Thursday, January 28, 2010

'Life's Been Good To Me So Far..'

Great story today about a row between guitarist Joe Walsh (The Eagles, The James Gang) and candidate Joe Walsh (Republican Congresssional aspirant from Illinois) over the latter's use in his campaign of a rewritten version of one of the former's songs.

Parody? Copyright violation? Might end up being left to a judge.

You can watch Candidate Joe's version at The New York Times piece, which has the letter from Guitar Joe's lawyer, which says:

"Under that same United States Copyright Act, you’re not allowed to take someone’s song and change the lyrics. This is not to say you’re not allowed to write silly lyrics, you just have to write them to your own music. Now, I know why you used Joe’s music — it’s undoubtedly because it’s a lot better than any music you or your staff could have written. But that’s the point. Since Joe writes better songs than you do, the Copryright Act rewards him by letting him decide who gets to use the songs he writes."

But the Republican pushes back, saying:

"I thought our song was perfectly fine music and I actually don’t think you’re even close to correct on the law. Copyright laws protect expression, they don’t protect ideas. The lyrics for the song were entirely ours, and that included everything that was said in the video, not just sung. … This video is a parody, protected by the Supreme Court."

Hmmmm. Let's see, shall we.

Greg Mitchell at HuffPo tells the tale with a nice anecdote about an early morning James Gang gig back in the day.

I saw Joe play live just once, in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1982 and on his day he's a great, great rock and roll player. His tunes are completely timeless. The first band I ever played in used to cover Joe's "Turn To Stone" after we all saw him play on the Old Grey Whistle Test one night and were blown away; while thirty years later my band at the FT would rock out with a knockout version of his classic "Rocky Mountain Way". Never, ever gets old.

He's always had such a cool sense of humor. He introduces this clip with: "If I knew I'd end up playing this song for the rest of my life, I'd have written something else." And he's no stranger to politics, of course. He ran for President in 1980 on a platform of "free gas for everyone" and a pledge to make his song "Life's Been Good" the new national anthem.

But it sounds like he's not laughing much about having his work appropriated, and who can blame him. Candidate Joe has already got the publicity he wanted and if he were to 'cease and desist' he'd probably get away with having to apologize and take the video down.

Guitar Joe should at least sue him for the price of a new Maserati.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

'In History's Page, Let Every Stage..'

Happy Australia Day.

Some people can make the guitar sound like an orchestra. Some can make it sound like a gospel choir. This guy can pretty much make it sound like everything at the same time. I've only ever seen Tommy Emmanuel on video (with the advantage of being able to rewind and say "wow, did he just do that?") but the man is amazing, is driven by a pure love of music and is on tour in the US this month.

And here's my favourite Australian band - yes, I know the Finn brothers are from New Zealand, but hey, any excuse to hear a great, great song. (Update: just today it was announced that Crowded House are releasing a new album in March and touring to support it.)

Finally, and not Aussie-related at all, it's Lucinda Williams' 57th birthday today. My wife's a big fan, so this is for you...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

'Was it something I did in another life..?'

Today would have been Warren Zevon's 63rd birthday.

Wonderful voice, brilliantly witty songwriter and just an excellent musician and performer.

He's one of my absolute all-time inspirations and is sorely missed. I had the extreme good fortune to see him play at the Hammersmith Odeon in London in 1985 and I love his songs as much today as when I first heard them.

If you get a chance, check out the heartbreaking documentary VH1 did about the recording of his final album and how he kept going to complete it as his friends and collaborators rallied round. In the meantime, I'll let his music speak for itself.

Here's an acoustic 'Lawyers Guns And Money' from a BBC show 15 years ago:

Here's 'Johnny Strikes Up The Band' from the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ, 1982:

And here's his famous final TV appearance, recorded following his diagnosis, with a clearly emotional David Letterman.

Goodnight and thanks.

Friday, January 22, 2010


If you ever doubted music's power to reach within our soul, whoever we are, whichever our station in life, or whatever our fortune by an accident of where we were born, then listen to this.

Tonight's Haiti telethon was reverential, respectful, and, at least in part, with Wyclef Jean's spirited finale, redemptive.

There were many remarkable performances - Bruce sang 'We Shall Overcome', Sting and The Roots blew the roof off with 'Driven To Tears', while Stevie Wonder's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' was damn near perfect.

But this - this - version of Leonard Cohen's signature anthem by Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris, was simply breathtaking.

God bless music.

(You can download all of tonight's performances through iTunes in support of the disaster relief efforts in Haiti)

Monday, January 11, 2010

'When Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half..'

Happy 68th Birthday, Clarence Clemons.

Over the holidays I read his book "Big Man" which came out towards the end of the Working On A Dream tour. The sub-title is "Real Life and Tall Tales" and it's just that - a collection of true recollections and narratives which fall into something of a grey area, hence they're printed on grey pages in the book.

Clarence's co-author Don Reo introduces one of them with "Most of Clarence's stories are only partially bullshit. It's only fair to tell you that I think the next one is complete bullshit."

The book's great to dip into and well worth reading, especially for E Street fans. As he says himself, it's impossible to tell his story without talking at length about Bruce. Here's Clarence's recent appearance on The Daily Show, and below, he talks about getting his first saxophone:


Tonight at 9pm on PBS is the debut of the American Masters documentary on the life of Sam Cooke. Here's Ken Shane's review for PopDose. (On my local station, WNET, it's being followed by the one on Marvin Gaye)


Tickets went on sale today for the Yoko Ono's Plastic Ono Band show next month at BAM. Eric Clapton, Paul Simon and Martha Wainwright are on the bill.