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Pop Talk
With David Segal

Washington Post Music Critic
Wednesday, April 24, 2002; Noon EDT

David Segal hails from Rhode Island, where he once foisted himself backstage at an X concert and demanded autographs from all four bandmembers. They happily obliged. The first song he ever loved was a kiddie recording of "Honeycomb, Won't You Be My Baby" and he quickly graduated to Simon & Garfunkel, then Elvis Costello and then the Dead Kennedys, who performed one of the greatest concerts he's ever seen in London in 1982. He hasn't been the same since.

For a few years, he played guitar and sang in a deeply terrible cover band, the Bremers. The highlight of the group's show was a stalker version of "Leavin' on a Jet Plane," which was retitled "You're NOT Leavin' on a Jet Plane." He's been at The Post for going on eight years, first as a Book World editor, then a Business section reporter and finally as pop music critic. He enjoys the work and would like to point out that he is writing his bio, even though it's written in the third person, like someone else wrote it. Segal is doing that so he appears more important than he is, which is hilarious when you think about it!

Submit your questions and comments before or during today's discussion.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

David Segal: People, people.

Let's just do this chat thing, you know? Let's stop talking about it and actually get down to the hard work that is the "on line chat."

Heckle me about teen pop, or Sheryl Crow or whatever else is on your mind. I'm writing a review of the Paul McCartney show this afternoon and still digesting the whole experience, which has elicited plenty of emotions and reactions in my Beatles-loving, Wings-loving soul.

Also, the 14 year old I brought to the N Sync show on Sunday felt like vomiting from sheer joy. What's the weirdest thing you've ever done at a rock concert? The stranger the better, folks.

And some Beatles-related trivia: What exactly is a Helter Skelter, and why did Paul write a song about it?

Winner gets a mix CD that I've just burned and will now the standard give away on this chat. Trust me, this thing is GOLD. It's got the Shins, the Coup, new Weezer, a Bollywood song, Guided By Voices, No Doubt and Nicke Lowe, to name a few.

First to get the right answer AND send your e mail address wins it.

Bring it, mofos.

Arlington, Va.: What "Party" did Andrew WK crawl out of? If you pay to see his show do you get to punch him in the nose? He investigates a variety of topics on his new CD with such songs as "It's Time To Party," "Party Hard" and "Party Til You Puke."

I think he may be our next Bob Dylan.

Saw him on "Saturday Night Live." Could not understand a word, but boy could he swing his hair.

David Segal: He's a phenom that guy and get a good look at him because in a few months, maybe less, his shtick could seen pretty old. I think it's sort of a good shtick, for the time being. The blood thing from the nose thing is pretty cool and there's zero pretense about him, which is refreshing.

New York, N.Y.: What is your take on the new Luna album released Tuesday? Bit of a change, more upbeat and rocks more than past efforts. Although the "borrowing" of Van Halen's "Jump" worries me after their cover of "Sweet Child 'O Mine" by GnR. What next Dean Wareham singing "Girls, Girls, Girls"?!

David Segal: I like the new Luna album. It's mellow and melodic and easy to grasp and sweet. We've got a smart review of the thing in the paper today.

Why Teen Pop is Here to Stay -- or Not: In all the harrumphing over teen pop, what many fail to mention is that it's not teen pop that's sticking around, it's N'Sync and Britney Spears. Even at its peak, there weren't too many popular purveyors of pablum (to gratuitously use alliteration) -- sure, an O-Town or 98 Degrees would pop up, but eventually, like with any product or concept, a few win out over all. And even Britney's success isn't guaranteed -- her album's done OK, but her singles aren't charting. At the peak of N'Sync and Backstreet Boys, at least among the teenaged girls I knew (mostly cousins and nieces), you liked one or the other -- not both.

Also, you can't overlook demographics. Gen Y (is the next generation Gen Z? Then Gen AA?) is huge, and most of its members are between the ages of 12-16 -- prime teen-pop time. As you noted in your N'Sync review, even the band members (or their handlers) are aware they have to do something to stay relevant as their audience ages. That's a lesson they learned from their forebears.

