2016 is near its end or it’s over based on when you read this. It was a rough year in many respects, but it gave us a ton of excellent pop-culture. 2017 as of now promises to do the same. There’s SO much to look forward to. To list it ALL would take forever so I thought I’d just focus on a few things here and there.
NETFLIX is hitting hard with a multitude of shows debuting or returning. Amongst them:
Degrassi: Next Class Season 3 – Available January 6, 2017.
A Series of Unfortunate Events: Season 1 – Available Jan. 13
Santa Clarita Diet: Season 1 – Available Feb. 3
Marvel’s Iron Fist: Season 1 – Available March 17
Sense8: Season 2 – Available May 17
Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later- Date TBA
In terms of Network television I can highly recommend the 12th and final season of BONES on FOX premiering Jan 3rd. I’ve seen the first three episodes and they are very hard to comment on without spoilers, but plot twists, reveals, robots and one of the greatest actors of any generation Hal Holbrook are involved.
The reimaginging of the L. Frank Baum saga by Matthew Arnold finally happens with David Schulner (creator of Do No Harm) and so far poorly reviewed but keeps getting work Tarsem Singh at the helm. If anything NBC’s Emerald City looks like it’ll be definite event TV or fail drastically and get cancelled before all 10 episodes even air. One or the other should be fascinating to watch.
In terms of films I’d have to say LEGO BATMAN MOVIE is high on my anticipated list. Sure it’s not by the actual writer/directors of Lego Movie (they’re busy making Lego Movie 2) but it has a good pedigree and every teaser and trailer has me excited.
I’m also intrigued by Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. For his first follow-up to Instellar to be a WWII flick is fascinating. It’s also his first SOLO project since Inception as brother Jonathan was busy creating and developing the excellent Westworld. Equally fascinating is the amount of work put into this film. It’s not a remake of the late 60’s film, so it’ll truly interesting to see what stories Nolan chose to build upon to coney emotion, gravitas, and character even when the lead character is still the operation and Dunkirk itself (the film was actually filmed there).
Also pulled in by the adaptation of Dave Egger’s The Circle with Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. James Pontsold makes visually enticing, perfectly paced films and chose the easiest and simplest yet not simple Eggers novels to turn into a film.
There’s a ton of amazing video games coming 2017 too but this site is still without an XBoxOne or PS4 so the focus is on PC games but those that will not require a $5000 rig to run.
First up on the excitement board is Full Throttle Remastered the next rebuild of the classic Lucasart’s games designed by Tim Schaeffer which Double Fine was able to get the IP rights back for. I’m really curious to see how they update some of the worse parts of the game like the combat and the maze puzzles. I’m not completely sold on the art actually but I’ve been happy with DF so far, so I’m in.
Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead Season 3: A New Frontier (First Chapter out, but the rest hits 2017) is awesome. I already reviewed it and I’m excited for the rest.
Also excited for platform point & clicker A NIGHT IN THE WOODS.
Third person action adventure co-op player TROLL AND I.
2-D Shooter with old school animation CUPHEAD.
and most especially, Ron Gilbert, Gary Winnick, David Fox and teams’ THIMBLEWEED PARK, the pixel point & click dream of a game I think many thought Broken Age would be. I loved Broken Age, always will, but Thimbleweed Park is looking bigger and better then I ever imagined it could be. I didn’t get to back when I wanted to, but I wouldn’t been able to back what I wanted anyways. This is probably number one on my experiences for 2017 I look forward to.
There’s a share of BOOKS coming out as well.
First up two genius female writers tackling heroes from Marvel and DC.
Shannon Hale (with Dean Hale) does The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Meets World and Gwenda Bond comes forth with a third in her awesome Lois Lane series with Triple Threat.
There’s a really cool STEVEN UNIVERSE ORIGINAL GN coming out called TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL by the show’s co-creator Ian Jones-Quarterly, Jeremy Sorese, Asiey Barbie and Josceline Fenton
Michael Crichton’s never before published posthumous novel DRAGON TEETH comes out May 23rd. It’s a Western during western times but about dinosaurs!
Neil Gaiman ventures into both old and new territory retelling the tales of Odin, Thor, Loki and more in NORSE MYTHOLOGY scheduled for February 17.
George Saunders first ever complete novel, LINCOLN IN THE BARDO comes out February 14In music I’m mainly excited for one album.
The new The Flaming Lips titled Oczy Mlody. AFAIK I believe I’m seeing them live in March as well so that makes 2017 awesome.
