As a heavily decorated -- meaning I've earned three TMT merit badges: the Gratuitous Profanity badge, the Bulbous Boner badge, and the You're a Giant Vag badge -- staffer here at Tiny Mix Tapes, it's my job to ponder a litany of subjects on a daily basis. This duty finds me endlessly digging deeper into the structures of music than anyone should rightfully dare. Like an avid surfer who just stumbled upon a cache of fecal fetish pics, I find myself often feeling that, though I've gained more knowledge through my excursions, I've lost more than my share of innocence. Luckily, with Leveer -- who once wrote “I consider myself a connoisseur of snuff films” during an IM conversation I had with him, causing me to write ‘LOM-F'nL!' in reply -- on staff I don't have to worry too much; at least Faces of Death still seems scary to me.
But, like visions of a Mr. T felch-job (goddamn), I find myself thinking about BALLS a lot. Bouncy, round, floppy, slightly smelly balls. For one, I think modern women have forgotten about the importance of balls in their quest to take command of the cock. Nextly, I've been thinking about Balls in the figurative sense, as in, Ballsy, as in, what's a ballsy move, musically speaking, and what isn't? And remember, we're not talking ‘admirable,' ‘lovable,' or ‘awesome,' so spare me the indignant e-mails. But I digress: In an effort to waste valuable TMT screen space (bet you love that, don't you advertisers?) and purge my inner demons, I've compiled a list of artists/people that are Ballsy and folks that are NOT ballsy:
Ballsy: Phil Spector – This guy has Balls that MUST be ready to burst at any moment. Damn, where do I start? I guess I'll have to go with one of his biggest head-scratchers: The guy fashioned a song called “He Hit Me (And it Felt Like a Kiss)” and actually tried to push it as a single for girl-group The Crystals. Yes, you read that correctly. Idiotic? Yes. Mysogynistic? You bet. Deplorable? OH FUCK YES. Ballsy? Hells yeah. He might have equated to a short, balding, trigger-happy, over-the-hill bitch as the '70s wore on, but perhaps his regression was merely a symptom of post-Ballsy syndrome.
NOT ballsy: Kevin Barnes (Of Montreal) – So, let me get this straight: You sell your song to Outback Steakhouse and not only let them use it in a commercial, but let them rework the lyrics to fit their goal of selling steaks along with a hearty portion of sizzle. What's weirder, you act thrilled at the prospect of “hear[ing] their take on one of our songs as a jingle.” But HOLD ON -- this actually isn't that crazy. Nowadays it's commonplace; even classic Dylan folk tunes are being co-opted by insurance companies. What renders Barnes, to me, ball-less is the fact that a fan holding up a sign that read ‘Outback Steakhouse' was kicked out of an Of Montreal show. Basically, rather than address the subject of ‘selling out' head-on, Barnes decided to get rid of what he saw as the source of his woe. Isn't that... a form of fascism? Look, I'm a reasonable guy; I'm not trying to conjure memories of Kent State here, but what's wrong with holding up a sign? A semi-ambiguous sign, no less? And why did everyone seem to say, ‘Good for you, Kev!' when they heard news of the kick-out? Barnes later told a music site that the situation made him “sad.” But if he's ashamed of selling his song to Outback Steakhouse, why doesn't he just say so? If he can't handle the burden of being faced with his decision, why doesn't he admit it? Wouldn't it have been more reasonable to simply ask the sign-holder to remove it instead of kicking a paying customer out of a show? Of course, now people are telling me that the guy didn't get kicked out, which may or may not be true (and certain sites have deleted information on the subject), but the sign was definitely taken away and likely burned like a Beatles album. So, in the end, people are coming down on this individual for holding up a sign that said ‘Outback Steakhouse,' which is pretty open to interpretation. Or maybe not. In any event, what's wrong with holding up a sign? It's not like the sign said ‘Of Montreal suck cock because they sold their song to a commercial like everyone else' or ‘Barnes can eat my tube steak' ... what's the deal? Regardless, Barnes seems to be doing fine, balls or no, so don't feel sorry for him. Feel sorry for me, I work at a daily newspaper! Besides, Barnes is defying the number-one rule of indie-rock etiquette: Stand By Your Steak.
Ballsy: R Kelly – As many of you know, Kelly allegedly peed on an underage girl, on camera. NO, that does not take balls. Naming his next single “Heaven I Need a Hug”? Nope, no balls. Bestowing the title of The Chocolate Factory on his next full-length album? Houston, we have balls.
NOT ballsy: Any Judge Letting R Kelly Off the Hook – How is this guy still free? Numerous videotapes, an annulled marriage to a then 15-year-old Aaliyah, allegations from ex-girlfriends and protégés? Raisin-sized, at best, your honor.
Ballsy: John Fogerty – This guy (who is admittedly sort of a 'ho' for other reasons) responded to his brother Tom's departure from Creedence Clearwater Revival by allowing -- some claim demanding -- his bandmates to contribute songs to CCR's last album, Mardi Gras. Stu Cook and Doug Clifford thus were responsible for not only writing and singing 1/3 of the album each, but also producing their entries, which by some reports Fogarty refused to sing. And guess what? The album tanked, forever discouraging petty drummers and bass players from aspiring beyond their abilities. Balls much?
NOT ballsy: Mike Love – The music world's nastiest red-headed stepchild, Mike Love's disapproval was listed, by Brian Wilson, as the number-one reason the SMiLE sessions were never released in their original format. Why did Love despise the sessions so? He is said to have been afraid that The Beach Boys would lose their audience if they abandoned their formula (which doesn't make ANY fucking sense because “Good Vibrations,” a wild divergence, had just become their biggest hit). Worst of all, he now denies that he had any problems with SMiLE, only that he didn't dig the lyrics too much. Location? No-Ballsville. Population? M. Love.
Ballsy: Anton Newcombe – Say what you will, this guy has Balls. He may be two LPs short of a record shop, but he's gotten the job done for years due to his extreme musical drive alone. That and his canyon-filling balls anyway.
NOT ballsy: Anton's Brian Jonestown Massacre bandmates in Dig! – Newcombe probably fucked these guys over a lot, but everything he dished out he got back and more... witness his cohorts constantly talking behind his back on camera, flubbing their parts in concert and generally acting just as childish. They're probably saner, but the balls in the family go to Newcombe.
[awkward transition in 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... BAM-BIP-BOOP]
Heyyy! Speaking of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, it looks like Joel Gion, EASILY the most likable tambourine-shaker of all-time, is putting out a new album with his band, The Dilettantes. BUT WAIT: Lest you think The Dilettantes are a BJM-esque unit centered around one beastly man, Gion insists that the writing process for the 'ttantes is purely democratic; like America! And Mardi Gras-era Creedence! Dubbed 101 Tambourines -- man, that just makes me smile, seriously -- the record shall be released August 12. Sadly, the publicity sheet ruined all chances The Dilettantes have of Balls-dom by claiming the record's “solution to success is ‘we,' ” proving that all artists should proof-read their one-sheets. Man, that's some cheesy, after-school-special shit.