Thursday, December 23, 2010

To Rock, or Planet Rock

One fine day in 1957, my grandmother was headed out to the general store and she asked my wee mother if she'd like anything while she was out. Having just heard Chuck Berry for the first time, my mother asked for the single "Rock and Roll Music". Imagine her horror when my grandmother returned home and deposited into her hands a copy of the Royal Teens' "Short Shorts".

Now, "Short Shorts" was the hit song, but on the flip side there was an instrumental entitled "Planet Rock". The story goes that the little country store did not have any Chuck Berry, and the old folks, not being hip to the new fad that was sweeping the nation, opined that my pre-teen mom would be just as happy with the Royal Teens since there was a 'rock' in the name of one of the songs. Hell, she probably wouldn't even notice the difference.

As long as I can remember, there has never been a 45 of "Rock and Roll Music" in my mother's maroon box of seven inch little records with the big holes, but in addition to "Short Shorts" there are several Elvis records, the obligatory Beatles records, a couple of picture-sleeved Rolling Stones and Animals, and many more.

I'll be Frank. Some of these records stink. But this is a box of nostalgia, so that's not really important. When we were kids, my brother and I did so enjoy playing every record in the box, both sides, at all four speeds available on the 1970s Dual turntable we had. Let's not dwell too much on how bad that was for the needle- the turntable is long gone, anyway. And the records?

Well, what do you think the mail lady just dropped on my doorstep the other day, but a box of 45rpm little records. Their maroon box expired and my mother decided to ship them to me. Some of you might have heard me abusing your ears with them last Friday on Tight Pants. You can get a replay on that as soon as the archive of the show is posted. I can only wish WCBN had 16rpm turntables so I could play "Alvin's Harmonica" for you at that speed, but one thing I could never do as a child was play three of them at the same time. This, and many other reasons, is why I love college radio.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Child Bite "Fantastic Gusts of Blood" (Subterranean Sprawl, 2008)

Oh how pretentious. A record review. What do we think this is, Pitchfork? Oh no, it's a WCBN record review, written for the express purpose of letting DJs know what to expect before they put the disk in the player. Talk about a limited audience.

WCBN finally received a copy of this two-year old Child Bite album. One of my favorite bands on the current SE Michigan scene, Child Bite plays loud, intense shows where band members reel around the stage and things get broken. We just received this 2008 CD, and by now the
lineup of Child Bite has changed somewhat. Although Zach Norton (guitar) and Danny Sperry (drums) have moved on, the main forces behind Child Bite are Sean Clancy's unrestrained bass playing and Shawn Knight's demented vocals (he also plays guitar and keyboards, sometimes at once.) Yes, it's true what people say: he sounds a lot like David Thomas from Pere Ubu. Now that we've got that out of the way, Child Bite is fast, tight rock & roll. You can't really generalize that any one instrument is always in the lead-instead, the keyboard, the guitar, and the bass trade off and complement each other more than supporting or harmonizing. There is a lot going on with not a lot of over-production or added instrumentation.

I can't rave enough about how much I like the bass sound this band has, and how well I think it works on this album, but I don't want to give the impression that the bass overpowers the other instruments. It's just that it's much more than an accompaniment. If you like that sort of thing, you'll love this.

Child Bite is recommended if you like Six Finger Satellite, the Jesus Lizard, or things from the 1980s classified as "post-punk".

See Child Bite Friday, November 26 at the Magic Stick in Detroit when they play Hellmouth's CD release party.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Bridge is Over

Traffic Entertainment, under license from B-Boy Records, recently released a 3-CD reissue of Boogie Down Productions' first album "Criminal Minded." I'm enjoying rediscovering this record after so many years - it came out when I was in high school - and one of my favorite things about it has always been how KRS cops Billy Joel's "It's Still Rock & Roll To Me", changes all the words and then rap-sings the song as he taunts the Brooklyn hip-hop scene.

When I first bought my own copy of "Criminal Minded" I was baffled to discover it contained only instrumental versions of the songs. One of my best friends had the record, and hers had all the lyrics. I even checked to make sure there wasn't something wrong with my turntable, studied the album cover for clues suggesting why my copy was different, but remained unenlightened. I very vaguely remember hearing at some point that because of some dispute between KRS-ONE and B-Boy Records, the album had been re-released, but without the vocals. So I shrugged it off and continued listening to the album on the cassette I made of my friend's copy. Not a DJ at the time, what use would I have had for an instrumental rap record?

A few years after high school, several apartments and roomates later, I discovered that my copy of "Criminal Minded" had suddenly developed vocal tracks! I was mystified! Was this some kind of metaphysical miracle, achieved by half a decade of standing, overlooked, between Blondie and the Boomtown Rats? Was I crazy? Or just retarded? Had my "Criminal Minded" had vocals on it all along, and I just wasn't listening closely enough?

It took me until recently to guess that the disappearance of my vinyl copy of A Tribe Called Quest's first album, "People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Wisdom", and the spooky acquisition of vocals by my instrumental BDP record, were probably connected and most likely the work of a former roomate who also does a radio show. I was listening one day and was amused to hear him use the very instrumentals as his music bed. He must have switched his BDP record for mine. It seems plausible enough...maybe the instro copy was by then a collectible, and somehow the original was not?

