Friday, October 17, 2008

Four Tops vocalist Levi Stubbs dies at 72

By Gary Graff

DETROIT (Billboard) – Arguably the most powerful voice in Motown's storied history has been silenced. Four Tops lead singer Levi Stubbs Jr. died Friday at his home in Detroit after a long series of health problems, including cancer and a stroke, that forced him to stop performing in 2000. He was 72.

Funeral arrangements were pending for Stubbs, who is survived by Clineice, his wife of 48 years, and five children.

"He had one of the most prolific and identifiably voices in American history," the Motown Alumni Association's Billy J. Wilson told "It's a deep loss, to the entire Motown family and to the world."

(Stubbs, far left)

Stubbs' death leaves Abdul "Duke" Fakir as the Tops' only living member from the original quartet, which formed in 1954 as the Four Aims and signed with Motown nine years later. Laurence Payton passed away in 1997, and Renaldo "Obie" Benson died in 2005.

Fakir continues to lead a version of the Tops that includes Payton's son Roquel, former Temptations member Theo Peoples and Motown veteran Ronnie McNeir.

Stubbs -- born Levi Stubbles in Detroit -- gave voice to enduring hits such as "Baby I Need Your Loving," "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)," "Reach Out I'll Be There" and "Brenadette." The Tops have sold more than 50 million records and racked up 45 chart hits for the Motown, ABC Dunhill, Arista and Casablanca labels, and the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

Stubbs also provided the voice of Audrey II, the man-eating plant in the film version of the musical "Little Shop of Horrors" in 1986, and of Mother Brain in the 1989 animated TV series "Captain N: The Game Master."

Stubbs' last public appearance with the group was at the group's 50th anniversary concert July 28, 2004, at Detroit's Music Hall Center.


Vinyl records make comeback on local scene

I love articles about independent record stores and have found another gem for you to enjoy. I want to thank the author and publication for allowing me to reprint this material:

SOURCE: The Bakersfield Californian
(Photo by Henry A. Barrios/ The Californian)

Vinyl records make comeback on local scene

By JOHN COX, Californian staff writer

For nearly 20 years World Records stocked no records. Unless you placed a special order, CDs were what you got.

Earlier this year, though, young people started asking for vinyl. Now World Records’ new home on downtown G Street boasts a record section with new releases and reissues by Amy Winehouse, Parliament, The Velvet Underground and others.

Vinyl’s back.

U.S. record sales were up 15 percent last year over the year before, fed by growing interest in independent record stores like World Records and Darkstar Records and Books, another newcomer to downtown Bakersfield.

The resurgence has many roots, ranging from purists’ ideas about sound quality to availability of turntables at major retailers to the desirability of belonging to an exclusive, anti-digital subculture.

Vinyl’s growing popularity could have side benefits for Bakersfield. Independent record stores tend to promote the local music scene more than chain stores do. And downtown’s cluster of music stores could make it more of a destination for out-of-town collectors, boosting local tourism.

What surprises many longtime record collectors is how vinyl appeals to so many young people born after much of the nation turned its back on records when CDs were introduced in the 1980s.


Consider the enthusiasm of 19-year-old Brenndan Morlan. He has amassed 140 or so albums since he began collecting records three or four years ago, and now spends $100 a week on vinyl recordings of classic jazz, psychedelic rock and exotic funk.

His friends “don’t get it.”

“They’re just like, ‘How can you spend so much money on records?’” the Bakersfield sandwich shop employee said Thursday as he flipped through row after row of old vinyl at Darkstar on Truxtun Avenue.

Dan Robertson, the store’s co-owner along with his two sons, understands. His own collection numbers about half a million.

“I think (renewed interest in records) is almost a reaction against the digital,” said Robertson, a deadhead deejay who counted Buck Owens among his personal friends. He has been planning to open a record store for more than three decades.


Distaste for digital music is common among record people. They tend to frown upon the carelessness others afford CDs, and relish the special care records require and the sense of history one gets when holding an album.

“It’s like having primary text from an author or a philosopher,” said 23-year-old Steven Koontz, the drummer for Bakersfield punk band Loser Life, which this week embarked on a European tour. Band members were planning to bring with them and sell more than 200 vinyl recordings of their music.

Then there’s the sound quality issue. Vinyl enthusiasts praise the medium’s warm sound as compared with digital recordings.

Listening to a record is “kind of like holding someone’s hand without a glove,” said Andrew Winton, a 29-year-old coffeehouse manager and regular at Going Underground, a punk music store on downtown G Street that sells and pays to have pressed many vinyl recordings that have never been transferred to CD format.


The opening of two new record retailers so close in proximity has store owners hopeful that customers near and far will view Bakersfield as a hub for buying vinyl.

“The more the better,” said Alex Rodriguez, co-owner of downtown 19th Street’s Gigantic Vintage, which sells vintage clothing in front and records in back. “Kids aren’t just going to go to one (record store), they’re going to go to all of them.”

David Thomas, owner of Shafter’s Rockit Music, agreed. His 5,000-square-foot store, which has sold records since 1947, draws collectors from the Bay Area and the Los Angeles area. The more stores clustered in one area, he said, the more likely it is that serious collectors will come.

