Fish Nation Information Station

News from the world of music, entertainment, communications, and technology.


Record FAWM Yields 14k Songs

February Album Writing Month, an online songwriting challenge known to participants as FAWM, logged a record level of activity in February 2024, with some 14,726 new songs written. Part of the boost compared to past years can be attributed to increased participation in “skirmishes,” one-hour writing challenges that gained a streamlined interface on the web site this year. Eighteen percent of this year’s songs were these one-hour songs.



A new Christmas album from operatic heavy metal singer Tarja Turunen, Dark Christmas, features a mix of original tunes and classical-leaning takes on familiar holiday classics.

Robin Taylor Zander, a supporting musician in Cheap Trick and the son of that band’s lead singer, has a solo album now. The Distance has a post-Beatles rock ethos not too far removed from Cheap Trick’s sound.

Is it over for National Novel Writing Month? The site abruptly locked down a week into the recent month-long challenge amid rumors of criminal conduct and coverup. An apologetic but testy statement from the board of directors a few days later only added to the confusion. The organization appears to have stopped accepting donations, and though parts of the site remain online, they are not functioning normally. Some participants have described completing the challenge on their own.

Google has never deleted abandoned accounts, but will start doing so today. The change is necessary to meet privacy concerns, the company says. Accounts inactive for two years or longer will be deleted one by one over the next few weeks. Deletions will include photos, YouTube videos, and Blogger blogs belonging to the accounts.



A new 11-track Paul Nordquist album Dust + Starlight is coming on November 17. The album boasts a polished progressive pop sound. It also has an AI-generated cover design.

Tagged “the last Beatles song,” “Now and Then” depended on AI tools to clean up the original piano demo cassette recorded by John Lennon. Guitar parts were added by George Harrison in the 1990s, but the Beatles decided not to release the song at that time. A short film walks viewers through the unique production process for the song that spanned half a century.

Yamaha is showing its FGDP electronic drum multipads. Optimized for playing drum set sounds with fingertips, the new units have more playing surfaces and better touch response than other small-format multipads. No release date was announced, which hints that the new instruments will be available early in 2024.

Apple introduced its M3 processors, the successor to the M2 and M1 processors in its current computer models. The M3 is made slightly smaller than the M2, and that provides 15 percent gains in processing speed and energy efficiency. A redesigned neural engine provides a boost for language processing and pattern matching.

After all shows sold out, U2 has extended its run at the Sphere in Las Vegas with several additional dates early in 2024.



While critics marvel at the lighter weight of the titanium shells in the latest phone designs, the more meaningful and useful changes in the world of iPhone arrived in the new version of iOS. An improved and expanded autocorrect feature makes better guesses at the words and phrases you are typing, even if you mix multiple languages. There are also improvements in missed-call handling and a new nightstand mode, in which the phone serves as a passive display when propped up on a stand.

The Sphere is the new concert venue in Las Vegas featuring a video screen across the interior of a large spherical structure. It cost $2 billion to build, so to make sure the world hears about it, when it opened September 29 it was with a residency by U2. The show drew rave reviews for the large-scale overhead visuals, the finely tuned audio system, and U2’s uncanny ability to create an intimate feeling in a venue that has a ceiling height of more than 100 meters.



Peloton, the combined fitness media and equipment company, is still struggling to find a workable business model. The latest headache at the company is a product recall after the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found that the bicycle seat of Peloton’s original exercise bicycle tends to shear off when in use. Hundreds of mishaps and dozens of injuries requiring hospital treatment were reported. The resulting product recall is costing the company on the order of 1 billion dollars, part of that to make and ship the replacement parts, and part of it in lost revenue as customers suspend subscriptions for months while waiting for the new parts to arrive. Analysts are divided on whether Peloton has a broken business model or simply a series of management failures.

Newly released court documents show that Twitter was fined $350,000 for its part in obstructing an investigation into a criminal organization. Instead of complying with a routine subpoena in January, Twitter filed a secret court case challenging it, apparently as a delay tactic. There is nothing to indicate Twitter’s motives in seeking to protect the criminal suspects in the case.

Barbie is this summer’s hottest movie and Warner Brothers’ biggest movie of all time, with estimated global box office approaching $1.4 billion. That is roughly half of the all-time biggest movie Avatar at $2.9 billion.

A new album from The Flower Kings, Look at You Now, is set for release next week. The advance track “The Dream” caught fans by surprise when it was release three weeks ago.



The new Rick Springfield album Automatic, set for release August 4, is said to combine current sensibilities with hints of the artist’s 1980s sound. The retro stylings are appropriate to the summer package tour that Rick Springfield is spearheading, that also features the Hooters, Paul Young, and other artists who found major success in the music video format during the mid 1980s. The tour starts in Youngstown, Ohio, on August 4 and is scheduled to conclude with six mid September shows in California.

Another California-based rock guitarist associated with the 1980s also has an album coming up. Details of the Trevor Rabin album Rio are still being pieced together by the artist and the InsideOutMusic label, but the worldwide release date is set for October 6. Although Trevor has maintained a busy career in music, this will be his first solo album featuring his singing voice since the 1980s. An advance single, “Big Mistakes,” will be heard on August 4.

Twitter is officially no more, with the company renamed and adult users automatically migrated to the new platform, known both as “X” and “” The company promises that X will eventually become an “everything” platform, but the new name alludes to its aspirations as a pornography hub and crypto exchange. The growing emphasis on adult content has the X mobile app restricted to users 17 and older.

Death: Sinéad O'Connor, singer.



If you’re seeing error messages from Twitter and starting to think the platform has shut down, that impression would be only partly correct. Bizarrely, Twitter announced changes in a series of tweets that most users can no longer see, as the public is now locked out of the platform entirely. Registered users and paid subscribers face draconian data caps that limit their time on the platform to a few minutes per day. Advertising counts against the new daily data caps, which means that Twitter advertisers, if they can get into the system at all, are finding that many of their newest ads are not being seen. Twitter blames its users for the problem, accusing them of what it calls “extreme data scraping.” During its recent downward spiral, Twitter has characterized most platform changes as temporary, including this one.

The newly upgraded Mac Studio computer boasts more processing power than the most powerful Mac of a decade ago, but in a box the size of a sandwich that uses less than 370 watts of power and is “whisper quiet” in operation.

The new Yusuf/Cat Stevens album King of a Land is a carefully crafted return to the streamlined folk-rock sound that brought the singer to prominence in the early 1970s.

The new Sparks album The Girl is Crying in Her Latte puts the band’s wit at the forefront, with minimalistic music tracks that won’t distract from the band’s character portrayals and observational humor.



Band Geeks, the pick-up band whose main claim to fame previously was a note-for-note re-recording of the Yes Close to the Edge album, found itself touring with the original singer of that album as a special guest. The short tour with Jon Anderson was timed to coincide with the publicity surrounding the release of the new Yes album Mirror To The Sky.

The shuttering of weight loss brand Jenny Craig is the latest sign of the difficulty of relying on television marketing to reach U.S. consumers. On top of the decline in the television audience, television’s reputation has declined, with consumers increasingly seeing it as belonging to a past era. The cable TV-based retail house QVC is also struggling to hold its own, with revenue down 5–17 percent from the year before in its latest report.

Death: Tina Turner, rock singer.



A Stanford study concluded that the recent tech layoff trend is copycat behavior. It doesn’t accomplish anything, the author argues. The layoffs don’t cut costs because the companies are mostly not actually cutting product lines and canceling initiatives.

In an otherwise strong earnings report, Meta revealed a $4 billion loss on its namesake retro VR goggles. The company’s core social media advertising business is starting to come back after a series of privacy-related challenges in 2022.



A new Yes album is on the way. The first single “Cut from the Stars,” out now, is all that is really known of the new album Mirror to the Sky, set for a May 19 release. The band and production process are the same as the last album The Quest, or as much as one could hope after the death of the band’s longest-serving member, drummer Alan White. Guitarist Steve Howe is again serving as producer and overseeing the creative process, while songs are being written mainly by collaborations among two or three band members. Fans are enthusiastic about the advance single, which has a driving rhythm and two-part vocal harmony reminiscent of the 1977 album Going for the One.

As a sign of how rapidly Twitter is dismantling its platform, the company announced that it was removing the ability to tweet, or to write short text posts that would be seen by one’s friends and followers on the platform. Twitter walked back that decision after two days, but it remains to be seen how reliably Twitter will deliver tweets from the people a user has chosen to follow, on a platform increasingly dominated by corporate content and advertising. As an example, the United States’ National Weather Service has warned that its emergency weather advisories are at risk of being removed by Twitter’s new automated censorship algorithms.

The final show of the final Transatlantic tour yielded a live album, The Final Flight: Live At L’Olympia, out now two years after the progressive rock supergroup’s fifth studio album The Absolute Universe. While not ruling out any future work together, the band members have said they don’t envision anything further.



The crisis at YouTube got serious enough to lead to the demotion of its CEO. The video platform’s experiments in overloading viewers with excessive and often hyper-toxic advertising in 2022 drove almost half of US viewers away, leading to a sharp drop in advertising revenue. Meanwhile, continuing confusion about allowable content and the inability to grow audience on a declining platform has discouraged channel owners.

Selling products on television is no longer a winning strategy for Qurate. The owner of QVC and HSN reported revenue down 10–14 percent compared to the disastrous year-ago quarter, and the company does not appear to have a path back to profitability.

The NFL is holding its own, with the Super Bowl audience holding nearly steady while the rest of U.S. television slowly declines.

“The Girl Is Crying in Her Latte” is the name of the new single and forthcoming album from Sparks. The band plans a tour of the U.K in May, Europe in June, and the U.S. and Japan in July.

Billy Squier appeared to be teasing a newly recorded studio single this week. If it comes to pass, it would be his first in nearly three decades.

The question of where users would go after the demise of Twitter appears to have been mistaken. The largest population of former Twitter users can be found on Mastodon, but it is hardly a mass migration, with fewer than a fifth of active Twitter users having made the move. That is still enough to tower over Twitter itself, which is estimated to have reduced its active user base to 1/40 of what it was a year ago. The real story is simply that people have stopped tweeting.



Spotify announced across-the-board layoffs of 6 percent of staff along with the executive in charge of podcasting. The streaming platform’s growth efforts hit a brick wall as it tried to make the jump from music to what it thought would be a more lucrative niche in podcasts. Music fans and advertisers were not persuaded to make that switch.

User engagement and ad spending on Twitter fell by more than half in December as most features of the social media platform went dark.

New rock albums are coming soon from: Jethro Tull, dipping their toes into the Nordic folk music tradition on Rökflöte, 2023-04-21. Last in Line, showing a more mature band sound on their third album Jericho, 2023-03-31. Riverside, exploring the theme of psychic influences on ID.Entity, out now.

Deaths: Jeff Beck, rock guitarist. Robbie Bachman, drummer of Bachman Turner Overdrive.



Auto manufacturers are changing their tune. Far from the action-adventure music of past auto commercials, the new commercials are more likely to feature music that is simple, upbeat, and reassuring.

Twitter has defied skeptics by keeping its social media platform online after firing 70–90 percent of its engineering staff last year, but it is doing so by chipping away at the core features of the platform. The Spaces feature was taken offline permanently a month ago. Now the company is taking steps to reduce the availability of news stories, links, and direct messages. After banning users for posting links to traditional news outlets, the company issued a statement hinting that in the near future, external links will be a feature available only to advertisers. The direct message feature will apparently be limited to paid subscribers and will no longer allow links.

Stock prices fell sharply in 2022 for the largest Internet and media companies, in recognition of these sectors’ diminishing influence on consumers. Netflix fell by more than half as subscribers got bored of the streaming-movies format; Meta fell by almost two thirds as it struggled to sell its retro-styled VR goggles to social media users.



A new PG Roxette Christmas single has two songs, “Wish You The Best For Xmas” and “Wishing On The Same Christmas Star.” This release comes only a month after the first album from the band.

With supply difficulties at two factories in China, Apple is planning to move manufacturing of some silicon to Arizona and some iPhones to India. The move could take a few years to complete and is not expected to affect current products.

While the U.S. TV business continues its slow decline, the NFL seems immune to the trend. NFL ratings show only a 1–4 percent audience loss compared to last season. With other categories in decline, American football is emerging as the dominant programming category in U.S. television.

