Five things we hope MTV airs on MTV Classic

MTV has announced plans to rebrand VH1 Classic as MTV Classic starting Aug. 1, which is 35 years to the day that MTV first debuted

Look for a “Total Request Live” retrospective called “The TRL Decade,” a marathon of “MTV Unplugged,” animated programming block including “Daria,” “Beavis & Butt-head” and “Aeon Flux.”

Here are five things we would love to see MTV Classic air.

Any awards show hosted  by Chris Rock. Rock hosting the Oscars in 2005 is still one of the gnarliest mocking-of-people-sitting-in-front-of-a-comedian performances ever (“Who is Jude Law?!?!”). But Rock’s greatest snapping-on-those-present moments came during was the 1999 MTV Awards. He also killed at the 1997 VMAs.

THESTATEMTVLOGO“The State” with the original music cues. The MTV sketch comedy show “the State” received mixed reviews at the time (and the crew’s decision to leave the network turned out to be famously unwise). But, as anyone who pays attention to comedy knows, the cast of the State went on to do great things. Not only is the show beloved by the very folks at whom MTV Classic is aimed, but the DVDs do not feature much of the 90s era pop songs that scored the sketches. Look, we just want to see the “Pants” sketch with the Breeders’ “Cannonball.”

Entire episodes of vintage MTV News and vintage MTV Rockumentaries/specials. Not just clips but the entire show. What else was going on the week Kurt Loder talked about Gwar? What else was going on when 2 Liver Crew had legal troubles? And can we see the entirety of that awesome Wu Tang Rockumentary in 1997 when it for sure looked like it was going to be their year except that was also the year Biggie died and welp, Puffy and Big pretty much owned all of 1997.

Badfinger, one of the most cursed bands in human history
Badfinger, one of the most cursed bands in human history

Episodes of Behind the Music that were only aired a few times because they were just too depressing for words. Thin Lizzy and Badfinger, I am looking in your direction. Especially Badfinger. Oy vey.

and finally, “Austin Stories.” Laura House, Chip Pope, and Howard Kremer, we will never forget you.  Even if you can find them on YouTube. 


What would YOU like to see?

This week in popular culture: Harry Potter, Pylon and Jason Bourne

Cursed“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One & Two: The Official Script Book of the Original West End Production” by J.K Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany (Scholastic). Between this and the upcoming film “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them,” 2016 is shaping up to be a good year for Harry Potter fans. Based on a story by Rowling, Thorne and Tiffany, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is a play that will have its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, written by Thorne and directed by Tiffany. (The casting choices caused some controversy among idiots when a black actress, Noma Dumezweni, was tapped to play Hermione. Rowling noted that she never actually stated Hermione’s race in the books and that was pretty much that.)

On July 31, the script goes on sale in hardcover from Scholastic and in ebook form from Set 19 years after “Harrry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” “Cursed Child” concerns Potter, who now works for the Ministry of Magic, and his younger son Albus Severus Potter. I kind of love the idea that after the “chosen one” storyline that animated the original seven Harry Potter books, he didn’t become head of Hogwarts or some sort of wizarding royalty. He’s just another overworked guy with a bunch of kids and a past that won’t ever completely leave him alone — just like the rest of us. BookPeople is having a midnight sale and release party for “Cursed Child” starting at 10 p.m. July 30.

LP cover v2Pylon, “Live” (Chunklet Industries). A 20-song live album from the other brilliant post-punk band that hailed from Athens, Ga. (July 25)

Descendents, “Hypercaffium Spazzinate” (Epitaph). First album in 12 years from this L.A. hardcore/pop-punk band. (July 29)

Death Grips, “Bottomless Pit” (Harvest).  I always loved the fact that this experimental hip-hop crew shared a label with Pink Floyd and Wire.

“Jason Bourne.” Cue DMX’s “What’s My Name?” Matt Damon is back as Bourne, and the excellent Paul Greengrass is back as director. Cue fist pump. (July 29)

Speaking of popular culture, check out Rolling Stone’s Comic Con summary.

