You don't have to work at a record label, own a club, or play in a band to know that the music business is filled with assholes. Stories of payola and extortion reach back to the days of Alan Freed, and the gossip and innuendo that extend from Eminem to Christina Aguilera, Fred Durst, and Creed contain the kind of backbiting that's more typical of the behavior of teenagers than adults. In acknowledgment of the sordid nature of the music business, the fanzine Chunklet sent out a survey to compile a list of the "100 biggest assholes in rock," a feature that's in the latest issue.
Topping the chart, which is written in a script similar to the one Billboard uses for its lists of top-selling albums, are the Butthole Surfers. A brief editorial sidebar explains that the Surfers' greed contributed to their top billing. Apparently, the group took the strapped-for-cash Chicago label Touch and Go Records to court to obtain the rights to their back catalogue, thereby soiling the informal nature of business in the indie rock world. Coming in second place was Courtney Love, for being "very ugly when unclothed," among other reasons. Other top-10 finishers in descending order include corporate-minded Cargo Records owners Dirk Vanhugel and Eric Goodis; self-absorbed Smog singer-guitarist Bill Callahan; fame-hungry SST Records owner Greg Ginn; unscrupulous Your Flesh publisher and Creative Agent booking agent Peter Davis; sullen Son Volt singer-guitarist Jay Farrar; irascible Pittsburgh concert-promoter Manny Theiner; aging surf guitarist Dick Dale; and uncompromising Big Cat Records owner Steven Abbot.
Checking in at number 30 and proud of his high ranking is Cleveland's Jason Pettigrew, senior editor of the locally based Alternative Press magazine. Chunklet attributes Pettigrew's high ranking to its claim that he is "a bitter, jaded man" and "runs a lousy 'vanity' label to boot." Pettigrew was one of the highest-ranking rock critics -- only the UK's "limp-dick journalist" Everett True ranked above him.
"I am kind of flattered that I made it up higher than [critics] Dave Marsh and Robert Christgau, who are people who are truly assholes," Pettigrew says. "I talked to [Chunklet publisher] Henry Owings about taking out an ad which would feature a picture of my face on a Miss America winner, and the bottom of it would say, 'Jason Pettigrew would like to thank all the little people for voting him as number 30 asshole of the year, and that's pretty much all of you.' Owings comes in at number 32, so he's not above pointing the knife at himself, which I think is very refreshing."
Pettigrew has a few Ohio brethren joining him on the list. Hamilton native and University of Cincinnati alumnus Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs made the list at 24, because he's "under the delusion that he's God's gift to women," and Pere Ubu's David Thomas, a former Clevelander, came in at 84 -- not that Pettigrew sees Thomas as worthy competition.
"It's kind of like making fun of your grandfather at that point," he quips.
The subject of a new autobiography called Take Me to the River, the Reverend Al Green, soul singer and minister-at-large, will make an appearance at 6 p.m. at the Rock Hall on Wednesday, September 13, to sign copies of the book. Davin Seay, who co-wrote the book with Green, says that, while writing the book, he discovered the extent to which Green embodies the sensuality that his smooth voice captures so well.
"I have to say that his history with women was extremely interesting," Seay says. "He is a tremendously charismatic individual and has an irresistible appeal to women. He was thrown out of his house because his dad didn't like him listening to Jackie Wilson records. He was on the streets and bounced between a church run by a woman pastor, who took care of him and watched over his soul, and the other part of the time he would spend with a prostitute by the name of Juanita. They had a very platonic relationship and were brother and sister, but it was indicative of the sort of pattern of his life, where the spirituality and the sensuality were very tightly entwined and mixed through every aspect of his life."
The book comes with two discs that feature 30 of Green's biggest hits. For more information, call the Rock Hall at 216-781-7625.
Perhaps the best send-up of rock and roll ever captured on celluloid, Spinal Tap (1984), will come out on DVD on September 12. The DVD version of the flick includes a new interview with director Rob Reiner (aka rockumentary filmmaker Marty DiBergi), four music videos, and a variety of additional footage, including the theatrical trailer, in which, if you listen closely, you can hear "Cleveland rocks" uttered during one clip of a live performance. Most significantly, the DVD version features a running commentary by the members of the group on a separate audio track. From the beginning to the end of the film, the main members of Spinal Tap -- singer-guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christoper Guest), singer David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), and bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) -- make fun of everything from the incompetence of manager Ian Faith (Tony Hendra) to the unethical tactics used by DiBergi. Tufnel and Hubbins also renew their disagreement over the extent to which Hubbins's girlfriend, Jeanine (June Chadwick), interfered with the group's disastrous North American tour. With references to E-Bay and the Internet, their dialogue brings the film into the 21st century and virtually makes it a new viewing experience.