Photo: Carl Schultz
Living Legends: Nils Lofgren On His Guitar Philosophy, Staying Sober & Meshing With Iconoclasts Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young
Living Legends is a series that spotlights icons in music who are still going strong today. This week, GRAMMY.com sat down with Nils Lofgren, an inspired solo artist and key collaborator of Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen.
Presented by GRAMMY.com, Living Legends is an editorial series that honors icons in music and celebrates their inimitable legacies and ongoing impact on culture. In the third edition, GRAMMY.com caught up with Nils Lofgren, a revered solo artist and crucial accompanist to Neil Young in Crazy Horse and Bruce Springsteen in the E Street Band.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse may have been in rustic, cozy climes while recording their latest album, Barn, but departed friends were heavy on their minds. From decades-long manager Elliot Roberts to luminous vocalist Nicolette Larson and beloved pedal steel guitarist Ben Keith, Young's cosmology is populated with far too many lost colleagues. One of the cruelest losses was Danny Whitten, the Horse's brilliant first guitarist who succumbed to an overdose far too young.
Current guitarist Nils Lofgren is keenly aware he could have ended up like him.
"If you're struggling with issues like that, you only have three choices: You get cleaned up, you get locked up or you get covered up," the guitarist, accordionist and Horseman — who's played with Young for more than 50 years and been sober for almost 35 — tells GRAMMY.com. He cites fellow survivors Ringo Starr and Joe Walsh, who both wrested themselves from addiction, and remain healthy and creative in their 70s and 80s.
Of course, Lofgren is known for far more than cleaning up his act; he's one of the most evocative, graceful guitarists on the planet, and an inspired accompanist in the Horse and Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. But as per his blunt axiom, living clean has allowed him to flourish as an artist and human being. He speaks with palpable gratitude and humility, both crucial weapons for breaking vicious cycles. And the best part is: he's got more music in him.
With Barn and a new solo, live album, Weathered, out in the world, GRAMMY.com presents an exclusive interview with the guitar extraordinaire about his past, present and future. (The conversation occurred before Lofgren removed his music from Spotify in lockstep with Young over COVID misinformation.)
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The Barn film made the sessions seem like a marked difference from the experience of making Colorado. While that experience was a little more exotic — you were at a 9,000-foot elevation — recording in the barn seemed much more comfortable.
"Comfortable" is a good word. Gosh, we all go back well over half a century together — as friends and fellow bandmates and musicians.
Being in the middle of a pandemic and having everybody vaccinated and testing and safe, you knew you were in a safe environment. Which, in and of itself, was kind of an out-of-body experience at the height of COVID, when you were worried sick at home and spraying mail down. Of course, that was from pre-vaccination.
It was pretty extraordinary. The initial intent was just to see each other and be musicians for a week or so. Neil thought he might have four songs — maybe five — but he kept writing and had more material.
We were sitting around, telling stories and just being grateful to be with each other — to go play for hours at a time and work on new music. It was an extraordinary 12 or 13 days — whatever it was. My wife Amy always says if I'm going to miss my birthday at home, she couldn't find a finer place or circumstance.
You've seen Neil's career from the very beginning to the most recent part. What does it feel like to come back to Crazy Horse with 50 years of experience?
It's an extraordinary level of comfort, gratitude and familiarity. We call it the Gold Rush upright — the same piano I played when I was 18, when I played "Southern Man," "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" and "Don't Let It Bring You Down." To sing on that at 70 — 52 years later — and be with people you've been through so much with, in the studio and on the road, just hanging out, in endless rehearsals over the years [is remarkable].
I did the first Crazy Horse album while Danny was alive, with Billy [Talbot], Ralph [Molina] and Jack Nitzsche. That history just brings a beautiful comfort level. We had cameras rolling in a drafty old barn — Neil set it up like a nightclub, so there's a stage looking out. We never put on a set of headphones once. It's the first album I made in 53-odd years where I didn't put headphones on. I got a kick out of that.
It was a very comfortable, beautiful experience in the middle of a frightening pandemic. I thought Daryl [Hannah]captured it beautifully in the film. I'm really glad that's going to come out and be shown because it really does capture the comfort and familiarity, high up in the Rockies.
When you think back to the After the Gold Rush days, what comes to mind?
