Virtual Book Launch for David Bowie and Romanticism

Check out the book and, if you like it, order the book.

Please join us for a virtual book launch for David Bowie and Romanticism on Saturday, September 17th, from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. ET via Zoom and Instagram Live Feed @rock.and.romanticism. Contributors will be discussing their chapters.

I’ll be on location at the Melbourne, FL record store Savvy Vinyl Records. It’s a small, independent, woman-owned and operated business. 

Note that FL recently voted for permanent Daylight Savings Time. 

12:00-12:15 Introduction to the book and welcome to the event. Virtual walk through of Savvy Vinyl Records. 
12:15-12:30 Eric Pellerin, “Drug Use and Drug Literature from the Eighteenth Century to David Bowie”
12:35-12:50 William Levine, “Capitalist Co-optation, Romantic Resistance, and Bowie’s Allegorical Performance in Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth
12:55-1:10 Samuel Gladden, “‘Rebel Rebel’: Bowie as Romantic ‘Type’”
1:15-1:30 Aglaia Venters, “The Goblin King, Absurdity, and Nonbinary Thinking” 

1:35-1:50 Paul Rowe, “Relics of The Future: The Melancholic Romanticism of Bowie’s Berlin Triptych”
1:55-2:10 Jennifer Lodine-Chaffey, “’Blackstar’: David Bowie’s Twenty-First-Century Ars Moriendi
2:15-2:30 Julian Knox, “Too Late to Be Late Again: David Bowie, the Late 1970s, and Romanticism”
2:35-2:50 Julian and Jim talk about Romanticism and Heavy Metal
2:50-3:00 wrap up

If you’d like to join the Zoom session rather than watch on Instagram, please email me at jamesrovira (at) gmail (dot) com for the meeting ID and password. 

Read more about the book at https://jamesrovira.com/2022/09/02/david-bowie-and-romanticism/

David Bowie and Romanticism is now available for 20% off through October 17th. See The Bookstore for details.

Roger Waters, Live at the Amway Center 8-25-22

Writing about Roger Waters and Pink Floyd, to me, isn’t just writing about music. It’s writing political autobiography. Pink Floyd’s Animals was released in 1977. I was thirteen years old that year and had been introduced to Elton John, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Who, but didn’t catch up to Pink Floyd for another year or two. I’d been shown Atom Heart Mother and sampled a couple of tracks at a friend’s house. When I did finally own my own Pink Floyd, it was Animals. I pored over Waters’s lyrics around the same time I was reading Orwell’s Animals and 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World, all within a one to two year period, and all of which Waters name checked as influences during his concert last night at the Amway Center. Waters, along with Rush’s 2112 and these three books, contributed significantly to my own early political consciousness, so as I write this review of Waters’s performance at the Amway Center on August 25, 2022, I’m going to reflect upon Waters’s politics as some my own early political influences.

Last night’s concert was part of Waters’s This is Not a Drill tour, originally scheduled for 2020 but put off because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Waters said about this decision, “If delaying [the concert] saves only one life, it was worth it,” then loudly cheered audience members who had been holding their tickets for two years now. They could have received a refund the day after the original date, but didn’t. The Wikipedia page for the tour seems accurate in all details I could verify by my attendance — the two set lists are accurate, the sets divided with a short intermission, the list of performers is accurate, and Waters’s comments about the tour itself as described on the page were confirmed by him in concert.

This tour, and each of his performances, are very explicitly political with the exception of a touching, middle segment performed in tribute to Syd Barrett. I’d heard the interviews before. I knew how much of Wish You Were Here (“Have a Cigar,” the title track, and “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” made up this segment of the concert) was about Waters and the band missing Barrett. Listening to Waters talk about Barrett in person, though, was another thing entirely. Waters described a time that he and Barrett were in school and had just left a Gene Vincent concert (The Rolling Stones were an opening act). They both agreed at that moment to form a band once they started college in London. They did and, as the words on the screen projected, “the rest is history.” So when Waters sings, “We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl / year after year,” he’s singing about him and Barrett. The album is about a great deal of loss — not just Barrett, who walked in on the band while they were recording the album, but about disconnections within the band itself and Waters’s own divorce from Judith Trim in 1975. He said was falling apart, “lost” in his words, on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Before I talk about the screen, though, I’d like to talk about the setlist.

