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Judge Tosses Danzig Suit With Single Touch Of Burning Hand

Jerry Only and Glenn Danzig in August of 1981. Photographer unknown.

Central District of California Judge Gary Klausner threw out Glenn Danzig’s lawsuit against former band mate Jerry Only on August 6th, stating that Danzig failed to specify which exact terms of a 1994 legal agreement between the Misfits Only violated when the latter began merchandising Misfits emblems under his own name in the early 2000s.

Noting that the ’94 agreement does not “address any obligation regarding trademark registration or negotiations with individual retail merchandisers as to licensing,” Klausner stated “the Court finds no alleged facts that constitute a breach of the merchandising provision…the [original paper] contemplates that [Only] has a non-exclusive right to merchandise…and otherwise exploit the designs…[and to] to retain 100% of earnings from such exploitation…the Court also finds no other terms that govern the parties’ conduct as it pertains to trademarking and licensing.”

Indeed, the original settlement clearly states “the parties shall be co-owners of [the Misfits name] and all logo(s)” with no obligation to communicate with each other concerning merchandising deals, but it also says “each party shall retain exclusive ownership of any artwork created by that party.” That’s where Danzig lost this round, it seems: by not emphasizing that he created many of the designs Only’s been licensing. Danzig’s suit merely says it’s his era of the band that’s most closely associated with that stuff. Had he stated, “I created the ‘Fiend Skull,’ I created the ‘Horror Business’ cover and all the other classic Misfits artwork Jerry’s currently selling on his website,” things would probably be moving forward.

Is Danzig afraid of coming right out and claiming to be the hand behind the Fiend Skull, a.k.a. the Crimson Ghost, now that the Crimson Ghost film serial he took it from is owned by Paramount? I’ve mentioned this previously, but Paramount is well aware of that skull’s value. They wanted an astronomical fee to let me print a still from the serial in my book. I imagine this is why every legal paper refers to the logo as the “Fiend Skull.” They’re dancing around the fact they appropriated their most beloved icon from a property that’s now in the hands of a billion dollar company.

Not that Paramount would necessarily bother going after the Misfits; they didn’t own TCG when the band began using that skull, the band has been using it so long w/o repercussion, and how much in damages could they really get? Nothing compared to their weekly budgets, surely.

It’s unclear what will happen from here. Danzig certainly receives his due for making all those album covers Only is putting on t-shirts. However, Glenn did wait a very long time to flex his legal muscles, and although he made some fine points in his lawsuit they weren’t fine enough. To be honest, I’m more concerned about his next album, the covers album. I want that yaz to drop already. My fingers are crossed that it’s close to release and Glenn will hit the road behind it on a “Tryin’ to Pay My Lawyers” tour.

Fifteen Hall Of Fame Drummers From The Past Score & Five

Joel Robinson demonstrates his BGC-19 kit, not utilized by anyone listed.

The Drumming Hall of Fame: as far as we know, no such place exists, not even within the angular confines of the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Maybe that’s a good thing. The Rock Hall’s stirred up enough controversy as it is with their general inductees. Look, I have nothing against Red Hot Chili Peppers. They’re fun. However, if you put a gun to my greasy noggin and pose the question “funk crossover?” Faith No More will come up first.

But I digress. If there was a Drum HOF and they were looking to honor the best players from the past twenty-five years, the following fifteen people would get my vote, first ballot. Assuming I could participate in such an election process. I’m not really a part of drum writing’s sacred cabal.

TIM ALEXANDER

Drumming in Primus seems like a thankless task, but Alexander’s handled it with aplomb. He has no problem letting the other instruments breathe without sacrificing his own unique flair. A true craftsman’s touch.

MATT CAMERON

Matt takes the scenic route to the benefit of many a Soundgarden recording. Even their weakest stuff is interesting thanks to his little flourishes. He’s also been in Pearl Jam now for god knows how long; that surely speaks to something considering PJ’s previous drumming turnover rate.

