Yesterday, it was announced that US Cellular Field, the home of the Chicago White Sox, would be re-branded Guaranteed Rate Field on November 1, signalling a bright and shiny partnership between the Chicago White Sox and one of the largest mortgage companies in the country that nobody has actually have of before today.

The company, founded in 2000 by Chicagoan Victor Ciardelli, has seemingly put a lot of thought in taking steps to increase their brand recognition, but very little thought to what it will be like for the poor White Sox fans to have to say "Guaranteed Rate Field" all the time.

What was Ciardelli thinking? Perhaps there was a conversation where he pointedly remarked to his trusted assistant, "I'm thinking about buying the naming rights to the stadium home of one of the worst teams in Major League baseball." and then dropped a bowling ball on his foot, his own screams drowning out the protestations of his assistant upon hearing of the dreadful idea.

And perhaps, even before then, he'd spent quite some time in the limo mulling the name "Guaranteed Rate Field", saying it out loud, and imagining the pride that White Sox fans would take in saying this new name and venturing out to this newly-re-branded mecca to watch their team rack up some more pennants.

If only somebody had reminded him that the White Sox are in a serious "rebuilding" period where, near as we an tell, no actual re-building is taking place. "The Cell", short for "The Cellar", was starting to have a nice ring to it, and now the team has ended the relationship early to get cozy with a company whose logo contains a downward-pointing arrow.

It's hard to tell who's crazier, Ciardelli for thinking this would do wonders for his company's name recognition or White Sox executives who have no problem feeding Ciardelli and his company to the wolves.

By "wolves", of course, I mean the rabid legions of disgruntled Sox fans who will take perverse pleasure in re-branding the stadium "Guaranteed Rape Field" should the Sox even THINK of raising the price of tickets and/or ball park nachos!

The other day, I stumbled across some third-tier ESPN channel that was broadcasting a classic baseball game from the 1970's. The first thing that jumped out at me was the lack of corporate logos splashed all over the ballpark, no green screen behind home plate for the placement of ad banners during the TV broadcast, and yet the owner of said ballpark seemed to be doing alright financially, or so it would appear from the smile on his face as he sat in his luxury box high atop the ballpark.

He couldn't have been further removed from the action if he'd blasted himself into space at first pitch, so it should come as no surprise that the titan of industry behind every sports team ballpark would willingly sell the naming rights to their soul for money that they don't even need because some ass-kisser in their employ planted the seed in their ear.

Now, this writer is not urging owners to leave money on the table, but, rather, to put just a little more effort in working with compatible corporate entities so that people don't have to go see their favorite rock band at a stadium called Jiffy Lube Live or Sleep Train Amphitheater.

Dear Anita Richardson,

At an administrative hearing with attorneys from Evil Olive and the Beauty Bar over whether these and other venues owe Cook County years of back taxes for not charging a 3% amusement fee on DJ and rap events, among others, you stated for the record, "Rap music, country music, and rock 'n' roll" do not fall under the purview of "fine art," 

Unbeknownst to you, it would appear, County code defines live music and live cultural performances as "any of the disciplines which are commonly regarded as part of the fine arts, such as live theater, music, opera, drama, comedy, ballet, modern or traditional dance, and book or poetry readings."

Still not getting the picture?

Here, lemme bust out my Sharpies and highlight the portion of the last paragraph that you missed:
See, it says in no uncertain terms that "music" is a "fine art".

And, per your own words, "rap music" and "country music" qualify as music.

Have a wonderful day.. 

Quick, what year did Julian Lennon score two Top 10 hits from his first album, Valotte?

Sounds easy enough, but when you really try to zoom in on a number, it's tough to know exactly where to stick Julian. Obviously, the Eighties, but where in the Eighties? Was it pre-Culture Club or pre-grunge?

The reason it might be so difficult to nail down a year is because everything about Julian's first album seemed out-of-time at the time. The year was 1984 and even Van Halen had gone new wave yet Julian went to Muscle Shoals, Alabama with legendary producer Phil Ramone to make...

a perfectly boring pop record.

How boring, you ask? Can you name both of Lennon's Top 10 hit singles from that album?

Oh, sure you can, it's just that you've got a lot on your mind and, sure, you could probably pick 'em out of a list, but, whew, you are currently drawing a blank.

In fact, the more you think about it, the more you go blank on things you knew by heart:

"Quick, what's my password so I can log onto the mainframe and shut down the nuclear reactor before it blows!"

To save you the trip to Wikipedia, Lennon's first U.S. single was "Valotte", which is one of those songs, if pressed, you couldn't hum if you had to, but, upon hearing it again, are immediately reminded how much he sounds like his father and how the song itself wouldn't have sounded too out of place on Double Fantasy.

By 1984, new wave had exploded into the mainstream, covering everything in neon and checkerboard, yet here was young Lennon seated at a piano in a dimly lit French chateau sounding enough like his father that if you closed your eyes, you could almost hear John singing.

The song received heavy MTV and Top 40 radio airplay and reached #9.

"Too Late For Goodbyes" followed, becoming an even bigger hit than "Valotte" despite the song's video featuring one of the worst shirts to ever be featured in a rock video.