This first time I tried out BEATBUDDY was a long time ago, or least a year. They had a pre-alpha demo on STEAM that was designed to literally just get you excited and it did. It looked really cool right away and was fun with awesome music.
I devoured every news tidbit that came in as the game went into full flung production. From the first trailer designed for PAX EAST 2013 to the announcement of the stunningly beautiful and brilliant writer Rhianna Pratchett of Heavenly Sword, Mirror’s Edge and the extremely well written 2013 game Tomb Raider joining the team to help out. The fact that Austin Wintory had provided music for the game had also made me excited.
They released an almost finished preview copy of the final build and that blew me away. Yet then I got my hands on a finished review copy of BEATBUDDY: TALES OF THE GUARDIANS and that is when problems started rearing their head. I am ignoring any and all bugs I encountered and just focusing on the overall difficulty. This game just amps its difficulty more and more but doesn’t really ever give you chance to get better before the difficulty hits. One second it’s smooth sailing, suddenly you’re having to zoom down with enemies hitting you, avoiding spikes and trying to grab a key at the bottom of a pit with the door you need to open at the top of the pit and all the while the pit has a spike ceiling which is coming down at you.
There’s another section where you’re in a ship and another ship is coming uo behind you. Your job is to protect this ship, but this ship can take hits and you can’t. Yet there are obstacles the whole route and the ship keeps trying to get ahead of you, so if you don’t destroy those obstacles or get stuck behind and then, well, death. This could be fixed in the final build, but it was the most headache time I had the whole game. I only beat it because of a bug which suddenly that ship I was transporting disappeared completely, so it was easy.
SIDE NOTE: The final released version of the game fixes these glitches I discovered, but obviously doesn’t fix the difficulty, that’s still pretty damn high, but that’s part the course for action platformers.
When the game isn’t being impossible than it’s absolute joy with charming visuals, a story that makes you feel compelled to continue and some of the coolest sounding music ever in a game. In terms of praise there’s very little more to say… I mentioned the writer, one of the musicians and that the game looks great. If difficult action platformers that are beautiful is your thing, you can’t go wrong.
One of the best things that THREAKS, the company that made BEATBUDDY did was it’s campaigning of the game. They were open creators, answering questions, and being just a fun company. On top of that early preview copy they released a year prior, they kept fans up to date with press releases AND if you really followed along? You got your hands on a Beat Buddy plush. Beat buddy is so damn cute, I could’ve hated the game and I’d still love him. You should play Beatbuddy just to LOOK at Beatbuddy and listen to the music because who doesn’t love cute and music? Well, somebody, but no body that I like.’
If you still aren’t sold though there’s a demo available of the first two levels on Steam right now.
It’s no secret that I am a Canadaphile, it’s been a major part of who I am going back to childhood. We’re not just talking shows most people know or like, I’ve gotten into the shows we never got here at least as they aired in Canada or without a DVD. Shows like Murdoch Mysteries, Blue Murder, Grand Star, and even Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town. Although the one I plan to speak of for this article did air in America on the lesser known FearNet, but that is an extra premium channel at least on my cable service, so the only way I ever saw the show was through the luck of eOne Entertainment’s DVDs.
I got the first season of TODD and THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL when the cover first caught my eye, mostly the title and a very healthy dose of young Canadian talent who’d starred in some awesome Canadian shows including the stars show Alex House from Dark Oracle, it had longtime Canadian TV talent Chris Leavins dressed as what appeared a nerdy teacher, and top of that Jason Mewes was on the cover as a janitor. I grabbed it off the shelf right away, took it home, spun those episodes and loved it and then it was over. I searched the internet for where it would air if there was more to see. That was when I discovered it was either move to Canada (I want to, but that’s another story) or pay more on my cable bill to watch it on FearNet and I was like “Nooooooooooo!” and I just let the show go to the back of my mind and be happy I had that first season DVD full of funny, supernatural, gory, musical, awesome, weird action.
Then I heard word that Season two would be coming to DVD so I got excited and started looking into it. That was when I also discovered that the show would not be returning for a third season and not all plot lines got completed. Unfortunately I did NOT hear or discover the successful campaign for the animated film, but that didn’t stop my desire to see the second season, especially since I didn’t get FearNet.
In this second season they amped (sic) up everything. That’s usually the case of course with a show like this, the characters get older, so everything can get more mature. The evil is out there so it can only do what evil does and get more powerful, ambition gets more desperate, sexiness gets sexier and blood and gore well that has to get even crazier.