Death: Fleetwood Mac’s pop songwriter, singer, and keyboard player, Christine McVie.



The next Journey album will be a live album. Live in Concert at Lollapalooza documents the band’s 2021 show at the music festival in Chicago. A December 9 release is planned.

Journey will be touring with Toto in a three-month tour across the United States between February and April.

Under new ownership, Twitter is preparing to fire half to two thirds of its engineers and other staff in a cost-cutting move. Until recently a social media giant, Twitter has lost most of its users and advertisers and is expected to go offline at some point while the company prepares a revamped platform oriented toward cryptocurrency transactions. In statements, it has promised that “Twitter 2.0” will be rebuilt from the ground up.

Death: Country singer Loretta Lynn, remembered for hits such as “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”



The new “MagSafe” cases and jackets from Apple and other suppliers allow the latest iPhone models to charge faster with the “wireless” magnetic charger connection.

The recent Def Leppard stadium tour is a model to imitate for large-scale music tours in a post-pandemic era. Many shows sold out, and two set venue records for attendance. Meanwhile, aside from a string of rainy weather early in the tour, there were few disruptions and no shows that had to be rescheduled. Artistically, the band was in the best form it had been in its touring career.

The new PG Roxette album now has a release date. The album featuring Roxette songwriter Per Gessle and other Roxette members is out October 28. The advance single “Walking on Air” is out now.



Yes is marking the 50th anniversary of its Close to the Edge album in its tour this year, with dates this month in Japan and in the United States starting next month. The U.S. tour will be preceded by a tribute concert to late drummer Alan White in White’s adopted hometown of Seattle, where Yes will join a bill that includes many other musicians connected to White’s career.

As the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic ease, music tours are seeing many more sold-out shows. Another new sight is the occasional musician touring while recovering from a bout of COVID-19. Current U.S. guidelines call for a quarantine as short as three days for a person whose symptoms are mild and improving or where there are no symptoms, far shorter than the two week quarantine that was the norm with any positive test a year ago. Some countries’ guidelines are more strict, and some less so. Test requirements for many border crossings have been eliminated since the beginning of July.

Though ticket sales — and ticket prices for some events — are up sharply from last year, the sold-out shows are happening mainly because the number of live shows is still down by about half from the peak levels before the pandemic. With a continuing shortage of truck drivers and high prices for tour buses, the number of tours will not easily return to those peak levels. These supply issues will limit the number of tours and shows for the the next two years and maybe longer.

Death: Olivia Newton-John, singer whose long list of pop hits started in the 1970s.



Amazon revealed that it cut 100,000 jobs in June, saying the company had become overextended after rapid growth in online shopping suddenly turned into a decline last November. In business terms, this is the biggest sign so far that a turnaround in online shopping is not expected anytime soon. Another surprise in the Amazon report was that most of its divisions are not making a profit, with the notable exception of advertising.

Online advertising is still growing, but not nearly as fast as last year. A few of the giant internet companies have announced layoffs, but most say they will simply slow hiring as revenue growth is expected around a 6 percent annual rate.



Online shopping hit a peak in November 2021 and has been declining ever so slightly in the months since. One consequence of this plateau is that the long waits for delivery from the warehouse are now much shorter. In 2021, facing an unexpected wave of orders, Amazon routinely estimated times of five weeks or longer to pack an order and ship it out. With fewer orders and having had time to catch up, the retailer now packs most orders in three days or less.

Rock tours have been going more smoothly since last month. Relaxed COVID-19 testing requirements at many borders now mean that tours can pass between countries without the risk of a two-week delay.

The perceived risks of crowded indoor concerts mean that performers and fans are looking at the summer touring season as their best chance for live music.

Early reactions suggest that the new Mac Studio, a double-height version of the Mac mini desktop computer, is not the production workhorse that recording studios and movie producers have been waiting for. Limitations of memory and hard disk storage have most users waiting for the rumored half-size Mac Pro, which was previously expected to be released this year. The rumored system would be similar in most ways to the Mac Studio, but with a much larger case that would allow two internal hard disk drives (or maybe four, the same as the current Mac Pro) and an internal optical drive.

Death: Yes drummer Alan White. In addition to his 48 years in Yes, he was the leader of White and played in the Plastic Ono Band and Circa. He appeared on the John Lennon song “Imagine” and on albums by Gary Wright, George Harrison, John Wetton, and many others.



Apple is discontinuing the last iPod model when stocks are depleted, which could be after Christmas. The iPhone SE or iPad mini will be the closest substitute available for users.

The first album from PG Roxette is coming soon. The band includes seven musicians from Roxette, but with a name change after the 2019 death of Roxette’s lead singer, Marie Fredriksson. If the vocals will not be the same, the band has made a studied effort to duplicate the sound of its heavier period in the mid-1990s at the peak of their touring success. This style is especially evident on the new single, “The Loneliest Girl in the World,” which despite the title is a bouncy, optimistic rock song about going on a quest. An album is coming together for a September release, with a tour to follow. PG Roxette was previously heard only on a 2021 Metallica covers project playing “Nothing Else Matters.”



If festivals and single-country tours have halfway returned to normal, international tours are still being postponed. The risk of a two-week quarantine when passing from one country to another makes it too risky for many bands to plan a tour where they will spend only one night or one week in a country before going on to the next. On this kind of tour, one border crossing could erase three to five countries from the itinerary.

Twitter pretty much imploded on news of a planned sale to a billionaire-investor. The hostile takeover by a right-wing culture-war figure led to rush for the exits with a million users deleting accounts in what seemed like a few hours. A much larger number of accounts simply went silent, with users perhaps deleting their history and removing their profile pictures. Follower counts suggest that the dropoff was most extreme in the United States, where right-wing political figures lost 10 to 20 percent of followers in one day. All prominent accounts saw declines, though. The service has been eerily quiet in the week since, especially when viewed from the United States. Mainstream media and political officeholder accounts are still posting at least half as often as before, but most accounts have not been posting at all.

YouTube startled investors when parent company Alphabet reported earnings. YouTube numbers for views, channels, advertisements, and other activity metrics were down enough to put a damper on the company’s total earnings and future prospects, sending the stock down more than 10 percent. YouTube executives said viewers had fled to TikTok, though this was perhaps only a handy excuse. TikTok numbers were not up by much, and more direct competitors such as Netflix and Amazon also reported declines. It appears that viewers are spending less time in total watching video.



To record the lockdown album Diamond Star Halos, Def Leppard did simultaneous recording in three countries. The result is an album of brash party music. It is scheduled for release May 27; a single, “Kick,” is out now.

The new Fixx album Every Five Seconds is set for release June 3. The first single, “Closer,” is out now.

A new ZZ Top album Raw and US tour are on the way this summer.

Yes is starting to set dates for a summer tour featuring songs from the album Close to the Edge. The album, released 48 years ago, spotlights the guitar more than any other album in the Yes catalog.

BeforeAfter is the title of the new Daryl Hall compilation out today. The two CDs contain tracks from five solo albums and the Live From Daryl’s House series. Two of the latter will be the first two singles from the album. A tour will start soon and feature Todd Rundgren, who was one of the most noted guests in the early years of Live From Daryl’s House.

Death: Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins.



With COVID-19 cases falling back to the levels of the first half of January, many music tours that were suspended or delayed are going back on the calendar. The Chicks, Brooks & Dunn, and Sigur Rós are the latest major groups to surprise fans with a tour announcement.

Musicians and celebrities in Russia are prevented from speaking out about that country’s latest military adventure in Ukraine, but many Russian-born musicians now living in other countries have made public statements in support of Ukraine and the victims of the war. Interruptions in payments and transportation between Russia and the rest of the world will make it impractical for foreign bands to tour Russia for the foreseeable future.

Deaths: Ian McDonald, founding member of Foreigner and King Crimson. Gary Brooker, founder, lead singer, pianist, and composer for Procol Harum.



Record-high levels of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations following the holiday season have caused tremendous difficulty in every area of economic life with an estimated 5 percent of U.S. workers sidelined at some point in January, and live music is affected more than most. Music venues were closed for weeks in many locations, though some have since reopened. Most in live music are betting that conditions will be better by April, so there aren’t so many one-year postponements when shows have to be delayed.

The new Jethro Tull album The Zealot Gene looks at the forces that lead people to take up extreme or combative positions. Songs illustrate that this kind of reaction may be a part of human nature and is not specific to the current era.

Death: Meat Loaf, rock singer famous for “I Would Do Anything for Love.” He was 74.



A short year-end Gogo’s tour was scrapped after a tour member tested positive for COVID-19. All shows will be rescheduled. It has become a expected part of music tours that pandemic precautions will cancel a week or two of shows along the way, usually after touring personnel contract COVID-19. Experience shows that it is practical to conduct a tour with this level of uncertainty. Fans are starting to recognize the risks they assume when they travel to a concert, festival, or cruise and are becoming more reluctant to plan to attend shows farther than an hour from home. Fans face both the risk that their own travel leads to a positive COVID-19 test, excluding them from attending, and the risk that the show itself will be rescheduled after they have already traveled to it.

In professional team sports, an event depends on more than 100 people, so the infection risks are higher than a music tour. With teams sidelined for weeks at a time, professional basketball, hockey, and football leagues are struggling to deliver a competitive season that means anything.

Cruise ships are operating in large numbers again, but with COVID-19 outbreaks reported on close to 100 ships, it is not yet clear whether the cruise business is viable for operators or worth the risk for vacationers.

Taylor Swift ruled the pop music scene in 2021, as rerecordings of early albums drew in a new generation of fans.



Britney Spears is officially a free woman again. The conservatorship that controlled her assets, home, and working life effectively ended in August and was officially terminated by a court in November.

The new Adele album 30 may be the biggest of the year based on its advance attention and first-week chart performance.

The number of deaths that occurred at the Travis Scott Astroworld music festival on November 5 is officially unknown, but ten deaths have been confirmed so far, and the debacle now looks likely to end the rapper’s career. Eyewitness accounts on social media described two layers of bodies across a part of the area that was supposed to be standing room for the audience, so the numbers could be higher. Early estimates of liability from the event have been in the range of $1 billion. Of the 50,000 attendees, between 1 and 2 percent were injured seriously enough to need medical attention, and the hour that went by before promoters noticed and responded has been taken as a sign of indifference. A social media firestorm focused on a history of similar injuries at Scott performances as another possible sign of indifference. Scott has done nothing to reframe the narrative.

Foo Fighters are preparing a major U.S. tour, but the band will not be appearing in Minneapolis after the venue there reportedly was unable to put COVID-19 safety protocols in place.

Journey, Billy Idol, and Toto have announced a major 2022 tour between February and May. The 40-date tour includes 38 U.S. shows and 2 in Canada. Toto’s participation shows that that band has recovered the touring rights to its name. Journey canceled all shows and refunded all tickets at the beginning of the pandemic, a move that put the band in a better position to launch a new tour.



Abba returns with the new album Voyage and single “Bumblebee.” The band’s sound is slightly larger than their previous works 40 years ago, but fans will be reassured that the sound has not really changed.

The new Eclipse album Wired seeks to extend the momentum the band gained from a live album and new studio single last year.



Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, the two featured singers of Kiss, both tested positive for COVID-19, apparently contracted at the same show. The current tour was suspended for two weeks to allow testing of the entire band and crew. Everyone was cleared, and the canceled shows were rescheduled for the middle of October. Both Kiss singers said they had no symptoms and were protected by their respective vaccinations.

Tours suspended two weeks out is the latest trend in live music. This often happens after symptoms or positive COVID-19 test results. Some bands do not want to disclose the test results of tour personnel, and in those cases the cancellation is attributed to “an abundance of caution” about the health of the band, staff, and fans in the current pandemic. Low ticket sales as fans also are being cautious mean that tours have little incentive to forge ahead when infections are found. The recent Ministry tour is one example of a tour called off after COVID-19 concerns.

The 50th anniversary Judas Priest tour did not fare much better. The tour kicked off in Reading, Pennsylvania, on September 8 with an ambitious itinerary ahead, but was called off on September 27 when guitarist Richie Faulkner was hospitalized with a heart problem. COVID-19 can be a risk factor for any heart condition, but the band did not state that connection.

