The rise of the Middle East was one key to the amount of action [the 1990s] saw. The initial credit goes to Billy Ruane, a beloved local character who never did anything quietly. Indeed, the sight of Ruane in full glory—shirt hanging open, feet flying in all directions, drinks toppling in his wake—was often more interesting than whatever band he was watching. In early 1988 he booked himself a birthday party at T.T. the Bear’s Place in Central Square, only to wind up with more bands than the club could fit. So he arranged a second stage at the family-run Middle East restaurant next door. Danny Mydlack, a performance artist who was known to shave his own chest while playing the accordion, was the first act to appear, followed by the Blake Babies; and a fine time was had by all.
Soon the downstairs bowling alley would be converted to a music venue, and the rest is history.
One thing I’ve learned about the Boston rock scene is that bands from here are often as locally-conscious as their New York counterparts, constantly name-checking local streets, hangouts, and bands. The Real Kids are a stellar example (frontman John Felice probably learned it from the master of name-checking himself, Jonathan Richman, when Felice was in an early lineup of the Modern Lovers). Here’s a stanza from their “Better Be Good:”
Everywhere I go I hear kids talking,
“There’s nothing going on. The town ain’t rockin’ Like it did before
Way back in ’64″
When we were rocking with The Ramrods
When we were shaking with The Pandas
You know it don’t seem the same
Without The Remains.
The lyrics stand as a Rosetta Stone, highlighting some of the best of the mid-60s Boston scene. The Remains are probably our most famous mid-60s export, going down in history as an opening act for the Beatles, a featured part of the Nuggetsbox set, and even briefly highlighted in the movie Superbad. “The Ramrods” is probably a reference to the Rockin’ Ramrods, a group which came shortly after the Remains, was featured on a volume of Pebbles and still seem to be somewhat active today. For a good while, though, I couldn’t figure out who “The Pandas” were. It wasn’t until after some sophisticated Google searching that I figured Felice is probably referencing Teddy and the Pandas, an all-but forgotten 60s pop band from Beverly, Mass. With a little more searching I managed to turn up their only album, a 1968 lost gem called Basic Magnetism.
The album is a beautiful artifact of the Sundazed-psych era, with baroque-like numbers including “Shine A Little Light,” “Childhood Friends,” the goofy “At The Debutanes’ Ball,” and the deliciously fuzzy title track. “Kona, Idaho” is a surprisingly complicated song, hopping from meter to meter like a peculiar bridge from late-period Beatles and the prog-rock songs to come in the 1970s. (Speaking of late-period Beatles, “Raspberry Salesman” quite plainly evokes a certain psych-laden song about fields of small red fruit, released around the same time.) Amidst all of this steady 60s rock gets its due with “Running from Love” and “Crossing Man.” Clearly drawing more from the Remains than the hard-edged rockers which dominated garage rock going forward (like the Real Kids, for that matter), the Pandas stand like the last of the innocent 60s: not angry, but not bubblegum either, and a wonderful accompaniment to a hot summer day.
So today, 68 days from September, I decided to post up the Panda’s “68 Days ‘Til September.” Hope you enjoy it. Find out more about the band here and here, and buy their stuff here.
My good friend and bandmate Oscar works at Planet Records in Harvard Square. Like many of its record-store contemporaries, Planet does not put out CDs and jewel cases in its shelves. Instead, it keeps the CDs behind the counter and puts out either the liner notes or a placeholder card in their place. Oscar, as part of his job, gets to design the placeholders. And he makes it an art form:
You know, Record Store Day is right around the corner. Why not go out to Planet today and celebrate a little early? You can see all these beautiful cards in person, and if you buy the CD you can probably ask Oscar to keep the card.
I love snow. I think it has something to do with being a February kid. So I’m really enjoying the DC Snow-my-god-apocalypse 2010. (Of course it already has a Wikipedia page!) It’s already eclipsed the December storm, which I barely escaped thanks to my whimsical decision to take the train back north. For my Boston friends, this is coming pretty close to the January 2005 storm that shut our fair city down for a day or two (except that one Dunks on Boylston St.). Here’s the view outside my row house:
I’ve created a Flickr event to start collecting some photos of the storm. Should I get all my work done I plan walk down to the Capitol, snap some pictures of the Hill, and post them up there.
