New York Groove

Posted on July 21st, 2010 in Uncategorized | 115 Comments »

By: Sion Smith


Considering I’m basically just a guy who loves rock, since I had a couple of kids – both girls – I’ve found my musical taste somewhat expanded. Before I begin though, I’d like to point out that this is a two way street. Both can quite often be found with their little ears throbbing to Nickelback in the back of the car.


But to the point – and I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time now. The song I’m about to kick all over the show is only a puppy in the big scheme of things but I didn’t want this to be a knee-jerk reaction. I wanted to think about it, make sure I was right and that there was no way anybody could argue with me – and here it is:


The song Empire State Of Mind. I can take quite a large amount of Ms Keys. I think she’s a pretty talented singer and Mr Z can also hold his own in anytown. The big issue I have with it are the lyrics – and I use the term loosely.


The song was apparently written back in 2009 by two people who I’ve never heard of – who may or may not be songwriters – after they took a trip abroad and started feeling homesick. It was pitched into various places until they decided to send it to Mr Z who fell in love with it and the rest is “history”.


Whoa! Back up a second here. Did nobody read the lyrics? At any given time during the recording process, did nobody have big enough steel balls to stand up and say “Excuse me. Do I have the correct lyrics here? I seem to have somebody’s school homework in front of me.


“On the avenue, there ain’t never a curfew, ladies work so hard”


Awww – come on. “There ain’t never a curfew, ladies work so hard” What kind of a lyric is that? It conjures up images of um, let me think… nothing at all and is, I’m sure you’ll agree, pointless. Name me one place in the West that has a curfew these days – apart from that place in 30 Days Of Night. It would be kind of OK if it was an analogy but it’s not. It’s lazy. No, I’m being kind. It’s not lazy, it’s awful. Who hands out these damned awards and why haven’t I got one?


But worse is still to come:


“Hail a gypsy cab, takes me down from Harlem to the Brooklyn Bridge
Some will sleep tonight with a hunger far more than an empty fridge”


Back in the early nineties, in the first draft of a song I was writing called well, never mind what it was called, I almost, almost, allowed myself to rhyme the word View with Barbeque. That idea stayed on the page about 4 seconds.


How did the phrasing “empty fridge” get through the lyric police? The one and only time it would be allowed would be if Weird Al was juicing up to deliver another classic and I suspect even he would think twice about it.


This is even worse than that god-awful lyric from Heart about wandering in a garden and planting a tree – now there’s a couple of other people who should have known better. (Which reminds me, one day I must publish the results of my interview with Nancy Wilson, who the record company guy told me moments before I called her up was Anne Wilson. I asked “Anne who was really Nancy” if it was OK to talk about anything at all and inevitable got onto the subject of weight loss… yeah, you can imagine how well that went down).


Anyway, there are so many holes in this song, it’s untrue. I love New York – absolutely most of my favourite things in life come from New York, but this song doesn’t do it justice. Would I be out of order to suggest it get permanently struck off the record? New York was doing pretty good in the PR stakes last time I looked…


Tell me I’m not alone in this.


Sion Smith is a pop culture writer and author of speculative fiction. You can keep up with his almost daily meanderings at

A Halo of Flies

Posted on July 1st, 2010 in Uncategorized | 135 Comments »

By Sion Smith


I detest festivals. I hate everything about them. I don’t like going to them and I never liked the one I played at either. On both sides of the fence, a festival isn’t about music, having fun or working hard. It’s about waiting. Waiting for the next band to come on, waiting for a meeting, waiting for the rain to stop, waiting for your friends, waiting for the other band to finish, waiting for the food stalls to open…


I detest festivals now simply because I am older. I would much rather watch the damn things on the TV where I can grab a cold beer and a sandwich with meat inside that I’m sure is dead whenever I like. In fact, the only decent way to play a festival is to be so damn famous that you get shipped in from a hotel 300 miles away ten minutes before you’re due on and then shipped back as soon as you’re finished – before the coke you left on the table even has a chance to go flat.


Hell, if you’re uber-famous, you can probably even get back before the ice has melted.


There’s a caveat though. If you’re in a band, where the hell else are you going to display your wares in front of 100,000 people? Nowhere. Not even the internet can drive that much traffic into a 20 minute slot. I’ve fallen in and out of love with bands based on festival appearances.


If I was in a band right now, I would have my agent/booking guy/mother – whoever it is that  takes care of business – get me on every major festival the world has to offer. You’re talking about being able to play in front of more than a million people in the space of maybe a dozen weekends.


You probably shouldn’t even consider doing the math on this one. To say in your PR that you’ve played to over a million people this summer is far preferable to working it out and finding only 49 people can remember who you are. It doesn’t matter. Fact of the matter is, for the little guy, festivals are a springboard for far superior things. They won’t make or break you but if you’re hellbent on moving forward, you can’t avoid them.


Actually, truth be told, festival line-ups are so big these days that you could say you played one when you were really over at your girlfriends house rustling up a cake – what’s more, you can then find people who have actually seen you play there!