Judas Priest offshoot KK’s Priest is having better luck, if only because the band, which features two former Judas Priest stars, is in full album promotion mode and did not have a tour planned yet. The delay was an inevitable result of singer Tim “Ripper” Owens’ busy work schedule. The lyrics on the album Sermons of the Sinner have drawn widespread attention with their direct, almost cartoonish messages, though some heavy metal purists have griped at the heavy-handed irony in some of the songs.

A major tour that is going ahead without disruptions is the Genesis tour. Plans had already been postponed because of the health of two band members, and then most scheduled shows were postponed twice because of the pandemic. The tour is getting rave reviews for the power and precision of the sound, which is said to be a notch above any previous tour by the band.

Britney Spears was effectively freed from the conservatorship that has dogged her for most of her career. This legal arrangement had given her no say about where she could live or where and when she worked. It also limits her access to her income, though Britney had not challenged that aspect of the conservatorship. The conservatorship was put in place on sketchy grounds to begin with — for example, that the singer had smoked cigarettes and had a failed marriage. A public outcry finally forced the court to suspend the conservatorship yesterday. Britney plans to marry now that she is legally entitled to. A forensic audit will follow to try to recover any funds that were misdirected or mishandled during the conservatorship.

How determined is Taylor Swift to get fans to see her updated recordings of her classic albums as the definitive versions of those albums? The singer is said to have signed 60,000 CDs for fans in recent months. There is a lot of money at stake, as Taylor has no business control of the original releases and gets only the minimal royalty rates that she was able to negotiate as an unknown pre-teen from purchases and streams of those recordings. There are artistic considerations too, as Taylor is able to add back in previously excluded songs, for example.

Some new album releases are being delayed by a few weeks because of shortages of the materials used to manufacture CDs. In some cases, transportation bottlenecks are also a consideration, especially with the trend in recent years to manufacture all CDs for an album in a single production run in one factory, followed by shipping to every country in the world. In some cases, the album release is postponed, but for other albums, the release is going ahead as scheduled, but with fans not seeing the CD format on release day.

Singer R. Kelly was convicted of racketeering in a federal trial. The singer had intermingled sex trafficking with music throughout his career, but had somehow avoided prosecution for decades. Likely no one will ever know how much of his income came from legitimate sources and how much came from criminal activities, since these activities were not kept separate. The singer is also due in state court to face charges of violence and kidnapping against specific individuals. His victims were mostly girls between 12 and 17 years old, but there were also many victims who were boys or adults. R. Kelly’s fortunes turned after a series of media interviews in which he described in some detail the way he bought some of his victims from their parents.



With COVID-19 case numbers going up again in July and August, there is another wave of tour and festival cancellations. Alan Parsons, Stevie Nicks, Garth Brooks, BTS, and Florida Georgia Line are some of the bigger names cancelling tours because of the pandemic and the risk to fans. A secondary reason to hold back is that the more cautious fans are staying away so that ticket sales are below normal levels.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss are back with another album, this time with a tighter but still earthy sound. Raise the Roof is set for a November 19 release.

Alan Parsons has a live album ready for release. The Neverending Show, Live in the Netherlands captures a 2019 tour stop and is out October 8. The producer-engineer once famous for never playing or singing on his own albums proves to be a capable singer, guitarist, and keyboard player on the new album, if mainly in a supporting role. Alan promises a new studio album is in the works for release late in 2022.

US mobile phone companies are starting to announce deadlines, early in 2022, for users to upgrade to 5G-compatible devices. Most users with pre-2015 phones will need to upgrade to continue to make calls. Expect the newer phones to be big sellers in the upcoming Christmas shopping season.

There are unconfirmed reports that Apple will bow a more powerful version of the Mac mini around November. A pro configuration of the new mini will probably have a price similar to that of a similarly configured iMac, and like the iMac, will have sufficient power for applications such as multitrack recording and video editing. A “half-sized” Mac Pro is also said to be on the way, but probably not until the middle of 2022.

Death: Charlie Watts, Rolling Stones drummer. Charlie had said that he would miss this year’s tour after medical treatment.



Live entertainment events are back in large numbers in the United States, including Lollapalooza, possibly the best-known name in music festivals. Attendance, which was sparse at shows in June and July, now seems to be picking up, with the occasional word of a sold-out show.

The e-commerce boom may have hit a peak in May with consumers returning to stores and reconnecting to the ease of picking an article off of a shelf and taking it home the same day. Both UPS and Amazon reported a decline in activity as spring gave way to summer.

Deaths: Robby Steinhardt, founding violinist of the rock band Kansas. Dusty Hill, bassist of rock band ZZ Top.



The trickle of music tours has turned into a flood, albeit with most artists waiting for August or October to hit the road. Advance ticket sales are the lightest anyone can remember, though, with some artists sounding worried notes as they ask fans to remember to buy tickets for shows that are now just five weeks away.

Genesis is an exception to the light ticket sales with a tour set to start in winter. Fans may assume that the upcoming Last Domino tour could be the last chance to see the band live, though the band has not said that.

Destination music festivals are still announcing cancellations, most of them citing the inability to get local permits. Also not happening yet: international tours. A potential two-week quarantine at each national border means artists and promoters feel more comfortable planning tours separately for each country at this point.

Hundreds of bands will mark the end of their careers at the pandemic. One of those may be Aerosmith, with band members saying it would be next to impossible to get the band together for anything at all.

Kiss saw its farewell tour interrupted by the pandemic, but played a scaled-down show at a film festival in New York as a signal that the band is not done yet.

There are survivors, and then there are bands being put back together after many years. One case in point is Crowded House, which seeks to build on the exposure its song “Don’t Dream It’s Over” gained on the Fleetwood Mac tour. The new album Dreamers Are Waiting is the first in over a decade, and is possible with three personnel changes. The lockdown gave the band an unexpected extra year to reconsider the details of some of the songs that they had recorded, resulting in a more polished production and some topical lyrics. The band has done a few New Zealand shows, with tours of other countries to come at an undetermined time in the future.

A few major in-person global conferences have gone ahead as planned, with mixed results. Any conference can plan on losing people to quarantine on any given day, which makes planning and programming difficult.

Oceangoing cruise ships are trying to get going again. One cruise ship departed from the United States in June, the first in 14 months. Cruises will be a difficult sell until the pandemic winds down, and there is no sign of that happening yet.



While a hundred music acts have announced plans for fall and winter tours, Styx is the band that will be the early test case for a summer tour in support of the new album Crash of the Crown. Styx has deeper pockets than most bands and can afford to take a loss on a tour more than it can risk losing its long-term relationships with venues, not to mention its own road crew. The tour starts as soon as the album is released in mid-June and, even if not everything goes smoothly, will carry on for two months across the United States, steering clear of the many states that still have event and travel restrictions. Travel restrictions at national borders will make international tours a high-risk proposition for a little longer, but that is expected to start to change around August.

A greater number of bands are making the decision to postpone planned summer tours to spring or summer of 2022.

Bethlehem’s Musikfest may be the first major music festival to go ahead this summer in the United States. The festival spanning the first two weeks in August is planning almost a full slate of performers despite expectations that the audience could be half its traditional size. Musikfest has the advantage of being a community-based festival, making it easier for it to adapt its plans quickly to meet changing circumstances than would be possible at the larger destination festivals.

Pro-audio magazine Pro Sound News is being folded into recording studio magazine Mix effective this month. This move makes more sense than it may appear on the surface. The technology gap between live sound and studio recording has narrowed so much that it may no longer make sense to have a magazine that covers one topic while only lightly touching on the other. This comes just a few months after Pro Sound News converted from tabloid to letter-sized format.



A trickle of summer tour and festival cancellations has turned into a parade, as it becomes clear that COVID-19 vaccines won’t be plentiful enough soon enough to save the summer season. Coming out the other side, the music business is showing strong confidence about November and December 2021 for large-venue U.S. tours. Some of the albums that have been held back will start to emerge over the summer to build anticipation for tours that will follow months later.

The new Cheap Trick album In Another World spans the band’s sonic legacy better than any previous album. Fans have responded enthusiastically, putting the album at #1 on the rock chart for its first two weeks.

Apple held a major press event but held back on announcing the largest initiatives it had planned to talk about, with the result that “purple iPhone” was the major headline coming out of the event.



With COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing volumes ramping up, and encouraging reports about their efficacy, the music business is preparing to return to the familiar rhythm of album releases and tours before the end of 2021. Large-scale touring is still months away, but that means it is time for some of those touring artists to prepare their new album releases. Unknown to fans, dozens of albums are ready or nearly ready for release, but are being kept quiet so that any publicity impact arrives closer to the upcoming tour.

New albums are coming in March from Cheap Trick, Nancy Wilson of Heart, Alice Cooper, Pretty Maids lead singer Ronnie Atkins, Sunstorm, and Blackmore’s Night. In or around April, expect albums from Nick Jonas and St. Vincent. New albums are in progress and expected within months from Britney Spears, Journey, Shakira, and Christina Aguilera.



In a major pandemic, no one expects any major North American music festival to go forward in person in 2021, but what about Europe? Europe has not been hit half as hard by the pandemic and is a few steps ahead in plans for vaccinations. But Europe too is now looking unlikely. The first major cancellation, of Glastonbury, was announced a few days ago. Any festival is likely to lose money this year, with pandemic risks and travel restrictions keeping attendance low while adding extra expenses for all live events.

There are published reports of a half-size Mac Pro in development that Apple may release this year. Users have been asking for a midsized Mac ever since the introduction of the Mac Pro left an obvious gap between the Mac Pro and Mac mini. In the meantime, Apple has cut the price of the less expensive Mac Pro configurations, putting them again within reach of independent musicians and filmmakers.

Apple reported its biggest quarter ever with the iPhone SE and 11 leading sales. Notably, the iPad nearly caught up with the Mac in revenue during the quarter.

Arc of Life is a new band formed by half of the members of Yes, with bassist Billy Sherwood and rhythm guitarist Jon Davison featured as singers and songwriters. Drummer Jay Schellen provides the center of the band’s sound. In addition to these three current Yes members, the band includes guitarist Jimmy Haun, who has played guitar on Yes tracks in the past. Rounding out the lineup, the keyboardist Dave Kerzner, who was previously in Sound of Contact. After advance singles “You Make It Real” and “Just in Sight,” the self-titled debut album is set for release February 12. Meanwhile there are whispers of progress on a new Yes studio album.

Death: Larry King, broadcast host and interviewer.



Flash was designated end-of-life at the end of 2020. There had been plenty of warning that this transition was coming, so that the last major Flash web application, the U.S. National Weather Service weather radar page, had been moved to modern technology two weeks before. Most users blocked Flash 5 to 10 years ago in web browsers because of the security risks it posed. At its peak, Flash was the dominant technology platform for Internet display advertising and the culprit in more than half of web browser crashes.

With the pandemic canceling all cruises and stranding thousands of passengers on board stricken ships for weeks earlier in the year, 2020 saw a record pace of cruise ships being scrapped. With a limited global capacity for scrapping cruise ships, it is the oldest and least efficient designs that are being broken down for scrap metal first.

There is a growing consensus in the live music sector that the second half of 2021 will be a good time to go back on tour, at least for the more adventurous bands willing to play for smaller crowds than usual. Performing dates are being planned at a pace roughly one tenth of that seen in normal times. That pace could pick up if the first few tours go ahead without major problems.

Death: Leslie West, guitarist and singer, a member of Mountain, one of the earliest hard rock bands.



AC/DC hit number 1 on album charts in 30 countries with the new release Power Up. Tracks on the album show that the band has not changed its sound or its musical sensibilities.

Apple is now shipping desktop computers with its new custom processor, the M1. Like processors already used in the iPhone, Apple TV, iPad, and iPod, the M1 combines a central processor, math processor, graphics processor, and memory in a single integrated chip with the emphasis on energy efficiency. The limited memory in the first two versions of the desktop process hints that it could take a year or longer before the new architecture is available for the Mac Pro line of computers.

An amendment to the Military Service Act passed today allows top pop stars to postpone military service in South Korea. The measure, popularly known as the “BTS Act,” has economic importance for the country where K-Pop has become an important part of the economy.

Deaths: Alex Trebek, host of TV quiz show Jeopardy. Ken Hensley, keyboard player and songwriter during Uriah Heep’s classic period. Bones Hillman, Midnight oil bass player. Bruce Swedien, recording engineer.