As in the the first season DVD, eOne made sure to stock this thing with enough extras that you’d have reason own this physical item more than just getting the episodes alone. Commentary tracks, deleted sequences, making of footage, the full versions of the music sequences. Oh, did I forget to mention the musical part of the show? Yeah, it’s a balls to walls heavy metal rock musical on top of everything else. Now you might be thinking that sounds weird, but if you’re anything like me, and I KNOW there are amazingly people with my pop-culture sensibilities, they’ll be your favorite segments.
TODD and THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL – The Complete Season 2 dropped on June 25th at a SRP of $19.98 and is available from your regular outlets (Best Buy, Target, Amazon, that local place) and I suggest you go and grab it and also season one if you haven’t. You’ll be getting many half hours of music, comedy, blood, sex, gore, silly, fun and awesome extras as well, what could be wrong about that? Nothing… absolutely nothing.
(disclaimer: I was provided a review copy of Season 2, but only at request and was already a huge fan of the program)
SPIKE-A Love Story Too: A one man video game production of a sequel to an excellent flash game with humor, cool graphics and ingenious ideas about gaming. The sequel promises to be bigger and better with an Atari mode, a Bob Ross mode and a Visual novel mode.
Cavegirl Fudge: A big part of my weight loss is finding new products that would allow me to enjoy the pleasure and still keep my weight down. These girls are making fudge I can eat. No sugar, fat free dairy… all that good stuff. New York is full of companies making healthy chocolate, but none of them are making FUDGE.
BEYOND-The Adventure Short: This could be one really interesting little film and the director’s previous effort Paradox is great.
The Gills – Motor Running EP Release: Some good music and tons of charisma from a rock band of four brothers, well, two brothers and two brothers.
The Last Of McGuinness: A documentary of professional wrestling’s Nigel McGuiness (Desmond Wolfe in TNA) final wrestling tour before retirement, he visited tons of wrestlers who like him had the talent, know how and skill, but was never given the ball in the big leagues. Stories, road trip, history, looks like a good one.
The Little Red Bird : A Multi lingual children’s storybook designedd to be offered for free as an e-book, but also making limited edition traditional style book.
I Was A Teenage Michael Jackson Impersonator: Keith “Keef” Knight wants to do his first original graphic novel and like all his work it’s autobiographical.
PULP BOY film: Great movie project with an awesome star lined up (Allen Enlow who you might recognize from commercials and web series) and to be made from a script by crime writers Victor Gischler and Anthony Neil Smith.
Professor Cat’s ‘Mazing Machine : I’m not sold on the puzzle game the developer is making cause it’s not my kind of thing, but the design of Professor Cat by artist Caldwell Tanner is awesome.
Borthaniel : Comic book about a genetically engineered teddy bear like thing. Maybe a little much Boris The Bear looking, but still cool.
Manga Animated Music Video for original song by Cristina Vee, pretty self explanatory. Here’s Cristina’s Youtube.
Album for Johnny BHive called Jaggar Jones-Poetry in Motion. I listened to some of his stuff at ReverbNation and it’s pretty good.
I’ve started looking at IndieGoGo as well for possibly interesting projects and here are two:
The Bret Braddock Adventures: An awesome web comic collection from Australia about the production of a ridiculous TV show. Great art work and really funny.
What is it Katy?: Another collection of a fascinating web comic that was done as an experiment and turned out excellent.
I started working on this last night and just wanted to finish it off because right now I’m just not feeling it. It’s a good distraction from the whole world, but it is still about money and stuff… and more about money than stuff… still, we need distractions.
Batton Lash’s Wolff & Byrd is preparing for a printing of a volume 6 collecting issues #30, 34-37 and more. Wolff & Byrd is an awesome comic and this is basically like pre-ordering. Kickstarting a book, pre-ordering a book, same thing in the new world.
GAME OVER: Insert More Quarters is an anthology of a bunch of very talented young comics makers, they had some amazingly cool rewards at the %50-$75 but those are gone, BUT if some super rich folks can do the $100 or a bunch of folks go for the $25 pledge it’ll bring us to FINAL BOSS level meaning even more rewards for the same pledges. On the page they have links to most of the contributors and I checked all their pages, these are a talented group of folks who if they weren’t doing this project would probably get discovered by Kazu Kibishi for FLIGHT or something like that.