I know this is true because I have done it. Not using a festival, but back when I was a PR hungry wolf-cub of just 18 or 19, I mailed a press release to a few regional newspapers telling them all about my (non-existent) band, listing tracks that were going to be on my album and towns (not specific venues) that I would be playing over the “coming months”. It was all very vague, but I did include a very professional picture of myself for publication.


Two things came out of this. The first of course was publicity, which was good all round as  local musicians who knew I was lying about my “band”, now wanted to form one with me – the end result being of course, that I then had a band and we had some positive PR without having to do any work. A far superior way of doing things I’m sure you’ll agree (but don’t tell Ida).


I expected that much at least out of it.


What I didn’t expect was some guy joining my friends and I at a table in a bar one night, claiming to have seen my band play live (which we hadn’t and never did), said we were pretty good – (not awful, not brilliant but “pretty good”) and then proceeded to name the set-list which was made up of the song titles I had given to the press! It was so bizarre, that I remember sitting there telling him how I made it all up for some publicity, but he was so adamant that he had seen us, I eventually began to doubt myself.


If you’re in a band and can get yourself on a festival bill, it’s an awesome experience and you should never let such an opportunity pass you by. On the other hand, if you’re in a band and can’t even get arrested outside the gates of one, don’t let it stop you. Legends have been built on far less than this.




 Sion Smith is an author of supernatural fiction and a pop-culture writer in the finest gonzo tradition. He also edits and publishes The Lung magazine and is working on independently releasing his increasing stack of “great ideas for books.”


Posted on April 30th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 152 Comments »



Celebrating what would have been the 59th birthday of punk icon JOEY RAMONE, the annual JOEY RAMONE BIRTHDAY BASH will take place Wednesday, May 19th at The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza.  Mickey Leigh, event organizer and brother of Joey Ramone, has announced this year’s lineup and a sell out Bash is expected again.  Net proceeds will go to benefit Lymphoma research.


This year’s headliners are Hank III and Morningwood.  Once again, the spectacular party will conclude with The Joey Ramone Birthday Bashers featuring Richie Ramone, Hank III, Walter Lure, Cheetah Chrome, JP Thunderbolt, Ed Stasium, Jean Beauvoir, George Tabb, Ivan Julian, Al Maddy, Walt Stack, Dave Merrill, Mickey Leigh & others.  Also appearing are The Sic F*cks, The Independents, Spanking Charlene (winners of Little Steven’s Wicked Cool Records contest) and Heap.  As the audience enters the venue they will once again be greeted by musician Tracy Thornton, playing Ramones songs on the steel drum.  And, in what has become a Birthday Bash tradition, Sean O’Sullivan’s Punk Pipers will round out the night with their rendition of “I Wanna Be Sedated” on bagpipes.


The Masters of Ceremony for this year’s fete will be Steven Van Zandt, Steve Craig, Matt Pinfield and Pete Ashner.  Additional surprises are expected at the evening’s events. 


RAMONE, who passed away in April 2001 after a seven-year battle with Lymphoma, had a history of encouraging up-and-coming bands in New York’s downtown music scene by showcasing them at his special “Joey Ramone Presents…” events.  Since RAMONE’s passing, his brother and their mother Charlotte Lesher carried on the tradition “by featuring bands that make great music and getting together some of Joey’s friends to celebrate him on what would otherwise be a sad, somber day,” Leigh explained.


This year’s Bash is being sponsored by Manic Panic, Trash & Vaudeville, Tripp, New York Waste, WPKN, 101.9 RXP, Bravado and Ovation.  


Tickets are available in advance at the Fillmore box office for $25 ($30 day of show) or through  The Fillmore is located at 17 Irving Place, corner 15th Street, NYC.  Doors open at 7PM.


For ongoing updates, visit  Net proceeds from the Bash go to support the Joey Ramone Foundation for Lymphoma Research.


For more information or to request press and photo credentials contact ISL Public Relations at; 1-917-338-6199.  

Of Mice and Men

Posted on March 25th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 120 Comments »

By Sion Smith

I’ve been accused of being a softy (see “Best Album in The World”), by the very woman whose throne I occasionally entertain at! I think it’s an age thing.

She may well be right. As time has progressed, I’ve found myself becoming a lot more tolerant of musical styles that a few years ago I would never have entertained. Worse still, from my position of (self-delusional) power, I would have probably poured public scorn on these people in the shape of literati tar and feathers.

Tar and feathers is something of a Middle-Ages of Britain concept. When found guilty of a crime, one of our more imaginative punishments would be to pour hot tar onto said criminal. Not content with turning them into a human highway, they would then have sacks of chicken/duck/goose feathers thrown over them for added humiliation. Interestingly, as far as I know, there are no bands called Tar and Feathers unlike our other classic instrument of torture, the Iron Maiden, but I digress…

I blame the Cult of the Pod (should I trademark that?). Nowhere else on earth would I get Rick Springfield’s Affair of the Heart buffing up against This Is War from 30 Seconds To Mars, but it feels good. It feels right. It’s a very liberating experience to have Carly Simon, Marilyn Manson, Pixie Lott and Stevie Wonder hanging out together at my party. If there was a radio station out there who had the balls to run a show like this, it would take over the world. It’s not likely to happen in a world where programmers and advertisers are living on a knife-edge over listeners turning off if they’re the least bit offended by a sudden change of mood.

