All the best this blog had to offer from the Year of the Horse. Shalom.
Artisanal Life Hack (Sorry Not Sorry): 2013 In Review
Unsolicited Notes / Thoughts On We’re A Happy Family
JG2’s Top Ten Albums & Singles Of 2013
Unsolicited Thoughts On The Price Of Gold
Q: Have You Met Carrot Top?
Derisive Names You Can Use For The Super Bowl
Area Man Acknowledges Ninja Turtle Reboot
Greg Rivera: The JG2Land Interview
“You Traded Peña?”
Unsolicited Thoughts / Notes On Dookie 20 Years Later
In Praise Of Harold Ramis
Unsolicited Thoughts / Notes On Going Berserk
An Annotated History Of Never Realized Book Projects
2001: A Ranch Odyssey
Commence au Festival
“You Really Embarrassed Me Tonight At Red Lobster.”
On Erdélyi Tamás
Mashed Potatoes Can Be Your Friends
Fifteen Hall Of Fame Drummers From The Past Score & Five
Unsolicited Thoughts / Notes On Grease 2
Boo, I Tellsya: The Absolute Toppest Horror Movies
Monte Melnick: The JG2Land Interview
Unsolicited Musings On GTA V
Unsolicited Blah Blah Blah On “The Larry Sanders Show”
Ancient Central Florida Secret: The Splendid China Winn-Dixie
Unsolicited Free Floating Vapors On Feigbusters
Unsolicited Musings On Humanoids From The Deep
…In addition to fishing unused jelly packets out of the trash to rinse off and put back on the dining room tables (previously referenced in this post); what a feeling it is to watch an oblivious diner fiddle with a little plastic bin of grape jelly you rescued just fifteen minutes prior from a muggy grave of chewed hash browns and sausage upchuck.
– the dish washer who was obsessed with Dream Theater and tried to convert me every night
– the dish washer who was obsessed with Canibus and was constantly complaining about ringtone rappers
– the regular customer who always brought his own tiny briefcase of specialized condiments
– the other bus boy who exclusively addressed me as “James Bond Jr.”
– my employee evaluation; the only negative bit was “needs to smile more”
– the day I wore Converse to work instead of my regulation grease-proof boots to prove some kind of point (i.e. I won’t CONFORM to YOUR WORLD, oppressors); I slid around on the kitchen floor the entire night
– the Billy Drago-esque manager who raced Kawasaki motorcycles in his spare time and who could never walk out the back door without taking a deep breath, looking up at the clouds, and saying, “What a beautiful day to die!” (he was later fired for sexual harassment)
– being scheduled weekday mornings and having jack shit to bus
– being scheduled on Sundays and feeling like I was in trench warfare
– never being too mad about the servers not sharing their tips because they all had families to support and I was just some bozo in college
– the in-store satellite radio playing the craziest post-grunge (deep cuts from Green Day’s Nimrod, the 1999 Alice in Chains “reunion” song, etc)
– getting pied in the face on my last day of work by one of the servers (it was a hearty apple pie and I had pieces of fruit caught in my hair for hours)
– running into the lead manager at a nearby Waffle House several weeks after I quit; she told me I was a great employee and that I could come back any time (this was very nice to hear)
I’ve not set foot in that Perkins or any other since hanging up my bus tub.
– the Green Day albums prior to Dookie are good but you listen to them and think, “Man, these guys need a budget”; this is that rare breed of punk (hyper melodic) that’s actually hindered by rawer sonic ethics
– the middle of “Burnout” rips off the middle of “Pictures of Lily” by the Who, but “Burnout” is faster, so…all forgiven?
– speaking of the Who, that rah rah ending of “Chump,” the bit that crashes into “Longview”…why were any of us surprised when Green Day became an arena band and started writing rock operas?