Here is my favorite part: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is writing a comic book about Mycroft Holmes.

This is a thing that is happening.  You can’t tell me this isn’t the greatest country ever.


John Cleese! Eric Idle! The Oddball Comedy Festival! All coming to Austin!

John Cleese and Eric Idle. Photo by Rod Millington
John Cleese and Eric Idle. Photo by Rod Millington

Legendary actors/comedians/Monty Pythoners (Monties Python?) John Cleese and Eric Idle are bringing their sit-down comedy to Austin’s Bass Concert Hall Nov. 30. Tickets go on sale July 29.

In “Together Again At Last…For The Very First Time, “Cleese and Idle will blend scripted and improvised bits with storytelling, musical numbers, exclusive footage and aquatic juggling to create a unique comedic experience with every performance.




austin_02In other comedy news, The Funny Or Die Presents Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival Tour 2016 is coming to the Austin 360 Amphitheater Sept. 24.

This year’s Austin lineup includes Dane Cook, Sebastian Maniscalco, Ali Wong, Bobby Lee, Iliza Shlesinger and more. (As with years past, the lineup will vary from city to city.)

This year, IFC takes over Oddball’s second stage, now renamed IFC’s Slightly Off Comedy Stage.  The show before the big show will be hosted by Big Jay Oakerson and will feature local and emerging comics in each city.


Alan Vega: Here is why Springsteen, Escovedo adored the late Suicide singer

 Alan Vega performs at the John Varvatos 315 Bowery opening party in 2008 (Photo by Matt Carr/Getty Images)
Alan Vega performs at the John Varvatos 315 Bowery opening party in 2008 (Photo by Matt Carr/Getty Images)

There’s going on stage and playing your music and doing your art and not giving a toss what people think of you and your music and your presentation and your art and your way of looking at the world.

And then there’s Alan Vega.

The frontman for the singular band Suicide died July 16 at the age of 78. (For years, people thought Vega was a decade younger. There aren’t a lot of Beatniks who can say they were doing groundbreaking work in 1977.)

“I saw Suicide play at the Mabuhay in SF and CBGB’s when I moved to NYC in ’78,” Alejandro Escovedo said Sunday. “They were like no other. They altered the way we heard rock n roll. Chuck (Prophet) and I listened to Alan’s solo records when we wrote our records. He lived a life full of art and music, and he gave us a glimpse into a world that seemed so exotic to me. A true rock n roll hit man.”

Bruce Springsteen, whose “State Trooper” owes everything to Suicide and who covered the band’s “Dream Baby Dream,” posted the following on his Facebook page:

“Over here on E Street, we are saddened to hear of the passing of Alan Vega, one of the great revolutionary voices in rock & roll. The bravery and passion he showed throughout his career was deeply influential to me. I was lucky enough to get to know Alan slightly and he was always a generous and sweet spirit. The blunt force power of his greatest music both with Suicide and on his solo records can still shock and inspire today. There was simply no one else remotely like him.”

The music Vega, born Boruch Alan Bermowitz, June 23, 1938, was making with his bandmate Martin Rev as early as 1970(!) was so completely unlike anything else going on that it took seven years for the band to release a debut album.

Bands are still trying to catch up to his extraordinary intensity, to the legitimate fear he inspired in early audiences. Suicides influence can be found everywhere from U2 to Radiohead to Henry Rollins, who announced Vega’s passing on his radio show.

“Even the punks didn’t like Suicide,”  Vega said in 2009. “We were the ultimate punks because even the punks hated us.”

Indeed, Clash frontman Joe Strummer once proclaimed Vega “one of the bravest men I have ever seen on a stage” when Suicide opened for the Clash.

For Vega knew, as Strummer says, that the audience wasn’t just going to hate them, they were going to want to end him. He would go on stage thinking this might be the show where someone actually kills him.  After all, it was at a Clash gig in Glasgow where someone threw an axe at Vega. Yes. an axe.

The first Suicide album. Still shocking.