David Segal: It's true: You can appreciate N Sync until you've seen O Town. Really. If you think that Lance and Joey and Justin have no talent, feast your eyes on the losers from O Town, who are in way over their heads and can't sing or dance as well. Same for Britney's imitators. They're notably worse than her. These people are pros. They make unmemorable music, but they're definitely good at their jobs if you define their jobs as forcing 12 year olds to scream and part with their lunch money.

Bethesda, Md.: A comment not a question, on your recent review of the N'Sync concert: I wish you had chosen an older fan of the group for your article, because they do have plenty of fans over 20. If you were looking for an in-depth guide to the appeal of pop you could have at least have chosen someone who's graduated from middle school. And isn't it worth a mention that "Celebrity" has a different sound than the previous album? That the members of the group have decent, well-trained voices, and can sing in close harmony while running all over the stage? Yes, they're managed, but not more so than most rap/rock/hip-hop acts their age. I agree that the merchandising is out of control, but there might be a reason that quite a few well-established artists have chosen to collaborate with N'Sync. You might not like pop music but that doesn't mean that there's nothing there.

P.S. if you ever want to treat me to a concert, I'm 22 and happy to blather on for ages -- without vomiting!

David Segal: Thanks for the offer. I enjoyed bringing Roxanne to the N Sync show, though I'm afraid that I probably won't be doing that again any time soon, only because you can't use the same gimmick twice. (You've got to find new gimmicks!)

Alas, I think taking a 14 year old was the right way to go because 14 is the target age here. I'm sure you would have had plenty to say, but I wasn't looking for the most articulate person -- though Roxanne is very articulate -- so much as the fan in the core demographic, which she is.

Alexandria, Va.: I am a 48-year-old married man who loves N'Sync, especially Lance.

Did you get a chance to see how incredibly talented Lance is during that N'Sync show that you just reviewed? You didn't mention him at all in your article.

David Segal: Uh, what's up with that? I've never heard of a 48 year old married man who loves Lance. How did this happen?

As for his performance, he struck me as, of all things, shy. The guy is the least goofy one up there, and the least interested in alone time with the crowd. (He took none.) He's definitely got charisma, though

Alexandria, Va.: Did you know that J.C. Chasez of N'Sync is from Bowie, Md.? I never hear about the family. Why don't you go and pretend to be their friends so that you can find out what J.C. is really like and maybe even get to meet him?

David Segal: I'm not sure I could handle meeting J.C.

Ok, maybe I could, but it might be a little late for a profile of the dude. I heard from his mother once after I wrote sort of withering thing about "No Strings Attached." It wasn't that withering, actually, but she wrote to say that she was amused by it. (I asked in the piece whether the band's moms could ground the lads.) She seemed very sweet and good natured about the whole thing.

Edge City: At age 47, Elvis Costello Rocked last night on Letterman. Have you heard the new CD and does it evoke memories of some of his earlier stuff? Looking forward to seeing him June 16 at Wolf Trap.

David Segal: Costello's new album doesn't sound anything like his early work and if you buy it thinking you'll hear Trust, or Get Happy or This Year's Model, you're in for a let down. It's a return to form only in the sense that he's been off the reservation lately and is now back in the realm of pop and rock. It's an interesting album and I need to listen to it more before I say anything else.

City On Down: Segal, lets hear your real thoughts on Sheryl Crow's new album.

Washed up and trying to sound hip? Lets hear you ream her in this forum, not just your article. Will you be seeing her at Merriweather this summer?

P.S, You got your Britney tickets yet?

David Segal: I spoke my piece in my piece, City On Down. Got nothing left to say. I will skip Sheryl and I doubt I'll see Britney either. Wasn't she just here? Doesn't it seem like these pop acts are hustling around the country before their expiration date comes due?

Bowie, Md.: So, did you see Sir Paul last night? Will you be writing about the concert for the Post anytime soon?

I was too poor to buy tickets (Does the man really my $250 when he's already a billionaire?), so I need to live vicariously through someone.

David Segal: Check out the newspaper tomorrow.

I think it's sad that Sir Paul charged 250 for the best seats. I don't understand that.

Laurie: Dave --

Your thoughts on the rock critic from the Cleveland Plain Dealer who just retired after 50 YEARS!

