Monthly Archives: January 2015

Screaming Lord Sutch

In the 1988 comedy Big, Tom Hank’s over-sized child of a character suggests to his toy company employers that they create an interactive comic book. I remember as a kid thinking this was the coolest idea ever (I also thought the Transformer/building that gets mocked in the film would be cool, so let’s take my 10-year old opinion with a grain of salt). 28 years later, there are a few Apps that offer an interactive, graphic novel experience, but the concept never took off like the film suggested it would. As an adult, I don’t have much interest in this would-be invention, but I’ve recently found the added pleasure of using the web to enhance my reading experience.

“I don’t get it! I don’t get it! I don’t get it!”

My foray into the world of interactive reading first took shape while reading the Bryan Wilson biography Catch a Wave. The book would often reference early recordings I’d never heard and television appearances I’d never seen. As I obsessively read the rollercoaster of a novel (it’s a must read for fans of music), I found myself referencing the YouTube search engine every page or so. This added to the experience, the video clips revealing more to the stories told in the book. So when Mike Love decided in 1988 to eviscerate every other artist at the Beach Boys’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction, I was able to watch it again and again – Mike Love’s self-absorbed delusions on full display.

Recently while reading Marc Spitz biography entitled Bowie, I’ve found myself going through the same interactive reading experience. Whether it be David Bowie’s all-time favorite childhood song, his first television appearance on a commercial for Luv Ice Cream, or his work as a mime, this virtual appendix has made for nightly YouTube gold discoveries as I’ve learned about Bowie’s difficult start in show business.

But one video search in accordance with the novel caught me off-guard more than any other. In the spring of 1970, David Bowie went to see Alice Cooper perform, and the novel suggests Bowie was inspired to take the theatrics seen on stage and match it with serious songwriting (sorry folks, Alice Cooper is not known for his prowess as a songsmith). The book discusses how Bowie had been interested in the flamboyant stage persona for years, dating back to the mid-60s when he saw Screaming Lord Sutch perform. Reading this, I had to ask myself “Who the hell is Screaming Lord Sutch?”

YouTube to the rescue. In a clip dating back to 1964, I found Screaming Lord Sutch performing an early rock and roll number entitled “Jack the Ripper.” Sutch can be seen parading around the stage, a ghastly Nosferatu of a character, terrorizing the easily scared females in the front row.

I had to know more about this guy. How had I never heard of him? It wasn’t the music that intrigued me (far from), but I couldn’t understand how a frontman dressing up in the 1960s equivalent of Marilyn Manson didn’t cause more of a panic. I could be wrong in this assertion, but Sutch might be the first rock musician to marry rock music with a theatrical stage persona. It’s sloppily done – the costume resembling a mish-mash of clearance Halloween leftovers, the music a derivative Fats Domino number with spoof lyrics – but I feel that maybe Sutch deserves a little more credit for the innovation of his stage presence. Would there have been a Kiss, an Alice Cooper, or a Ziggy Stardust without Screaming Lord Sutch? Probably, but there is something to be said about being the first to don a costume before taking the stage.

In the 60s, a knife and a severed head were considered good family fun.

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Top 10 Metal Albums of 2014

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Over the holidays, a good friend of mine suggested I create a “Top Metal Albums” list to go along with my plethora of other year-end lists. I at first scoffed at the idea. I’m far from an expert in metal, and when I do listen to it, my interests almost exclusively lie within the genre of doom. I completely ignored some of the most lauded metal albums of the year (Thou, Old Man Gloom, Godflesh) due simply to my inability to get past the grating vocals. Calling me a metal aficionado is like calling a guy who orders ShockTop a beer snob. Despite my limited metal knowledge, I do take pride in the fact that there were five metal albums on my “Top 40 Albums of 2014” list. In fact, my year end list featured more metal albums than all of the following publications’ year-end lists combined: All Music Guide, Alternative Press, A.V. Club, CMJ, Consequence of Sound, Drowned in Sound, Entertainment Weekly, Magnet Magazine, MOJO, NME, NPR, Paste, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Spin, and Under the Radar (Rolling Stone put YOB at #50, NPR featured Pallbearer, and Spin had Earth – yes, I spent time scouring every single list). Now, more than any other genre, metal is mutating and evolving in fascinating ways, yet major music media outlets don’t give these innovative musicians the credit they deserve. I stand by the following “Top 10 Metal Albums” list, but please keep in mind this small caveat: I’m still just a metal-neophyte. However, if you have also found yourself intrigued by the allure of the dangerous world of heavy metal, follow me as I introduce you to some of the fiercer beasts of 2014.

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The Top 25 Songs of 2014

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It’s no secret that I’m an albums guy. One look at my extensive year-end “Top Albums” list, and it’s clear that I’m a purist at heart, almost always listening to an album from start to finish. However, there is the rare occasion where I’ll queue up a specific song to fit the mood or raise my spirits. The list below contains 25 of those songs that I found myself searching out (why 25? Because I couldn’t cut it down to 20). You will not find many songs from albums on my “Top Albums” list simply because if it’s a great album, I’m probably not going to skip tracks. Instead, you will mostly hear songs that were stand-outs on albums that didn’t quite make the grade. If you are expecting a list that is of the same caliber as my “Top Albums” run-down, you are about to be greatly disappointed. But if you’re up for checking out some of those songs that got multiple replays on my iPod in 2014, the following list should provide you with an entertaining mix.

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The Top 40 Albums of 2014 (20-1)

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A few days ago I posted the first 20 in my “Top 40 Albums of 2014” list (check it out here). Below you will find this year’s edition of what I consider the top 20 albums of the year. You’ll find albums from varying genres and possibly a few albums that are new to you. I think it’s important to note what I define as a top caliber album. Great songs are always a plus, but more important to me is the ability of an artist to create a series of songs that tell a story, that convey an overall theme, that complement each other, and that make the listener think differently about the human experience. We are moving into an age where most consumers are more concerned with hit songs, which is why I feel compelled to highlight those musicians that have stayed honest to the age-old art of The Album and created something that’s about the whole and not a couple catchy songs.

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