Author Archives: Alan Cross

Canadian Singer Home After Time in a Chinese Prison

September 23rd, 2011 | by Alan Cross

Here's a hint:  do NOT carry antique bullets in your luggage while passing through customs at Shanghai Airport.

That's the mistake Grant Cassell, singer for Vancouver's Behind Sapphire, made.  And of all days, he made it on Sunday, September 11.  And he was wearing military-style clothing.  And carrying everything not in a suitcase, but a duffel bag.  

The Chinese border people didn't care the vintage bullets were from World War 1.  All they knew is that this guy was attempting to carry illegal munitions into the People's Republic.


The Recommendation Project Part 11: A Tribute to Nirvana

September 23rd, 2011 | by Alan Cross

Twenty years ago this week, Nirvana released Nevermind.  Exactly 46,251 copies were released to record stores, which was considered optimistic at best.  The hope was the record would sell between 100,000 and 200,000 units, pushing it into Sonic Youth territory.  It didn't quite work out that way.

Nevermind was the record that brought the underground to the mainstream and rock hasn't been the same since.

With that in mind, let's put together a playlist of covers of Nevermind songs.  I've started things off with a crazy version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" from Los Straitjackets.  What else can you find?


“That Guy Sounds EXACTLY Like [Blank]!” A New Viral Trend?

September 23rd, 2011 | by Alan Cross

Two videos don't make a trend, but I have to wonder if this is somethign that'll catch on.  

First, there's this Saskatchewan dude named Marc Martel who sings for a Christian group called downhere [sic].  Given his religious background (and his age), he probably doesn't believe in reincarnation--but it is possible that he's possessed by the spirit of Freddie Mercury.  Have a listen.


Got Time? Then Listen to the Flaming Lips’ New 6-Hour Song

September 23rd, 2011 | by Alan Cross

A couple of weeks ago, Wayne Coyne and the boys made fans an offer:  give us some money and we'll include your name in an epic composition--a musical toteboard, if you will.

Well, it's done.  The song is called "I Found This Star On the Ground" and it runs exactly six hours.  You can listen through the Soundcloud links (found after the jump) or you can fight to be one of just eleven owners of the physical box set which comes with a stoner toy called a "Strobo Trip."

Here's what Wayne told Rolling Stone:  

“I mean, I don’t know if you could play with it for six hours, but it’s kind of meant so that kids can like, take LSD and play with it. You know, that’s kind of our intention, so that people buy it at like a festival, and then go back to their parents’ and take some acid and play with it all night. So it’s a song you can play while you’re sitting at your computer, you plug it in and it plays all night.”

Don't you wish Wayne was your dad?


So What Does Facebook’s Music Plans Mean for Canada?

September 23rd, 2011 | by Alan Cross

Not as much as it does for the US and Europe.  They get Spotify.  We don't. 

But that doesn't mean that Canadians are completely left out.  After all, we do get Rdio and Slacker and both are being integrated into Facebook.  

These companies, along with a few more (like iHeartRadio, Deezer and Vdeo), will offering link-ups with their apps which will allow you to share whatever you're listening to with your Facebook friends.  

Their choices will pop into your news feed, which means you'll be able to listen to what they're listening to without ever having to leave Facebook.  Yay.


The Wife Says: I Don’t Trust Instant

September 22nd, 2011 | by Alan Cross

[Yes, this is from my wife.  "Would you let me vent on your website once in a while?"  What, I was going to say no?]

I don’t trust instant. Not coffee. Not mashed potatoes, those ones that come in a box that you mix with water. And especially not fame.

I’m suspicious of instant fame. Of people who appear out of nowhere without paying their dues. That’s why I’ve never watched Idol and that’s why I won’t watch X Factor.


A Fan Remembers REM

September 22nd, 2011 | by Alan Cross

From Greggory [sic] via the inbox:

In 1996 I attended the signing party of a young, up and coming band from Columbia, MO called Colony. (They never went anywhere unfortunately...) They were signed to MCA and as a DJ who'd given them a lot of support at my station, I was invited. Jay Boberg was head of MCA at the time, and I got to meet him and was fortunate enough to be included in a group discussion of Jay, a lot of other MCA top brass at the time.

Being only 20 years old I wisely kept my mouth shut and just listened and absorbed what was going on around me, until every so often Jay or someone else would nod to me and say "What kind of phones do you get on ________?" or "How do you like so and so's new record?"


More on the Debate on the Future of Rock Radio

September 22nd, 2011 | by Alan Cross

The question is this:  how much of a future does traditional over-the-air rock radio have?

