Full Rage Against the Machine show footage from 1992

This Rage Against the Machine video from 1992 is a musical artifact along the same lines, though not quite as anarchronistic, as the 1985 video of 17 year old LL Cool J live in Maine. This show is at Zed’s Record’s in Long Beach and is almost exactly before their first album came out. Fast forward to about 25:30 when the PA goes out and Zach de la Rocha just keeps singing anyway, the vocals caught super quietly through the camera’s microphones. CowProd, the Youtube uploader (and cameraman) has another couple older RATM videos, including this one from a few weeks earlier.

Thanks, Alex.

Full Rage Against the Machine show footage from 1992

Michael Jackson’s Thriller changed the world

Michael Jackson’s Thriller is 30 years old yesterday and Billboard’s got a great write up of the album and the conditions into which it was released. I’ve got a very distinct early memory of going to a department store with my parents where they bought the LP. The tiger on the inside of the record packaging enthralled me. The Billboard article starts off with one of the music industries ‘woe is me’ stories. Things haven’t changed too much.

Stories circulated in the press about how the slump in the business stemmed from kids feeding their money into the coin slots of video game arcades instead of spending it on music. But that trendy theory was, to say the least, inadequate in explaining the industry’s malaise. What really had happened over the previous three years was a seismic technological shift that had torn apart the very idea of the mass audience upon which pop hits depended: By the end of the 70s, 50.1% of radio listeners were tuned to FM, ending AM’s historical prevalence and hastening the demise of the mass-audience Top 40 stations that had dominated the radio ratings since the 1950s. By 1982, FM commanded 70% of the audience-and among the 12-24 year old demographic, it was 84%. Consequently, a mass pop music audience that crossed demographic lines could not be sustained. Instead of listening to stations which offered “the best of everything” as they had on the old AM Top 40’s, the abundance of choice on FM afforded listeners the luxury of hearing only the musical sub-genre they liked on more narrowly formatted stations, without having to wade through everything else. The result of this shift was that each audience segment had only limited exposure to the music played on the formats targeted to other audience groups.

Billboard columnist Mike Harrison noted in 1981 that “No longer is there an exclusive Top 40 anything, but rather an ever-changing multitude of Top 40’s, depending upon the genre one wants to research or focus on. He added “Those who enjoy a-little-bit-of-this-and-a-little-bit-of-that….constitute a minority.” In fact, by 1982 many markets, including major ones like New York City, didn’t even have a mass appeal Top 40 station anymore. Precision targeting of audiences meant that radio stations needed to avoid playing anything that fell outside their target listeners’ most narrowly-defined tastes. Failure to do this would lead to listener “tune-out,” the fatal turning of the dial.

Thriller was the first multi-media album.

The first true multimedia album was “the ultimate crossover dream, a song both timely and out of its time,” wrote The New York Times. And then there was that John Landis mini-movie takeoff on “An American Werewolf in London” that changed the way all pop songs would be crafted for the next decade. After “Thriller,” every song would be conceived with its video in mind. And even though vids have long since made way for slime-ball reality TV on MTV stations, the cultural impact of “Thriller” is still being felt worldwide.

<a href="http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/features/2010/07/michael-jackson-thriller-201007?currentPage=all“>The Thriller Diaries is a 2010 excerpt+ of ‘Michael Jackson: The Making of Thriller.’

Unlike forgotten favorites from MTV’s heyday (Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf,” anyone?), “Thriller” is thriving on YouTube, where one can view, along with the original, scores of “Thriller” dance tutorials and re-enactments by Bollywood actors and Bar Mitzvah celebrants. The dance has become an annual tribal ritual in major cities around the world, with initiates in ghoul makeup aping Michael’s moves en masse; the current record for largest dance of the undead is 12,937, held by Mexico City. A YouTube 41-million-hit sensation features more than 1,500 inmates in a Philippines prison yard executing the funky footwork as part of a rehab program designed to “turn dregs into human beings”; the prison, in the city of Cebu, has become a T-shirt-selling tourist attraction.

None of this was imaginable back at the Palace Theatre 27 years ago. Jackson then was a naïve, preternaturally gifted 25-year-old “who wanted to be turned into a monster, just for fun,” as Landis recently told me—and had the money to make it happen. “Thriller” marked the most incandescent moment in Jackson’s life, his apex creatively as well as commercially. He would spend the rest of his career trying to surpass it. “In the Off the Wall/Thriller era, Michael was in a constant state of becoming,” says Glen Brunman, then Jackson’s publicist at his record company Epic. “It was all about the music, until it also became about the sales and the awards, and something changed forever.”