David Segal: SHE RULES!

More on her later in the Style section.

Seattle, Wash.: I would just like to note with sadness the passing of Layne Staley, the lead singer and co-guitarist of Alice in Chains. Here was a quality band whose above-average work included insightful, intelligent lyrics that were about relevant issues; great, memorable riffs and hooks and chords; an energy, simply put; a dark yet not too-depressing view of some things; a sound that was just plain rock 'n' roll, despite attempts by some people to call it "grunge," which is nothing more than a media label. Alice in Chains is a great rock band that produced some great albums, and Layne Staley had a lot to do with that. We'll miss him.

David Segal: Thanks.

Miami, Fla.: Hey Dave!

Just finished reading your N'Sync article. unny and insightful as always.

Here's my theory on why this crap music remains at the forefront of the landscape: It's the economy stupid. Actually, it's the economy, society, and demographics.

Whenever you have a relatively stable economy combined with a youth-dominant demographic that is too young to vote and become engaged in societal issues, you get musical dribble. Just look at the '50s compared to the '60s. There are exceptions of course, but no one can deny the music in the '60s was more enduring.

Now that in 2002 we've got a weakening economy, international uncertainty and terror, and a youth culture that will soon hit 18, things are gonna change -- and fast. Bad for feeling secure about our lives, good for edgy, inspired music.

David Segal: Cool theory. The connection between economic comfort and international security and appetites for pop needs some more research. Seriously. There's something there. Would be interesting to figure out what was going on in England when punk happened. It's always depicted as a godawful place, England in the 70s.

Lexington Park, Md.: Strangest thing at a concert huh? Well, I've always had a fetish for taking off crowd surfer's shoes and throwing them on stage. However, at an HFStival a few years back, I actually took the shoe, lit it on fire and threw it at Courtney Love. I think she liked the thought.

David Segal: Well, you're a very considerate person.

Washington, D.C.: So your take was Sir Paul worth $250.00 per ticket. Did he end up having live circus animals in the act?

David Segal: No circus animals but some weird Cirque de Soleil (sp?) act opened and introduced him. One of the strangest spectacles I've ever seen and not very effective.

Again, I don't know why Paul needs $250 a ticket. It's a shame, isn't it?

La Plata, Md.: Hey Dave. I just bought XM radio and must say that it is the greatest thing I've ever spent money on. There's an entire channel dedicated to music you won't hear anywhere on the radio. But being a metal head, I hang out on the metal station. I was wondering if you know much about Otep. They have a really cool sound and hopefully they'll be coming to our area soon. Thanks, and you rock on with your bad self.

David Segal: Don't know from Otep. I'll check em out.

Washington, D.C.: I once climbed up a fence at a Live concert in York PA in an attempt to reach Ed Kowalczyk (or as my girlfriends and I refer to him, "Mmmmmmmmm...Ed")

I got beaten off the fence by a security guard and knocked out. Ed visited me in the first aid tent after the concert.

And yes, I'd do it again in a heartbeat!!!

David Segal: That's really good. I like it. Ed seems like a good dude, doesn't he?

Vienna, Va.: So Wilco's new CD is great. What about two of my other faves -- Elvis Costello and Paul Westerberg? Are their new albums any good? Or are they just too far over the hill?

David Segal: Hey, I'm getting a lot of questions about this Wilco album. Confession: Haven't even heard it yet. Got my copy in the bag and will open her up once I'm done with Sir Paul. Till then, talk amongst yourselves.

Washington, D.C.: I'm not sure how crazy this is, but my friends still talk about it. I was fortunate (unfortunate?) to catch the bra of a young lady after she ripped it off and threw it while on her boyfriend's shoulders at the Rolling Rock concert two years ago. I proceeded to wear the bra on the outside of my shirt, stuffed with hackey-sacks. I then started telling pretty ladies at the concert that I was a lesbian trapped in a man's body and asked if they wanted to make out with me.

Uhhhhh, it didn't work, and oh yeah, I was drunk.

David Segal: I'm very pleased to know that you were drunk. I would have worried about you otherwise.