For the first time in years, Apple announced iPhone models in a range of sizes. The new iPhone 12 mini is designed to appeal to customers who have been asking for a “normal size” phone ever since the iPhone 6 came along.

Many recording artists are quietly working on new albums during the pandemic. The list includes AC/DC, Transatlantic, and Paul McCartney.

Deaths: Spencer Davis, founder of 1960s rock band Spencer Davis Group. Eddie Van Halen, guitarist of Van Halen, from cancer. Tony Lewis, lead singer of The Outfield.



Joey Molland, the guitarist who brought power-pop sensibilities to the post-Beatles British band Badfinger, is back with a solo album. Be True to Yourself is his first regular studio album in 7 years and likely the first that the public will notice. Credits on the star-studded album include Steve Holley, Jason Scheff, Mickey Dolenz, and Julian Lennon. Mark Hudson adds sparkle to the production and songwriting. The album is scheduled for release October 16.

Apple announced new hardware as it begins the transition of desktop computers from Intel to Apple processors. The accompanying operating system, macOS 11 Big Sur, promises to be more energy-efficient whether running on the new hardware or on existing Apple computers released in roughly the last six years. The new macOS will also look a lot more like iOS, making it easier for iOS applications to fit in when they run on the desktop. Most of the new products are expected to be available by November.

The trend of live albums from bands whose tours are sidelined continues. The list now includes Yes, whose The Royal Affair Tour features the new single “Imagine,” a progressive cover of the John Lennon hit; Queen + Adam Lambert, who say it was hard to pick just 20 songs from their years of touring to include on Live Around the World; and Eclipse, whose Viva La Victouria immortalizes a tour that turned into the band’s shortest when the pandemic lockdown canceled most of the dates.

Likely the last Roxette single ever comes out tomorrow, with the song “Let Your Heart Dance With Me.” This was a track recorded for the Good Karma album but left incomplete when those sessions ended. The recording was completed for the new box set Bag of Trix.

Night Ranger have just started work on their next studio album. The band is looking for an early summer release to coincide with a summer tour — assuming conditions allow for touring by then.

Deaths: Lee Kerslake, drummer in Uriah Heep’s classic period. Helen Reddy, Australian-born singer who had three number one hits on the U.S. charts.



Styx confirms work on a new studio album. Recording is underway at the home of band member Tommy Shaw. Few other details are known, and the band does not have a title or release date in mind.

Among the accomplishments in the new Sparks album A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip, it is the highest charting album in the band’s history, and the video for “The Existential Threat” is the band’s most-viewed video, with 2 million views on YouTube in the first two months.



With most people staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic, sales of digital content and devices have increased. Apple, Netflix, and Google have each reported double-digit increases this year in key measures of consumer activity on their platforms. Video-conference platform Zoom, which has seen the biggest boost, has made progress in overcoming the instability and security glitches that arrived with that expansion.

Attempting a late start to its season, Major League Baseball has been hit with one problem after another, putting its season and the whole idea of team sports in doubt. An estimated 6 percent of players and a large number of staffers have tested positive for COVID-19 after a shortened preseason. Extrapolating, this means that even the planned shortened season would be a war of attrition, in which more than half of players would have their seasons shortened by the viral lung infection. With tighter controls, a baseball season is proceeding without major incident in Korea, but teams in the United States and Canada have not been able to duplicate that pattern. Baseball, with its large fields and minimal contact, was thought to be the best case for a professional team sport in a pandemic, so other team sports that put competing teams closer together are sure to be reconsidering their plans.

Individual sports such as running races are not much safer than baseball, so major organized races are converting to a virtual race format, in which each runner is responsible for choosing a course and measuring their time. With every runner on a separate course, there are no crowds that could transmit a virus. The lack of a common finish line takes away nearly all of the drama of a race, though, and it represents a higher level of commitment than race participants are used to, so only the more dedicated runners are taking part.

Though most major music acts are taking a cautious approach to performance commitments for 2021, a band that has gone all in is Genesis, which has confirmed an expanded rescheduled tour of the British Isles in April.

Death: Peter Green, founding guitarist of Fleetwood Mac.



The new album from Sparks, A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip, has been available for a few weeks as a download and on Friday will be released in six physical formats. The album covers a wider sonic range than the band’s recent works, and some reviewers are calling it the most adventurous album in the band’s 50-year history.

The tracks on Dukes of the Orient’s debut album might have spanned more than a decade of recording, but the follow-up Freakshow, with its more streamlined sound, did not take nearly so long to record. Songs on the new album lean more heavily on the lead vocals of John Payne and the layered keyboards of Erik Norlander. Freakshow is scheduled for release next month.

Death: Rupert Hine, producer of more than 100 rock albums including works by Rush, Tina Turner, The Fixx, Stevie Nicks, Howard Jones, and Bob Geldof.



The new Paul Nordquist album Severe Unicorn Warning, out now, presents modern dilemmas in electronic rock format. The cover photo sets the tone for the songs inside with a unicorn looming ominously over a post-apocalyptic cityscape.

Bouncing back after a series of personnel changes, Kansas is preparing to release a new album that will reassure fans. The Absence of Presence falls near the center of the band’s sound and message across the last half-century. The album is ready for release at the end of this month on InsideOut.

Rick Aster released a new song to YouTube a week ago. “Grateful One” fuses an edgy new age gratitude list with a jazzy hard rock groove. The song grew out of a writing exercise Rick did as part of Danielle LaPorte’s desire mapping curriculum.

The music industry is divided on how long the coronavirus threat will last. Many touring musicians are optimistically rescheduling 2020’s canceled tours for the same seasons in 2021. This list includes Yes, the Go-Go’s, the Doobie Brothers, and Howard Jones. Others, notably including Journey and ELO, are refunding all tickets and waiting for signs of improvement in the coronavirus pandemic before making new plans.

Death: Little Richard, the prototype of the high-energy larger-than-life rock ’n roll singer.



The coronavirus pandemic has reached crisis levels with thousands of deaths daily. With no cure in sight for the highly contagious virus, some experts believe it will not be possible to have music tours again until 2022. Broadcast studios have streamlined their way of working, with most hosts and reporters working from home. A series of music fundraising events with musicians performing from their homes have delivered more entertainment than funds, with anxious consumers mostly holding on to their money, if they have any to spend.

In a season when fans are not spending, the pace of new music and film releases has slowed to a trickle. Some artists, though, are releasing music into this void. These include the Rolling Stones, with the new crisis-oriented single “Living in a Ghost Town” released to streaming services, and Jackson Browne, with the single “A Little Too Soon to Say” in advance of a new album.

A new Rick Aster studio recording, “Love Won’t Stay Away,” can be heard on YouTube only. The song is a love song written in March for a world going into isolation.

Some planned releases are going ahead in spite of the difficulties, or perhaps with delays of a few weeks. These include albums from Steve Howe (Love Is, July 31), Mitch Perry Group (debut Music Box and advance single “Believe”), and Whitesnake (Flesh & Blood).

Some recording artists are providing free content. One example is Genesis, which is streaming one free concert film per week on its web site.

Apple went ahead with the release of a ong-rumored budget phone. The new iPhone SE is the most advanced phone under $500 according to reviewers. It has a form factor similar to the iPhone 8 but with other features comparable to the iPhone 11. The release occurred while Apple retail stores remain closed worldwide during the coronavirus lockdown.

With tours canceled and concert venues closed, it looks like a good time to release concert films, and bands are accelerating planned video releases from past tours. One example is Def Leppard, whose London to Vegas Blu-ray and DVD has just gone into preorder.



The coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancellation of millions of live events, including virtually every festival, conference, music tour, and cruise. In the United States, temporary closures affect most retail stores, entertainment venues, theme parks, bars, and restaurants. Most radio and TV programs that ordinarily have a live audience are continuing, but without an audience present. A few media personalities who had tested positive for the virus have taken to working from home.

With tours canceled, some musicians are turning to crowdfunding campaigns, but that approach has made a poor impression on fans also affected by pandemic restrictions. Fundraising of all kinds has fallen on deaf ears in recent weeks. Musicians have had better success with live online broadcasts from wherever they happen to be.

Duran Duran suspended studio recording on March 19, deciding it would be safer if the band separated during the pandemic. While in isolation, the band’s main focus will be a weekly online Q&A.

The live sound sector has all but disappeared during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, so it should perhaps not come as a surprise that a pro audio magazine significantly focused on live sound for music events, PSN Europe, was one of the first businesses to fall victim to the pandemic. PSN Europe announced a complete shutdown on its web page and Twitter feed at the end of March, effective immediately. Inevitably it seems, thousands of bands, orchestras, festivals, venues, sound companies, and equipment manufacturers that are forced to close down for the pandemic will not come back afterward.

Deaths: Keith Olsen, pop and hard rock producer-engineer noted for his work with Rick Springfield, Heart, Fleetwood Mac, Foreigner, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Santana, Journey, Sammy Hagar, and Starship, among others. Kenny Rogers, country singer.



With so many people crowded together, conferences and festivals do spread contagious diseases, though organizers are still hedging on whether the coronavirus pandemic will force this summer’s events to cancel or scale back. The film festival at Cannes is an early test, with the festival confirming one case of coronavirus locally and monitoring carefully for others. In the United States, officials are considering steps that might temporarily prevent foreign musicians from touring the country. Musicians wanting to tour the United States this summer might have to put a 14-day quarantine into their schedule or they might be denied admission to the country entirely.

Lady Gaga made a point of telling fans that the new “Stupid Love” video was shot on an iPhone, but in fact, musicians have been using the cameras built into modern phones for video production for years. Billboard lists John Legend, Selena Gomez, and Grimes among other musicians whose well-known videos were shot entirely on iPhone, Pixel, and Lumia phones.



The MIDI Manufacturers Association has officially adopted the MIDI 2.0 standard. Not many realize that the MIDI standard that allows digital musical instruments to exchange data has been on version 1.0 since 1983, with details added almost every year to accommodate new functionality in musical instruments. The new MIDI 2.0 standard goes farther, though, allowing two-way communication, higher resolution, and works more easily over USB or Ethernet. The first MIDI 2.0 instrument is apparently a compact piano-style keyboard from Roland, the A-88MKII.

One of the more unlikely selections for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this year was T. Rex, a pop rock band that had phenomenal success in the U.K. in the early 1970s but only a couple of hits in the U.S. The hall of fame induction might help T. Rex make the splash in the United States that it never achieved during the lifetime of the band’s singer and songwriter Marc Bolan.

Yusuf will be recognizing the 50th anniversary of the first album he recorded as Cat Stevens, Mona Bone Jakon, in concerts this year. He has also released a new song “Butterfly,” recorded in 1978 but ultimately not included on the Back to Earth LP.

The global coronavirus outbreak is putting a damper on the live entertainment sector, with the possibility that some tours and festivals could be canceled to reduce the inherent contagion risk of large crowds. Already major tech conferences have been scaled back or canceled after major sponsors did not want to take on the risk of bringing large numbers of people together from all continents.



The third album from Revolution Saints, Rise, due this month, shows greater musical depth and confidence as the band digs into musical threads that fans might recognize from members’ former work in bands such as Bad English and Damn Yankees.

The Who’s new album Who debuted at #1 on charts in the United Kingdom and United States. The band plans a two-month spring tour of the two countries along with a single date in Ireland.

Defying the skeptics who thought the band had effectively broken up at the end of the 2018 tour, Journey has announced a major summer tour with The Pretenders. Neal Schon of the band is also hinting that a new album may be on the way before the tour starts in May.

Death: Neil Innes, the comedic British musician who provided much of the music for Monty Python.



The new Yes album From a Page featuring half an hour of studio tracks written by Oliver Wakeman sold well enough to reach the U.K. album charts.

The NFL TV audience continues to slip, but this year, the decline is not as rapid as the decline of TV in general. Meanwhile, the NBA is facing an abrupt drop in TV viewers in the early part of its new season. NBA owners say part of the problem is that many fans no longer have TV subscriptions.

Chicago made an appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to support their new album Chicago Christmas.



