it.
Even so, there’s a sense of finality to our loss of Tommy. For most punk devotees, experiencing the densities of that universe happened primarily though records, magazines, and 30-minutes sets at run-down music clubs. Only four people ever knew what punk’s storied big bang was truly like from the inside, and they’re all gone now. The music of the Ramones may be immortal, but its members were not.
The t-shirt I picked out to observe the latest occurrence of the traditional Ramones mourning period is pretty threadbare. I have three Ramones t-shirts, and nowadays I parcel them out only for special occasions. Wearing one makes me feel liberated, invincible. To commemorate Tommy, the t-shirt with an image of the cover of their 1978 album “Road to Ruin” seemed the most appropriate. Tommy had left the band by then, but he did produce the album, putting his given name, “T. Erdelyi”, in the credits.
Of all the Ramones, founding or not, Tommy was the least Ramone-like. He didn’t even look like a Ramone; in the plentiful black-and-white photographs of the group’s formative period in the late 1970s, he’s a short, impassive, frizzy-haired presence in a band of tall and dark scowlers with long faces (even Dee Dee, whose face was as round as a full moon, packed a long face to put a pouty horse to shame). Without Tommy, there’d be no Ramones. A recording engineer who ran a rehearsal studio, he managed the fledgling band as a pet project and hopped in on drums when they couldn’t find anyone who could deliver the straightforward style he had in mind. Thus, their personas emerged: Joey, the lovable weirdo; Johnny, the asshole; Dee Dee, the cute lunatic; Tommy, the pragmatist. Which is probably why no one ever says, “Tommy’s my favorite Ramone.” In a group of strong personalities, he functioned as a low-key buffer.
Lou Reed died back in October, and I know I’m not the only one who took it hard. Lou Reed couldn’t just die—he was Lou Reed! For months, inspired by the nudge of Reed’s death, I played “Songs for Drella”, “Transformer”, and all of my Velvet Underground albums every day, steeping in the perfume of the works he created. It was as if I was just a young whipper-snapper branching away from traditional radio pop and dipping my toes into the deep, alluring waters of arty outsiders for the first time.
I feel a selfish jab of darkness every time I see a breaking-news tribute to a lost public figure or beloved entertainer. If perennial fixtures such as Dick Clark and Casey Kasem can die, then so can my parents. So can the entire way of life I grew up with. So can I.
But after the initial shock sets in, a Ramone dying doesn’t bum me out. Leaving this planet is the final gift an artist or entertainer—these people whose music and words and images we are so intimately familiar with—gives to us. I rarely listen to The Ramones anymore, so sublimated is their essence into my existence. My heart beats a cadence of “Hey, ho, let’s go!” without me even thinking about it. But I played Ramones records, cassettes, and CDs all weekend long, and I reconnected anew with the things I like to think I strive for. Directness. Dynamism. And yes, pragmatism. Even just seeing the band’s name in its trademark blocky font furnishes a mainline rush to that heady time when I relied on a scrappy group of ersatz musicians to keep me going. And going, and going. We die, Ramones die. Inspiration endures.
Did your 2014 Coachella Wristband Ticket Box with stop-action video and radio frequency IDs get lost in the mail? Yea, so did mine.
But don’t trip on being broke and stuck at home. The first ever Wish I Was At Coachella party is happening tonight at Christy’s in downtown Santa Rosa, where homegrown boys DJs Sykwidit and E20 are going to spin everything under the hot desert sun, from Outkast and Skrillex to Chvrches and Little Dragon. Come get your dance on and don’t be like these guys. The North Bay’s baddest party DJs are gonna rock all the real bands you are gonna miss because you couldn’t decide what to wear.
Christy’s On The Square, 96 Old Courthouse Square, Santa Rosa (707) 528-8565, free before 10:30pm.
San Diego reggae band Tribal Seeds are rising stars in the landscape of California roots music. They have sharp, inspiring verses, solid stage presence, and vocals that melt. Both lead singers, Steven Jacobo and newly added E.N. Young, have that hypnotic, echoing vocal style similar to Harrison Stafford of Groundation.
With so many one-dimensional skank rhythms tying up the airwaves, it’s refreshing to hear a band that embraces melodic bass lines and off-the-wall keys. E.N. Young’s melodica performances practically steal the show. As was the case at California Roots Music & Arts Festival along with bringing up Rebelution’s lead singer, Eric Rachmany, Adam Taylor from Iration, and Kyle McDonald, singer/guitarist for Slightly Stoopid to sing “Vampire”, all while smokin’ a giant spliff.
Tribal Seeds are touring nationally with Slightly Stoopid and Atmosphere this summer. They play the Greek Theater in Berkeley July 19th.
Ever heard of Bulldog Media from Windsor? You have now – and you’ll most likely hear a lot more of them in the coming year. With 15 Bulldog Media crew members at Cali Roots Fest 2013, they were by far the most influential media presence on the ground. Check this Day 2 compilation video from five different “Bulldog” angles during Tribal Seeds’ “Vampire”.