“There are instruments on there I don’t even remember playing."
——Keith Richards, on the Stones reissues


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This week marks the inauguration of our first fictional work—intentionally fictional, at any rate. It’s the initial installment of a serialized rock & roll story authored by Lisa Teasley, whose debut collection of short stories, Glow in the Dark, won the 2002 Pacificus Literary Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement in Short Fiction; the collection has also been nominated for the 2002 Gold Pen Award for Best Short Story Collection. Why Teasley would stoop to contributing stuff to this lame virtual rag is beyond us, but we’re extremely glad she’s done so. On top of that, Denise Bayles, our favorite saucy blonde bartender, has just flown back from Vegas, and boy are her arms tired. Check out her expert take on the Glitter City’s gin mills a few scrolls down, immediately below Roy Trakin’s weekly assessment of new movies he hasn’t bothered to see.

1. Rolling Stones, Hot Rocks and More Hot Rocks (ABKCO):
The dramatically spiffed up reissues covering the Stones’ entire 1960s body of work are ready to go, and all we can say is, WOW. Even Keef marveled when he checked them out. “There are instruments on there I don’t even remember playing,” he recently confessed to Trakin. These two double-disc hits collections are as good a place to start as any.

2. Bruce Springsteen, The Rising (Columbia): Sure it's an important record...but is it a GOOD record? We’ve been hearing some heated arguments about just that lately. What’s clear is that this is definitely not a one-listen album.

3. American Idol (Fox): It’s a soap opera where the audience decides the outcome—that makes it the first interactive soap opera, right? And Justin is hot. [Ed. Note: We didn’t write that sentence.] Sinfully addictive.

4. Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head (Nettwerk/Capitol): U.K. vibe-pop kings return with an album of startling simplicity. It takes oodles of confidence to keep the melodies and lyrics this straightforward and plainspoken…or so they seem at first listen. This one warrants further investigation…

5. Nike ID series: Just got the custom-designed pair of Air Pegasus 2000 running shoes we ordered online three weeks ago, and they’re sensational. The fit (we have wide feet), the color scheme (six to choose from), the amount of cushioning and outsole durability are all variable depending on your specific needs. You can also opt for a personal ID on the shoe (we went with “weasel”). Altogether there are five models of running shoes, four basketball, two cross trainers and three for racing. The standard Pegasus is $80 plus tax; the customized version will set you back $105 including tax and shipping.

6. Full Frontal (Miramax): Is Soderbergh’s $2 million labor of love really as horrible as the critics say? We’ll find out when it starts showing on cable.

7. Aimee Mann, Lost in Space (SuperEgo): Indie singer-songwriter turns in another indelible batch of baroque pop songs. Her lyrics are a stringent oasis in a desert of soft cliches. What we can’t understand is why Mann yanked our two faves from the advance from the final version. Is she saving them for some other project?

8. Olatunji, Drums of Passion (Columbia/Legacy): This 1960 classic from the legendary African percussionist sounds absolutely primal. There has never been a more accurate album title.

9. HITS Anniversary Issue: With our 16th birthday as the trade rag you love to hate approaching, we prepare to pass another milestone--though it mostly feels like passing a stone.

10. VU stock: What's below "the toilet"?

Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Comes Around (American/Lost Highway); Andy Dick, Andy Dick & the Bitches of the Century (Milan): Don’t laugh. The legendary Man in Black and the Man of Blecchh have more in common than you might realize. Though Johnny Cash’s basso profundo baritone and Andy Dick’s lispy, fey whine are at opposite ends of the musical scale, there are plenty of reasons to link the unlikely duo. While Cash may seem like the ultimate rugged macho man’s man, he has been known to suffer from the kind of sexually indeterminate gender panic that is Dick’s shtick in trade…or haven’t you heard “A Boy Named Sue”? Both Cash and Dick have harnessed some intriguing, unlikely collaborators on their new albums.