Curse of the Merch Girl is a diverse multimedia project from hip-hop artist MURS and comics creator Josh Blaylock. It’ll be a music video, a comic book and a 10 track cd. The 10 songs are designed to be listened to while reading the graphic novel. This is one of the projects I really am excited for. It hasn’t reached full funding yet and it really is one of those that shouldn’t be stuck. If I had $2500, I’d totally do that pledge.
Kiko The Brave Little Bat, so if you have $150 to spare I want one of the complete kits of book, DVD and plush, wants one too and then the third is for you. I really can’t bring myself to spend $50 for a plush doll and a children’s book even though I want it. $25 for a very mature graphic novel and CD as in the above, yes… but $50 for a kid’s thing? No…not really, but if I had a child? Hell yeah!
Man of God-The Death of John Morris: This comic featuring art by Yvel Guichet is actually available in the current March Previews and seems interesting enough to pre-order. If you’re into variant covers and the such I suggest hopping on the kickstarter though.
Zach Meets The Zombie is a great looking children’s book. You might be aware that I am not much of a zombie fan. I like about 2-3 things in the zombie genre, and if this book is as good as the pitch is, this would become the 4th.
Feeble’s Fable: This is no DOUBLE FINE ADVENTURE, but for a small independent adventure production and design it is definitely a worthwhile project. I’m still confused why their pitch videos outside of game footage look they were shot on cheapo cameras in 1991 though. Despite that, Feeble is adorable.
Riddikulus 2012 – A Rolling Wizard Rock Festival: I know for a fact a bunch of you are Potterphiles. I’m more an admirer and I never got into Wizard Rock heavily. and ‘s promotion and marketing for some of them is closest I’ve gotten, but as I listened to these bands and look at the rewards I support this project and considering what venue they hit in NYC I’ll go.
Gnombre the hispanic Garden gnome: I was really on board for the bobblehead 7inch version here for $20, but they want an extra $10 for shipping now. That’s unfortunate. I still think this thing looks awesome and if you have a home with a lawn, the 13 inch is worth even $50.
Suspect Device 2 is a comic featuring some amazing folks using an awesome idea. Panel 1 is from Jim Davis’ Garfield, the final Panel is from Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy, and in between some of the wildest, craziest and funniest cartoonists in the world create a story that connects the two panels. Josh got a great selection of folks on board for this one. This is gonna be an awesome book.
Gastrophobia Volume 2-Amazon Attacked: I loved Vol 1 of David McGuire’s series, he’s got a fantastic storytelling sensibility and awesome art style. It’s actually sitting on my desk right now just to re-enjoy in the meantime.
While it’s nice that Microsoft still offers Movie Maker 2.6 for folks who don’t like or need a more refined software than the dumbed down Windows Live Movie Maker, it’s not the same thing as Vista Movie Maker a free program only available through Vista. That software will work on a Windows 7 machine and luckily Techbliss is offering it.
When “Clerks 2” came out William Garvey, composer and writer of the Q Lazzarus hit track “Goodbye Horses” made famous in “Silence of the Lambs” did a remix for the film, this more uppy, happy, transcendant version was never released, but again in a turn of luck, William Garvey put it on his website for the world.
Edward Pun, an artist at Sucker Punch Productions, makers/creators of the video games Sly Fox & inFAMOUS edits a collection of comics by other Sucker Punch artists called ATOMIC LEAD , they include work by Dev Madan, former DC artist and co-creator of Young Heroes in Love and artist on the Sly Fox comic produced in 2004.
In The Darkness II video game there is a short film featured on a TV, they show the entire flick, but you can’t zoom into it, something about the movie felt like it was something they borrowed from elsewhere and I was correct. It’s called The Other Gods, a short silent film desigbed and sold as if it’s from the 20’s, except it was made in the aughties. (The Other Gods)
There’s quite a few OZ films coming out in 2012 including the animated Dorothy of OZ and a prequel starring James Franco, but another is a Sequel/Reimaging from BBC Films called Dorothy and The Witches of OZ which borrows from the concepts of other modern retellings such as the Wonderland miniseries and Once Upon A Time.
The live action trailer for video game SLEEPING DOGS the formerly titled True Crime-Hong Kong, is really a quality production, I’m as excited about this game as I have been since day one of its existence and through it’s troubled turmoil life cycle.
Here’s a video of Paul Williams in full “Planet of The Apes” make-up and costume from a Tonight Show with Johnny Carson episode (via Rock* games)
No trailer or website exists from Billy Bob Thorton’s Jayne Mansfield’s Car, but between the cast, plot and it being a Thorton flick, I’m quite excited as it’s been 11 years since Billy Bob wrote/directed.