That's just good, stupid rock and roll antics, my friend. I like it!

Arlington, Va.: Craziest thing I ever did at a concert: Paid money (though not much) to see Night Ranger.

David Segal: You should get your head examined.

Andrew WK: Zero pretense? Are you kidding? He has no talent. The fact that he has a hit song is more proof positive that talent is not what it takes to make it in the music industry.

David Segal: Hey, do they ALL have to have talent? Can't some rock stars strut on stage as buffoons, make a big noise and then vanish forever? That's what Tiny Tim did, sort of, and we're glad we met that dude. (The Beatles loved Tiny Tim, by the way. Paul briefly imitates him on the White Album.) A novelty act -- nothing wrong with that.

Washington, D.C.: Just want to point out that the $250 that Sir Paul charged was not just for the best seats but for the MAJORITY of seats in the lower level. Having said that I have a feeling that it was a great concert. I just refuse to support this type of pricing structure.

David Segal: Wow. Pretty sad, huh? I should say that there was a buyer's market out in front of MCI last night. Some people bought $85 tix for $15.

Scalping is a wonderful thing by the way. I once got into a Page-Plant show for 25 -- CENTS! Really, some lady just wanted change for a phone call. I was like woo hoo!

Helter Skelter: Apparently, McCartney wanted to out Rock the Rolling Stones...

"in England, home of the Beatles, `helter skelter' is another name for a slide in an amusement park." (This from Helter Skelter, the bestselling book about the Manson murders by prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi.)

The Oxford English Dictionary further clarifies that a helter skelter is "a towerlike structure used in funfairs and pleasure grounds, with an external spiral passage for sliding down on a mat." Recall the opening line: "When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide / Where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride."

It's a joke, get it? The Rolling Stones might do this faux bad-guy thing about putting a knife right down your throat, but the ever-whimsical McCartney figured he'd rock the house singing about playground equipment.

David Segal: You're good.

And you win. We've got your e mail address and we'll be in touch. Congrats. You will soon own the coolest mix CD in the history of mix CDs.

Washington, D.C.: There is a story about Sheryl Crow in the new Rolling Stone, and yet again, it's about how she had a breakdown in the middle of recording her new album. Maybe Ms. Crow needs to take a little time off, because her music ain't worth her going insane.

David Segal: That's true. .Then again maybe it's the mediocrity of the songs that is making her nuts. Actually, I'd guess its the pressure of having to sound young when you're not.

Chicago, Ill.: Strangest thing at a concert -- this wasn't by anymore remotely well-known, but still sticks with me today. In 1988 I went to a 24-hour punkfest in rural Indiana called Rock for No Reason. At one point late in the night, a farmer from across the street comes over to check things out as a band called Dirty Dishes gets drunk and spouts obscenities like a junior Replacements. The farmer (the guy looked just like Mr. Green Jeans, including the hat) says to me and my friends, "Well, I don't mind the music, but I jes cain't stand that filthy language." With that, Dirty Dishes gets filthier and louder than ever, and as the crowd is slamming vociferously, Mr. Green Jeans goes to the side of the stage and starts pounding on it. "BOYS!" he yells. "YOU STOP THAT FOUL LANGUAGE RIGHT NOW! BOYS! LISTEN TO ME! I HAVE A MIND TO WASH YER MOUTHS OUT WITH SOAP! BOYS! ..."

David Segal: Good stuff.

Orange, Va.: I really enjoyed your article about the re-release of an augmented "Last Waltz," but was surprised to see that you didn't highlight Rick Danko's work in the film, singling out instead Helm, Roberson, and (I think) Manual for special mention. My VHS of the original film is well-worn but Rick's vocals and guitar work sound just as fresh and natural as they did on first viewing.

David Segal: Yeah, he sounds great. I should have made more of the dude.

E-Guy: Re: Concert weirdness. Well, it wasn't me, but a long time ago I was at a small-club Iggy Pop show and we were at the very front and when the Ig ventured near the edge of the stage, one of my friends tried to tie the former James Osterberg's shoelaces to each other. Iggy kicked him in the head for his trouble.

