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Wax Trax! Records & Opinions on Beyoncé

Jim and Greg look back at the legacy of the revered Chicago label Wax Trax! Records. They're joined by influential industrial musicians Paul Barker and Chris Connelly.

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Everyone loves a steal, even corporations. Specific Media recently got quite a deal in procuring MySpace. News Corp. purchased the website in 2005 for $580 million; now they‘ve unloaded it for $35 million. It’s proof that MySpace doesn't have the cultural cache it once did. But Justin Timberlake is doing his best to fix that. The pop singer and actor (who incidentally portrayed Facebook's Sean Parker) will work with the new owners to“rebuild and reinvigorate”the site. But websites are like reality stars – it's rare to get more than fifteen minutes of fame.

Speaking of cheap deals, pop music is anything but. Planet Money recently tallied the costs that went into making Rihanna's "Man Down" a hit. Between the big name songwriters, producers and expensive promotion, the dollar amount comes to $1,078,000. As Greg explains, this is nothing new. Record companies were spending this kind of dough twenty years ago. But at that time the returns were much greater. To spend a million on a song that might make two to three million? The math doesn't add up.

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Wax Trax!

People in Chicago of a certain age fondly remember strolling down Lincoln Avenue into Wax Trax! Records. It was the epicenter of cutting edge culture in the 1980s. But even if you weren‘t there to sample goods from the record store and label, you’re familiar with its influence. Owners Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher created a world headquarters for artists who bridged disco, house, electronic, punk, and industrial music. Acts like Ministry, Front 242, RevCo, Underworld, KMFDM, and My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult went on to sell millions of records internationally. Nash died in 1995 and Flesher in 2010. A year later, Wax Trax friends and family celebrated its 33 1/3 anniversary at Metro in Chicago. Two key players in that scene were Chris Connelly and Paul Barker. They share their memories of Wax Trax with Jim and Greg.

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Beyoncé 4

Beyoncé's got her fourth album and her fourth number one…aptly named 4. With this record, she's earned her stripes, so rumors swirled that she was indulging her whims production-wise by collaborating with Diplo and Fela Kuti and recording upwards of seventy songs. But,rumors were just that, and of those seventy tracks, Beyoncé picked some doozies. Greg hears more soul on the ballads, but otherwise is disappointed by the hodge podge of bad choices. Jim can't even get behind the ballads and calls 4 the epitomy of factory-made pop product. 4 = 2 Trash Its.

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Greg

“Personality Crisis”New York Dolls

Jim and Greg sail away to the Desert Island Jukebox, and it's Greg's turn to choose a song. He wants to return to the high point of the New York Dolls. They're still making music today, but it's nothing Jim and Greg want to remember. Greg goes back to 1973's "Personality Crisis," which showcases what was so amazing about the Dolls: Johnny Thunder's guitar, Syl Sylvain's pop smarts, and David Johansen's charisma. People called the group "glam," but Greg credits them as the 1st punk band, giving way to the Sex Pistols.

Featured Songs

  1. Henry Mancini, Peter Gunn, Music from Peter Gunn, RCA Victor, 1959
  2. AC/DC, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Atco, 1976
  3. Rihanna, Man Down, Loud, Def Jam, 2010
  4. Ministry, Everyday (Is Halloween), All Day/Everyday (Is Halloween), Wax Trax! Records, 1985
  5. Blackouts, Everglades, History in Reverse, K, 2004
  6. Revolting Cocks, Big Sexyland, Big Sexy Land, TVT Records, 1986
  7. The Birthday Party, The Dim Locator, Junkyard, Buddha Records, 1982
  8. Front 242, Take One, Endless Riddance, Wax Trax! Records, 1983
  9. KMFDM, Juke Joint Jezebel, Nihil, Wax Trax! Records, 1995
  10. Fini Tribe, I Want More, Black Box: A Video Retrospective, Vol. 2, TVT Records, 1994
  11. Lard, The Power of Lard, The Power of Lard, Alternative Tentacles, 1988
  12. Pailhead, I Will Refuse, I Will Refuse (12‘’), Wax Trax! Records, 1987
  13. Revolting Cocks, Stainless Steel Providers, Stainless Steel Providers, TVT Records, 1989
  14. Nine Inch Nails, Head Like a Hole, Pretty Hate Machine, TVT Records, 1989
  15. Ministry, You Know What You Are, The Land of Rape and Honey, Sire, 1988
  16. Throbbing Gristle, Still Walking, 20 Jazz Funk Greats, Mute, 1979
  17. My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, …And This Is What the Devil Does, I See Good Spirits & I See Bad Spirits, Wax Trax! Records, 1988
  18. Pailhead, No Bunny, Trait, Wax Trax! Records, 1988
  19. Minimal Contact, Next One Is Real, Deadly Weapons, Crammed Discs, 1984
  20. Beyoncé, Run the World (Girls), 4, Columbia, 2011
  21. Beyoncé, Best Thing I Never Had, 4, Columbia, 2011
  22. New York Dolls, Personality Crisis, New York Dolls, Mercury, 1973
  23. Chromeo, Call Me Up, Fancy Footwork, Backyard Records, 2007
  24. Bon Iver, Calgary, Bon Iver, Bon Iver, Jagjaguwar, 2011
  25. k.d. lang, The Water's Edge, Sing It Loud, Nonesuch, 2011
  26. Yep, Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long Long Time), Once, Yep, 2011
  27. Le Butcherettes, I'm Getting Sick of You, Sin, Sin, Sin, Rodriguez Lopez Productions, 2011

Footnotes

wsj.com News Corp. sells Myspace npr.org Costs of Making“Man Down”a Hit bigcartel.com Wax Trax beyonce.com Beyonce