On the fourth edition of Rick Rubin-produced American Recordings albums (the previous three all earned Grammys), Johnny is joined by Fiona Apple on his haunting cover of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and Nick Cave on his version of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” Andy’s partners include Marilyn Manson (who painted the cover watercolor of a nude Dick smoking a joint), producer Kevin Augunas (who has played with Sinead O’Connor), Smash Mouth’s Greg Camp and ex-Foo Fighter Franz Stahl. Members of Jellyfish play on both the Cash (Roger Manning Jr.) and Dick (Andy Sturmer) albums, but the similarities don’t end there.

Both have had their problems with substance abuse, cheating women and found themselves on the wrong side of the law. Both albums feature harrowing, painful first-person accounts of the lures of drug addiction (Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt,” Dick’s ode to the siren-like seduction of coke, “Hole Burns”). Cash’s guilt-ridden killer in Sting’s “Hung My Head” is eerily echoed in Dick’s “Secret Garden,” a eulogy for his dead frog. The legendary country star’s version of his own Sun Records track, “Give My Love to Rose,” exudes the kind of sexual anguish reflected in Dick’s “Cock and Balls,” a tongue-in-whatever tribute to his own questionable masculinity. Dick even mirrors Cash’s own experiences behind bars with his “Striped Sunlight,” a psychedelic pop ditty in which our hero is too stoned to even realize he’s in a jail cell (“Now I’m sitting pretty on my toilet sink”).

There’s the undeniable taint of mortality surrounding both albums (each should have prominent placement on your Celebrity Death List), though admittedly there’s no equivalent on Cash’s album to “Little Brown Ring,” Dick’s homage to buttholes. Hey, Rick, maybe Johnny can cover it on his next album, Cash Does Dick. —Roy Trakin

Bleu, Redhead (Aware/Columbia):
Back when Queen was king, it was possible not only to hit the mainstream with huge, crunchy guitars, soaring choruses and choirboy harmonies, but to do it with a certain passion and even grandeur. In the intervening decades, alas, the contours of what once passed as “rock” got self-conscious. First smirky and intentionally amateurish (that would be the “indie” phase), then irrationally angry, stupidly self-serious and downright gloomy (post-grunge), the standard-bearers of the new rock sucked most of the fun out of the experience. Meanwhile, what formally passed as pop got increasingly syrupy, synthetic and trivial. Bands that strove to unite rock’s energy rush and sense of purpose with classic pop’s pleasure-center massage were generally sent to the back of the radio bus. Some great pop-rock bands struggled commercially, only to achieve cult immortality (like Jellyfish), while others cut through the clutter and hit the big time, however briefly (see Semisonic). For fans of this subgenre, the idea of Jellyfish’s Andy Sturmer and Semisonic’s Dan Wilson collaborating on a project is almost too sublime to contemplate.

What a joy, then, to hear Redhead, the upcoming Aware/Columbia album by Bostonian Bleu. The singer-songwriter, whose towering, beautiful anthem “Somebody Else” graces the Spider-Man soundtrack, is blessed with a sweet, powerful voice and tremendous writing chops; Redhead is chockful of mega-hooky songs that truly rock. Collaborating with pop gods Sturmer, Wilson and Dave Bassett, Bleu (nee William James McAuley III) proves himself something of a melodic deity himself. Witness tunes like “Somebody Else,” “Somethin’s Gotta Give,” which recalls the glory days of adult rock, the galloping “Could Be Worse,” the incandescent “Searchin’ for the Satellites” and the world-weary “You Know, I Know, You Know.” These glorious tunes, produced by John Field (Semisonic; Sturmer co-produced some tracks and helped mix) are delivered with blistering amp crunch, Brian May-esque twinned solos, honey-dipped electric piano, stacks of spine-tingling harmonies and even a bit of glockenspiel. If I ran the world, this would be the start of a major trend.
Simon Glickman

by Lisa Teasley
This serialized story, which will run weekly in this space, is about two boys from Reno, Eddie & Penguin, who come down to L.A. to make it with their band. They're 21 or 22, one's white, one's black and they’ve been close since they were 10.