If we think about this carefully though, what we’ll find is the Baby Boomers (Version III) will be switching off their radio in the millions pretty soon simply because they are not offering this sort of diversity. I’m not the best person in the world to ask about what’s cool in the world right now but I do know that I see more kids wearing “classic” t-shirts – Led Zeppelin, FAME logo – than kicking about in the park wearing Shakira merchandise. I do know that every time I switch on my radio in the morning, I’m guaranteed to hear Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ simply because it was on X-Factor last year. I think it also made an appearance on American Idol, but you guys were always more clued in about the mainstreamity of rock than us.

Back in 1994, before the internet was invented, I stepped off a plane at JFK airport. Flicking on the radio, I was greeted with Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Counting Crows, Candlebox, Brother Cane and Stone Temple Pilots – is it still like this in the U.S.? None of those artists were successful back then. It was their first time on air straight out of the box and this is why the U.S. has beaten our sorry ass into the ground where music is concerned over the last twenty years. They were taking chances. The best radio DJ in the U.K. has probably never even heard of Big Head Todd…

I’ve lost my train of thought – Kate Bush just crashed my party with The Man With The Child In His Eyes.

Ah yes, being soft. My list of guilt grows daily but I feel suitably vindicated. While my list of favoured bands in the rock arena grows as it ever has, it is slowly being matched by “bands from another planet”. It’s a very slow process but it’s happening all the same. We have some good bands out here right now – or maybe we haven’t. Maybe we simply have some phenomenal songwriters.

Actually, I’m lying to you. I know that this is the case. Songs are everything. Without great songs, a band is nothing as so ably demonstrated by millions of bands the whole world over. Let’s take a look at a couple of my favourites which you may not have been exposed to yet:

Pixie Lott. A pretty blonde with a voice to die for. Sure, get in the queue Pixie, you ain’t the only one – but when she opens her mouth and those lovingly crafted pop melodies flood out, you know you’re in the presence of something special that, given the right nurturing, will run and run long into the distance. We have a few of these. Alexandra Burke, last years X Factor winner, she’s got a voice to die for and a team of songwriters to rival Chinn and Chapman on a good day. Leona Lewis – she has already infiltrated you. Little Boots – not to my taste (yet) but I can see that she might be to the world at large.

I have become very accepting of all these people. The harder I think about it though, I see that this was the way I used to be before I aligned myself with The Rock (as a genre, not the wrestler). Rock – or to be exact about it – Kiss and Alice – came along and allowed me to be a part of something I thought was worthy. It was and it still is a huge part of my life, but back when I was really getting into music, as previously revealed, I also loved ABBA, Adam and the Ants, Duran Duran (so that I could talk to girls who where not interested in Wendy O’Williams), Donna Summer, Motown, Rock n Roll, Charlie Rich… the list goes on but is not endless. There are some bands who will never win me over.

Thus, in my defence, I think I am coming full circle, not going soft. I love being a writer who knows about Charlie Rich. The more points of reference I have, the better a writer I can be. You think I lie? Go have a relationship split and get yourself a copy of Rich’s Most Beautiful Girl In The World and I’ll show you heartache on an unprecedented scale. To balance out your sorrow, I can also recommend Stabbing Westward as a killer antidote to this. I am also proud to know all of the lyrics to Johnny Mathis’ 99 Miles From L.A. (and I can’t recall when I last heard anything by him on the radio!), I am privileged to know that most of the hardcore rock guys I have ever interviewed all say that the most outrageous Rock God they ever knew of was Bobby Farrell from Boney M. Yeah. Go figure. The Disco Inferno strikes again.

Soft? It’s the new black don’t you know. 


Sion Smith is an author of supernatural fiction and a pop-culture writer in the finest gonzo tradition. He also edits and publishes The Lung magazine and is working on independently releasing his increasing stack of “great ideas for books.”

The Greatest Album in the World (again, not a tribute). Editorial by Sion Smith

Posted on February 1st, 2010 in Uncategorized | 150 Comments »

I can hardly believe it’s been almost a year since I wrote “The Greatest Song in the World“. I always had it in my head that I would follow it up with the greatest album, but it’s honestly taken me all of this time to decide exactly what album that is. As with said greatest song, I surprised myself with the answer.


None of the following took the big gold ring, but in my arsenal are armfuls of unquestionable classics that every home should have – (a house just isn’t a home without them). For your own good, I hereby present the runners-up in no particular order:


David Bowie: Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars

ABBA: Arrival

T.Rex: Electric Warrior

Kiss: Alive!

