Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Get Outta Here November 19

(November 19) Once again, the Get Out of Town segment is expanding its homebase. In the past, Hudsonland has expanded outside of the KRRO listening area, including a few weeks ago when I kicked out the entire state of California for their embarrassing gubernatorial mess.
Well, this week we’re going international! The American borders can no longer harness my rage, so I’m crossing the ocean to get rid of a Brit.
Anybody who is acquainted with me knows that I’m a Beatles fan. I’ve stated before how this was destiny – after all, I was born on the day when the Fab Four recorded “Love Me Do”, their first single.
My very first album was a copy of A Hard Day’s Night that I liberated from my mother. Sgt. Pepper was my initial plunge into purchasing albums with my very own money…although it was undoubtedly cash that was given to me by some family member. My first bootleg album was also the Beatles, as was my first bootleg CD, my first box set (every vinyl album in a cool blue box), my first radio contest win. I’ve heard tales of being propped in front of the television for the Beatles legendary first Ed Sullivan appearance and the television debut of Help. When Yellow Submarine came out, I convinced my father to take me to the theater. I recall the television ads stating that anybody over 30 won’t understand. That ad was correct, as my pop had just turned 30, and he hated it.
And if one was to take a look at my music collection, it’s pretty obvious that the Beatles (along with the Stones, Dylan, Chuck Berry, and the Who) continue to influence my purchases to this day. My love of power pop is well-known, and the pop-influenced punk I love so much is generally revved-up Help-era Beatles. Most of my singer/songwriter faves owe as much to Lennon as Dylan, and even my more avant-garde choices owe quite a bit to Sgt. Pepper and the White Album.
As much as I love the band, though, I have to admit that for the most part they suck as solo artists...and I’m not alone in that thought. My favorite critic, Lester Bangs, wrote way back in 1973 that the “splintered Beatles may well have weathered the pall and decay of the 70’s the worst.” Paul McCartney, in his opinion, was “as inconsequential as the Carpenters”. Lennon would “do anything…to make himself look like a Significant Artist”. George Harrison “belongs in a daycare center for counterculture casualties…his position seems to be I’m Pathetic But I Believe in Krishna”. And poor Ringo was simply “beyond contempt”.
To be fair, there was no way that the Beatles could have continued to be musical and cultural heroes. Their career was just too intense; every record was expected to top the last, and the whole world was watching their every move. They changed rock ‘n’ roll from a silly teenage novelty to an actual art form. That kind of pressure can only drive you to excellence for so long.
And there is also the reality that the truly great bands are the sum of their parts. The four Beatles together had an exponential power that can’t be exaggerated. And that’s true of all great bands. Look at the members of Led Zeppelin after their breakup. Or the Who after Keith Moon’s death. Or Mick and Keith’s limp solo releases. Johnny Rotten without the Sex Pistols. Strummer and Jones outside of the Clash. Paul Westerberg without the rest of the Replacements. Nick Lachey without 98 Degrees…oops, forget about that one. He sucks no matter who he’s paired with.
Because of what they accomplished as a group, I’m willing to cut the solo Beatles some slack. I’ll forget that Harrison spent himself with a triple album solo debut that emptied his song stockpile. I’ll forgive Lennon for Yoko Ono. I’ll even forgive McCartney for dreck such as “Say Say Say”, “Let ‘em In”, “Coming Up”, and “Freedom”. And I obviously forgive Ringo since nobody, and I mean nobody, expected him to do anything after the Beatles.
But I can no longer forgive McCartney. He has crossed the line. The bastard should just take his two billion dollars and his new legless bride and just go away forever.
Why am I so pissed? It’s because of yesterday’s release of Let it Be…Naked. The name alone is too cheesy…a title that I would expect from someone like Britney or Justin.
The story of this album is well-documented. Let it Be was the last Beatles album, although it was recorded before Abbey Road. The concept behind the album was that after the excesses of Sgt. Pepper and the White Album, the band was going to “Get Back”, so to speak. They were going to record live in the studio without any overdubs.
Unfortunately, they were in bad shape. Lennon had writer’s block for the first time in his life, undoubtedly because of a newly found love for heroin. Harrison, on the other hand, was writing a ton of tunes but was finding it impossible to get them recorded.
And McCartney had decided he was going to be the leader of the band, no matter what anybody else thought. He wanted the band to hit the road, to film concert footage for the accompanying movie at exotic locations such as the Taj Mahal. The other three wanted nothing to do with his ideas or his leadership.
