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File: December 2009

| December 4, 2009

A Nation In Crisis


This is a tough position in which to be. It’s natural for any Northerner to sit back and laugh at Southerners as they grapple with the definition of what is country music and what isn’t.

Once you get past your regional proclivities, however, you realize you’ve been there. Having spent a lifetime (or at least seven years) Talmudically classifying genres in iTunes (is it rock? pop? dance? electronic?), your sympathies swell while the vortex enveloping Taylor Swift‘s victory as “Entertainer Of The Year” at this year’s Country Music Awards widens. “She doesn’t sing country!” was largely the response.

Is the criticism sexist? Some accuse Nashville of going after Disney ‘tweens to boost ad revenue and they mock the voters as wanting to cheer up poor, widdle Taylor after what Kanye West did. This is, however, the same awards program that gave pop-rocker Kenny Chesney four of the last five EOTY trophies and allowed Darius Rucker, Bon Jovi, Kid Rock, and a perpetually rehabbing Australian (pretty sure Hank ain’t done it that way) to infiltrate. At what point does country music become music marketed to country people? Guess what? It always has been. Go Taylor!

You Weren’t There (The Prequel)

As Chicago Soul author Robert Pruter pointed out years ago, non-blues black music in this city has been virtually ignored by historians despite a wealth of talent: Curtis Mayfield, The Dells, Jerry Butler, Donny Hathaway. As IE was singled out for indictment in Soul‘s foreword, we’d like to thank Mr. Michael Abramson for getting Pruter off our backs, or at least distracting him. Abramson’s photographs comprise Light On The South Side (Numero Group), a black-and-white compendium that’s presented like a single night spent barhopping on the funk circuit in the late ’70s.

Once your imagination gets past pasting these outfits on today’s fashion-ignorant, giant white T-shirt-wearing hip-hop heads, Abramson’s pics take on a life of their own. This was a time when people knew how to dress like they were gonna be fuckin’ partying. You can’t tell if these folks are just beginning their nights, in mid-buzz, or if they’re always inside tiny Pepper’s Jukebox. The words provide some context and there’s even a two-CD soundtrack to satisfy your pelvic urges, but the darkroom where these shots were developed must have been the stonest groove ever.

Pictures Of Lilith

True story: As we all know, sometimes extra tickets for a sold-out show are released day of. I used to work a Ticketmaster counter at a Blockbuster, and shared this info with an attractive customer who was denied Lilith Fair tickets. Idling away a Saturday afternoon, I noticed the Post-It she left her number on, checked the system, and called her with the news. After she arrived and paid, she said, “Is there anything I can do for you?” And what does my single-ass reply? “Just doing my job, ma’am.” Girl frowns, leaves. Coworker punches me.

Well, get out your sun dress and throw it over a pair of jeans, because Lilith Fair is back for 2010. The organizers have added a twist via, for a sexist talent search to uncover the next-best emerging femmes on the continent. Each tour stop will feature the winner of a “Local Lilith Talent Search,” which involves communities in the selection process. The rest of the info is at You’re welcome. Just doing my job. Crimony.

They Don’t Sell ‘Em Like They Used To

Get this: You can’t just cover The Beatles and make a buck. Forget those American English guys who jump around and, “Oh, look at me! I’m a bloody walrus!” We’re talking about everyday con men who just want to pull one over on ya.

A Santa Cruz, California-based company called Bluebeat found itself under relentless, EMI/Apple Records pressure because all the little company wanted to do was issue its own versions of Beatles classics. Using his contrived “psycho-acoustic simulation,” owner Hank Risan rose up against the monolithic giants and claimed free-reign under copyright law. His ingenious, sonic enhancements more or less consisted of him starting a Fab album on one stereo and then hitting “record” on another: instant, re-recorded classic! And personal copyright!

Yes, Risan contends, this is legal! And he’s actually spending money to defend his honor. If he wins, it will turn copyright upside-down — good thing we’ve been issuing our own psycho-acoustic runs of IE since ’87.

– Steve Forstneger

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Category: Columns, File, Monthly

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