Alice Cooper: Love It To Death

Coheed & Cambria: Good Apollo…

Journey: Frontiers

Adam & The Ants: Kings of the Wild Frontier


I include Adam and the Ants in this list as once upon a time, I did believe it to be the greatest thing ever. Just because I was 13 doesn’t negate it from entry – however, it was obvious from the start that it was never going to take the top spot. Interestingly, if you stopped me in the street, handed me some chalk and asked me to draw the Ant Warrior logo (the Ant Music For Sex People/Sex Music For Ant People thing for those in the know), I could. Some things get embedded so deeply into your psyche that they never leave. Adam Ant was a genius. Probably still is, only everybody has stopped listening.


ABBA Arrival was the other album that was never going to win but I do recall everybody in my class at school raving about that piece of shit debut Sex Pistols album while I only had this slice of genius. If that made me the biggest anarchist in the class, it was lost on me. I just wanted great songs. Looking at the cover of the album, none of them look particularly happy about being the biggest band in the universe – ever. If you can forget that Dancing Queen exists, you have to admit that Benny and Bjorn wrote some seriously great songs. Look closely and you’ll be able to see the angst seeping out from the bottom of those beards. Then again, being on the road with your friend and your combined wives/husbands, has got to be the biggest recipe for disaster one could ever consider.


A strong, strong contender for the title was Ziggy. I love this album. I have loved this album from the very first time I heard it and I still love it now. Whenever I put it on, I have to listen to it from the beginning to the end. In order. Some things in life are not meant to be shuffled. There isn’t one bad song on Spiders (unlike the album that won the title) and yet it is flawed in the way that only a true rock n roll album can be whilst remaining perfect. There is nothing else to say about Ziggy Stardust, It simply is.


Journey’s Frontiers meantime should probably be Escape but it’s not. Frontiers is a strange album. The track listing is all wrong, the two sides don’t work well together, the artwork is dreadful and I still don’t know who or what a Rubicon is. Yet for all that (or maybe because of it) it’s a solid album with a group of incredibly talented musicians performing at their absolute best. Four huge songs out of five on side one of an album? Loses valuable points also for the free poster inside of the guys in the band parachuting from a plane. As much as I’ve always known Steve Perry to be the greatest singer in the world, I really don’t need a picture of him with a backpack on above my bed.


Electric Warrior – ah, Marc, Marc, Marc… when you were great, you inspired me and when you weren’t you were still better than everybody else. I’ve not listened to this for the longest time and now I come back to it, I find that familiarity has bred a small amount of contempt. It’s not your fault but I’ve heard all of these songs out of their proper environment so many times now that it’s hard to actually judge Electirc Warrior as an album at all. Note to self. Learn how to fall in love again…


Coheed & Cambria’s Good Apollo still lays waste to my senses. If you’ve never experienced the greatest story ever told, shame on you. Listening to Apollo is similar to being locked in God’s flotation chamber and having all three Lord of the Rings films streamed into your head. Simultaneously. They may try for the rest of their lives but they will never capture the chemistry and depth of vision they did with this. This one came second (and I rather suspect that’s because it’s not that old).


And so we come to Kiss and Alice. I don’t have to say anything about either of these albums, so I won’t. You already have them and you know why they are on my list.


So, to backtrack somewhat, what is the greatest album in the world? Looking at the artists on my list, you may be forgiven for thinking I was going to pitch something rockingly similar in your direction but it is of course, Carole King’s Tapestry (1971).


This was a mainstay of my old man’s record collection, so I was exposed to it from being very young. Very young – I was four years old. 


Let’s get the downside out of the way because I really don’t want to continue with this if I have to mention it again. Smackwater Jack is not a good song. It never was and it never will be – well, maybe if Trent Reznor does a number on it, it could be but that’s a long shot now. We shall also not be discussing any re-release bonus track remastered variants. We will be working with an original well-loved vinyl copy – just as it should be.


From the very beginning, it’s evident that the whole point of this album is love. It’s delivered with love, is about love and expects the unconditional same in return. Whether your background is metal or opera, reggae or soul, if you deny that the first three opening tracks are anything but a wanton display of a total understanding of the song-writing process, you are lying to yourself and you will look stupid. Forever. 


I Feel The Earth Move, So Far Away and It’s Too Late all form the core of an album so perfect, it was put together in just a few days and yet held the Number One slot for 15 weeks, staying on the chart for six years. That’s 312 weeks of music fans consistently making an effort of getting off their ass, going to the store and making a definitve purchase. This amounts to over 25 million copies of it sold – and while that probably includes whole tribes of pot-heads forgetting where they had left their copy and having to buy another, it’s still an awful lot. Couple this with King looking like the girl nextdoor that every boy fell in love with and every girl wanted to be and the deal is done – and while it might smack of hippy drivel, this is simply because you’re not listening properly. 


