David Bowie
This morning we wake up to a world without David Bowie.

It seems impossible that he's gone. If anyone on Earth seemed otherworldly enough to transform himself into something eternal and transcendent, it was Bowie. But even he tried to remind us in 1997 that he was not really an alien but an Earthling.

His death hit me harder this morning than I would have expected (as is no doubt true for all of us). I haven't felt this devastated at a musician's death, in fact, since 1990, when Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter crash. (And is it coincidence that Bowie had helped raised Vaughan's profile, as he did with so many other musicians?)

I came to Bowie "late," as I didn't really start paying attention to his music until 1983, when I was 16. Let's Dance ruled the charts, but it was generally held that his important work was all behind him and he was now selling out. None of that mattered to me, though. I knew some of his earlier music because he was one of the few '70s artists who was played on my favorite Utah new wave station. But Let's Dance was a perfect album for my generation—consummate pop you could move to on the dancefloor while still feeling smart. And Bowie himself seemed the epitome of suavity and cool.

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We shout at the chatroom!


Generation Swine Let me tell you about the night I hung out with Mötley Crüe.

Okay, to be honest, it was only half of Mötley Crüe, and it's not like we were out clubbing it up with groupies and blow. But we were at a club. I was reminded of this story the other day when I happened to hear "Shout at the Devil" on the stereo for the first time in quite a while.

This was June 1997. I was working in New York City as technical producer for a website called Rocktropolis.com (sadly now long deceased). Our company, N2K Entertainment, ran a variety of genre-specific music sites, all meant to drive traffic to our online CD store, Music Boulevard. At Rocktropolis we ran rock music news, contests, curated streaming radio, artist chats, and—coolest of all—live concert webcasts.

Some of our live shows were simply streamed versions of special syndicated radio broadcasts, but more and more we began to arrange our own on-location webcasts. We would get a temporary DSL line installed in the venue (if they didn't already have one—and they usually didn't), hump our equipment over there, tap directly into the soundboard, and stream the feed out to users via RealAudio. Believe it or not, this was trailblazing stuff at the time.)

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So there's this meme going around on Facebook where you give someone an age and they write about their life that year. I was given 29.

29 ... 1996-1997. Probably one of my most transformative yet miserable years. It was my second year living in NYC, my second year out of the Mormon church, and everything about life in the city was exciting. I landed the job that year, at N2K Entertainment, that introduced me to some of the best friends of my life and set me on the path to success as a web developer. My desperate financial situation began to turn around. I was plowing like mad through books on Mormon history, gaining the foundation I needed to eventually write my memoir, and gaining as reputation as one of the angriest and most outspoken ex-Mormons on the web. But I was also living in Brooklyn with a sociopathic girlfriend who gave me none of the support I needed to get any writing done. That should have been the year I threw her out, but I was still insecure enough to think I wasn't going to be able to make it in New York on my own. The end of that year, my 30th birthday party at Mooney's Pub on Flatbush, was one of the best nights of my life that far, mostly because it showed me how many friends I'd made that year. You were there, and you, and you, and you. And you too!

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Michael Brecker memorial

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[info]steelbrassnwood hipped me to a Michael Brecker memorial service taking place this evening at Town Hall in Manhattan from 6:00 to 7:30 pm. Doors open at 5:15. All friends and fans are invited to attend.

More info Even more info
I won't be able to go myself, but I sure wish I could.

Clicking around following Brecker links this morning, I ran across a very nice tribute video at BirdLives.com, which happens to have been done by Bret Primack, a jazz journalist I used to work with back in the halcyon days of N2K. My first Web job in the big city! Can't believe it's been ten years since I took that job.

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I love the '90s

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A few weeks back, for no reason but avoiding work, I assembled a list of the 100 best albums of the '90s. Okay, maybe not the best, but my favorites anyway, the ones that I seem to have listened to most obsessively over the years. In an effort to avoid more work, I will now share the list with you.

I limited myself to one album per artist (although Medeski Martin + Wood kind of slipped in there twice through a loophole), and I allowed myself only studio albums, nothing live and no compilations (the exception there being The Beta Band's Three E.P.'s). For each year, I have bolded my top choice, though in many cases it was a very close call.


  • Question and Answer, Pat Metheny w/Dave Holland & Roy Haynes
  • Missing ... Presumed Having a Good Time, The Notting Hillbillies
  • Fear of a Black Planet, Public Enemy
  • The Rhythm of the Saints, Paul Simon
  • Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, The Sundays

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William Shunn

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