– the Green Day backlash (which occurred, what, between 1995-97?) was so intense I still feel residual guilt for ever owning an original cassette copy of this album (which is dumb, because you should just like what you like and love what you love and I’ve since owned far more dubious musical ventures, including a good portion of Leonard Nimoy’s discography)
– I’ve heard “Welcome to Paradise” so many times throughout my life (both voluntarily and involuntarily) that it no longer registers as anything except a sound that is occurring in the vicinity of my ears
– part of me wishes the entire album had the twangy tone of “Pulling Teeth” (seems a little richer)
– part of me wishes the only segment of “Basket Case” they had released was Billie’s vocal track
– people who accuse this album of being (too) juvenile have obviously never heard anything by the Queers or Screeching Weasel
– Dookie producer Rob Cavallo has worked on everything Green Day has done since 1994, including soundtrack stuff and live albums; that kind of job security is rare these days
– Dookie producer Rob Cavallo also worked on Kid Rock’s Rock n’ Roll Jesus, which makes me want to smash a fucking carp right into his face
– Dookie is fun and will always be the Rosetta Stone that made me decide to further investigate this punk rock stuff, but it stopped being my favorite Green Day album the second Insomniac dropped in ’96; they just sound like a stronger band on Insomniac, playing tighter, louder songs with way more frenzy and better melody…I don’t understand why people tend to dismiss that one sight out of hand (or w/e that nonsensical phrase is)
– the hidden song here is the aural equivalent of looking at Pauly Shore
This is how it all went down: I got one or two of my facts twist turned upside down in the obituary I wrote for Lookout! Records (exclamation point optional), so Lookout founder Lawrence “Larry Livermore” Hayes swooped in to correct me. Thankful and not one to look a gift punk in the mouth, I asked Larry if I could shoot him few questions RE: Lookout’s problems, its legacy, where his feelings are today regarding the whole deal, blah blah. He said yes, and below you’ll find our delicious exchange.
JG2: Prior to the episode in 1996 or ’97 where Screeching Weasel decided they weren’t happy with their contract and demanded a new one, what was the most challenging or aggravating thing you had to deal with at Lookout? Had it been pretty smooth sailing up to that point in terms of artist / label relations?
LARRY LIVERMORE: For the most part, things had gone smoothly up to that point. By the way, before I go further, I’d like to clear up one thing—while it’s often referred to as a “Screeching Weasel” dispute, that’s really not accurate. It was, from start to finish, a Ben Weasel dispute. I never had a problem with other members of the band. In fact, some of them privately expressed frustration and even disgust with the way that Ben compulsively turned a good relationship into a poisonous one. That being said, the contract dispute I had with Ben, while unpleasant and destructive, was only the most extreme example of a problem that began to emerge in the year or two following Green Day’s breakthrough to major label success. A byproduct of that success was that Lookout got a great deal of attention from the mainstream media, and both our sales—of all our releases, not just Green Day’s—and income increased massively. “More money, more problems” may be a cliché, but clichés usually contain a kernel of truth. While the problems were mostly manageable, the most difficult aspect was that certain bands, or individuals, in Ben Weasel’s case, began feeling that we should be spending more of that money promoting them, on the theory that if we did, they’d be achieving the kind of success Green Day was.
JG2: So how do you navigate that kind of thing? What do you say, or what did you say to those complaining?
LL: When I pointed out that Green Day and Operation Ivy and, ironically, Screeching Weasel, who were our third best-selling band, accomplished what they did with little to no promotion, [the other artists] would just get mad. I’d say things like, “You can’t buy popularity. If you want to be as rich and famous as Green Day, try working and touring as hard as Green Day, and writing songs as good as Green Day.” Needless to say, that didn’t always go over so well, especially with Ben Weasel. The funny thing is that Ben was always very happy with Lookout and the amount of money he was making there, and for years told everybody just that. Then, all of a sudden, he wasn’t. To be fair, there were other bands who asked for more money and more promo, and who wanted Lookout to change the way we did things and act more like a major label. It’s just that with most of them it wasn’t such a big deal, just more of a point of discussion, where with Ben it became a very big deal indeed.
JG2: When Lookout started having more serious problems after your departure in 1997, how did that affect you? Were you already too removed to care?