Suicide’s elements were pure rock music: Vega’s Elvis-reverbed voice, Rev’s electric organ, the primitive drum machine. But that was it and the way they put those three things together, especially on their still-disturbing, still-electrifying debut “Suicide” (1977, Red Star) was unlike anything before or since.

You couldn’t help but be changed by Suicide when you heard them. You could hate it or you could love it but you couldn’t ignore it. And before you hated it or loved it, you were probably haunted by it, especially by “Frankie Teardrop,” still for my money, and the money of many others, the single most disturbing song ever recorded.

Lots of music tries to stare into the abyss. “Frankie Teardrop” stares into the abyss and the abyss blinks. Rolling Stone has a story about how the thing was made.

Vega went on to make several more albums with Rev and a series of solo records as well as visual art.

A personal note: The very first piece I had published in Spin magazine was, in part, about Suicide. I stand by all of it but would add only this: As much as anyone in American arts, Vega followed nothing but his muse.

There’s brave and then there’s Vega-brave.

The Emmys: 20 thoughts on who was nominated, who should win and who was snubbed

  1. The nominations for the 68th Emmy Awards are out and, to the surprise of exactly nobody, “Game of Thrones” picked up 23 nods.
  2. The completely amazing “The People v. O.J. Simpson” picked up 22 noms,  “Fargo” has 18 and “Veep” has 17 nominations.
  3. It’s outstanding to see “The Americans” and “Mr. Robot,” the two smartest live action series on TV, given best drama nods. Even with the 23 nominations, I am not completely convinced “Game of Thrones” should be there for season five, which I found a little rambling (thought I thought this season was just stunningly entertaining). “Better Call Saul,” another best drama hopeful, is often brilliant. I would love to see either “The Americans” “or “Mr. Robot” win.
  4. Unlike the drama nods, nearly half of the best comedy nods – “Master of None” (Hulu), “Transparent” (Amazon) and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schimdt” (Netflix) – are streaming shows.
  5. Also in best comedy, the often excellent and usually family-friendly”Black-ish” (which my kids love) and “Modern Family” (which should be put out of its misery rather than be nominated again) are on ABC; “Silicon Valley” and “Veep,” both terrific, are on HBO.
    Rami Malek in 'Mr. Robot' (Peter Kramer/USA Network)
    Rami Malek in ‘Mr. Robot’ (Peter Kramer/USA Network)


  6. So much for comedy programming on CBS, Fox or NBC. Ouch.
  7. For my money, the lead actor in a drama Emmy should go to Rami Malek (“Mr Robot”) in a walk. His performance is like nothing else on television — complex, weird and 21st century.
  8. Matthew Rhys and his perma-frown are essential parts of what make “The Americans” great. Nominees Kyle Chandler, Bob Odenkirk, Liev Schreiber and Kevin Spacey are all excellent, but Malek and Rhys feel like something new.
  9. As far as actor in a comedy goes, Jeffrey Tambor is obviously brilliant in “Transparent, but he’s already feted (and the drama often works better than the comedy on that show).  As much as I like Anthony Anderson and Aziz Ansari, I am pulling for Thomas Middleditch’s note-perfect programmer on “Silicon Valley.” (I am mystified as to why T.J. Miller didn’t get a best supporting actor in a comedy nod for “Silicon Valley.” His bluster is brilliant.)
  10. The lead actress in a drama category is a game of inches: Keri Russell’s mission-first vibe on “The Americans” becomes more complicated by the second. (Also, will she ever stop doing laundry?) But Tatiana Maslany on “Orphan Black” is a tour de force, every episode, where, as various clones of her character, she is often playing three or four or five parts an episode. It’s nuts.
    In this image released by FX, Matthew Rhys, left, and Keri Russell appear in a scene from "The Americans." On Thursday, July 14, 2016, Rhys was nominated for outstanding actor in a drama series for his role in the series. The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast live on ABC beginning at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. (Craig Blankenhorn/FX via AP)
    Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell both got acting nods for “The Americans.” (Craig Blankenhorn/FX via AP)


