Tag Archives: Joan Jett

20 Duets

Duets. Twenty of ’em.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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A Hint Of Mint – Volume 73: LGBTQ Music From 1980 To 1981

In creating this LGBTQ series, I’ve purposefully stayed away from songs our community has adopted as anthems, such as “We Are Family” and “I Will Survive.” However, this time I’m including one such song, performed by Diana Ross and written by the same pair who wrote “We Are Family.” While the lyrics aren’t expressly gay, they knew what the chorus would mean to a core audience of Ms. Ross, thereby intentionally creating an anthem.

Elsewhere, we have a couple of bands from Georgia, a handful of artists from England, some mainstream acts and some obscure ones, all of whom fall somewhere under the LGBTQ umbrella or sing queer lyrical content.

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I Love NYC And Joan Jett

I had a great time in New York City last weekend. I was in town for a few days for my nephew’s bar mitzvah. I stayed in Manhattan, where I lived for fifteen years before resettling in Los Angeles in 2003.

My first few years in LA I pined for NYC daily. I missed my friends. I missed Manhattan’s energy. I missed having everything I want just outside my door, around the clock.

I’ve visited Manhattan at least once per year since I moved. I have a great time each trip, though I find myself missing it less and less. Part of the reason is I’ve adjusted to LA. I like the weather and found people who share my interests with whom to hang. Also, many of my favorite NYC hot spots are no longer. Tower Records on East 4th Street, where I was every weekend, is no more. The alternative bookshops I frequented are now a hardware store and a Starbucks.

Happily, The Strand bookstore is still there. I stop by every time I’m in the city. Also still there is my favorite bar in Chelsea, Barracuda. I haven’t stopped in there my last few trips, but I’m glad it’s around, as I have memories of good times spent there, despite my not being a bar person.

One night Joan Jett popped in to do a short performance promoting a new album, either Fit to be Tied or Fetish. It’s cool to see an artist you love perform in such a small space in your own neighborhood. She was great as always. Afterwards, she signed my copy of her Bad Reputation album.

Joan 2014-09-22 15.53

New York is not the same as it was when I lived there, but it’s still awesome. I’m not the same as I was when I live there; I’m more awesome.

Joan Jett turns 56 today. She’s awesome. A lot of her classics are not on Spotify, so today Tunes du Jour presents a Joan Jett YouTube playlist. Rock on!

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Tonys! Tonys! Tonys!

The Tony Awards, celebrating excellence on the Broadway stages, are being presented this evening. The Tony Awards are like the gay version of the Tony Awards. That’s how gay they are.

Last year I took second place in a speech contest where I spoke about the effect Broadway had on my life. Here is that speech, followed by a playlist consisting of cover versions of Broadway classics.

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Just Say Yes, And…

Last week I gave a speech about improvisation and how the elements of this art form can be applied to other parts of your life, leading to better health, greater wealth, and stronger relationships.

Among the things I discussed is improv’s most fundamental concept, that of “Yes, and” – accepting your scene partner’s idea and building upon it – and how this idea can be applied to one’s work life.

There is an improv game called Conducted Story. We get a title from the audience; then the conductor points to someone who starts the story, then someone who continues, etc. You want to progress the story and have it make sense. Yes, and.

As the head of the licensing department at Rhino Entertainment, I often did conducted stories in staff meetings. Not literally, but as music sales slipped, we looked for new ways to increase revenue. “We could license to other media besides CDs” “such as greetings cards” “which Hallmark would sell and pay us a royalty” “and we can suggest licensable songs for each holiday” “and expand that into other things sold at Hallmark shops, such as gift boxes and Christmas tree ornaments.” Despite CD sales plummeting during the second half of the last decade, my licensing department’s revenue rose each year.

For those of us who have struggled with shyness, performing improv, even in a classroom setting, increases self-confidence. It worked for me. I used to be shy. Incredibly shy. Painfully shy. Music was my best friend. While other kids were doing Little League, I’d be home listening to my Four Seasons records. I went to therapist after therapist, but they didn’t help me get over my shyness.

Once people got to know me they would tell me “You know you’re very funny.” That gave me an idea. I’ll overcome my shyness by becoming a stand-up comedian. I’ll stand in front of strangers and express my thoughts and feelings, and they’ll have to listen, as I have a mic and a spotlight.

For me, the stand-up helped. I wrote out my sets and memorized them, word for word. I got laughs and more gigs, but was still shyer than I wished. A fellow comedian suggested I take an improv class.

Studying improv gave me the courage to get on stage with topic bullet points memorized, but not each word. It freed me and took my stand-up to another level. An agent liked my set and represented me. I got more bookings and made a little money.

Mind you, my goal was not to become a famous stand-up comic. It was to gain self-confidence. Within five years of starting improv, I went from this shy music geek making a meager salary to a Vice President at a major record company, Warner Music Group, where I made a six-figure salary and negotiated complex deals with artists and attorneys.