Set 1
Comfortably Numb” (PF, The Wall, 1979)
The Happiest Days of Our Lives” (same)
Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2” (same)
“Another Brick in the Wall, Part 3” (same)
The Powers That Be” (Solo, Radio KAOS, 1987)
The Bravery of Being Out of Range” (Solo, Amused to Death, 1992)
“The Bar” (Solo, new composition)
Have a Cigar” (PF, Wish You Were Here, 1975)
Wish You Were Here” (WYWH)
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX)” (WYWH)
Sheep” (PF, Animals, 1977)

Intermission
Set 2
In the Flesh” (The Wall)
Run Like Hell” (same)
Déjà Vu” (Solo, Is This the Life We Really Want?, 2017)
Is This the Life We Really Want?” (same)
Money” (PF, Dark Side of the Moon, 1973)
Us and Them” (same)
Any Colour You Like” (same)
Brain Damage” (same)
Eclipse” (same)
Two Suns in the Sunset” (PF, The Final Cut, 1983)
“The Bar” (reprise) (Solo, new)
Outside the Wall” (The Wall)

Roger Waters drew most of his setlist from The Wall (7 songs) and Dark Side of the Moon (6 songs), with one song each from Animals and The Final Cut and four songs from his solo albums. He also included one new composition: “The Bar.” “The Bar” is about that — bars — where people meet and talk about anything and everything, everywhere they are found. For Waters, the whole world is a bar, a meeting place for people. When in the second video below the screen text tells people who “love Pink Floyd but can’t stand Roger’s politics” to “fuck off to the bar right now,” he’s not just insulting people too dumb to understand it was all about these same politics, all along, for 50 years (as Waters himself later said). He’s also telling them to get out and talk to other people, people who are not like them. “The Bar,” Waters confessed, was largely a ripoff of Dylan’s “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” but about his own sad-eyed lady, his wife Kamilah, whose sadness comes from her concern for other people and their suffering.

The setlist creates the impression that the concert is primarily Waters performing bits of The Wall and most of Dark Side, which is true, but that impression underestimates the importance of Animals, which was not only performed but visually referenced throughout. The pig appears during “In the Flesh,” a song from The Wall. Animals is his central political text used to interpret and nuance his commentary on his other albums: by the time we get to Dark Side of the Moon (excerpt of the performance below), we understand that the images of faces that have been appearing on the screen are victims of human rights abuses, the “dark side of the moon” being the place of the dead: I’ll see you there. That insight is the meaning of the tour title: This is Not a Drill because people are really dying. The song is a love song, but it implies meeting after death, “And if you happen to get there before me / Leave a message in the dust just for me.” His new context makes it a love song for victims of human rights abuses.

Now I need to talk about that screen.

The screen structure is a long, central, black wall bisected by another, shorter one to create a cross-shape. Everything was projected onto those screens. The video above shows the third announcement that the show is about to begin. These announcements started at the fifteen minute mark and reappeared every five minutes until the show started promptly at 8:30 p.m. Doors opened a bit before 7:00 p.m.; the ticket listed 8:00 p.m. as the start time. After seeing the structure, I thought to myself — great, I’ll get to see ¼ of the band. Interesting way to visually represent disconnection. Maybe Roger will wander around to each part eventually? But as you see in the later videos, the structure lifts. It’s hard to advise best seating for this concert. I feel like a more distant vantage point is a better one for this kind of visual, but my seats were a bit too high: the light rigging got in the way of the upper part of the screen. I’d advise seating no higher than the lower promenade, unless you want someone on stage to sweat on you. Floor seats help you see more of the performers, but less of the entire spectacle. Think about what you really want.

This video starts the concert, gives Roger’s warning, and leads in to the first notes of “Comfortably Numb.”

