The Replacements Made a Very Good Gordon Lightfoot Cover

Back in the fall of 2012, your favorite band that inspired the name of the high school in the movie Heathers began playing together again, (or, at least, founding members Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson have). After former Replacements guitarist Slim Dunlap suffered a stroke and was hospitalized and paralyzed, they launched the Songs for Slim project and auctioned off a limited-edition EP, which brought in more than $100,000 for Dunlap’s medical bills.

Now, to continue helping their bandmate, the band will release the EP digitally, including a surprisingly invigorating cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “I’m Not Sayin’.” Maybe it’s playing with his former bandmate, or the passion that comes with doing something you love to help someone you care about, but the duo sound a couple decades younger, and it’s a fun listen. 

Songs For Slim will be released digitally on March 5th, with proceeds from downloads going to cover Dunlap’s medical bills. And, the lede that seems to keep getting buried here is that the EP closer is a cover of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from the musical Gypsy, which is just going to be swell/great. Wonder how Westerberg’s Ethel Merman impression is.

The Songs for Slim project will extend outside his former bandmates to include monthly auctions of 7” singles by an all-star roster of artists covering Dunlap’s songs, including Frank Black, members of R.E.M., Craig Finn of the Hold Steady, Deer Tick and Lucinda Williams. In the meantime, check the Replacements’ version of “I’m Not Sayin’” over at Pitchfork, and, for comparison, listen to Nico’s also excellent 1965 version, as well as the Gordon Lightfoot original, below.

R.E.M. Bops ‘Fox & Friends’ Over ‘Losing My Religion’ Usage, Fox Sasses Back

R.E.M. issued a cease and desist letter to Fox News this week after Fox & Friends used the band’s song Losing My Religion to illustrated that Democrats are butt-fucking, baby-killing God-less heathens during its coverage of the Democratic National Convention.

In a statement posted on the web site R.E.M. HQ, the band claimed the use was "unlicensed" and "unauthorized." Michael Stipe is quoted saying:

We have little or no respect for their puff adder brand of reportage. Our music does not belong there.

First of all: puff adder, you guys.

Second of all, unfortunately, Fox & Friends, as fucking dumb as it may be, could have used the song with the proper permissions. A predictably snotty response from Fox as reported by Entertainment Weekly answered:

FOX News Channel’s use of an R.E.M. song during Thursday’s edition of Fox & Friends was in full accordance with its license agreements with all appropriate parties. Nevertheless, we’re always flattered to have this much attention for a song selection and we hope R.E.M. was able to satisfy their publicity fix.

It’s a case of he said, she said and the jury is still out on whether Fox News used Losing My Religion legally. (Or why it didn’t occur to them to cover Sandra Fluke’s speech with a sample of Liz Phair’s Fuck And Run.)

I guess right now Michael Stipe is playing this:

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter and Tumblr.

Don’t Soil Your Pinafores: Cabinet of Wonders Comes to NPR

“May I present the cabinet: its contents, and its discontents,” begins John Wesley Harding’s Cabinet of Wonders, the live variety show that’s running in six neatly packaged episodes from NPR this summer. And not to spoil their intro, but there’s little in there to leave one discontent. What the Nieman Journalism Lab “guess[es] is a variety show for hipsters” might work out to this formula: if you graduated from a liberal arts college in the past fifteen years, own a pair of Converse sneakers, and have ever fantasized about being the president, Cabinet is the kind of performance you’d imagine staging on the White House lawn for your birthday party. A vaudevillian piano romp transitions between writers reading, comedians joking, and musicians playing small handfuls of tunes. The live show, which runs a meaty two-and-a-half hours at Soho’s City Winery, wraps up into a fifty-three minute prix-fixe delicacy for the NPR podcast/radio program, currently airing on WFUV in the Bronx, among other stations.

“I know it’s a fashionable term now, but the idea really is to put together a well curated show,” says Wesley Stace, who goes by the moniker John Wesley Harding (as in the Bob Dylan album) for the music/performance side of his work. “The whole idea of variety is that you come for one thing, and leave with something else…the absolute goal is to introduce people to artists they wouldn’t have otherwise known about.”