When Yes set out to record Fly From Here in 2011, it discarded most of an album’s worth of tracks that had already been recorded. Two of those tracks, including the epic “Into the Storm,” were included at the end of Fly From Here. Now the other four have been completed under the supervision of keyboard player Oliver Wakeman and are included on a new 3-CD set that encompasses the complete recordings of Wakeman’s years with the band. The new Yes album From a Page is available only on CD and only from the band’s web store. In addition to the four studio tracks, it includes two hours of live recordings.

The new Who album due later this month, titled Who, delivers a bluesy hard rock sound that leans toward lead singer Roger Daltrey’s strengths. It is The Who’s first album in more than a decade.

The new album from Jeff Lynne’s ELO, From Out of Nowhere, takes the same spartan production approach as the previous album, but delivers a bigger sound. The album title and science fiction artwork are a nod to Out of the Blue, the double album at the peak of ELO’s commercial success. The album is out worldwide today.

Apple is set to launch its video subscription service Apple TV+ this month.

Deaths: Ginger Baker, drummer of Cream and Ginger Baker’s Air Force. Shane, the horse featured in children’s book Shane’s Mane.



The new Apple iPhone 11 is positioned as a more accessible follow-up to the iPhone X, which was an expensive high-end device that suffered from disappointing sales because it was too cutting-edge for most users. Apple’s new lineup does not include an entry-level phone, but according to rumors, a new iPhone SE that resembles the iPhone 8 could be available as soon as next summer.

A new Chicago album, Chicago Christmas, is set for release October 4. The album finds the band without a featured singer after the departure of longtime singer Jason Scheff last year.

Deaths: Ric Ocasek, singer and songwriter of The Cars and a musician and record producer. Eddie Money, rock singer. Robert Hunter, Grateful Dead lyricist.



Facebook agreed to a $5 billion fine for privacy violations related to its role in undermining the 2016 U.S. election.

Mad magazine will cease publication, the comic-heavy satirical magazine announced this month. The last regular issue will be the August issue currently on newsstands, though reprints, compilations, and other special issues will continue to appear.

Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen said in an interview that the band has recorded most of a new album. Fans haven’t heard new music from Cheap Trick since the Christmas album Christmas Christmas and the subsequent single “The Summer Looks Good on You.”

Death: Johnny Clegg, South African singer and founder of the band Juluka. He had been suffering from pancreatic cancer.



A 2-CD live set from the Yes 50 tour in 2018 will be released August 2. A limited number of copies of Yes 50 Live will be available for purchase on the last few shows of this year’s summer tour, which wraps up the week before the public release. Former Yes members Tony Kaye and Patrick Moraz appear on the album. About half of the album was recorded in Philadelphia, where two other former members, Trevor Horn and Tom Brislin, also put in appearances. The 13-song set, which appears to be Yes’s longest live album ever, will also be available in LP format, spanning 4 LPs.

On this summer’s tour, Yes is playing another career-spanning set which includes for the first time the John Lennon song “Imagine.” It is a song that drummer Alan White played on shortly before joining Yes.

When released in three months, the new Mac Pro tower will be the most expensive Apple computer ever. With options, a buyer could easily spend over $15,000. The high purchase price buys you an impressive amount of computing power, which is sure to make the new computer a hit with well-funded media companies. Most recording musicians and film directors, though, are likely to hold out, on the hope that Apple eventually offers a less expensive, less powerful build of the new design.

Taylor Swift made a surprise appearance at New York City’s Stonewall Inn for a Pride event on June 14. This year is the 50th anniversary of a disastrous police raid on the venue and the riots that followed which gave rise to the early gay pride movement.

When Celine Dion bought a house in Las Vegas, it was a good guess that she would be working there for a while, but few would have guessed her residency at Caesars Palace would add up to 1,141 performances across 16 years, 4 million tickets, and $700 million. Celine is one of only a few music acts with a career gross over $1 billion, and most of that was earned during her Las Vegas run.



Asia is in rehearsal, preparing for a summer tour with Yes. It will be Asia’s first tour with a new lead singer, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, who will also play electric guitar in the band. For the upcoming tour, original guitarist Steve Howe will add acoustic guitar on several songs. Billy Sherwood, who had been the interim lead singer after the death of original singer John Wetton, remains with the band as the bassist.

When not touring, Billy has been busy preparing a sequel to his epic Citizen album. The advance track “The Partisan” points to a more fluid musical approach for Citizen: In the Next Life.

Game of Thrones fans tuned into the show’s final season in record numbers but were perplexed and frustrated at the plot twists. It would perhaps be an exaggeration to say that fans in general were disappointed but the discussion of the season faded quickly.

A new Unruly Child album features a freewheeling sound that should please the hard rock band’s fans.

That mysterious Toto box set that disappeared as quickly as it appeared in late 2018 is back again. All In is a collection of 11 studio albums from Toto to Mindfields, plus Old Is New, a scrubbed-up set of previously unknown Toto songs often combining tracks from the early 1980s with tracks added in the late 2010s, and a short live set. The original edition of the box set combined LPs and CDs and sold out quickly on the band’s web site. The edition in stores now has CDs only. The new single to promote the release is the psychedelic track “Chelsea,” a backing track originally recorded in the band’s classic period with lyrics and melody apparently added last year.



A new Tarja Turunen album promises an elaborate blend of her classical and heavy metal roots, including choir and orchestra. In the Raw is slated for release August 30.

Geoff Tate has emerged in a new project, with a band and album called Sweet Oblivion. The band, featuring Italian musicians, produces a sound tailored to appeal to heavy metal purists and offers a stark contrast to Tate’s former band Queensryche.

The new magic-themed Alan Parsons album The Secret boasts half a dozen songs that music fans are likely to remember. One track, “One Note Symphony,” has a minimalist melody while carrying a space flight theme. Another, “I Can’t Get There From Here,” is the love theme from the filmmaking movie 5-25-77. An updated arrangement of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” features guitarist Steve Hackett.

Apple reports that iPhone sales continue to slump, as consumers find the latest features confusing and shoppers in China are hesitant about investing in a premium U.S. brand at the time of a trade war between the two countries. There could be more pain for Apple in the future as that trade war could lead to an increase in the already high U.S. prices for iPhones made in China.



Sales of smart phones and tablets fell sharply during the holiday season. High prices and complex new features are keeping consumers away. The durability of recent iPhone and iPad models is also reducing sales, as users are keeping their devices longer.

Lady Gaga not only won the award for Best Original Song, but was the talk of social media after her perfomance and presence at the Oscars.

The NFL’s fall TV audience gains, up slightly from the previous season, may not count for anything after a dud of a Super Bowl that saw viewers tuning out before halftime.

YouTube announced today that it has imposed tight restrictions on comments when videos include people under 18 years of age. With few exceptions, comments will no longer be allowed on such videos. Musicians under the age of 18 will be the most affected. It is not clear if they will be allowed to appear in music videos that could appear on YouTube if they are not the featured musical performers.

Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart are working together again for the first time in years. The band has announced plans for a large-venue summer tour.


New Toto Album? It’s Not That Simple

Is there a new Toto album?

The “new” Toto album that fans are listening to is Old Is New. Three of the songs were on last year’s greatest hits compilation Forty Trips Around the Sun. The other seven tracks are new in the sense that they have not been heard before.

But as the album title suggests, the new songs are not really new. They are based on classic Toto tracks that were never released. Lyrics and melody were added to one recording that never got past the backing-track stage in the Toto IV sessions. One old song was completely rerecorded. The others were retracked in varying degrees. Now all are available for the public to hear.

The Old Is New cover art is not entirely new either, consisting of a mashup of elements from the covers of Toto IV and Forty Trips Around the Sun.

Listening to the songs, it is easy to hear the jazz inflections and musical adventures of early Toto together with the confidence and precision of the current Toto lineup.

So where can you get Old Is New? That’s just as interesting as the story so far. Toto decided against a regular album release. Instead, Old Is New is available only as part of the recent career-spanning box set All In.

The physical editions of All In were never released to music stores, instead being sold online through a store controlled by the band and record company. Links to the store now return a page not found error, which may indicate that box set, a limited edition, is sold out. With no photos of the box set in anyone’s hands, the possibility has to be considered that the release was canceled or delayed.

It is confusing at best to put a career-spanning box set on a download or streaming service. The new content of Old Is New could have been added separately instead, but apparently it was not. There is no indication to be found of either the compilation or the new album online.

In sum, Toto went to the trouble of putting together a new album of old songs for release, but you can’t get your hands on it right now. It is a confusing and frustrating predicament that surely will be sorted out eventually.



Apple continues to dominate the high end of the computing market, but there are still times when it introduces new products at aggressively low prices. Two new examples are the new MacBook Air and iPad Pro, which are priced below $1,000 despite boasting a list of high-end and cutting-edge features.

Lenny Kravitz is experimenting with a smoother sound on his new album Raise Vibration, but as the liner notes emphasize, the songwriting has not changed. The lyrics are still largely about love as a force in people’s lives.

NFL programming might be up this fall, but TV in general and TV sports in particular continue to decline. The baseball post-season games this season showed a noteworthy decline, though baseball has never been a big draw on television aside from the World Series.



The new Paul McCartney album Egypt Station stands as the singer’s most sincere recording effort in a long time. McCartney played about half of the instruments himself, creating a sound more personal and organic than on his last album, New.

The NFL is seeing a pause in its declining TV audience. Games so far this season have an audience 3% larger than last season, after an 11% decline the year before. The football audience is boosted by a larger number of close games and competitive teams this season, so that is a pattern that the league might try to keep going.



Apple is expected to announce an enhanced iPhone X. Two of the new models are dubbed iPhone XS in leaked documents. The new phones are said to have the same form factors as their predecessors, but with a larger display area. The name for a third model, which features a high-end display, is not clear yet.

Anderson Rabin Wakeman are showing a live video of “Rhythm of Love” as the band prepares a live album for release. The album, possibly called 50th Anniversary Tour, could be released later this year. Both Anderson and Rabin turn in solid vocal performances on the song, originally written mostly by Rabin for the Big Generator album. The band has been working on new music including a song called “Fragile” that has caught the attention of fans who have heard early versions of it, and not just because the song shares a title with Yes’s most critically acclaimed album. In recent interviews, though, Anderson and Rabin concede that no new studio album is in the works at this point.

“Weird Al” Yankovic asked the public not to “pickaxe” his new star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which was unveiled this week.

The new Paul McCartney album Egypt Station arrives September 7. The album artwork features a tourism theme, but some of the promotional images seem to imply references to the Wings albums from Venus and Mars to London Town.

Death: Aretha Franklin, the singer known as the “queen of soul.”



If the Anderson Rabin Wakeman tour winds down just as the ELO tour goes into final rehearsals, it is not a coincidence. Lee Pomeroy plays bass for both bands, and it is the three Yes members who have to yield as their sideman goes to work on the big-budget ELO tour. ARW could surely hire a replacement bass player and extend their tour, but none of the principals are roadworthy enough for an extended tour anyway. Rick Wakeman announced his retirement from extended touring almost two decades ago, and Jon Anderson has had more than his share of health problems during the same period. In the case of Trevor Rabin, he has been all but trapped in the studio with movie soundtrack work since the 1990s.

After Weezer had such a success recording two Toto songs, Toto returned the favor with a blistering live rendition of the Weezer song “Hash Pipe.” The Toto rendition of the song has found moderate success as a single.



Three celebrated former members of Yes are guest artists on the Yes 50th anniversary tour. Trevor Horn and Patrick Moraz are making select appearances on the tour. Founding keyboard player Tony Kaye is along for the entire tour, playing on a few songs near the end of the show. For the first time in years, Yes is playing a career-spanning selection of songs.

Kasim Sulton, bass player for Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, says that one show on the recent tour was recorded for video release.

While Uriah Heep continues to tour, the band’s new album Living the Dream, mostly recorded in January, is being prepared for a September release.


By Request, Weezer Cover Toto

A fan’s campaign for a Weezer cover of the Toto hit “Africa” turned into the real thing this week, and a surprise hit for the power-pop band.

“Africa” originally appeared on the Toto IV album in 1982. It was a departure from the band’s usual sound but became their most enduring hit. The song got something of a resurgence when it was used in the soundtrack of the Stranger Things television series. This led to the suggestion from a fan of both the song and the band Weezer that Weezer should record a new version of the song, an idea that became a viral online campaign.

Weezer confounded everyone by releasing a single of a different Toto song, “Rosanna,” but followed five days later with their version of “Africa.” Both Toto covers were commercial successes, but “Africa” is Weezer’s biggest hit in nearly a decade, reaching #1 on some online singles charts on its day of release.