“Comfortably Numb,” of course, is one of David Gilmour’s great musical performances and one of the great guitar performances of the 70s. Waters recruited guitarist Dave Kilminster for this tour, who has longtime progressive rock cred, performing with Keith Emerson, The Nice, Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree, John Wetton of King Crimson and Asia, Ken Hensley of Uriah Heep, Carl Palmer (ELP), and as a touring musician for Roger Waters since 2006. On every song Kilminster matched Gilmour note for note and riff for riff: Waters’s band, overall, so perfectly emulated Pink Floyd’s sound that they made the original band sound like sidemen for Roger Waters, which they essentially were on Animals, The Wall, and The Final Cut. But on “Comfortably Numb,” Gilmour’s guitar work was left untouched. Waters’s backup singers (think Dark Side of the Moon) covered these parts, recreating the song beautifully.

Fortunately, the stage rose by the third song, “Another Brick in the Wall,” Waters appearing at the bottom right section of the cross-shaped stage.

The following videos are Water’s performances of “Sheep,” “In the Flesh,” and “Dark Side of the Moon,” which was the climax of the show.

“Sheep”

“In the Flesh” — the pig had little propellers that helped direct it a bit less haphazardly than the sheep.

And finally, “Dark Side of the Moon” — visually stunning.

In terms of sheer spectacle, this was one of the best concerts I’ve attended. The closer you sit, the more you’d feel immersed in a rock video. The only concert I’ve seen that rivaled that effect was U2’s Zoo TV tour. I was on the thirty yard line and felt like I was inside a rock video due to the sheer size of the set.

I think it’s time to get explicit about Waters’s politics. But what are politics? Politics are a programmatic, legislative attempt to serve the interests of a people group. When the gun industry convinces people their freedoms are at stake to protect their own profits at the expense of human lives, that’s politics: give the antelope guns, tell them they’re predators, not prey, and you own them. When Bernie Sanders wants to provide affordable healthcare for all Americans, that’s politics. He’s not working for an industry but for working and middle class Americans. When health insurance companies make you fear “socialism” so they can continue to enrich themselves by collecting premiums and not paying out claims, that’s also politics.

In that sense of the word, Waters did not make a political statement at all last night. For Roger Waters, politics are human rights. That’s it. Every single life matters to him, even the lives of photojournalists killed as “collateral” damage during a drone strike halfway around the world. He’s not anti-American. He is pro-human-life. His major objects of critique were the United States, England, and Israel for human rights violations, but they weren’t his only targets. His biggest target wasn’t Trump, whose face did appear on the screen at times, but Ronald Reagan, whom Waters labeled a “war criminal” because of 30,000 dead in Guatemala. Footage of one of Reagan’s speeches appeared during one song, his face dissolving away over and over again, juxtaposed against images of human-like, animated figures being brutalized by guns and batons. The images were disturbing, but they were necessarily so. They were meant to be. The names and faces of victims of human rights violations from around the world appeared on the screen throughout the night.

His primary target of attack is an international corporate environment that provokes these human rights abuses around the world to protect its own financial interests. The bad guys are fascists, as they always are, but Waters emphasizes how closely fascism and capitalism work together, as it always has. And yes, it did very much so in Hitler’s case, who reinvented a national socialist party to gain power with the blessing of the oligarchs. The screen structure served many purposes, but at times it projected the lights you’d see on an office building, and in one image it topped four skyscrapers, one under each of its four outermost points.

Waters’s politics is merely to advocate for human life, especially when it is sacrificed for the profits of multinational corporations.

But after all of that, on the way out of the venue I overheard a 30-something white guy say that he liked Pink Floyd, that he liked the music, but he didn’t like Waters’s politics. “That stuff happens all around the world,” he said, “why just target the United States?”

Waters didn’t just target the United States, and more importantly, that night he was only performing in the United States. After all of that, even after the opening warning, the man fell back on a banality that renders him immune from concern. He chose his own immediate emotional comfort over human life.

Stay on message, Roger. You won’t get through to everyone, but you got through to me. Thank you.