I'll always wonder what really happened, but now, I can also have both versions of the album, plus a bonus disc of alternate mixes (including the raunchier, rawer, and much better version of "The P is Free") thanks to the music industry's growing re-release culture. I guess it's nice to know that sooner or later, every record we've ever loved, lost or sold will eventually come back to us in some kind of digital manifestation.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Subs for two weeks

Because of an incredibly secret prior engagement, I will be turning over the reins for two weeks to DJs Lillian (or possibly Rob) and Manos. Since there are so many thousands of you following this blog, please give me your feedback. Were their pants tight enough? Did they slack off, perhaps leaving the top snaps undone, letting their guts hang out? Did they just blow it off entirely, arriving in worn out green sweats and Uggs? Or did they breathe new life into Friday afternoons on WCBN, in the form-fittingest pair of Levi's 511s available? Let me know.

I hope you'll call and harass them on the telephone. You don't call me enough. Usually I am pleased not to have to answer the phone, since I'm busy playing "pong" on faceweb and checking my text-mail. Occasionally, I long for the affirmation that comes with my fleeting chats with you as you call and ask me to play The Offspring. If I could, I would play nothing but Van Halen and Led Zeppelin all afternoon, but unfortunately, the program director is a seething asshole so I can't. Someday I'll start my own radio station just for you all.

I'll be with you this Friday, October first, urging you to go to the free Japanese film at the Askwith auditorium, and the non-free Italian horror film on Saturday at the Michigan Theater. These are things worth doing in Ann Arbor, so I hope you'll take advantage. Then I'll be taking a break to apply for clown school on Fridays, October 8 and 15. See you when I see you.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pontiac: we build excitement!

I can't help it but every time we drive to Pontiac for a rock & roll show, that 1980s ad jingle runs through my head. Pontiac is so depressing it needs a song like this. Last night we decided we should return to Pontiac in the morning (or just stay overnight) so we could hit this fish fry at a church on one of the state-named streets. The fish fry starts at 11am and goes all day, Thursdays and Fridays! Then on Saturdays, there is a place right downtown where you can get all-you-can-eat pancakes! Then of course there's the pawnshop with a display window that defies description. You have to see it for yourself.

So last night we went to see Shellac at the Crofoot. It's the first time in 15 years I've seen them (unless they were at the Touch & Go party in 2005, but I just can't remember) so it was cool for old time's sake. They look and sound exactly the same, having been crystallized or waxed or whatever back in 1995. They also still do the Q & A between songs. However there were fewer references to Canada and none to ventriloquists, so I guess they were a little different.

No offense if you are a member of Shellac or one of their affiliates- At Action Park is still one of my favorite records and I have nothing but respect for these guys- but blogging is a stupid waste of time anyway, empty chatter that fills up the infinite reaches of interwebspace, so what I'm saying is pretty inconsequential. Why are you even reading this? By the way, if you are, Todd Trainer is too cool for words.

Listen to WCBN-88.3fm in Ann Arbor for a pretty subdued radio station ID from Steve Albini. I don't know what we expected- "Hi there, kiddies, this is your old friend Steve and you're on the air with 88.3 megahertz WCBNFM Ann Arbor! Don't touch that dial or I'll say something really mean!"? Nah, I guess not.

WCBN is transitioning to its Fall schedule so if you're a student and somehow stumbled on this "blog", before you navigate away screaming, read this: we take students and mold them into dorky music snobs free of charge. Join us on Sunday afternoons at 4pm for introductory training in the basement of the Student Activities Building. Go to the WCBN web page for more instructions.

Monday, September 6, 2010

What's new in Tight Pants?

Well, there's this article. But actually, I remember reading this one two years ago, at least, so clearly someone isn't asking enough questions. Let's think of some new ones!

1. Do you consider Zach Braff a role model? What about David Schwimmer?

2. If you answered 'yes' to the previous question, do you think your girlfriend respects you?

3. Do you even have a girlfriend?

4. What kind of underwear do you prefer and why?

5. You do realize these questions (and your responses) are totally insignificant, don't you?

Stay tuned for more nonsense.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Faux-Hawk

It's probably not even called a faux-hawk any more. They probably have some new name for it. You know what it is: a man cuts his hair a teeny bit shorter on the sides of his head and when he gels up in the morning, with praying hands, he self-consciously shapes the longer part into a crest. When he's done he looks like a chicken. The longer hair sticking up in the middle of his head resembles the far more daring, but every bit as cliche, mohawk, and because it resembles a mohawk but isn't, it is a fake mohawk, or faux (that's French for fake and rhymes with mo) hawk. It's a ridiculous looking style, and it says of its wearer, "I'd like to be more outrageous than I am but I don't dare."

