Category: Current Affairs

Robin Gibb: A Bee Gees voice filled with more than just disco

The Bee Gees' Robin Gibb, center, died on Sunday
Their hits could fill an entire Saturday night, last until the first church bell rang on Sunday morning and provide a sweat-drenched workout on the dance floor that broke only for the slow numbers. Even more remarkable was that each classic gem of the Bee Gees, whose co-founder Robin Gibb died Sunday after a long battle with cancer, would be packed with feeling.

There’s “Jive Talkin’,” the group’s frenetic ode to a lying lover, which highlights a skeptical Gibb’s sweet tenor. “How Deep Is Your Love” finds Gibb, who co-founded the Bee Gees in 1958 with brothers Barry and Maurice (Robin’s fraternal twin), describing him and his lover “living in a world of fools breaking us down,” when they should really just leave them alone. That song alone was responsible for countless dark-corner slow dances.

The climax, of course, would hit with the first few notes of “Staying Alive” from “Saturday Night Fever,” the 1977 double-album soundtrack that made Robin and his brothers  international superstars and helped define disco — and the 1970s.

PHOTOS: Robin Gibb | 1949-2012

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Robin Gibb and the Bee Gees: More than disco kings [video]

Bee Gees

Robin Gibb, who lost his battle with colorectal cancer Sunday at the age of 62, was a founding member of the Bee Gees with his brothers Barry and twin Maurice. In 1994, the brothers Gibb were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame at the Grammy Museum.

Robin Gibb not only co-wrote many of the Bee Gees' best-known songs, he also sang lead vocals for the group in their formative years. The Bee Gees peaked in the disco era with the music but proved a formidable force in the industry, selling more than 120 million records over a career that spanned four decades.

In 1997, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, prompting Times music critic Robert Hilburn to chastise the group's naysayers as "shortsighted."

PHOTOS: Robin Gibb | 1949-2012

"Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb injected an infectious dance floor pulse into their hits of the '70s, but the records had a style, individuality and grace that made them far superior to the standard disco fare of he period," Hilburn said at the time of the induction.

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Campaign music: Politicians are playing their song

Barack Obama channel's Al Green's 'Let's Stay Together.' Mitt Romney leans on K'naan's 'Wavin' Flag.' If there's a politician, there's a song ready to blare.

Knaan
Like less charismatic hip-hop artists, politicians routinely repurpose other people's songs. And like a great many rappers over the last several decades, they've often done it without permission. As we move into the summer-long showdown between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, here are five songs recently heard reverberating in the corridors of power.

K'naan, "Wavin' Flag"

Romney used this Somali Canadian rapper's 2009 hit after a Florida-primary win, leading K'naan to tweet, "Yo @mittromney I am K'naan Warsame and I do not endorse this message."

Al Green, "Let's Stay Together"

In January President Obama sang a few lines of the 1972 soul classic during a fundraiser at New York's Apollo Theater. It's also included on an official (and no doubt carefully curated) campaign playlist available on Spotify.

Survivor, "Eye of the Tiger"

The early '80s rockers went as far as suing Newt Gingrich to stop the Republican hopeful from using "Eye of the Tiger," best known for its appearance in Sylvester Stallone's "Rocky III."

Toby Keith, "American Ride"

Texas governor Rick Perry regularly used Toby Keith's 2009 country hit at his campaign events, indicating Perry's Southern roots and his freewheeling iconoclasm.

First Love, "Game On!"

Though not perhaps an official Rick Santorum selection, this effervescent pop-country ditty earned the former Pennsylvania senator's approval on Twitter. And why not? "He's got the plan," the sisters of First Love sing, "to lower taxes, raise morale and put the power in our hands."

ALSO:

PHOTOS: Coachella 2012

Coachella reveals 2013 dates, raises prices

Live: Pitbull, Nicki Minaj, Maroon 5, others at KIIS-FM's Wango Tango

-- Mikael Wood

Photo: K'naan. Credit: James Minchin.

Spin starts 140-character reviews; we write haikus in response

  Spin Magazine stars 140-character reviews

On Wednesday of this week, Spin senior editor Christopher Weingarten announced in an essay that the magazine would be embarking this year on 1,500 reviews written in 140-character chunklets approved by Twitter. I wish he’d chosen to honor the traditional Haiku form, which is at least lovely and historical, but alas, Weingarten, who popularized this trend with his 1000TimesYes project, also known as OperationKillMyself, chose to live in fear of the Fail Whale, which will never let you write as long as “Moby Dick.”

