The New York Times has sounded a death knell for pop music, calling 2002 "The Year That Pop Lost Popularity." In an analysis of the records that charted at the top spot on the pop charts, the Billboard Hot 200, writer Neil Strauss demonstrated rap and "country" music dominated the charts, with rock in third place, followed by R and B and pop. "The dominance of country and rap on the charts could be seen partly as a reaction to consumers' being spoon-fed manufactured boy bands for years," Strauss wrote. "Slightly older audiences are regaining control of music trends and are gravitating toward styles led by solo artists who seem to have some point of view and connection to everyday life." The main fallacy of this argument, that most contemporary "country" music is just an extension of the '70s pop sound codified by the Eagles and Elton John, is openly acknowledged by Strauss, who admits "much of what passes for country is virtually indistinguishable from generic pop." Most of the 25 albums that hit the top spot on the Billboard charts in 2002 only lasted a week at No. 1 on the strength of a full-court press from the record company. Eminem was hands-down the Artist of the Year, holding down the No. 1 spot for six weeks with "The Eminem Show," then adding another two weeks at the top with the soundtrack to "8 Mile."
STRUMMER DIES BEFORE HE GETS OLD
British punk rock pioneer Joe Strummer, who co-founded and fronted with the Clash, died Sunday at his home in England. Strummer was 50 years old. With the Clash, Strummer played guitar, sang and wrote songs along with Mick Jones. The news of Strummer's death was announced on his Web site. The message on strummersite.com, dated Monday, reads: "Joe Strummer died yesterday. Our condolences to Luce and the kids, family and friends." A spokesman for Avon and Somerset police said: "We believe police did attend as the death at the farmhouse in Broomfield near Bridgwater was sudden." The cause of death is believed to be a heart attack pending an official autopsy. Strummer had been in the studio to record the third album with his Mescaleros group, the follow-up to 2001's "Global a Go-Go." During the band's recently completed tour, several songs slated for the album were given run-throughs, including "Dakar Meantime" and "Coma Girl." The band also performed well-known Clash tunes like "Rudie Can't Fail" and "(White Man)in Hammersmith Palais." Strummer was joined at London's Acton Town Hall show by Clash crony Jones for a reunion after nearly 20 years. The two joined forces to perform the Clash classics "Bankrobber," "White Riot" and "London's Burning."
EMINEM MODEL CHRISTMAS DAD
The Village Voice celebrated Christmas and the seventh birthday of Eminem's daughter, Hailie Jade Mathers, with a cover story naming Eminem "Father of the Year." Christmas baby Haile is the apple of daddy's eye, writes Chuck Eddy in the Voice feature. "If Hailie wanted a hamburger at 1 o'clock in the morning, he'd go get it," her great-grandma Betty Kresin of St. Joseph, Mo., told Eddy. "If Hailie wanted to go to a movie, Marshall (Eminem's real name is Marshall Mathers) goes with her; he doesn't have a nanny do it. They just have to sneak in through the service door. He lets her play with the neighbors, and has cookouts. He loves children. I think if he had his way he'd have a lot of children. He always wanted to have a family." Sounds like Eminem has been studying up on Michael Jackson's history as he plots his next career move. Maybe he'll even make nice with Moby and Triumph the insult comic dog puppet.
ROLLING STONES FREE CONCERT
The Rolling Stones have announced plans for a free concert in Los Angeles next year, reports Britain's New Music Express. The band hopes the concert, scheduled for Feb. 6, will raise awareness for the National Resources Defense Council in its battle against global warming. NRDC president John H. Adams said the Stones "deserve a standing ovation for putting the environment on center stage." Here's hoping this one goes better than the last free concert the Stones held in the region at Altamont Speedway. Fans can apply for tickets through the band's official Web site rollingstones.com, NME reports.
STRING CHEESE NEW YEAR
String Cheese Incident will return to San Francisco for a three-day run at the Bill Graham Civic Center to celebrate the New Year. The band's end-of-year events are all themed, and this year's subject is the "Time Traveler's Ball." Last year's theme was the "Superhero's Ball." Bands supporting this timely bash include Gomez, Michael Franti and Spearhead, and Keller Williams. "At the 'Time Travelers Ball' attendees can explore through adventure how we can make our time more meaningful," Johnny Dwork, co-founder of Peak Experience, told jambase.com. "The goal is to play with all these different theoretical ways of time travel as a community experiment in reconsidering how each of us dances with time in our daily lives." He said the event focuses on two different aspects of time travel. The first is the classic science fiction or "classic relativistic sense as in you'd find a wormhole or a time machine that would allow you to literally go backward and forwards in time." The other type of time travel is the more alchemical version. "In a room called a 'Course In Time,' we'll teach people or rather remind them, how to time travel for real. We found a process where people really do time travel," Dwork added.
