Last night, while deadening the brain with some good channel surfing, I happened upon an awful FUSE(?) American-Idol-type competition for unsigned rock bands, which I won't even name. The bands are uniformly horrible: there's the ska band, the bloc-party wannabees, the Soundgarden ripoffs, the rap-rockers (with 12 fucking members - any band with that many members has drug dealers in the band); but it was interesting for a couple things:
The prize isn't "a recording contract!" as it would have been as little as five years ago; rather, winners get a cool million bucks, ostensibly to go and make their own record, own the masters, and sell the rights to itunes and etc, since they'll be famous (enough) after they win. How's that for a flare gun in the face-like signal that the major labels have hit the iceberg?
Second, Johnny Rotten is one of the judges. He's the Simon Cowell judge, too, albeit less scripted, probably not scripted, swearing consistently, but seeming to enjoy himself; I was shocked to see him on the show at all. While he's a performer, and knows his role well, he's rarely ever working for someone else, as here. All art world iconoclasts earn their check by giving in to the public, at the end of the day, but Rotten rarely cares enough to do that. The Sex Pistols reunion tour album was called Filthy Lucre Live for a reason. The show doesn't transcend, anyway: A stupid band member int he rap-rock outfit, probably put up to it by the producers in order to get the 'script' going, sarcastically remarks "wow, who knew Johnny Rotten knew something about hip hop," which is hilariously stupid, but not so stupid as this show's failure to explain why it's stupid as the feud gets scripted into a fury.
So I'm enjoying a little imaginary instant where the actual musicians in this idiot's band take him aside, off camera, and tell him "uh, dude, johnny dropped a single with fucking Afrika Bambaataa before your daddy got to second base with any girl."
They'd win if they kicked the stupid guy out of their band. But they won't.
But what I really wanted to say was that after this disgusting detour, I watched The Nomi Song, a documentary on Klaus Nomi that might have been the best rock-doc I've seen in a while, sadder than the Daniel Johnston doc by a mile, and better. As many know, in 1983 Nomi was one of the first public figures to die of AIDS almost before it had a name, but was better known as a strange and supernaturally talented singer. Sometimes an in-joke (his "Lightning Strikes" cover) sometimes an otherworldly stunner ("Keys of Life"). Yet few of his recordings deliver the effect of seeing the archival footage of his soprano - yeah, he was a soprano - version of the Samson and Delilah aria.