Update, 9PM: I did go out there, and added a little over 100 photos from my trip down from the Hill through the Mall and back through Chinatown. It was a lovely expedition.
In spite of all the great criticism that can come out of a non-crisis-turned-real-crisis-in-confidence like this, three years out I think we can all sit back and laugh at how silly we were back then…
Watching the news clip again, knowing what we know now, I’d say the most embarrassing thing about this whole endeavor is the failure in truth. The leap made instantly by every media outlet was that these were bombs or deliberate bomb hoaxes. The impression was strong enough for the two responsible to be indicted under a hoax device law, although the charges were later dropped.
How persistent that horrible rumor was that day, despite every college-aged kid running out to tell every adult they knew that (a) these things had been up for over a week and (b) we knew they were just custom-shopped Lite Brites. How tragic times are when our society immediately assumes that any urban art like this has sinister implications.
Let’s think twice before reacting like this again.
Meanwhile, Billboard notes that a the Circuit Court of Appeals for DC on Friday displayed some skepticism over the FCC’s authority to regulate Internet service providers in the name of network neutrality. One of my friends was at the hearing, so I hope to hear more from him on this point. This also is probably a good time to note that the always excellent Future of Music Coalition has come out with a new tool for artists to comment FCC net neutrality regulation. There’s an interesting tension in the music industry here, as Billboard seems to hint at net neutrality being a bad thing (as it hinders the ability of P2P filtering and other ideas record companies and some artists support), while the FMC has come out strongly in support of neutrality as an equalizing force in the industry.
Billboard also has a music-centered rundown of CES for the curious. Billboard notes an increased use of music celebrities (Ms. Gaga, Mr. Dre, Mr. Diddy, Mr. Rock, and Ms. Swift) to promote consumer electronics from Monster Cable, Qualcomm, Sony. Billboard treats this as an indication that consumer products budgets are loosening up, which may be a good sign for the music economy (and the economy in general).
I’m back in DC after another lovely few weeks up in Massachusetts. I feel as though I’ve been out of touch with the world of current events, so I took a slice of my extended break to catch up on my RSS feeds. Here are a few stories that caught my eye. Once things settle down here a little bit I’ll start writing in earnest again.
Although I never wrote much about it on this blog for reasons I expressed here, I’ve been following the recent developments in the Sony v. Tenenbaum case. After the jury verdict came down and formal judgment was entered in December, much has been made of the constitutionality (and in some circles, the prudence) of the $675,000 verdict in Tenenbaum and $1,920,000 in Captiol v. Thomas. The team defending Tenenbaum have now filed a motion for a new trial on these grounds, arguing the verdict violated due process under St. Louis I.M. & S. Ry. Co. v. Williams and progeny. Predictably, Torrentfreak sees this as potentially diluting the lofty statutory damages used by the RIAA to scare its patrons into so many $3500 settlements, while Ben Sheffner over at Copyrights & Campaigns notes the conspicuous absence of any case that has found statutory damages(as opposedto punitive damages) to be violative of due process. UPenn was gracious enough to host an excellent back-and-forth between Sheffner and Pamela Samuelson on this exact subject, for the especially curious. Constitutional question aside, Ron Coleman over at Likelihood of Confusion gives a great wide-angle perspective on the whole affair, which I found rather refreshing.
Speaking of Mr. Sheffner, he posted up on Wired the 5 cases that defined music law for 2009. While I disagree with his analysis (I often do), he lays out exactly where we are in this field today: RIAA filesharing battles finding results with massive judgments against individuals, the MGM v. Grokster “inducement” theory finding some teeth in the Bit Torrent realm, and content creators clashing head-on with online service providers over DMCA safe harbors. (And Bridgeport v. Dimension Films is still good law, much to my chagrin.) And while we’re on the subject of Wired end-of-the-era lists, here are the top 10 cybercrimes of the decade.