Something Else by Dried Brains is an example of simple Flash cartoons that can be high quality and hilarious are alive and well.
If you like indie musicians, ukulele and The Beatles, I have the website/project for you. Some of my favorite indie folks and friends have been involved in this one including Bree Sharp, Alyson Greenfield, Andrew Vladeck and many more.
I’m not sold on HTML 5 but this scrollable comic called SOUL REAPER is a good example of what can be done.
It might be public knowledge that I am a Canadaphile, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t ever bear repeating. I’m not just talking about liking certain bands or television shows that have gained release in America or Internationally though, a lot of people like the music of Neil Young, the acting of Michael J. Fox and David Cronenberg films. My love goes as far as not just Degrassi, but all Canadian teenage shows that have appeared on Disney, Teen Nick, The N, ABC Family, etc and more so the ones that only aired on Canadian Family, CBC and other Canadian Networks (and in cases the UK and Australia), but never made it to the US airwaves.
All this is to preface my excitement when I heard about the new iPhone/iPad app Totally Amp’d, a Canadian produced “web series” with similarities to shows such as Instant Star and 2Gether, both Canadian produced shows about discovering and promoting young talent. Produced by Smokebomb Entertainment, a Division of Shaftesbury, the show was created with Smokebomb’s three creative heads Jarrett Sherman, Daniel Dales and Jay Bennett who all have quality resumes. The program and app features music written by C.E.O. of Jingle Punks Music, Jared Gutstadt and features all kinds of genres, giving it a something for everyone feel in the sound department. On the writing team is Karen McCellan, previously of Being Erica and on three out of 10 episodes, Christin Simms who was a major part of Jimmy Two-Shoes, Clone High and Dino Dan.
What is most exciting about Totally Amp’d though is the amazing cast. The big pull on the series in terms of who they are marketing to mostly would be Cristine Prosperi. Cristine is currently a major player on Degrassi, coming in on season 11 as a new foil character attracted to the very popular Eli played the extremely popular Munro Chambers. Cristine gained a following immediately like most Degrassi cast members, but it is a deserving one as she is both gorgeous and talented. For the slightly older fan though there’s a major draw too in Ashley Leggat who became famous on “Life With Derek” which ran from 2005-2009, there she garnered a fan base in Canada and America and has made appearances in popular Shaftesbury shows such as Murdoch Mysteries and Aaron Stone, including an appearance on Cartoon Network’s Unnatural History. The third known commodity on the show is Demetrius Joyette, best known from the Canadian Teencom “Wingin’ It” which has unfortunately never aired in the U.S. Rounding out the cast are newcomers to television Amanda Thomson and Brock Morgan, as well the very experienced yet youngest member of the cast Camden Angelis (who has even done an episode of Scare Tactics). The show also features the talents of James A. Woods (no relation to the other actor of the same name) who has a expansive resume.
There are two other talents not in the initial marketing of the show to make note of. Shemar Williams, a very popular and talented dancer who actually had a dancing training segment for kids on TV and Dewshane Williams who had major roles in Baxter and Being Erica.
All the promotional hype out of the way, how is the actual final product? Excellent. The songs are fantastic, actually the main shining light more than anything. The characters are awesome too. It should be noted that while there are 10 appisodes, each appisode isn’t more than 6 minutes each, creating an about one hour short film. It’s a perfect length for the iPhone though where this show is made to live. Although it also fits the new professionally made web series format.
What makes the app part special are the unlockable karaoke format songs, the editable music videos and the highly entertaining dress em up. There are seven songs that you can record your own vocals for and then input them into a remix which you can pick and choose the elements including original vocals, drums, guitars, bass and percussion. There are five videos which you can choose the angle shots to create your own version. Both the kraoke and video edtiors are simplistic in nature and would be exciting to have a more fleshed out ability, but this isn’t a music app or video app, it’s an all around concept in which on top of a full length professionally created show exclusive to the iPhone you get some really fun extras. Then there’s the design studio which is the bread and butter of the app segment, something app developer XMG has truly excelled at. It’s truly a total package at $5 for the full season (free to try and test with the first episode) and truly worth it.
I’m hoping for a second season and that with it hopefully a longer story and more expanded applications, but this first part of Totally Amp’d is highly recommended for anyone with an iOS device running 4.3 and above. For those without an iPhone, the album is also available on iTunes and the Youtube channel has a lot of great stuff.
