Musings On Music History: A Foo, A Joplin, and An Osbourne Walk Into Studio 54…

01.14: Foo Fighters would not exist without Kurt Cobain’s self-inflicted shotgun blast. Think about it. Would Dave Grohl ever have formed Foo Fighters and gone on to front one of the biggest mainstream rock bands of the last decade? Not in its present iteration, no. Maybe not at all. Things certainly would’ve turned out differently. Why do we bring this up today? Today is Dave’s b-day. He was born on this day in 1969, and it just reminds us of things, induces another one of those thought experiments that frequently flit through our head. Now, by saying what we did, we in no way imply that Dave would rather Kurt killed himself that fateful day than not. Quite the contrary. Dave’s said over and over and over how much he misses Kurt, how he tried to help and reach out and stop the inevitable. It’s kinda twisted that it took the suicide of one of the biggest musicians of all time to bring Dave out from behind the kit and to the forefront of his own band. Would it have happened otherwise? Possibly in some form or another, with another set of musicians backing Dave, but Foo Fighters could not exist without Kurt’s death. It sucks, but it’s true. Personally, we’d take Kurt any day over Foo Fighters. To take this thought experiment further, would Nirvana still be together today if Kurt had survived his popularity? Dave had been writing the songs that would become Foo Fighters’ first album, while Nirvana was at their height. Maybe he would’ve split and started Foo Fighters. Maybe he would’ve just had a side project and release the songs on his own. Maybe Kurt would’ve helped Dave flesh out his songs. Maybe they would’ve recorded them as Nirvana songs. “My Hero”(our favorite Foo’s song, btw) with Cobain’s input? We could go on wondering things all day and night, but for now, we’re just gonna say: Happy Birthday, Dave! You rock, man. [more]

01.18: To tell yet another little tale from the days of disco, we bring you the soaring and sad tale of one Studio 54, perhaps the most famous club in the history of NYC. Every time you watch a documentary about disco or about New York in the late ’70s, you hear about Studio 54, about its bacchanalian days of sex, drugs, celebrities, and disco, about the hordes of people attempting entry into its maw, into its pleasure-filled space. Opened in 1977, the club became an immediate hit with celebrities, jet-setters, and ordinary people alike. When Bianca Jagger (Mick’s then-wife) rode through the club on a white horse for her 32nd birthday, people wanted a piece of that, wanted to be there just in case they might see something like that, wanted to be a part of something bigger than anything else New York City had to offer at the time. Well, besides the rise of punk at CBGB in the West Village or hip-hop in the Bronx, but those are two entirely different stories, kids, and those two movements, which would leave far more of an impression than disco could ever dream of, received far less press and media attention than the drug-fueled insanity of Studio 54 and disco. Imagine that. Something real and based in human emotion being trumped in the media by a hyped-up seen-and-be-seen flash-in-the-pan party. But we digress. On this day in 1980, disco’s beating heart seized and collapsed when the owners of Studio 54 were sent to prison for 3½ years, though they only served 13 months, for tax evasion. The club failed to survive their loss. They’d been skimming off the top for years, failing to pay taxes on much of the club’s profit, and the IRS eventually came a callin’, especially after Steven Rubell, the face of the club, repeatedly boasted in the press about how much money the operation pulled in. Not smart, Steven, not smart at all. The building was sold in 1981 and reopened under the Studio 54 moniker, but nothing could touch the debaucherous good times oft told about the original incarnation.

01.19: Janis, Janis, Janis…..what have you done to us? Janis Lyn Joplin, you totally captured our soul with your bourbon-and-cigarette-soaked voice, your hippy-dippy ways, with “Me and Bobby McGee.” Then, you ripped out our heart with your self-destructive ways, your thirsty liver. That doesn’t mean, though, that we won’t celebrate your life whenever we get the chance. Like today, for instance. On this day in 1943, your presence on Earth became reality and we just wanted to wish you a happy birthday. We wish we could do it in person. You’d be 70 today. That woulda been awesome. Alas, ’twas not to be. Like all the greats who have gone away, however, we’re thankful for what you left us, for those songs we can throw on anytime, remembering the musical goddess that walked amongst us.

01.19: Dolly Parton strutted her stuff for the first time on this day in 1946, bringing her sassy charm, homespun down-to-earth ways, and prodigious, uh, talents to the kind folks of Tennessee. Growing up dirt poor (her words, not ours) with eleven siblings in a one-room cabin in the Smokey Mountains couldn’t have been easy, but Dolly’s always given credit where credit’s due, noting that without the life, circumstances, and family into which she was born she would not have the successful life she’s lived for the past 66 years. Get this, people, you’s about to get some learnin’. Dolly Parton has had 25 #1 singles and 42 Top Ten albums in her amazing and insanely prolific career. She is, hands down, one of the most successful female performers of all time. She might perform mostly country and bluegrass, but in our book she rocks pretty damn hard.

01.20:You might look at Ozzy Osbourne these days and think he’s pretty tame, that he wouldn’t harm a fly. But this is the Ozzy of the new millennium. This is the Ozzy of reality show fame/infamy, the Ozzy of cell phone commercials and marble-mouthed mumbles. It wasn’t so long ago that many considered Ozzy a very dangerous man. Parents’ groups denounced him as Satanic, saying that he wrote and performed music that made people want to kill themselves. His drug use and alcoholism didn’t put him in many people’s good graces, either, especially when he tried to strangle his wife, when he was arrested for urinating on the Alamo while wearing a dress, or when he went on a rampage and shotgunned all the family pets. Suffice it to say, most animal rights groups didn’t take kindly to many of Ozzy’s antics. Once, he bit a dove’s head off during a meeting at his record company. What was a dove doing at the meeting, you ask? Well, Ozzy and Sharon, his wife, had planned on releasing a couple doves as a symbol of something or other, but Ozzy felt that their gesture of good will didn’t receive the attention from the execs he was looking for. So, instead of just letting it go, he grabbed a bird and bit down, forever scarring some poor, innocent record company suits. Which brings us to this day in 1982, to a concert in Des Moines, Iowa, when Ozzy bit the head off another animal. This incident wasn’t quite as blatant as the dove lunch he’d enjoyed, but, during the concert, someone tossed a bat onto the stage. Ozzy thought it was a rubber toy, so he did what any sane, head-biting person would do and bit its head off. Unbeknownst to him, until right after the bat bit him as he was biting it, the bat was real. Another animal fell to the power of the Mad Man. Some claim the bat was dead when it was tossed on stage, but Ozzy insists it was alive. We’re not so sure of this because wouldn’t it fly away after it’d been tossed, if it were alive? We’re just sayin. Anyway, the Ozzman cometh and he is hungry, people. Lock up the cats, hide the birds, and don’t make any sudden moves. That mumble-mouthed old rocker isn’t as harmless as he appears.

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