I met Neil when I was 17, at the Cellar Door. Shortly after I met him on Crazy Horse's first tour, I was out in California. I looked Neil up. True to his word, he took me under his wing. He introduced me to David Briggs, his producer. Long story short, after a lot of Hollywood misadventure, I moved in with David in Topanga Canyon. So, I saw a lot of Neil.
They were my big brother mentors at a very young age. They were very encouraging and very honest. I remember my band, Grin, became the house band at the Topanga Canyon Corral. Neil came down and jammed with us one night and we really hit it off and were playing great.
So, the next day, I was at his house with David Briggs. And we were feeling pretty good, you know? Neil and David were telling us how good the drummer was and how much Neil enjoyed playing with us. Being the hard-ass, show-biz, music-biz friends they were, they said, "The band's pretty good, but you need a better bass player."
I was crestfallen because we were a team — a family. But I was only 17, and I had Neil Young and David Briggs — who had moved me into his home with the plan of getting me a record deal and producing us — what are you going to say to that? "Oh, you guys don't know what you're talking about?" So, we got our bass player, Bob Gordon. Sadly, we lost Bob a number of years ago.
But it was just that kind of thing. There was comfort in their relentless honesty mixed with encouragement that I always felt working with Neil. We had many chapters — Tonight's the Night. In between that and After the Gold Rush, we did the Crazy Horse album. The Trans album and tour in the '80s. "MTV Unplugged" in the '90s. More recently, Colorado, and now the new album, Barn.
And how did you end up joining the E Street Band?
Through the years, I'd go see Bruce play a lot. And in '84, when Steve decided to go solo, to my great fortune, I had an audition — I look at it that way; Bruce wouldn't call it that. But we jammed for a couple of days, and it was just five weeks before opening night. So, it was kind of a hairy thing.
I remember I was 18, driving with David. We used to crank Creedence Clearwater driving through the hills of Topanga in a VW Bug. I remember saying, "David, it's so nice to not be a bandleader every day. There are a lot of nonmusical issues that go along with bandleading that disappear."
So, I was very young when I realized [the value of] taking a break from bandleading and just being in a great band. Neil and Bruce, they're really hands-off. They don't direct you very much. They like you to come up with ideas. They might add a suggestion here and there, but there's a lot of freedom that's very similar between the two. They don't mind rough edges and seat-of-your-pants. Neil's maybe taken that to an extreme more than anybody.
Especially on Tonight's the Night.
That one was an anti-production record. David Briggs and Warner just said, "Stay down in it. We don't want you doing the songs too well, but you're still going to be singing and playing. And when Neil gets the right vocal, you're done. No one's going to be allowed to change the notes."
It was a great, dark record. We kind of call it "the wake album," because all our heroes and friends were dying. It was a dark time, and I thought it was a very commiserative, healing project despite the darkness of it.
Bruce and Neil are highly iconoclastic, individualistic artists. What is it about your personality and musicianship that allows you to mesh so well with them?
This is also true with Ringo Starr, who I've been blessed to play with in his first two All-Starr Bands — I wouldn't be a musician if it weren't for the Beatles! I grew up playing classical accordion for 10 years. I'd probably be at a Holiday Inn Express lounge playing the quarter-box, doing hits of the day.
But thanks to the Beatles — and the Stones are amazing, but at the top of the list is the Beatles — I found a crazy, lifesaving love of music that sustained me and still does. I think music is the planet's sacred weapon, really. Billions of souls turn to it.
On the Born in the U.S.A. tour, we went to a birthday party late at night with Ringo, and I got to jam with him. Late at night, having drinks, he gave me his phone number, so I began calling him every few weeks and establishing a friendship. Five years later, he called me in L.A. and told me about his All-Starr Band, so he could get back out there and be a drummer and sing and play. Kind of a round-robin thing.
But back to your original question: there's something they have in common. They quickly pull you out of "Oh my lord, I'm playing with a Beatle," or "Geez, Neil Young — look at his body of work," or Bruce. They're such natural "band" musicians. They're down in it. They're in the music.
Again, because of the freedom that's given, it's positive pressure, like, "Hey, I don't know what we should play. Surprise me. Come up with something great." David Briggs used to say, "Just be great or be gone." Like, "We think you're great. Figure it out."