I feel totally vindicated in my research on this because no matter the albums I have sold, given away, lost or smashed in my 40 years of listening pleasure, this one has never been very far away. It has been with me through glam rock, space rock, jet rock, cock rock, big rock and whatever other kinds of rock phenomena – Will You Love Me Tomorrow can still make me cry. King’s vocal delivery lays me like a carpet every time. It’s the most soul-wrenching piece of art ever committed to vinyl and if you do not recognise this, bad things will happen to you in the afterlife.


I want to say so many things about this album but I can’t. Tapestry is not a record to me anymore, it’s a feeling. It’s an emotion that can’t – or won’t – be explained. You can take 3 months or 3 years in the studio, you can pay an audio-ringmaster millions of dollars to perfect what you think you have, you can tell a hundred journalists a hundred lies but what I think it comes down to is this: if you can’t say what you have to say in three and a half minutes on an acoustic guitar or a piano, you need to go back and find the real reason you want to make music – Chinese Democracy would have sold just as many copies if it had been done like this.


Sion Smith is a writer from the UK who specialises in popular culture.  To follow the (almost) daily happenings of a man with too much information in his head, subscribe to his blog at


Greetings to the New Dylanette

Posted on January 15th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 123 Comments »

By Jim Walsh | Published Wed, Jan 13 2010 2:46 pm


In his liner notes to Patches and Gretchen’s 11-song sophomore stunner, Honeydogs leader Adam Levy writes: “I don’t think I’m going out on a ledge by arguing that Patches and Gretchen’s ‘Sugar Head Pie’ is a freak-out folk-punk masterpiece. There are a few contenders: Pavement’s ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’; Syd Barrett’s ‘The Mad Cap Laughs’; maybe some solo Roky Erickson. If Lou Reed, Lucinda Williams and Chrissie Hynde had a lost weekend of debauchery and songwriting, it just might look like ‘Sugar Head Pie.’ … The feel is classic but it’s never looked or felt like this before. No whiskey bottles, no Pentecostal churches, honky-tonk barstools, preachers, or dirt roads — instead it’s Sequoia and Trails of Tears, poisoned hot dishes, lonely trailer park moms, scab pickers, Minnesota lilac breezes, morphine gypsies in Sault Saint Marie.”

Levy’s assessment is dead-on: It says here that the most hypnotic rock record of the new decade has been delivered by an ad-hoc Minneapolis punk outfit led by one Gretchen Seichrist, a 40-something single mom who sings, swears and spits her Dylanesque poems with an old-school mystique laced with modern-world damage. A timeless album, in other words, for all those who still believe in such revelations, but while its roots invite comparisons (I hear “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “Exile in Guyville,” “Salesman and Racists,” “Horses,” etc.), this is a post-nostalgia work that has its own center, its very own howl.

Backed by acoustic/electric guitars, tube amps, leathery drums, the occasional banjo-fiddle, and Terry Eason’s Crazy Horse benders, Seichrist sing-shrugs stuff like, “I always wanted to be raised by wolves and be the chosen one,” giving voice to every primal artistic urge known to human. Sing it: Everybody knows this is nowhere, everybody knows you can’t fake desperate, and in this case, desperation is the mother of invention, and great reinvention.

To that end, the swaggering barroom blast “Tired of Chicken” is the set’s mini-manifesto amidst many maxi-anthems, with the singer jabbing at all the jealous souls, real and imagined, who would take umbrage at her decision to not go quietly into that night of middle-age. Instead, by lurching into a career as a recording artist and band leader, she’s engaging in a very public pursuit of happiness that she knows, ultimately, may not bring happiness at all.

Still, the proof is in the pudding. Sounding like Kirsty MacColl in “Fairytale of New York,” the MCAD survivor and ferociously fecund painter bawls, “Just who am I hurtin’ if I get in one more a-va-voom before they lower the curtain?/And if it makes you feel better, I’ll soon be knitting sweaters/Eatin’ microwave dinners, with a cat on my lap and unbearable lonely winters.”

Playing for keeps
Recorded at Rich Mattson’s Sparta Studio in Sparta, Minn., there is something vaguely southern about “Sugar Head Pie,” from its hard-knock heroine to its worship of hallowed Native American ground to an intensely organic feel that at times feels like dirt and clay running through the listener’s hands.

“Woncha come and play sugar head pie with me?” Seichrist sings to her girlfriend-slash-would-be-playmate, yearning for a return to their childhood and a time when you made things for fun, not for sale. The dark side of that care-freedom rears its head in “Blood Suitcase,” an apology to her kids about the nuisance of looking for a new place to live — again. The drag is palpable, and when she sings, “I guess we’ll find out what is essential and what belongs to the past,” you can almost see the hobo’s bindle sticks slung over their shoulders as they hit the road.

That wanderlust also sows the seeds of genuine independence. “I’ve got to start thinking about myself/And I’m gonna do it all by myself … and I don’t need your help,” she sings on “Time of the Lilacs,” while “Black Market” rails at the “middle man” (indifferent record companies? lazy rock critics? paid-off deejays? one-night lovers?) who stand between her and her dreams. All of which would be so much predictable me-first angst in less nuanced hands, but when Seichrist seethes, “We’re not young, but we’re restless,” she does so for anyone of any age who has ever felt imprisoned by their own skin and wanted to “see a wheat field come to me for a change.”