MCCARTNEY COAT OF ARMS
Sir Paul McCartney is not just a knight, he also now has his own coat of arms, reports the Sunday Times of London. The Times said the crest features a liver bird, an imaginary being from McCartney's hometown of Liverpool's crest, holding a guitar. The emblem also features four curved figures in the shape of beetle shells, an obvious reference to McCartney's time in the Beatles. McCartney's motto on the coat of arms, "Ecco Cor Meum," is Latin for "Behold My Heart," the title of a McCartney composition. McCartney's coat of arms came from the College of Arms, which dates back to 1484.
THROW MAMMA FROM THE BIOPIC
The New York Post reports Stevie Wonder is feuding with his mother, Lulu Hardaway, over the content of her just-released biography, "Blind Faith" (Simon and Schuster). Wonder pulled support from the book and permission to use his songs in a film version, the Post reports, when he discovered his mother revealed his father forced her to turn tricks for him. "I wanted people to know," Hardaway, 72, told the Post's Page Six column, "whatever my husband did to me, he gave me some wonderful children and I'm proud of them. This is not Stevie Wonder's book. This is Lulu's book. And I have more children than just Stevie Wonder."
BIG EASY DADS
Several of New Orleans' top guitarists collaborated with their children in an unusual concert over the weekend. Dave Malone, Spencer Bohren and Cranston Clements were joined by Annie Clements on bass, Andre Bohren on drums and Johnny and Darcy Malone on vocals, collectively known as The Chilluns. Helping out on keyboards was New Orleans' ubiquitous John Gros, who drew raves, particularly for his exchanges with pere Malone. Bohren was particularly effective on pedal steel guitar during the band's cover of the Crosby, Stills and Nash classic "Teach Your Children."
LAWYERS, GUNS AND THE BOSS
Rolling Stone.com reports Bruce Springsteen will appear on Warren Zevon's final album, expected to be released next summer. Springsteen has been recording with Zevon at a studio in Los Angeles, where Zevon is completing a "final" album tentatively titled "My Dirty Life and Times." Zevon began working on the album after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier this year. Springsteen and Zevon have written together before, collaborating on "Jeannie Needs a Shooter" from Zevon's 1980 album "Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School." Bob Dylan, Don Henley, Ry Cooder, Dwight Yoakam, Billy Bob Thornton, Jim Keltner and frequent Zevon collaborator Jorge Calderon already have made contributions. "It's a good idea to be able to say goodbye to yourself," Zevon told Rolling Stone, "one hopes fondly, and that you'll be at peace with everyone you know, as I was with my parents. I hope I'll be in that position with everybody around me, or that I'll have written a song to a person I can't reach, to say, 'Hey, I shouldn't have f---ed this up.'"
PHISH ON THE LINE
Phish fans who can't wait to hear the New Year's Eve reunion shows got good news this week when it was announced the "Live Phish" album release series will now be available via the Internet on a "Live Phish Downloads" site. Based at livephish.com, the site will allow fans to purchase and download entire Phish concerts. The shows will be made available on MP3 and Shorten digital music files, a compressed .wav file with a higher audio quality than MP3s.
Recordings of the band's New Year's upcoming reunion concerts -- Dec. 31 in New York and Jan 2-4, 2003, in Hampton, Va., -- will be the first available through the program. Files are expected to be available at the site within 48 hours of each show. The group plans to release new and archived concerts via the service throughout 2003, including shows from the group's sold-out February tour. Prices for a full concert will vary from $9.95 to $14.95 for MP3 files and $12.95 to $18.95 for Shorten files. An Oct. 7, 2000, concert recorded at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, Calif., currently is available for free download as an introductory offer. Phish's latest studio album, "Round Room" (Elektra), debuted at No. 26 on The Billboard 200.