Eddie: It’s an August midnight on Sunset Blvd. My knuckles glow white from the chill in the air, as we pass out flyers to wasted chicks in hip-hugger pleather. Nothing but dumbass Andrew W.K.s everywhere. I’m telling Penguin we don’t belong. There were never any Ozzfest dongs at our gigs in Reno. He won’t listen. Pen’s got ribbons trickling down his dreads, sailing on the cold and nasty L.A. breeze. In front of the Whisky, he’s looking cinematic with his street-lamp spot and psychedelic car headlights moving across his body; he thinks he’s already in the movies. Banging his D-girl, Ursie-ugh, his head’s not on the band but between his legs and in the air of his E! True Hollywood story.

This chick’s crumpling our flyer in Penguin’s face, and he’s actually smiling at her. Same thing he did when the Dragonfly fucks called us Prodigy-wannabes.

Now these cars have just slammed into each other. Motherfuck, I hate that sound. Now everyone’s rubberin’, fuck, they’re smashed up so bad, no way anybody in there’s gonna leave without dripping some blood. Could look at this as an omen, but that would only make it time to leave, and we’ve only been here seven months.

Reno, Hollywood, one in the same. Purely American towns full of losers facing bad odds, chasing dreams. But Pen and me were looking at worse odds in Reno, so there was no way we were gonna stay.
(to be continued)

24-Hour Party People
(United Artists):
This look back at the late-’70s-through-early-’90s Manchester rock scene and the Factory Records label, which produced such bands as Joy Division, Happy Mondays and New Order, among others, is ostensibly the story of TV journalist Tony Wilson. Played by British comic Steve Coogan, Wilson helped found what soon developed into the acid-house/rave scene after his life was changed when he saw the Sex Pistols. The movie was directed by Michael Winterbottom (Welcome to Sarajevo, Wonderland) and penned by Frank Cottrell Boyce, one-time TV columnist for Living Marxism magazine, whose credits include Hilary and Jackie and Welcome to Sarajevo. The film has actors playing industry figures like current-WMG head Roger Ames, manager Rob Gretton, Happy Mondays’ Shaun Ryder, New Order’s Peter Hook and doomed Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, with actual rockers like the Fall’s Mark E. Smith and ex-Buzzcocks/Magazine member Howard Devoto themselves in bit parts. Although the subject matter may be a bit esoteric to American audiences, advance word is that the film is one of the best rock films of its type, with a sardonic, self-deprecating, busting-through-the-fourth-wall narrative. The ffrr/WSM soundtrack includes a smattering of tunes from those pictured onscreen, including the Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, Clash, 808 State, Joy Division, New Order and the Durutti Column.

Possession (WB): Cynical moralist Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men, Your Friends & Neighbors) adapts prize-winning British writer A.S. Byatt’s time-traveling tale of parallel love affairs. The film contrasts one involving a pair of 20th Century academics, the other an illicit liaison between Victorian poets based loosely on Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett. LaBute’s point is that the latter approached sex and passion with more candor than the moderns. Gwyneth Paltrow is a prissy, uptight prof of gender studies who learns about the forbidden passion of the Victorian lovers (played by Jennifer Ehle and Jeremy Northam) from Aaron Eckhart, a longtime member of LaBute’s ensemble. The movie then cuts back and forth between the two couples to make a point about the difference between the ardor-filled past and the desiccated present. Advance word is it’s like Masterpiece Theater with postmodern angst. The RCA Victor soundtrack features the score of Gabriel Yared, while the website. at www.possession-movielcom, offers a trailer, plot synopsis, production information, downloads, stills and a shifting line that offers scene snippets titled “love,” “desire,” “field,” “deception,” “waterfall,” “letters” and “two people.”

Blue Crush (Universal): Like Endless Summer crossed with Beach Blanket Bingo. This distaff surf film, helmed by director/writer John Stockwell, whose Kirsten Dunst-starring crazy/beautiful was a teen flick with brains and heart, is all about female empowerment, not ogling—despite the salacious ad campaign. Prodigy Kate Bosworth has to overcome a laundry list of problems (absent mom, romantic turmoil, near-death trauma) to win the big competition and discover her true identity. The movie was shot entirely on Hawaii’s North Shore without the benefit of blue screens or tanks, and the footage is reportedly magnificent. The rest of the cast of virtual unknowns includes Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious, Resident Evil), Matthew Davis (Legally Blonde, Pearl Harbor, Tigerland), Sanoe Lake and Mika Boorem (Riding in Cars With Boys, Hearts in Atlantis, The Patriot). The Virgin Records soundtrack features a who’s-who of EMI label group artists, including Lenny Kravitz, N.E.R.D., Beenie Man, Nikka Costa, Beth Orton, Damian Marley and Doves. The website at www.blue-crush.com, offers surfing history, tips, games and competition, a survey of ”Crush” culture, including a glossary and the regular plot, cast, crew and production information.

