Friday, August 04, 2006

Tower Records Ain't Paying The Bills

It happened, and I called it. I'm just sayin'. Read this article about Tower Records, that appeared in today's LA Times, then click over to my posting from July on the death of the record store, entitled "New Release Tuesday." It's kinda spooky my friends.

Firms Said to Stop Supplying Tower Records

At least three major music companies suspend deliveries to the struggling retailer, which has ceased paying its bills, sources say.

By Charles Duh
igg and Geoff Boucher, LA Times Staff Writers August 4, 2006

At least three major music companies cut off CD shipments to Tower Records on Thursday after record executives said that the iconic music retailer had stopped paying its bills. Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group Corp. and EMI Group sources confirmed privately that each of the companies had stopped sending albums to the Sacramento-based chain, which has struggled with declining sales as digital technologies have changed the way consumers buy music. Sony BMG Music Entertainment also suspended shipments, according to industry sources. The four record companies declined to comment.

The move comes just days after Tower Records named a new chief executive: crisis management and bankruptcy specialist Joseph D'Amico. Tower executives informed record companies this week that they would no
t pay outstanding invoices, according to sources familiar with the conversations. Tower executives, including D'Amico, did not return phone calls. A Tower spokesperson declined to comment. Industry insiders and analysts said it was unclear whether Tower Records had run out of money or was attempting to pressure the record companies to extend better terms. If the music companies suspend shipments for long, Tower Records could be forced to shutter its 89 locations, including the famous store on Los Angeles' Sunset Strip, analysts said.

Tower Records confirmed Thursday that it was working with a Los Angeles investment bank to sell the company. The retailer reportedly received at least five bids this year from private equity firms. When a sale failed to materialize, D'Amico was hired in what is the third management shuffle in four years. The hard line by record companies, insiders said, is a response to Tower's unilateral decision to withhold payments after music executives had extended the chain credit for years. "There are some music companies that have been trying very hard to keep Tower afloat," said an executive at one of the music companies familiar with the talks who requested anonymity because of the situation's delicacy. "They owe a lot of money."

Music fans bemoaned the potential loss of a retailer that catered to fanatical tastes. "Led Zeppelin changed my life, AC/DC changed my guitar playing, and Black Sabbath changed my approach to songwriting — and I found all of them because of Tower Records," said Dave Mustain, lead singer of the veteran heavy-metal band Megadeth. "What could they possibly put in the place of that Sunset store? Another Starbucks?"

Others pointed out that Tower Records had averted crises before — most notably in 2004, when the retailer filed for bankruptcy protection but emerged less than a month later, after bondholders took control of 85% of the company's stock.
"Being on hold doesn't mean Tower is going to close up shop tomorrow, but it means they need a serious plan," said Geoff Mayfield, senior analyst at the music industry trade publication Billboard. "The industry isn't in a hurry to lose another retailer. There will be a lot of people who will want to support them in coming up with a plan."

Tower Records began in 1960, when a music enthusiast named Russ Solomon began selling records out of his father's Sacramento drugstore. In less than a decade, Tower Records expanded to San Francisco and Los Angeles, and soon thereafter across the nation and abroad.
Tower pioneered the mega-store concept, building multilevel stores with exhaustive inventories and passionate and knowledgeable staffs. Tower's late-night hours and in-store concerts drew crowds. By the mid-1990s, Solomon was listed by Forbes magazine as one of America's richest men. Amid soaring profit, the company launched a major expansion financed by bonds worth $110 million.

But soon afterward, profit at Tower Records and other music-only retailers began to decline amid pressure from Internet piracy and chains such as Best Buy Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Retail music sales decreased by 17% from 2000 to 2005, according to the Recording Industry Assn. of America.
In 2003, Tower's parent company, MTS Inc., tried to sell the retailer after it defaulted on a $5.2-million payment, but there were no takers. Less than a year later, the Solomon family lost all but 15% of the company after it filed for bankruptcy protection. This year the company installed in-store kiosks that would eventually allow customers to burn compilation CDs of current and out-of-stock songs. Last month the company launched a digital store where listeners could download individual tracks for 99 cents apiece. Industry analysts said the efforts were gaining traction.

Everyone Stares:
The Police Inside Out

My father loves drums. In 1980 he bought an album with three lads on the orange cover because he heard a weird song on the radio that had some great drum work. Now mind you, my father has no musical taste whatsoever. I swear to God, up until a couple of months ago, he didn't know who Creedence Clearwater Revival were. But give him credit, he introduced me at the ever impressionable age of ten to the music of The Police. The song? Well, that would be "De Doo Doo, De Da Da Da" from "Zenyatta Mondatta." It was with that memory in mind that I took in a screening last night of drummer, now director, Stewart Copeland's new documentary on his legendary band called
"Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out."
Thanks to YouTube, here are some highlights.

