Tag Archives: Michael Jackson

The Papers Want To Know Who’s Shirt You Wear

I meant to write about this on Friday, then over the weekend, but I just got so bogged down in my own head, which I am wont to do, that it didn’t happen. Writing is almost like physical exercise to me & I know that comes off as perhaps hyperbolic, but it’s true. It’s a huge exercise for my brain which I try not to use in real life & for my first 33 1/2 years it’s been pretty evident. Anyway, on January 8th, David Bowie celebrated his 63rd Birthday & Elvis Presley would’ve celebrated his 75th.

At first glance the thought is that Elvis is perhaps the greatest Rock N’ Roll star in history, but again we come to that old argument is Elvis a talented musician or a terrific entertainer? David Bowie is an innovator best known for his alter-ego turn in the ’70’s as Ziggy Stardust & his glam-rock androgyny. Though, much like Elvis this may be just a way for the masses to label something they don’t understand.

We’ll first tackle the Elvis questions. Elvis was a supremely talented vocalist & entertainer. He was the first Rock N’ Roll musician that was marketable to the world. Good looking, affable, a great dancer & a white man with a black voice. Elvis had it all. He took what Frank Sinatra had to the next level & became a veritable Rock N’ Roll crooner. Elvis, though, never wrote his own songs, rarely played an instrument & let’s not even talk about the Fat Elvis days. He was by all accounts the Michael Jackson of his day (Michael Jackson wrote his own songs though), which is not to say that he was not talented or a star, just as far as musicianship he was a pop star, a Justin Timberlake. A guy that could sing, dance & act (King Creole is a remarkably good movie, as is Jailhouse Rock). He was an icon like MJ that became a bit of a freakshow in his later years, much like MJ.

David Bowie created or at least popularized Glam Rock, but if you look at his body of work it’s just as impressive in the annals of music history as Elvis Presley’s. I dare you to listen to Hunky Dory & not walk away thinking it is one of the greatest albums ever. It’s brilliant & may not even be his best album as Ziggy Stardust is perfect. From 1968-1972 David Bowie put out some of the best music the world has ever heard. Then he decided to reinvent himself. Much like Elvis, he could have stayed the same, still been great & no one would’ve thought twice. He didn’t, he ventured out & saw what else he could do. He made some records with an R&B flavor, a cover album & some disco stuff & it wasn’t all great, but he took chances.

The point is not that these artists are diametrically opposite, because they are quite similar in many ways. What it comes down to, for me, is that David Bowie took more chances than Elvis did. He took his music places that were years ahead of his time. Later in life when Elvis turned into a fat caricature of himself David Bowie was duetting with Trent Reznor on Soundtracks & still reinventing himself to a newer, younger audience.  Many will say Elvis had no choice, he was pigeonholed by an adoring public. Bullshit. The Beatles & Bob Dylan could’ve cared less what people thought when they decided to change their respective sounds & they didn’t take a 2 year break to serve inthe Army.

Musicians  progress, mature, evolve. Entertainers stick with what their fans want, with what makes them money & with what keeps them marketable. Elvis Presley was a corporation unto himself, a marketing machine that transcended music. David Bowie is a musician, that entertains, but his musical evolutions are not predicated on whether or not you like him. You are merely happenstance, an afterthought to what he feels is his greater goal…satisfying himself musically. That’s why, musically, David Bowie is far superior to Elvis Presley.

Elvis Presley – That’s All Right

David Bowie (Live at the BBC) – Space Oddity

Elvis Presley – Blue Moon

David Bowie (Live at the BBC) – Queen Bitch

Elvis Presley – Mystery Train

David Bowie – Life on Mars

Music News 07-08-09

A lot of things going on this week. For some reason Beck is on his game lately doing things that no other artist consider doing, but maybe he’s just smarter than everyone else.

  • Beck started a new section to go along with his Record Club. It’s called Irrelevant Topics & he basically interviews other artists about whatever he feels like talking about. This week it’s Tom Waits & it’s a fascinating read if you’ve got the time.
  • Trent Reznor changed his mind & decided to play more shows in the U.S., but only small venues. Like the Wiltern. Should be awesome.
  • The NY Times reported yesterday that Internet Radio & Record Labels have come to an agreement in regards to royalties. Which, to me, is bullshit. I’m sorry, but radio stations don’t pay anything to artists or labels. They pay maybe a few cents per song  to ASCAP/BMI but this is what Internet/Satellite stations now have to pay.

Many of the streaming music sites had argued that all sites should pay a percentage of revenue rather than a per-song fee. They added that satellite radio stations pay a cut of their revenue, while broadcast stations pay nothing to artists and labels. Under the new agreement, though, almost all Internet radio stations will pay the new, lower fee for each song, because that will be more than 25 percent of revenue.

Hope Sandoval – Blanchard

  • Great new video from Blitzen Trapper. “Black River Killer” – Just as good a song as “Furr” but an even better video.
  • 31 million people watched the Michael Jackson on T.V. yesterday, plus millions more online (myself included) according to the Huffington Post. 28 million watched the American Idol finale & 38 million watched President Obama’s inauguration.

