FROM THE BOX: The World’s Worst Rock Record Reviews

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As a kid, I always used to see a magazine called Dynamite, targeted to those in their youth. It featured everything from interviews with celebrities to tasks to do on vacation or spring break/Easter vacation, jokes to advice. To be honest, I never found these at school but when teachers would allow us to order books, I’d always see a way to order it but never did. My speed was a magazine called Highlights.

Nonetheless, as an adult, I once spotted three issues of Dynamite and decided to buy it. It’s different now to read from an adult perspective but I’m able to see how a kid would be thrilled to read something like this. In this issue from 1983 (#108), actress Kim Fields is on the cover, representing her role in NBC’s The Facts Of Life but what I found interesting was a 2-page article called The World’s Worst Rock Record Reviews. I’ve done tons of music reviews in the last 30 years but this article is nothing but excerpts of negative reviews for albums, some of which are good while some are worthy of the critical hate. I’ve scanned each page for you to have a look, click each page to see a full/bigger version.

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FROM THE BOX: Wu-Tang Clan concert flyer (Labor Day 1995, Atlanta)

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First off: I did not go to this concert. I started the Unofficial Wu-Tang Clan Mailing List (U-WU) a month before this show happened, but I was in Georgia for reasons other than music. I went there to meet a woman I had talked with online, but to make a long story short, the friendship fizzled soon after. End of story.

I did not stay in Atlanta but a smaller town south of ATL, but we did spend a few hours in a city I grew up admiring from watching WTCG/WTBS. I was drawn to cable TV, wrestling, cartoons, and old episodes of The Little Rascals, I liked the Atlanta Braves for awhile all because of cable. There was a show on MTV called IRS’ The Cutting Edge, and The Go-Go’s made a stop at a restaurant called The Varsity, where the group were able to eat burritos made and placed on a conveyor belt. This was in the early 80’s and I thought “the day I made it to Atlanta, I will have to stop there.” When I arrived in late August, the first place we stopped at was Varsity. Childhood dream became reality.

Because of the situation I was in, I was not able to visit certain parts of Atlanta that I wanted to. Truth be told, it was my first trip to the South and after hearing stories about how some people were racist and didn’t take too kindly to anyone a darker shade of sheet paper, I worried. Yet when I got there, it wasn’t as bad as I assumed it would be. I was actually more worried about the perception people would have when they saw me with the lady I was with.

Anyway, we’d listen to the radio and there were a few hot songs in the summer of 1995. Method Man‘s remix of “All I Need” with Mary J. Blige was all over the place, but another Wu-related song was hitting the mix tape circuit and I heard it on the radio in Atlanta: the remix of Jodeci‘s “Freek’N’You” with Raekwon and Ghostface Killah. I tried to record one of the radio shows with my Walkman but couldn’t get a good reception. While listening, a Wu-Tang Clan concert was being heavily promoted, as it was a Labor Day show and they were encouraging everyone to head there and end the summer properly.

The scan above is of a flyer I picked up when I bought records at a store called Earwax. I loved the store, for when I walked in, they were playing KRS-One‘s “MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know”. I didn’t buy the 12″ for it, but I did buy Big Kap‘s “Da Ladies In Da House”, Jamiroquai‘s “Space Cowboy”, and I think one by DJ Mister Cee.

When I had seen the flyer, I thought “crap, I’m going to be leaving a few days before this concert, why do I have to leave?” I had wanted to go to Decatur, as I was a huge fan of Yall So Stupid, a group who celebrated their home all over their album Van Full Of Pakistans, but my companion didn’t want to go there so we did not visit Decatur.

Nonetheless, I flew back home to the Pacific Northwest and that was that. I’m clearing out a lot of stuff in my collection and I come across this flyer again. Seeing as it is a Labor Day weekend in the United States, I felt it was the perfect time to post this. Since I was the U-WU guy in 1995, I had a few people from Atlanta who told me that everyone had hoped that everyone listed would show up. Unfortunately, it had become known that even though a concert was being promoted as a Wu-Tang Clan show, you were lucky if more than three members showed up. It would anger people, as the Wu were still very much about the Wu, as in “the group”.

If any of you reading this went to this show, feel free to post your memories about it.