Here in the third part of tributes to those departed I focus on the people who controlled the radios and soundtracks of our lives. I have linked to music videos or tracks posted on Youtube and other links where possible.
Joseph Brooks (73- suicide by suffocation): Was he possibly evil? Sure…I mean the dude was accused of using his prestige as a musician and producer to rape over 13 girls. He was arrested and had a good case against him, but he was not yet convicted. According to a suicide note he says he killed himself cause his health sucked , so he took the easy way out and killed himself. The Gothamist has pretty good articles about the whole torrid ordeal that you can google. At the same time, artistically he was amazing and for alone creating the Oscar Award winning “Light Up My Life” he gets recognized in my obits.
Clarence Clemons (69- complications from stroke): I had the pleasure and privilege to hear this talented saxophonist, most famous for being a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, at a Book Expo America event a few years ago. He was there promoting his upcoming autobiography. He was also meant to be an opening act for Steven Tyler, who came out with Mark Hudson. Clarence was interviewed by Chuck Klosterman and he was an insightful, endearing, wonderful man who even indulged Chuck and the audience by playing some sax. I have great memories of that time which will stay with me forever. Here is video I shot of the event itself.
Dan Peek (60, unknown/unrevealed causes): A member of the excellent rock band America, Peek, he was with the group for during it’s heyday of 1970-1978, writing and recording for their first seven albums. His most notable songwriting would have to be considered “Lonely People”, while not the best song he wrote while in the group, it is the most famous one he wrote. Their other most famous songs “Ventura Highway” and “Sister Golden Hair” were written by Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Buckley respectively.
Carl Gardner (83- complications of congestive heart failure and vascular dementia): The leader of The Coasters, the band that did the original recordings of many of the Lieber/Stoller songs including “Yakety Yak”, “Searchin'” and “Charlie Brown”.
Andrew Gold (59- cause unknown): The writer of one of the greatest songs of all time “Thank You For Being a Friend”, he created something that has brought a smile to not only me, but millions. Could you imagine Golden Girls without its theme song, which was also a hit without the show? I don’t think you could and for that song alone I shall be eternally grateful to Andrew Gold.
Heavy D (44- pulmonary embolism): My Hip-Hop knowledge is sorely lacking, with only minimum knowledge. Enough to get by when it matters, but not enough to really state much on Heavy D. I never listened to his songs, but I know who he was and I would recognize him when he appeared in a TV show. I also know he was extremely successful as a businessman and music mogul at a certain point, definitely leaving his mark on the industry as a whole and that his death was a shock to many, especially being so young and supposedly as healthy as a man called Heavy D could be.
Gil-Scot Heron (62- undisclosed illness, probably attributed to HIV complications): Truly an amazing poet, writer and visionary, he also had a compelling voice and straight forward presentation. He was the movement, the machine propelling aginst the machine, the person not letting the man get him down, bu working with the man. All you have to do is read his works or listen to them and you’ll understand how great he was. His best known work is of course “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” but alongside Brian Jackson he came up with amazing songs like “Hello Sunday, Hello Road” as well.
Don Kirshner (76- heart failure): Influential music producer and manager. As head of Aldon Music he has ties to many of the other people lost this year including Lieber, Gardner and Schneider. Lieber wrote the music that Don owned and made sure got out to the public, Bert approached Don to develop the early sound of The Monkees, which was mostly helped by Neil Diamond who Don sort of discovered. Monumentally he changed the music landscape and as the head of several labels was definitely a force in his time.
Jani Lane (47-alcohol poisoning): Undoubtedly Warrant was one of my favorite groups growing up. I was with them from day 1 with “Down Boys” and “Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich” and I stayed with them and Jani all the way through “Indian Giver”. When Warrant gave up on Jani though, I gave up on Warrant. While the members of the band were all talented musicians, Jani Lane was the driving force. I would listen to songs like “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” on repeat as a teen along with “April 2031”. His voice and lyrics really resonated with me in ways that I can barely understand and I wish there style of music was still prominent and had a place in everyone’s world, not just those of us who lived through it and keep it alive. Some of my other favorite songs are “I Saw Red” off of Cherry Pie, “Hollywood” off Dog Eat Dog, and what seems a perfect way to say a final goodbye to Jani, “Stronger Now” off of Ultraphobic.
Jerry Leiber (78- cardio-pulmonary failure,): One half of the duo of Leiber and Stoller, Jerry wrote the words to such songs as “Yakety Yak”, “Hound Dog”, “Stand By Me”, “On Broadway”, “Jailhouse Rock”, “Charlie Brown”, “Love Potion No. 9”and many more.