  11. Lead actress in a comedy should probably go to Julia Louis-Dreyfus for “Veep,” but here’s the thing:
  12. Laurie Metcalfe should be a mortal lock not for HBO’s “Getting On,” the comedy for which she was nominated here, but for for her astounding turn in Louis CK’s genuinely groundbreaking “Horace and Pete,” which is very much not a comedy.
  13. The Playhouse-90-on-the-web format of “Horace and Pete” felt exciting and daring, one of the few times this past year that something appeared in front of your eyeballs that made anything seem possible.
  14. Metcalfe, who was terrific for years on “Roseanne,” also picked up a nomination for a guest spot on “The Big Bang Theory.” Three noms in three different acting categories is an Emmy first. She certainly deserves it.
  15. Interesting to see the total absence of David Simon’s HBO mini “Show Me A Hero” from the limited series category, whose nominees included the Austin-filmed “American Crime”; “Fargo,” from Austin’s Noah Hawley; “The Night Manager”; “The People vs. O.J. Simpson”; and the History Channel’s remake of “Roots.”
  16. As much as I loved “Fargo,” whose second season was cracklingly alive, my vote has to go to “The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” which managed to be dramatic, funny, timely, campy, dark and incredibly weird, often all at the same time.
  17. Speaking of, Courtney B. Vance should win lead actor in a movie or limited series for embodying but not copying Johnnie Cochran in “The People.” He is up against Cuba Gooding Jr. in this category as well.

    In this image released by FX, Sarah Paulson portrays Marcia Clark, left, and Sterling K. Brown portrays Christopher Darden in a scene from "The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story." On Thursday, July 14, 2016, Brown was nominated for outstanding supporting actor in a limited series or movie for his role. The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast live on ABC beginning at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. (Ray Mickshaw/FX via AP)
    Sarah Paulson portrays Marcia Clark, left, and Sterling K. Brown portrays Christopher Darden in a scene from “The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”(Ray Mickshaw/FX via AP)
  18. I feel exactly the same way about Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark in “The People.” In fact, it would be kind of great to see “The People” sweep the acting for limited series or movie.
  19. Most unjust snub? “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” one of the year’s breakout shows, wasn’t nominated for variety/talk, while “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and
  20. One sentimental favorite: I would love love love to see Jonathan Banks finally grab a supporting actor win for his incredible performance as Mike Ehrmantraut on “Better Call Saul,” a prize he should have won for the same character on “Breaking Bad.” 

The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and broadcast live Sept. 18 on ABC. Check out a list of all the nominees from the most prominent categories.

Here’s why jazz titan Albert Ayler matters

Albert Ayler in park in Harlem, New York, 1966. (Val Wilmer/REVENANT RECORDS )
Albert Ayler in park in Harlem, New York, 1966. (Val Wilmer/REVENANT RECORDS )

Jazz thunder-god Albert Ayler would have been 80 years old today, July 13, had he not died under famously weird circumstances at the age of 34 in 1970.

Twelve years ago, back when people still purchased CDs, the Austin-based Revenant Records cranked out an extraordinary box set on the man, the first such that had ever existed. To hear much of it was to weep tears of joy.  (Some of this material can be now be found on Spotify, as can much of Ayler’s music in general.)

Here is my 2004 piece on Ayler and the box.

And here is an Alyer primer if you have no idea who he is. It is you I am jealous of this morning as you get to hear of him, and hopefully hear him, for the first time. Start with “Spiritual Unity” and enjoy.









‘Ghostbusters’ theme gets a reboot: What do you think?

So, maybe you heard there is a new “Ghostbusters” movie out.


Yeah, I know, Columbia Pictures has been pretty quiet about this one.

It has a new theme song, which is a cover of the original.

In this corner we have the original by Ray Parker, Jr.

In this corner we have Fall Out Boy feat. Missy Elliot with a 2016 update on the original

So what do you think? (Remember: we are not talking about the movies, just the songs. SHOW YOUR WORK.)