Perennial pranksters the Melvins are up to their old tricks, judging by a recent recording session -- one that ought to see the light of day later this year on the third volume of their trilogy of '99 longplayers. The sludge-rock godfathers, known for deconstructivist cover versions of songs by their forefathers, decided to do things a bit differently this time, taking a shot at a tune by a band that often cited the Melvins as role models. But don't look for a straight-ahead replication when the titanic trio issues its take on Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." To make things extra-special (and, naturally, stir up a bit of trouble among hero-worshippers everywhere), Buzz Osbourne decided to cede lead vocal duties to a gent who knows a thing or two about the teen spirit of generations past -- namely Leif Garrett. The mind, how you say?, boggles . . .
Grateful Dead fans obsessive enough to know about the band's earliest incarnation -- under the moniker Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions -- might be surprised to hear that an album from that lineup has just been issued by Grateful Dead Records. Cynics, of course, would probably express surprise that electricity even existed when Jerry Garcia & co. first emerged from the primordial ooze, but be that as it may, the disc (culled from 1964 performances at a Palo Alto pizza parlor known as the Tangent) has a little something for everyone, whatever their degree of Dead-ophilia/Dead-o-phobia. Highlights include embryonic versions of "The Monkey and the Engineer" and "Cocaine Habit Blues," as well as a lengthy passage dubbed "Boo Break," where audience members are invited to let loose with lusty booing at the combo's expense . . .
On the eve of a new album and a one-off London show, Cranberries singer Dolores O'Riordan has revealed to the British press that she thought the band was over when they went on a hiatus in 1996 following her knee problems and other health concerns (her weight had plummeted to ninety-one pounds). She told the Essex News that singing made her so depressed she cried every night. It wasn't until she became pregnant with Taylor, who just recently marked his first birthday, that O'Riordan felt like singing again. The Cranberries sold tickets for their Shepherd's Bush Empire show exclusively through their web site (www.cranberries.com) for a week, but afterwards, they put them on sale to the general public through all the usual outlets. For the American shows, beginning in April 28 in Washington D.C., the band were a little more web savvy, and insisted all nine dates be available only through the website -- unless the venues were not contractually tied to Ticketmaster, who brokered the tickets for the Irish band. The 'Berries' latest, Bury the Hatchet is due out on April 27 . . .
David Bowie has really taken a shine to Placebo's Brian Molko. Not only did the Thin White Duke perform two songs -- T-Rex's "20th Century Boy" and "Without You I'm Nothing" -- with the gender-bending frontman at a recent Placebo show in New York, but he had him in for a chat on the BowieNet website recently. Now Bowie has revealed in his online journal that he, Molko and Placebo spent March 28 recording with nber Bowie producer Tony Visconti. Just to prove that Bowie doesn't just hang around all day and visit art galleries, he also mentioned that he and guitarist Reeves Gabrels are putting the finishing touches on a bevy of songs that should finally see the light of day later this year . . .
But as for the arty Bowie, the powers that be at Volkswagen must have been impressed with the Mini that the musician bedecked in mirrors last year to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of that historic British car. They got in touch with him and asked if he would submit a design for a new "Millenium 2000" production of the Beetle. According to the car company, they plan to follow-up their sleek "Herbie" with a little more splash. In fact, a spokesperson told the Teenage Wildlife fan site that "The Volkswagen Beetle is a timeless design ... we would like nothing more than to sprinkle the new 2000 model edition with a little Ziggy Stardust." Dubbed the "Millenium Model," the limited-edition vehicle will cost approximately $25,000. . .
Devotees of theme-park eateries will have one less option in midtown Manhattan come mid-May, when the Motown CafT, famed for its surprise appearances (although not for its tuna surprise) will shut its doors for the last time. The boite, which is owned and operated by the Polygram/Universal conglomerate that also owns the Motown label, will give way to a high-rise office building. A spokesperson at Universal insisted that the Cafe's closing was not related to the massive spending cuts instituted by the newly-merged company and blamed the Big Apple's real estate boom . . .
Legendary jazz singer Joe Williams collapsed and died on a Las Vegas street last weekend after walking away from his hospital bed and setting out on foot toward his home on the city's outskirts. Williams, who was eighty years old, had been hospitalized on and off for the past several months as a result of continuing respiratory system distress. Hospital officials are said to be perplexed by the events of last Sunday, when Williams said he was leaving his room for "just a few minutes" before leaving the grounds. The Grammy-winning singer walked more than two miles along side roads before suffering a massive coronary attack . . .
Just when you thought Starbucks had infiltrated every back alley of America, the java giant has expanded into yet another corner: roots rock. Come next month, your local coffeehouse will stock stacks of a compilation CD titled American Road right beside the T-shirts, mugs and other sundry items emblazoned with the Starbucks logo. Artists on the CD include Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Alejandro Escovedo, Josh Rouse, Kelly Willis, Cheri Knight, Johnny Cash and Lyle Lovett. No word yet if Starbucks has plans to throw down these artists' record labels and replace them with sparkly new coffee shops ...
It wasn't just a broken finger that gave John McCrea the time to plot his own TV show. According to Cake's feisty frontman, he's been planning to bring Freedom of Speech to the small screen for the past eight years. "I thought up the idea when I realized the tools of democracy weren't available to everyone anymore," says McCrea. "You can't even put up a poster legally on a telephone pole in most American cities without getting arrested. So decided I could give people a voice by creating this show." Based loosely on the campy Seventies classic Gong Show, the show's designed to give "regular" people time to deliver a two-minute speech and discuss their views in a dignified, yet entertaining format in front of three celebrity judges. The high-profile arbitrators will either award the best speakers with prizes or send them plummeting through a hidden trap door. The guitarist/control freak has offered up potential subjects like "Marilyn Manson: Pure Evil or Savvy Businessman in Monster Outfit?" or "The Most Outdated Part of the Constitution." Although McCrea's not confirming who the celebrity guests judges will be, he does offer some tantalizing combinations, such as Judge Judy, Henry Rollins and Deepak Chopra, or Beck, Noam Chomsky and Celine Dion. "This show is for fun, but there's also a sense of participation that we need to have," McCrea says. "Even if it's an illusion, I think it would help the democratic process." He has been shopping the idea around to various networks, and he says he's got a couple of solid bites. If you're interested in being a part of the fun, send audition tapes to him at: Freedom of Speech, 3104 "O" Street, Box 109, Sacramento, CA 95816 or visit www.speechsite.com for more info . . .
Four cities, dozens of Irish and vaguely Irish-inspired acts, and gallons of Guinness: welcome to Fleadh 1999. The stout-sponsored Irish music festival is back for its third year in a row in America, with a line-up promising everything from Celtic don Van Morrison to British pop-punk archetype Elvis Costello. This year's Fleadh kicks off in San Francisco on June 5, followed by stops in Chicago (June 12), Boston (June 19) and New York (June 26). Morrison is only scheduled for the Boston date, but Costello will perform in all four cities. Other acts confirmed so far for one or more Fleadh stops include Lucinda Williams, Hootie & the Blowfish, the Cardigans, Shane MacGowan, Ben Harper, John Lee Hooker, Steve Earle & the Del McCoury Band, Richard Thompson, John Prine, Taj Mahal, Shawn Mullins, Dave Alvin, Black 47 and more . . .
BLAIR FISCHER, HEIDI SHERMAN, RICHARD SKANSE, DAVID SPRAGUE & JAAN UHELSZKI(April 2, 1999)