LL: I was not anxious to jump back into the record business, but I had made it clear [to the new owners] that I was available as a resource, to answer questions, negotiate with bands, or even step in on a short term basis and manage some projects, but I wasn’t ever asked for help. Quite the contrary, in fact; most often I would find out about Lookout’s problems from other sources—usually the bands who weren’t getting paid. I think there was a feeling on the new owners’ part that they wanted to do it their own way, or maybe they were afraid I’d be all “I told you so” if they admitted they were having problems. I’d like to believe I wouldn’t have been like that, and also that if I’d been approached early enough, I might have been able to help them sort things out, but I have no way of knowing whether that’s true. Certainly my own management practices, even in Lookout’s heyday, weren’t perfect, but when everything is going your way and all the records are selling well, mistakes and poor planning can be glossed over more easily than when things are starting to go downhill.
JG2: But you had no moment where you were utterly compelled to try and take command back, to right the ship?
LL: Well, because of the way we’d arranged my departure—I handed over full ownership of the company—there was no way I could [do that] unless I was asked to. That made it pretty frustrating when Lookout began getting a reputation for not paying its bands, because even though there was absolutely nothing I could do about it, many people blamed me for it. Which is understandable; you can’t expect the general public to keep up with who owns or controls which record label, and for the first 10 years of Lookout’s existence, it had been me more than any other person who was identified with Lookout in the public’s mind.
JG2: Did the carryover from that hurt your own personal state of mind?
LL: Yeah, it was hard on me to watch what was happening. It was like seeing a loved one suffer and die from a long, lingering illness, knowing all the while there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.
JG2: Is there one record you can point to in Lookout’s catalog and say, “Yes, this is the prime example of what we were trying to do or put forth?”
LL: Oh man, there are so many. Operation Ivy, of course, and both Green Day records, but in terms of our less well-known releases, I’d have to point to Nuisance and Brent’s TV, both of whom were kind of niche bands who came from Northern California, from the more rural part of the state where I was living when Lookout started. Each band captured, in their own way, something extremely specific to the local culture they emerged from. Neither band was, strictly speaking, punk in the normal sense of the word, but they expressed to me everything that was best and most important about the DIY punk scene. And it’s entirely possible that one or both of those bands never would have gotten the kind of exposure they did, or have left the recorded legacy they did, if there hadn’t been a label like Lookout. That’s the sort of thing I’m proudest of.
JG2: Is there any band Lookout never got hold of that you wish you had?
LL: If you mean in terms of making lots more money, it would have been nice if we’d managed to put out albums by Rancid, the Offspring, AFI, and Jawbreaker, all of whom I halfheartedly tried to get on Lookout. Maybe [we] could have if I’d tried a little harder. But the first three of those bands all did great for themselves, maybe better than they could have done on Lookout, so it’s probably just as well they ended up where they did. Jawbreaker, I think, might have done better on Lookout, so even though I’m not the world’s hugest Jawbreaker fan—I like them, but I’m not a crazed obsessive like, um, certain people I know—I would have liked to put out their albums for them. Another place I missed the boat was when I told Crimpshrine that they weren’t ready to release a full-length album, so they put out what is now the incredibly rare Lame Gig Contest on a couple small labels. Boy, was I wrong about that.
JG2: Hey man, it happens.
LL: But what most people don’t fully get about me is that I was never mainly concerned about bands that would sell records. If I was, I could have signed up a lot of those baggy shorts bands before Fat Wreck even got going. It wasn’t worth it to me to have to deal with bands that I didn’t enjoy listening to and hanging out with just for the sake of making money. If I’d wanted to do that, I could have just gotten a job at a record company instead of starting my own label. Labels that are successful, not just in terms of sales, but that leave a lasting legacy, generally tend to reflect the values and aesthetics of the person or people who ran them. That’s as true for labels like Fat or Epitaph or Kill Rock Stars or K as it was for Lookout. Conversely, I think it’s where Lookout went astray after I left: they no longer had a sound that was distinctly a Lookout sound. It was more like they were just throwing all sorts of things up against the wall to see if anything would stick.
JG2: It’s been over a year since Lookout ceased operation. How do you look back on it all? Is it still some huge part of your life, do you feel, or have you let go and let it be in the past?