After weeks of filming and recording, the tapes were left to engineer Glyn Johns. He put together a couple of albums ideas that were rejected by the band. Months later, the band (except for McCartney) asked Phil Spector to salvage the project. His version, which added strings and other overdubs, was released in 1970.
McCartney was so pissed by this album, especially the strings added to “The Long and Winding Road”, that it became one of the causes for his lawsuit against the rest of the band. And now with Lennon and Harrison six feet under, he has decided to rewrite history.
Let it Be…Naked is now his version of the sessions. Naked is supposed to represent the fact that the overdubs are gone, but McCartney has also tidied up the album. Extraneous remarks, one of the few charms of the album, are now gone, and most of the tunes are spliced-together different versions. And the sparse new take of “The Long and Winding Road”, whose overdub-free version was already released on Anthology, now stands as one of the hokiest tunes McCartney has ever written, which is saying a lot.
Oh, and initial copies of the thirty minute disc comes with a bonus disc which features a collage of song fragments and studio chatter. Why wasn’t this stuff just added onto the main disc as a bonus track? I know the answer – money.
That’s the other reason this album exists – pure greed. And everybody shares the blame here – particularly the surviving families and the record company. It’s been a couple of years since there was new Beatles product for Christmas – what better than McCartney’s version of the worst Beatles album?
I’m not against having another Beatles album in my collection. But they could have done a better job enhancing the band’s legacy. If Let it Be was to be examined, why not the pre-Spector version put together by Glyn Johns? Why not just expand the original album to include other songs and other versions to tell the true story of the band’s demise? Hell, I already have a eight disc set of outtakes – why not just put out an official box set?
So Paul, just beat it. Or as you said on one of your own songs on this album – “get back to where you once belong”.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Get Outta Town November 12

(November 12) I’ve got a lot to bitch about today, so I’m not going to waste any time with some cutesy introduction. This week features a grab bag of locals and nationals that deserve a giant kick in the ass.
First off, I must start with a group of people that I’ve complained about in the past. They don’t seem to get the hint, so I must reboot. Please keep in mind that I have nothing against people that still support Congressman Wild Bill. You need friends in times of trouble, and Bill is certainly facing a few bad days in the next few months.
Sometimes loyalty stretches credibility, and a few recent letters to the daily paper are simply incredulous. A number of people have actually came out and placed the blame on the victim, saying that Randy Scott is actually the cause of the accident. After all, he was the one who struck Janklow’s vehicle…at a so-called high speed.
What exactly did Randy Scott do wrong? He was driving the speed limit on a state highway. It wasn’t Mr. Scott who blasted through a stop sign at a speed estimated to be around ten miles above the posted limits. One letter actually stated that if Mr. Scott had taken a few seconds to put on a helmet then the accident wouldn’t have even happened. What is wrong with these people?
Using this logic, I could barrel through 41st Street from a side street without worry. If a car was to hit me, it would have to be their fault, right? I don’t think so.
While we’re on the subject, it’s also time for Wild Bill to just shut up and wait for his day in court. His behavior last week at the daily paper was, while typical for the man, horrendously offensive. In his twisted, narcissistic mind, the so-called liberal media has it out for him. They’ll do anything to take him down, which is why the paper has reported so many “negative” stories on the man. He’s even had his people investigate the backgrounds of those writing letters to the editor.
I guess we’re back in Nazi Germany, where a negative word about government officials is a crime. Yes, the majority of letter writers against Janklow is bound to be from registered Democrats, just as the majority of favorable letters has to be from Republicans. That is the current state of political discussion. But I’ll bet there has been a few anti-Janklow letters from Republicans, along with a few pro-Janklow letters from Democrats. We are, after all, a reasonably open-minded state. Or at least I thought we were.
As long as we’re talking about the so-called liberal media, I have further proof that it’s nothing more than a myth. CBS’ gutless move to shelve the Ronald Reagan miniseries is more evidence that the conservatives actually run the airwaves.
I would never watch this show; I don’t watch any network miniseries’. But I respect the right of the networks to put on this garbage…although in a few minutes I will have some comments against a couple of shows that were on this past weekend. Les Moonves’ ass-kissing of Bill O’Reilly and other self-important media censors has not only made CBS the laughing stock of the industry but has also set a dangerous precedent for future provocative programming.
Before you toss me into the stereotype of a “liberal”, which I really am not, please keep in mind that nobody that was bitching about the show had even seen the program. Nobody had. One must remember, however, that before any script is put into production the suits pour through it to determine if there is any libelous material. The lawyers gave the production, which was based on a 1991 book, a thumbs up and nobody seemed to care until a couple of blowhards, who wouldn’t be happy with anything short of a gushing portrayal, started whining.
