Dancing About Architecture

Our resident Marshmallow Peep relates the news and hearsay in and around the Live Music Capital...

Bob Schneider:  bigger than the Beatles?
Bob Schneider: bigger than the Beatles? (By Hunter Darby)


Bobbing to the Surface

Well, as of last week it's official: Bob Schneider's current album -- whether it's the new Universal release of Lonelyland or the year-old Texas version of the same that has an additional three cuts -- is now Waterloo Records' biggest selling album of all time. You read that right. In knocking off the previous chart-topper, KGSR's most recent volume of Broadcasts, he's sold more than Madonna, Willie Nelson, and Frank Sinatra. In short, it means that, at Waterloo Records at least, Bob Schneider is bigger than the Beatles. As a matter of fact, Schneider is looking more and more like an international superstar -- within the Austin city limits, anyhow. He even taped an Austin City Limits episode last week, something that has to have been based largely on his enormous local popularity, since he's still barely known outside of Austin. Think about it; Schneider moved a record-setting 1,313 copies of the disc during South by Southwest (a typical super-hot debut would normally be closer to Los Super 7's same-week introductory sales of 297), but according to SoundScan, the service that tallies CD sales around the country, that represented 46% of the album's total sales nationwide in that period. Now, the disc's total sales to date are impossible to accurately gauge, as SoundScan only counts albums with UPC codes (which Schneider's pre-Universal Records copies did not have), but it's a safe to say that well over half his total sales are concentrated at a few record stores here in li'l ol' Austin. In point of fact, Waterloo owner John Kunz says that the bulk of the album's sales stem from the days when Schneider was "doing it himself," and that in his opinion, it's clear that the Scabs frontman would've taken the crown "regardless of whether Universal had picked the album up or not." All this for an artist who still hasn't quite managed to break through onto the published form of Billboard's Heatseekers chart (though he's "bubbling under" its surface, and his picture appears on the page with the chart in the current issue). He's already landed on the No. 2 spot of the CIMS (Coalition of Independent Music Stores) chart in Album Network since the Universal version of the disc debuted during SXSW. Of course, to the world outside of Austin, the album has only been out a few of weeks, so the question is, "Will it be a hit or will it be a dud?" The answer to that is yet to come, but if you'd like to read what the Chronicle thinks of the album, see austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2000-03-17/music_recviews4.html in our online archives. After all, we reviewed it last SXSW when it came out locally.


I Fought the Law

No one has to explain to Cindi Lazzari that "pro bono" has nothing to do with the Chronicle Music section's giant U2 package a few weeks back. Lazarri says she's put in the last two years of legal battles against Watermelon Records "with me dogging them every step of the way," but no remuneration from the artists she represented. And boy is she glad that's over. As are we -- the whole Watermelon Records debacle has taken up more than its share of Chronicle ink following the local indie label's declaration of bankruptcy back on Dec. 31, 1998. Lazarri's efforts recently culminated in the return of master tapes (and ownership rights to them) of albums originally released by Watermelon to Monte Warden and Iain Matthews. This latest victory comes one year after Lazzari got master tapes returned on behalf of the Asylum Street Spankers, the Gourds, and the late Doug Sahm. (Oh, before I forget, the petition to get Doug Sahm into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can be found at www.petitiononline.com/sdq/petition.html.) The Gourds' recent re-release of Stadium Blitzer and the expanded version of Gogitcher Shinebox was a direct result of that court decision. Getting the artists' tapes back was "a labor of love," says Lazzari, "and even though I haven't seen a penny, it's a great feeling." Which isn't to say that she'd be upset at the notion of sharing the bounty when some of these recently freed albums she the light of day once again.


Butthole Roundup

I was thinking it was about time for one of those periodic updates on the Butthole Surfers, seeing as how I had some inside scoop on the current release date for the Surfers' new Hollywood/Surfdog Records debut. Then I started thinking about the odds of the album actually coming out on any date that I give and said screw it. Still, if you're wondering how the Butts are keeping food on the table after such a long absence from touring and putting out albums, you can stop worrying. Hell, they've got money out there they haven't even bothered to pick up! Former Austinite Martin Hanlin revealed during SXSW that the Butts have yet to receive their publishing money from the big-selling soundtrack albums their songs appeared on during the Capitol years, like Romeo & Juliet, Beavis & Butthead Do Hollywood, and Mission Impossible. Hanlin, who works on this sort of thing with the London publishing firm owned by Jim Kerr (of Simple Minds fame), says the Butts' Paul Leary was aware of the holdup, but hadn't gotten around to pursuing the matter. Hanlin's now working with Leary on getting said soundtrack dough into the Butts' kingly coffers, but then I don't think anybody's too worried about Leary's finances, especially since the guitarist just returned to town from producing a single of the U2 song "Elevation" for the video-game-turned-movie-blockbuster Tomb Raider soundtrack. As far as former Buttholes, say hello and goodbye to Jeff Pinkus. The new Sangre de Toro album by the team of Pinkus, Scratch Acid's Brett Bradford, and Ministry's Max Brody will be out soon, but Pinkus' band Honky is playing their last show for a while April 21, as the bassist heads off to an out-of-state recording school for six months. That gig is at Room 710, with Transmaniacon MC and Dixie Witch. Former dual-damage Surfers drummer Teresa Taylor is still in town, though, and rumor has it that she may be part of a new band with three skinbeaters. Outside of the circle of hippies at Eeyore's Birthday Party, I think that may be a record.


