Music News: Jack White finally meets Jack Black

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l-r: Kyle Gass, Jack White, Jack Black.
Jack White (center) with Kyle Gass (left) and Jack Black (right) of Tenacious D. (Jack Black via Facebook)
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Hard to believe it hasn't already happened, but the card deck of rock and roll is finally complete: Jack White has met Jack Black. No, they're not forming a band called Jack Grey, despite dozens of people on Twitter thinking they're funny by suggesting precisely that.

Somewhere in Europe, the tours of Jack White's Raconteurs and Jack Black's Tenacious D overlapped. "We hired a new merch guy," wrote Tenacious D in a social media post pairing the duo with their famous fan. (Consequence of Sound)

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We hired a new merch guy

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Dr. John, legend of New Orleans music, dead at 77

Dr. John, aka Mac Rebennack, started out in New Orleans as a teenage guitar slinger in the '50s, hanging around the Dew Drop Inn, a historic black nightclub (where he received hassle more than once from police enforcing the Jim Crow laws that regulated interracial gathering), and doing session work at engineer Cosimo Matassa's J&M Recording Studios in the French Quarter. The Dr. John character — hoodoo mystery and cool — was originally developed for his bandmate and old Jesuit High School classmate Ronnie Barron, with whom he played in the R&B group Ronnie & The Delinquents. Barron had a record contract that stopped him from taking on the role, so Mac absorbed it; as the story goes, it was during a fight that broke out after a dance he played with Barron that Mac was shot in the finger, prompting his switch from guitar to piano. (NPR Music, Tune in for a tribute to Dr. John Sunday morning from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. with host Bill DeVille.)

Apple to discontinue iTunes

At Apple's developer conference this week, the tech giant announced that it's eliminating iTunes in favor of three separate apps: Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV.

After 18 years, it's the end of an era for the music industry. When Napster and other largely illegal file-sharing apps took off at the turn of the century, it proved that the future of music, one way or another, was online. Some observers thought that was it: recorded music was just going to be basically free, forever. They both were and weren't right. With today's streaming services, subscription fees or ads pay for music pulled from a cloud — so most listeners aren't paying per track, although the vinyl resurgence has kept physical media from becoming irrelevant.

For about a decade after its 2001 launch, though, iTunes "filled an important technological gap in the period when lots of people had internet access, but few people had smartphones with data plans capable of streaming high-quality media on demand," as the New York Times notes. It proved that people would still pay for music in the online era, especially if the software was easy to use and the price seemed reasonable.

For millions of users, 99 cents a song proved hard to argue with. In 2010, around the peak of iTunes use, Apple released a list of the most-downloaded songs since the program's launch. The top three? The Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow," Lady Gaga's "Poker Face," and at number one, yep, it's the Black Eyed Peas again with "I Gotta Feeling." (Jay)

Storied psych-rocker Roky Erickson dies at 71

Today we remember the enigmatic Roky Erickson, the psychedelic force behind 13th Floor Elevators and a captivating, strange presence in music history, who died May 31st in Austin, TX. He was 71.

The news of Erickson's death was confirmed by producer Bill Bently, who put together the all-star 1990 Erickson tribute album, "Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye." Bently told Variety: "Roky lived in so many worlds, you couldn't keep up with him. He lived so much, and not always on this planet."

A multi-talented artist, who played guitar, wrote, sang, and produced his own music, Erickson is best known for his wild, scream-like vocals that helped bring attention to his Texas band 13th Floor Elevators. While the band wasn't widely famous, they influenced bands like Jefferson Airplane, Television, and Patti Smith. Erickson's career was interrupted by periods of institutionalization. His struggle with mental illness was the focus of a 2007 documentary titled, You're Gonna Miss Me.

Rock historian Richie Unterberger told The New York Times that "More than almost any other psychedelic rocker, Roky walked a fine line between inspiration and insanity...But the reason he has such a huge cult following isn't because the insanity sometimes got the upper hand in his personal life. It's because that on-the-edge tension's so riveting in his best songs, whether it's unhinged singing that verges on screaming in 'You're Gonna Miss Me' or the eerie folk-rock of 'Splash I,' where it's like hearing a fragile ghost." (Jade)

Billboard launching songwriter and producer charts

Billboard has announced that it's launching new charts to track the top songwriters and producers in music. Starting next week, the publication will tally the top ten songwriters and producers each week as measured by performance on the Hot 100, as well as a rotating set of tallies based on other song charts. Songwriters are celebrating the move as a way to help recognize the contributions of people who help make music behind the scenes. (Jay)

Blink-182 performing Enema of the State front to back

A '90s album with a super-gross title but beloved songs is getting new life as Blink-182 celebrate the 20th anniversary of Enema of the State with live front-to-back performances at venues across America. No songs will be missing, but a significant band member is: frontman Tom DeLonge hasn't toured with the band since 2015.