And “Sugar Head Pie” is nothing if not sprawling. The 10-minute closer “Everything Is Indian” is Patches and Gretchen’s “The Wasteland” or “Howl,” in which white liberal guilt is recast as reparation hot and mournful. Here is the sound of someone tilling raped hallowed ground, traipsing over Native American landmarks and lakes, and communing with the spirits of the night. Make no mistake, “Sugar Head Pie” is a political record, in that the personal is political, and that we’ve all got our and our sins, individually and as a society. No wonder she sounds like the drunk village idiot, spewing her history lessons to deaf ears around Franklin and Chicago.

Masterpiece for the ageless
Trolling the brightly lit but brutally grim aisles of Blockbuster while fighting bronchitis and winter ennui the other day, I held in my hand no less than 20 (I counted) would-be time-killers deemed  a “masterpiece” by some critic or another. Masterpieces, then, come cheap nowadays, or maybe not. Maybe there are so many DIY masterpieces being cranked out now that We the Inundated can’t keep track. All I know is that this is an important record and you should hear it.

You know a masterpiece when you hear it. One of those addictions you played the hell out of, start to finish, over and over. An album. A collection of songs written and recorded and sequenced with great care and consideration for the listener, the art lover, the reader, the lucky one who stumbles upon this aural glue that connects you with the past and future and nails what Jon Stewart was talking about at the Kennedy Center Awards recently, about Springsteen’s “ongoing conversation with his audience.”

That’s what I have with “Sugar Head Pie” — an ongoing conversation — and it’s a beautiful thing. At the moment, we’re opening a bottle of Malbec and cranking up the electric fireplace and talking about existentialism and the idea that, at any age, life is in fact meaningless unless and until you give it meaning. We’re talking about how people die and fall apart, but also about how they grow, change, figure things out, get better, richer, deeper.

We’re talking about how we make each other feel. How music makes us feel less alone, and we’re starting to wonder how people who don’t glean sustenance from art and music slog through this thing called life. We’re talking about how “Sugar Head Pie” unfurls like a great aural pin cushion snuggy, and how it already makes us feel wistful for this time, these first few weeks of the new decade, when the Twin Cities was awash in so much good new music it felt like the Roaring 10s.

We’re talking about how masterpieces inspire us. We’re thinking about what Anaïs Nin said about that inner voice you can’t ignore, and about how “the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

We’re needling each other. We’re daring each other. We’re calling each other up, every morning with coffee, and every evening with wine, and sometimes in the afternoon just before the recess bell clangs, just to see who can be the first to say to the other, “Woncha come and play sugar head pie with me?”


Posted on January 15th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 127 Comments »



New York, NY January 12, 2010 – After announcing the early release of his new album “Take a Seat,” singer-songwriter TJAY wowed fans with a special interview and performance on the internet TV show “Rew and Who.” Viewers saw TJAY perform in an intimate setting, and heard the upstate-New York native speak for the first time about his unique history as a record breaking baseball player at Binghamton University, his experience with the Major Leagues, and how he got into music.


TJAY, known for his smooth blues/rock vocal styles and amazing guitar mastery, began performing concerts while in college to “earn a little extra cash,” at the same time playing Division One Baseball for Binghamton U. With a 90-mile-an-hour throwing arm, ranked in the Top 5 for career hits, home runs, RBIs, and breaking the college’s career doubles record, TJAY was attracting Major League attention.


“Baseball is a tough business to break into,” says TJAY, “very similar to the music industry.” The longer the Major Leagues waited to call him up, the larger the crowds grew at TJAY’s performances. During the winter off-season, his music really started to take off.


Now, TJAY performs an astounding 200+ shows per year.  You can see TJAY perform on Friday January 22nd at Palmers Crossing in Larchmont, NY just outside NYC. You can also view TJAY’s interview and performance from “Rew and Who” by visiting the web links below:


Visit for additional dates and more information.


Posted on December 28th, 2009 in Uncategorized | 133 Comments »


New York, NY  December 15, 2009 – Singer-songwriter TJAY is scoring major league points with his fans as he continues to perform around the tri-state area throughout the month of December and into the New Year.  The upstate-New York native has been drawing crowds wherever he plays and so impressing music lovers in the audience that they have been clamoring for copies of his new CD.  Entitled “Take A Seat,” the album was scheduled to be released in early 2010 but TJAY has had to push up that date in order to fulfill requests.


“It’s remarkable and very rewarding,” says the musician.  “People have been coming up to me after my concerts asking to buy my CD.   They were disappointed hearing that they had to wait until February, so we just decided to get it out now!”