The Doctor Is 'In'

"To be honest," Barry Hansen, aka Dr. Demento, tells me, "I still haven't finished listening to all the goodies" he received when he was in town for SXSW. That's partially because Hansen spent the last week doing publicity for his new (serious) blues book and another Demento gig in Nevada, but also partly my fault, since I gave him a healthy stack of local CDs from the "extras" pile so he could add more Austin artists to the Marilyn Rucker and Peenbeets tracks he's been playing of late. Between that and the local bands that took advantage of his presence to give him their own stuff, Austin awareness is increasing on his show week-by-week. For those who aren't aware, the Dr. Demento radio show does air in Austin now, just at an awkward time (6-8am Saturday mornings on Z102), with this week's show scheduled to include Dick Price's "Hillbillies in a Haunted House," and two cuts from Wammo's Faster Than the Speed of Suck album. Next week there'll be the Austin Lounge Lizards, more Wammo, and Charlie's Holy Happy Hour makes the national airwaves as the Doctor brings "They Lost My Grandma's Brain" to the nation's ears. There's more to come, including Shorty Long, says the good doctor, though he admits that after listening to discs from the current and former Asylum Street Spankers, he finds it "hard to believe that [the members of Shorty Long] were in the same band as Wammo!" Don't worry, Doc, I'm quite sure that both artists wake up every morning mumbling something to that effect!


Mixed Notes

Once again this year, in deference to the summer heat, KGSR's "Unplugged at the Grove" series is being divided into two mini-seasons, the first of which begins today (Thursday) with Billy Joe Shaver and Jesse Taylor. In upcoming weeks, look for Eliza Gilkyson, Ian Moore, Jimmy LaFave, Terry Allen, Reckless Kelly, Radney Foster, and Patrice Pike (in that order, for clip-n-save purposes)… The Onlys are heading out on their second national tour of the year on Wednesday, and they've been called out as a star attraction to the KUMM radio tower benefit, to increase the University of Minnesota station's radio tower output. The Onlys, along with other Austin artists like Spoon, Experimental Aircraft, and the Swells, have been heavily supported by the university radio station, and when the program director contacted the band to headline the benefit, they said "why not" and set up a string of dates to go with the gig. They'll play at CBGB on April 28, and in late August, they'll head out to California, Oregon, Washington, and Canada. Austinites need only wait until Monday, April 16, at Emo's… The Wontons begin a tour of Japan at the end of this month, where we expect they'll have a fine time and then be eaten with a nice sake… Billboard magazine points out that a "highlight" on Tim McGraw's Set This Circus Down is Bruce Robison's "Angry All the Time," with guest vocals by Faith Hill. "She discovered the song and wanted it for her album," the industry mag reveals, "but her husband beat her to it." Kudos to Billboard for having enough restraint to not title the feature "Tim McGraw Beats Wife"… Meanwhile, back in Austin, brother Charlie Robison's new Step Right Up gets the in-store treatment with a gig at Tower Records this Saturday at 2pm, if you're up early… Didja check out that Ramos Brothers show yesterday at Austin Bergstrom International Airport? Well, Merle Haggard songwriter Freddy Powers (with Floyd Domino, Johnny Gimble, and B.B. Morse) is up next Wednesday, as the AIBA continues to run free concerts for those who don't mind paying for parking. Stevie Ray Vaughan songwriter Bill Carter was gonna play, too, but he had to postpone so -- you guessed it -- he could go hang with his pal Johnny Depp (wouldn't you?)… The Hole in the Wall is having a club benefit over the weekend with a number of bands performing gratis to help pay up the Hole's tax debts by April 15, and while you should go support the venue, don't worry, because it's not one of those Electric Lounge situations where the place is going under and they're making a last-ditch attempt at cutting their losses… Oops!: Not that it was my mistake, but here's a heads-up that in this year's Austin Chronicle Music Poll, there was a flub in the "Best Metal/Industrial Band," as the Fifth Place winner was listed as "Lucid Dream." The band is actually Lucid Dementia (www.mp3.com/luciddementia) and we're sorry it took this long to make absolutely sure there wasn't a "Lucid Dream" on the current Austin metal scene, which judging from the number of actual new names that placed on this year's winners list, appears to be undergoing a resurgence…

-- Contributors: Raoul Hernandez, Andy Langer

A note to readers: As we look forward to our fifth decade publishing this paper, and to a print redesign scheduled for late January, we thought we’d take this occasion to ask our readers some questions about how you use the print edition—what parts you find useful, and what parts we could improve.” — Nick Barbaro, Publisher of The Austin Chronicle

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