JIMMY CHAMBERLAIN

The Chamb (as no one calls him) strikes such a nice balance between the fanciful and the forceful. He also managed to navigate the Corgan minefield for an impressive stretch. Seems like a mensch outside the drug abuse and the Dutch Schutlz haircut.

DALE CROVER

Slogging away in the Melvins, Dale has developed his own cult, and for good reason. He maps out those throbbing rhythms like a conquering hun.

JOSH FREESE

Pretty versatile in his session work (Guns n’ Roses, Sting, Ween, Perfect Circle, DEVO), equally versatile on his home court with pop punk clowns the Vandals. Loose, limber, electric, Josh has helped keep the Vandals a joy far beyond their sell-by date.

DAVE GROHL

Shades of Bonham, right? Can you think of an album Dave’s tapped on that isn’t classic? Even the first Tenacious D is held in esteem because of Grohl. The only drummer on this list your grandchildren’s grandchildren will know in absolute terms.

JOEY JORDINSON

Like Primus, Slipknot would be unlistenable without the right person steering the rhythmic ship. Joey’s a busy drummer but never lets his rolls get away from him. Extra props for commercializing so many death metal moves.

NICK MENZA

There’s a reason Megadeth fans are constantly up D. Mustaine’s ass to reform the Rust In Peace lineup. Menza brings that clean, precise heavy metal fury. Extra props for his dedication to UFO culture.

ANDERS MØLLER (A.K.A. GLUEROS BAGFIRE)

A hard call only because I have so much reverence for the Danny Young era of Gluecifer, that glorious span of time when they were the greatest hard rock band America was ignoring. The white hot early stuff with Anders is what got me there, though. A great melding of punk speed and classic rock cues.

CHARLES MONTGOMERY (A.K.A. CHUCK BISCUITS)

Has anyone ever played with so much reckless abandon yet remained so precise and powerful? Has any other drummer for Danzig been able to so precisely match that singer’s strength and swagger? Doesn’t seem like coincidence that Danzig’s career began wobbling once Chuck departed.

HUGH O’NEILL

Hugh’s meter was offensively good, the best in ’90s punk. Don’t Back Down is still the top Queers album thanks to his presence. What a crime cancer took him from us in ’99. Desperately wanted to hear his next moves.

DAN PETERS

His Mudhoney band mates jokingly call him “Tippy Tap” due to some perceived lack of power, but that light n’ limber touch works wonders when the guitars are vomiting up ’60s fuzz. Motherfucker can jam, too.

AHMIR THOMPSON (A.K.A. QUESTLOVE)

Dumbledorish in his musical knowledge, which of course informs his fantastic percussion. Superb control. Obliterating the stereotype that all drummers are one dimensional drooling clowns.

JANET WEISS

Always impressive to hear the inventive turns and accents this Sleater-Kinney stalwart utilizes. Seems to be much Bill Ward in her playing.

ADAM WILLARD

The Rocket From The Crypter who can shift tempo on half a rusty dime. So exuberant, such a party when he’s thumping away.

So who would you vote for?

Current Fashion Role Model

Tommy Stinson, seen here performing at the final Replacements gig, July 4, 1991. Not sure what you’d call this look (power pop bohemian?) but I want to dress like it every day. Photo by Bob Ingrassia; click here to see another one of Bob’s ‘Mats photos and a little write up about his experience attending this storied event. Yes, they played “Within Your Reach.”

Q: Whattya Reading Lately?

A: Thirty-Nine Years Of Short-Term Memory Loss by Tom Davis; yes, he jumps all over the place and spends too much time talking about the Grateful Dead, but it’s still an entertaining read that offers many a colorful Al Franken story (if you can’t handle Al Franken at his worst you don’t deserve him at his best). All I Did Was Ask by Terry Gross; she mines gold out of Albert Brooks and Grandmaster Flash, manages to handle the entitled jackassery of Gene Simmons with grace. Flipped through Growing Up Brady by Barry Williams; apparently he had great difficulty straightening his hair as a youth. Flipped through Titanic: The Ship That Never Sank? by Robin Gardiner; reads like incomplete text book translated from a few different languages.