TOWNSHEND VOWS TO FINISH ALBUM
Who leader Pete Townshend has vowed to finish a new Who album that was in the works at the time of bassist John Entwistle's death last year, according to a message on Townshend's Web site. The record would be the group's first studio album in more than 20 years. "I have never written quickly," said Townshend. "I don't know how long it will take. Expect some new music to arrive in about a year, maybe later. But if I write 15 good pieces, and 10 of them make it to a new CD, we will probably find that only two or three of them will stand comparison on stage with our old hits." Townshend promised to integrate Roger Daltrey, the only other surviving member of The Who, into the project. "I am very keen too to see Roger find some creative outlet on this future Who recording," he said. "He is full of ideas, passion and energy -- he bears quite a disturbed and serious view of the world at the moment."
SUGE KNIGHT COLLARED
The Los Angeles Times reports hip hop impresario Marion "Suge" Knight was taken into custody Monday by California parole officials and could face a year in jail. The Times quotes sources who indicate the 37-year-old Death Row records boss may have violated parole via his "alleged association with reputed gang members who authorities say are connected with a series of shootings." Knight was convicted in 1992 on assault and weapons charges, then in 1996 he was jailed for five years for violating terms of his probation when he was captured on videotape along with platinum rapper Tupac Shakur assaulting a member of a rival gang in Las Vegas. Shakur was killed later that day in a drive by shooting in which Knight also was wounded.
GRETCHEN'S GOLDEN GLOBE
Acclaimed songwriter Gretchen Peters, winner of the Country Music Association Song of the Year for her harrowing response to domestic violence, "Independence Day," has been nominated for a Golden Globe award for "Here I Am" from "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron." Written with her friend and frequent collaborator, rocker Bryan Adams, and Hans Zimmer, the inspirational theme joins songs by Madonna ("Die Another Day" from "Die Another Day"), Eminen ("Lose Yourself" from "8 Mile"), Paul Simon ("Father and Daughter" from "The Wild Thornberrys Movie") and U2 ("The Hands That Built America" from "The Gangs of New York"). "When you're writing a song, you're not thinking about being nominated for anything or the company you might be keeping," Peters says. "You're trying to reflect some emotional undercurrent or moment of realization -- and that's hard enough. If you'd put Madonna or Eminen or U2 or Paul Simon into the mix, I'd never get anything written!"
YES IS THE ANSWER
The most successful progressive rock band in history rechristens its first four albums with newly added rare bonus tracks next month, as Rhino Records releases remastered and expanded versions of Yes' self-titled debut album, "Time and a Word," "The Yes Album," and "Fragile." This marks the first in a series of Yes reissues Rhino has planned, with seven more titles being released over the course of 2003. Yes, formed in 1968, has been a dominant force in progressive rock music for more than three decades. To date, the band has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, and recently was honored with Rhino/Elektra's career-spanning five-CD boxed set, "In A Word: Yes (1969 - )." Founded by singer Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, and drummer Bill Bruford, Yes played a mix of original material and totally reworked covers in their early live sets. The self-titled first Yes record, released in 1969, reveled in their musical influences, as Yes re-envisioned The Byrds' "I See You" and The Beatles' "Every Little Thing." But the band's own work was strong too -- "Sweetness" and "Survival" are examples of Yes at their most peaceful, and exhibit some of Anderson's most beautiful singing. Rhino also has added six bonus tracks to this reissue, four of which are previously unreleased -- "Dear Father" (Early Version #1), "Everydays" (Early Version), "Dear Father" (Early Version #2), and "Something's Coming" (Early Version). Guitarist Steve Howe joined the lineup for "The Yes Album," and keyboardist Rick Wakeman came aboard for "Fragile."
GARAGE MAHAL SIGNED
Bay Area jam-band supergroup Garage Mahal has become the sixth act signed to Harmonized Records, the offshoot label from Home Grown Music Network, in its first year of operation. The band consists of bassist Kai Eckhardt, guitarist Fareed Haque, drummer Alan Hertz and keyboardist Eric Levy. The individual members of the group have played with Sting, Dizzy Gillespie, Stanley Clarke, Al DiMeola, Steve Smith's Vital Information, Bela Fleck, Bill Evans, John McLaughlin Trio, Steve Kimock, KVHW, Edgar Meyer and dozens more. The label is so high on the band that it's planning to simultaneously release a series of live CDs in early 2003. "Each member of this band is such an accomplished player," says Lee Crumpton, co-founder with Brian Asplin of Harmonized Records. "I consider these guys musicians' musicians who are capable of creating all sorts of opportunities for us -- and so, apparently, do more and more people out there on the scene."