As a fan of The Police, you should try to catch this movie. Culled from Copeland's personal super-8mm archives during the years of 1978-1984, "Everyone Stares" contains rare behind the scenes footage of the band from it's inception to it's eventual demise seen literally through the eyes of one of it's members. Copeland was in attendance last night, and spoke before (and after) the screening. He said that the film was originally made to be a home movie, not to be released theatrically, but it blossomed into this. He also emphasized that it should be watched as if you were actually in the band. Most of the footage, both onstage and off was shot in the first person by Copeland himself (making his view of things your own) and by default made guitarist Andy Summers and bassist Sting his stars. Memorable scenes include the first time the band encounters hysteria after a UK concert (which was quite unsettling considering it's first person angle), the first meeting with A&M Records executives in New York City, their first press conference in Los Angeles, recording sessions in Holland and Montserrat, backstage and on at the European festivals promoting "Reggatta De Blanc" and "Zenyatta Mondatta," which literally take you behind Copeland's drum kit as he wails through one classic song after another. Also included are the quiet moments that through time, became increasingly rare, as well as joking around backstage, in hotels and in TV studios. The music is the real star of this movie, but if anyone else were to get to get top billing, it would be Summers. In a scene where he "trashes" a mini-mart while on the road, Summers not only steals a bag of chips, he steals the show.

But what about the music you ask? It's all there, and then some. There are over 60 rare performances featured in various versions, some created just for this movie. Copeland currently works as a film composer and used his skills incorporating familiar tracks into the score. He said that with computers being the way that they are these days that he was able to take elements of different versions of songs and make new ones, "mashups" if you will. "The Police music that I used to score the film was hacked from the old master tapes, although I lobotomized them and de-arranged them so they were barely recognizable. I took bars from stage jams and joined them to the studio recordings. I took vocals from over here, and put them over there. I was able to get stacked Sting vocals from the studio recordings and put them over wild live performances - sometimes even over the wrong songs. It's still The Police, it's just my version of it."

But don't get your hopes up of a soundtrack release to this movie, according to Copeland it's not likely since cost to the rights to use music by The Police are astronomical. Copeland said he had to pay somewhere in the realm of $80, 000 of his own money to use his own music, and that was with the labels doing him a favor. To get your Police fix though, the film will be released on DVD September 25th. Till then, dust off your copy of the greatest hits, and don't stand so close to me. Oh, and thanks Dad. I'm just sayin'

For your consideration:

Next To You (Live) - The Police Mp3

Thursday, August 03, 2006

My Morning Jacket "Z" Best

Alrighty kids, it's August, and I've been reviewing my iTunes to see what I've been listening to this year. Many bloggers in the past month have posted their picks for the best albums to come out during the first half of 2006. I ain't doing that here, mainly because one of my favorite albums of this year came out last year. I am talking about 2005's "Z" by Kentucky's own My Morning Jacket. Composed of singer-guitarist and songwriter Jim James, bassist Two-Tone Tommy, drummer Patrick Hallahan, keyboardist Bo Koster, and guitarist Carl Broemel, My Morning Jacket has created an album of tracks worthy of repeated listenings from beginning to end. In this age of cds having only one or two good songs, that's no small feat.

I first heard of MMJ back in 2003 from a CD single for the song "One Big Holiday." It had a certain Allman Brothers, big guitar, classic rock feeling that is so sorely missing from the airwaves these days. Then at the beginning of the year I heard "Off The Record" on the radio (Thank you Indie 103.1). It's reggae tinged opening which eventually led into a moody jam caught my ear, and I was hooked. It was truly an original. Then I saw the band perform "Gideon" (another track from "Z") with the Boston Pops on Letterman. Rarely have I seen such a powerful performance on a late night talk show. There is no doubt from this performance that MMJ have what it takes to be mentioned in the same breath as U2, Phish, and Pearl Jam when it comes to performing live. Give it a viewing, and you will see exactly what I mean.

The following excerpt was taken from the band's web site:

'Z' is a 10-song collection that encompasses carefully wrought ballads such as "Wordless Chorus" and "Knot Comes Loose," multi-genre jams such as "Off the Record," silvery country-soul such as "Lay Low," and high-energy rockers such as "Anytime" and "What a Wonderful Man." Deliberately, emotionally, majestically, the collection concludes with "Dondante," a seven-minute piece that weaves together several singular Louisville-like blends of creativity and engagement, blues and elations. "Most of the songs," Broemel says, "are based on the sound of Jim's voice." Uncommonly passionate and blooming, it's the sound of someone who, in Leckie's words, "is always singing a duet with his reverb, which is the sixth member of the band." Broemel continues: "But I think we were also looking more rhythmically for ideas as the core of the songs, and maybe not having huge guitars on every song."