I love your touch with Crazy Horse — sometimes, it seems like you're barely touching the strings, offering a subtle power. What's your guitar philosophy?
I fingerpick a lot, and there's a gentleness you can get from your flesh. The thumb pick is like a bore — it's very thick, no give. There's a harshness to it. A flatpick has a gentler sound to it. So, I'll use my fingers to get the gentler sound. And with the thumb, you don't have to hit it too hard, and you get quite a percussive thing — which, of course, lends itself to some harmonic playing.
It depends on the song. If we're doing "Shut it Down," I'm starting to bang with the thumb pick, which is very percussive. Then, you turn around and have a beautiful song like "Green is Blue," which is one of the great climate-change songs ever written. Most of it, I barely touch the strings with the thumb pick. Most of it is played with my fingertips. Whatever the mood is.
What was it like to be around Danny? Neil's written very affectionately and effusively about him, sometimes calling him more talented than himself.
Danny was extraordinary. Neil's got such a great vibrato, but it was really Danny who sang with that shaky, kind of Bee Gees vibrato. You can hear it so well in "I Don't Want to Talk About It," from the first Crazy Horse record and in a lot of his singing in the early records with Neil. He was very powerful — kind of a surfer, California dude. A brilliant, soulful musician. Very game for anything.
Of course, Danny was getting better and more creative and getting ready to make the first Crazy Horse album. It was at that point I joined the band with Jack Nitzsche that [Danny] was getting more affected by alcohol and drugs. It was kind of sad to watch him in decline because he was this real musical hero — all of ours, including Neil's.
At one point, after we made the Crazy Horse record, Danny went back to Maryland. He and I were talking about joining my band Grin as another member. He lived with us for a while. I remember we were at Georgetown University, waiting to see Roy Buchanan. We left Danny; he didn't want to come into town. He was getting pretty sick back then.
We were in the audience waiting for Roy to come on, but the lights were still up. Someone comes to the mic and pages me. So, I go backstage, there was a landline. Our head of road crew, who was living in this funky place in the country in Urbana, Maryland, said, "Man, I'm so sorry. I lost Danny!" I'm like, "What do you mean, you lost Danny?" He was supposed to watch Danny.
Danny was roaming the Maryland countryside, looking for drugs. We were like, "Oh my god! If he walks up to the wrong home, someone's going to shoot him!" We rushed back out there, looked around and found him wandering around. It got to a point where I was like, "Danny, man… you're so ill. I don't think you can handle this schedule. We're on tour in clubs seven days a week. I'd love you to be in the band, but you've got to get well, man."
He understood and was bummed out, but it never happened. That was the great tragedy when we were making the album. Danny couldn't be bothered to tune his guitar. I tuned it for him. It was lucky that we got that great album done. Everybody, including Neil, wanted to give Danny a shot working on the Harvest record, but he just never did it.
He was, in the beginning, very confident. He challenged Neil on guitar. The interplay they created together — and Poncho [Sampedro] carried that on so great for 37 years. Neil and Danny wrote the book on that two-guitar grunge — and the pretty stuff, too. And then the voices together were just extraordinary.
At the end of the day, he just became a casualty of alcohol and drugs. It was a great loss to all of us.
I imagine people didn't understand mental health and addiction back then like we do now.
Back then, the rehabs were insane asylums. I will say that while we were making Barn — and same with Colorado — Danny, David Briggs, Ben Keith, Elliot Roberts — they were all fresh on our minds. Elliot was a sudden loss recently, which broke all our hearts — especially Neil's. Elliot was in the room when I met him when I was 17, all those years ago.
That's part of life, of course, but it was a rough hit for all of us, [being] in a band with such powerful figures. You never quite get over it.
Neil's cosmology is populated with these departed, incredibly consequential figures.
It's just kind of endless. But that's life. It's a rough part of life, and you never get too great at navigating it. But it does really help to have the other guys there.
Ringo and I talk about the first All-Starr Band in '89, which might have been the greatest cast of musical characters in history. There's only a few of us left: me, Joe Walsh, Jim Keltner and Ringo. Dr. John, Billy Preston, Clarence Clemons, Rick Danko, Levon Helm… talk about a band!
