MTV's Year in Rock '94, Revisited

MTV Home Video
Have you heard enough about '94 yet?
We have only a month left in 2014, and if this year will be remembered for one thing, it's how much time we spent marking the 20th anniversary of 1994. For those of you who've turned on your browser's nostalgia-blocker, you've missed piece after piece about Nas's Illmatic turning 20 and Kurt Cobain's suicide.

It's interesting that 1994 was such a touchstone year for people to reference and reminisce about. To make some sense of this, we revisited MTV's Year in Rock '94 special to find out, from the people of 1994 themselves, what made it such a major year.

We begin our journey with hosts Kurt Loder and Tabitha Soren, the way it should be. But before we jump into anything music-related, it's time for a look back at "media run amok." For as much flak as MTV gets today for "not playing videos," we're starting a "Year in Rock" special with barely anything musical. Still, if there was a year for media overload in terms of sensationalist journalism, it was 1994. In the same 12-month span we had Michael Jackson marrying Lisa Marie Presley, Lorena Bobbitt being acquitted of cutting off her husband's penis, Tonya Harding's attack on Nancy Kerrigan and subsequent sex tape, and the O.J. Simpson car chase. Folks, this was all THE SAME YEAR.

More »

Art Laboe and El Chicano Retrace the Roots of Brown-Eyed Soul

El Chicano with Art Laboe (center)
Late in the night during the Art Laboe Connection Show on HOT 92.3 Los Angeles, a listener dedicates "Tell Her She's Lovely" by El Chicano to his lady. The legendary radio host says in his unmistakable velvety voice that the band is one of many they'll hear at his upcoming concert in Anaheim. After cueing the track, its Latin funk, thumping bass and deft guitar licks beam over the airwaves. The sounds of Chicano Soul summon whimsical feelings of LA barrio love, whether a heartfelt memory from Whittier Boulevard in decades past or a young couple laying out on the grass near Echo Park Lake today.

The timeless music travels from terrestrial frequencies onto the concert stage when Laboe presents the Chicano Soul Legends concert Saturday at the Theatre at Honda Center. His legion of listeners will fill arena seats for a lineup stacked with the genre's iconic acts from the early '60s to the '70s, including Malo, Tierra, Thee Midniters, the Heartbreakers and El Chicano.

More »

Ten Musical Projects Ikey Owens Made Great

David James Swanson
Ikey Owens on October 11 in Mexico City, performing with Jack White. More photos here.
By: Bree Davies
When Isaiah "Ikey" Owens passed away last week, the musician and producer left behind a massive legacy. Most recently the Long Beach, California native was on tour playing keyboards and piano with Jack White -- but he was also a member and founder of Free Moral Agents and was known for his role in seminal rock group the Mars Volta. Beyond his big time projects, Owens had also produced and played on dozens of records in his career, including respected local acts like Long Beach Dub All-Stars, Pocket Lent, Teen Heroes, Dusty Rhodes and the River Band, and loads of others.

But still, there was so much more -- Owens had been an integral part of the third wave ska revival in the '90s, worked with hip-hop, noise and R&B artists, toured the world with pivotal rock acts, all while continuing to play with and produce up-and-coming bands. His resume is pages long, but we've compiled just ten of the pieces of music you may not know Ikey Owens contributed to for your listening pleasure.

See also: Ikey Owens Was Long Beach's Ultimate Sonic Wingman

More »

The Forgotten Novelty Songs Surrounding 9/11

YouTube Screen Capture
I Was Going to Caption This Image, But Then...

The events of September 11th changed absolutely everything about our lives. That days terrorist attacks have become such a cultural touchstone that the weeks before and after it feel hazy at best. Yet, what makes those weeks 13 years ago even harder to fathom is what a uniquely bizarre time it was for popular music. Back when Justin Timberlake was just an *NSYNC member and punk band Sum-41 were topping the pop charts with a hybrid '80s rap-cum-hair-metal sound, the music industry was still making astronomical profits to the point where the summer of 2001 saw a barrage of peculiar novelty songs that wouldn't have fit in any other era. Then, the dour weeks after 9/11 saw the airwaves starved for content that could fit the bleak rebuilding period America was facing. These are the forgotten novelty songs surrounding 9/11.

More »

Resurrecting the Memory of Sinn Sisamouth, the Cambodian Elvis

It's hard to explain to Americans the importance of Sinn Sisamouth, the most prolific singer-songwriter in Cambodian history, who was killed sometime in 1975 by the brutal Khmer Rouge. His silky vocals and poetic verses spent more than 20 years wafting over the cities and countryside of Southeast Asia's oldest kingdom, touching people's emotions and heralding a vibrant Golden era of rock and psychedelic-infused music that is only now beginning to be rebuilt.

He's commonly referred to as the Cambodian Elvis, which explains his popularity level. It also sheds light on how, decades after his last recording was made, both young and old Cambodians can still cite and sing his works, often with tears in their eyes.