David Segal: I hope he didn't stitch up the wound. You need a scar like that. "Oh, yeah, that was from the time Iggy Pop kicked me in the head."

Never too old for rock n roll, USA: My best rock concert crazy.

I gave a girl (who was cold) my jacket at a Heart concert. I met her two months later at a Pat Benatar concert and she gave it back! Of course, we dated for awhile after that.

David Segal: Pretty cool. A friend of a friend has a story about going to a Judas Priest concert and his girlfriend ended up with one of the members of the band. I mean, she actually hit the road with the group that night. And a month later, he learned that she was still out there on the road, but now with a different dude in the band.

Can you imagine how hard on that ego that would be? You go to a show and lose your girl to a dirtball in a metal band?


Cadillac Jack: R.F.K June 21, 1991

Grateful dead, with Steve Miller opening. My first "real" concert.

Lady opens our gate and takes our tickets three hours early by mistake and closes gate behind us.

Run onto field to get front row center, no one else enters stadium but us. We had the field for three hours. Steve Miller was tuning his axe and we got to talk to him.

First Dead show, front row center!

First person in stadium.

-hey lady, thanks for the goof in letting us in early

David Segal: Cool.

"The Last Waltz": Why would they book a great film like that at the Janus? What a godawful place to have to see it.

David Segal: Why would they book any film at the Janus? It's a hole.

Washington, D.C.: Craziest thing I ever did: went to see the Ramones at the Bayou in the early '90s. Found out at the door that there were no tickets left. Heard the Ramones warming up in the room above the door, so I stood on the street and screamed, "Hey, Ramones" -- Joey looked out the window, I told him I couldn't get tickets -- and he got me and my boyfriend in.

David Segal: Ah Joey. He was a mensch, wasn't he?

Did I tell y'all about the time I passed Joe Jackson on the streets of NYC? It was shortly after he'd gotten huge because of I'm the Man and my friend pointed him out. I ran into a bar where he'd headed and walked right up to him -- I was drunk -- and started babbling something like "Hey Joe Jackson I think you're great and grrr bburbble bburrbl." and he cut me off and said, "I think you're being rude."

He was right!

washingtonpost.com: The Gut Appeal of Teen Pop by David Segal, April 23, 2002.
Crow's Feat: Singer Tries Wrinkle-Resistant Formula April 17, 2002.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Why is it that the Tragically Hip can sell out EVERYWHERE they go in Canada but play small venues like the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC and the Norva in Norfolk?

David Segal: Aren't they Canadian? That might explain it.

$15 huh?: I've got to start hanging around outside of concerts when I want to see somebody who thinks you should mortgage your house to see them live. What in the #-$#! are artists thinking to charge that much? Don't they realize that not everyone has the cash flow that they do?

David Segal: My guess, and I'll put this in the review tomorrow, is that Paul has Pollstar on his mind, the publication that lists all the revenue results for all the tours. If you sell enough tix you get on the list and i think Paul wants to prove that he drain cash just as well as the youngin's. Why else charge that much? Unless you're giving it all away to a registered charity and all you need is a pint a day.

Washington, D.C.: So did you talk to Roxanne the day after the concert? Was she still stoked? I remember seeing my favorites -- ZZ Topp, the Band, young Clapton -- and floating for days afterward. Not to compare the boys with any of them.

David Segal: I talked to Roxanne yesterday and she sounded like she'd gone straight back to the slightly disaffected, fed up with the rest of the world young lady that I knew before N Sync hit the stage. But she'd gotten some good feedback at school, including a teacher who walked up to her and said, "Did you know you were in the Post today."

"My teacher is stupid," Roxanne explained.

She seemed happy about the experience, which I'm glad about. She said the story had enhanced her coolness at school. Nothing wrong with that.

Re: Being Rude: Didn't you also tell us that while drunk you tried to give Bob Mould a wedgie and he slugged you? Too much.

David Segal: Hee hee...

Washington, D.C.: Recently picked up the new Ben Kweller CD and have to admit I'm totally into it. Your take?

David Segal: Haven't listened to the album, but I did see his show recently at 9:30. Not bad. He can write a song, that guy and he has a gentle, thoughtful and wise presence about him.