The Beatles, Get Back

I just finished watching the new Beatles’ documentary on Disney+, Get Back. It’s in three parts, and the third part ends with almost the whole rooftop concert (some but not all downtime between songs seems to have been cut), which wound up being their last public performance together. So I put together this playlist to reflect all the songs they performed, using rooftop performances where available in the order in which they appear.

https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/the-beatles-rooftop-concert/pl.u-VL2aIBYGkNr

My playlist covers these songs:

  1. “Get Back,” original studio version. This wasn’t part of the rooftop performance, but was captured in the Beatles’ studio on Saville Row some time before. The first rooftop performance of “Get Back” doesn’t seem to be available on iTunes.
  2. “Get Back,” 1969 Glyn Johns mix. The second rooftop performance of “Get Back” doesn’t appear to be available on iTunes, so I substituted this one. Glyn Johns put together a version of the songs on Let It Be originally intended for an album titled Get Back “that would match the documentary nature of the forthcoming film” (more about the film later; taken from the liner notes to Let It Be… Naked). Johns’s mixes are now available on a deluxe version of Let It Be recently released.
  3. “Don’t Let Me Down” (first rooftop performance).
  4. “I’ve Got a Feeling” (album version, originally taken from the rooftop performance).
  5. “One After 909” (album version, originally taken from the rooftop performance).
  6. “Dig a Pony” (album version that sounds like the rooftop performance to me, but I’m not sure).
  7. “I’ve Got a Feeling” (the second rooftop performance doesn’t appear to be available on iTunes, so I substituted the 1969 Glyn Johns mix).
  8. “Don’t Let Me Down” (1969 Glyn Johns mix, same as above).
  9. “Get Back” (third rooftop performance from The Beatles Anthology 3. The anthology doesn’t indicate which rooftop performance, but Paul has a line in here about getting arrested, which he added after seeing the police on the rooftop, so it’s the third performance).

We should keep in mind the whole recording session was intended to be released as a TV special. According to the liner notes on Let It Be… Naked the original concept was a TV performance of songs from the white album, and then it transformed into a documentary recording the creation of a new album from the beginning. The conclusion of the TV special was intended to be live performances of the new songs in front of an impromptu audience, which would be their first live performance since August of 1966. What wound up being a documentary film about the recording of the album was released concurrently with the album in 1970.

A few observations.

It’s a miracle they got anything done. Of course the eight hours of video we see is greatly edited down from the 60 hours of video available, but they seemed to spend most of their time singing their own and other people’s songs in funny voices. Sometimes it seemed like they were just having fun (most of the time, actually), but sometimes it seemed like they were tired of it all and not taking it seriously. Billy Preston showing up changed everything and made everyone feel better. He was great. George Martin’s presence seemed like a good thing as well, even though John told Martin to stay away at first (liner notes for Let It Be… Naked).

Paul goes on a little tirade at the beginning, at the very beginning, saying something along the lines of, “If we’re not going to do this, we should just quit right now.” I felt at the time like that was what split up the Beatles. Throughout the sessions Paul refers to their days in Hamburg several times, which leaves the impression that he hadn’t really had much fun with the band since then because that was a few years back by this point, and he seems dissatisfied with just making albums.

I don’t want to create a false impression. Paul was playful most of the time and upbeat. He just had some moments. George actually quit and the other three had to take a few days to get him to come back, and then later on George talked about all of them just doing solo projects and then coming back together. He seemed frustrated in having too small a role in the band and its songwriting.

There is a little scene, sound only, where Paul and John are talking together about what they need to do to get George back. The documentary claims that the filmmakers at the time hid a microphone in a flower pot at a diner where Paul and John went to discuss the situation with George. That sounds like nonsense to me. You have to realize this was 1969. There is no WiFi or Bluetooth. Of course they had transmitters, but they weren’t that small, and a sound cable running underneath a random booth at a diner would be kind of obvious, not to mention the fact the filmmakers had no way of knowing exactly where Paul and John would be sitting. So I think the conversation was staged. That doesn’t mean the conversation didn’t reflect anyone’s real feelings, but I’m just not buying the hidden mic in the flower pot story.