While "Too Late For Goodbyes" would, itself, become a Top 5 hit for Lennon, it seemed like just another casual day in his rented French chateau with some friends and a man who seems to take great joy in dancing back and forth in front of a doorway.

Now, we're the first to defend an artist's freedom of expression, but when thousands would literally kill to be where you are right now, Jules, are you sure that's the shirt you want some smug blogger to be razzing you about thirty years later? Well, at least flip the collar up because, you know, that couldn't possibly come back to haunt you either.

While the shirt's impact was not felt immediately, poor Julian would never grace the Top 10 again.

Can you imagine if Roger Daltrey had left The Who or Plant had told Jimmy Page he was going solo or, better yet, Mick had told Keith he was splitting for good? Of course not, because smart singers know better than to quit a great band. It took a man DYING for someone to quit Led Zeppelin. And the Stones. And, come to think of it, The Who.

So, in 1985, when Diamond Dave announced to the world that he was quitting Van Halen, it was one of those things that, even as a kid, you would have taken the singer aside and said, "Are you sure about this, Dave?"

Even if we had, Roth, who seems to have born with the unshakable self-confidence the rest of us never got, would have responded by ruffling up his luscious blonde locks and executing a scissor-kick off an ever-present drum riser into a pit of bikini babes before pirouetting out of the building.

In 1985, if anybody thought they had the cat by the tail, it was David Lee Roth. Van Halen were the biggest band on the planet, having tapped into a whole sector of America via MTV and pummeling them with hourly doses of "Jump", "Panama", "Hot For teacher" and "I'll Wait'.

Incredulously, people still blame the band's synth-heavy sound on Roth, as if he somehow goaded guitar genius Eddie Van Halen into putting down the six-string and tickling some ivories instead.

Roth's first solo foray being the campy Crazy From The Heat EP did little to dispel this. Roth's covers of "Just A Gigolo" and "California Girls" were the furthest thing from "Running With The Devil" and nobody knew that more than the band's hardcore fans.

While talk of the film project that seemed to have been the impetus for his departure from the mighty VH seemed to die down quite suddenly, MTV kept us well aware that Roth was working on his first full-length solo album.

Would he continue his campy pop persona and become a caricature or would he pick up the hard rock baton that Eddie cast aside when he discovered the DX-7?

And then out of nowhere, "Yankee Rose" hits the MTV airwaves in advance of the album's release and says, "Honey, I'm HOOOOOOOOOOOOME."

While guitarist Steve Vai and bassist Billy Sheehan are a little too "noodly" when left to their own devices, Roth seems to have gotten the best out of them and they actually manage to sound like a band. The hard-charging rocker struts like a panther all the way to #16 on the Billboard charts months after Van Halen's first album without him was launched with a power ballad ("Why Can't This Be Love?") as first single.
If it were up to this writer, the lounge-y "That's Life" or "I'm Easy" would have made for a great video, which would have been all over MTV, which you could then follow with the rockin' classic "Tobacco Road".

Instead, they released the completely uninspired "Goin' Crazy", for which I am unable to recall if there even was a video. It missed the Top 40 and threw Roth into a state of self-consciousness that would lead to the "Van Hagar"-ish "Just Like Paradise", his only Top 10 solo hit.

It's a hot August night in one of the best music cities in the world, but tonight belongs to L.A., baby, as two of its brightest lights from the city's punk underground bring their shows to town.

First, a reunited X featuring the original line-up (yes, Billy Zoom is back!) brings their "Rezoomed" tour to the Metro with an 8PM show featuring support act Dead Rock West. Tickets are $29 and, amazingly, still available as of noon today (the day of the show).

Now, the first person to tell you how crazy this is would be Go-Go's guitarist (and huge X fan) Jane Wiedlin, who will be unable to attend the show due to her own band's gig at Ravinia tonight with Best Coast.

For those who can still remember their first Go-Go crush, this is an opportunity to catch 4/5 of the original line-up on what has been billed as their farewell tour.

X, Dead Rock West
at Metro 8PM.
Tickets $29.

The Go-Go's, Best Coast, Kaya Stewart
at Ravinia 7PM
Tickets $38 (lawn), $55-80 (seats)

So, which show would we choose if forced to pick between the two?

Why, the Go-Go's, of course.

For starters, it's still summer and the music of the Go-Go's and Best Coast is just about as summery as they make these days. Also, we still have quite the crush on Jane Wiedlin, although the band's real secret weapon, Kathy Valentine, is no longer part of the band. Her own Austin-based band The Bluebonnets are an all-female blues-based rock band to put on your musical bucket list.

15. OMD - self-titled [US edition] (1980)

There were your pretty boy new wave acts and there were those more keen on experimentation. OMD fell squarely in the latter category, making some of the most engaging, yet innovative music of the period. Those wondering why anyone would put the group's first album on this list and not, say, Architecture and Morality or Dazzle Ships need only recall that the U.S. version included both "Electricity" and "Enola Gay".