Just started Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking; so far so candid and engaging.

Mashed Potatoes Can Be Your Friends: The Non-Negotiable “Weird Al” Yank Originals

Below I decree the best original songs (i.e. songs not specifically parodying another composition) “Weird Al” Yankovic has ever recorded. Amazingly, a track from the Post-Mustache Era sneaks its way in (the Mustache Era of course being 1979-1997).

“Happy Birthday”
“I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead”
“Nature Trail To Hell”
“Dare To Be Stupid”
“This Is The Life”
“Stuck In A Closet W/ V. White”
“You Make Me”
“UHF”
“Generic Blues”
“Everything You Know Is Wrong”
“Hardware Store”

These are my absolute faves, obviously, and I think if you stuck ‘em all on one disc and threw that disc into a time capsule future generations would have no problem understanding why we dubbed this frizzy life form “weird” (and why we angled to save his greatest hits). Before anyone pipes up to argue that “UHF” doesn’t work outside the context of UHF the film: yes it does. It’s a song about television as mind control.

Also, “UHF’s” generic rock riff is ten times more satisfying than any other generic rock riff of its time period. That riff, it rustles my jimmies!

Honorable mention: “Let Me Be Your Hog,” which isn’t really a song, just part of a song, but still manages to be fucking hilarious in under, what, twenty seconds? That’s the true mark of genius.

Unsolicited Musings On “Weird Al” Yankovic’s Mandatory Fun

- Mandatory Fun’s cover is funny, but not as funny as the fact we could go to war with North Korea over that James Franco movie

- my issues with late period Yank: he doesn’t scream as much as he used to, and rarely do any songs break mid-tempo (even the polka medley here speeds too safely); in Al’s defense, he’s creeping up on 55, and he went plenty nutso on his older albums

- I want to say the Lorde parody “Foil” should be longer to milk more out of the subject twist, but laborious college fight send-up “Sports Song” proves brevity is the soul of wit

- “Word Crimes” is disappointing because Al spends more time just shitting on the grammatically ignorant instead of trying to educate them; it’s very “get off my lawn,” but at least his heart’s in the right place

- Mandatory Fun’s polka medley may be caught in second gear but it’s also plenty fun, as most of his medleys prove to be

- while I appreciate Al taking the piss out of Frank Black on his Pixies style parody “First World Problems,” the song itself is nowhere near as clever as the first world problem rap that mush-mouthed teen posted to YouTube a few years ago; this could be because mush-mouthed teen legit feels the struggle and Al is (generationally?) removed from that kinda thing

- a few of Mandatory Fun’s originals lean alt country, which makes one wonder what a non-weird Yank album would be like at this point; maybe like Wilco, with more references to boogers and socket wrenches?

- “Weird Al” has some major cajones calling out other people for being tacky (“Tacky”) when you consider the fact he’s worn nothing but Hawaiian shirts for his entire career

- overall, Mandatory Fun is limp; not one song is on par with classic Yank, and the album’s closing ballad “Jackson Park Express” (a tale of love and miscommunication on public transit) could be the least engaging song Al’s ever done; of course, it’s all lightyears better than whatever Dr. Elmo’s doing right now, and what do you want from a guy twenty-six years after “Stuck In A Closet With Vanna White?”

- this would be a great place to post a link to the interview I did with “Weird Al” in 2011 where he clears up that rumor about getting punched by Billy Joel’s wife; alas, evil forces have taken it offline

- yes, I am bragging that I interviewed “Weird Al”; career lulls aside, he’s still “Weird Al,” American comedy god, hero of my youth, the Gozer of parody

Q: What’s The Best Music You’ve Heard So Far In 2014?