Case in point: on episode four of the podcast, John Hodgman’s musings on doppelganger science and Sloane Crosley’s incidents of travel in Ecuador are immediate draws—they’re witty and wry and hit all the right beats. But if you’re unfamiliar with the musician Bhi Bhiman, I swear his voice is of the rarest variety of beautiful that if you don’t feel compelled to turn to the person next to you on the D train and evangelize for him, then something’s wrong with your headphones.

The seed of Cabinet of Wonders was a little show Stace did in the late ’80s, while touring as a rock musician, called “The John Wesley Harding Medicine Show.” It had a comparable format, “except I had a pathetic address book in the ’80s,” he explains. Even now, Cabinet is largely just a conglomerate of names from Stace’s Rolodex.

“It’s all Wes,” says Eric Nuzum, Vice President of Programming for NPR. “They’re all his friends, and he’s just really good at keeping in touch with people.”

“There’s a history that comes with sharing dressing rooms with people. It’s a camaraderie from just travelling around,” Stace says. “And then there’s people like Hamilton Leithauser of The Walkmen”—who performs in episode two of the podcast—“our children go to school together.”

One other antecedent of sorts is the public radio variety show Live Wire! out of Portland, Oregon. Both Stace and Eugene Mirman, the comic sidekick and “resident mirth man” on Cabinet, have appeared on the show, which features a smattering of original comedy sketches in addition to music. “They were definitely an inspiration,” notes Stace.

But for all the great comedians on Cabinet, there’s something to be said for peppering in acts that don’t rely on laughs. “Comedy is always a great way to get people interested in what you’re saying,” he explains. “But a writer like Patrick McGrath reads so brilliantly, that even if it’s not funny, it’s such psychologically accurate prose that the audience is saying, ‘Good lord that was a great writer.’”

And speaking of great writers, or rather songwriters, I have one more nerdy fanboy digression; sorry. But John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats, in episode two, plays the song “You Were Cool,” which he’s yet to record for an album. The default fan recording is from his performance at my college radio station’s show last fall. NPR has now usurped our station in terms of recording quality, but no matter. The point is that the song is out there, and if it doesn’t melt you into a soup of emotion, you may want to consult your doctor about lack of soul.

Cabinet, for that matter, does a good job of encouraging artists to perform outside of their default contexts. A.C. Newman plays a work in progress. Sarah Vowell, instead of reading, answers audience questions alongside Mirman. Peter Buck of R.E.M. and members of The Decemberists back Stace for one of his own tunes. It’s part of what makes Cabinet a great show in its own right, as opposed to just a solid list of performances.

In all, “it’s a show for people who like music and enjoy discovering things,” says Nuzum. Or as Mirman explains, the listener “is sitting in their Volvo or low-end Lexus, probably went to Vassar, and is generally liberal but a little afraid of Latinos. And you’re thinking, ‘that’s not me’…but it’s you.”

Photo by Rufus Standefer

What Was Kirsten Dunst Thinking During R.E.M.’s ‘We All Go Back To Where We Belong’?

R.E.M. has recently called it quits, and what better way to bow out of the music industry than to release a greatest hits collection featuring a tepid new song? The video for the song isn’t much more exciting, unless you find yourself quite taken with the notion of Kirsten Dunst staring at a camera for three minutes. She doesn’t do much on screen, but I bet there’s a ton going on inside her head. Here’s what I think her inner monologue might have been.

0:02. All right, here goes. Gotta do this new reel.

0:06. Where is Sofia? I thought Sofia was directing this?

0:10 A music video? Is it for Phoenix? Seriously, where’s Sofia?

0:14 God, I wish I had chapstick.

0:24 Ah, shit, I forgot. It’s that R.E.M. thing. OK, Kiki, think.

0:29 God I am soooo embarrassed.

0:41: OK, be cool. This’ll be over soon.

0:45 Alright FINE, I’ll look at it, OK?

0:52: Which one’s R.E.M. again? They gay ones, right?

1:07: I should give Schwartzman a call when I get home tonight.