LL: It was a huge part of my life, and to many people, it’s the only part of my life that they know or care about. Obviously I have other interests and goals, but that’s the one that most folks know, and it’s usually one of the first things they ask me about. In fact, lately I seem to be getting almost as many requests for interviews as I was back in the glory days. Don’t ask me why. I guess maybe this is what it’s like being part of history. I can’t complain. It was an amazing adventure, and though it didn’t end as well as it began, we had a pretty good run, and I think we did our part to change—and hopefully improve—the kind and quality of music that reaches the ears of the public. More importantly, I hope we set an example for how other bands and other labels can make their way in the world without having to make compromises or crappy deals with the traditional music industry. There’s a whole network of touring bands and clubs and performance spaces and distribution channels that didn’t exist when we started out, and I’d like to think we played at least some part in helping that to develop.
JG2: So it turns out you’re kind of a woodsy guy. You ever see any of those brown recluse spiders while you’ve been livin’ up there on Spy Rock?
LL: Brown recluse spiders don’t live in that part of California. We had plenty of black widows, but they never gave me any problems. Scorpions turned up pretty often, too, often in the woodpile, but once I found one—don’t ask me how it got there—waggling its stinger tail at me in the kitchen sink. Our bass player from [the band] the Lookouts, Kain Kong, his mom stepped on [a scorpion] in her kitchen and it stung her in the foot…she got a little sick, there was no real harm done. Our scorpions weren’t as poisonous as the ones farther south. We also had quite a few rattlesnakes, but the cats usually killed and ate them if they got too close to the house. However, one bit my dog, and she nearly died from that. And of course there’s bobcats and mountain lions. I never even saw a mountain lion myself, but a girl I knew came face to face with one when she was climbing up a cliff. She just let go and dropped back down the cliff in a hurry.
JG2: What’s the most dangerous animal you’ve personally encountered out in that wilderness?
LL: My biggest adventure was with a bear. I mean, there were lots of bears up there, but for the first ten years or so I never saw one near my house. But then one decided he liked the looks of my place, and ended up smashing my kitchen to pieces. We had a scary showdown, which you can read about in my book Spy Rock Memories, coming out on Don Giovanni this June. I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but I can reveal that I ended up not getting eaten.
JG2: Oh Larry, you old huckleberry.
Way back in 2006 I conducted a year-long “study” wherein I tried to find an album that synched up with the original Star Wars a la Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz. My “findings” can still be viewed here; a much more concise and readable overview of the entire affair, however, is available via this sexy thing.
Green Day’s American Idiot ultimately proved itself to be Star Wars’s Dark Side OTM, but I’ve always wondered: Is there anything that synchs up to the same degree that isn’t an eyeliner-laden anti-Bush rock opera? Now I’m ready to continue the search, because I don’t have a job or a girlfriend or any responsibility that would prevent me from further dilly-dallies in sensory deprivation.
Welcome to the Great Star Wars Synchronicity Project Part II: Ewok Boogaloo. This time, it’s personal.