A: All Night Lotus Party by Volcano Suns; “Razors In The Night” by Blitz; Brody Dalle’s Diploid Love (which actually came out this year); Prince’s Black Album; the s/t debut from Orient Express; “River Rock” by Froggy Landers; Anti Everything by Surf Nazis Must Die; Destroyed by Sloppy Seconds; Iron Prostate’s Loud, Fast, & Rapidly Aging.

Don’t ask me how I made it to 35 without hearing some of this stuff prior. I can only blame ex-girlfriends who ate up valuable listening time with ska or Our Lady Peace.

On Erdélyi Tamás

Johnny may have been the General, the guy who made the trains run on time, but in a pinch he always deferred to Tommy. That’s because Tommy was smart as hell and could visualize this thing called the Ramones before it even existed. Necessity planted him behind the drums (no one else really grok’d this sound), and how lucky for us. Tommy worked like a dog behind the scenes but that percussive attack was so even and strong that some fans insist the Ramones stopped being the Ramones once he quit.

And only in a band like the Ramones could other members actually harass Tommy for being relatively normal. Witness: the interview snippet in End Of The Century where Dee Dee admits he gave Tommy so much shit back in the day because he was jealous the guy knew how to cook. Regardless of interpersonal dynamics, to fans Tom was Teflon Ramone, the Ramone you just couldn’t dislike for any reason. He drummed on the three best albums (Ramones, Leave Home, Rocket To Russia), produced the best two he didn’t play on (Road To Ruin, Too Tough To Die), wrote the lion’s share of their undying anthem “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and remained pleasantly normal as the years rolled on.

Once the Ramones were done, Tommy seemed like the peacekeeper. He wasn’t arguing with Joey on “Howard Stern.” He wasn’t writing books full of dubious claims against his Bruddahs. Tommy just wanted to preserve the legacy and love his fellow Ramone—or at least dispel the myth that they all openly prayed for each other’s death. “Believe it or not, we really loved each other,” he told the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame during the Ramones’ induction. “Even when we weren’t acting civil…we were truly brothers.”

Tommy spoke those words with conviction, clarity, and palpable emotion. Unfortunately, that portion of the ceremony was quickly eclipsed by Johnny announcing “God bless President Bush” as he cradled his statue and Dee Dee thanking himself for being so wonderful (a cute moment, admittedly). In that sense, the induction was typical Ramones: a fat chunk of heart smothered in patriotism and self-reference.

Despite what you may have heard or read (even by my own hand), the Ramones are my favorite musicians in the history of recorded sound. Nothing else fills me with the same joy and excitement, and I mourn the loss of the last surviving original architect.

Thanks for everything, Tommy.

Jerry Only Moves For Dismissal Of Danzig Trademark Lawsuit

The warring parties of Only and Danzig in 1983. Photo by Bill Daniel.

You bet your life there’s gonna be a fight: Misfits bassist Jerry Only and his lawyers have moved to dismiss the lawsuit Misfits founder Glenn Danzig brought against Only in May for trademark infringement and breach of contract, claiming Danzig has no evidence to back his myriad allegations and also that the singer waited too long to make this legal move.

“By his own insistence, Danzig has had no association with the Misfits since at the latest 1994,” Only’s filing state, going on to make the accusation that the singer is attempting to “unfairly profit” from “belatedly recogniz[ing] the [Misfits'] value” (Danzig is seeking $75,000 in damages from profits lost due to Only’s activities). The term “naked money grab” is also used at one point, which conjures up quite the image if you’re not expecting it in relation to Glenn Danzig.

Danzig’s original suit alleges that in the early 2000s Jerry Only fraudulently put his name on various Misfits logos/trademarks that, per a previous legal settlement, were supposed to be co-owned by band members. Only now claims that original settlement did in fact grant him full use of those logos and trademarks, and that even if they hadn’t, Danzig waited too long to do anything about. The statute of limitations in a situation like this is six years; Danzig had patent objections pending against Only for “nearly ten years” with no conclusion, and his lawsuit comes “approximately fourteen [years]” after the disputed breaches of contract.

