Wednesday, May 11, 2016

How Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine Reinvented Himself After Being Booted from Metallica

Who knows why some bands endure like this? When you think of the supreme vitality required, and the ever-renewing inventiveness, and the hard-won fan loyalty, you have to wonder how any of them even manage it. This is especially true of metal bands, who must remain hard and fast and youthful well beyond their actual youth. You can fake the hair, and you can fake the attitude, but you can never fake the sound. The sound must emerge from a place of total authenticity and vigor.

And yet, in just the past few months, we’ve seen two metal bands of longstanding dominance reassert their credentials. Just this past September, Iron Maiden released The Books of Souls, their 16th studio album and one of the most soulful and virtuosic of their career. And last month, Megadeth released Dystopia, their 15th studio album and one of the most soulful and virtuosic of their own career — not to mention the only one to ever chart at Billboard’s number-one spot.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Cesar Millan, Up Close

A Curious George

When the change occurred in George Carlin, it occurred suddenly. To viewers at home, it seemed that one day he was on the talk shows all clean-shaven and besuited; the next, he was hirsute in a T-shirt and jeans. One day, he was doing the Hippy Dippy Weatherman and other anodyne routines; the next, he was using his wit as a weapon against censorship, Vietnam, and the Catholic Church. The change, when it came, was so swift and decisive, it wouldn’t wait for Carlin to even finish the album he was working on. He had to title it FM & AM, in reference to the way it contained both mainstream and underground material. 

Carlin has disputed this interpretation of his transformation, insisting that it occurred more gradually than people seem to realize, so it’s good to hear that his own daughter — his only child, Kelly — experienced the transformation in the same way it’s retained in the popular imagination. “During the spring of 1970,” she writes in her new memoir A Carlin Home Companion: Growing Up with George,
my dad went into the hospital for a double hernia operation. He went in my daddy — a clean-cut man with groovy sideburns — and came home someone else — a man with a beard. A beard he would not shave for the rest of his life. I wasn’t quite sure if this was really my daddy. This was very startling for me.
Read the rest at the Los Angeles Review of Books 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Marvin's Muse

Marvin Gaye’s first wife was 17 years older than him; his second wife was 17 years younger. This may sound at first like a most ideal arrangement — experience and vitality arriving each in their turn when lacking in the other. But as even the most casual reading of any of the books on Gaye will make clear, this type of arrangement is not a guarantor of health or happiness. In case we need any reminding, Jan Gaye, wife number two, has finally written her own book, a memoir called After the Dance: My Life with Marvin Gaye.

Janis Hunter was eight years old when she first fell in love with Marvin Gaye — from afar via television screens and stereo speakers — but had to wait until she was 17 before meeting him in person. Ed Townsend, a friend of Janis’s mother who at the time was helping Gaye produce what would become Let’s Get It On (1973), arranged for her to come on down to MoWest — Motown’s Los Angeles recording studios — and meet Gaye.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Comic's Quandary

Probably the closest thing you can compare it to is the fighting in ice hockey. Think about it: an activity somehow both integral and non-essential that many in the audience consider more entertaining than those parts of the performance that require actual talent. But here’s the difference between fighting in hockey and heckling in stand-up comedy, and it’s an essential one: the former is all about the players, while the latter is all about the fans trying to be the players.

That’s why it drives comedians nuts when it’s asserted – as it was at length in the Chicago Tribune a couple of years ago – that heckling is often not only the best part of stand-up but often, indeed, the only memorable part of stand-up. Chris Borrelli – who, with another writer at the paper, Nina Metz, engaged in a forum-type discussion on the subject – went so far as to write: “I have seen countless comedians and theatre performances and live events in general, and forgotten most of them. But I remember each and every time I have witnessed a performer get into it with an obnoxious audience.”

Friday, February 13, 2015

Indifference is a Power

We do this to our philosophies. We redraft their contours based on projected shadows, or give them a cartoonish shape like a caricaturist emphasising all the wrong features. This is how Buddhism becomes, in the popular imagination, a doctrine of passivity and even laziness, while Existentialism becomes synonymous with apathy and futile despair. Something similar has happened to Stoicism, which is considered – when considered at all – a philosophy of grim endurance, of carrying on rather than getting over, of tolerating rather than transcending life’s agonies and adversities.

No wonder it’s not more popular. No wonder the Stoic sage, in Western culture, has never obtained the popularity of the Zen master. Even though Stoicism is far more accessible, not only does it lack the exotic mystique of Eastern practice; it’s also regarded as a philosophy of merely breaking even while remaining determinedly impassive. What this attitude ignores is the promise proffered by Stoicism of lasting transcendence and imperturbable tranquility.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Hip-Hop's First Christmas

When he got his first check for “Christmas Rappin’” is when Russell Simmons finally moved out of his parents’ house. Kurtis Blow had done the actual Christmas rappin’, but Simmons had brokered the deal. It was the first rap song ever released by a major label, only the third released by any kind of label at all. That alone made it a novelty; that it was also about Christmas made it novelty cubed. Thirty-five years later, that’s the status it retains. Christmas raps are still a novelty, and this, of course, is still the first. But what it opened the way for was something so much larger and more substantial.

Today he’s renowned as the co-founder of the Def Jam empire, but back in 1978, when he first met the Billboard writer Robert “Rocky” Ford, Simmons was nothing more than a local party promoter from out of Queens, looked down upon by hip-hop insiders from rap’s red-hot centers of Harlem and the Bronx. This meeting—which Simmons in his memoir Life and Def calls “[m]y first positive encounter with the recording industry,” as well as “my most important”—occurred when Ford got curious about all the “Rush Productions” stickers he’d been seeing on his commute home to Queens.