With Al Gore rumbling like a refrigerator on wheels to the 2000 presidential nomination, it's worth remembering wife Tipper's crusade to cleanse her daughters' boombox of lyrics she found objectionable. The censorship front has been relatively quiet in recent years, but that's no reason to think it can't reawaken, even if the Gore kids have gone through puberty.
Cleveland attorney Tim Connors provided a brief history of music censorship, from Cole Porter to 2 Live Crew, at the Case Western Reserve University Law School last Wednesday. Connors is an ACLU of Ohio board member with a professional interest in free speech and privacy and a personal interest in music and pop culture.
Bawdy lyrics, as Connors said, predated the rock era. Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher," a No. 1 hit in 1931, spoke of prostitutes and cokeheads. In 1951, the Dominoes' tale of endurance, "Sixty Minute Man," hit the top of the R&B charts and reached No. 17 on the pop charts.
Connors pointed out that censorship efforts take a variety of forms and motivations. The Weavers, a harmless folk revivalist act, were blacklisted in the McCarthy era for their political leanings. Strom Thurmond threatened to deport John Lennon. Elvis Costello was banned from Saturday Night Live by executive producer Lorne Michaels for performing the anti-commercial broadcasting anthem "Radio, Radio" unscripted. (The ban was eventually lifted.)
It's also worth remembering that censorship can take on a life larger than the material in question. The FBI thought N.W.A's "Fuck tha Police" was dangerous enough to warrant warning letters, even though Ice Cube's rap about police profiling young black males was simply more direct than the language used by activists and op/ed writers.
Perhaps the most depressing case was the persecution of the Dead Kennedys. Artwork for the band's 1985 album Frankenchrist featured H.R. Geiger's genitalia-fused painting Landscape #XX. Obscenity charges were brought against the band, which frontman Jello Biafra fought tooth and nail. The trial ended in a hung jury, and charges were later dismissed. But the costly legal battle practically bankrupted Biafra, the band, and his label, Alternative Tentacles. His marriage broke up.
Sadly, only two artists--Frank Zappa and Little Steven--contributed to Biafra's legal defense.
The TwistOffs have signed with Richmond, Virginia-based Degy Management Services. "I think that their live shows are probably the most exciting, interactive, and boisterous that I've ever seen," gushed company president Ari Nisman. See for yourself Friday, February 5 when the Twists play Sadie Rene's in Canton.
A few weeks ago, Panini & Wet on Orleans Avenue in Akron abruptly canceled its band bookings and parted ways with the guys managing the club. The stage won't be dark for long. Next week, Wet will reemerge as the Thunderdome. Its first major show is Koko Taylor, who performs Saturday, February 6 at 9 p.m.
Freddie Salem, who played guitar in the Outlaws in the '70s and '80s, is handling the club's entertainment. He says the 500-capacity club will have both regional and national acts of all stripes "a minimum of four nights a week," once the club is on its feet. He's planning "local band blasts" every Wednesday and an all-blues weekend at the end of February. Salem is also the director at Shingo Cantina, a Tex-Mex place in Akron that has blues bands.
Peace Tree plays the Thunderdome's grand opening Friday, February 5.
Former members of Moko Bovo have a new outfit called Lingua. Vocalist/harmonica player Dan Bode and bassist Rick Kodramaz perform songs and spoken-word material over mostly improvised music. Lingua plays every Wednesday at Keka-a-Go-Go in Ohio City. Fridays the club hosts Roberto Ocasio and the Latin Jazz Project.
Confused about the Offspring show? We were too. Here's the deal:
The February 24 concert has been moved from the Agora Theatre to the CSU Convocation Center. Those who bought tickets for the Agora show can exchange them at the CSU box office. PromoWest Productions, the concert's promoter, says the 2,100 Agora ticket-holders are guaranteed the best seats in the house--including 700 general admission floor seats--on a first-come, first-serve basis. Tickets can be exchanged at the Convocation Center, which will be configured to seat 6,000, up to and including the night of the show. Anyone who didn't buy tickets yet can purchase them at the CSU box office or by calling Ticketmaster.
Late Monday, PromoWest scrapped a wristband exchange. Be glad they did. This convoluted plan would have required Agora ticket-holders to make two trips (one for a wristband, another for an actual ticket) to the box office.
PromoWest simply underestimated the demand. Marketing director Jen Walker says Offspring management originally pushed for the Convo Center; PromoWest wanted to keep the show at the Agora, but held CSU open just in case.
Didn't the Agora seem a little tight for the Offspring? "We weren't real sure, to be real honest," says Walker. They are now.
The cuddly characters of GWAR will greet their earthling fans at the Elyria Record Exchange Saturday, January 30 from 7 to 9 p.m. The mood will be less civil the next day at the Agora for "G3: Guts, Gore, and GWAR." This is a professional wrestling event, not a GWAR concert, though this would appear to be a distinction without a difference.
The Cleveland Cinematheque will screen the first feature film by Jesse Peretz, ex-Lemonhead and director of the Foo Fighters' Mentos commercial-spoofing "Big Me" music video.
The film, First Love, Last Rites, is based on a short story by British writer Ian McEwan. Saving Private Ryan's Giovanni Ribisi and Natalie Wood's daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner play young lovers whose romance is "complicated by the girl's villainous father and an ill-advised eel-fishing scheme," according to Hollywood Online. (Ah, if we had a nickel for every relationship that's been foiled by an ill-advised eel-fishing scheme.)
Peretz was the Lemonheads' original bass player. After leaving the band in 1989, he directed videos for the Foo Fighters and Nada Surf, and co-created MTV's cranky cab driver, Jimmy McBride.
The Cinematheque will show First Love, Last Rites at 9:05 p.m. Thursday, January 28 and at 7:30 p.m. Friday, January 29.