Nonetheless, I would love to visit Atlanta again and truly explore it.

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FROM THE BOX: Summer Jam 82 flyer

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As an overeager music fan who was happy to finally be in the double digits in terms of age, there were big concert events that I had wanted to see. I had become aware of Woodstock when it was shown on HBO during the film’s 10th anniversary in 1979, so I knew that concerts with more than one or two bands were considered an “event”. My parents and relatives always had live albums in their collections, so anytime an event was about to happen, I wanted to go. Keep in mind I was 9, 10, and 11 years old, and while my parents were music fans, they weren’t going to let me go alone and due to financial priorities, they weren’t going to buy tickets for themselves and my younger sister. My uncles and aunties had lives too, and really, it wasn’t their “responsibility” to take their nephew to a rock show.

Summer Jam 82 seemed like a very big event for a few reasons. When I was in my single digits, I would listen to hit music on AM radio, back when AM radio did that on a regular basis. Stations like KKUA, KIKI, KCCN, and to some degree K59 in Honolulu were a major source of my audio entertainment, along with records. I don’t remember the first time I abandoned AM for FM radio, but I know that once I heard the sound quality of FM, there was no turning back. Plus, I could hear songs longer than 5 minutes, played by DJ’s who sounded as stoned as some of my uncles and aunties. As a kid who wanted to be a radio DJ, this was like home away from home.

  • In 1982, MTV was a brand new cable network and Joan Jett was one of the hot, young artists with “I Love Rock’N’Roll” and “Bad Reputation” getting a significant amount of airtime. The Runaways were new to me and probably to most mainstream music fans in Hawai’i, but I would guess they were played on the University of Hawai’i radio station, KTUH. Nonetheless, Summer Jam 82 was the time to see the hot Joan Jett.
  • The Charlie Daniels Band had been making music for about ten years before they had a massive pop hit with “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”, and while a long like that seems fairly normal today, to rock audiences this was very different. It was country, it rocked hard, and the Satanic fiddle solo was the funky part of the song. As someone who used to hate anything and everything that was country, hearing funky country was odd, almost as if I was hearing Loggins & Messina. Because of this, I would keep a distant eye and ear on Daniels until I was able to buy records on my own, with my own money, and discovered their truth.
  • When Foreigner headlined this festival, it had been a year since their 4th album, 4 was released, and songs like “Juke Box Hero”, “Urgent”, “Waiting For A Girl Like You”, and “Break It Up” were played religiously. (At my elementary school, we would have occasional dances in the cafeteria, and in the 6th grade, I clearly remember dancing to “Urgent” in a line not unlike Soul Train. I liked a girl back then named Mary Jean Smith and I wanted to dance with her down the line, but it was not happening.) By the time Foreigner arrived, they were the season’s kings of rock’n’roll, and very few albums could beat its power. It would be three months before Michael Jackson released Thriller, which wiped Foreigner off the radio for awhile.

    Also at the show were a group called the Surf Punks, who were considered raw and dirty because of their look and the fact that they were punk. It was Honolulu, a good amount of people went to the beach, surfed, and partied on a regular basis, this was the music of the times. It didn’t matter that one of the guys in the band was the brother of Daryl Dragon, the Captain of Captain & Tennille, and I don’t think too many people knew or made that connection anyway. Oddly enough, one thing I remember always hearing on the radio was about people entering to become in the “Air Band Finals” sponsored by 98 Rock. If you loved music and loved to rock, you’d air guitar, that’s what young kids, men and women did. Along with the groups arriving, you could be a star for a few minutes and win a few dollars. With luck, you might be able to make an apperance on a TV show that aired in Honolulu back then called The Hawaiian Moving Company, but I don’t remember if the winners did.


    Unfortunately I did not go to this show. Look at the ticket price: $16 in advance, $17.50 day of show. I was a month away from making my debut as a 7th grade intermediate school student, and my parent’s priorities was school clothes, not a damn concert ticket. I do remember listening to 98 Rock that Sunday, for while the show was not broadcast over the air, they would have scene reports throughout the afternoon so listeners could hear… the crowd. Sometimes an artist might come in to the booth and be interviewed, but I honestly don’t remember if that happened. Nonetheless, it meant rock stars were in Hawai’i at Aloha Stadium, and it felt cool to know that rock stars were in my backyard.

