This Bud's From Mick
In last Sunday's Sun-Times Mick Jagger tried to talk his way around the fact that he's now a poster boy for a beer company. "I never really did an ad for Budweiser," he claimed. When interviewer Jim DeRogatis reminded him that the Stones appear in a televised Budweiser commercial, Jagger said, "If they use our videos in their tour sponsorship, that's fine. But I never did an ad for them saying, 'Bud is great.' I never did an ad for any product ever." The logic of this escapes Hitsville; Jagger is either delusional or more cynical than I'd imagined. The beer commercial features new footage of the band; if it's from a video, the video has yet to be released. Beer company millions did buy intimate access to the band, however. Before each Soldier Field show the band smiled and shook hands at Budweiser meet-and-greets.
Barbra's Strange Bedfellow
Speaking of stars who have too much money, Barbra Streisand has surprised record retailers with a promotional twist. A recording of her recent overpriced concert tour is soon to be released--on CD, cassette, video, and laser disc. The laser disc was to feature one additional song. But now comes news that Blockbuster will be the exclusive retailer for a special edition of the video that would also include that song. Other retailers are wondering why consumers would bother to buy their inferior version, and note that Blockbuster's selling of cassettes and CDs will further cut into their financial participation in what's set to be one of the biggest releases of the season. Blockbuster is a strange company for Streisand or any artist to be cutting deals with. The stores, Big Brother-style, won't carry movies they consider unsuitable--and suitability is based on factors that include not just sex and nudity (though violence is generally fine) but political content: don't forget the powerful chain refused to carry Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ.
Dressed for Success
Blockbuster gains a new presence in town this week as what were once Sound Warehouses get a new name. About two years ago the hugely successful video rental outfit started buying up small and medium-size music chains--Sound Warehouse, Music Plus, Turtles, Record Bar, and Tracks--and the 500 or so stores they now own will eventually all be called Blockbuster Music. (Billboard reported a few months back that the company flirted with the name Blockbuster Music Plus but found that people tended to drop the Blockbuster part, and that wouldn't do.) One of the less attractive aspects of the Blockbuster regime is its employee dress code: ponytails, nose piercings, and multiple or unnatural hair colors are prohibited, and collared shirts are required. One Blockbuster refugee is Rebecca Polensky, who was asked to leave the Blockbuster-owned Sound Warehouse at 3015 N. Clark two years ago, she says, when the new store manager noticed her pierced eyebrow. This did not technically violate the dress code, but the manager was firm. "She said I could take it out or turn in my keys," Polensky says. She chose the latter and went to Tower, where she can happily display both her eyebrow ring and the new one between her thumb and forefinger. Since Tower now competes with Rose Records in having the friendliest and most knowledgeable staff of any chain in town, and Polensky has survived there two years, one suspects it's Tower's gain and Blockbuster's loss.
The Didjits Grind to a Halt...
Rick Sims says his group, the punky Didjits, may be history. Fans at the band's most recent gig at the Double Door in July have wondered where bassist Doug Evans was. (Pegboy's Pierre Kezdy filled in.) Sims was wondering too; he hasn't heard from Evans since, though he understands he's still alive. "I would say it's probably 99 percent sure it's over," reports a plainly displeased Sims, who has occupied himself by appearing in the Lookingglass Theatre Company's Up Against It, adapted from a Joe Orton movie script designed for the Fab Four; he plays a small role and helped compose the pop songs that accompany the play. His surprisingly musical and tres Beatles-esque compositions turbocharge a raucous and very funny show. (Your last chances to see it are September 15, 16, and 17.) Sims says he liked working with the ensemble's other composer, Joy Gregory, whose winsome mien and pretty songs contrast rather strikingly with Sims's rep as an onstage brawler. Of late, he points out, the violence at Didjits shows has been staged. "I'd like to work with other people who have ideas rather than just do what I tell them," he says.
...But the Royalties Keep Coming
Here's another Didjit tidbit: earlier this year an unknown southern California group included Sims's "Killboy Powerhead" on its first album, for the independent punk label Epitaph. No big deal--except that the band was the Offspring, and the album's currently touching the Billboard top ten on the strength of the fluke hit single "Come Out and Play (Keep 'Em Separated)." The album, Smash, is heading for double-platinum status with sales of 70,000 a week. "Mechanical" publishing royalties go to song composers at the rate of about six and a half cents per track. You do the math--and let Sims pay for drinks.
Kids These Days
The Reader cover story on wiggers a few months back was an excerpt from the first book by graffiti artist and journalist Upski Wimsatt. Bomb the Suburbs, a meditation cum scrapbook on graffiti, racism, hip hop, and youth in general assembled with no little brio by Wimsatt, has been published by the Subway and Elevated Press. There's a release party Saturday from "6 to 9ish" at 1355 N. Milwaukee; $2 gets you music, video, art, and--not least--the chance to chat with Wimsatt and buy the book cheap.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Cynthia Howe.