From the Tonight's the Night band — minus Ben Keith — four out of five of us are still standing. That's pretty good for a bunch of old guys.
Do you consider yourselves survivors? You mentioned Joe Walsh and Ringo — those guys could have gone the way of Danny, but didn't.
Ringo's been very open about his sobriety. On the tour in '89, I was just a year ahead of Ringo, cleaning up my act. I've been clean and sober for 34 years.
The message is: If you've got a problem with drugs or alcohol, there's help. There's a lot more now than there used to be, but you ain't gonna get it if you don't look for it. I'm really proud of people like Joe and Ringo, who got the help and they're out singing and playing.
You can talk it around, talk it to death — but at the end of the day, if you're struggling with issues like that, you only have three choices: You get cleaned up, you get locked up or you get covered up. That's it. Every day, you pick one.
Photo: Jo Lopez Photo
Nils Lofgren Faces The Music
E Street Band member discusses the release of his career-spanning box set, and working with Bruce Springsteen
It's shaping up to be quite the year for GRAMMY-nominated multi-instrumentalist Nils Lofgren. In April Lofgren was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, a rare distinction for a backing group. The induction underscored how valuable the E Street Band has been to Springsteen's timeless music and live performances.
Lofgren first gained notoriety when Neil Young recruited the then 18-year-old to play guitar and piano on 1970's After The Gold Rush. He subsequently performed as part of Young's Crazy Horse band, and has also worked as a sideman for Ringo Starr. Lofgren joined the E Street Band in 1984 for Springsteen's tour in support of Born In The U.S.A., replacing departed guitarist Steven Van Zandt, who returned in 1999.
On Aug. 5 Fantasy Records will release Face The Music, a career-spanning box set of Lofgren's solo work dating back 45 years to his days leading his Washington, D.C.-area band Grin. The package includes nine discs, two of which contain 40 previously unreleased tracks and rarities, one DVD and a 136-page booklet with track-by-track commentary and Lofgren's personal reflections. Face The Music is particularly special to Lofgren because his early solo albums have been out-of-print for years, despite his best efforts to get them rereleased.
In an exclusive GRAMMY.com interview, Lofgren discussed what the release of the box set means to him, his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and how being a member of the E Street Band made him a more versatile musician.
What do you hope to achieve with this box set in terms of how your solo music and career are perceived?
The most important thing is that a significant part of a 45-year recording effort has been extinct for decades and now the best of it is finally going to see the light of day. Musically, it's being put together very intelligently in high fidelity. I also assembled close to 40 of my home demos and basement tapes, which largely I own because I've been without a record company for 20 years. The box set includes 189 tracks, so this was an extraordinary adventure. My wife was involved a lot. Our home was turned upside down.
Did you learn anything new about yourself or your work while compiling this massive collection and then writing most of the text for the booklet?
I don't listen to my old music much. I have so much in front of me. Psychologically, it was also kind of painful to look back because the record companies would not rerelease my old music and the lawyers said I had no right to this work. But this project got me to look back at it. It reminded me that I've been busy outside of those great bands I've been in. I put together 13 hours of music that I could actually listen to. Everything still rang my bell emotionally. That says a lot because I'm a very harsh critic of myself.
I especially enjoyed listening to your guitar work on a lot of these tracks. Do you feel that aspect of your talent can be more fully expressed in your solo work?
Of course. When Steve [Van Zandt] came back into the E Street Band in '99, we had four guitarists, including [Springsteen's wife] Patti [Scialfa] on rhythm [guitar]. By the time Bruce and Steve get done playing guitar there's not much left for me to do. So I challenged myself to become a musician we did not have in the E Street Band: a pedal steel player, a dobro player, a bottleneck slide player, a lap steel player, [and] a six-string banjo player. I studied classical accordion for 10 years as a kid from [ages] 5 to 15. I knew I was the right guy to do that in the band.
How do you feel about the E Street Band being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
It was a great honor that was long overdue. I'll forever be disappointed that they didn't do it while [longtime E Street bandmates] Danny [Federici] and Clarence [Clemons] were alive, which was inappropriate. It was a beautiful thing, but bittersweet.
What's made this band so special over the years and what role has Springsteen played in allowing the E Street Band to be more than just a support group?