    I never went to any of the Summer Jam’s, and I only went to one concert at the Aloha Stadium: The Police in February 1984. Still, to be able to carry this flyer around and think “yes, one day I’ll go to a big concert” was anticipation of the highest order. I’d have to move across the ocean to the Pacific Northwest in order to go to bigger concerts on my own, and eventually with my own money, but this flyer represents a bit of my concert Jones.

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  • FROM THE BOX: Ice-T “O.G. Original Gangster” press release

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    May 2011 marks the 20th anniversary of what I feel was Ice-T‘s best album, O.G. Original Gangster. I will share my opinions on the album later this month, but today as I’m clearing out some junk, I found a press release I completely forgot about. It was sent to the media in anticipation of the album, a way to drive-up a bit of hype. The first page of the press release is a message from Ice-T, while the remainder of it talks about the album and his touring plans, which was the Lollapalooza festival and dates with Jane’s Addiction (both would collaborate in a cover of Sly & The Family Stone‘s “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey”.)

    The message from Ice was called My Predictions For The ’90s and its telling because while the outlook was for the next nine years, one can also look back and see what has happened in the last 20 years. These were his predictions:

    *** White kids will continue to get hipper to black culture. With R&B, the kids didn’t want to meet us, but this is rock & roll all over again — everybody chillin’ together.

    *** Somebody asked me, ‘”Where did you get your acting experience?’ And I said it was probably standing in front of a cop in the middle of the night with a flashlight in my face: ‘No officer, oh no, no no officer…’

    *** I have a sticker on my record that says ‘Parental Guidance Is Suggested.’ In my book, parental guidance is always suggested. If you need a sticker to tell you that you need to guide your child, you’re a dumb fuckin’ parent anyhow.

    *** The war that’s coming up is an intellectual war. Those with superior intellects are on the move.

    *** I never make love records. If I do a ballad, it’s ‘Let’s Get Butt Naked And Fuck.’

    *** Parents are scared because my record is Number One on the campus charts of Harvard for three months. These kids are being trained to grow up and become supreme court justices and politicians.

    *** For a long time, nobody thought you had to have talent to rap. They figured it was like walking, something that just came naturally to us ghetto boys.

    *** To me, music is like religion. It shouldn’t be argued. If it makes you feel good, it’s your business.

    *** Two million kids buy my records and they ain’t playin’ me on the radio. What’s that say?

    *** The name of the game is capitalism, and I aim to win that game too.

    Again, this was sent to the media in May 1991. Twenty years later, Ice-T has become a successful actor, has just released his second book, and is about to take part in a reality show with his wife, Coco. He’s an avid gamer, still speaks freely and yet still watches what he says, but now within the context of Twitter.

    20 years ago, KRS-One told everyone “I am hip-hop” and that was the split between the “old school” of rap and turning the community of fans and creators into something between quotes. You could be “hip-hop” and validate yourself. Ice-T may have noticed this and was like nah, fuck that, I do what I do but I’m going to remain me. In fact, the last sentence on the release of his then-forthcoming 1991 album reads:

    Committed, controversial, consistently creative, Ice-T is, in short, totally O.G.

    The album cover showed the duality of his reality: he worked hard to have his own home in the hills with his then-wife Darlene, he had the fishes, the dogs, the cars. He could pimp himself out because he made the money to make it happen. Yet for all intents and purposes, the reality was that his non-fans will always view him as a criminal, a hood, someone worth incarcerating. You didn’t like how Ice-T was living? As he said in “New Jack Hustler”, fuck you. He remains Ice-T and then, as now, he has no reason to lie to you.

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    FROM THE BOX: Martika’s listening apparatus

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    I did not save this photo for Martika. I knew of Marta Merrero when my sister watched KIDS Incorporated, anda few years later she became Martika with “More Than You Know” and of course “Toy Soldiers”. After that, you never really heard from her again until Eminem sampled her.