For once, U.S. kids got the better track listing! Of course, the CD collects all tracks from both US and UK versions with bonus tracks that include a cover of VU's "Waiting For The Man" and an alternate version of "Electricity" produced by Martin Hannett.

14. Waitresses - Wasn't Tomorrow Wonderful? (1982)

If you think this album doesn't belong on this list, then you weren't alive in the 80s, when "I Know What Boys Like" came out of nowhere with its snarky, conversational brilliance and became the theme song for both the nerds and those who shoved them into lockers. After the song featured prominently in the epic 80's teen flick "Last American Virgin", MTV got in on the action and the song began climbing the charts. The entire album, though, is a hidden gem that plays like an 80's time capsule covering ska, funk, and angular post-punk with cheeky delight.

13. Tom Tom Club - self-titled [cassette version] (1981)

If only all "side projects" could be this wonderfully effervescent and funky. Much as Talking Heads may get all the attention and TTC get written off as a one-hit wonder ("Genius of Love"), those who have ever spun this album at a party know that all you need to really do is drop the needle at the beginning of this "party on a platter" and let the band take care of the rest.

And why do we list the "cassette version", you ask? Because it was the only format to feature the band's beach-ready cover of "Under The Boardwalk".

12.  Interpol - Turn On The Bright Lights (2002)

With a Miolotov cocktail of Joy Division-inspired bass lines and Kevin Shields-ian guitar riffs, Interpol embodied both the darkness and the visceral charge of rebellion with the same perplexed confusion as Ian Curtis. Much like the Ramones, Interpol had a musical angle forged on self-imposed limitations and a template that frowned upon variation, Turn Out The Bright Lights isn't just the best Interpol album, it is a strong argument for band's only making one album.

11. Missing Persons - Spring Session M (1982)

It's hard to believe that a band of Zappa expatriates would not only lead L.A.'s burgeoning new wave movement, but make an album that works on the superficial level, giving the Top 40 crowd enough ear worms to chew on while the rest of us got off on the high-speed musical interplay over which Dale Bozzio's plaintive hiccup sounded right at home. Truth be told, any album that includes"Words", "Walking In L.A.", "Destination Unknown", "Windows", and "Noticeable One" - a.k.a., themes from the Great American New Wave Songbook - would have made this list.

Spend enough time on Facebook and you're bound to wander into the middle of a heated discussion between well-versed men - who all happen to live alone, go figure - to determine the Greatest Song Ever Written. It's a ridiculous question, but given a choice between verb wrestling with some total strangers or doing some actual work, this writer is all too eager to jump into the mud.

Thing is, I'm always caught off-guard by the question, feeling there's some song that I'm forgetting...

Then a couple weeks go by and I put on a mix CD with no label and am pleasantly surprised to hear the Replacements' "Here Comes A Regular" among the collection of seemingly random tracks. By the time the song ends, I've long stopped whatever project I'd been working on (Hey, do you smell something burning? Ed.) and am sitting their slackjawed.

This is the song!

This is the Greatest Song Ever Written.

"Well a person can work up a mean mean thirst
After a hard day of nothin' much at all."
With an opening line like that, the only place to go is down for most writers, but Westerberg ups the ante with

"Summer's passed, it's too late to cut the grass
There ain't much to rake anyway in the fall."
Now, there's "quaint and observational" and then there's soul-stirring genius found in words so simple, so matter of fact, delivered with just the right amount of detachment.

But as the song continues, Westerberg becomes more and more invested. What began as a whimsical observation

"And sometimes I just ain't in the mood
To take my place in back with the loudmouths."

Right about now, you're picturing a place in your mind...pool table in the back full of loud-talking back-slappers...the smell of decades of spilled beer and cigarette butts...dead-eyed men with hands permanently curled around a shot glass who only look alive for that fleeting moment the liquor touches their lips.

"You're like a picture on the fridge that's never stocked with food
I used to live at home, now I stay at the house."

If this writer were to take a wild guess, it would be to suggest that these were throwaway lines that Westerberg wound up keeping for no other reason than they wound up working well enough.  Upon further review, though, they're loaded with sublime brilliance: "I used to live at home, now I stay at the house"? What does that even mean?

What makes Westerberg the genius that he is is knowing enough to keep lines like that when they do fall out of the sky.

Musically speaking, one imagines it would have been very easy to make this a full band song, but Westerberg knew enough to keep it stripped naked and unflinching. By the song's last chorus, what began as somber and conversational has turned into a jubilant barroom sing-along:

"Here comes a regular
Call out your name
Here comes a regular
Am I the only one who feels ashamed?"

A lesser writer would have stopped there, but not Westerberg. Instead, he plows on, delivering a verse that plays in the mind like a movie, or a memory, that we can never quite put our finger on.

 "Kneeling alongside old Sad Eyes
He says opportunity knocks once then the door slams shut
All I know is I'm sick of everything that my money can buy
The fool who wastes his life, God rest his guts 
First the lights, then the collar goes up, and the wind begins to blow
Turn your back on a pay-you-back, last call
First the glass, then the leaves that pass, then comes the snow
Ain't much to rake anyway in the fall."

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