I once cut out of the New Yorker a cartoon of a guy in a barber's chair looking at his new mullet in the mirror and saying to the barber, "no, leave it long in back so I can look like a nincompoop." The mullet, or neckwarmer as we used to call it, is now one of humanity's most reviled hairdon'ts. Anyone who still dares to wear a mullet (it takes balls and/or a complete lack of any sense that it is the 21st century) is guaranteed ridicule by children, strangers, and even old grandmas. Someday we'll look back on the faux-hawk in the same way.

I have to say, there doesn't seem to be any other major men's sport that's as narcissistic as "futbol". I don't actually care much about sports so I'm probably totally wrong. It's one of the only major sports where its players are not required to wear hats or helmets (basketball being the other) so the amount of attention each player seems to pay to his hair is noteworthy. I do like some World Cup action, however, and I can see the faux-hawk is alive and well amongst many of the world's soccer stars. I would prefer to see them all in mullets.

Bring back the neckwarmer!

Friday, May 28, 2010


This Friday, May 28, Sophie will guest DJ on Tight Pants while I travel to Chicago for no apparent reason other than to get out of one burg and into another for Memorial Day weekend. Perhaps I'll head out to see Andre Williams at Schuba's on Saturday night. Maybe I'll check in with Eleventh Dream Day at the Hideout on Sunday. In between, I'm sure I won't go to any record stores, because I really hate records and everything about them. I hate the weight of a big, heavy, old one when you hold it in your hands. I hate wiping it clean before placing the needle into the grooves, which I also hate. I especially hate the totally conceited artwork and reading material that comes inside. These bands actually think you want to know who played on their stupid album and how it was recorded! Sometimes they even have pictures or posters! And lyric sheets that you don't even need to squint to read! And don't even get me started on the seven inch little records with the big holes.

See you next week!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

More silly hogwash

There are two principle types of people in the world, and they can basically be sorted with the following questions:

1. Beatles or Stones?

2. Dogs or cats?

3. Analog or digital?

4. Night or day?

5. Chicken or lasagne?

Which one are you?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bollywood night with WCBN, April 14, 2010

A bunch of people wanted a list of the songs we featured for WCBN's free night in Bollywood, so here they are, in the order in which they were screened! The song title is first followed by the movie name:

Ke Peeche- Khal Nayak (1993)
Mitwa- Lagaan (2001)
Meri Jaan Balle Balle- Kashmir Ki Kali (1964)
Dhoom Taana- Om Shanti Om (2007)
Yeh Dosti- Sholay (1975)
Yaamaa Yaamaa- China Town (1962)
Aasman Se Aaya Farishta- An Evening in Paris (1967)
Mourya Re- Don (2007)
Duniya Mein Rehna Hai To- Haathi Mere Saathi (1971)
Baawre- Luck By Chance (2009)
Dard-e Disco- Om Shanti Om
Ghost Dance- Gupi Gyne Bagha Byne (1968)
Dekhoji Ek Bala- China Town
Dil Usey Do Jo Jaan- Andaz (1971)
Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyar Ke- Brahmachari (1968)
Aaja Aaja- Teesri Manzil (1966)
Lekar Hum Diwana Dil- Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973)
Jaan Pehechan Ho- Gumnaam (1965)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tight Pants soon to be even more annoying

It's Friday. Two posts in one week! This is to make up for the several months I have spent nobly ignoring this "blog".

Today's radio programme will be the last boring one for a while, I hope, because on Sunday the Ann Arbor record fair returns to Weber's on Jackson Rd. Actually, it returns four times a year, but I've been so broke for the past year I have avoided it. This Sunday I have taken half a day off from my job, where I work, in order to fill my old messenger bag with as many 25-cent 7" little records as it can hold. I suppose I might browse the LPs as well, but greater variety is assured with the 45s.

TTFN. I have to go crank-call my job on my day off.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Blogging really is silly.

OK OK, I will try harder. It's the same as a diary, man. Sometimes you feel like writing in it, but usually you don't.

Tonight (as if anyone was reading this "blog") WCBN presents a collage- no, a compilation- of song & dance scenes from movies of the Indian subcontinent. I personally spent innumerable hours of my time scanning innumerable Bollywood films for exciting musical scenes, and then innumerable hours importing them into iMovie (the only program we have that will do this, I guess) and innumerable more transforming it into a compilation that flows and plays on a regular DVD player.

Not being a Mac expert, I was not able to produce as good a result as I had envisioned, but hopefully no one else will really notice all the imperfections. You'll all enjoy the show, drink beer, and clap when it's done.

WCBN's free night at the movies is the second Wednesday of every month at Arbor Brewing Company. It starts around 9pm and there's no charge at the door. Hope to see you there.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Jay Reatard died on Wednesday, but I won't make a big deal out of it or launch some big tribute show today. Nick already covered that ground yesterday. Maybe when we hear more details about the tragedy- what killed him at 29, for example- we'll revisit it. Most people presume drugs for someone that young, and I always go through this stage of denial where I say, no, he was too cool, he wouldn't be so lame as to kill himself accidentally by drowning in a puddle of puke or suffering heart failure induced by overconsumption of cocaine and pills. But what would be more reassuring? Certainly not a heart attack before 30.