If you’re like me, you are getting weary of the initial round of “American Idol” auditions, and ready to kick this thing into Hollywood gear. After a while, it’s really just the same thing over and over again.
You can sing, or you’re a freak. Last night, they took us to Miami, where the producers predictably shoved Gloria Estefan references down our collective throat. And the auditions, pretty much, were not that good. Let’s start with the freaks…
Shannon McGough was one of the oddest contestants ever…she was an 18-year-old girl with an Irish last name and fair skin, but with what looked like Latino parents. And those parents owned a meat shop that Shannon also worked in. What’s more, she was adept at belching. Yes, belching. It was pretty funny, really. Shannon tried to sing Janis Joplin, and as Simon eloquently put it, it sounded like “Hungarian Janis.” I can’t put it any other way…it was just weird.
Some dude sang Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” but inserted Paula Abdul’s name into it instead of “Rock.” Next.
Simon told this dude named Grant that he should come back in a dress, and it would make his audition better. Then this kid named Richard sang a Rascal Flatts song completely through his nose. The best part was when Randy Jackson attempted to imitate poor Richard.
Few musicians the United States produced have had the multi-generational impact—yet are as little-known—as Professor Longhair. Pound for pound one of the most singularly ingenious and original jazz-blues-R&B piano players ever heard, ‘Fess inspired a gaggle of followers who evolved into titans themselves, players like Art Neville, James Booker, Dr. John, and Henry Butler.
He didn’t like leaving New Orleans; in fact legend has it when he was “discovered” on a national scale and was offered a cushy ride on a big coming-out tour from sea to shining sea, he declined, saying something to the effect of “If they like me so much they can come to N’Awlins and see me at the club.” Baton Rouge was about as far as he normally traveled to play out.
But why you bringin’ up this crusty old stuff today, Mojo, you ask? Lily Allen, man. You can’t get away from Professor Longhair. “Knock ‘Em Out” not only samples Longhair’s electrically charged riff from “Big Chief,” it makes it the cornerstone of the song. ‘Fess be universal, and a stunning fan MySpace celebrates his legacy with a quarter-cup of proper voodoo mysticism, which you can’t skip or logically ignore.
Play his cuts, read the books, celebrate the music. Get edumacated. Before you head on over there to MySpace, though, here’s a priceless vintage clip of ‘Fess on the piano jamming out to “Big Chief” with Art Neville on B3, Dr. John on Rhodes and a gaggle of other New Orleans musical legends like Earl King.
Last night’s “American Idol” auditions were held in Omaha, Nebraska for the first time ever, and it seemed like every other contestant was from some farm in Iowa with a town of 200 people…seriously. Anyway, Paula Abdul’s plane was delayed, so they started with just Randy and Simon judging. And just like last week, Fox gave me an hour of my life back, for which I genuinely thank them.
With that, here were the freaks from last night….
An effeminate dude named Chris started things off, and he carried a photo album with pics of himself and Kelly Clarkson. He also said he was a huge fan of Paula, who, lucky for Paula, wasn’t there yet. Anyway, Chris sang Kelly’s “Since You’ve Been Gone, ” and it was predictably horrible. He then asked if he could audition for the “Red Carpet” for the finale, and Simon took the liberty of giving Chris the gig, saying he just needed to contact his local Fox affiliate and tell them he approved. Hilarious.
Hard to believe, but aside from a medley of freaks singing Steeler’s Wheel’s “Stuck In The Middle With You,” they only showed one other dud last night. (Well, I think they did…our power went out for five minutes). That dud was Johnny, who was dressed in a gold jacket and said he was inspired by the great James Brown. Simon said he hated everything about it, and so did I. Paula, meanwhile, is drunk again! She even hiccupped during Johnny’s audition. Classic.
Yes, I know: it’s a ridiculous song title. I don’t even know what it means. But it’s a catchy-as-hell nugget which continues to add credence to the theory that the water in Sweden possesses a chemical which enables the residents of that kingdom to write brilliant pop hooks. Lead singer Asa Eklund – who runs the band’s website as well as a label called Exergy Music – has one of those great little-girl voices that’s sweetly emotional without sounding too ridiculously cutesy. (I’m thinking specifically of Frente at the moment.) Dunno what’s up with the band these days, but PineforestCrunch.com makes it sound like there’s not much; still, if you’re as smitten by this track on first listen as I was, head over to the band’s MySpace page to check out a few more of their songs.
To remember when Peter Murphy still seemed as interested in writing a memorable hook as being a gloomy gus, you’d have to go back farther than 1995’s Cascade, because as you can see from this performance of the album’s first single, “The Scarlet Thing In You,” Murphy was downright cheerful during this era…well, at least by his standards, anyway. It was the least of his solo albums up to that point, but it turned out to be the best we’d get out of him ’til 2004’s Unshattered. (2002’s Dust wasn’t just dark; it was deadly dull.) By the way, if you’re a longtime Jon Stewart fan, you’ll know that this is from the syndicated version of his show rather than the old-school MTV version from 1993…not that it really matters one or the other.