Browsing Tag

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Career Killers: “Talk Show” by The Go-Go’s

I’m not the biggest Billy Corgan fan, but there are times where he can be very insightful and thoughtful. For instance, in a 2017 interview with Joe Rogan, Corgan talked about how the original Smashing Pumpkins imploded and why a lot of it stemmed from the fact that he, as the main songwriter, made a lot more money than his bandmates.

According to him, one day, early in the band’s history, some record label folks took Corgan to breakfast and explained to him some of the realities of the music business. “They said: ‘Songwriters in bands make a lot more money, so our suggestion is you should share your songs with your bandmates to keep a democratic stasis.’ I was like ‘Hell no, I’m not giving them my work.'” he said. “Fast forward four years later, I’m making a lot more money than them, and that sews discontent.”

According to Corgan, being the main songwriter had another effect besides the financial — he was now seen as the genius auteur and his bandmates were seen as nothing more than his backup. “We’d get into a room with journalists and they would just talk to me. Then we would get out of the interview and the band members would yell at me for them not being asked questions,” he said. “It’s like an erosion factor. You don’t appreciate it from within, there’s a lot of compression and money and stuff going on, then one day it hollows out. And then it’s too late and you can’t just sit down and have a meeting because the wounds are too deep.”

Perhaps if he had taken a page from R.E.M.’s book, things would have gone better. When R.E.M. first started out, Peter Buck insisted on splitting the songwriting royalties equally. According to Band Together: Internal Dynamics in U2, R.E.M. Radiohead and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, by Mirit Eliraz, Buck didn’t want the band to end up like Creedence Clearwater Revival and others and recognized that this was the best way to ensure no one got the short end of the stick. Plus, in his mind, the band’s songs were just that — even though members composed songs individually, they would work together to improve them and make sure they met the band’s high standards. Other groups have taken a similar approach, including U2 and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (who write songs that arise out of group jam sessions), and Radiohead and Coldplay, where one person dominates the creative process but willingly shares credit to keep the peace.

Instead, the original Pumpkins joined a long list of bands that have split up because of songwriting royalty disputes. CCR famously imploded after the other three members got fed up with John Fogerty writing all of the songs and wanted some of that credit (and publishing money) for themselves. Levon Helm went to his grave believing Robbie Robertson had cheated him and the others in The Band out of songwriting royalties. Jane’s Addiction almost broke up before its debut album was released because of a royalty dispute. Spandau Ballet spent most of the 90s in court after three members of the band claimed they had an agreement with guitarist and main songwriter Gary Kemp to split the royalties, something Kemp, obviously, denied.

And then there’s The Go-Go’s. The band was barely hanging on by a thread by the time of its 1984 album Talk Show. A songwriting dispute proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

(more…)

Career Killers: “No Code” by Pearl Jam

There were several reasons why Neil Young got the moniker “Godfather of Grunge.”

His 1979 album, Rust Never Sleeps, featured a highly distorted guitar sound that proved to be very influential with several major grunge musicians, including Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder.

Young would become a close collaborator and mentor to Pearl Jam, performing, working and touring together throughout the 90s and 00s. Young even helped inspire the name “Pearl Jam.” According to Rolling Stone, guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament were already considering using the word “Pearl” in their band’s name, and after attending a Young show in 1991 that featured several long instrumental jams, something clicked.

But it wasn’t just his music that was inspirational. Long known as an artist who refused to play by anyone else’s rules, Young was famous, or perhaps infamous, for making music for artistic reasons without regard for commercial success. In fact, his label once pressured Young for a rock album and he delivered a collection of rockabilly songs (they didn’t specify what kind of rock they wanted). His label then sued him for making music that was “not commercial” and “musically uncharacteristic” of his previous recordings.

Pearl Jam would take a page from Young’s book for its fourth album, 1996’s No Code. The more experimental, less mainstream and barely promoted album ended their run of commercial dominance and abruptly halted their seemingly inevitable march towards becoming the biggest band in the world. However, it may have also saved them.

(more…)

Album Review: “Paper Gods” by Duran Duran

There are many ways to make a “comeback album.” There’s the “back-to-basics” record that countless bands and artists have done where they create an album that sounds like something they would have released during their heyday. Duran Duran did that in 2010 when they released the Mark Ronson-produced “All You Need is Now,” an album that consciously aped “Rio.” Another type of “comeback album” is the one released by a past-their-prime band or artist that is loaded with duets or collaborations with younger stars (Carlos Santana, more or less, perfected this with “Supernatural” in 1999).

Duran Duran’s latest effort, “Paper Gods,” is this a little bit of both. On the one hand, parts of the record are darker and more melancholy than most of the band’s 80’s-era catalog. Indeed, the album is more reminiscent of 1993’s “The Wedding Album,” which saw the band take a more mature and introspective approach. The title track, for instance, is over seven minutes long and contains this, fairly cynical lyric: “Bow to the Paper Gods in a world that is paper thin.” Meanwhile, the haunting “You Kill Me With Silence” is an uncomfortable listen, which makes sense considering it’s about how relationships are destroyed by a lack of communication.

(more…)

Shaq’s Rap Career: A Retrospective

Call it “The Day The ‘Music’ Died.” Tuesday brought sad news for the dozens of fans who loved Shaq as a rapper (more than few people bought his debut album, which went platinum and cracked the top 40 on the Billboard 200). TMZ reports that Shaq has called time on his rap career. “Would I ever go back [to rapping?]” asked O’Neal. “No man. I’m 45 years old.”

Looks like we’ll just have our memories of MC Shaq. He can rest assured that, compared to other NBA athletes that tried to rap (Allen Iverson, Gary Payton, Ron Artest, Chris Webber, and yes, Kobe Bryant), he has had the most success.

(more…)