See also: Members of Legendary Bay Area Band Crucifix Flash Back With 1984

More »

Why Surf Rock Is Southern California's Folk Music

Courtesy of the label
Dick Dale, the King of the Surf Guitar
By: Jonny Whiteside
Yes, you could call surf rock SoCal folk music. It's an almost unique subculture, which has somehow managed to survive with all of its complex social codes, vocabulary and rowdy behavior intact -- up to and including last year's riot in the streets of Huntington Beach, AKA Surf City.

While modern corporate life has inflicted an irrevocable homogeneity onto most every other youth-sparked cultural movement (seen the current Ross department stores' "Pretty in Punk" ad campaign?), the archetypal Southern California surf culture remains steadfast, and it is ours alone.

More »

The Holy Grail of Blues and Soul Concert Footage Has Arrived

Shout Factory
Sam Moore Performing at The Celebration for Young Americans 1989 Presidential Inaugural Event
This week sees the highly anticipated Shout Factory release of A Celebration of Blues and Soul: the 1989 Presidential Inaugural Concert. Considered lost for almost two decades, the footage of this event has been pieced together from a variety of sources and remastered for finally hitting store shelves some 25 years later. Boasting the once-in-a-lifetime lineup of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Bo Diddley, Dr. John, Sam Moore, Billy Preston, Percy Sledge and more, and filmed with the technological capabilities some of these legends were never otherwise seen with, it's an absolute holy grail for all music fans. We spoke to Howell Begle, one of the show's original producers and the driving force behind resurrecting the event, about how this rediscovered lost gem of a show came to be.

More »

Why We Worship J. Dilla

Stones Throw
J. Dilla
February might be the cruelest month for hip-hop fans. Despite being the shortest of the year, it reminds us in rapid succession of losing some of the most promising talents whose lives were cut just short of drastically impacting the rap world. Among those lost in this 28 day span are Big Pun (February 7, 2000), Big L (February 15, 1999) and producer J. Dilla. But while Pun had already tasted mainstream success with "Still Not a Player," and Big L had a well-received debut as well as a strong street single in "Ebonics" under his belt at the time of their deaths, the days surrounding Dilla's death and his career up to that point have been largely drowned out with the accepted statement that he was always one of the genre's best. Now, eight years after his death, his greatness is accepted as undisputed fact. While we're not denying that Dilla is great, it's important to actually analyze why that is, as well as how the life of his music following his death has come to define his legacy.

More »

Miguel Happoldt's Un-Twisted History of Skunk Records

Courtesy Miguel Happoldt
Miguel Happoldt on stage with Perro Bravo
The name Mike "Miguel" Happoldt probably doesn't mean much to the average Sublime fan. Not even when you throw out a reference to Skunk Records, the label made famous by the band's iconic releases 40 oz to Freedom,Robbin' the Hood, and 1996's landmark self-titled album. The label itself is a bit of a mystery, one that's even further diluted by uncredited Internet lore and bands who have hi-jacked the label's logo over the years for their own purposes. It also probably doesn't help that Happoldt, founder of the label and longtime friend of Sublime's late frontman of Brad Nowell, is one of the most low key dudes on the planet.

After the death of Nowell in '96 and the dissolution of Sublime--the label's main bread winner--the band's label head and producer basically let go of the reigns until the mid 2000s when he began to fight to reclaim the revive Skunk and reclaim its legacy. After 25 years of creating a sound synonymous with his Long Beach stomping grounds, Happoldt is celebrating his persistence with an anniversary show at the Observatory, featuring artists and bands who've been an integral part in his life as LBC's most underrated musical mastermind. "This show isn't about people's perception of Skunk Records," he says. "It's about basically me trying to do music a certain way against the grain for 25 years. I realized that if they're confused, that's not my problem. I'm not confused. Far from it."
We recently caught up to Happolt-- who now fronts his own band, Perro Bravo--to retrace what he says is the the real, un-twisted history of Skunk Records.

See also: Brad Nowell's Son Just Turned 18. He Talks About Playing His Very First Gig

More »

Local Graffiti Artists' Exhibit is a Shrine to Hip-Hop's Real Heroes

Courtesy Shucks One
A tribute to late great B-boy Frosty Freeze
It's tempting to look at the spray-painted handiwork of Kenos One and Shucks One and call the two "taggers." You might see their bold, 3-D lettering, deft line work and portraits blasted on walls, rest stops and bus benches as projects done solely for the glory of giving society the finger. But for these men and countless others like them, the art goes deeper than that, and their dedication to it is anything but transitory.

"I don't even like that term--'tagging,'" Kenos says, carving up a monstrous wet burrito while sitting next to Shucks on the patio of Taco Mesa in Costa Mesa. "It's more like an old media term. I call us 'writers.'"

As nighttime closes in, they're taking a brief break to enjoy a hot meal. Then it's back to work on some lingering masterpieces before their inspiration runs cold.

More »