And when they drive in, collectors can drop big money. Jake Chavez, owner of Downtown Records on 19th Street across from Gigantic Vintage, said he once sold 200 records to a collector from Alaska driving on his way to a large show in Las Vegas.


Thomas suggested that independent stores such as those operating locally will outlast chains because of their personal touch.

“People want to go back (and) deal with neighborhood-type record stores where they can actually go in and talk about music,” he said.

This appears to be the case recently. Entertainment research company Nielsen SoundScan reported that three-quarters of all vinyl album sales in 2007 took place at independent music stores.


But even aside from the business they do, record store owners say there is a benefit to having independent shops around: They help introduce young people to artists new and old.

Robertson, Darkstar’s co-owner, hopes to support the local music scene much the way Going Underground does, selling albums produced locally. He said that would mean opening up his offerings to include many different genres.

For now, though, he said he’s satisfied to be broadening the musical horizons of customers like 17-year-old Jordan Aguirre, who spent time this week checking out Robertson’s diverse collection.

Since becoming interesting in vinyl, Aguirre said he has come to a fuller understanding of the musicians who have influenced many modern recording artists.

“It’s kind of like an education,” he said.


In the area? Here are some great vinyl shops:


Darkstar Records and Books
1024 Truxtun Ave.

Downtown Records
1518 19th St.

Gigantic Vintage
1515 19th St.

Going Underground
1822 G St.

Midnight Music
1215 Olive Drive

Rockit Music
429 James St.

World Records
1824 G St.

Classic Rock Videos

Elvis- Return to Sender

Album Cover Art

Let's continue our look at's 50 most controversial, weirdest, best and worst album covers as put together by their amazing staff:


12. Regurgitate: ‘Carnivorous Erection’ This cover certainly makes my list of gross covers, this angry little man is certainly up for a fight. I looked up the band and their style is described as "Goregrind." Well that explains the cover I guess.

Line up for this recording:
Rikard Jansson: Vocals
Urban Skytt: Guitars and Bass
Jocke Pettersson: Battery
Additional Vocals: Rickard Alriksson and Mieszko

Picture LP version released by Morbid Records and has been banned in many retail outlets (although you can find it rather easily online- if you dare).



12. Mike Terry: 'Live At The Pavilion Theatre. Glasgow' While researching this gent, I found that he/she made a bundle of appearances on various websites worst album covers. Here are some comments:

He looks like L. Ron Hubbard in drag.

I can only imagine Mike Terry sounds a lot like he looks: like Elton John crossed with Liberace and fat, Vegas Elvis.

This is the only cover on the list that makes me laugh every time I lay eyes on it. Mike Terry appears to be having a great time playing his piano. Oh, and he's also stuffed like a beef sausage into a suit that Liberace gave up for being 'entirely too gay.'

Y luego dicen que Iniesta esta blanquito...

I guess that sums it all up.



12. Devastatin Dave The Turntable Slave- Zip Zap Rap was a 1986 single released by Devastatin' Dave, the Turntable Slave with some backing vocals performed by middle-to high-school-aged children. As part of the War on Drugs campaign by the Reagan Administration the single focuses on the effects of a cocaine addiction and alludes to possible alternate career paths rather than living a life of crime to pay for the drug. Furthermore the cover itself features a yellow stripe in the top-left corner reading "Hear our message: say no to drugs".

"Devastatin' Dave" Kurin currently lives as a music producer in California, and has appeared on the TV series Divorce Court.

The Gigwise staff thought so much of this single, they just had to include it in their worst album covers of all time. Apparently, they are not alone:

"Worst Album Covers Ever" Lists this single has appeared on:
The Guardian
Unofficial Worst Album Covers - Fashion Victims



12. Supertramp: ‘Breakfast In America’ – Here is a direct quote from the staff at (sounds to me like they have issues with the US): "The majority of the band may have hailed from UK, but this album cover said more about the vain, commercial obsessed country that America has become in contemporary times than a thousand words. The scary waitress standing in for the Statue of Liberty is a stroke of genius."

Breakfast in America is the sixth album by the band Supertramp, released in 1979. It was recorded the previous year at the Village Recorder in Los Angeles. The album featured four hit singles: "The Logical Song" (#6), "Goodbye Stranger" (#15), "Take the Long Way Home" (#10), and the title track (#16).

The album's front cover is an overlook of New York City through an airplane window. It was designed by Mike Doud and depicted Kate Murtagh as a Statue of Liberty figure holding a glass of orange juice instead of a torch and the background featured a city made from cornflake box, ashtray, cutlery (for the wharfs), eggboxes, vinegar, ketchup and mustard bottles, all spraypainted white. The twin World Trade Center towers appear as two stacks of boxes and the plate of breakfast represents Battery Park, the departure point for the Staten Island Ferry. The back cover photo, depicting the band members having breakfast while reading their respective hometown newspapers, was taken at a diner called "Bert's Mad House."

Despite the turmoil, Breakfast in America became Supertramp's biggest selling album with over 4 million copies sold in the US alone to date (11 million copies worldwide) and was #1 on Billboard's Pop Albums Chart for six weeks in the spring and summer of 1979. The album also hit #1 in Norway, Canada and Australia.

I always hated the music and have been known to turn the radio station at the first note of a Supertramp song. Sounds like I have issues as well.