    Taken from the June 15, 1989 issue of Rolling Stone, it’s an article called Stereos Of The Stars which looks at the way artists listened to music. Some of it was in proper listening rooms, while others, like Martika, seemed like an advertising opportunity. The caption states she was a pop princess at the end of spring 1989, although that was far from the truth. Nonetheless, she did have one of the biggest pop hits of the year, only for Columbia Records to put a halt on the single in the hopes that more people would buy the album. Her career never went any higher than “Toy Soldiers”, and her crown was taken away and placed in a non-existent storage facility.

    Martika is no longer a music artist, and now acts under the name Vida Edit.

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    FROM THE BOX: The Rocket” issue #84 (October 1986)

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    The Rocket was a Seattle paper that was my introducing to the Seattle music scene when I moved from Honolulu in 1984. I happened to live 200 miles east of Seattle, which made things difficult to fully enjoy the music until I was “of age”. But there were records with such labels as Green Monkey and Popllama. Because of the fact that I couldn’t get my shit together after high school, I remained in the Dry Shitties (a/k/a Tri-Cities). However, between 1990-1994, I made a number of visits to Seattle, which included a visit to Sub Pop HQ. It looked like a bedroom, with vinyl and boxes everywhere, a huge Bruce Lee movie poster, Kim Warnick of the Fastbacks handling phone calls, the guys from Seaweed handling press for their then-new album. Now, I had made a call to Sub Pop publicist Jenny Boddy and said I wanted to visit. She told me “I could not visit unless I came with a bribe.” I said what kind, she told me “chocolate”. I went to Uwajimaya and bought a box of Hawaiian Host chocolate covered macadamia nuts. I visited Sub Pop, and she was not there. Or maybe she was, and thought I was a freak. I simply wanted to visit the label, do some record label stuff (i.e. possible freebies), and that was that. I did see Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman there, which for me was like seeing Ahmet Ertegun. Well, maybe not in a celebratory way, but to know that I was in the “house” of the people whom I had seen that day. I ended up leaving with nothing, only exhaustion from finding the label (if you ever visited, you’ll know why). I also ended up eating the entire box of chocolate covered macadamia nuts.

  • As a young writer at the time, I wanted to be a part of the Seattle music scene, but hard to do when I was in another city. I did end up writing for The Rocket for about two years, so it was the closest I came to doing that. However, what I loved about the people involved in the scene, including bands, managers, and publicists, was that it was very close knit. They all showed support for one another, and I was surprised that they showed support for me, as a supporter. When some of these bands from Seattle, Tacoma,and Olympia came into town, I’d go to all of the shows, take photos, and talk story a bit. They were happy for the reviews I did, even if it was just “a review”.
  • One review in The Rocket that changed my life was one that was in the October 1986 issue, which I just discovered in a box I’ve had in storage. I now know that I’ve been officially a Melvins fan for 24 years this month. Inside, Bruce Pavitt’s great Sub Pop column, which marked the release of the SUB POP 100 album. First record reviewed in the column was the “Together We’ll Never”/”Ain’t Nothin’ To do” 7″ from Green River, for a whopping $2.
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    I sent it to the address listed, and in a week received a package from a guy named Mark Arm. In his letter, he told me that he included another record for free, a cool band called Melvins. It was the 6-song 7″ EP on C/Z. While I grew up with the slow dirge of Black Sasbbath, Melvins felt like “my music”, even though at the time I had no idea who their influences were. It changed my life forever. I ended up interviewing King Buzzo twice, once in 1987 for the high school radio station I was with, and in their Atlantic days. At the end of the second interview, he goes “you’re John Book? The same guy who interviewed us in high school?”

  • Oddly enough, I have yet to see them live. A disgrace, I know, but when I’ve had opportunities to see them, I was either on vacation or simply unable to make the journey. A true Melvins fan is probably saying “but those fuckers tour all the time, how could you miss them?”.
  • Also in the same issue of The Rocket, this review of the first Full Force album by Glen Boyd:
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    Good times.