TJAY knows a thing or two about having hits.  Having received a scholarship to play Division One college baseball at the University of Binghamton, TJAY was simultaneously pursuing a career as a professional baseball player and playing gigs on the side to earn a little extra cash.   During the winter off-season, as TJAY played more and more shows, word started to spread and the crowds grew. From there, the choice was easy.


Now, TJAY performs an astounding 200+ shows per year.  He loves connecting with his audience and writes from the heart; his songs are autobiographical and tell the story of someone breaking away from the norm to live his dreams.  TJAY is known for his smooth blues/rock vocal styles and complete guitar mastery – his funky guitar riffs are one of the cornerstones of his music.


TJAY’s concert schedule is as follows:

December     3        Cold Spring, NY
December     4        New York City, NY (M.E.A.N.Y. Fest “Honorable Mention” show)
December     17      Kingston, NY
December     23      “Rew & Who?” Internet TV – live interview & performance
January        9        Binghamton, NY
January        20      Pleasantville, NY
January        22      Larchmont, NY
February       5        Stamford, CT
February       7        Florence, NJ – Rock on Radio – live interview & performance
February       25      Kingston, NY (solo acoustic)
Feburary       26      Kingston, NY (with the TJay Trio)


Visit for additional dates and more information.


303 Fifth Avenue Suite 702 New York NY 10016 Ph 917-338-6199Fax 917-338-6515


Posted on April 30th, 2009 in Uncategorized | 113 Comments »


Celebrating what would have been the 58th birthday of punk icon JOEY RAMONE, the annual JOEY RAMONE BIRTHDAY BASH will take place Tuesday, May 19th at The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza.  Mickey Leigh, event organizer and brother of Joey Ramone, has announced that, as part of the 9th annual Bash, fans will be treated to a special advance sneak peek listen to rough mixes of never- before-heard Joey Ramone solo recordings.  Various producers, including long-time Ramones producer Ed Stasium, are currently preparing tracks for a full album worth of material, slated for posthumous release at the end of the year.
This year’s headliners are Fishbone and Supersuckers.  The spectacular party will conclude with The Friends Of Joey featuring Richie Ramone, Handsome Dick Manitoba, Jean Beauvoir, Ivan Julian, George Tabb, Al Maddy and Mickey Leigh.  Also appearing are Death and Rough Francis (both bands were the subject of a feature story in the New York Times on March 12), Uncle Monk (featuring Tommy Ramone), Bebe Buell, and Tom Clark & The High Action Boys.  As the audience enters the venue they will once again be greeted by musician Tracy Thornton, playing Ramones songs on the steel drum.  And, in what has become a Birthday Bash tradition, Sean O’Sullivan’s Punk Pipers will round out the night on the bagpipes.  The fete will be emceed by Matt Pinfield and Peter Aschner.  Additional surprises are expected at the evening’s events. 

RAMONE, who passed away in April 2001 after a seven-year battle with Lymphoma, had a history of encouraging up-and-coming bands in New York’s downtown music scene by showcasing them at his special “Joey Ramone Presents…” events.  Since RAMONE’s passing, his brother and their mother Charlotte Lesher carried on the tradition “by featuring bands that make great music and getting together some of Joey’s friends to celebrate him on what would otherwise be a sad, somber day,” Leigh explained.

This year’s Bash is being sponsored by Manic Panic, Trash & Vaudville & Tripp, and Village Voice. 

Tickets are available in advance at the Fillmore box office for$25 ($30 day of show) or through  The Fillmore is located at 17 Irving Place, corner 15th Street, NYC.  Doors open at 7PM.

For ongoing updates, visit  Net proceeds from the Bash go to support the Joey Ramone Foundation for Lymphoma Research.

For more information or to request press and photo credentials contact ISL Public Relations at; 1-917-338-6199.  

The Strange Case of Bob Lefsetz vs Gene Simmons

Posted on April 7th, 2009 in Uncategorized | 136 Comments »

The Strange Case of Bob Lefsetz vs Gene Simmons

Right up front, I have to state – rather emphatically – that this is not a random posting about Kiss because I felt like it. Over the last couple of weeks Ida has been mailing me various links to an “argument” that has been gathering no small amount of momentum on the web and as a Kiss fan I find it more than intriguing. The two sides appear to be this: Gene recently spoke at a music seminar, Bob retaliated saying it wasn’t very good and that Gene had his head up his ass. Gene came back with a few choice comments resulting in Gene and Bob appearing in a live debate situation which you can view here. ( VIDEO HERE: (

If you can put aside the mudslinging for long enough to think about it, it comes down to this: Gene is old school. He thinks that talking relentlessly about himself and/or his product will sell himself/his product. Bob on the other hand thinks that there is a new music business model afoot and the odds on Gene being correct are very slim. This is putting it nicely. Check out the video – there’s some killer laughs in there… mostly at Bob’s expense.  Gene’s comment of “I don’t even know who the fuck you are” is well placed. I don’t know who this guy is either but he does make a good case. I think. Call me shallow, but I found it hard to take they guy as seriously as I should have while he’s slouched in a chair. It’s always the little things…

