Meet The Section—session players whose work in the studio fueled some of the biggest hits of the 1970s, from James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Carole King, and more:
"To critics, Taylor, Browne, and Crosby, Stills and Nash personified everything tame about Seventies rock, and the musicians who accompanied them were inevitably guilty by association. 'We were the "Mellow Mafia,"' says Kortchmar. He recalls a particularly nasty write-up of Taylor from the time: 'We had [writer] Lester Bangs threatening to stab a bottle of Ripple into James. What the fuck is he talking about? James is doing "Fire and Rain," "Country Road," about Jesus and questions and deep shit.'"
PUBLISHED: May 2, 2013
LENGTH: 25 minutes (6402 words)
What the Libor and ISDAfix scandals reveal about manipulation of the global economy by banks:
"All of these stories collectively pointed to the same thing: These banks, which already possess enormous power just by virtue of their financial holdings – in the United States, the top six banks, many of them the same names you see on the Libor and ISDAfix panels, own assets equivalent to 60 percent of the nation's GDP – are beginning to realize the awesome possibilities for increased profit and political might that would come with colluding instead of competing. Moreover, it's increasingly clear that both the criminal justice system and the civil courts may be impotent to stop them, even when they do get caught working together to game the system."
PUBLISHED: April 26, 2013
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3927 words)
A personal reflection on the relationship between a musician and his producer. Ramone, who produced for Joel, Paul Simon, Barbra Streisand and others, died March 30 at age 79:
"Phil perceived that recording hadn't been fun for me for a very long time. The process was like pulling teeth. I don't want to do 15 to 20 takes. I start to hate the song. If I gotta do more than a half a dozen takes, I'm ready to leave. I don't wanna beat something to death. I just want to be as spontaneous and improvisational and free-wheeling and then I can walk away. I don't think it's a matter of laziness, it's a matter of being in love. You gotta love what you're doing. If you love what you're doing, you're gonna do a great job. If you're starting to dislike the process, you're gonna hear it on the recording."
PUBLISHED: April 3, 2013
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4361 words)
(NSFW, not single-page) An in-depth profile of rap legend the D.O.C., who penned many of N.W.A.'s and Eazy-E's early songs and became an on-again, off-again studio partner to Dr. Dre:
"The shine finally started to trickle down. N.W.A’s first national tour opened in Nashville in the spring of 1989, with Doc doing eight minutes a night as an opening act. The crowds dug him. No One Can Do It Better dropped that June; within three months it sold 500,000 copies. By the end of the tour he was doing 30-minute sets. Radio picked up on “It’s Funky Enough,” a Dre production with way more commercial reach than, say, 'Fuck tha Police.' Years later, when Rolling Stone asked Chris Rock to make a list of the greatest rap albums of all time, the comedian put No One Can Do It Better at number 11. 'I was going to school in Brooklyn,” he wrote, “and the only time you could see rap videos was on a weekend show with Ralph McDaniels called Video Music Box. D.O.C.’s video for ‘It’s Funky Enough’ premiered, and D.O.C. had an L.A. Kings hat on. When I came to school on Monday, half the kids in Brooklyn had L.A. Kings hats on. It was official.'"
PUBLISHED: April 1, 2013
LENGTH: 24 minutes (6064 words)
How a get-tough law in California led to life sentences for petty thieves and drug offenders—and how support for its repeal came more from Republicans than Democrats:
"Like wars, forest fires and bad marriages, really stupid laws are much easier to begin than they are to end. As the years passed and word of great masses of nonviolent inmates serving insanely disproportionate terms began to spread in the legal community, it became clear that any attempt to repair the damage done by Three Strikes would be a painstaking, ungainly process at best. The fear of being tabbed 'soft on crime' left politicians and prosecutors everywhere reluctant to lift their foot off the gas pedal for even a moment, and before long the Three Strikes punishment machine evolved into something that hurtled forward at light speed, but moved backward only with great effort, fractions of a millimeter at a time."