Last night I sat down with Slayer’s Reign in Blood, that satanic heavy metal delight from 1986, and fired up the original original Star Wars to see what magic would unfold. Per my previous experimentations, I started the album immediately after the second drumroll in the 20th Century Fox fanfare. Behold, the eighteen moments of synchronization I witnessed:
– the phrase “destroy” in “Angel of Death” is heard as the word “destroy” in the opening text scroll is approximately mid-screen
– the opening scroll fades away just as the breakdown in “Angel of Death” begins
– the Tantive IV flies onscreen the same moment “Angel of Death” resumes its normal speed
– a drumroll in “Angel of Death” occurs at the same moment the droids are seen reeling from an explosion (it looks like the drumroll made them shake and shimmy)
– Darth Vader strolls aboard the Tantive IV to survey the body count as we hear the lyric “angel of death, monitor the kingdom of the dead”
– “Piece by Piece” begins at the same moment Princess Leia shoves that disc into R2-D2
– a closeup of Darth Vader’s face appears at the same moment we hear the lyric “no emotion, death is all I see”
– the phrase “a flash” is heard as the stormtrooper fires his stun ray at Princess Leia
– the lyric “the only one way out of here” in “Piece by Piece” is heard as the droids are seen getting into the escape pod, and the song ends at the same moment a laser blast explodes over C-3PO’s head
– “Jesus Saves” plays through the entire sequence where the jawas save R2-D2 from, uh, hours of rolling along to nowhere in the desert
– the guitars in “Criminally Insane” start at the exact moment R2-D2 begins shuffling through the sandcrawler
– “Reborn” begins playing the same moment we first see Luke Skywalker (Luke = the rebirth of the Jedi)
– the lyric “I can’t control my destiny” is heard as the doomed Uncle Owen is in closeup (Uncle Owen has no control over his destiny to become a charred corpse via angry stormtroopers)
– the lyric “leave you ripped and torn” is heard as C-3PO is in closeup (Threepio is seen ripped and torn at various points during the Star Wars trilogy)
– the opening thunderclap of “Raining Blood” is heard the moment Luke gets up from the dinner table to run off in a huff
– the lyrics “awaiting the hour of reprisal, time slips away” are heard as Uncle Owen is seen looking for Luke (“He better have those droids in the south field by midday or there’ll be hell to pay!”)
– the final really loud thunderclap of “Raining Blood” coincides with R2-D2’s alarm concerning invading sandpeople
– “Raining Blood” stops at the exact moment the sandpeople drop an ostensibly dead Luke Skywalker on the ground
Pretty trippy, but nowhere near as synchronized as American Idiot. The hunt continues. I’ve acquired a lot of new music since 2006 and I’m sure I can find something that blows Green Day out of the water (even though I may have concluded the exact opposite in the past).
At this juncture, Green Day have become diet creme soda—they remain sweet and spunky, but overall their brand pales in comparison to the richer, full-bodied equivalent. ¡Uno!, the first entry in a trilogy of albums from the ’90s punk titans that (for better or worse) mirrors the Kiss solo album debacle of thirty-four years ago, takes its production cues from all those mid-Aughts Killers records and thins out Green Day’s signature stomp to a wafer. With the bombast that served them so well on earlier outings evaporated, these MTV stalwarts barely squeak by on a spate of mellifluous but generally ineffectual mall punk hymns that bounce between the universal subjects of love (“Stay The Night,” “Fell For You”) and bein’ punk as fuck (“Kill The DJ,” “Carpe Diem,” “Nuclear Family”).
It doesn’t help that singer / guitarist Billie Joe Armstong coughs up some of the worst lyrics of his career on ¡Uno!—clouds of malaise circling around him, BJ hits the nail on the head (unknowingly?) in “Rusty James” when he mews “This whiskey sour / amateur hour / raise your glass and toast, my friends / one day we will fight again.” Further evidence of Green Day’s laziness: ¡Uno! and its two follow-ups are meant to represent each member of this famed trio, but for the past thirteen years they’ve been a quartet thanks to the addition of Pinhead Gunpowder guitarist Jason White in 1999. What a shame they’ve Richie Ramoned this guy into what appears to be a permanent independent contractor position.
Then again, if ¡Uno! is indicative of Green Day’s general direction, maybe asking for another album isn’t the smartest idea.
FINAL SCORE: One and a half pints of Billie Joe’s eyeliner (out of four).
Lookout! Records, the California-based independent record label that helped usher in the modern era of pop punk as we know it via such bands as Green Day and the Queers, has closed down after twenty-five years of operation. Somewhere, the laces of an anonymous teenager’s black Converse high tops have become irreversibly knotted out of frustration and sadness.
Founded in 1987 by friends Larry Livermore and David Hayes, Lookout! Records quickly aligned itself with San Francisco’s East Bay punk clique by issuing discs from that scene’s giants (Crimpshrine, Operation Ivy, et al). The signing of a nascent trio named Green Day in 1988 would prove to the be label’s wisest business decision; when that group exploded onto MTV seven years later, their first two efforts for Lookout! became an unexpected revenue goldmine. Of course, by that time, Lookout! Records had also cemented its reputation as the underground’s premiere purveyor of pop punk, having released pivotal albums by such melodically-inclined outfits as Screeching Weasel, the Queers, and the Mr. T Experience.