Gerard Smith (36- lung cancer): A superb musician, he was the bassist for rock band “TV on the Radio” and would also play keyboards, help compose and create visual conceptions, TVOTR happen to be one of my favorite groups of recent times and the announcement of Gerard’s lung cancer and subsequent passing was very hard to bear, especially for a man so young.
Lee Pockriss (87 – illness): I don’t have anything to say about this song writer, but he co-wrote “Itsy Bitsy Teene Weene Yellow Polkadot Bikini”, one of the silliest songs ever, that was yet super popular at its time and “Catch A Falling Star”, a hit for Perry Como.
Gerry Rafferty (63- liver failure): A successful singer, songwriter, musician, best known for Stealers Wheel “Stuck in the Middle With You” and his solo work “Baker Street” which features one of the greatest sax pieces ever.
Mike Starr (45- prescription drug overdose): Mike Starr unfortunately became more famous in the last year as the EX bassist of Alice in Chains appearing on Celebrity Rehab. On that show it was revealed that instead of dragging him out of drugs, Layne Staley’s accidental overdose pulled him further in, feeling guilt as he blames himself for Layne’s death. Before all that though he provided the bass line to AiC for their first three albums, Fallout, Sap and Dirt. It’s that pounding bass seen and heard in the songs and videos for “Man in a Box”, “Them Bones” and “Rooster” among others. I had hoped somehow Mike would end up in some kind Celeb Rehab supergroup with Binzer and find success and sobriety, but this would not be.
Taiji (45- complications of suicide by hanging): Bass player, song writer, musician of the awesome Japanese rock groups, X, X Japan, Taiji with Heaven’s and more. A very tragic end came to Taiji where after an airplane situation he was subdued. In Japan his crime is considered a capitol offense and he sadly chose to take his life than go to prison. Here’s a good selection of him.
Joe Yamanaka (64- lung cancer): A Japanese actor and musician who was the lead for Flower Travellin’ Band and a solo career. Internationally he is known for appearances in a few Takashi Miike films and as Bob Marley’s replacement as the lead of The Wailers, recording three albums with them. For the super cult, he also plays himself and had three songs in the martial arts flick Ulterior Motives, a vehicle for Karate Kid Part 3’s Thomas Ian Griffith to try and be up there with Seagal, Van Damme and Norris, it was the first production from Direct-To-Video Indie Auteur James Becket. In Japan, Joe had some serious success by the way.
Here is the second of my tributes to notable personalities who died in 2011, this time focusing on the art of warfare. In the cases of Randy Savage and Larry Sweeney choosing just a few matches seemed unfair to their career and in terms of others I chose based on what I knew and could find online that I felt was quality enough to display.
(It can be argued that fighting and wrestlers don’t belong each other, but they do call it sports entertainment if its not wrestling, so they fit together)
“Smokin” Joe Frazier (67- cancer): The brazen and boisterous boxer and co star of the three boat Fight of the Century, Part 2 and Thrilla in Manilla turned into a bitter, crazy man whose answering machine recording had him razzing on Mohammed Ali, brought that Ali is now fallen with Parkinson’s Syndrome and feeling as he was the cause of it. The documentary “Thrilla in Manilla” showed the world a very broken, torn, damanged, interesting individual who believed in himself, his skill and his convictions and a man who proved himself in the ring day in and day out. It’s almost shameful that he was the one who passed before Ali. I doubt Ali thinks of it that way. Ali made heavy gestures to seek a kinship and forgiveness from Joe for a long time, and Joe seemed to just ignore it up until 2009 where he finally forgave him and they mended things before the end. His boxing matches will always be something worthy to re-watch and he left a powerful legacy.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage (58- massive heart attack): Following this sentence is the wild obituary tribute I wrote for Savage on his passing at the time and it still stands. Savage was easily one of my favorite of all time. He brought everything I liked about wrestling into a secure package. Flamboyancy, technical athletics, insane rumblings, maniacal interviews and a never say die attitude. When everyone went right, he went left. I’d say his promos and raps tell his tale better than anything ever could. Sugar was sweet and so was honey. Macho Man went to the top, fell down, got back up and went to the top again. The mountain was there standing like a pillar of salt and he just tossed it behind his back like a rock, paper, scissors. You don’t see the steamroller coming till it’s ahead of you and you’ve been flattened out. An elbowdrop from the top is what it was all about. Yellow and Pink, Purple and green, red and black, colors bleed and so does blood. Hardcore before there was hardcore, he piledrove Ricky Morton on a table and it didn’t crack in half, it shattered. It wasn’t breakaway, but real furniture. Did he become a joke with his rap album or just cement his legend of insanity and unpredictability? I say the second, you can disagree. It doesn’t matter, because here’s to the Macho Man. Hoping he’s off in some afterlife back together with Miss Elizabeth after their break up almost 20 years ago. Or maybe he’s with Sherri. He has his pick, he’s the Macho Man!