PUBLISHED: March 27, 2013
LENGTH: 25 minutes (6444 words)
A Navy intelligence analyst reports a rape and finds herself ostracized. She's not the only one, and the U.S. military still has not taken serious steps to address a culture that condones sex abuse:
"The scandal of rape in the U.S. Armed Forces, across all of its uniformed services, has become inescapable. Last year saw the military's biggest sex-abuse scandal in a decade, when an investigation at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio revealed that 32 basic-training instructors preyed on at least 59 recruits. In Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair is currently facing court-martial for sex-crimes charges, including forcible sodomy, for alleged misconduct against five women. In October, an Air Force technical sergeant filed an administrative complaint describing a work environment of comprehensive harassment – in which all women are 'bitches'; and claimed that during a routine meeting in a commander's office, she was instructed to take off her blouse and 'relax' – edged with menace and punctuated by violent assaults. In December, a Department of Defense report revealed that rape is rampant at the nation's military academies, where 12 percent of female cadets experienced 'unwanted sexual contact.' And an explosive series of federal lawsuits filed against top DOD brass on behalf of 59 service members (including Rebecca Blumer) allege that the leadership has done nothing to stop the cycle of rape and impunity – and that by failing to condemn sexual assault, the military has created a predators' playground."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 27, 2013
LENGTH: 28 minutes (7041 words)
How the NRA changed its focus from gun owners to gun makers:
"Of the top 15 gun manufacturers, 11 now manufacture assault weapons, many of them variants of the AR-15 – derived from a military rifle designed to kill enemy soldiers at close-to-medium range with little marksmanship. The industry loves these 'modern sporting rifles' because they can be tricked out with expensive scopes, loaders, lights and lasers. 'Most of the money is in accessories,' says Feldman.
"As one gun rep recently boasted to an industry publication: 'The AR platform is like Legos for grown men.' And a 2012 report from Bushmaster's parent company boasted that the industry's embrace of these guns has led to 'increased long-term growth in the long-gun market while attracting a younger generation of shooters.' The campaign certainly seems to be working. Twenty-year-old Adam Lanza used a Bushmaster. Twenty-five-year-old James Holmes, the Aurora shooter, was in many ways the dream customer of the surging industry. He bought an AR-15 .233-caliberSmith & Wesson assault rifle – a category the company's CEO bragged was 'extremely hot'—tricked it out with a 100-round ultrahigh-capacity magazine and then purchased thousands of rounds from BulkAmmo.com, spending nearly $15,000 on his greater arsenal."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 31, 2013
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5700 words)
Rethinking the legacy of one of the most ridiculed hair bands of our time:
"I have no insight into the goings-on of Jon Bon Jovi's headspace, but I like to imagine him having a 'Once in a Lifetime' moment during the Springsteen duet: 'This is not my classic-rock staple, this is not my classic-rock backing band. Well, how did I get here?' Maybe I'm projecting: In many people's minds (certainly many critics' minds), perceptions of Bon Jovi will forever be fixed in the late '80s, the band's most commercially successful period, when Slippery When Wet and 1988's New Jersey spun off seven top-10 singles — an unprecedented run for what's ostensibly a hard-rock band — including four no. 1's. 'Blaze of Glory,' the breakout song from Jon Bon Jovi's 'solo' soundtrack for Young Guns II, also hit the top of the charts during this period.
"Susan Orlean's1 1987 profile of Bon Jovi for Rolling Stone was typical of how the press treated the band at the time. The piece begins with an extended, oddly reverential treatise on Jon Bon's 'fourteen inches' of hair: 'Its color is somewhere between chestnut and auburn, and the frosty streaks in it give it a sizzling golden sheen,' Orlean writes. 'Truth is, it would be safe to say that Jon Bon Jovi has the most wonderful hair in rock & roll today.' Orlean describes Jon Bon's locks as an oedipal metaphor for rebellion against his dad, a hairdresser, though her poker face doesn't quite hold. She doesn't really take this guy seriously, and the implication is that we shouldn't either."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 22, 2013
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3546 words)
Did the feds break up a dangerous terror plot in Cleveland—or did they manufacture a threat from a group of impressionable Occupy followers?
"The crux of the Cleveland Five's defense will likely rest on whether Azir's aggressive role in the crime constituted entrapment – a strategy which Baxter's defense attorney John Pyle foreshadowed at an early court appearance. 'They couldn't blow their noses, let alone blow up a bridge,' he said of his clients, 'were it not for what this provocateur did.' Yet the government has had no problem overcoming the entrapment defense to win convictions in similar cases. The legal definition of entrapment is actually rather narrow: Even though enticing people into committing crimes might seem unjust, that doesn't make it unlawful. Prosecutors typically argue that defendants' histories show they were predisposed to commit the crime. And juries frightened by the magnitude of the foiled plots are inclined to bring down the hammer.
"In the case of the Cleveland Five, defense attorneys have also signaled their intention to reveal Azir's extensive criminal history, which could undermine his credibility. Azir has been causing prosecutors plenty of headaches since the arrests. After his identity was outed by the Smoking Gun, the FBI scuttled him into the witness-protection program, reportedly in response to a threat. But living life under federal protection hasn't kept him out of trouble. In May, Azir – who still faces two outstanding bad-check cases he picked up during his time with Occupy – was arrested in Cuyahoga County for theft. He's out on $5,000 bail."
PUBLISHED: Oct. 2, 2012
LENGTH: 27 minutes (6799 words)