Things behind the scenes at Lookout! were not always as upbeat as the records they pressed; a legal kerfuffle nearly broke out in the mid-’90s after Screeching Weasel front man Ben Foster began publicly taking Livermore’s business ethics to task RE: the group’s 60/40 contract (which in fact favored the band). At the brink of lawyering up, the label decided to simply re-sign Screeching Weasel to a contract where everything money-wise was clearly spelled out. Around the same time, Larry Livermore sold his stake in the company, although he would always remain the figure most closely associated with that iconic eyeball logo.
Livermore’s departure marked the beginning of Lookout!’s decline as new management had apparent difficulty handling monies. Dodgy bookkeeping was the complaint most often leveled at the label as one flagship act after another jumped from Lookout! to competitors such as Asian Man and Fat Wreck Chords. Such maneuvering always hurt, but no blow proved bigger than Green Day’s July 2005 decision to pull their first two albums from their former home over alleged unpaid royalties. Lookout! Records would never fully recover from the defection of their poster band (and only seven figure generator); just a year later, the label ceased issuing new releases to focus on selling their storied back catalog.
Lookout! Records was to me in the ’90s what Stax was to kids in the ’60s. It was just a goldmine for all who loved snot-nosed Ramonesy junk. They released the three best Queers albums (Beat Off, Love Songs For The Retarded, Don’t Back Down), the two best Screeching Weasel albums (Boogadaboogadaboogada!, Anthem For a New Tomorrow), every Donnas album I’m embarrassed I don’t own, the only Mr. T Experience album I wasn’t embarrassed to own (Everyone’s Entitled To Their Own Opinion), and the best-sounding thing Furious George ever recorded (the Goes Ape! EP). I can’t think of another record label I ever consciously, or even subconsciously, pledged my allegiance to like that.
That said, it would be a stretch to say it’s a shame Lookout! is finally folding after x amount of years. They had a nice little dynasty for probably three times longer than they thought they would. Also, if you’re sitting on two Green Day records and you still can’t manage to pay Pansy Division on time, well, your business license should probably be revoked anyway.
Then again, what do I know about running a record label? Diddly squat. I just snap up what they poop out. Who knows, maybe a couple of those Pansy Division albums cost several million clams to make.
At least that’s what their new video, “Stuff Is Messed Up,” suggests:
Now, see, this is a new video, but the song itself is over a year old. “Stuff” was first heard on 2008’s Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace. Why is the video just coming out now? Who knows. I guess in the wake of Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown, the Offspring just wanna remind people they exist.
And while “Stuff Is Messed Up” (an inexplicable self-censor of the real lyric, “Shit Is Fucked Up”) dates back to last June, the video makes you believe the damn thing came out half a decade ago. Lynndie England and “Pimp My Ride” jokes? Really, Offspring? Yeah, that shit was fucked up, but the fact you’re still talking about it is even more fucked up.
Sigh. I remember when “Keep ‘Em Separated” came out in 1994. Much like Beck’s “Loser,” I thought it was a joke song some radio deejay had created. Nowadays, I wish I had been right.
The lean towards unnecessary indulgence does not work in Green Day’s favor. Whereas American Idiot was somewhat trim and focused and seemed to have an overall goal, 21st Century Breakdown is just a fat stoner wandering through an empty mall on an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday morning encountering all sorts of tired crap like faux terrestrial radio static, Elton John-style piano plinking, gentle acoustic guitar arpeggios, and half-assed tributes to Wings. Indeed, this album has everything every chart-topping record of your parents’ / grandparents’ era had, topped off with lazy lyrics that often seem like deliberate callbacks to earlier Green Day successes. I wish Congress would consider passing legislation that would ban this band from using the terms ‘Jesus,’ ‘cigarettes,’ ‘Working Class Hero,’ and any kind of street name variation ever again.”
Read the entire review here.