Ola Ray and I strongly agree on one thing: we both like to remember Michael Jackson the way he was on the night of October 13, 1983. I can’t forget the way he looked as I peered at him through the glass of the ticket booth at the Palace Theatre: elfin, radiant, ascendant. To me, Thriller seems like the last time that everyone on the planet got excited at the same time by the same thing: no matter where you went in the world, they were playing those songs, and you could dance to them. Since then, the fragmentation of pop culture has destroyed our sense of collective exhilaration, and I miss that.

For Ray, the scene with Jackson later that evening, as he scampered adoringly around her, was a defining experience. “That walk with Michael, when he was dancing around me and singing, I felt like I was the most, I don’t know, blessed girl in the world. Being able to do that and being able to play with Michael, and having him play around me. I felt so in love that night. You can see it in my eyes. You can see it for sure.”

Actually, the entire Vanity Fair MJ archvive is worth a look.

7 spoofs of the Thriller video.

Interview with Siedah Garrett, a songwriter who worked on “Bad”.

And then he says, Michael loves the song but – and I go, oh my god. So he said, Michael really wants you to – he says the chorus is too short. He needs a few more lines in the chorus. And he says hold – hold on a minute. And I hear (unintelligible). And Quincy says – and Michael really wants you to drive home the – hold on, Sid. And then I hear (unintelligible). And Quincy, hold on a minute, Sid. And then Quincy Jones puts Michael Jackson on the phone. But I didn’t want to come off like a fan, a fanatic. Oh my god, Michael. I didn’t want to be crying, oh my god, Michael Jackson. I love you so much. I didn’t want to be that. So I went strictly telephone operator. I was like, hello, how can I help you.

‘Thriller’ is, undoubtedly, the greatest pop album in modern history…”

Thriller changed the video game.

“Thriller” was so influential it sparked the mini-movie music videos phenomenon we stills see today. From Beastie Boys‘ “Make Some Noise” to Paula Abdul‘s “Rush Rush” to Lady Gaga‘s “Telephone,” making music videos that were an event, an experience, was not popularized until MJ. One of the most notable examples of “Thrillers” influence on an artist is Kanye West‘s 30 minute “Runaway” video. Creating a music video that people would want to watch for 30 minutes is only possible because of MJ.

10 facts about Thriller. [Slideshow]

Mitchell said the video for “Beat It” helped break the color barrier on a nascent MTV. “At the time, Rick James and other black artists were trying to get on there and that’s when the racist tag got affixed to MTV because R&B videos just weren’t being played,” Mitchell said. ‘Beat It’ was something that MTV just couldn’t deny and certainly opened the door for Prince and others to be on MTV.”

30 facts about Thriller/Michael Jackson. [Slideshow]

Michael Jackson’s Thriller changed the world

Heavy Metal Bob Marley

I could hug every one of you motherfuckers right now. Andy Rehfeldt has a bunch of different covers in a variety of styles. You could get lost on his Youtube page.

Here’s a Call Me Maybe bonus, too. He’s actually got 10 different metal versions of Call Me Maybe, so maybe I’m burying the lede on this post, but the Is This Love is pretty great.

Via Stellar Interesting

Heavy Metal Bob Marley

Appetite for Destruction at 25

A couple weeks go, Guns n’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction celebrated its 25th birthday. I saw a bunch of articles worth sharing about the album and band. Who doesn’t love Appetite for Destruction?

5 years ago, Rolling Stone had a long write up on the making of Appetite.

Released on July 21st, 1987, Appetite for Destruction went on to sell well over 15 million copies in this country alone, becoming one of the best-selling debuts ever. The album looked both forward and backward: The punky rawness of its sound and the pained artistry of its lyrics made it a bridge between commercial Eighties hard rock and the alternative music of the next decade. But Appetite was also among the last classic rock records to be mastered with vinyl in mind, to be edited with a razor blade applied to two-inch tape, to be mixed by five people frantically pushing faders at a non-automated mixing board “We used classic instruments and classic amps,” says the album’s producer and engineer, Mike Clink, “Our approach was reminiscent of stuff that was done in the Sixties and early Seventies.” Adds assistant mixing engineer Deyglio, who earned a credit as “Victor ‘the fuckin’ engineer'” on the album: “It could almost be seen as the last of one of those types of records, from Layla to Abbey Road on down. It could be seen as the last great rock record made totally by hand.”

Drew Magary remembered his first time listening…

They sorted tapes according to chart position, and I remember being overjoyed whenever a tape I had purchased moved up on the rack. When Hysteria went to No. 1, I nearly lost my shit. They also had a section for new albums, and it was July 1987 when I went to the store and saw Appetite in the display case for the first time. I had never heard of Guns N’ Roses. I had never read anything about them or listened to any of their songs. All I had to judge them was that cover, with the five skulls laid out on a cross, each skull sporting it own distinct haircut. Skeletons are cooler when they have a full head of hair.