Moving on, I had a strong impression that anything Paul touched musically would be golden because of it. Any input he gave would make a song better. And the first really magical moment, when everyone was feeling the power of the music, was Paul’s first performance of “Let It Be.”

The wives were all there at different points. Yoko the most, then Linda (still Eastman with her very young daughter from a previous relationship, who was precocious and hilarious), then Ringo’s wife Maureen, with Pattie Boyd (Harrison) appearing once. Yoko was quiet and unassuming throughout the sessions, and watching her occasional facial expressions and gestures — and they were rare — is worthy of some study and attention. She would at times sing/screech into a mic while the Beatles played to it; at one point Paul played drums to Yoko’s singing. So yes, there were tensions within the band. It’s not clear they weren’t manageable. It’s hard for me to say that Paul, or John, or George, or Yoko split up the band.

What really seemed to be working against the band was having to come up with a bunch of new songs in three weeks and then be ready for a television special at the end of it. They could only agree to get George to come back by scrapping the TV special idea and moving their songwriting and rehearsals back to their own studios instead of the warehouse in Twickenham that was serving as a sound stage. So I think a number of factors were working against the Beatles, the biggest one of them being the Beatles.

I wish they had been able to do what John suggested, which was record their own solo albums and then come back together and record as the Beatles, especially in retrospect of the enormous creative output each of them enjoyed as solo artists in the 70s. It really was something seeing them all at different times sit behind drums or piano or strum the guitar. I think George was the only one who didn’t play any drums.

I couldn’t wait to see them get on the rooftop, because that was a public performance. That’s the one time there is no doubt that while they were having fun, they were also taking the music seriously. The rooftop concert deserves special attention, but not only because it was their last public performance. As a performance, it seemed more like a rehearsal of their new songs than a performance. “Get Back” was played twice at the beginning and once at the end, and two other songs were played twice. Two of those performances of the other songs wound up being the tracks used on the album, while the version of “Get Back” used was performed in the studio some days earlier.

What was enjoyable about the rooftop performance, beyond just seeing the Beatles perform, were interviews with the public on the street. Young and old said, “It’s the Beatles!”, “I wish we could see them,” “This is wonderful,” with a number of complaints too: “They woke me up from my sleep and I don’t appreciate it.” Ha. The police arrived after reportedly receiving 30 complaints about noise in a few minutes. They were stalled, and the two officers who initially arrived on the scene looked like two rosy-faced little fourteen year old boys, blustering and threatening like teenage boys too. There’s been quite a bit of reporting over the last day or two (from this writing) about the officers. The main one in the film was Ray Dagg, who was 19 years old at the time. I can’t track all the references right now, but he admitted he was probably making up “30 complaints” (he had no idea how many they received), and that he was bluffing about being able to arrest them on the charges he specifically mentioned. They don’t apply on private premises.

Most interestingly, he said he knew he was being recorded in the lobby of the Beatles’ studios because he saw a microphone in a flower pot. On the one hand, this validates the mic in the flower pot story explaining the recording of Paul’s and John’s earlier conversation about George, but on the other hand, if he saw it just looking casually while standing up, it’s hard to believe Paul and John wouldn’t notice it sitting at a table.

But throughout all encounters with the police, everyone was very polite. When the police arrived at the rooftop, the Beatles finished their performance without being asked while the officers stood by and watched. They ended with the version of “Get Back” in which Paul sings a line about being arrested which appears on the Beatles’ Anthology 3 collection.

And that’s the thing with the lyrics. No one showed up with written lyric sheets except maybe John for “Across the Universe” and perhaps George’s songs, but I don’t recall in the latter case. Otherwise, lyrics were improvised on the spot with the music. In one of the film’s highlights, Paul wrote a first run at “Get Back” while they were all waiting for John to show up, who was an hour late. “Get back.” He’s late. Get it? “I miss the old days at Hamburg.” “Get back.” Get it? Several of the songs seemed like immediate reactions to the situation at hand later revised into songs. One version of “Get Back” reflects anti-immigrant feeling in Britain popular at the time, which seemed terribly and painfully familiar.