Meanwhile, some law nerd circles – including the always excellent Volokh Conspiracy – are buzzing about the constitutional questions raised by the health reform legislation pending in Congress. The argument, according to those raising it, is that the mandate that all persons buy health insurance is an unconstitutional exercise of congressional power under the Commerce Clause. As I was discussing with my roommates tonight (GWU Law 2Ls, the lot of us), I just don’t see this argument flying under the modern-day Lopeztest. Nevertheless, there appears to be a lawsuit waiting for ripeness in the wings.
On the music front, my friend Sawyer Jacobs’ fantastic music collective Underwater Peoples just released their winter sampler. For those of you that missed it, they made a good splash back in June with their summer analogue, including some rare praise from Pitchfork. Fully acknowledging my bias after spending a great summer with Mr. Jacobs last year as Berkterns, I think these guys are one of the coolest collectives to hit the scene since Elephant Six. And speaking of those cats, one of the first new issues to come out of E6 in what seems like years is a new Apples in Stereo / Olivia Tremor Control side-project, Thee American Revolution. Both the UP Winter Sampler and the Thee American Revolution albums have been in heavy rotation on the ol’ iPod over the past week or so. Well, those and the annual DJ Earworm United State of Pop mashup.
My buddy (and singer-songwriter) Brian Bergeron has gone all Kerouac on me and moved from his (and Kerouac’s) hometown of Lowell, MA out to San Francisco. While out there he’s been firing up the blog and commenting on music, media, and society – subjects close to both of our hearts. I am delighted to see him take up the issue of net neutrality (which he correctly identifies as a less-flashy-than-normal cause for artists, but extremely important), and wish him all the best on his adventures out there.
For Brian and my other music industry friends: take a moment to read Bob Lefsetz’s predictions for 2010 and beyond. It’s rather 30,000 feet and raises more issues than it solves, but I suppose those are the sort of characteristics that go with the future-predicting territory. I think he was dead-on to raise the potential Live Nation / Ticketmaster merger as the most significant event on the horizon this year. I’m studying antitrust law now, in part to help me wrap my head around this beast. My fellow industry wonks may also appreciate this recent interview of Donald Passman in the Berklee Music Business Journal, marking the release of the new seventh edition of his All You Need to Know About the Music Business.
On the lighter side, way back in November Wicked Local Brookline brought us the best use of federal stimulus money I’ve heard yet: a proposal to fix the MBTA 66 Bus.
My new favorite blog is the Legal Satyricon, brought to you by IP and First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza (working in one of the most interesting places a First Amendment lawyer can work these days: the adult entertainment industry). Randazza is most recently famous for representing the owner of glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com against an attempted WIPO takedown by Glenn Beck himself. Randazza’s eventually successful response brief (PDF) has to be the funniest legal filing I have ever seen. As his casework suggests, the Legal Satyricon is a profoundly irreverent (and sometimes downright nasty) look at IP and free speech issues, delivered in a smug but intelligent way. Recently he took aim at Alan Grayson for using an anti-fraud statute to attempt to imprison the founder of an anti-Grayson website (I know. I used to like the guy too.), and totally destroyed former Representative Ted Klaudt for trying to use “common law copyright” to keep news sources from printing stories about his conviction of child rape and witness tampering.
Born into the most important roots music family this side of the Seegers, Bess Lomax Hawes was an epic anthropologist and musicologist in her own right, a member of the ever-interesting Almanac Singers, and, most significantly for us Bostonians, the co-author (along with Jacqueline Steiner) of the song “M.T.A.,” more popularly known as “Charlie on the M.T.A.”
The Kingston Trio – M.T.A.
As a Dissent Magazine article from 2008 points out, the history of this song is often obscured while we fawn over the Kingston Trio and use our CharlieCards to navigate the M(B)TA. It’s a fascinating history which sets a far better stage for appreciating Ms. Hawes’ classic.