Discussing John Mayer: Pop Pop Goes The Segal The Segal (a la 3rd Bass)

Just want to know if you've now become familiar with John Mayer. Few weeks/months back you hadn't heard of him.

Now on Carson Daly, Leno, E!, dc101, z104, 95.5, played when I walk in Target stores, etc., etc.

David Segal: I find John Mayer a little snoozy and quiet for my taste.

Bethesda, Md.: Thanks for posting my comment. One question, though - when you say 'targeted' and 'core demographic', do you mean that 14 is the average age of fans, or do you mean targeted like 'they are writing/singing for 14 year olds'. Because with the amount of sexual imagery in the new stuff, I would hope it's directed towards slightly older people. Because I don't care if my little sister hears that stuff but I'd be a little disturbed if it was written with her in mind, you know? (ex: Up Against The Wall) And I would argue that it's not.

David Segal: N Sync are pretty tepid in the sex department. Most of its about love and crushes and heartbreak. I don't hear a lot of explicit stuff there, nothing that a parent would worry about. That's what is so harmless about the music -- it's almost Disney. I think the last show by N Sync, the one Sunday, was even less racy than the one last summer, which included some humping action which got a big reaction but seemed a bit lurid to me, in context.

You know Joey Fatone is a dad. These guys aren't exactly kids.

Washington, D.C.: A friend of mine was spit on and kicked by Kim Gordon, while trying to get on stage. At 27 it remains a high point of his life.

David Segal: Rightly so!

Alexandria, Va.: So come on Dave, spill the details about your date with a 14-year-old. You know, all the stuff you left out of the paper.

David Segal: Let's just say that Roxanne and I were married yesterday in a civil ceremony in Las Vegas. The event was witnessed by a guy on a roll at the slots and a bell boy at the Bellagio. I'm writing this from the MGM Grand, where I'll be honeymooning for the next week.

Thank you 'N Sync!

Charlottesville, Va.: what's up with everyone bashing andrew WK? Were you people really so happy with the direction mainstream rock was going? Do you feel like "Party Hard" will distract people from more serious opuses, like, say, Staind's next album?

Andrew WK makes exuberant, stupid rock and roll. That's exactly what rock needs right now. I mean, come on, he uses FOUR guitars in his live show, despite using mainly piano-driven melodies. Unless you're the Eagles, you have to know how ridiculous that is.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm more excited about the new Wilco than about Mr. WK. But not only will Jeff Tweedy never be on TRL, he has been notably silent on the issue of partying. Andrew WK is a musical big dumb grin.

David Segal: Amen.

I think we should send Andrew W.K. to the Middle East. Hell, it can't hurt. And maybe everyone there will be so freaked out and happy about his act that they'll make peace.

Oh, it's a long shot, but worth a try.

Angry Young Man: Hey Dave,

just picked up the new Elvis Costello and Wilco records and am currently digesting. Any thoughts on either? I can't believe it took so long for this Wilco record to get released, its very good.

By the way, thanks for the heads up on The Shins. They are amazing!

Adios, muchacho!

David Segal: The Shins are great, huh?

More on Wilco and Elvis next time.

Burke, Va.: Went to see Crystal Gayle in the late 70s at the Cellar Door. Sat in the Balcony and had too many drinks. She came on stage and I moaned rather loudly through her show. Got to meet her backstage afterwards and she ripped me a new one for the moaning. Deserved it I guess.

David Segal: I like it.

My friend heckled Sam Kinneson once and the guy made a crack about my friend's mom that can't be posted on a family site. One of the great shut up moments in shut up history.

Why the hell were you moaning through a Crystal Gayle show?

The shmuck standing next to me last night at Sir Paul's show was singing the whole time. Can you imagine? I'm trying to hear on of the great voices in pop history sing songs like Yesterday and Can't Buy Me Love and I've got a joker howling in my ear.

Also he thought the start of every song was Rocky Racoon. He was like, "Hey, Rocky Racoon!" Paul never played the song.

Topic for next time: Jerk fans you've sat near.

So I'm done for now, people. Thanks for playing our game, for sharing, for doing the voodoo.

Till next time,

Rock on with your bad selves.

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