The Weezer version follows most of the original Toto arrangement of the song, including the difficult vocal harmonies, but gives the instruments the warm, abrasive tones that Weezer is known for.

If “Africa” is a surprise hit for Weezer, it is worth remembering that the original was a surprise hit for Toto. It was the third single from the Toto IV album, released after the advance hit “Rosanna” and a less memorable track called “Make Believe” that both the band and record label picked as a natural followup single. “Make Believe” reached #30 on the singles chart, though. “Africa” followed and became Toto’s only #1 single.



Gibson Brands has filed for bankruptcy reorganization. The iconic guitar maker has been shaken by slowing interest in guitars. Sales of both electric and acoustic guitars to U.S. musicians has declined in each of the last seven years, in part because of the decline of guitar-based video games. Gibson had tried to make up some of the lost revenue by designing special edition guitars to appeal to collectors, but the high-end collectible guitar market seems to have reached its natural limit a few years ago. It is not just the Gibson brand that is affected by the bankruptcy, but also dozens of musical instrument and pro audio brands purchased by Gibson over the past two decades. The debt load related to the purchases may have hastened the company’s decline. Gibson assures that it will continue to offer its namesake guitars, though manufacturing may slow to a trickle while the details of restructuring are being worked out.

Another U.S. company closely identified with the guitar is also in financial distress. Retail chain Guitar Center was said to be on the verge of bankruptcy late in April, with some reports erroneously indicating that the bankruptcy filing had taken place. Like Gibson, in recent years Guitar Center has depended on revenue from guitar collectors, a revenue stream that now seems to be drying up. Guitar Center is the largest musical instrument retailer in the United States.

New Rock and Roll Hall of Fame entrants this year include the Moody Blues, Dire Straits, the Cars, and Bon Jovi. The induction ceremony has its TV debut on May 5.

Lindsey Buckingham has bowed out of the upcoming Fleetwood Mac tour, apparently following a dispute over song selection. The band will tour instead with guitarists Neil Finn and Mike Campbell, both longtime friends of the band. The band has announced 52 dates between early October and early May. Band member Stevie Nicks expects the band to rehearse as many as 60 songs to pick around 23 to play for the tour.

Shure says it has stopped manufacturing phono cartridges, the tiny devices that attach to a turntable to extract music from vinyl. Shure made phono cartridges for 85 years, and its cartridges are known for durability, so they will still be in use for many more years. Recently Shure had found it difficult to obtain the various minerals that phono cartridges are made from. The competition in the market may have been a factor too. Audiophile-grade phono cartridges will still be available from several manufacturers. Shure will continue to make its other transducer products, including microphones and earphones.

The current tour by Todd Rundgren’s Utopia features the band’s 1970s songs, with just a few 1980s songs added in near the end of the evening. Some of the early material featured in the tour might be described more accurately as abstract soundscapes than as songs.



After six weeks in cinemas, Black Panther is considered the biggest superhero movie ever.

Two American football leagues are preparing to launch in the near future. The Alliance of American Football (AAF) is setting up as a minor league with a season that starts right after the Super Bowl in February and runs until April. The off-season schedule is designed to pick up players who have been released from NFL teams. The first AAF game will air on CBS Sports Network on February 9. The AAF eliminates kickoffs, which it sees as the most dangerous part of American football. More than a year later, the WWE-backed XFL will attempt a relaunch. In contrast to AAF, the XFL plans a game that is shorter, slower, and more violent than the NFL. Like WWE in wrestling, the XFL is positioning itself to appeal to the “culture war” U.S. political faction that glorifies violence and opposes American culture. Both new leagues are sure to dilute the already fading audience for the NFL.

The new Vanessa Carlton single is a remake of a 2011 Robyn song, the electropop single “Call Your Girlfriend.”

Marking the band’s 50th anniversary, Yes is preparing for its biggest North American tour in 15 years. The band just released Fly From Here: Return Trip, a reworked version of its 2011 album with new vocals by producer Trevor Horn. The album was released a week ago at a fan event in London. There are rumors that members of Yes are preparing songs for a new studio album, with production expected to start following the U.S. tour.



Black Panther is set to be one of the top movies of all time after setting several records in its first two weekends.

After the Winter Olympics there is a consensus that the sports television audience and television in general are declining in the United States, and the decline is not merely a matter of a shift from cable to Internet. Winter Olympics audience size was down generally between 10 and 30 percent from comparable broadcasts four years ago. Shortly before the Olympics, a similar decline was seen in the Super Bowl, which fell 7 percent from the year before.

Music streaming service Spotify has filed for an IPO. The move will allow the public to own and trade stock in the company.



Elton John says he is “going back to my plow,” but not until after one last “over the top” tour. The Farewell Yellow Brick Road will visit 300 cities over the next three years. Breaking from the low-key approach of most of his recent tours and albums, Elton promises the biggest show of his career. After the tour ends, he says he will continue recording but will never tour again.

Two security flaws in central processors were identified in 2017 with details kept secret until early January 2018. Known as Meltdown and Spectre, the flaws potentially affect nearly all computer and smart phone designs since around 1999. Apple and Google have released partial fixes, and others are on the way from many software providers. To date there are no known exploits of the flaws.

The Meltdown and Spectre flaws exploit the speculative execution feature of recent processor designs. This feature speeds up some computer processes by as much as 15 percent, but at a high cost in energy use. Speculative execution security flaws will probably continue as long as devices use processors that support speculative execution. It is not considered practical to replace a central processor, so the flaws are being addressed with software patches in operating systems and web browsers, though security engineers say that can never be a complete solution. Designs of new central processors will have to be changed to guard against security risks, but that process will take years.

The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones is in production. With the challenges and uncertainties of a production that takes place on multiple continents, filming is expected to continue through August and the new season will not air until 2019.

Uriah Heep returned to the studio in January to record a new album Living the Dream, substantially completing the tracks in less than three weeks. The band is crowdfunding the album.

Deaths: Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer of the Cranberries, while in London for a recording session. She was 46. Ray Thomas, Moodie Blues flute player. He had retired from the band in 2002 because of ill health. Chris Tsangarides, recording engineer noted for work on hard rock albums. Ursula K. Le Guin, science fiction novelist.



The new Toto single was originally recorded in the same sessions as the band’s biggest hit, “Africa.” It was not released on Toto IV because the band was unhappy with the chorus. Singer Joseph Williams worked out the details of adding a newly written chorus including the new title “Spanish Sea” to the old tracks. The result sounds noticeably like “Africa,” with late band members Jeff and Mike Porcaro providing a more relaxed groove than you hear in the band’s recent records. “Spanish Sea” is included on the forthcoming career-spanning compilation 40 Trips Around the Sun, due February 9.

Paul McCartney had one of the biggest years of his career, with the “One on One” tour grossing $132 million.

The new Star Wars movie The Last Jedi has a chance to be the top-grossing movie of all time. After two weeks it is on pace to easily pass $1 billion in box office globally.

With awards-show season underway, entertainers are showing solidarity with victims of sexual assault by wearing black to the events.

After a decline in 2016, the early NFL TV ratings were worrisome, though there were reasons to hope that the downward trend would reverse before the season was over. Instead, both attendance and viewership fell faster in the later part of the season. The final tally for the season showed 9.7 percent fewer viewers, easily the biggest decline in NFL history. NFL broadcasts are hurt by the decline in television generally as viewers drop TV subscriptions, objecting to the high cost of cable or simply not finding the time to watch.


SARM West Affected by Fires

This month’s California fires are a little too close to home for the entertainment industry, and one of the losses has been SARM West.

The recording studio owned by record producer Trevor Horn is thought to have burned to the ground. Horn says he hopes to rebuild the studio.

Dozens of well-known albums were recorded at the facility, including most of the 2011 Yes album Fly From Here.



A new greatest hits album spanning the career of Toto includes a new single, “Alone.” The song was written by the band members working together after they arrived at the studio.

The FCC plans to repeal net neutrality rules in its December meeting. The repeal allows Internet service providers to slow down or block web sites and email messages they disagree with. Before net neutrality rules, large Internet companies routinely blocked email to and from small business domains.



“Weird Al” Yankovic has announced a tour that will not lean on his famous song parodies and the over-the-top costumes that go with them. The Ill-Advised Vanity Tour will focus more attention on Al’s original songs, which are just as funny as the better-known parodies. The lack of costume changes will give Al a chance to tell more stories about the songs. It also allows the set list to change from show to show. Al told Rolling Stone, “on this tour, if you go to any two shows, they will be different.” Emo Phillips, the standup comedian who appeared in the “Weird Al” film UHF, will be the opening act for the tour.

Apple may be preparing to drop Qualcomm data chips from all of its mobile devices as soon as next year. Reports say that Apple has already made software changes that will allow it to build devices with other chip designs.

Las Vegas rock band The Killers are having their biggest success yet with this year’s album Wonderful Wonderful. It was the band’s first U.S. #1 album and spawned the hit “The Man” and now “Run for Cover.”

Death: Fats Domino, New Orleans pianist and rock and roll pioneer.


Harvey Weinstein Case Marks Turning Point in Entertainment Workplace Sexual Harassment

Workplace sexual assault and harassment has reached a breaking point in Hollywood and elsewhere. The biggest such story in October was movie producer Harvey Weinstein, who was fired from production company The Weinstein Company and expelled from The Producer’s Guild. Weinstein assaulted hundreds or probably thousands of women during his career while using threats, hush money, and retaliation to keep the extent of his conduct a secret. Weinstein is accused of raping more than a dozen women he worked with, and criminal investigations are underway in Los Angeles, New York, and London.

Weinstein might be an extreme case, but Hollywood insiders say there might be hundreds of people using similar methods to prey on women and men across the entertainment industry. Donald Trump, of course, is a prominent example, and Bill Cosby’s name is mentioned frequently as well, and record producer Dr. Luke lost his job earlier this year, but suddenly the fallout from sexual aggression has led to dozens of firings and resignations in entertainment circles. Two senior entertainment managers were fired at Amazon. Andy Dick was cut from the film Raising Buchanan after a litany of complaints about his misconduct on set, some of which he admitted. Political commentator Mark Halperin lost all his broadcast jobs, one by one. Fashion-porn photographer Terry Richardson was banned from Conde Nast magazines on the suspicion that he had raped several models he had worked with. The Netflix series House of Cards has suspended production and will probably be wound down as quickly as possible after complaints that actor Kevin Spacey had sexually assaulted an underage actor in an earlier season. Hundreds of complaints of sexual harassment and assault have been tabulated against director James Toback, many of them from young female actors who appeared in his productions. Several rock musicians have been fired from their bands, dropped by record labels, or arrested after allegations of sexual misconduct. Journalists have warned that they face a culture of sexual harassment in state capitals across the United States. And these are just a few examples.

The culture change that made this change possible is that victims have become more willing to speak out. The most visible manifestation of this has been the #MeToo hashtag online. Part of the backstory for this is the Taylor Swift case in August. Swift countersued a disk jockey and sexual predator who had assaulted her and later sued her after he was fired. Swift won that case by testifying in plain and simple terms. After that, the strategy common to many sexual predators of threatening lawsuits against their victims, a strategy employed forcefully by Harvey Weinstein in particular, rang hollow.

After more victims began to come forward it was startling to see how many there were. Surely half of all women working in Hollywood and a substantial fraction of men have been targets of similar patterns of sexual harassment and assault. With numbers this large it became impractical for supporters of sexual harassment to harass all of the victims online.

Twitter announced a change in policy that goes into effect this month. Most notably, Twitter users can no longer approve, encourage, or condone violence. It has already been prohibited to threaten violence on Twitter, but that was a rule that previously was rarely enforced. Twitter now takes the rule more literally, and last weekend an unofficial adviser to Donald Trump was removed from Twitter after he threatened several CNN journalists. Twitter’s ability to remove people who associate themselves with violence and threats was initially intended to curb terrorism but will make it harder for Twitter to serve as a platform for harassing victims of crime.


Tom Petty Dead at 66

Rock musician Tom Petty died yesterday in Los Angeles. He suffered a heart attack at home and was found unconscious. He died hours later in a hospital. While Petty was in the hospital, major news media issued and then retracted several erroneous reports of his death, leading to widespread confusion among music fans.