It’s a great documentary. It’s real life. But it’s real life hanging out with the Beatles while they try to make some new music. It’s real life amplified. It was 41 years to this day since John Lennon died when I posted an initial draft of this review to Facebook. I am grateful for the timing of it all, but what a loss.

Tiffany at 50: She’s Not Alone Now

I had the pleasure of seeing 80s’ pop icon Tiffany (Darwish) perform in Melbourne, Florida, at the Iron Oak Post on November 21st. Her performance gained national attention through outlets like TMZ because she said to the audience, “F-you, guys,” after struggling with her singing during the performance of her hit song “I Think We’re Alone Now.” She later apologized for her behavior in a recorded video, saying she had a panic attack because her voice was failing.

As someone present in the audience, I’d like to give my own firsthand account of that night and correct some misleading impressions made by TMZ reporting.

Iron Oak Post is a bar that’s split in half between a drinking area and a performance venue. The bar itself stretches between the two. It’s a small venue that holds concerts regularly. For a bit of context, Melbourne has about as many heavy metal bands as my current town, Merritt Island, has turtles, and let me tell you–that’s a lot. The opening act was a great local band, DL Serios, who that night had Michelle Jones on glowy electric violin (check out the DL Serios Facebook page for additional video).

I’d seen DL Serios before, and they rocked, hard, closing with a cover of Kiss’s “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N Roll” that blew my doors off. I think they played it better than Kiss. The night they opened for Tiffany, however, they were more subdued, with their lead guitarist on acoustic and their drummer on a stripped down set he was playing with his bare hands, slapping the drums. He still sounded so big I couldn’t tell until I looked hard at his equipment. Frontman Chris Long was on point, energetic, and engaging, as always. They played acoustic versions of many of the same songs I’d heard cranked up loud and electric in another performance. Michelle Jones, who performed with the orchestra for the Page/Plant No Quarter tour in the mid 90s, sat in because she likes to jam with the band, and she did. Jam.

When Tiffany came out, there were sound problems right off, including some squealing feedback and a lack of reverb. I’d seen Ektogasm in the same venue some time back, and they had sound problems then too. The bass guitar sounded louder than the lead guitar that night, for example, at least to me. After two or three songs, however, the sound problems seemed to get worked out, and Tiffany and her guitarist Mark Alberici, sitting next to her on acoustic guitar, started moving through a number of Tiffany’s songs from her most recent album, Pieces of Me. I wasn’t at all familiar with these songs, but I was impressed with the songwriting, which in that format sounded like very well put together singer-songwriter pieces.

She also spent some time talking about a charity she was sponsoring on her tour, the Give Foundation, dedicated to poverty relief. It was clear from a number of her comments that she was at the end of a long tour and some fatigue had been setting in. Near the end of the night, Michelle Jones joined Tiffany and her guitarist onstage, unrehearsed, for a nice jam at the end.

And now we get to the “incident.” I initially decided not to write about what happened, because why draw attention to it?

But once TMZ covered it, why not?

A friend of mine in attendance that night sent me her video footage of “the incident,” which you can also see in the TMZ links. My friend’s video is immediately below.

Of the three Tiffany videos I posted above (gotta slide right from the first to the second in the first embed), the first was at the end of the night, once Tiffany quit singing and her guitarist and Michelle took over. It’s frankly hard to believe they didn’t rehearse. The second video (yes, slide right) was from very early in the night, Tiffany’s popular version of the Beatles’ “I Saw [Him] Standing There” from her first album.

TMZ accurately reports that Tiffany’s voice started giving out at the end. She sounded hoarse and like she was losing breath, and she was self-conscious about her fatigue and the sound quality all night. But TMZ gets a few things wrong in these sentences:

Tiffany was onstage Sunday night in Melbourne, FL with her band, belting out a few tunes including her hugely successful “I Think We’re Alone Now.” You can hear Tiffany struggle with a few notes, but fans help her out — singing along word for word.

However, near the end of the song, Tiffany apparently hears or sees something she doesn’t like in the crowd … telling them, “F*** You!!!”

