In 2012, the documentary I directed about the Antenna club and the vibrant music scene which sprang up around it premiered at the Indie Memphis Film Festival. It had a successful festival run, but a commercial release of Antenna has been repeatedly delayed by music rights issues. With the help of J.D. Reager, we managed to convince Bob Holmes, who had become something of a recluse, to do an interview for the film. For three hours, he regaled us with some of the wildest Memphis music stories I have ever had the good fortune to hear. In order to honor the passing of a Memphis musical genius, I have uploaded the Modifiers segments from Antenna to YouTube and present it here for the first time since 2012.
I watched them on Hulu, but they’re available everywhere, I’m sure. The first recommendation is The Quiet One, a film about retired Stone Bill Wyman. I think it was released last summer.
Throughout his three-decade career as a founding member of and bassist for The Rolling Stones, Bill Wyman was known to the world as the “quiet one” in the band. Now, the famously private music legend speaks out about his extraordinary life and experiences as part of “the greatest rock and roll band in the world.” Opening up his vast personal archive—a lifetime’s worth of previously unseen home movies, photographs, and memorabilia—Wyman reflects on his early years with The Stones, the band’s meteoric rise to fame, and his search for a sense of “normalcy” amidst the whirlwind of sex, drugs, and rebellion. Endearingly humble and down-to-earth, Wyman pulls back the curtain to offer a one-of-a-kind perspective on life as a reluctant rock star.
The second is 2007’s Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, which you bastards have probably already seen. I missed it, somehow.
… paints an uncommonly colorful picture of the onetime leader of The Clash. Director Julien Temple reveals Strummer as more than a punk legend, but a stunning cultural communicator whose influence knew no bounds.
Xfinity, if you are scratching your head for the connection here, is the digital cable, internet, phone, etc. provider owned by Comcast. Comcast owns NBC, which aired the parade. It also owns Universal Pictures, which owns E.T. So, basically what you’re looking at is major corporation dipping into a considerable bag of tricks labeled “Nostalgic Intellectual Property” and throwing Super Bowl commercial money at it.
Love it or hate it, every serious music nerd should hear this strange album once. A Wizard, A True Star was released in ’73 when I was 15, and I soon became addicted (which might explain some things), although some of it annoyed me and still does. This mash-up of prog, pop, and blue-eyed soul might be the densest, most overly over-dubbed album in history. There is literally zero space unfilled. Because of that, there is almost always something interesting going on, even if the song itself isn’t good. Side one is a medley of song fragments, sort of like side two of Abbey Road produced by a crazier Brian Wilson with access to synthesisers (unfortunately, there’s not a gapless version on YouTube). The medley sometimes gets cartoonish. A portion of side two is a medley of Motown covers, which has always seemed a bit random to me. That said, there are plenty of addictive hooks throughout. Highlights for me are “International Feel” (and its recapitulation, “Le Feel Internacionale,” which ended side 1), “When the Shit Hits the Fan/Sunset Boulevard,” “Sometimes I don’t Know What to Feel,” and “Just One Victory.” The anthemic quality of “Just One Victory” can get annoying, and it’s too long, but it has some great melodic and harmonic twists and turns.
I think Todd was trying to blow up his status as an AM radio pop artist. The previous year he’d had a commercially successful album, Something/Anything?, which was mostly straight-ahead pop ballads and rockers: it contained “Slut,” often covered by Big Star, as well as the power-pop classic, “Couldn’t I Just Tell You.” Something/Anything also yielded a couple of big AM hits, the piano-driven “I Saw the Light” and “Hello It’s Me,” that made some people see him as kind of a male Carole King. I’m guessing that didn’t sit well with him, so he went all-out weird for A Wizard, A True Star. I’m sure there were hallucinogens involved as well. It didn’t sell nearly as well as its predecessor. Fun fact: the month after this album came out, he produced the New York Dolls’ first album.
So what to make of TR? He was a highly talented multi-intrumentalist and producer, a true master of the studio, and a pioneer of power-pop and prog. When everything clicked, he could be a very good songwriter. But he lacked self-censorship. Something/Anything? is a double ablum with way too much filler. It could have been a much better single album. As for AWizard, A True Star, he really needed to rein in some of the self-indulgent goofiness. He produced all his own albums, even playing all instruments on many tracks. He just occasionally needed someone to say “no.” In that regard, he was like an American version of The Move’s Roy Wood, who had the same issues. That may not have been a coincidence. The Move regularly covered “Open My Eyes,” originally by TR’s 60’s band, The Nazz. And the first time I ever heard The Move’s “Do Ya” was TR covering it live.