GETTING MORE TALE #522: Smells Like Tim McGraw
Music fans can buy just about anything with their favourite band’s name on it. While Elvis merchandise and the onslaught of Beatlemania stuff makes for fun collectibles, Kiss really blasted things into overdrive, for better or for worse. Growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, we were inundated with Kiss. Neighbors on our street had Kiss cards, the Kiss remote control van, Kiss comics, Kiss posters, books about Kiss and more. You could buy Kiss dolls. Kiss Your Face makeup. Everything! At the time Kiss were heavily criticized for their merchandising. Paul and Gene defended it by saying, ‘if our fans want to buy a Kiss hat, then why shouldn’t they be able to buy one?’ Turns out their fans wanted to buy a lot more including cars and coffins!
Now the merchandise door is wide open. Everybody has dolls; my sister had some wretched New Kids on the Block dolls. I have a friend who owns the Spice Girls. I myself own Johnny Cash, Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne. Today, music celebrities have their own alcohol, such as Motley Brue or The Trooper beer. Rock stars even have their own hot sauces. I was a proud owner of Joe Perry’s Boneyard Brew. (I’ve never been able to find Michael Anthony’s Mad Anthony sauce.) I often like to picture Joe Perry hard at work over a boiling pot, mixing specially selected peppers and spices until he finally came up with his own Boneyard Brew. It’s not impossible, although it is unlikely.
What is very highly unlikely is that Justin Bieber studied perfume chemistry to come up with his own scent, “Girlfriend”.
It seems perfumes and colognes are the latest hot trend in celebrity endorsements. We are not so naive to think that the stars have anything to all to do with their own perfumes, but look at the list below. (Courtesy once again of Uncle John’s calendar.) Taylor Swift and Beyoncé don’t surprise me, but I didn’t know Tim McGraw had his own scent (“Southern Blend”). Check out some of the interesting names below.
Who knew Carlos Santana had a scent called “Carlos Santana”? I wonder who came up with that clever name? (Whoever they are, they probably make more money than us.) Even Kiss have a cologne, called “KISS Him for Men”. Kiss sell aftershaves and deodorants too. But we can’t blame Kiss for this trend, can we? This one is on the shoulders of Hollywood.
The first celebrity scent was “Sophia” by Sophia Lauren, in 1981. The Italian film icon’s perfume was released by Coty who work with just about every major celebrity today. That’s not the interesting part. What is interesting is that we might be able to blame Gene Simmons just a little bit for the first music celebrity scent. After all, it was his ex-girlfriend Cher who was the first music star to enter the perfume world. Her scent “Uninhibited” was the first for a music performer. Did her ex-boyfriend’s merchandising ways have anything to do with this? The truth is, probably not — but it’s fun to blame Gene anyway.
With the reigning queens of pop like Katy (“Killer Queen” and “Purr”) and Gaga (“Fame for Women”), not to mention the boy-throbs like One Direction (“Our Moment for Women”), it is likely that music perfumes and colognes will remain big business for years to come.
GETTING MORE TALE #521: DVD Recorders
Obsolete and outdated technology can be fascinating to look at. For a long while, it looked like everything was going to go DVD. Even music. There was talk of box sets by bands such as Led Zeppelin or the Beatles that could fit the entire catalogue on one disc. The Digital Versatile Disc all but completely took over from the VHS tape for viewing, so why not for simple household TV recording too? Enter the DVD recorder. This was not the same as a DVD burner for your computer. It was a standalone unit for your home entertainment system, connected to your cable box and ready to go. As you can guess, it failed gloriously. Why? Uncle John’s daily calendar tells us it came down to cost:
While it is considered obsolete now, the DVD recorder had one slight advantage over the typical PVR that you can rent today from Rogers Cable. That is keeping a recording permanently. I’ll give you a great example.
In 1994, my future father-in-law won tickets to go see the Toronto Maple Leafs during the playoffs facing off against the Sharks in San Jose. My future wife came with him, bearing a sign that said “DOUGIE G. FOR PRIME MINISTER”. This is of course a reference to legendary Toronto Maple Leaf center Doug Gilmour. Then my wife saw the unmistakable Canadian hockey broadcaster Don “Grapes” Cherry in the lobby, with his colourful suit and camera crew. She shouted out “GRAPES!” Nobody else in California would have known him as “Grapes” so he knew it was a fellow Canuck. He saw the Dougie G. sign — his favourite player from Kingston, Ontario. He asked her to come on down. That’s how my wife got on Hockey Night in Canada back in 1994. We have a copy of this on video tape, but when the game was re-run a couple years ago, we recorded it including the part with my wife on our Rogers PVR.