Merci Pour Le Chocolat (Empire Pictures): French nouvelle vague great Claude Chabrol returns with one of his Hitchcockian thrillers of passion and deception, starring French star Isabelle Huppert as an heiress to a wealthy Swiss chocolate-making fortune, who has just remarried a famous pianist for the second time. That has prompted whisperers to whisper about the couple’s original separation and the mysterious death of the musician’s second wife. When a promising pianist who claims she may have been switched at birth with her husband’s son shows up unannounced at the couple’s door, the tensions begin to rise through the walls of the Swiss bourgeoisie’s placid propriety and convention. Like his classics Le Boucher and La Rupture, Chabrol explores the hidden wellspring of murderous passion that runs just beneath the conventions of the middle class, who are willing to fool even themselves about their innermost feelings.

The Adventures of Pluto Nash (WB): This long-delayed Eddie Murphy vehicle wasn’t even made available to critics for review, and is being dumped onto the market in the dead of August, so caveat emptor. The futuristic plot involves Murphy in the title role, struggling to keep control of his nightclub on the moon from the space mafia who are out to corrupt the resort city of Moon Beach, and if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, well, you’re not alone. Murphy’s career might withstand this turkey, but this will be his second flop in the last six months, after Showtime. Maybe he should go back to being a donkey, which he will again in Shrek 2. The film was directed by USC grad Ron Underwood, whose career has been going down steadily since his opening salvo of Tremors and City Slickers, in a style that appears broader than Anna Nicole Smith. Meanwhile, screenwriter Neil Cuthbert hasn’t even been that good, having previously penned the forgettable Mystery Men and Hocus Pocus. Co-stars include Randy Quaid, Men in Black 2’s Rosario Dawson, The Sopranos and memento’s great Joe Pantoliano, Jerry Maguire’s Jay Mohr, the ubiquitous Luis Guzman and veterans Peter Boyle, Burt Young, Pam Grier and Monty Python’s John Cleese, but the whole appears a lot less than the sum of even these parts. The website, at http://plutonash.warnerbros.com/main.html, seems a lot more clever than the movie, and while there’s no soundtrack, IMx’s “Ain’t No Need” is featured in the film. —RT

Viva Las Vegas! As promised a few weeks ago, I battled Sin City, and I think it won, because I’m coming home broke and tired. Vegas is Disneyland for grown-ups; for some it’s the “happiest place on earth,” and others would rather jump off the nearest skyscraper than spend a weekend there. This is a city were nothing is as it seems. It’s like going on a back-lot tour of Universal Studios—everything looks real but underneath it all, it’s fake. Monstrous casinos are built to resemble Rome, Paris, Venice and even New York—and beautiful, thin showgirls with huge racks—real? Don’t count on it—take off their clothes nightly for you. It’s the only place, besides the airport that can charge $3 for a cup of coffee and get away with it. I prefer to be kissed before I get…well, you know what I’m saying. The only thing real about this place is the heat, and let me tell you—it’s HOT! Take my advice—do not go to Las Vegas in July or August unless you enjoy torture. I never thought I would be so happy to get back to the smog and traffic of Los Angeles. My cocktail of the week is dedicated to my leaving Las Vegas and returning to home sweet home.

Adios Mother F-cker
1/2 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. Blue Curacao
1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. rum
Fill glass with sweet & sour

Although I’m grumpy, tired and bitter because I didn’t win millions—but I guess you have to play to get ahead, and I’m too afraid of losing—I still found what I feel to be the best of Las Vegas.

I’m going to start with one place where you can never go wrong. I recommend you stay here next time you’re in Sin City, and believe me, there’s lots of trouble to get into. The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino beats out all others in many categories. You won’t find overweight tourists at this casino—it’s the land of the pretty people. If you’re single and looking, this is definitely where you need to be.

