They Took All The Walkup Music, Made It Seem Really Exclusive, And They Charged The People Ninety-Nine Cents Just To Rehear It

The other night I came across this article "What's Up With Former Baseball Player Royce Clayton?" and clicked on it because I actually was really interested in what was up with former baseball player Royce Clayton.

I suppose it says something when you have to specify "former baseball player." I didn't need the clarification, though — I totally remembered Royce Clayton. Clayton was one of the Giants' top prospects in the early 1990s. He came through Phoenix on the way up to the big leagues, back when Phoenix was San Francisco's AAA affiliate. He played there the summer I worked at Scottsdale Stadium selling programs. I remember watching Chris Berman call him "Royce-A-Roni The San Francisco Treat Clayton" when Clayton was called up and made some sort of big play.

Part of the fun of watching minor league baseball — for me, at least — is the possibility that you'll see "Tomorrow's Stars Today" (which was a Phoenix Firebirds slogan, if memory serves). I don't know that I saw many stars of tomorrow in the Giants organization — Clayton was probably the biggest — but I did see Mike Piazza and Pedro Martinez when they played for the Albuquerque Dukes.

If you click through to the article and read between the lines you'll glean that Clayton had a mediocre career:

I don't look back with any regrets. I played my ass off. I never cheated anybody. People can say whatever; I know I'm not going to the Hall of Fame. But a lot of guys did a lot of different things and I never had to do that, and I stayed in the league 17 years. I can tell my kids that's what I did and that's what matters to me.

I guess you don't really have to even read between the lines.

Anyway, besides acting in the recent adaptation of Michael Lewis' Moneyball, Clayton has been involved with something called Balltunes, which sounds like the sort of enterprise stoned characters in Judd Apatow films might come up with. Clayton explains how it works:

We create original content for walkup songs. We get input from the player and coordinate with the artists and the producers. It will be the players' original song. Like Xavier Nady has come up to (songs by rapper) DMX his whole career, so we have interest in getting those two together. They're both very excited. We're finishing up a deal with Derek Jeter, and we've talked to a lot of other players: Mike Napoli, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Ryan Braun, Ryan Howard. We're talking to some of the top players in the top markets.

Talk about commodifying just about everything! At the risk of sounding like an old frump, walkup music was one of the last remaining "authentic" things about watching baseball. Think about it — the messaging tends to be so tightly controlled and/or disciplined that you never get a sense of what players are actually like. It's the reason post-game interviews and newspaper quotes are so boring, and why unscripted Twitter moments are so interesting.

The only other way you see through to a player's core is his walkup music. You get a real feel for Jayson Werth, and that filthy flavor-savoring facial hair, when pivotal bars of Kings of Leon's "Sex On Fire" blast through the ballpark. Eric Byrnes' "Your Love" by The Outfield (get it?) showed how much of a goof he was. It's important stuff.

Some folks talk about what they would request if they were entitled to walkup music — and that's fun to ponder — but it just doesn't work that way. Walkup music seems thrust upon a player. It's cool because no player seems to overthink it. In this way, Chase Utley's "Kashmir" is as natural as it gets.

Maybe you want to believe Chase Utley sits up at night making walkup music mixtapes for himself, carefully choosing the exact right song for how he feels when he needs to hit something out to the alley in right field. But that's absurd. Chase has better things to do than worry about his walkup music. Plus, "Kashmir," while a nice groove, isn't really a unique song. It just fits.

Here's a list — from a few years back — of different walkup music. It's pretty funny.

But back to the point. Having your own original walkup music just ruins something. When Tino Martinez plays Stone Temple Pilots' "Interstate Love Song," you get a sense for what kind of man Tino Martinez is. Your own walkup music? That's just too slick.

And I don't like the sponsorship opportunities. Would Derek Jeter get a cut of the money from iTunes downloads of his own walkup music? After a point it seems a little unsavory.

Let walkup music be. It's one of the few ways fans get a sense of players as individuals and not gladiators. Because how can you really hate a guy who is that big a 3 Doors Down fan?

Posted: January 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Jukebox, M+/MR, Shiftless When Idle | Tags: , , , , ,

I Think That Was Pat Benatar . . . But Really, "Light Of Day"?

Poor Joan Jett:

Jett, one of the first female hard rockers, is known for her songs "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," "I Love Rock and Roll" and "I Hate Myself for Loving You." She also starred in the 1987 movie Light of Day with Michael J. Fox.

Posted: July 18th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Jukebox | Tags:

And Then They Put You In Left-Center Field

Ex-Black Flag, ex-Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris on the existential motivations of late-70s/early-80s punk:

"Black Flag didn't know it was a punk band. We were frustrated, stressed, angry. We were the last guys picked in P.E. class for softball teams. That's what all of this is about."

Exactly! That's what should drive rock — getting picked last in PE — not stuff like, I don't know, religion, politics or whatever else that takes the fun out of rock. No one really wants to Rage Against The Machine — they want to Rage Against Being Last Picked In PE.

I've thought that Keith Morris was the best Black Flag vocalist of the — checking Wikipedia — I think four they had — including Henry Rollins, who is now the most famous of anyone involved in that band. Morris' whiny voice totally fit the simple songs and complemented Black Flag's SKRONK! and YARR! sounds. (Also of note: according to some, apparently guitarist Greg Ginn eschewed tube amps for solid state ones that emphasized the CHUNK-CHUNK-CHUNK-CHUNK SKRONK! sound; this makes me feel good because I never had enough money to own a tube amp and felt uncool for years because of it.)

Take a listen for yourself . . .

Here's the Black Flag classic "Gimme Gimme Gimme" with Keith Morris (1977 demo):

And here's Henry Rollins doing the same song on the Damaged LP (1981):

Rollins just kind of sounds like he's trying too hard.

The songs on Damaged (1981) sound redonkulous — so messy with two guitars and Henry Rollins MAXING OUT HIS VOCALS, etc. Later in Black Flag's tenure, Henry Rollins' over-caffeinated ROAR made the band sound kind of big and dumb (and then there's all that weird poetry stuff, though what do you do?). I guess he was probably the best vocalist, objectively, probably, but there's something really great about Keith Morris' style.

By the way, the Circle Jerks Group Sex LP (1980) is so, so great; at 15 minutes long you can send MP3s of the whole thing in one Gmail. If I wanted this to be a music blog, I'd post every single one of the songs and encourage you to dump the whole shebang straight into your iTunes sight unseen — it's just that good! Keith Morris expands on the Black Flag sound, taking the skronk! of Black Flag and perfecting it, which is funny and "hard" all at one time; kind of a perfect punk album. The 25-second (!) "Deny Everything" is just brilliant, as is the rest of it. A lot of stuff from this era is "interesting" in the way that academic art is "interesting" (cf. Live Skull) but Group Sex really rocks. I was excited when I dug it out and made MP3s from the vinyl.

Posted: March 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Jukebox | Tags: , , ,