…And then asked some folks for their experiences, too.

Here’s why Appetite is awesome. Everything else I listen to from the eighties is so fucking dated that it might as well come with a picture of Joe Piscopo eating out a woman with a super hairy bush while driving Magnum’s Ferrari. Shit from that era is so laughable, hipsters wear it because of how ironic it is. NOBODY listens to Appetite ironically because it still kicks the shit out of almost everything today.

Billboard.com takes a look back at Appetite.

“Appetite for Destruction” introduced a band that anyone who loved rock’n’roll could agree on. The metal heads loved the aggression, the glam fans fawned over their looks, the punks aligned with their rebellion, and the purists savored their blues-based riffs. It also contributed iconic images to the lexicon (Rose’s head bandana, guitarist Slash’s top hat) and uncompromising, powerful songs that remain incredibly fresh. Nothing quite like “Appetite” has come along in the 25 years since it arrived. And that, folks, is why we’re stuck with Axl Rose for the rest of our lives.

Spin celebrates Appetite at 25 with the worst covers.

Stereogum looks back:

A group full of hard-partying Sunset Strip veterans who’d all done time on the L.A. pop-metal scene, led by an Indiana transplant that still thought of himself as some sort of off-the-bus hick delinquent and compensated accordingly. And that band happened to have both the ridiculous chops that the pop-metal scene required and a sort of alchemical, otherworldly chemistry that few other bands in history have ever displayed — one of the things that makes their quick dissolution so tragic. And that hick happened to have this sensitive sandpaper wail that sounded sensitive when it was trying to sound tough, and vice versa. That’s a deep and rare combination, and somehow it doesn’t come close to explaining how an album like this could happen.

Wikipedia, always helpful.

Rolling Stone has Appetite as the 27th best album of the 80s, and #62 all time, but there’s not a proper review anywhere. (THERE AREN’T ENOUGH STARS IN THE WORLD.)

Axl’s mugshot from when he was 18. This is a cool post.

Axl rose mugshot

Axl’s 1989 Playboy interview.

Here’s the real long Axl Rose GQ profile from 6 years ago that I’ve likely posted before.

Then he was there. And apologies to the nice woman, but people do not go that nuts when Bon Jovi appears. People were: Going. Nuts. He is not a tall man—I doubt even the heels of his boots (red leather) put him at over five feet ten. He walked toward us with stalking, cartoonish pugnaciousness. I feel like all anybody talks about with Axl anymore is his strange new appearance, but it is hard to get past the unusual impression he makes. To me he looks like he’s wearing an Axl Rose mask. He looks like a man I saw eating by himself at a truck stop in Monteagle, Tennessee, at two o’clock in the morning about twelve years ago. He looks increasingly like the albino reggae legend Yellowman. His mane evokes a gathering of strawberry red intricately braided hempen fibers, the sharply twisted ends of which have been punched, individually, a half inch into his scalp. His chest hair is the color of a new penny. With the wasp-man sunglasses and the braids and the goatee, he reminds one of the monster in Predator, or of that monster’s wife on its home planet. When he first came onto the scene, he often looked, in photographs, like a beautiful, slender, redheaded 20-year-old girl. I hope the magazine will run a picture of him from about 1988 so the foregoing will seem a slightly less creepy observation and the fundamental spade-called-spade exactitude of it will be laid bare. But if not, I stand by it. Now he has thickened through the middle—muscly thickness, not the lard-ass thickness of some years back. He grabs his package tightly, and his package is huge. Only reporting. Now he plants his feet apart. “You know where you are?” he asks, and we bellow that we do, we do know, but he tells us anyway. “You’re in the jungle, baby,” he says, and then he tells us that we are going to die.

When Guns opened for the Rolling Stones in LA in 1989.

First press mention of Guns n’ Roses I could find, July 1986 in the LA Times.

Four days after the five members of Guns & Roses got together in Silver Lake and decided to form a band, they left on a West Coast tour. On the way to Seattle, their car broke down in Fresno and the musicians spilled out onto the road with their gear and hitchhiked for the next 40 hours.

When they arrived in the Northwest, they found out the rest of the tour had been canceled and they were only getting $50 for the show, not the $250 they were promised. They played their set on borrowed gear and then turned around and hitched back to Los Angeles, broke and tired.

Here are 178 Guns n’ Roses articles copied (or in some cases transcribed?) onto a fan site. So much in here. Tons of magazine features and interviews.

And just for kicks, Chuck Klosterman reviewing Chinese Democracy.

Appetite for Destruction at 25