Author: R.J. Smith

  • Going Down With the Replacements

    Not a Bunch of Loads “Go ahead RJ, get the notebook out,” Tommy cackles. A bubble of beer hangs from his chin, but he doesn’t know about it. Four nights into the Replacements’ road trip and already things are getting ugly. The Replacements, four miscreants from Minneapolis, are setting up their equipment in a cafeteria […]

  • Politically Incorrect: Guns N’ Roses and Public Enemy Sound Off

    Busted Axl Forty-eight hours in the feeding-cycle of New York City. There were Uzis, Public Enemy re­grouping, and a clique of blond babes orbiting Axl Rose at the Cat Club. All of this connects. How was your week? Start the clock August 8, last Tuesday, when Public Enemy’s vox pop Chuck D faxed all over […]

  • Message in a Bottle: Homesteaders Rock the Lower East Side

    August 23, 1988 A little dirty, Harris Pankin wears a T-shirt with three faces looking at you: Jesus, Manson, and Pankin. “Choose Your God” it says beneath. His hair—Pankin’s, I mean—is curly and long enough to fall, in ringlets twirling around his purple-tinted glasses, to his shoulders. The singer for Letch Patrol, Pankin wants to […]

  • Faster, Pussy Wagon! Kill! Kill!

    Quentin Tarantino holds the keys to the Pussy Wagon. Of all the reasons why it’s good to be the king, surely being able to drive the Pussy Wagon is up there in the top five. “It brightens up everybody’s day,” says Tarantino. “When you drive a Pussy Wagon, people see you coming.” He’s coming. After […]

  • Crossover Dream

    In the money scene of 8 Mile, the young white Detroit rapper Rabbit Smith (played by young white Detroit rapper Eminem) battles a series of black MCs for the night’s crown. We watch him find his game face in the mirror of the men’s room of a club called The Shelter, then stalk the cement […]

  • To the Batcave

    Out-of-Body Experience, heaven version: “I saw my life before my eyes, and that is no shit. . . . I saw myself walking in and out of countless record stores, forking over vast fortunes in an endless chain of cash-register clicks and dings. . . . I saw litter bins piled high with bags that […]

  • Like a Motown Cowboy

    Two guys march into the Victor Recording Company office one summer day in 1922, mad flossing all the way: one dressed like a cowboy, the other like a Confederate soldier. Either the music they’re selling or their unforgettable getups pique the record company man’s interest, and a deal is quickly assembled. Thus goes the founding […]

  • Go See The Doctor

    Cornel West’s Sketches of My Culture is probably the first hip-hop record by a Harvard professor. I demand that academia reciprocate and immediately put Ol’ Dirty Bastard on the tenure track. Until then, Dr. Dre doesn’t need to worry about Dr. West. Positive? Awwww yeah . . . this is some of the most eat-your-(black-eyed)-peas […]

  • Sounds Like Music

    The prop plane circled the ballpark, trailing the type of banner you might also see at the beach. The message, though, was not what you usually see at Dodger Stadium. “Radiohead Amnesiac” it read, orbiting lazily in the afternoon heat. The guy beside me looked up and pondered. “I wonder who they think their audience […]

  • Parlor of Vices

    Back in the days of Stephen Foster, the piano was the centerpiece of the parlor. That was the room that women ran, the room where music, like femininity, was supposed to civilize baser impulses. From the piano flowed the family values of 19th-century America. It might seem a long ways from “Old Folks at Home” […]