  • FROM THE BOX: Radio Free Hawai’i ballot

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    Once upon a time in a land far, far, away…

    Radio Free Hawai’i was one of the best things to happen to Hawaiian radio in its broadcast history. The idea of a radio station playing anything and everything, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, was like a dream come true. This was at a time when the University of Hawai’i station KTUH could only be tapped into if you were in the right parts of Manoa, if you were lucky. Radio Free Hawai’i was broadcast on KDEO 102.7 FM, a station whose original format was country music (their slogan was “K-DEO…Radio”). The station was started by Hawaiian radio legend Ron Jacobs, who also helped to create the Home Grown album series in San Diego before taking it back home to Honilulu (the second installment of the series, Home Grown 2, would help spawn the musical career of Nohelani Cypriano.) KDEO, as a country station, was considered “old people music”, and when I was growing up in the late 70’s/early 80’s, none of my friends listened to country music so the only time I heard country music on the radio was Juice Newton‘s cover of “Angel Of The Morning”. I had moved to the mainland in 1984, but would come back every few years. In the summer of 1991 I would return, and I found out about a brand new radio station. At 20 years old, I felt this is what Hawai’i desperately needed at a time when all of the mainstream stations played the same old crap. Hawai’i loves what’s popular and there was little to no adventure on the radio, even stations that played traditional Hawaiian music started to sound boring.

    I came back home, and at every record store (back when they were plentiful), various department stores, and even at 7-Eleven were ballots where people could take a survey and write a list of songs they wanted to hear. It would be played, just like that. It was revolutionary then as it is now, although this was 1991. Most people didn’t have the internet, most people didn’t have computers. You still had to buy your cassettes at physical stores, records were dying out (allegedly), and people were finally embracing compact discs. Here was a radio station that played Young MC, Metallica, Talking Heads… now this was at a time when the Talking Heads were considered alternative and “college rock”, not “classic rock” as they are now, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, this was music going out to everyone and you didn’t have to turn to the traditional “left of the dial”. In the middle of this, they might play Sons Of Hawai’i or Makaha Sons Of Ni’ihau. The station was on permanently, and I wished it would have lasted forever.

    The format stopped for a bit, then returned, and then KDEO were bought out. By the time the station was purchased, MP3’s were still a dirty little secret for music fans and not the threats to the industry it was, and streaming radio, iPod’s… non-existent. There is still a greatness to the airwaves that exists, but is often ignored in favor of new technologies. Yet Radio Free Hawai’i proved you could pull it off and let people know that you can play anything and everything, and still gain an audience who are willing to ride it out with you. May the spirit of Radio Free Hawai’i live on.

    To find out more about the legacy of Radio Free Hawai’i, click here

    FROM THE BOX: Yo! Noid Nintendo NES coupon

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    It might seem odd, but it’s a vast world so perhaps it’s not, but I’ve always found it interesting when a company tries to promote their product in a way that seemed unusual at first. It’s a tie-in, and these days it’s normal to see a new cartoon with a box of cereal, yogurt, candy, or whatever. There was a time when video games had nothing to do with the outside world, most characters in video games lived in those video games. Of course things quickly changed when you had games for Tron and other films, so now it was possible to extend the feeling you had with a film and play it at the arcade. In time, movies, television shows, and cartoons would all find their way in a video game, to where finding a video game with no connection to these forms of entertainment was a rarity. The cooler the character, the better the chances of playing/buying the game, right?

    But here’s an odd one: food companies who may have had a mascot or two in TV commercials, but knew a good part of their core audience were playing Nintendo. Yo! Noid is a video game made for the Nintendo NES system based on Noid, who was the anti-pizza character Dominos Pizza made for newspaper and TV ads.

    It’s product placement at its very best, but it wasn’t as if Noid was a character to admire. On the surface, he was used as a way to say you should avoid him, thus the slogan Avoid The Noid. The word “Noid” is a unique way of saying “nerd”, thus you were cool if you bought Dominos, but a nerd/noid if you didn’t. Noid was only meant to be seen 30 seconds at a time, so what made anyone think kids would want to play Noid for hours?

    No one knows, but 7-Up actually had someone make a video game called Cool Spot for the Spot that was in their commercials in the late 80’s. Really, the red spot on their can became animated, and then a video game star? Really?

