The Riff - January 2009

That Was Fun While It Lasted: Beatles Music Free For a Day

| Wed Jan. 7, 2009 2:21 PM EST

mojo-photo-beatlesnorway.jpgAs a Swede, I have to say it doesn't surprise me that those miserable, cheap Norwegians were behind this. And don't get me started on the Finns. Norway's national broadcaster NRK announced yesterday that it had discovered a crazy loophole in its podcasting rights agreement that allowed it to offer free downloads of basically every Beatles song ever. How, you say? The station had broadcast a series in 2007 called "Our Daily Beatles" in which each episode featured one Fab Four song and the story behind it. Then they discovered that their agreement with London-based recording industry rights organization IFPI seemed to indicate they could offer the series, complete with music, as a podcast, effectively allowing for the entire Beatles catalog to be given away. Since the Beatles are famous holdouts from digital stores like iTunes, this would have been the only legal way to get mp3s of their music.

Of course, there's no way this could have been real, since the Beatles, like Oprah, don't obey the law, they make the law. While I have no evidence anyone from NRK was severely beaten, they did come out with a very contrite statement today: it turns out that they can only "put up shows for download that were aired the latest four weeks, and where the music is less than 70% of the show's length. 'Our Daily Beatles' aired in 2007, so we have to pull the podcast." And please, Yoko, take the electrodes off my nipples!

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iTunes Drops Copy Protection, Adds Tiered Pricing, Still No Foot Massages

| Tue Jan. 6, 2009 10:45 PM EST

mojo-photo-itunesscreen.jpgIn a quietly revolutionary move, the world's biggest online music retailer announced today that they've managed to please just about everybody except those of us wanting a little footsie-rub. For music fans, iTunes will soon drop copy protection on every single track they have for sale; for the suits, iTunes has finally given in to a longtime record label demand for variable pricing. You give a little, you get a little. Actually, I suppose I shouldn't call this "revolutionary" since Amazon.com's ugly-but-functional mp3 store has been doing the same thing for about 16 months now (and don't forget about the dance-music-centric Beatport, who will even sell you a big ole wave file if you want). But Apple is undeniably the biggie, and their abandonment of D.R.M. ("digital rights management") software means you'll be able to happily do whatever you please with your purchased songs, the same way you can with your… er… not-so-purchased ones. The pricing system will be three-tiered: music you don't really want for 69 cents, music you kind of want for 99 cents, and brand new tunes you just gotta have will cost $1.29. See how that works?

According to the New York Times, everybody's happy:

Music industry watchers widely applauded the move and said it could help digital music sales, which have shown signs of slowing just five years after Apple introduced iTunes. In particular, lower prices for some songs could spur consumers "to buy deeper into the catalog, and expand their relationship with digital music," said Russ Crupnick, an analyst with the NPD Group. … Industry pundits have long pointed to D.R.M. as one culprit for the music companies' woes, saying it alienated some customers while doing little to slow piracy on file-sharing networks.

So, how's it work?

Stooges Guitarist Found Dead

| Tue Jan. 6, 2009 2:46 PM EST

Stooges Ron AshetonOriginal member of seminal rock band the Stooges Ron Asheton was reportedly found dead in his Ann Arbor, Michigan home this morning. He was 60 years old. While cause of death has not been determined, Rolling Stone reports that officials do not suspect foul play, and that "initial indications suggest Asheton had a heart attack." Asheton's personal assistant had not been able to reach him for days and contacted police, who found his body.

Asheton formed the Stooges in Ann Arbor in 1967 along with brother Scott, bassist Dave Alexander and legendary frontman Iggy Pop. The Stooges released only three albums between 1969 and 1973— The Stooges, Fun House and Raw Power— but despite their limited output, the band had an incalculable influence on modern music. Their edgy live shows set the bar for future performance artists and rock spectacles, while their raw, fuzzy sound can be heard in everything from punk to French techno. The Detroit Free Press put it this way:

The Stooges' raw guttural sound helped create the template for punk rock, and later became hugely influential in the alternative-rock revolution of the late 1980s and early '90s. Asheton was not an incredibly gifted player technically, but the dirgy, guttural sounds he created on early Stooges classics like "I Wanna Be Your Dog" were cited by guitarists as varied as Kurt Cobain, Thurston Moore and Jack White — who once called the Stooges' 1969 effort "Fun House" the greatest rock album of all time.