Let’s ramp up the experiment a little and hope I don’t get my chops busted for standing in the middle of the battlefield. Let’s say I have a band. Let’s call this band Baby Dynamite because that’s what my band was called (hey – shut the fuck up… I learned from the best!). Baby Dynamite has a rough cut of an album called Blacklisted and we’re looking to crank our careers up to the next stage. This means, as Gene rightly points out in his speech that we need some help. We need either a) a company who will figure out all the crap for us, advance us some cash to clean up the album, sort the merchandising and get our name in front of as many people as possible, very fast or as Bob also rightly points out, b) an internet based plan whereby we build a loyal following direct with the fans and take all of the money from low sales (at first) instead of very little money from a lot of sales.

Bob makes some excellent points. MTV does not play music anymore… not really, but to be fair, if I’ve made a great video for what I consider to be the lead single off the album (incidentally called Creature Feature), I know who to ask at the Scuzz channel (UK audiences only!) what our chances are of getting it aired – even if it is on the other side of the witching hour. Nobody I want to sell to watches MTV anyway – they are watching Scuzz because that’s where the action is. I can also post it wherever the hell I like in the next five minutes and begin drip feeding the entire globe with a link.

The real-life scenario however is this: Baby Dynamite (there I go again) are so hungry for the big time, that we’re going to do both. Any serious band would! No band in their right mind is going to turn down development under the wing of Simmons/Universal, but likewise, we are dubious about the end result. Van Halen aside, no band Gene has touched has really made a serious dent in the world – and there have been many. I love Black n Blue as much as the next guy, but it really didn’t happen. Then again… looking back on my band (Baby Dynamite in case you missed it), which split in 1995 after seven years of not very much happening.. well, there is my point illustrated exactly. Looking back I would give my eye teeth for what Black n Blue had – four decent albums and a few trips around the globe. Hey – Tommy even got to be a member of Kiss and while the hardcore amongst us sometimes reel from the fact that Ace isn’t in the band anymore, if Gene hadn’t made the decisions he did, we wouldn’t have got much past Destroyer without it imploding.. and then there would have been no Baby Dynamite.

What’s that line from Three Men and Little Lady? “It’s tough being Papa Bear…”

I’m finding this hard going now because as an editor/fan/critic whatever you want to call me, I don’t really care where the model comes from. All I want to do is hear great music. So long as I get to hear it, it’s your problem as to whether or not you’re as clued in as me once I’ve told you about it. If Kiss choose to release their next album through the mega-chains in the States, that’s fine, count me in, but I’ll also be churning up independents such as The Dreaming (ex Stabbing Westward guys) who are running the gauntlet pretty much alone and I’m going to listen toand talk about just as much. Business models aside, this is how the world works now. Fans are greedy and will take their music from wherever they find it – and tomorrow it will be two different bands.

I really want to like Bob because I hear what he’s saying. Sadly, the other guy on the stage is a) one of my heroes b) dressed for business c) articulate d) massively intelligent and e) quick witted even if f) I suspect he might be wrong. Case in point: Gene rallied around his artist BAG a few years back. It’s a great album, it really is. Did you hear it? No you didn’t. Where is he now? Who cares – and that’s the sad truth about this. Gene gets more mileage from pimping his acts than his acts do – there’s a serious lesson to be learned there. Gene is Gene. Anybody who gets into that bed should expect nothing less. He is the Vince McMahon of rock and to pick a fight is utterly foolish. Bob can never win this argument because of that simple fact. Nobody knows or cares who he is. What would have been fantastic TV was if Bob was Marilyn Manson or Trent Reznor.. man, I would have paid to see that.

In the aftermath, Bob was still very vocal about how badly Gene treated him on TV. Gene however went back to making money and forgot all about it, whilst I considered the impact on my life of putting Baby Dynamite back together.

I learned a lot from Gene Simmons over the years. Today I learned a lot from Bob.

If you’re going to bring down a giant, get your shit together before you start and polish your shoes.

Sion Smith is the founder and editor of BURN magazine. He is also the writer/creator of the comic book series Too Hot For Dogs and some other inane fiction. If you’re in the mood to follow the semi-daily ramblings of a man with too much information in his head, check in with his personal blog at Sunday he spends some time in Kiss or Alice Cooper make-up to remember why this journey was started in the first place. 

 FURTHERANCE FROM OUR OTHER GUEST BLOGGER:I have, of course, been following this and must say it is a match made in butt-ugly heaven for both Bob and Gene. You might recall that I knew Gene before the success when he and Paul (Stanley) would come into the Music Box record store on Union Turnpike in Queens where I worked during college. Paul would brag about their future success and Gene would act like a mute. Sadly, I really don’t relate to either POV from Gen or Lefsetz. Their topic is not the music biz. It is a self-centered scenario allowed by the internet for bob and celebrity for Gene. None of it has much to do with music.

James J. Spina

VP Editor in Chief
20/20 Magazine