    As for the above ad/coupon, look at the offer on the bottom. Buy 6 video games and they’ll take $100 off. It’s no wonder the economy is the way it is today, it’s all that excessive NES cartridges hysteria happening at malls. I’d like to think that those with $150 or more to buy video games would have the common sense to buy better pizza, but Dominos was (back then) tasty, but was it really tasty or just conveniently tasty?

    Anyway, Yo! Noid seemed somewhat cool at the time, but true to the character, many thought it was a cheap stunt by Dominos, an advertising gimmick. Fortunately, the world never suffered from these types of advertisements again. The world is safe.

    FROM THE BOX: Honolulu prostitutes bow down to The Police (February 1984)

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    Walk the streets for money/
    you don’t care if it’s wrong or if it’s right

    It would end up being The Police‘s last North American concert before doing a few shows in Australia, and then calling it a day. I’m prouud to say that I was one of the 33,000+ people at the Aloha Stadium that night which featured Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Bryan Adams, and a juggler who opened up for The Jacksons as opening acts.

    The Police’s arrival was big news, as it always was with any mainland or international band. 1983 was very much the band’s year with Synchronicity, which ended up with four hit singles. It was also the first time the band had returned to Hawai’i since they were a young and new ska band on the college circuit (they played at the University Of Hawai’i, footage of which was captured and shown on the KGMB-9 television show, Hawaiian Moving Company.) When they first arrived, there was no such thing as MTV. In February, they were the darlings of the music cable network.

    The Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the Honolulu Advertiser were the two daily newspapers and they would feature a number of articles before and after the show. This one is from after the show, and I believe was taken from the Star-Bulletin. It’s a story that could’ve happened anywhere, but it shows that if you are a lady of the night, you have to have priorities: money or concert.

    You can read an enlarged version of the clipping by clicking the image above.

    FROM THE BOX: Jeffrey Osborne concert review, Richland, Washington (circa 1986)

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    Uncertain of the actual date for this clipping, but since it makes numerous references to “You Should Be Mine (The Woo Woo Song)”, this would have happened sometime in late 1986. I didn’t go to this concert, my 11th grade mind was somewhere else. Jeffrey Osborne represented coolness, being sleek, and if I was either of them and had a girl on my side, then yeah.

    Nonetheless, a singer whose music I liked and saw/heard on BET all the time was going to play here. It didn’t matter that it was at a high school auditorium, but it did seem odd. There was no Tri-City Coliseum/Toyota Center, no hockey team, there was still a waterpark here, it was virtually dead. The only things that happened then, like now, was an annual boat race and country fair, and if there were concerts, it was country, rock, and maybe country rock. Osborne was an oddity only because very few, if any, soul artists ever came near here. Yet, 4500 people attended this show, which is 2500 more than the MC Hammer concert four years later. This area is known as the most conservative area in Washington State, and Osborne represented… well, anything but. Great singer, great artist, and yet he was in GOP country.
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    It’s odd and sad that because of the fact that the music of Osborne “jams”, it might be considered too much to handle. What could Osborne’s music lead to, a few babies in nine month’s time? Wearing Sunday clothes for a show? Was this really harmful in 1986? Of course not, but anything that wasn’t Conway Twitty or Donny & Marie had the potential of being considered risque.

    Doesn’t matter, because Osborne’s performance didn’t cause any riots. Looking at the article, it states that he was brought here to perform to see if top name artists performing in “secondary markets” was something of interest. While it was of interest to fans, it was an isolated show and soul artists performing in the Tri-Cities did not become a regular occurence.

    Also keep in mind that Seattle, as a marketable city for anything, wasn’t even on the map. A year later, when U2 went on tour in support of The Joshua Tree, they raised a stink when the band planned out their tour, stopped in San Francisco but passed up Seattle (and Portland) and went straight up to Vancouver, British Columbia. It was a cover story in The Rocket. Whatever the reason was, U2 would later visit Seattle a number of times. The point is that if a band like U2 could pass up a small town like Seattle, what made anyone think some decent soul artists would drive 200 miles in the state to perform in… Kennewick? A lot of top name artists usually don’t create “secondary market” tours, although a few do it every now and then. Osborne did in 1986.

    Also of note: the photograph was taken by Lon Martin, who is known in this area as a radio DJ, currently co-hosting with Jonathan Walker on 97.5 COOL FM in the mornings.