In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked Asheton at #29 on its "Greatest Guitarists of All Time" list, and in September of this year, the Stooges were nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user RealLowVibe.

Al Franken is Mick Jagger

| Mon Jan. 5, 2009 2:43 PM EST

Al Franken is Mick JaggerNow that it appears Al Franken has emerged just barely victorious over Norm Coleman in the Minnesota senate race, maybe we can finally celebrate. Let's relish the win by watching this little YouTube gem unearthed by Towleroad. It's Al dressed up in tight pants doing an impression of Mick Jagger on the actual Solid Gold TV show. The clip is undated, but Wikipedia says Marylin McCoo hosted from 1981-1988, so this isn't exactly the remote past, people. Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, your next senator from the great state of Minnesota, after the jump:

Prince to Release Three New Albums in 2009

| Mon Jan. 5, 2009 2:10 PM EST

PrincePrince has announced he will be releasing two new albums under his own name and one by singer Bria Valente which he's apparently producing. All three will be released outside the traditional record label system. The notoriously reclusive singer revealed the details in an interview with the LA Times, who sent a reporter up to Prince's Mulholland Drive mansion for an experience that sounds even weirder than the movie of the same name, featuring plexiglass pianos, cars named Miles Davis, and why Jehovah's Witnesses don't vote:

The next five hours took me … to a car Prince referred to as "Miles Davis," where we listened to one set of songs; into a back room furnished with a round bed, faux-fur carpeting and a plexiglass Rhodes piano, where he played cuts by his new protege, the comely Bria Valente; and into that white limo, where the entirety of "Lotus Flower," the album previewed earlier this month on Indie 103.1, boomed through the speakers as we drove through Hollywood.

Jeez, did he take you to Club Silencio, as well? No hay banda! Actually, the new music sounds intriguing: Lotus Flower, befitting its Indie 103.1 premier, is guitar-based and appropriately rock-y, while MPLSOUND pays tribute to its namesake city with electronic beats and Pro Tools experiments. So when Prince thinks of the Minneapolis Sound, I guess he's thinking of Information Society, not The Replacements. The albums will be released both digitally and physically, via an "elaborate" web site as well as through an exclusive retailer, but no labels shall sully it with their logos.

After the jump: so did Prince vote for Prop 8?

2009: Predictions For the Year In Music

| Fri Jan. 2, 2009 3:10 PM EST

mojo-photo-2009glasses2.jpg2008 is dead and gone, and the universal opinion seems to be, from the economy to our government to music: "good riddance." As Slant put it, "the cliché that oppressive Republican administrations foster the most compelling music was disproved over nearly each of the last 52 weeks." Music seemed splintered and aimless, and year-end best-of lists seemed to reflect the confusion, with the same 50 records showing up a lot, but in completely different orders. Some of the year's most successful and compelling music was actually made months, or even years, before the start of 2008. So, 2009, will you be any better? Here's a quick (and admittedly somewhat fanciful) look ahead at the year ahead's most anticipated releases.

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Drudge, NY Post Have Field Day with Kathy Griffin's CNN "Trash Talk"

| Fri Jan. 2, 2009 1:23 PM EST

Kathy Griffin CNNComedian Kathy Griffin is making news for uttering an expletive during CNN's New Year's Eve broadcast, which the D-lister hosted with Anderson Cooper. The network's enemies are having a field day. Here's how the New York Post described the moment:

Comedienne Kathy Griffin may be doomed to life on CNN's S-list after answering a heckler with a shrieking, vulgar tirade during the network's live New Year's Eve broadcast.
"Screw you," she told the heckler. "Why don't you get a job, buddy? You know what? I don't go to your job and knock the d- - - out of your mouth."
The raunchy exchange, which occurred well after the ball dropped at midnight, was received with guffaws by the camera crew.

That's because everyone at CNN is a godless, liberal heathen, right, everybody? Actually, if you watch the clip (which you can do after the jump) it's clear she was responding sarcastically to good-natured ribbing, not a "heckler," and I'd say the "shrieking" part is debatable, too. Either way, we watched CNN's coverage New Year's Eve before heading out for DJ gigs, and honestly, the almost-always-hilarious Griffin was the best thing about that sloppy, nonsensical broadcast—can someone teach them how to avoid the talk-over-each other problem during live remotes? Also amusing: watching both Griffin and drag queen Sushi (live from Key West!) hold themselves back from making gay jokes about Cooper. Do you think they sign a contract?