Let me respond line by line:

Tiffany was not “onstage with her band.” She was onstage only with her guitarist Mark Alberici on acoustic guitar until the end of the night, when Michelle Jones joined them onstage.

Tiffany did indeed “struggle with a few notes,” and fans did “help her out — singing along word for word.” If you watch the video, the audience sang along loudly for a few lines. Right before she got frustrated, the audience stopped singing along because she’d quit singing lyrics.

Tiffany did not say “F*** You!!!” The typography here implies she shouted angrily at the crowd. She didn’t. You can see in TMZ‘s own video and the video I provided above that she didn’t so much sound angry as maybe a bit annoyed. She sounds like she’s talking to an annoying friend at a party. And TMZ didn’t report everything she said. What she said was,

“F- you, guys. I’m gonna f-ing… [I can’t make out what else she says.] This is my hit.”

When she said it, she was looking straight into the audience, slightly to her right, so TMZ is right in saying that something in the audience set her off. But she was talking to someone specific, maybe a couple people up front laughing at her for her singing.

By that point it wasn’t so much a concert as drunken karaoke with the original performer.

And yes, TMZ also reports that “there’s been some speculation alcohol played a factor…” From my point of view, that’s not speculation. If you watch to about 13 seconds into my first video, you’ll see a barstool slightly behind and between Tiffany and her guitarist populated with the contents of a minibar. That pint glass she was drinking from, I have been told, wasn’t Guinness, as I thought at the time, but whiskey, so she started out with a good 4-5 fingers in there, and I was told that there was some pretty hard drinking backstage too.

Yep, Tiffany was a bit lit by the end of the night.

But the biggest thing TMZ got wrong was this: “her latest show in Florida struck a sour note between the singer and her fans.”

No. There was no “sour note between the singer and her fans.”

When she told the audience, “F- you, guys,” the crowd cheered. Just watch the videos. That was their highlight of the night.

Her guitarist Mark, by the way, was a great stage partner. When he thought she started going a little off the rails he’d try to reign her in, tugging at her sleeve, and I think he and Michelle Jones started jamming together at the end to get her away from the mic.

But did I tell you this was a heavy metal crowd? Did you know there’s a Jim Morrison house not far away?

What I saw, and what I think most of the crowd saw, was a great moment in rock and roll. Morrison died when I was just a kid, so I’ve never been to a Doors concert. But that night with Tiffany, or at least that moment, felt like one. Most of all, it was a moment of reality instead of polish. That’s what made it great to so many people there. Five seconds of her real feelings were more important to the crowd than 90 minutes of polished self-presentation. Without necessarily encouraging that behavior in the future, we love you for that, Tiffany.

It was the death of a vapid 16 year old singing fun pop songs and the birth of our next Janis Joplin. She has the material. She has the voice. Just don’t die on us like she did.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not knocking her 16 year old self. She was great when she was 16, 17, 18 years old for a teenager. She’s just better now.

What I saw was a 50 year old woman who has earned the right to be herself… being herself. It was Tiffany proving that one 50 year old version of herself is better than two 25 year old versions, even if they’re crammed into one body.

I don’t need to hear those 80s songs. I’d like to hear her sing “Honkey Tonk Woman” in the real voice she has today. Heck, that should be the title of her next album. I want to hear her next album, which she announced she’s delaying until 2022, and give her last album, Pieces of Me (2018), a good long listen, because the new music I heard that night was better than anything I heard from her in the 80s.

Miley Cyrus and Brittany killed their teen pop idol alter egos. Let Tiffany do so as well.

Tiffany is alive and well, and she proved it at Iron Oak Post that night.

Iggy without a Shirt

Buy any album with Iggy without a shirt. . .

I recently picked up a used copy of Iggy Pop’s 1982 album “Zombie Birdhouse” and, looking at the seated, shirtless Iggy on the cover, I was reminded of a general buying principle for Iggy Pop albums passed on to me by Michelle Pessaro, owner of Savvy Vinyl Records in Melbourne, FL: “Buy any album with Iggy without a shirt.” It carried with it the implied corollary, “Shirted Iggy albums suck.” This buying principle had been passed on to her by Chris, the owner of the former Vinyl Request Records, whose store Michelle inherited when he passed away in 2019. It was a great store, one that had the space to host live music, and it was a staging point for a lot of great bands around the Melbourne, FL, area. It also hosted some better known bands like Agnostic Front.