It was nice to have it digitally but we always knew we’d lose it if the PVR busted. There’s no way to retrieve a recording from it, according to Rogers. So when it finally kicked the bucket, we lost the hockey recording. No matter; we’ll just wait for the next re-run.
If we only had an old-fashioned DVD recorder, however, we’d have a hard copy that we could have kept safe and sound forever!
GETTING MORE TALE #470: Awards
Do you watch award shows? I don’t — not anymore, anyway. In the Record Store days,we had to keep an eye on this sort of thing. If somebody swept the Grammys, we had to be prepared with inventory. The day after an award show, the requests would circle around the winners and headline-makers. The same still happens today, with much of the post-show sales being downloads. Adele is most grateful.
As a child I was aware that award shows didn’t seem to recognize any music that I liked, but I also knew that didn’t mean squat. It’s nice when a talented artist is honoured for their music, but the Grammys are the same organization who awarded Milli Vanilli with “best new artist”. To even call such commercial product “art” at all is such a deception. They were manufactured from the ground up as a money-making endeavour and nothing more. That was 1990, but the year before was another titanic embarrassment for the besieged awards.
I didn’t watch the ’89 awards but I heard all about it the next day. The following morning, my mom asked me, “Who is Jethro Tull?” I had to confess I didn’t really know. Old guys. “They won best heavy metal,” my mom explained. Who? I was a metal fanatic but I never heard any of their music.
The actual category was best “Hard Rock/Metal” and it was introduced in 1989. The nominees included a couple actual hard rock and heavy metal artists: AC/DC, Tull, Metallica, Jane’s Addiction, and Iggy Pop. Of those bands, I think only two can be consider unambiguously “hard rock” or “heavy metal”. I’m sure the members of Jane’s Addiction didn’t consider themselves either. God knows what Iggy Pop thinks of his music as, since he’s been all over the board. With the benefit of hindsight, we know today that the most important album historically in that category was …And Justice For All by Metallica followed by Jane’s Nothing’s Shocking. Tull’s Crest of a Knave was a good, solid return but hardly “hard rock”. Ian Anderson was gracious but befuddled by it all. Metal fans declared it highway robbery. To them, Metallica was clearly the only band who deserved that trophy that year, and with all due respect to AC/DC and Jane’s Addiction, it is hard to argue with that. …And Justice For All was one of the most challenging albums for the genre, real art, yet it sold millions. Not to mention overcoming the personal tragedy of losing Cliff Burton in that crash a few years before. Plainly, Metallica deserved that award. Fans were livid.
The Grammys furthered their embarrassment by contritely awarding Metallica the “best metal” award for the three years in a row that followed, even when it was not deserved. In 1990 they split “hard rock” and “metal” into two awards, and gave Metallica a trophy for “One”. The real head-shaker was 1991, when Metallica won again for a cover of Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy” (from Rubáiyát: Elektra’s 40th Anniversary). This little-heard cover beat out stunning new albums by Judas Priest, Anthrax and Megadeth. A single Metallica cover from an obscure compilation CD beat Rust in Peace by Megadeth? Yeah, right. You could not take this seriously. Their streak continued into 1992, when they won the prize for the Black album, Metallica, once again beating Anthrax and Megadeth (and Motorhead and Soundgarden).
Here are some other stunningly bad decisions the Grammys made that you may not be as familiar with. The same year of the Tull debocle, the awards introduced a “best rap” category, but chose not to air them. The Fresh Prince Will Smith compared it to graduating high school but not being allowed on stage to accept your diploma. Not to mention, the “best new artist” award is often a curse. Just ask Hootie and the Blowfish, Debby Boone, Marc Cohn or Milli Vanilli. Then there was the year that Steely Dan beat Radiohead’s Kid A and the Marshall Mathers LP.
What you may not realize is that the Grammy awards were never designed to recognize the raucous and rebellious artists of rock and roll. In fact, they were created to stem the tide. In order to protect “quality” and tradition against the rockers of the 1950’s, the Grammys were created in the mold of the Oscars. And on their very first night, their mission to promote and honour quality music was blown spectacularly. Check out this tale from my Uncle John’s desktop calendar:
Hey, at least Frankie won. But the awards remain as troubled today as when they began.
It’s nice to see artists and albums that you like win awards for their work. Ultimately however the impact is zero. How the music makes you feel is everything.