By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
By Harley Oliver Brown
It started as a rumor in the barber shops, and then the reality was shouted in the Daily News last week. WQEW, 1560 AM, "The Home of American Popular Standards," is being reformatted into a children's radio station run by Disney. The New York Times, which owns the license to 1560 AM, has sold Sinatra, Gershwin, and Artie Shaw down the river, to be replaced starting January 1 by Hanson, Hanson, and more Hanson.
And after all those love songs, all those crooner tunes of heartbreak, how to properly mourn the loss of this radio station, which has become the live-at-home friend to so many of New York's elderly? Dance, dance, dance. At a protest rally held in front of the Times building Wednesday afternoon, oldsters and youngsters alike kicked up their heels and exuberantly danced to swing music being played on the sidewalk by the George Gee Make Believe Ballroom Swing Orchestra, as the hilarious sight of cops trying to restrain octogenarian dancers on 43rd Street clashed with the sadder reality of 100 less extroverted but equally bereaved mourners lined up along the sidewalk to say goodbye to their old friend WQEW.
"It's a tragedy. Where will anyone hear this music now?" asked Phyliss Minnagh, as she stood in the cold behind police barricades, angry at the Times for putting the dollar sign before love. "Also," Minnagh said, "the people who really love this station couldn't get here today. That's the irony. You know, people in wheelchairs, the people who can't get on the bus, the housebound."
Across 43rd Street, 50 black and Puerto Rican teenagers from Adlai Stevenson High School in the Bronx had stopped on their way into the musical Ragtime to gawk at the crazy old white folks dancing across the street.
"What's this about?" wondered Jose Perez, 17. When told of the crowd's dismay over WQEW's imminent extinction, Perez said, "But most of that music's butt. Oh, wait, not Sinatra. And Brian Setzer kicks." Matthew Horovitz
It was "You Get What You Give" that filled Shine for the New Radicals last Thursday. From MTV and Rolling Stone to alt radio and Z-100, people notice this tuneful rant, which calls out the Dust Brothers, Beck, Courtney Love, and Marilyn "Rhymes With Beck's Last Name" Manson. All "fakes," Gregg Alexander charges. Live in "mansions" which, even if they don't, almost is Marilyn's last name.
What imparts interest to this opinion is how different Alexander seems from the above-named luminaries, especially Beck and Love, both of whom were obliged by history or fashion to pursue showbiz dreams from a bohemian base. Alexander is like it used to be a showbiz wannabe whose bohemianism is a side effect of his stubbornly starry-eyed aspirations. A plumber's son from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, he was a teenager when he first hit L.A., where he soon cut a born-dead debut he compares to Phil Spector and others recall as being more like Meat Loaf. At Shine, the material was all from the new Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too, said to have garnered him a $600,000 advance from MCA. Clearest musical referents: Todd Rundgren and Hall & Oates. How many boho bands have the uncool to inspire such comparisons? How many have the knowledge? How many have the chops?
Backed by a generically rockish-looking band distinguished by a scrawny blonde in hooker mufti on tambourine, harmony vocals, cheerleading, and navel, Alexander, a tall white nonteen with a shaved head, who sings and sings only, performed, projected, stretched out his arms like the winner on election night and crossed his heart when he said he loved you. Midrange pitch problems often compel him to shout, not to say yell, but he lives off the kind of emotive falsetto only showbiz kids dare. Together with the funk-lite underpinnings, that's the Hall & Oates part. The Rundgren runs deeper falsetto and timbre and vocal affect, melodic contour too, alternating keyb and guitar leads, complete pop arsenal. Everything except lyrics, which are as verbose as early Dylan, or Meat Loaf. "You Get What You Give" may only be "Sex and Candy" '99. But Alexander wants the world. Why should Beck and Courtney present at the MTV Awards when he and his hooker honey are available? Robert Christgau
At S.O.B.'s last Friday, Fulanito looked like an eccentric posse of transnational caribbeños five singer/rappers with powder blue derbies and suits, an older guy with an accordion painted like the Dominican flag, and a timbalero with a T-shirt that said www.fulanito.com. Their stage patter was illin' bilingual, introducing "Baile del cepillo" with "Let's get this party started right que siga la rumba!" Just when the house-happy merengue mob appeared lulled by lead rapper Dose's chronic clowning, El Maestro cranked up his accordion and set off a crazy two-step that sounded like Colombian vallenato played at 78 rpm.
Fulanito know that roots merengue possesses the samba's mass appeal and power to synthesize a cultural identity. Their name, derived from Fulano de tal, means "ordinary so-and-so," but Fulanito is true to Sly Stone's insistence that everybody is a star Dose repeated all night that Fulanito was "the most famous man on the earth." By mining perico ripiao, the rustic rhythm at the root of modern merengue, while retaining their uptown crew posture, Fulanito forge a new Everyman aesthetic for the hiphop era.