One of the core records of the pop-punk resurgance with hits like "All the Small Things" and "What's My Age Again?", Enema of the State sold 15 million copies and still didn't even manage to crack the top ten bestselling albums of 1999, a year that saw the music industry at a colossal commercial peak with blockbusters by the likes of Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, and Shania Twain. (Rolling Stone) (Jay)

This week in music history

This week in 1959 — that's right, exactly 60 years ago — Bob Dylan graduated from Hibbing High School. The music legend, then still known as Bobby Zimmerman, famously had the power pulled when his rock band played the school's ornate amphitheater. Although he'd have a sort of love-hate relationship with the northern Minnesota environs where he grew up, songs such as "Girl from the North Country" would hark back to his years there. 48 years after he graduated, the school's signboard would pay tribute: CONGRATS TO BOB ZIMMERMAN CLASS OF 1959 WHO RECEIVED A NOBEL PRIZE IN LITERATURE. (Jay)

The first day of July in 1979, Sony unveiled their low-cost portable stereo. For $150.00 (which is nearly $500 in 2019) you could get your very own blue and silver metal Walkman. They seemed ubiquitous in the 80s, but in that first month, the Walkman was a failure, with only about 3,000 sold. To boost sales, Sony decided to focus their marketing on youth and enlisted a group of young pop stars to help spread the word. And it worked, by the end of August sales had increased 10-fold. Eventually Walkmans would be phased out as technology changed, and they were discontinued officially in 2010. (Jade)

This week in 1992, the U.S. Postal Service announced that the young Elvis stamp design had won out in a national poll pitting it against a painting of the King in his Vegas period. With 1.2 million ballots cast, young Elvis won with a landslide 75% of the vote, helped by the endorsement of Presidential candidate Bill Clinton. John Berkey, who painted the losing image of the elder Elvis, lived in Excelsior, Minnesota, but he wasn't like that guy in Fargo who's waiting around for a stamp to make his painting famous...his science fiction paintings from the '70s helped inspire the look of the Death Star in Star Wars, and George Lucas commissioned him to paint some of that movie's earliest posters. (Jay)

This week's new releases

Aurora, A Different Kind of Human (Step 2)

Who was the last musician to break big out of Norway? Sondre Lerche? Sigrid? Kygo? Well, get ready to embrace another mononymous Norwegian pop god, because Aurora is on fire. The 22-year-old singer-songwriter-producer broke out in the U.K. in 2015 when she sang Oasis's "Half the World Away" for the always-popular John Lewis Christmas ad, and by the following year she was making the U.S. late show circuit. Instead of releasing one sophomore album, she decided to split it into two EPs. Last year saw Infections of a Different Kind (Step 1), and now we have A Different Kind of Human (Step 2). She's not skimping on her accessible electro-dream-pop: at 40 minutes, the EP is longer than a lot of albums. The first single, "Animal," finds the ethereal singer lost in a "concrete jungle." I have the feeling she won't stay lost for long. (Jay)

Prince, Originals

Prince's vaults have already proven to be a treasure trove (with Piano and a Microphone 1983 and Anthology 1995-2010 already released). Now we get the chance to hear a collection of Prince's work for other musicians. From "Manic Monday" - the first Bangles song to reach top five on the charts to Sinead O'Connor's biggest hit "Nothing Compares to U" to a love song performed by, of all people, Kenny Rogers "You're My Love," this is a dive into the mind of a musical genius during his peak.

Originals is out exclusively to stream via Tidal on June 7th, with a wide release -- including download, streaming and CD -- following on June 21st via Warner Bros. Deluxe 1-CD/2-LP and 2-LP editions will round out the schedule on July 19th.

Jay-Z will be hosting a listening party in LA for the album on July 6th with opportunities for Tidal members to attend celebrations across the US as well as Spain, Poland, and Brazil. (Jade)

Dylan LeBlanc, Renegade

When you grow up in Shreveport, Louisiana, hanging out at places like Muscle Shoals, you're pretty much guaranteed to be surrounded by amazing music. You're not guaranteed the kind of talent Dylan LeBlanc has, though. Active as a recording artist for a decade now, the Americana artist has won fans, collaborators, and tourmates including Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, First Aid Kit, the Alabama Shakes, and, oh yeah, Bruce Springsteen. His new album Renegade is the follow-up to 2016's acclaimed Cautionary Tale, and the title track combines classic rock swagger with a raw southern twang. Tom Petty fans, listen up. (Jay)

Silversun Pickups, Widow's Weeds

The fifth album from LA's Silversun Pickups, Widow's Weeds, continues to mine their distinct rock-centered sound from singer Brian Aubert's emotive vocals. Producer Butch Vig (who's fame grew with Nirvana's Nevermind) brings his loud-soft-loud tension building style to the album with songs like, "It Doesn't Matter Why," and it's the harmonies and calming tone of "Freakazoid" highlights the band's growth. (Jade)

Viral clip: Keanu Reeves walking to music

With John Wick: Chapter 3 packing cinemas, the world has rediscovered a pure love for Keanu Reeves that's been dormant for years. Now, Twitter can't get enough of Keanu, and he's the star of a meme that's blowing up thanks to an account simply called "Keanu Reeves walking to music."

The account takes a clip of Reeves walking in slow-motion, from his supporting role in the Netflix rom-com Always Be My Maybe. It turns out to be one of those clips that works with any song, like the ending of Titanic. As of now, the versions with the most retweets have Keanu walking to "Hypnotize" by the Notorious B.I.G., Tame Impala's "The Less I Know the Better," and of course Salt-N-Pepa's "Whatta Man."

Ironically, a version featuring Logic's song named "Keanu Reeves" has been blocked on copyright grounds. (BuzzFeed) (Jay)


Audio sampled in podcast
Jahzzar: "Comedie" (CC BY 4.0)
James Scott: "Frog Legs Rag"
Elvis Presley: "Return To Sender"
BoxCat Games: "Against the Wall" (CC BY 3.0)
Blink-182: "All The Small Things"
13th Floor Elevators: "You're Gonna Miss Me"
The Black Eyed Peas: "I Gotta Feeling"
Prince & Apollonia: "Manic Monday" (Unreleased Demo)
Aurora: "Animal"
Silversun Pickups: "Freakazoid"
Dylan LeBlanc: "Renegade"
Salt 'N' Pepa with En Vogue: "Whatta Man"


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