The death came just a week after the conclusion of the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers 40th Anniversary Tour.


Attacker Shoots Hundreds at Las Vegas Music Festival

A wealthy real estate investor opened fire on a country music festival in Las Vegas, using modified machine guns to shoot hundreds of music fans. Dozens have died, making the attack yesterday on the Route 91 Harvest festival one of the most deadly incidents in music history.

The attacker fired from a hotel room a block away. He was dead when police eventually broke into the hotel room.



Guitarists Richie Sambora and Orianthi have been touring together for what seems like years, but recordings have been slow in coming. On the 5-song debut album Rise, recorded in their kitchen and out now, the duo seek to broaden their musical appeal. It’s not an album of guitar shredding, though they are certainly capable of that, but features songs that seem calculated to appeal to Bon Jovi fans. The strategy makes some sense after Sambora’s 30-year stint as Bon Jovi’s lead guitarist, though fans hoping for a more guitar-heavy record might have to wait for the full-length album to follow. Orianthi says they must have a thousand partially written songs, though they are not promising their full-length album is coming in any specific year.

The first new Christmas albums of the year are starting to appear. Albums are expected from Cheap Trick (titled Christmas Christmas), Tarja Turunen (From Spirits and Ghosts, featuring some traditional tunes), Boys II Men, Mariah Carey, and Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain (Unsung Noel, with piano-heavy renditions of hymns).

Longtime Journey drummer Deen Castronovo makes a comeback with the band Revolution Saints and new album Light in the Dark, out now. The supergroup also features Night Ranger bassist Jack Blades and storied hard rock guitarist Douglas Aldrich.

The new Yes live album that drummer Alan White teased in spring interviews is now in pre-order. Titled Topographic Drama, the album includes renditions of most of the classic album Tales From Topographic Oceans and all tracks from Drama along with several more live tracks. It is the first album since Billy Sherwood joined on bass. The album also features touring drummer Jay Schellen on a couple of tracks.

Liam Gallagher’s first solo album As You Were is set for release this week.

Death: Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy.



In U.S. cinemas, it has been the slowest summer movie season in a quarter century. Labor Day weekend, with no major new releases, is sure to drag the averages lower still. The only blockbuster of the summer, Wonder Woman, was released at the beginning of the season, long enough ago that it might be forgotten — except that with a scarcity of new releases in August, Wonder Woman is enjoying a second run on more than 1,000 screens.

The new Taylor Swift video for “Look What You Made Me Do” set several new records for viewership on its day of release.

A week earlier, Taylor Swift won a court case against a radio d.j. who had sexually assaulted the singer in 2013 and then sued her.

The Fyre Festival has been forced into bankruptcy by investors who provided $500,000 of the funding. The event scheduled to take place at the beginning of May never went on, many workers were never paid, and the scene nearly turned into a humanitarian crisis as would-be attendees arrived for the canceled event. Separately, the festival organizer faces criminal fraud charges.

Fans of Go-Go’s guitarist Jane Wiedlin can find her in the new band Elletrodomestico, which has an album If You’re a Boy or a Girl now in pre-order.

A court has halted production of a movie about the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash. The screenplay was based on the recollections of a band member who served as a partner to the production, but all members of the band had agreed in 1987 to tight restrictions on their Skynyrd-related work.

According to friends of the band, a forthcoming Cheap Trick Christmas album will be called Heaven Is Falling.

Finally able to record again after five years of legal battles, Kesha has a strong hit single and video with “Praying” and a number one album in its release week with Rainbow.

Aerosmith has recorded at least one new song as the hard rock band works toward a new album.



No one was hurt when a fire broke out at the Tomorrowland Unite music festival in Barcelona, but two days of music were cancelled and 22,000 fans had to evacuate in a hurry. The fire appeared to start in a stadium-scale video screen above the back of the stage. In less than a minute flames had spread to cover the entire stage assembly.

Fans have reason to worry about whether they will ever hear from Journey again, now that the huge summer tour with Asia is mopping up. There were signs of emotional instability during the tour from guitarist and leader Neal Schon, while keyboardist and ballad writer Jonathan Cain showed that he has fallen into the clutches of a bizarre and scary-looking prosperity cult.

A free concert series in Los Angeles took advantage of some of the buzz surrounding the Journey/Asia tour by putting on a concert that featured the respective bands’ singers of 15 years ago. The double bill included Asia featuring John Payne along with former Journey singer Steve Augeri.

The two Asia members who also play in Yes, keyboardist Geoff Downes and bassist Billy Sherwood, had only one night to drive with their instruments from the last show of the Asia tour in Maryland to the start of Yes tour rehearsals in Pennsylvania. Fortunately, neither had to do any of the driving.

Yes’s summer tour, which launches August 4 in Greensboro, NC, has grown into their largest in recent memory as more and more venues book shows. Dubbed Yestival again this year, the bill includes support from Todd Rundgren and Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy. The three acts are traveling to far more cities than is customary for a traveling festival. Yes says its set will include one song from each of the band’s first ten studio albums, but Yes has always been known for its extended compositions, so the ten-song playlist does not mean it will be a short set.

The new Yes tour will also be the first to have Dylan Howe along. The son of Yes guitarist Steve Howe and a member of the Steve Howe Trio, Dylan is a noted drummer in his own right. He will play some of the drums on the tour while Yes’s regular drummer, Alan White, continues to recover from back surgery.

With Heart not touring this summer or for the foreseeable future, fans who want to hear authentic Heart music have several choices of bands to see. Most members of the recent Heart band can be heard in the new band Roadcase Royale, which features Heart guitarist Nancy Wilson and New Power Generation singer Liv Warfield. Meanwhile, two of the founding members of Heart are touring as tribute band Heart by Heart, focusing on the hits from the first five Heart albums.

Fans can also opt to go see Heart’s singer. But though she bills herself as Ann Wilson of Heart on her current tour and her band includes two other former Heart members, Ann’s new show offers only four of the Heart hits that made her famous, leaning instead on an eclectic set list of soul and arena-rock standards.

MTV says it is relaunching Total Request Live, the iconic turn-of-the-century video hits program that, among other pop-culture accomplishments, is credited with killing off the weekly singles chart as the arbiter of pop hits.



Promoter Billy McFarland has been arrested, charged, and released on bail in the United States in connection with the cancelled Fyre Festival in the Bahamas. The fraud indictment says some of the documents that McFarland showed to investors were fakes.

Wonder Woman has become one of the biggest action movies of all time, and is a rarity in several ways. The movie is said, for example, to be the first Hollywood blockbuster in which the female title character is not a villain.

The new Styx album The Mission is based on science fiction story about a trip to Mars. The music, though, is closer to the band’s classic sound than any of their albums of the last three decades have been. Of course, it sounds even more like the 1970s if you get the album on vinyl.

A new Foo Fighters album Concrete and Gold comes out on September 15. The weekend before, the band launches their own music festival in California. The festival also features Queens of the Stone Age, Liam Gallagher, Bob Mould, and a long list of performers.

Lorde reached #1 on the Billboard album chart for the first time with her new album Melodrama.

This summer’s ELO tour builds on the success of the previous tour, with longer sets and larger venues.

Oasis singer Liam Gallagher will soon be releasing his first solo album As You Were.



The new Shakira album El Dorado finds the singer just trying to be herself for the first time in ages.

Peacemagic Electric recorded a remake of the Ultravox hit “Vienna.” A full album is in the works, though with their detail-oriented approach to recording, we probably will not hear it until 2018.

Foo Fighters encourage us all to become runners in the surprise new single “Run,” with a video that features a retirement home mutiny.

No one died, but that is the best anyone can say about the Fyre Festival scheduled for a month ago in the Bahamas. The star-crossed festival turned into a humanitarian crisis a day before the music was to have started, and fortunately was cancelled before much of the crowd arrived. Attendees reported that promised accommodations were nowhere to be found, and there was no food either except what they had brought with them. They tweeted live accounts of the disaster, including photos of music fans trying to sleep in the rain in a muddy field. An investigation is underway and the promoters are barred from ever holding another event in the country.

A terrorist attack on the street following an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, killed dozens of music fans, most of them preteen girls. Hundreds of entertainment events were cancelled in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

Deaths: Gregg Allman, founder of Allman Brothers Band and one of the original inventors of southern rock. Trans-Siberian Orchestra founder Paul O’Neill, from the effects of a prescription drug. Chris Cornell, a member of Soundgarden, in a suicide thought to have been triggered by a prescription drug.



Cheap Trick has a new album ready barely a year after their last release. The album title We’re All Alright! is a line borrowed from the band’s early hit “Surrender.” People are talking about a Kinks-like vibe in the advance single “Long Time Coming.”

Summer tour season is almost here, and this year, some of the touring combinations are more surprising than others. Fans can look forward to:



Ernie Ball claims it has invented an unbreakable guitar string. The forthcoming Paradigm strings lasted through 90 days of playing in the company’s tests.

A year after Playboy adopted a no-nudes policy in a splash of p.r., the magazine changed its mind, deciding that the new format was not exactly what its readers had asked for. The revamped style also had not boosted the Playboy brand in the way the company had expected.

An album recorded by Fleetwood Mac will be released as a Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie album after third singer Stevie Nicks couldn’t make it into the studio to record. Stevie will be along for the tour, but there are hints that that may be the last we hear from the band. Mick Fleetwood has suggested that the new album is strong enough to serve as the band’s swan song. Christine McVie, though, has been more optimistic about future work from the band.

Death: Chuck Berry, pioneer of rock and roll guitar and perhaps the first successful example of the modern singer-songwriter.

Berry recorded a new album before his death, and the advance single, “Big Boys,” is a likely hit, a catchy, compact song built on the vintage high-energy Chuck Berry sound.



Todd Rundgren showed what looks like a new album cover on Twitter. The image is a shadowy portrait of the artist with the title White Knight.

The long-awaited new single from Lorde is apparently called “Green Light.” The lyrics use driving around in a car as a symbol of freedom and regret after a romantic breakup. Few details are available about the album to follow.

Deep Purple acknowledges difficulties in continuing to show up for work after half a century. The band nevertheless completed a new album, Infinite, for an April release, and is preparing to head out on what they say may be their last extended tour.

Billy Sherwood will be the bassist and lead singer of Asia in this year’s shows after the death of John Wetton. Sherwood also currently plays with Yes along with Asia keyboard player Geoff Downes and former Asia members Steve Howe and Jay Schellen. Virtually a complete Asia lineup was present, then, when Yes played Asia hit “Heat of the Moment” as a tribute to Wetton at the end of several Yes shows last month.

Advance snippets of a new Roger Waters album reveal a sound very much like Pink Floyd. Waters had pursued a sparser and more electronic sound in the decades since leaving Pink Floyd, but may feel an obligation to keep the Pink Floyd sound going now that the band has broken up.



Lady Gaga is the featured performer at this year’s Super Bowl halftime show. As usual, the details of the musical performance are a closely held secret, but given Gaga’s highly creative costumes and staging during her career, there is a great deal of speculation about what her show might include.

A new Blondie album and tour are on the way. Blondie is set to support Phil Collins on at least one show of his upcoming summer tour. Rumors in December had pointed to a possible Genesis reunion this year, but now with word of a Phil Collins tour, any work with Genesis will have to wait.

Death: John Wetton, singer and bassist of the rock band Asia.



New albums in 2017 are announced or anticipated from an impressive list of recording artists including:



The new Rolling Stones album Blue & Lonesome, out tomorrow, is not the album of new material the band started working on a year ago. Think of it instead as the sound check for that album. The band was sounding out a recording studio by playing songs they knew, and within a matter of days had recorded enough old Chicago blues tunes to have an album. And that album of new material they were working on? That will take a little longer, the band says.

Forest fires in eastern Tennessee forced Dolly Parton’s Dollywood resort to close yesterday. Fires have destroyed just a few cabins affiliated with the resort. The resort itself has not been damaged, but it is affected by the smoke.

Rumors about the iPhone 8 suggest that it may have a glass front and back, an OLED touch screen, and a wireless charging pad. The new phone model could be released as early as the second quarter of 2017. In keeping with past practice, Apple has not confirmed any specifics.

On the Anderson Rabin Wakeman tour, keyboardist Rick Wakeman describes “telepathy” between himself and guitarist Trevor Rabin that keeps the two musically in sync.

