Since most rock critics are neither swamis nor gypsies, they really have no business predicting the future, whether it's the commercial faring of a new album or the direction an artist's career will or won't take. Nevertheless, the Miami Herald's pop critic and resident Fleetwood Mac fanatic Howard Cohen wrapped a turban around his head on February 23 and predicted the winners of the February 26 Grammy Awards.
So how'd he do? Eh, not bad, I guess. Of the twenty-four categories he fine-tuned on his crystal ball, he got thirteen of them wrong, ten of them right, and one he copped out on (the R&B album category, in which he picked neither winner nor loser).
Among the categories he blew were Tropical Latin Performance, in which he opted for local hotshot Albita, making the (admittedly natural) assumption that Emilio Estefan's influence would guarantee a trophy for his bottle-blond diva. Instead, the far more worthy Ruben Blades took it home -- one of those rare examples when good records are actually noticed by the soft-skulled toadies of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
Cohen was also way off target in Album of the Year, which he begrudgingly opined would go to the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack rather than the "hip, cutting-edge" likes of Beck and Smashing Pumpkins. (French-Canadian fluffball Celine Dion won it instead for her typically bathetic '96 offering Falling into You.) Perhaps most surprising was Cohen's erroneous selection for Female Country Vocal. He predicted it would go to either Alison Krauss (who deserved it) or Mary Chapin Carpenter (who didn't), rather than his fave country chanteuse, teen whiner LeAnn Rimes (whom Cohen has written about more times than I've written about the Eat, or even Harry Pussy, believe it or not). And guess who won? LeAnn Rimes.
For what it's worth, my own Grammy prediction, the same one I make every year to no one in particular and nowhere in print, came true as always. The prediction: that the Grammys will be a long, boring, self-important load of hot air and horseshit in which the finest music of 1996 will be neither saluted nor even mentioned.
I've always thought of drummer Moe Tucker as the Velvet Underground's secret weapon -- the pulsating heart and rhythmic soul that has helped to keep the band's boho-sleaze innovations fresh some 30 years after their Warhol-backed debut. Think about it: Loaded, the Velvets set that sounds most conventional and has aged the least gracefully over the years, is the one that doesn't feature Tucker's artfully minimalist work. (She took a pregnancy leave just before the band went in to cut what would be the Velvets' last album.)
A great rock and roll drummer much like Bob Dylan was a great rock and roll singer, Tucker built a singular style from her seemingly limited abilities. Her talents were as diverse as the Velvets' music, perfectly suited to endless grooves ("What Goes On," "Foggy Notion"), arty dissonance ("European Son"), contemplative balladry ("Pale Blue Eyes," "Sunday Morning"), and flat-out rocking ("Sister Ray," "Run Run Run"). There's also her utterly charming vocal on the 1969 outtake "I'm Sticking with You."
Tucker left the group for good in 1971 and moved first to Phoenix, then to a small town in Georgia, where she worked as a Wal-Mart clerk. She's also been releasing modest little indie-label albums that showcase her rudimentary but wholly endearing rhythm-guitar work, an affinity for Bo Diddley, and the ability to work the mundanities of her domestic life into strikingly personal and effective songs. Those albums have also featured at one time or another all of her old bandmates, as well as acolytes such as the Violent Femmes, Jad Fair, and Sonic Youth.
Tucker will be making a rare South Florida appearance on Saturday, March 8, at Churchill's Hideaway, 5501 NE Second Ave., in Little Haiti. Showtime is 10:00 p.m.; cover charge is a mere eight bucks. Opening acts include #1 Family Movers and the Holy Terrors. Call the club at 757-1807 if you need to know more.
If Moe Tucker isn't to your liking, you can spend your March 8 at the Backstage (formerly Club Zimbabwe, so I'm told) for a film and music blowout featuring Kreamy 'Lectric Santa and Darvis Brown and the Smoke Asses. Seven short films will be shown by underground filmmakers from San Francisco and Texas. Topics of said films include, and I'm quoting from the flyer, "skateboarding, death, lesbian pulp fiction, Texas, the pit, Christian rock, and the fuckin' cops!!!"
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The Backstage is located at 12201 NW Seventh Ave. in Miami. Everything starts at 10:00 p.m.; cover charge is two dollars.
Racist of the Month: This isn't a regular feature here -- not yet, at least -- but I read something a couple of weeks back that made this category necessary, if only this once. Pick up the latest copy of the locally produced punk 'zine Fiddler Jones -- produced by one Fiddler Jones -- and you'll find tucked in among the usual Q&A interviews and record reviews a little piece titled "Don't Call Me White," in which Mr. Jones enlightens readers on "how affirmative action sucks." And how does he define affirmative action? "When white people are denied college money and jobs simply because they are white." He goes on to complain that "I am the one being oppressed and discriminated [sic] in this issue," and later expresses his distaste for the use of the term "African American" and, if you can interpret his muddled prose, integration in public schools.
If you'd care to drop a line to the Rush Limbaugh of the South Florida fanzine press, the address is Fiddler Jones, 205 Shore Dr. South, Miami, FL 33133.
-- By John Floyd