Over the course of my music biz career I’ve met many of my favorite all-time artists, including Prince, Tina Weymouth and Chris Franz of Tom Tom Club and Talking Heads, Art Garfunkel, Jack White, Kate Bush, Smokey Robinson, Tina Turner, Donna Summer, Rufus Wainwright, Boy George, Joan Jett, Frankie Valli and Chaka Khan.

Valli autograph 002
Today’s playlist is in honor of one of those, Frankie Valli, who celebrates his 80th birthday today.

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An Atheist Jew’s Guide To Christmas Music, Part 1

Raised Jewish, I celebrated Hanukkah. For several years, my family also celebrated Christmas. We didn’t go to midnight mass, we didn’t drink egg nog, we didn’t throw a special type of log in the fireplace. (By the way, I have no idea what makes a Yule log yuley). We put tinsel and candy canes on a large potted plant my mother had in the den and bought each other small but practical gifts. For example, when I was 11 for Christmas my parents got me a salt shaker. The Christmas celebrations stopped after I innocently told Grandpa Mordechai about them. My parents were so angry with me they took away my salt shaker.

Though I no longer celebrate Christmas, I still have a major jones for Christmas music. I own many more Christmas records than any atheist Jew probably should. We’re talking in the hundreds.

I eschew Christmas classics performed by well-known middle-of-the-road acts such as Celine Dion, Michael Bublé, Kenny G (sell-out Jew), Neil Diamond (sell-out Jew) or Barbra Streisand (sell-out Jew). Frank Sinatra shows up only in a duet with Cyndi Lauper and Bing Crosby shows up only in his duet with David Bowie.

Including the Crosby/Bowie version, I have 15 renditions of “The Little Drummer Boy” in my iPod, by a diverse list of artists including Johnny Cash, The Temptations, Joan Jett, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop and RuPaul.

I have ten versions of “Winter Wonderland,” and that’s not counting the cross-dressing parody “Walkin’ Round in Women’s Underwear,” not performed by RuPaul.

I have “Christmas in Hollis,” “Christmas in Harlem,” “Christmas in Washington,” “Christmastime in the LBC,” “Christmas in the City,” “Christmas in Heaven,” “Christmastime in Hell” and “Christmas at the Zoo.”

I have Christmas songs by most of my favorite artists of all-time, including The Beatles, Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Stevie Wonder, R.E.M., Elvis Presley, The White Stripes, Kanye West, Ike and Tina Turner, Chuck Berry, and Radiohead.

Some Christmas songs aren’t Christmas songs at all. “Frosty the Snowman,” “Let It Snow Let it Snow Let It Snow” and “Winter Wonderland” don’t mention the baby Jesus or Santa Claus or presents or a bullied reindeer with a skin ailment.

Some of the Christmas songs I have are a bit odd. “I Found the Brains of Santa Claus,” a smooth jazz version of “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” C3PO and R2D2 singing “Sleigh Ride.” I have Liberace reciting “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” though his version doesn’t hold a candle to Aretha Franklin’s version, in which the Queen of Soul took a few liberties with the words: “A bundle of gifts he had and what did I get? / As I squealed, opening the package, the same old shit!” Her lyrics are downright Disneyesque compared to Snoop Dogg’s reading of the famous poem. If you’re interested, Google the lyrics because I’m not going to print them here.

I have John Denver singing “Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas).” Verse one opens with a couplet for the arithmetically-challenged: “Just last year when I was only seven / Now I’m almost eight you can see.” Santa needs to bring John some flashcards. The next two lines create a holiday image that is less Norman Rockwell and more John Waters: “You came home at quarter past eleven / And fell down underneath the Christmas tree.” Someone needs to get him to a 12-step group. He can attend a meeting with the title character of Fishbone’s “Slick Nick, You Devil You,” who came down the chimney with a keg of brew and spilled Jack Daniels all over the drapes.

I have Sarah Silverman singing “Give the Jew Girl Toys,” in which she taunts Santa by singing “You have a list / Well, Schindler did to / Liam Neeson played him / Tim Allen played you.”

Then there’s the classic “Fairtytale of New York” by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, which evokes the holiday spirit with the line “You scumbag, you maggot / You cheap lousy faggot,” something yelled at me every year by those Salvation Army Santas.

Better still is “Macarena Christmas.” I LOVE “Macarena” and I’m betting you do to though you probably won’t admit it. “Macarena Christmas” celebrates the birth of our lord and savior Baby Macarena by taking the chorus from the hit single and uncleverly inserting it repeatedly into a medley of Christmas songs, so it goes “Joy to the world, the Lord has come / Da le a tu cuerpo alegria Macarena, Que tu cuerpo es pa darle alegria y cosa Buena / Da le a tu cuerpo alegria Macarena / Eeeeeh, Macarena – ay / Jingle bells jingle bells jingle all the way.” Sound effects of what sounds like an infant with the hiccups are thrown in. It makes no sense, y me gusta mucho.

My favorite holiday album and one of the greatest all-time albums period is Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You, featuring tracks he produced for The Ronettes, The Crystals, Darlene Love and Bob B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans. Every cut on it is classic and can be enjoyed by the whole family, except Grandpa Mordechai.


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