CBS should have just given these morons the middle finger and broadcast the show. It really wouldn’t have mattered. Nobody changes their opinions based on a miniseries. Those who love Reagan would have still had a woody for the man; those that despise him would still hate him.
CBS unfortunately did air the Elizabeth Smart story the other night, head to head against NBC’s fictional account of Jessica Lynch. Now these are two shows that should have been censored. Lynch can’t remember anything about her ordeal (oh yeah, now she claims she does since there’s a book to profit from), and there are disagreements over the government’s account of the story, but that didn’t stop NBC.
I don’t have as much of a problem with Lynch’s story, though, as I do with the parents of Elizabeth Smart. While I do feel for what the family went through, and I am as happy as anybody else that she safely returned to her family, I blame her parents for whoring out her story. They didn’t need to write a book; they didn’t need to peddle the poor girl like a sheepdog onto Oprah, Katie Couric, and those cows on The View. Be happy that your little girl is home, and retreat into private life.
The private life that I am excited about, however, is little Paris Hilton, the star of the hottest download since Pam Anderson went boating with Tommy “Bigboy” Lee. Last night I found five minutes of the tape, and it is a beautiful sight…except for the night vision camera that makes both participants look a little like creatures from the X-Files. A handful of positions and a little bit of oral find Ms. Hilton finally showcasing a talent. She’s no longer famous for being famous; she’s a porn star!
Yet I still must place Mr. and Mrs. Hilton on my hit list. They’ve been all over the press complaining that their precious little girl was drugged to a state where she was almost comatose. Trust me, the girl was wide awake, preening for the camera and searching for the perfect angle to showcase that luscious little body. She even took a time-out to answer her cell phone. She knew what she was doing, and if the Hilton parents had raised their daughters a little better she wouldn’t be in this current predicament.
Finally, no tale of family wealth is not complete without a commentary about MTV’s new series, Rich Girls. I never in my wildest dreams thought there could be not one but two young women even more stupid than Jessica Simpson. But these twits, one of whom is the offspring of Tommy Hilfiger, make Jessica and Paris look like brain surgeons…and neither have looks to fall back on. Truthfully, they’re butt ugly. I sat through one episode, which dealt with a shopping spree for their prom. As they’re about to visit one exclusive boutique, one girl states with a straight face that clothes should be free as they’re “a necessity”. The following week, the same person states that in a past life she could have been either Benjamin Franklin, who “discovered the light bulb”, or Muhammad Ali, who is thankfully still alive.
It’s an old bitch, but I’ll revive it one more time. Maybe it’s time that MTV actually shows broadcasts some music…and not the same Pink, Beyonce and 50 Cent videos that somehow finds airspace. We don’t need Punk’d, that dating show where snoop into the bedrooms of potential dates, the cheerleading school show, or any of those pseudo-documentaries that somehow turn geeks into homecoming queens or basketball stars.
Unfortunately, it’s time for me to wrap up this week’s segment. I haven’t even started on a few of my planned topics, such as this year’s awful episodes of Saturday Night Live; the inept announcing of Joe Theismann, or the horror story named Clay Aiken. There’s always next week.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Get Outta Town - Starbucks Sucks!

(November 5) As anyone who regularly listens to my weekly appearances, I’m a coffee junkie. It’s the fuel that keeps me going, and probably the curse of my lack of sleep. My day starts off perched at Black Sheep, waking up with the daily paper and my first cup of the day. Another cup goes with me to my office (or to this fine radio cubicle), and there’s at least two more stops during the day to prevent my eyes from collapsing into my skull.
I’m also an extremely picky coffee drinker. I can’t handle Folgers or any of that other store-bought garbage. Truck stop coffee generally ends up in the ditch a mile later. No, my brew has to be freshly roasted and freshly brewed.
Knowing this about me, one would think that I’d be thrilled that our little hick town is about to get a Starbucks. After all, aren’t they the ultimate in high-class coffee? Uh, no. And I’m here today to tell you why the Wal-Mart of coffee should not be in this city, and why the wannabe hip sheep in this town should stay away from this trendy but sterile location.
Actually, they’re more like the McDonalds of coffee. Every store looks exactly the same; there are no franchises (which means that all proceeds immediately head out of town); and every drink is a pre-made concoction that pours at the touch of a button. A monkey could work in a Starbucks.
Most importantly, there is no ambience. Coffee shops are supposed to be a bit funky; they’re the only place where the suits comfortably mix with the tattoo and piercing crowd. There should be local art on the walls and provocative reading materials available. They should have the capability to host radical political organizations one day and religious groups the next. Background music should not be Muzak (or Sting) but innovative sounds that you can’t hear anywhere else. And local musicians should have opportunities to perform, even if it’s for nothing but tips.