In any great band you select people where you trust their instincts. You turn them loose and get surprised and inspired by their playing. It's never been done better than the E Street Band. You have all these great musicians that understand the song and instantly play the song. Bruce will say, "I want you to go play a solo here." He'll point to people all night long. He changes things all the time. The live shows are always [improvised], which is very powerful. You have seven or eight core guys. We've had 19 people in our band the last few years; great singers and horn players that all understand the music. They don't come up with ideas that don't fit. Bruce will fine-tune everything because he's our leader.
In your Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acceptance speech you mentioned that during the previous Springsteen tour the band played more than 220 different songs. How challenging is it to develop a command of that many songs?
Well, you don't have a command of that many songs. It's very challenging. Bruce might show us the sign of a song we've never played. We meet at his mic and talk it through like kids in a basement in the '60s. "What's the key?" "How does the bridge go?" If I come up on a part I'm not sure of, I've learned to fake it or just play a "chuck a chuck" on guitar and stay down in it and contribute in some way. … It's very exciting. It goes back to the whole [improvisational] nature of blues guitar, which I fell in love with through the Beatles and Stones. It's about the excitement of knowing that you've got a great team and having the confidence of playing a song almost nightly that you didn't know or a song you hadn't played in 30 years. Bruce has been doing more and more of that the last few years, challenging himself to make it an exciting night for all of us.
(Jon Matsumoto is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer.)
Let Freedom Ring With The March On Washington GRAMMY Playlist
Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington with a song
On Aug. 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and declared in his landmark "I Have A Dream" speech, "Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood."
In 2012 The Recording Academy recognized King's speech for its historical significance by inducting the recording into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame. Delivered before 250,000 people, "I Have A Dream" culminated the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a rally organized by a coalition of civil rights organizations that called for the passage of meaningful civil rights legislation and a program to provide jobs, among other demands.
Several artists have used music to call for a solid rock of brotherhood and sisterly love over the years. GRAMMY winners Bob Dylan; Peter, Paul & Mary; and Mahalia Jackson were among the performers who stood beside King at the March on Washington and dared to dream of a better America. On Aug. 28 President Barack Obama — joined by fellow GRAMMY winners such as LeAnn Rimes and BeBe Winans and former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — will deliver his own speech at the Let Freedom Ring Commemoration and Call to Action bell-ringing ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
As bells toll throughout the country, we encourage you to let freedom ring by marching to the beat of our March on Washington 50th anniversary GRAMMY playlist.
"Blowin' In The Wind"
Peter, Paul & Mary, Best Performance By A Vocal Group, Best Folk Recording, 1963; GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, inducted 2003
Peter, Paul & Mary's cover of Bob Dylan's popular protest song was one of two songs performed by the trio at the March on Washington. The two-time GRAMMY-winning track fittingly asked marchers, "How many roads must a man walk down/Before you call him a man?" The answer, of course, was blowin' in the wind.
"A Change Is Gonna Come"
Sam Cooke, GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, inducted 2000
Considered one of the defining anthems of the civil rights movement, "A Change Is Gonna Come" was released in 1964 by R&B singer Cooke as a response to Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind." Cooke's harrowing track was voted No. 12 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list and epitomizes the hope and change King called for 50 years ago.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, inducted 2009
Although written by Canadian Neil Young, "Ohio" spoke to the outrage many felt over the Kent State shootings in Kent, Ohio, in 1970. The song openly questioned the deaths of four unarmed students who were killed by the Ohio National Guard during a campus Vietnam War protest.
"Get Up, Stand Up"
Bob Marley & The Wailers, GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, inducted 1999
Written by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, this classic reggae tune was featured on the Wailers' 1973 album Burnin'. The group's signature call to action demanded people "get up, stand up/Stand up for your rights." In 1999 the track was the first reggae song to be inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame.
"Born In The U.S.A."
Bruce Springsteen, Record Of The Year nominee, 1985
Though often misinterpreted as a patriotic anthem, "Born In The U.S.A." actually speaks to the desperate flip side of the American dream encountered by some Vietnam War veterans. Still, the album of the same name garnered a GRAMMY nomination for Album Of The Year, spawned no less than seven Top 10 hits and was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 2012.
