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.

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.

4 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.

Greg

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.

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