You won’t see any of that at a Starbucks. Instead, you’ll see nothing but boring yuppies who think they’re hip because Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal were sipping the crap in that awful When Harry Met Sally.
Like I said, I’m extremely picky in my taste of coffee…and if you’re picky you definitely don’t want Starbucks. Frankly, it tastes burnt, almost as bad as if their coffee pots have been sitting under a hearing lamp for a few days.
From what I’ve been told (from more than one source), their godawful taste is due to their cheap methods of roasting. The so-called “Starbucks roast”, which is the minimal roast level of their coffees, borders closer to the darker roast end of the spectrum, and tends to introduce a lot of carbon that creates that strong bitter flavor. This also makes the beans heavier, which means that a pound of Starbucks coffee is actually less coffee than that of most other companies. I challenge anybody to drink a Starbucks cup without any cream or sugar. If you can, then your tastebuds must have been destroyed years ago.
It’s not just the taste, however, that has me ranting and raving this morning. If that was the case, then it would be just a matter of personal opinion. I’m here to say that the company is hypocritical, selling the public a bill of goods that portrays them as an environmentally-friendly company that gives back to their community.
It’s all hogwash. They’re actually an extremely predatory company that’s known for waiting until a community has established a thriving independent coffee culture before sweeping into town to take over. Their have been documented incidents where they have paid off land owners to prevent them from renewing leases to competitors. They’re also known for building as close as possible to their competition. Sioux Falls is certainly an example of this. Hell, they’re even doing it to themselves this time. Obviously, the location that’s opening this weekend is directly aimed at Coffee and Clay, Black Sheep, and that sandwich and coffee shop on 26th and Minnesota. But they’re also going into a location on 41st and Louise that’s directly opposite their own store in Barnes and Noble. I haven’t talked to anyone at Barnes and Noble, but I can’t imagine that they’re too happy with the prospects of their regular customers now having a drive-through window a few hundred feet away.
Again, it’s no surprise when you look at other elements of the company. Another example is the Fair Trade Coffee controversy. You may recall a few weeks ago at the MTV Awards the lead singer of Coldplay had “Make Trade Fair” scribbled on his hand. While confusing to most people at the time, it was actually a reference to an international effort to make trade more fair to poor and developing companies, including those that raise coffee beans.
This effort has been around for a few years, and one of the goals was a campaign to make Fair Trade coffee the standard in this country. What this means is that a minimum of $1.29 per pound goes directly to the coffee farmers instead of the middlemen who generally pay no more than thirty-five cents to non-fair trade coffee growers.
After a campaign to get Starbucks to adopt Fair Trade coffee, the company agreed…or so it seemed. Their press releases certainly make it seem this way, as does the “Think Green” literature that litters their locations. What they fail to tell you is that Fair Trade coffee currently accounts for less than one percent of their sales, and rarely is it poured as their coffee of the day.
But the Fair Trade coffee controversy is nothing compared to allegations of their use of genetically-altered milk. Most Starbucks outlets are using milk that includes the controversial Bovine Growth Hormone, which is banned in every industrialized country in the world except for the USA. This drug is injected into 10% of the nation’s dairy cows, and the US Food and Drug Administration has admitted that the use of this drug may lead to increased amounts of pus and bacteria in milk. Plus, according to a couple of websites I found, the antibiotics used to fight the increased disease in these injected cows may lead to “greater antibiotic and chemical contamination of milk and dangerous resistance to antibiotics in the human population.” There is also evidence that other effects from this drug may play a role in cancer and have significant effects on colon tumors. And who wants those?
Other genetically engineered ingredients are reportedly found in their baked goods, chocolate, and the soymilk they use to make coffee drinks. There are also reports that Starbucks is researching methods to produce genetically engineered coffee whose beans will be naturally decaffeinated. Since plants produce caffeine as a natural defense against insects, does this mean that these plants will demand increased amounts of pesticides?
Let’s review. Holding a cup of coffee with the Starbucks logo may seem appealing to those living in suburbia, but is fake hipness worth getting in bed with a company that treats their employees, neighbors, and the environment so poorly? And even if you don’t care about those factors, doesn’t your tastebuds deserve something better? Wouldn’t you rather have a trusted barista who knows their beans prepare your drink, and happily tweaking the recipe to make it just right, than a minimum wage no-mind pushing a button on a machine that’s not much different than those you see at grungy truckstops? I know I would.