It’s a big day around GV’sGH headquarters. It’s my beloved Baci Boo‘s 12th birthday.
She’s the baby of the bunch. They grow up so fast.
Because it’s my birthday, I got to thinking last night about all the wonderful rock ‘n’ roll songs about birthdays: Altered Images “Happy Birthday, The Beatles “Birthday,” Concrete Blonde‘s “Happy Birthday,” and the weird and wonderful “Birthday” by The Sugarcubes.
I dug up the “Birthday” video (the English version) on YouTube and thought I would share. I was a big Sugarcubes fan back in the mid-1980s and this video reminds me why. No one ever, before or after the band, sounded like The Sugarcubes. Led, of course, by Icelandic wunderkind Bjork, The Sugarcubes released the superb 1988 debut album Life’s Too Good and it blew my mind with its originality.
That crazy percussion! The woozy horns. What a song!
What other songs about birthdays can you think of? Or, if you would like to share your thoughts about The Sugarcubes, that’s cool, too.
As anyone knows me knows: this is the most important day in rock ‘n’ roll. I’m going to take this opportunity to reprint an article I wrote for the St. Petersburg Times in 2004 when I was the paper’s pop music critic. Again it’s five years old, so don’t be fooled by the ages listed:
Raise a toast this day, rock ‘n’ rollers. It’s a special one for music lovers.
Jan. 8 marks the birthday of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll (today Elvis would have celebrated number 69), and the birthday of several more notables in rock history.
David Bowie turns 57.
The Doors’ Robby Krieger is 58.
Little Anthony Gourdine of Little Anthony and the Imperials: 64.
R. Kelly celebrates number 35.
Terry Sylvester of the Hollies is 57.
Shirley Bassey turns 67.
Even the late concert promoter and Grateful Dead buddy Bill Graham, who devoted his life’s work to rock music, was born on this day in 1931.
Can you imagine what rock would be like if Jan. 8 were wiped off the calendar?
Think of the rock history we would have been denied: No “Hound Dog”, as done by Elvis, with leg wiggle. No Bowie dressed as Ziggy Stardust. No “Light My Fire.” (Krieger wrote the tune.) All those legendary Dead concerts at the Fillmore in San Fran – poof! Gone.
You wouldn’t be reading this article. My birthday, too, is Jan. 8, as I’ve been proud to say my whole life.
As has Jeremy Gloff.
The Tampa singer-songwriter turns 29 today. Gloff says he found out back in middle school that he’d been born on a special day. Already a music obsessive, “I bragged to everyone about it,” Gloff says. “If the day Buddy Holly died was the day music died, than Jan. 8 has got to be the day the music was born.”
With 12 albums under his belt, tireless Gloff shares a work ethic equal to that of Presley and Bowie.
Could it be a Capricorn thing?
Astrologists say Capricorns, folks born between Dec. 22 and Jan. 19, are a hard-working bunch. Like the goats who represent us on the zodiac, we see a mountain, and by golly, we climb it.
Unfortunately, Capricorns are also supposed to be uptight, prone to mood swings and gloominess, and fastidious to the point where it’s an unpretty line between our orderliness and others’ obsessive-compulsive disorder.
“My CD collection is totally alphabetized,” Gloff admits. “It’s sorted by release dates, all the albums in a row by the date they came out. Even CD singles are organized in between by the date. I’m totally Type A.”
When I spoke with Krieger last year while he toured with the Doors 21st Century, we discussed magic Jan. 8. We jawed about astrology – turns out, Krieger is into the stuff and, like Elvis and Bowie, always searching spiritually.
Krieger said that, like most Capricorns, he’s finding himself less gloomy and more playful as he gets older.
We giggled about how Krieger, in his 20s during the 1960s, believed all of the bad things going on in the world and in his life were part of a great conspiracy.
Paranoid? A Capricorn? Well, the astrology books say we’re “cautious.”
Cautious like Elvis, with his “Memphis Mafia” and rampant conspiracy fears? Walled up in Graceland, shooting TV sets, windows and anything else that reminded him of a reality he couldn’t deal with. Ultimately dying “down at the end of Lonely Street” in his bathroom, fat, bingeing, addicted to the drugs that were meant to combat the mood swings and gloominess and paranoia.
Or David Bowie, holed up, high on cocaine in Berlin during his 1970s recording blitz? Dressing in vintage war clothes as the Thin White Duke, his alter ego too “cautious” to blink in public.
Gloff’s no paranoid freak, but he does see similarities between Bowie and himself:
Like Bowie did during the 1970s, Gloff wears his sexuality on his sleeve or, in the case of Gloff’s pic on Romantico, his latest disc, across his chest. Gloff’s vintage iron-on T-shirt reads: Made for Loving Him. He also changes his look a lot. Right now, Gloff’s head is shaved, but his hair has been an assortment of colors, and he’s been known to wear electrical tape as part of his onstage wardrobe.
Also, as Bowie did several times during the 1970s and the 1980s, Gloff toys with a musical alter ego. When Gloff records his peppy, naughty electronica dance music, it’s under his J.Glo alias.
Gloff gives props to the King, too, but he’s says he’s not much of an Elvis freak. The King’s former queen, however, is another story.
“I’m a huge fan of Priscilla Presley,” Gloff says, “She always had good hairdos, even on Dallas.”
Anyway, Happy Birthday, everyone. It’s a rock ‘n’ roll party. Get yourself a slice of cake, that is, if The King left any for the rest of us.
Those of us who lived in Florida – in my case the Tampa Bay area – while River was alive, had the chance pretty often to see Aleka's Attic, his Gainesville-based band. I know it’s customary to knock Hollywood boys who start bands, but Aleka’s Attic was good.
Maybe because River was my fellow vegan, or it might have been because he was a big crush of mine in high school, whatever the reason, I will never forget the Halloween day I went to my parent’s house and my dad told me he heard on the news that River had died the night before. My heart just sunk. There had been rumors about River using drugs and, frankly, the two or three times I saw him in person – including one day eating lunch next to him in a Gainesville vegetarian restaurant – he looked tired and unwell.
No one that young should die. All I ever heard about River’s character is that he was someone special, kind, generous and enthusiastic. He certainly introduced to many young people the idea that we should extend our compassion to all beings, including animals.
I didn’t know him, but in a way, everyone my age did. Those who find his movies now do, too. Such is the magic of cinema. Anyway, Happy Birthday. My heart goes out to your family – and anyone who’s lost someone they love to drugs.