Needless to say, I had to test that theory. I had to test it because it seemed testable, because there is objective data available by which we can test the theory, and because I’d graded waaaay too many papers over the last three days and desperately needed to do something else.

So, I made a spreadsheet.

Dare I say it? This spreadsheet is a glorious instance of Digital Humanities at work, one that quantified ratings of each Iggy Pop album on a 5 star scale and correlated those ratings with album cover features (shirted/non-shirted/other). I submit for your consideration The Table:

Results: average rating of shirted Iggy albums, 3.0. Average of shirtless Iggy albums, 3.4. The principle holds with a couple of early exceptions, such as Iggy Pop’s Bowie-produced solo albums from 1977, which have ratings of 5, and the late album Naughtie Little Doggie, which even a shirtless Iggy couldn’t save from sucking horribly.

Score distribution:

  • 9 shirtless albums: 7 of 9 shirtless albums are rated 4 or 5.
  • 8 shirted albums: 3 of 8 shirted albums are rated 4 or 5 while 5 of 8 shirted albums are rated 3 or below.

Bottom line: Chris was right!

This whole “project” leads me to think about record stores in general, and what makes a good record store good. At the risk of sounding cliché, a good record store loves the music, while a worse record store either doesn’t love it as much, doesn’t know how to love it properly, or just exists to take your money.

This difference is measurable and quantifiable from store to store. It is observable. I’m not just being sentimental. A store that loves the music loves its vinyl. If they’re selling you a piece of used vinyl above $10.00, it will have been checked for scratches, scuffs, and dirt and cleaned if necessary. It might be given a new inner sleeve, even if the original is still there. The record store can’t control what condition the vinyl, inner sleeve, and vinyl are in when the album arrives in the store, but it can control the condition it’s in when they sell it.

And sellers can also control their selling price. Ebay and Amazon selling prices for used vinyl are all over the place, and there is no quality control in check. Discogs.com is a better source for the real value of any given piece of used vinyl on the market. It will display the selling history of any used vinyl by specific edition and by condition, which has to be listed on the website following their guidelines, which list vinyl and covers in conditions from Mint (basically, new) to Poor. I’ve published two books on rock music and literature, and have two more under contract right now, and I’ve found Discogs.com to be an invaluable resource on the details of any specific release of almost any specific album.

I’ve bought some used vinyl in my lifetime, including over the last couple of years, and my go-to store is Savvy Vinyl Records because the owner takes care of her vinyl — she has a cleaning machine on her table next to the register — because she prices in the middle of Discogs listings, and because she stands by her product. If an album turns out to be in bad shape, she asks you to bring it back. If the album leans a bit on the expensive side, she’s probably listened to it before selling it. She has an extensive Discogs catalog of her own, by the way, so she’s a safe vendor to buy from online. Another great vendor is Gator Records on Instagram. I’ve never regretted a purchase from that vendor, and he cleans his vinyl before shipping it and puts his vinyl in new sleeves.

There are a number of good online vendors for new and specialty vinyl as well. Experience Vinyl has some interesting curated editions — for example, Miles Davis’s Sketches of Spain in yellow and red swirl vinyl curated by Carlos Santana, selected by him and including his notes on the album, and it has recently begun expanding its catalog. Sound of Vinyl is great for colored vinyl reissues from popular bands and other specialty releases. Vinyl Me Please has some fantastic releases, but a very limited and somewhat expensive catalog at any given time. Look for Music on Vinyl rereleases from any store, or Back to Black, and of course some of the most interesting vinyl releases during any given year come out on Record Store Day. Look up the RSD website to see when this year’s RSD albums will drop and what they will be.

The best thing to do, however, is to find a small, independent seller that loves its vinyl and support it.

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