For James, the music on 'Z' continues My Morning Jacket's earliest goals.

"I've always wanted the music -- the rhythms, the strings, the guitar solos, everything -- to be just as important as the words. I've never wanted one thing to be the most important ingredient. I like to think of the band as something that's not really about any one person or any one thing. It's just this weird cloud that is all-encompassing in terms of what we all do to it." And 'Z' is, of course, for My Morning Jacket, not the end of the story."

My Morning Jacket is slated to release a live album later on this year entitled "Okonokos," and continues to build a rabid fan base while on tour with Pearl Jam. One of the great joys in life is to discover a new band who's music you've grown to love, then share it with others. Now you do the same. Buy the record, I'm just sayin'

For your consideration:

My Morning Jacket - Off The Record (Live on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic) Mp3

My Morning Jacket - Gideon (Live from "Okonokos") Mp3

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Seriously, I really want it. MTV celebrated it's 25th birthday yesterday, and to celebrate it, I took in a total of 3 minutes of viewing time to see what the channel was up to. And what did I see? Was it the latest video from Snow Patrol? A classic from Tom Petty? Nope. I watched kick boxing. Yep, kick boxing... on MTV! Happy Birthday MTV! YOU SUCK! The show, yes, on MTV, was called "Final Fu." What the hell is "Final Fu?" Nope, it wasn't a parody music video done by Dave Grohl and company, it was a actual half hour show devoted to kung fu matches. Apparently it is a reality show (ugh) hosted by Ernie Reyes Jr., a martial artist himself, that pits various martial artists against each other in challenges and point sparring matches, to find out which "style" will come out on top. Ummm, don't we have ESPN at 3AM for that kind of stuff?

Shouldn't there have been some live show marking such a landmark day? I'm sure Aerosmith and Run D.M.C. were available for a reunion. How about a top twenty-five all time MTV moments special? Hell, I could even watch the making of "Thriller" for the gazillionth time!

Oh, by the way? MTV also celebrated another anniversary yesterday. They celebrated 15 years of not showing any videos. Umm, last I checked, the "M" in MTV stands for music, right? Perhaps they should have called the show "Final F.U.," because that is what the network seems to be telling me these days. Somewhere, J.J. Jackson is spinning in his grave. Happy birthday MTV, may you too rest in peace. I'm Just Sayin'

For your consideration:

Money For Nothing - Dire Straits Mp3

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

From The Zelig Files:
Gnarls Barkley "Smiley Faces"

Who is Gnarls Barkley? Watch this informative video and find out for yourself.

P.S. Glad to see Dennis Hopper is working again. I'm Just Sayin'

Can You Hear Me Now?
Beck's New Single

My favorite Loser, Beck has secretly unveiled a new song from his upcoming album to be released later this year. The tune is called "Cell Phone's Dead," and represents what Beck and producer Nigel Godrich feel is a return to his hip-hop roots. The new album is said to be an infusion of Beck's more "reflective work" found on "Mutations" and "Sea Change" backed with the flavorful music of "Odelay" and "Mellow Gold." The packaging of the untitled cd will include a sheet of stickers so that fans can create their own personalized cover. Good ol' Beck, revolutionary musician and "Colorforms" connoisseur. Below you can see the first video from the album, the low budget, but always innovative standard we've come to expect.

The song is called "Think I'm in Love."

On another front, it's been 10 years since Beck's "Odelay" album was released, and an anniversary re-issue is due out later this year. Included in the package is an extra disc of b-sides, remixes, as well as "Deadweight" from the 1997 film "A Life Less Ordinary." Sure to be included on the bonus disc is "Burro," a mariachi version of "Jack Ass" entirely sung en Espanol. But you can get it here first. ¡Acabo de decir!

For you consideration:
Beck - Cell Phone's Dead Mp3

Beck - Burro Mp3

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Monster Mash

I'm still trying to get over Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic remarks. That kind of stuff, especially what with the happenings in the Middle East, still stings. So with that being said, it's Monday, and that means its time for a mashup. In honor of Mel, the man without a face (or a leg to stand on), I've decided to post the appropriately fitting Arty Fufkin's mashup called "Crazy Logic." It features Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" and Supertramp's "The Logical Song." Enjoy!

For your consideration:
Arty Fufkin - Crazy Logic Mp3