"Fight The Power"
Public Enemy, Best Rap Performance nominee, 1989
It might take a nation of millions to hold back listeners of Public Enemy's confrontational and controversial hit "Fight The Power." Chosen by director Spike Lee as the musical theme for his 1989 film Do The Right Thing, the track calls out everyone from Elvis to the American government, imploring people to "fight the powers that be."
Rage Against The Machine, Best Hard Rock Performance, 2000
Featured on Rage Against The Machine's 1999 GRAMMY-nominated album The Battle Of Los Angeles, "Guerrilla Radio" is the band's call to cut off the lights, turn up the radio and tune out those they describe as "vultures who thirst for blood and oil."
The Beatles, The Beatles, GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, inducted 2000
A year before John Lennon and Yoko Ono famously held a two-week bed-in for peace in 1969, the Beatles released this Lennon/McCartney penned tune featured on The Beatles ("The White Album"). The song spoke to Lennon's skepticism about some of the radical tactics used to protest the Vietnam War, offering the tongue-in-cheek guarantee that everything was "gonna be alright."
Edwin Starr, Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male nominee, 1970
Written by Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield in protest of the Vietnam War, "War" was originally recorded by the Temptations. Starr's version of this classic track helped him achieve legendary status on the soul circuit. His cover was intense and direct, simply stating: "I said, war, good gawd ya'll/What is it good for?/Absolutely nothing!"
"The Times They Are A-Changin'"
Bob Dylan, GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, inducted 2013
After the release of "Blowin' In The Wind," Dylan provided another anthemic protest song with "The Times They Are A-Changin'." Since its release in 1964, the song has been covered by artists such as the Beach Boys, Joan Baez, Phil Collins, Billy Joel, and Nina Simone, among others, during both challenging and ever-changing times.
"What The World Needs Now Is Love"
Jackie DeShannon, GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, inducted 2008
After all the protests, marches and calls for change have quieted down, arguably no song should be cranked up as loud as DeShannon's 1965 hit "What The World Needs Now Is Love." Per DeShannon: All we need "is love, sweet love/No, not just for some, but for everyone."
Know a song that changed the world? Let us know in the comments.
FYI/TMI: Stars Come Together For Hurricane Sandy, Justin Bieber Breaks The Law
Alicia Keys, Paul McCartney among performers for Sandy benefit; Bieber gets ticketed in L.A.
(In an effort to keep you fully informed, and fully entertained, below we present today's FYI and TMI — news you need and news that's, well, sometimes needless….)
More Stars Come Together For Hurricane Sandy
GRAMMY winners Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, and Kanye West, and legendary rockers Roger Waters and the Who will perform at a benefit concert for Hurricane Sandy on Dec. 12 in New York. Proceeds from the concert will benefit the Robin Hood Relief Fund to aid hurricane victims.
SoundExchange Reports 3Q Royalty Payments
Performance rights organization SoundExchange distributed $122.5 million in royalty payments during the third quarter of 2012, marking the organization's largest quarterly payout since its founding in 2000, according to Billboard.biz. SoundExchange has distributed $326.9 million in performance royalties for the year to date, bringing the organization's grand payout total to $1.2 billion since 2000.
Bieber Breaks The Law
As if Justin Bieber's recent trouble in love wasn't hard enough for the 18-year-old, the teen pop sensation has now run into some trouble with law enforcement. Bieber was ticketed by Los Angeles police on Nov. 13 after he was pulled over in his Ferrari in West Hollywood, Calif., for making an unsafe left turn. On top of that, cops found his registration was expired. Hopefully now there's one less unsafe driver on the road.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic.com
The Week In Music: Prince Is Down In The Digital Dumps
Artist refuses to record until the piracy battle is won
It's been almost a year since Prince formally declared the Internet to be "completely over," and now the artist formerly known as a symbol is back on his Web-hating soap box. "I personally can't stand digital music," said Prince in an interview with the Guardian. "You're getting sound in bits. It affects a different place in your brain. When you play it back, you can't feel anything. We're analog people, not digital." And the other problem with the Internet according to Prince? The lack of regulation when it comes to copyrighted content available for free on the Web. "The industry changed," continued Prince. "We made money [online] before piracy was real crazy. Nobody's making money now except phone companies, Apple and Google. It's like the gold rush out there. Or a carjacking. So I'll just hold off on recording." While we shouldn't expect a new album from the artist anytime soon, we can certainly rest assured that he'll be coming to a town near you, at least for one (or 21) nights.