1:16: 7, 14, 21, 28, 45… Shit. 35, 42, 49…

1:43: I bet Maggie Gyllenhaal won’t even get a nomination this year!

2:00 Fuck, is Michelle Williams in anything this winter?

2:19 This song is LONG!

2:26 My hair is kinda heavy.

2:36 LOL, I’m dancin’.

2:52 I hope I still have that Xanax that Jessica Chastain gave me.

2:57 Oh, shit, I gave it to Charlotte Gainsbourg. I’ll call her.

2:59 What’s my assistant’s name again?

3:01 Sally?

3:03 No, Sally is the DOG.

3:12 I’m going to pretend I’m Bjork for the rest of this thing.

3:16 Boo! I’m Bjork!

3:20 I’m Bjork and sooooo shy.

3:26: Fairies! Stars! Moons! Oh… we’re done?

3:30 What? Another take?!

Morning Links: R.E.M. Breaks Up, Lars von Trier’s Not Sorry

● After nearly three decades, R.E.M. has “decided to call it a day.” [R.E.M.] ● Doug Hutchinson and his 17-year-old child-bride Courtney Stodden want to host a reality TV show that will “show people what they can teach each other from different generations.” That thirty year age difference is not looking any less weird… [E!] ● A Charlie’s Angels crew member was fired for inappropriately touching Minka Kelly. “Please don’t ever disrespect me or any other woman like that again,” she yelled after he grabbed her butt. [NYP]

● Lifetime has opted not to renew Roseanne’s Nuts, that show you’re probably not watching about Rosanne Barr’s macadamia nut farm. [Vulture] ● Lars von Trier is not sorry for his Nazi comments at Cannes, and he also won’t be apologizing. “But I can’t be sorry for what I said,” he explains in this month’s GQ, “it’s against my nature.” [GQ] ● Ryan Gosling needed thirteen of those iconic leather scorpion jackets to get through Drive. [Grantland]

Another Haiti Earthquake Disaster: Simon Cowell’s Star-Studded Charity Single

It’s not that bashing celebrities who “lend their efforts” towards Haiti earthquake relief is suddenly trendy. It’s that someone has to call out crocodile tears. With all sorts of disasters–natural and man-made–wreaking havoc across the globe, maybe A-listers shouldn’t just piggyback on the latest media-friendly calamity to ravage the world. As we’ve already learned, philanthropy is a ruthless game of one-upmanship. And issuing competing charity singles obscures the plight of those who have lost their homes, family members or gone missing. There’s already one crappy charity single in the works, so why make another one? There’s also the question, why do people have to be duped into buying a piece of substandard pop in order to help the cause?

(‘DiggThis’)It’s a fact of life that massive star power equals massive mediocrity. Too much celebrity tends to make any charity effort bulky and soggy. Precedents: This milquetoast remake of “Walk This Way” and “We Are the World”.

And from the man who’s mostly to blame for foisting “Bleeding Love” upon the world, there’s no reason to believe that “Everybody Hurts” won’t suck entirely when performed by all of these musicians: Elton John, Michael Bublé, Mariah Carey, Susan Boyle, JLS, Miley Cyrus, Rod Stewart, Robbie Williams, Leona Lewis, Alexandra Burke, Joe McElderry, Take That, Mika, James Blunt, Cheryl Cole, Westlife, Coldplay, James Morrison, Paolo Nutini, Leona Lewis, Florence and the Machine, Take That, and others. But the most charitable part of this? R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe has confirmed that he’s waiving all royalties of this charity single’s sales. For a man that still cares about his musical integrity, that’s impressive.

But before you think that Cowell’s acting purely out of the goodness of his heart, take note: Lewis, Boyle, Burke, McElderry, and Westlife are all artists signed onto Cowell’s record label. Cole, meanwhile, sits alongside Cowell as a judge on X Factor. No matter their intentions, this is a sweeping gesture of goodwill that will show returns in massive publicity. The bigger question: What is Cowell trying to say with the song choice of “Everybody Hurts”? “Get over it, Haiti. Everybody hurts. Everybody suffers a 7.0 earthquake once in a while. But then you have to move on!”