Danzig concedes that by 2005 he even had actual knowledge of the underlying facts to exercise his purported rights…yet chose to wait nine more years before bringing his claim.”

This could play into Only’s other serious counter: that Danzig can offer no concrete evidence Jerry’s merchandising activities have cost him business. Indeed, there is no specific example cited in Danzig’s claim of a licensing deal gone south thanks to Jerry Only’s interference.

Touching on the aforementioned legal settlement, a.k.a. the 1994 Misfits Agreement: it states that “the parties shall be co-owners of the name and trademarks of the Misfits and all logo(s) and artwork…previously associated therewithin.” However, Jerry now argues that in “renouncing” the band at that time Danzig also renounced his claims to these logos and trademarks. Although there is no specific language in the ’94 Agreement that covers the contingent of a Misfit abandoning his rights, the “Merch” section ends by saying “the plaintiffs and Danzig will each retain 100% of what each earns from the exploitation of merchandising rights and neither [party] has any obligation to account to the other for revenue derived…”

That sounds like it might be tough to beat. Do note the entire merch outline in the ’94 Agreement is but a paragraph long. It would seem Danzig (at that time the defendant) had little idea as to the exact windfalls of cash the Misfits logos would yield in the following decade—thanks, mostly, to his letting Jerry get out there and reform the band without him.

Not everything with Jerry is rock solid here, though. The bassist’s legals throw out a few sentences that are sure to rub longtime fans as dubious at best. To wit: the part about the Crimson Ghost (a.k.a. “the Fiend Skull”) being “uniquely developed by and identified with” Jerry’s ’90s version of the band, a logo he’s claiming “the 1977-1983 incarnation of the Misfits never used as a trademark.”

If he’s referring to the weird 3-D Crimson Ghost that popped up around 1997, sure, that’s undoubtedly a “NewFits” logo, but there is no staggering difference between that emblem and the “Fiend Skull” that appeared on the front of the 1979 “Horror Business” single and the back of the 1980 Beware EP and on the back of 1981’s Walk Among Us album and all over the Misfits’ amplifiers and wrist bands and guitar straps circa ’82.

[Never mind the fact that every "Fiend Skull" in Misfits history is a shallow derivative of something "uniquely developed" by Republic Pictures for a 1940s film serial.]

Even stranger: Jerry’s motion literally says that what is even worse than Danzig making all these claims is the fact the singer filed his papers in California. “[Danzig] seeks to drag [me] 3,000 miles across the country to defend against his deficient claims.” Methinks the $75k Danzig seeks in damages is more crippling than a plane ticket, but who knows, maybe Jerry’s got some paranoia about earthquakes.

Two other bits of interest:

- Jerry Only boasts that he and his company Cyclopian Music “have developed the Misfits into an iconic lifestyle brand”; that translates to “we got the Misfits logo on shoelaces”

- “it is legally irrelevant with what person or entity, if any, consumers associate a mark and, more precisely, this cannot constitute the likelihood of consumer confusion”; Jerry’s missing the point here in the sense that Misfits fans aren’t worried with marketplace overlap, they just want to make sure they’re giving their money to the Misfit they agree most with artistically (even if Danzig is found guilty of framing Jerry for everything in the past three decades there will still be a loyal army of spenders who live to dump their paychecks into his wallet because of How The Gods Kill)

Said it before, saying it again: justice should prevail in this war. May the guilty be punished and the innocent spared. Also, maybe one side or the other could think about putting Googy on a t-shirt? Need to show my pride.

That Rarest Of Flyers

Every band has a great name. I dig the venue’s name too, but apparently it’s just somebody’s house. This is an upcoming show in Tallahassee. Will you be able to say you were there?

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