Bison Smith (38-heart complications): A huge wrestler who never really got his chance to prove himself stateside. In both Cuba and Japan, he worked for major markets, including the Colon’s IWC and Misawa’s NOAH. He was as brutal, determined and talented as any hoss currently in WWE or TNA, even better. In this one notable American organization he worked, Ring Of Honor he was brought in as a beast, but quickly became just another dude via bad booking, storylines and wasted potential. He sadly had heart issues and passed away not long after a match with current WWE superstar Primo Colon in Cuba. Sadly and unfortunately he was involvd in the match that took Misawa’s life, although nothing he had done was the cause of it… that was all on Saito and Misawa being too rough. Bison wasn’t too rough, he just made it look that good. This particular playlist of matches off of Youtube really shows off Bison really well.
Larry Sweeney (30- suicide by hanging): This indie wrestler and manager was a modern day Bobby Heenan, Jimmy Hart and Paul Dangerously all rolled into one. He was manic, frenetic and truly could raise a crowd. I had the pleasure of experiencing him at Ring of Honor in 2008 in Florida during a Wrestlemania weekend where my highlight was totally the two ROH shows, and also experiencing Universal Studios Florida for the first time in years. Sadly, Larry had many demons, demons he just could not defeat, demons so powerful they caused him to take his own life. The signs and warnings were always there and while he continually would seek help and friends offered a hand, I believe not breaking the bubble of getting further in his career weighed heavily on him. Heavier than it has on others in similar situations as his. He was a pretty formidable talent in the ring as he was in the mic, although only super indie and Chikara fans really got to see that side of him. Please do yourself a favor and do a Youtube search on Sweeney, choosing just a few moments of his short but awesome career is impossible for me.
Little Tokyo (70- heart attack): Considered by many to be one of the greatest if not THE greatest midget wrestler of all time, Little Tokyo worked in the business for over 25 years and even reached the “pinnacle” of sports entertainment working at Wrestlemania where he teamed with his long time friend Lord Littlebrook and King Kong Bundy against Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver and The Haiti Kid. I recommend this tribute article by Slam! producer Greg Oliver. The match I am choosing to link to is from Mid-South Wrestling in 1985, it features Little Tokyo teaming with Littlebrook and Jack Victory against “Iceman” King Parsons, “Cowboy” Lang and “Little Coco”, I chose it because Parsons is awesome.
Shawn Tompkins (37- heart attack): A highly influential and important fight trainer, while unsuccessful in MMA himself, he was a very successful kick boxer and helped coach future up & comers like Sam Stout and Mark Homnicheck, as well as some of greatest fighters ever including Victor Belfort and Wanderlai Silva.
Umanosuke Ueda (71- respiratory failure): Not familiar with his wrestling career as he worked Japan in the 70’s and 80’s a bit before my time with the countries wrestling, but he was in cult Japanese film, Burst City, which I loaned to my best friend and which he never watched and which he still has… “somewhere” as he says. I was able to find Ueda matches on Youtube though. I knew which one he was immediately when I saw the long blond hair. It was kind of his trademark to be a platinum blonde in Japan during a time when that wasn’t normal. Here he is a match against The Funks and another match featuring Stan Hansen, Dick Slater and his main opponent Genichiro Tenryu.
Doctor X (43, gunshot to the head): Never a big fan of CMLL, but this Mexican wrestlers death is even more messed up than one of my favorite Mexican wrestler’s Abismo Negro’s. Dude was a religious party and a fight somehow breaks out. He tries to calm the situation down and gets shot point blank in the head. I know so little of Dr. X as a wrestler/lucha rudo that I don’t even know what match to show you. I know he was working reguarly up until his murder, so if you look up Dr. X and CMLL or Perros Del Mal you’ll find something. Here’s one from August of 2011, where he was now Dr. Xtreme teaming with Peligro and Jigga Ek Boam against Tony Rivera, Zumbi and Black Fire in Perros Del Mal Rebellion.