A Look at National Music Stories from 2014

Paul Whyte

Although I like to primarily focus on highlighting local and regional music, there are obviously plenty of things happening all around the nation and world with music. Out of a lot of stories to choose from, these are a few stories that I found either noteworthy or that reflect music in this day and age. A year in review of local music will be coming soon.

U2 Force Feeds iTunes Users Their New Album

It may have come as a confusing surprise when iTunes users found a little gift from Irish rock band, U2. The band, through Apple, gave all iTunes users their latest album, “Songs of Innocence,” whether the users wanted it or not. Apple CEO stated that it was “the largest album release of all time.” Lead singer, Bono, eventually apologized for the move, stating, “we got carried away with ourselves.” Users can delete the album, but the band’s decision to “gift” everyone their new album came off as just a touch arrogant.

Skinny Puppy Seeks Royalties From Pentagon For Guantanamo Bay

When the Canadian Industrial band, Skinny Puppy, found out that their music was being used to torment detainees at the US run prison at Guantanamo Bay, the band sent an invoice for $666,000 in royalties from the Pentagon. The practice of inflicting discomfort on prisoners with music blasted at high volumes isn’t anything new but this is the first time a band has acted against it. The group said it would consider suing the military if they do not get a response.

Tommy Lee Drums for Smashing Pumpkins

Most Smashing Pumpkins fans had no problem with Billy Corgan shaving his head shortly after the 1995 release of “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” but that seemed to be a point where things started to slide downhill for the band. Fans were gradually driven away by every move Corgan made after that album. Die hard fans could still find a few decent tracks on “Adore” and even “Machina,” but by the time Corgan started with Zwan, it was getting increasingly difficult to stick by Corgan and the direction he was taking.
Some years went by where Corgan just got weirder and weirder, but when the release of Pumpkins’ “Monuments to an Elegy” was announced, there was a small gleam of hope. It was announced that former Motley Crue drummer, Tommy Lee, would be laying down the beats on the album, which seemed a little strange, but he’s not the worst drummer, maybe the album could work out. We all know what  happens when you get your hopes up, the album is more or less a disappointment. Rather than admitting that maybe he doesn’t have the musical energy he once possessed in the 90s, Corgan has spoke up about the reviews he’s been getting. In a recent interview with The Guardian he stated, “I thought for sure I would get really strong reviews for our new album, based on all the feedback I was getting. But I’m getting the same reviews I got back in the day, these kind of middling, muddling reviews that just won’t fucking say: ‘This is a fucking brilliant album from a brilliant artist.’ It’s always got to have a qualifier to it.” Wow, just wow.

Stitches Show Cancelled in Minneapolis

Many in the region probably had no idea who Florida rapper, Stitches, was until it was announced in October that his show at the Cabooze in Minneapolis had been cancelled. The rapper takes subjects such as gun violence and drug dealing to such a level and with such little talent that it sets the bar for how ridiculous music can get. With singles such as “Brick in Yo Face,” which is filled with threats of violence against someone who doesn’t compensate him for a brick of cocaine, to his song, “Mail,” which unfolds his not too brilliant method of shipping large quantities of drugs in the mail, it ends up being more comical than concerning. Stitches is known to tear open bags of flour (a prop substitute for cocaine) on stage in his live shows and perhaps his shows could be dangerous if someone could actually could take his “music” seriously. The Minneapolis Police Department had no role in canceling the show and Stitches show was pulled by the club.

GWAR Frontman Dies

It was a sad day for GWAR fans when front man, Dave Brockie, “Oderus Urungus,” passed away due to a heroin overdose. There were two funerals, one for Brockie and another “viking funeral” for his stage character, which was a 50 billion year old alien from the planet Scumdogia and was bent on enslaving the human race.
Brockie’s death left the band with no original members but a lineup emerged to let GWAR live on. Brockie’s vocal duties are now covered by Michael Bishop, “Blothar,” who was originally the bass player, “Beefcake the Mighty,” for the band. In an unexpected move another vocalist, Kim Dylla, “Vulvatron,” was brought in on vocals as well. She is the first female to be associated with the band’s lineup since Danielle Stampe, “Slymenstra Hymen,” dropped from the band as a performance artist around the year 2000.

Other Notable Musicians Who Passed Away in 2014

When I got in to the office for this pushed up deadline because of Christmas, it was a let down to see that singer, Joe Cocker, had died. It’s kind of strange the connection music fans have with artists they most likely have never met or at least don’t have any connection with other than the music they’re known for. These are a few musicians who left the world with good memories and music.

Tommy Ramone: The legendary drummer for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band, The Ramones, passed away at 65 in July.

Johnny Winter: This tremendous blues guitarist who rocked through the 60s and 70s was still rocking when he died on tour in Europe at the age of 70.

Jimmy Ruffin: This Motown legend was known for his 1966 hit, “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted. He died in November at the age of 78.

Wayne Static: Static was the frontman of the metal band, Static-X, He was known for his gravity defying hair and his hit single, “Push It.” He died in November at the age of 48 from a possible drug overdose.

Jack Bruce: This former bassist for the band, Cream, passed away in October from liver failure at the age of 71.

Paul Revere: The legendary Paul Revere of the 60s band, Paul Revere and the Raiders died peacefully at the age of 76.

Dick Wagner: Known for his guitar work with Alice Cooper and Lou Reed, Wagner passed away in July at the age of 71.

Bobby Womack: This 2009 inductee into the Rock and Roll Fall of Fame made a comeback with some work on the Gorillaz’ album, “Plastic Beach.” He was still an active musician when he passed away at 70 years old.

Bob Casale: The founding member of Devo will never be forgotten for his song, “Whip It,” which seemed to be a part of what personifies 80s music. He was 61.

Pete Seeger: Known for songs like “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Seeger influenced many musicians over the years. He died of natural causes at the age of 94.