Reaching Out I Touch Her Shoulder I’m Dreaming of the Street

John Mayer is one of the best guitarists around these days & his talents are not sufficiently utilized on the type of music he purveys. Nonetheless, he is spectacular & this instrumental cover of Michael Jackson’s Human Nature taken from the Memorial yesterday was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. A fine tribute indeed.

Human Nature – John Mayer

Here’s a few more covers of my favorite Michael Jackson song & unless something substantial comes of all this I will let it go.

Human Nature – Craig David

Music News

Hey, it’s Wednesday (pronounced Wed ness day, truth, no not really, but wouldn’t it be funny if it was? Maybe I’ll write the whole article in parenthesis. I used to ignore parenthesis when I would read a book, but if you did that & I wrote the whole article in parenthesis like I said then it would consist of Hey, it’s Wednesday. Never mind, back to your regularly scheduled program.) & that means it’s time for some music news. Yay! Some decent stuff out there so let’s get to it.

  • One of my favorite sites is I Am Fuel You Are Friends (See Blogroll). It is such a brilliant site that I’m sure many of you go to on a regular basis. Today it is imperative that you head over though since she has a killer video of Bruuuuuuuce with the Gaslight Anthem at the Glastonbury Festival this weekend. It will give you goosebumps it’s that good.
  • Paste Magazine has a killer interview with Nels Cline from Wilco who I saw last week at the Wiltern & the show was absolutely amazing.
  • Beck is a busy man lately. First, he’s doing the whole Record Club/Velvet Underground thing. Second, he’s doing an album with French Actress/Singer Charlotte Gainsbourg & now he’s planning on covering Sonic Youth’s entire 1986 classic album EVOL, but only releasing it on a cassette. Yes, a cassette! Beck is literally losing his mind as I write this & I couldn’t be happier. This is the best stuff he’s put out in a few years.
  • Interesting article in the Village Voice about Black America’s ties to Michael Jackson & if there could ever be an heir apparent.
  • According to NME the Killers are planning to release an album of all cover songs & here’s what they said

“It’s something that we’ve always talked about doing and we’re still talking about,” Flowers said. “It’s difficult for each of us to pick songs that represent us as individuals. I mean, I have a lot of personalities myself! I’ve gone through everything from Neil Diamond to The Cars.”

Vanucci cited acts including “Genesis, Tom Waits, a little Cyndi Lauper, Iggy Pop” as his preferred choices for the album, adding that he’s also been “messing around with a couple of Fleet Foxes songs”

  • Finally, Blitzen Trapper is encouraging everyone to sign up for their newsletter on Twitter & if you do (And if you do, and if you do — name that movie) you get a free MP3. Here’s a copy of the one sent to me.

Blitzen Trapper w/ Stephen Malkmus – Funk ’49 (Live)

Mix-Tape #3

I heard about the news of Michael Jackson’s passing yesterday & was completely surprised. Growing up, my neighbor Andy Fiore & I wore out two Tapes of Michael Jackson’s Thriller by just playing them over and over and over. So yesterday, as melodramatic as it may sound, when Michael Jackson died another piece of my childhood died along with him as one of my idols moved on to whatever the next step of the journey is.

So today, in memorial of the truly amazing singer he was I offer you 8 Michael Jackson songs that I truly feel showcase his amazing ability.

Beat It

Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson were determined to make a rock song that would appeal to all tastes and spent weeks looking for a suitable guitarist for the song “Beat It”, a song Jackson wrote and played drums on. Eventually, they found Eddie Van Halen.

Dirty Diana

M.J. always had a rock edge to him. unlike the pop “stars” of today. This song about an overly aggressive woman (the kind of girl I encourage) has catchy hooks and riffs. Solid.

Smooth Criminal

With a ever quickening beating heart at the beginning it goes into Jackson’s lyrics about a woman named Annie, who has been attacked in her apartment by a hitman. Alien Ant Farm tried to cover this song, but fuck them.

She’s Out of My Life

A little cheesy, slightly dated, but a great song about loss. Jackson’s vocals on this record were judged some of his best. The song was written by Tom Bahler after Karen Carpenter broke up with him upon discovering he had fathered a child with another woman.

Human Nature

I know I posted it yesterday, but it really is his best song. The New York Times gave a positive review of the album, Thriller and dedicated a large amount of its coverage to the song “Human Nature”. They described it as the most “striking” song on the record, and wrote, “this is a haunting, brooding ballad by Steve Porcaro and John Bettis with an irresistible chorus and it should be an enormous hit”.


Two of Jackson’s sisters, Janet and La Toya, provided backing vocals in the guise of the P.Y.T. & it has some of the best vocals of MJ on the album.

Billy Jean

Originally disliked by Jones, the track was almost removed from the album after he and Jackson had a disagreement. The song’s lyrics refer to a real-life experience, in which a mentally insane female fan claimed that Jackson fathered one of her twins. The song is well known for its distinctive bass line and Jackson’s vocal hiccups. The song was mixed 91 times by Bruce Swedien before it was finalized.

You Are Not Alone

My second favorite Michael Jackson song written by R. Kelly. Hokey? Chessy? Perhaps, but when you have loved and lost this may be the perfect song to listen to. Also, perhaps this may be the enduring tribute song for Michael Jackson as he slips into the ether.