With a combined 10 GRAMMY Awards, comedian Stephen Colbert and producer/musician Jack White are adding another commonality notch to their belts in the form of a musical collaboration. White and his Nashville-based Third Man Records have produced Colbert's recent single "Charlene II (I'm Over You)," the follow-up to the comedian's '80s new wave release, "Charlene (I'm Right Behind You)." Colbert, along with his backup band — female goth rock group the Black Belles — premiered the single live on June 23 on "The Colbert Report." The song is available for download at iTunes, but audiophiles can also purchase a limited-edition vinyl pressing in red, white and blue available from Third Man Records just in time for the Fourth of July holiday. But fans at iTunes are already looking ahead as one commenter wrote, "Can't wait for Charlene III (Did You Get My Last Record?)!"
Arguably one of music's biggest cult documentaries, Heavy Metal Parking Lot is celebrating its silver anniversary in 2011. Clocking in at just 17 minutes, it's a must-see for aspiring metal heads, and has received accolades from the likes of Oscar-winning writer/director Cameron Crowe, actor Ed Norton and Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl. The film captures the shirtless, beer-guzzling debauchery in the parking lot of the Capitol Centre in Landover, Md., leading up to a 1986 Judas Priest gig. It's lack of cinematography or tangible plot aside, part of the film's charm is its spontaneity. "We certainly didn't go in with an agenda or plan, and 25 years later we are still trying to make sense of Heavy Metal Parking Lot," filmmaker Jeff Krulik told NPR, and said the production cost for the film was a mere $5 for a parking fee. Have any of these headbangers cut their mullets? Find out with a look at what the alumni from Heavy Metal Parking Lot are up to in 2011. And you can relive the film in all its devil-horn glory here.
Politics and music, as they say, make strange bedfellows. They also create a lot of licensing problems. The latest rocker to issue a take-down request is Tom Petty, who will ask the Michele Bachmann presidential campaign to refrain from using his "American Girl" in any campaign-related endeavors, according to an NBC report. Musicians issuing cease-and-desists to politicians trying to co-opt popular songs or musicians into their campaigns has a long contemporary tradition. In 1984 presidential candidate Ronald Reagan invoked Bruce Springsteen during a stump speech, trying to hitch his star to Springsteen's working class fans. In 2008 John McCain apologized to Jackson Browne for using "Running On Empty." That same year California state senatorial candidate Chuck Devore had to make a similar mea culpa to Don Henley for appropriating "The Boys Of Summer" and "All She Wants To Do Is Dance." The grandfather of all political apologies to musicians came in 2010 when U.S. Senate candidate Charlie Crist took to YouTube to issue an official apology to David Byrne for his unauthorized use of "Road To Nowhere." As for Bachmann, maybe this would have been a better choice for her campaign stop.
After she wore a dress made completely out of raw meat to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, and arrived encased in an egg shell to the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards in February, Lady Gaga has certainly made a name for herself as a raw (no pun intended) and edgy fashionista. With the help of social media network Tumblr, Gaga has created a home for all of her fashion forays in the form of a photo blog titled Amen Fashion. So far, the Fame Monster has posted several entries that picture her showcasing a wide array of styles, from the self-dubbed "Tokyo Unicorn" to her "Born To Kill Look." And, not for the faint of heart, there's also an image of the organ featured in her "Alejandro" video with a post that reads, "He ate my heart, so I put his in the Alejandro video." Moral of the story? Don't eat Gaga's heart, but feel free to get a taste of her fashion sense.
White House party crasher Michaele Salahi made her recording debut back in March and made her live-singing debut (or at least live lip-syncing debut) last week on an NBC affiliate in Miami. Neither events made the splash she and husband Tareq made in 2009 when they crashed an official White House dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as part of a reality TV stunt. The song, "Bump It," a club-flavored dance track, is available at iTunes, where customer reviewer Klaus Von Bong commented: "Dump it."
Pitbull's "Give Me Everything" featuring Afrojack, Ne-Yo and Nayer is No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" featuring Lauren Bennett and GoonRock is tops on iTunes singles chart.
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