Consider the following:

  •  People under 25 have different expectations when it comes to accessing and listening to music.
  • Smartphones are quickly reaching critical mass.
  • And most importantly, cars--the last high ground for AM and FM radio--are getting more and more connected to the Internet.

As someone who loves radio, I believe that it can survive and thrive if it gets over its old way of delivering content and adapt to new media.

Here are three stories on the future of radio from today that are worth reading:


Coldplay, Cell Phones and Cameras

September 22nd, 2011 | by Alan Cross

Not that long ago--a decade, maybe?--every single concert ticket contained a warning in big block letters: NO CAMERAS OR RECORDING DEVICES.  Anyone who dared try to slip in even one of those disposable cameras (remember those?) risked being roughed up and ejected.

I even remember going to gigs in the early days of cell phones where signs admonished people for even thinking about bringing something like that to a concert.  Many venues and tours insisted that they be banned or be confiscated at the door.  No, really.

Eventually, though, the cell phone won.  Now when you go to a gig, half the audience is watching the show through a tiny screen that they're holding up in front of their face.


REM Breaks Up: Too Bad, But They Were Out of Time

September 22nd, 2011 | by Alan Cross

I credit three artists with sucking me into the world of alt-rock:  The Clash, Elvis Costello and REM.  The music they made at the end of the 70s and the beginning of the 80s literally changed my whole outlook on life and launched me into a career in music and radio biz.

I was particularly evangelical about REM, especially with their Reckoning album in 1984.  I'd never heard songs like "So. Central Rain," "Pretty Persuasion" and "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville."  Mike Stipe's Georgia plaintiveness, Peter Buck's chiming guitar and the unadorned production stuck out amongst the slickness of big bands of the day like Van Halen.

REM essentially invented what was known for a while as "college rock."  Championed by campus radio stations (along with groups like Husker Du and Sonic Youth), REM became one of the most important indie bands in North America, long before anyone cared about what indie was.


Weekly Music Sales Report – 21 September 2011

September 22nd, 2011 | by Alan Cross

[Sorry for being a day late with this.  I was on the road all day yesterday in an area with ZERO 3G or WiFi service.]

Weekly music sales have been behaving like the stock market lately:  big gains followed by huge dips and then more rebounds.  This past week was a rebound.


Pearl Jam Twenty, Track by Track, with Directory Cameron Crowe

September 21st, 2011 | by Alan Cross

From Billboard:

Release" (from Sept. 16, 2006 Verona, Italy)

"Written shortly after Eddie Vedder's arrival in Seattle, 'Release' always felt like a personal epiphany as well as an invitation to write from the heart," Crowe writes. And the version of this slow-burn "Ten" ballad documents a loving Italian crowd.


"Alive" (from Dec. 22, 1990 Seattle)


Says Crowe, "This is when many of the group's friends and family first heard the band and by the time they played 'Alive' heads were turning." The song that became the band's earliest signature song shows its power even here only two months after the band formed. Still a bit shy at this point, Eddie Vedder's powerful baritone shines through clearly.


Workout Radio

September 21st, 2011 | by Alan Cross

From radio consultant Sean Ross' latest newsletter:

As programmers begin to look at radio formats that transcend musical genres, it's surprising that more stations haven't been specifically geared to exercise. In various sessions at the RAIN Summit and NAB Radio Show in Chicago last week, streaming radio's place in the gym came up on a number of occasions. (A few days earlier, Pandora had announced a suite of workout-targeted stations.) In terms of usage you might hear pitched by a traditional radio station, however, the workout room usually has to settle for being lumped in with "some other place.


The Meticulous Steve Jobs: An iPod Tale

September 21st, 2011 | by Alan Cross

[This article appeared on August 27 in the Ottawa Citizen.  Expect more Steve Job stories leading up to the 10th anniversary of the introduction of the iPod next month.]

The story as recounted to me goes something like this. I have a screenwriter friend in Los Angeles who, back in 2001, was still trying to establish himself in the industry. One day, he got a call from his agent.


The Shat is Back

September 20th, 2011 | by Alan Cross

William Shatner may be 80 years old--and a damn good-looking 80 at that--but he has ZERO intention of slowing down.  Consider what he has planned for the next few months:

 

  • A live concert tour where he'll tell stories from his life.  And yes, that means LOTS of Star Trek.
  • A book entitled Shatner Rules.
  • A DVD called The Captains, which explores everyone who has ever manned the con in the Star Trek franchise.
  • And an album entitled Seeking Major Tom which is all about answering the question of whatever happened to David Bowie's doomed spaceman.



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