Most Eye Candy Spotted & Best Pick-Up Joint: Circle Bar @ the Hard Rock

Best Poolside Bar: Pink Beach—Wednesday nights in the pool area; girls get free massages. For those of you who can’t make it to Vegas, the Hard Rock has a webcam that allows you to check out the eye candy at the pool at any give hour.

Best-Looking Staff: Pink Taco @ the Hard Rock—“Eating out never tasted so good” is the slogan for this Mexican-themed restaurant. I swear it must be a work requirement to have long, beautiful, straight hair and to be a size 2. These girls are gorgeous. Go there during happy hour, 4-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, for two-for-one beers and margaritas.

Best Bar to Have Sex In Without Getting Caught: Baby’s @ the Hard Rock—I did not—let me repeat, did not—find this out on my own. A few locals told me that this dance club is downstairs and very dark, which might aid in being inconspicuous. They even supply couches to get cozy on.

The Hard Rock is the best, but here’s the rest:

Best Spent $: Gary Ouellet & David Tumaroff’s Tease. This was the first show I saw in Vegas, and it was hilarious. I saw it twice and laughed out loud throughout the show both times. Tease has everything you’re looking for in Vegas—strippers and Elvis. It’s billed as a “naughty musical comedy” and that’s just what it is—a spoof on Las Vegas strip clubs. It plays nightly, except Tuesdays, at the Tease Showroom, which is adjacent to Aladdin and next to the Blue Note Jazz Club. Don’t miss this show.

Best Place for Live Music: The Blue Note Jazz Club—just like its sister club in Manhattan, you can always count on seeing the best jazz acts at this joint.

Best Bar Staff: Club Blue Note—this is the Blue Note’s dance club and also the showroom for Tease; this staff rocks! Felice, the manager, took the best care of me—total VIP treatment—thanks!

Hottest Bartender: Mike “Salsa” @ Club Blue Note; he’s hot and nice—what a combo!

Best Dive Bar: Double Down “The Happiest Place on Earth”—this dive looks like a bar straight out of New York’s Alphabet City. They charge $20 puke insurance if they think you’re going to puke. Ask for a shot of Ass Juice—$3 for one or $11 for three—you do the math.

Best Dance Club: Rumjungle @ Mandalay Bay

Best After Hour: Drai’s @ the Barbary Coast

Best Bar Dcor: ghostbar @ the Palms—by far this is the best view of the city. Ghostbar is located on the 55th floor and has an enormous patio area. On the patio, near the front rail, there is a 4 x 6 section of glass that allows you to see straight down beneath you. It’s really nerve-racking to stand on, and I wouldn’t step on it until a group of guys pulled me onto it and made me stand there. After a couple of beers I was OK.

Best Place to Meet Prince Charming: Just like Santa Claus, he doesn’t exist, especially in Vegas—get over it, ladies.

Best Place to Drink if You’ve Lost Your Ass Gambling: O’Shea’s Casino—$1.25 domestic drafts and $2.25 Guinness—even I can afford that.

Best Place to Avoid: Circus-Circus Casino—unless you want to die a slow, torturous death I would stay away from this place. It’s loud and packed with families, and I would rather have my toenails pulled off than go back there.

Adrenaline-Junkie Must-Do: Manhattan Express Roller Coaster @ New York-New York—I wouldn’t suggest this for anyone with neck injuries, because this thing whips you around. After riding go downstairs to Gonzales y Gonzales and visit Pamela for margaritas and a little East Coast attitude.

Along with the best, I had to include the worst:

Most-Overrated Bar & Worst Bar Staff: Coyote Ugly @ New York-New York—girls who can’t bartend imitating a bad movie imitating a New York bar—pathetic.

Most Expensive: Anything in the Bellagio. This is the home of the $3 cup of coffee. I don’t know what’s worse, them charging $3 or me paying it.

There you have it, and now it’s going to take me a week to recover from my tour of Sin City. Thanks to everyone who treated me like the VIP that I am when I was there. —Denise Bayles

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