By the way, Weingarten stated that none of this means an end to the kind of criticism that can be read while consuming an entire cup of coffee, instead of one thimble –- not even a shot! -– of espresso. The magazine promises to post about 20 long form reviews a month on SPIN.com, where they started with Guided By Voices, who, coincidentally, know a thing or two about writing short songs but then stringing them together over a long course of time to make a giant pearly necklace of drunken fuzz-pop.

On the occasion of Spin’s audacious move, which signals either the death of music criticism or the advent of its leaner, quippier self, I’ve written some of my deepest thoughts and concerns about this turn toward Twit-Crit but in the traditional 5/7/5 haiku form because I’m not that into Twitter or its 140-character limit ( hey, follow my near-dead account here!).

The haiku format doesn't mean I’m not keeping an open mind about Spin’s mission. It's just that I once won a pair of Morrissey tickets in a haiku contest (true story) so this should be pretty fearsome. Here goes:

 

HOPE:

Spin will review “a

Lot of friggin' records,” like

Maybe your bad band?

 

QUESTIONING:

“No more 80-word

Blurbs.” OK, but why is this

Way any better?

 

EXISTENTIAL WORRY:

Twit-Crit will ping our

Minds like so many pennies

Raining on the roof

 

ACCEPTANCE:

Some will write shortly

Others will take their sweet time

To still write same things.

 

ONCE AGAIN, HOPE:

I choose to believe

Criticism will never

Die, like – shiver – Korn.

 

Please let us know how you feel about these changes, or the beauty of haiku, in the comments. Extra points for writing in 5/7/5.

ALSO:

Jimmy Fallon takes on David Bowie and Tim Tebow

Black Sabbath was reportedly to play Coachella, but canceled

Critics' Notebook: At Coachella, a rebellious spirit

--Margaret Wappler

Photo: A snowy white egret, which has inspired many a haiku, as seen in The Japanese Garden in Van Nuys. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Gavin DeGraw hospitalized after being beaten in New York

Gavin DeGraw attacked

Singer Gavin DeGraw has been hospitalized after he was reportedly attacked by a group on a New York City street and suffered a broken nose and facial cuts, according to news reports.

The cause of the attack, which occurred in the city's East Village, is unknown. A representative for the 34-year-old DeGraw issued a statement saying, "Gavin DeGraw was assaulted late Sunday night and taken to the emergency room at Bellevue Hospital by ambulance. He is currently under observation."

Starting July 22, Gavin went on tour with Maroon 5 and Train, and was preparing to host a live webcast on Wednesday, according to his website. He has now cancelled a planned concert Tuesday in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

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Colt Jackson's 'American Made': A Proposition 19 anthem

America, meet Colt Jackson. He's a simple man, a country dude who loves his wife, hard work, freedom and ... weed. If you're on the fence about how to vote for Prop. 19, perhaps Colt's enthusiasm for all strains of marijuana, lovingly recounted Bob Dylan-style toward the end, will sway you -- or not. Pop & Hiss, ahem, has no stakes in the matter.

Proposition 19, for those who don't know, would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow in a space of up to 25 square feet, certainly enough for Jackson (who may or may not be real), his lovely wife and all their friends. It also allows cities and counties to legalize commercial cultivation and retail sales and impose taxes.

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Pop goes the sell-out: How rockers, rappers and pop stars learned to stop worrying and love the brand

GAGA_VODKA_600
 
Sure, pop stars, rockers and rappers are faced with some troubling commercial realities these days: plummeting album sales, diminished opportunities for commercial airplay, rampant Information Age bootlegging and a wildly oversaturated musical marketplace.

But at least they don’t have to worry about a certain bugbear that caused previous generations of performers untold sleepless nights. Acts from the bottom to the pinnacle of the pop strata no longer have to worry about losing their integrity by selling out.

As laid out by this story, which appears in Sunday’s Calendar section, selling out is no longer possible – at least within certain time-honored notions of that term. These days, hip-hoppers, rock stars and pop acts are lending their music and images to a variety of branded products and services in ways that would have been beyond antithetical in, say, the Woodstock era, the punk rock '70s or the slacker-era '90s.

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Get in tune with mom: classic Mother's Day songs

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They make you eat your vegetables. They yell at you for getting mud on your new penny loafers. In some cases, they leave you in a car on a hot day with the windows not rolled down enough or get you a prescription to Ritalin. But overall, moms are pretty awesome -- especially to hug.

