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The most important birthday in the world — for music lovers

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.

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David Bowie turns 57.

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The Doors’ Robby Krieger is 58.

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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.

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As has Jeremy Gloff.

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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.

I’m back from the Sunshine State

I had a blast in Florida. A visit there always confirms that every single person in the Tampa Bay area is involved in the local arts and music scene. At least, everyone I know is.

On Friday, I went to the “Sound Effects” show – an exhbit of local art with a musical theme – at the Tampa Museum of Art. The show was curated by Mitzi Gordon, a photographer with Pyramid Photography (and a former member of the shoegazey Vera Violets). I hung out at that show with Bradley Valentine, Mitzi’s partner in Pyramid and a very talented photographer and writer.

Favorite piece of the night: Ryann Slauson’s “Tribute to the Arcade Fire,” an installation of cartoony instruments made out of cardboard and masking tape. Here is a pic of it I swiped from Ryann’s Myspace page:

The next night, I caught the musical half of “Sound Effects:” a gig in Ybor City’s popular club Crowbar that featured Ryann drumming for my favorite band, Giddy-Up, Helicopter, who performed in fluffy animal costumes – in hot, humid Tampa weather. What dedication to art! Here is a pic courtesy of Donavan Astwood at DEAPhotos (Click to enlarge):

That night also served as a CD release party for Jeremy Gloff‘s new album, 1987. Jeremy is a multi-media ham and he came to the stage singing along to the CD, which was already playing. It was very post-performance. His set also featured a narrator and choreographed dance sequences. Deliciously homo!

My lady friend and I got to Crowbar too late to see Venus In Furs perform. The band is an all-female tribute to the Velvet Underground made up of popular Tampa Bay area musicians and they totally rock.

I also went to the birthday party for my friend Natty Moss Bond, another mainstay of the Tampa music scene whose old band, Multi-Color House, was on DB Records.

Sunday night I spent watching the god-awful Emmy awards with my friends – including Alex Zayas, who plays drums with the awesome and fun all-girl band Super Secret Best Friends.

Everyone is a superstar in the Tampa Bay area and that’s one reason I love it there. Sometimes it feels like the scene is completely self-contained – like people make art and play music for the sheer fun of it and not in the hopes that they’ll become rich and famous.

I think that’s characteristic of the most interesting regional music scenes like, for example, all those great bands in Athens, Georgia in the late 1970s and early ’80s. They were doing it to have fun and be creative. Playing at parties was the goal, not getting signed to major labels and conquering the world, although that’s what happened to R.E.M. and the B-52s.

All my friends down in Florida deserve to be famous, whether or not they care to be. Every single one of them is fun and creative and I love to visit them often to see what hijinks they are getting into. I miss it there.

Jeremy Gloff on Penn & Teller’s show

My friend Jeremy Gloff, a popular DJ and musician in Tampa, is a 1980s aficionado. As such, he is a recent guest on Showtime’s Penn & Teller: Bullshit. It’s an episode about nostalgia. Here’s a link to the preview of the show. It’s worth watching to see Gloff, whose homepage is here, getting excited about the rare Bonnie Tyler record he just acquired for a small fortune.

The show airs again Thursday at 10:30pm; Sept. 7 at 11pm; and Sept. 19 at 10:00pm.

What are you nostalgic about? I recently spent about $70 on EBay for a bunch of vintage issues of the East Village Eye, a weekly newspaper that chronicled the art and music scene of Greenwich Village during the late 1970s to mid-1980s. I wasn’t there, but I’m still nostalgic for that era. And by having never been a part of it, I’m free to imagine it as an ideal time and place. What about you?

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