The recent Yes tour was shaken by an earthquake that struck near the east coast of Japan hours after the band’s first show of the tour. The Japan tour also marked the return of drummer Alan White after back surgery.



Bob Dylan is the first musician to be awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. The academy compared Dylan to Homer in announcing the selection. Dylan himself has had relatively little to say about the award, beyond expressing his astonishment.

The Anderson Rabin Wakeman tour has been a simpler affair than the grandiose schemes we heard about over the last five years. The three former Yes members, singer Jon Anderson, guitarist Trevor Rabin, and keyboardist Rick Wakeman, are supported on stage by only a bassist and drummer — progressive rock bassist Lee Pomeroy and Rabin’s longtime drummer Lou Molino III. The set list consists almost entirely of 1970s Yes tunes. Never mind that Rabin did not join Yes until later. He has proved to be more versatile than ever on guitar, looking almost effortless even on songs he must never have played before.



Touch screens have arrived on the desktop. Apple incorporated a small touch-screen control into the keyboard of its new MacBook Pro. Microsoft’s first computers are stylus-friendly large-format touch screens that seem intended to act as a digital drafting table.

The new Meat Loaf album Braver Than We Are resulted when songwriter Jim Steinman persuaded the singer to take on a more theatrical set of songs with deeper character portrayals. Dressed up with a larger-than-life production, the songs decidedly don’t represent the period in which they were made — something you might also say about Bat Out of Hell, Loaf and Steinman’s first collaboration almost 40 years ago.

Six-second video loop service Vine is shutting down.



Apple is set to introduce a waterproof phone at a September 7 media event. In order to make the phone waterproof, the headphone jack is removed, though users can add an adapter to use standard headphone connectors. Rumor has it that the dedicated volume control buttons are also gone. Hints in the event invitation suggest that the new phone will provide an improved video conversation experience.

The surviving founding members of 1970s English jazz fusion band If released a new album If 5 earlier this year. The release, available in the EU only, features woodwinds player Dave Quincy and guitarist Terry Smith with a new singer and rhythm section.

The size of the U.S. television audience is declining about 1 percent er year, but the audience for the summer Olympics last month hints at a faster rate of decline. Viewership for the Olympics was down 20 to 40 percent from 2012.

Isle of Man is releasing a series of postage stamps of artwork by Roger Dean, including images from Yes album covers.



Prince’s family have set October 13 as the date for an official tribute concert in Minneapolis.

A Memphis-themed Melissa Etheridge album will be out October 7. Advance orders for MEmphis Rock and Soul are being taken at PledgeMusic. The capital E in the title isn’t a typo; the first two letters are also the recording artist’s initials.


Alan White Has Back Surgery; Jay Schellen to Join Yes Tour; Rock Vault Closes

Yes drummer Alan White had urgent surgery to repair a damaged disc in his back. The procedure had “a very positive result,” White announced, but with the need for rest and rehab, he will miss most or possibly all of the summer Yes tour.

White joined Yes in 1972, three years after the band was formed, and had never missed a Yes performance since. The summer tour may give White the rare chance to view a Yes concert from an angle other than the drum stool.

Yes’s drummer to start the summer tour next week will be Jay Schellen. No stranger to Yes, Schellen previously played in Asia with Yes keyboardist Geoff Downes. He has appeared on at least eight records over the years with Yes bassist Billy Sherwood, including a tribute album on which, as members of World Trade, they played the Yes song “Wonderous Stories.”

Until this week Schellen was anchoring the Las Vegas music retrospective show Raiding the Rock Vault, which also features Heart guitarist Howard Leese and other musicians borrowed from well-known rock bands of the past three decades.

Schellen had been the show’s drummer since it launched, and though Slaughter drummer Blas Elias stepped in on drums, the show may have decided it couldn’t maintain its momentum without Schellen. While he was packing to go on tour, Rock Vault announced it is closing at the end of the month.

The show had an impressive run, but toward the end showed signs of wear and tear. Nearly all the original cast members were gone and recent months have seen core band members Schellen, Leese, and singer Paul Shortino supported by a revolving cast of musicians.



A jury cleared the Led Zeppelin song “Stairway to Heaven” of plagiarism, finding that its opening arpeggios are not the same as a passage from the earlier Randy California instrumental “Tarkus” and not finding evidence of copying during the process of writing “Stairway to Heaven.”

The Fire Aid for Fort McMurray concert met its $2 millon fundraising goal for those affected by a fire that led to the evacuation of Fort McMurray, Alberta last month.

A lawsuit seeks to vacate the copyright of the Woody Guthrie song “This Land Is Your Land.” Researchers found that the song had been published in sheet music 11 years earlier than previously claimed and that its melody is taken from a much older Baptist hymn.



Nickelback headlines the Fire Aid for Fort McMurray concert on June 29 in Edmonton. The benefit concert is the largest music fundraiser to date for Fort McMurray after the northern Canadian city was badly damaged by a wildfire last month.

Bon Jovi have confirmed a new album titled This House Is Not For Sale. The album was recorded in New York with producer John Shanks.

New U.S. postage stamps today celebrate Pluto and the NASA planetary exploration program.

Toto keyboard player Steve Porcaro releases his first solo album Someday/Somehow on June 10. Porcaro is the lead singer for most of the album, which also features guest appearances by Michael McDonald and Michael Sherwood.


AC/DC Tour Begins With Axl Rose

AC/DC begins their tour of Europe tonight in Lisbon with Guns N’ Roses singer Axl Rose filling in on vocals. The band will play 12 shows over the next five weeks.

AC/DC singer Brian Johnson is unable to tour because of an illness causing partial hearing loss, with the risk of total hearing loss if he were to be on a rock stage night after night.

In a BBC interview, Axl explained that AC/DC’s material is more difficult than it sounds, saying he was “just trying to do it justice for the fans.”

Axl will tour with Guns N’ Roses this summer.

AC/DC has had to replace three longtime members since 2014. Before Johnson’s ear problems, there were two other changes, with founding rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young retiring for health issues and drummer Phil Rudd facing legal uncertainties. Both were replaced by musicians who had previously worked with the band.



Finnish operatic metal singer Tarja Turunen is preparing not one but two new albums. The first album, The Brightest Void, is described as “the prequel” to the second, The Shadow Self. The two albums will be released two months apart.

Trevor Horn will be appearing with his former band Yes for two U.K. concerts this month. Yes will surely take the opportunity to try to persuade Horn, who has had a hand in producing five Yes studio albums, to produce a new album with them.

Heart has confirmed a new album, with final mixes underway early in April and a possible release in June.

Bruce Springsteen was quick to cancel an upcoming concert in North Carolina in response to a new discrimination law enacted by the state. Dozens of other performing acts and conference organizers have followed suit and European countries have issued travel advisories cautioning travelers who might visit the state. State tourism officials say the damage to North Carolina’s reputation will last for a generation even if the discrimination law were to be quickly repealed.

Core Entertainment filed for bankruptcy reorganization just weeks after its hit TV series American Idol concluded its last season.

Death: Prince, one of the most versatile and prolific recording artists of recent decades. He was said to have been suffering from the flu.



Music hosting site SoundCloud is hoping to alleviate some of its financial troubles with a new subscription service. The service generally resembles the subscription service on YouTube but is geared toward music listeners instead of viewers.

The Go-Go’s are planning their farewell tour with 21 dates scheduled across North America in August.

Apple has a new patent on technology that removes swear words during music playback.

Heart recorded strings with arranger Paul Buckmaster, apparently for a new album.

Deaths: Keith Emerson, keyboardist of Emerson Lake & Palmer and the most visible rock organist of the 1970s. George Martin, prolific record producer best remembered for his work with the Beatles.



Anderson Rabin Wakeman, three former Yes members, are looking for a top-notch second keyboardist for the tour that will follow their upcoming album. They were unable to recruit Rick Wakeman’s son Adam Wakeman, however; Adam will be touring with Black Sabbath this year.

The FBI persuaded a court to order Apple to create a jailbreak OS for its iPhone 5, which the FBI would use to extract data from phones of suspected criminals. The proposed project would cost Apple an estimated $50 million in labor, and Apple fears that its credibility and the security of its iOS operating system would be compromised. In court papers, Apple has objected on Second and Fifth Amendment grounds.

Television model Kylie Jenner’s attempt to register her first name as a trademark has run into a problem, a formal objection filed by the more famous Kylie, singer Kylie Minogue. Minogue is the owner of the Internet domain and the recording artist of the Kylie album, so she has some serious credibility behind her claim on the Kylie name. Attempts to register trademarks of personal names are usually turned down in any case.

Drummer Ginger Baker announced an abrupt retirement after receiving medical advice about “serious heart problems.” A planned spring tour with Ginger Baker’s Air Force is canceled and the “Gigs” page has been removed from the web site. Baker wrote in his blog that he may never work again. He is 76 years old.

Fresh off their Hall of Fame selection, Cheap Trick is preparing to release a new album Bang, Zoom, Crazy . . . Hello on April 1. The band is using preorders on a crowdfunding site to finance the release.

Rick Aster says his new book Routine SAS Low-Level I/O Programming is not meant for a broad audience, but only for a small subset of SAS developers. “This is the most specialized book I’ve ever published,” Aster says. The book is set for release on the Breakfast imprint on March 22.

Rick Aster’s March of Trash challenge is going ahead for a second year. An estimated 100 to 200 people will participate, pledging to get rid of unwanted stuff every day for the month of March.



Trevor Rabin says he has put his half-finished solo album on hold to focus on a collaboration with two other former Yes members, Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman. The Anderson Rabin Wakeman album is hoped to be finished this year. A tour is on the drawing board for later in the year.

Musical performers set to appear at this year’s Super Bowl are said to include Bruno Mars, Coldplay, and Lady Gaga.

David Bowie had begun recording a new album at the time of his death, with at least five songs recorded.

The new album Ride the Tiger by Greg Lake and Geoff Downes collects the demos for the six songs the two wrote together, including an early version of the ELP hit “Street War.”

Deaths: Paul Kantner, founder and guitarist of Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship. Glenn Frey, guitarist of The Eagles and singer of many of the band’s hits such as “Take It Easy.”


For David Bowie, a Birthday, a New Album, Then Death

David Bowie kept his new album a secret until it was ready for release, a release that coincided with his 69th birthday. He also kept his cancer a secret from the public, and it killed him, mere days after the album’s release.

The new album, ★ (“black star”), is a musical adventure. Bowie and producer Tony Visconti worked with a jazz band over an extended period to record the tracks, but the result is not a jazz album. It has the stark tones of a Bowie album, though the musicianship of the players lends a presence and credibility to the music and helped propel the album to the upper reaches of the charts in multiple countries on its release.

The album was released on January 8 along with a video for the song “Lazarus” that shows the singer lying in a hospital bed, his eyes covered in bandages, though singing and gesturing with his usual energy. Two days later came the news that Bowie had passed away from cancer that he had lived with for eighteen months. The hospital bed and bandages were not merely stage props, but symbols of where Bowie was in his life.



The new Star Wars movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens has had the biggest opening weekend of any movie ever and is likely to be listed as the all-time top-grossing movie by the end of January. The movie picks up the story perhaps thirty years after Episode VI and features many of the same characters.

Mozilla has stopped development of Firefox OS, its low-cost entry in the phone operating system wars. The Firefox team will return its attention to the web browser, which is now also available worldwide on iOS devices.

With guitar hero Slash back on board, Guns ’n’ Roses is planning a two-month summer tour and is slated for a headlining appearance at Coachella.

A new Led Zeppelin album is in the works. Singer Robert Plant hinted months ago that he would be able to commit the time that a new album would require.

Bah & the Humbugs released several new songs and featured two of them, “Plain Red Cup” and “Sleigh Boy,” in their first-ever lyric videos.

Deaths: Lemmy, founder and bassist of Motörhead. Scott Weiland, original lead singer for Stone Temple Pilots. Natalie Cole, singer of pop hits such as “This Will Be.”

SINCE 1985
Copyright © 2023 Breakfast Communications Corporation, P.O. Box 176, Paoli, PA 19301-0176 U.S.A.


Video Digest

Music and other videos.

News Archive


Rick Aster’s World

What’s coming . . . and what does it take to be ready for the future?