To wit: The vast and eclectic body of pop paeans to mothers that have been recorded over the last half century (to be sure, there are great mom songs from beyond that epoch but, hey, this is a blog post, not an encyclopedia). With that in mind, Pop & Hiss submits for your consideration an arbitrary survey of mom songs cobbled together hurriedly on the eve of Mother's Day weekend: 

"Mother Stands for Comfort": Kate Bush

Sample lyric: "Mother stands for comfort/Mother will hide the murderer/Mother hides the madman/Mother will stay mum"

I heart mom: Eerie synth-driven workout in the name of atmospheric angst though the song may be, it drives home an important truth. Kate Bush's mom loves her so much she is prepared to commit perjury -- in the face of some unspecified but no doubt horrific act of manslaughter -- in order to preserve the sacrosanct bond between mother and daughter.

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Sunset Junction, what's your dysfunction?

Sunsetjunction The L.A. Weekly reports that the successful but increasingly controversial Sunset Junction street fair (which takes place every August) has found itself embroiled in a civil war of sorts, the result of an ongoing conflict with neighbors and Silver Lake-area business owners, that went unresolved last year.

The Weekly writes that last night the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council Governing Board "voted unanimously in favor of a motion stating that it will 'oppose the Sunset Junction Street Festival in its current format.' What this means for the future of the popular festival is still unknown. There are talks that a series of meetings between Sunset Junction organizers and the Neighborhood Council will occur between now and the event, which the Sunset Junction website has announced will take place on August 22 and 23 and, as stated in the meeting, permits are still pending."

In August, Pop & Hiss devoted considerable digital ink to the dispute between the Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance (the official organizers of the Sunset Junction street fair) and area business owners frustrated with being excluded from the festival's footprint, which, for the second year in a row, terminated at Sanborn rather than continuing down Sunset to Edgecliffe, as it had done since the fair's humble inception 28 years ago. The festival has become increasingly music-driven, with multiple stages offering music throughout the day and night; last year's headliners included Cold War Kids, Broken Social Scene and Sam Moore.

Things reached a climax the day the festival was scheduled to start when business owners from the excluded swath of Sunset (arguably the heart of Sunset Junction) arrived for an early morning meeting with the organizers and a representative from Councilman Eric Garcetti's office, only to find that despite a motion passed by the City Council mandating a return to the original footprint, the official gate had been erected, again, at Sanborn.

There was a faux gate at Edgecliffe, and the portion of Sunset Boulevard leading to the real pay gate at Sanborn was completely empty with no vendors or stages.

Business owners were furious. They felt that the organizers were spitefully disregarding the will of the City Council and the neighborhood and vowed to take an early stance the following year. It seems they've made good on that promise. We'll be keeping our eyes peeled for more updates.

--Jessica Gelt

Photo of a very packed Sunset Boulevard during Sunset Junction 2008, by Stefano Paltera / For The Times

Jerrie Thill: She's 91 and still rocking (and there's a new YouTube video to prove it)

Jerriethill What do you get when you combine a 91-year-old female drummer on an oxygen tank; an eccentric, Grammy-winning songwriter; and one of L.A.'s funkiest, hyper-local galleries? A party that will likely be unlike any you've ever attended.

The drummer is Jerrie Thill, a spunky phenom from the Jazz Age who still performs at the El Cid in Silver Lake. The songwriter is Allee Willis, who has penned a wildly diverse catalog of tunes including the theme to "Friends," the Pointer Sisters' "Neutron Dance" and "The Color Purple" musical. The gallery is Ghettogloss, the tiny Silver Lake-salon-that-could. The fortunate union of the three is in celebration of the YouTube premiere of a music video called "Hey Jerrie," directed by Willis and starring Thill.

The video features a catchy, jazz-driven number that Willis wrote and animated photos from Thill's life of drumming (featuring almost as many era-defining styles as I have fingers), interspersed with footage of Jerrie, as she is today, swinging her brushes above her head and pleasantly tap, tap, tapping on her kit.

"I generally like very offbeat talent," explains Willis. "But Jerrie is just a fine musician." Willis had already made a number of music videos featuring herself as her alter-ego "Bubbles" when she discovered Thill, who was playing her monthly Sunday gig at El Cid. Willis was immediately bowled over by the spunky nonagenarian. "I adored being around her," she says.

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