>>>but I can'tbe the only one who—as people observed the 20th anniversary of John Lennon's murder last week—sometimes wonder instead: What if Robert Hilburn had lived? What if the exhilarating promise born about 30 years ago (when the Los Angeles Times anointed Hilburn one of the first full-time rock critics at a major daily newspaper) had not begun to pitifully waste away . . . oh, about 29 years ago? Although Hilburn clung to life until sometime in the mid-'70s (we know for a fact he was there for Elton John's U.S. debut at the Troubadour), carbon-dating hasn't pinpointed the exact moment of his passing. Most scholars believe it happened with his second reference to Bruce Springsteen. Sadly, however, Hilburn was never buried. Consequently, the pain of his demise (and the mystery—was it suicide?) has lingered for nearly a quarter-century. That anguish returned again with full, torturous force in last week's Times Calendar section with the "remembrance" of Lennon that appeared under Hilburn's byline. A remembrance? Well, that would have been nice. Lennon is worth remembering—he used to be in a band with that guy from Wings, right?—but like most of what has come to constitute a Hilburn "review," this piece dragged readers kicking and screaming into a haunted reverie, in which Hilburn hears voices and presumes intentions and weaves threadbare scenarios out of speculation that he plucks from thin air. Instead of respectful, sensitive analysis, Hilburn gave us his stalker-like hallucinations. With an unnervingly deadpan authorial voice, he recited a day-planner account of Lennon's schedule (including that Lennon would "surely" be recording for Interscope Records) and an eavesdropper's report on Lennon's conversations (including Lennon's fond memories of his 60th birthday party). When, in the middle of this double fantasy, Hilburn tossed in a Tourette's-like mention of Springsteen, I blinked back tears. Because it could have all turned out so much differently—and yes, I dare say, so much better—if only Robert Hilburn had lived. (Dave Wielenga)
>>>THE DAMNED FOREVER British punk band the Damned—purveyors of that dark-melodic-goth-look-at-me-I'm-creepy-but-also-kinda-sexy-and-I'm-from-England-vibe—have signed to Nitro Records, the Huntington Beach label owned and run by the Offspring's Dexter Holland. Holland has repeatedly professed his love for the band, and the Offspring even covered the Damned's look-at-me-I'm-creepy-and-have-a-rich-baritone-and-I'm-from-England hit song "Smash It Up," which was played on the radio and released on the Batman Forever soundtrack, which also featured this really good song by Sunny Day Real Estate. The Damned, one of the first British punk bands to tour and release an album in the states (beating the Sex Pistols by a few months), formed in London in 1977. Actually, there was a good Flaming Lips song on that soundtrack, too. The Damned and Holland had a meeting back in February, at which time Holland offered to finance some Damned demos, which the band subsequently recorded in London. Val Kilmer was in Batman Forever, right? And Nicole Kidman played a psychologist or something? One time, I was at a party in LA, and Val Kilmer was walking around with toilet paper stuck to his shoe. The demos were apparently mind-blowing, reminiscent of early Damned material, and Nitro made the band an offer which, according to the band's manager, is "a very good deal. By no means are we making Limp Bizkit major-label money, but everyone's happy with the deal." Kilmer was kind of an ass, actually, because he was trying to avoid these two people who were waiting patiently to get his autograph. Also, he was wearing men's sandals without socks, which is kind of a bad look and not just because of the toilet paper, you know? The Damned are in the process of choosing a producer and plan to release the album in May 2001. (Alison M. Rosen)
>>>VINDICATION! Let us take you back, now, to the June 20, 1997, issue of the Weekly and specifically to Rich Kane's article in that issue, "Too Pooped to Pop: U2's bargain-basement-sale Poopmart": "Lord knows, Bono deserves a good stumble. Here they come now, sashaying through the crowd at the Sam Boyd Silver Bowl in Las Vegas on their way to the stage in a vainglorious, symbolic act of band-fan bonding: Adam, dressed like a Nevada test-site worker; The Edge, the leathered, queer cowboy; Larry "the Cute One" Mullen, in tight-fitting camo fatigues; and the hooded Bono, appropriately bringing up the rear, pompously punching the air like Ali in his prime. . . . They reach the stage and are dwarfed by their kitschy set, with its 100-foot golden arch, its 100-foot toothpick topped with a 12-foot-wide olive, its 150-by-50-foot video screen (with enough wattage to supply Rwanda for a generation) and its 35-foot lemon mirror ball."
And now, fast forward to the Oct. 29, 2000, Los Angeles Timesinterview with U2's Larry Mullen and Bono: "We ended up in Las Vegas underrehearsed. . . . We had built a reputation as a great live band, and all of a sudden, we were placed in a situation where we didn't know if we were able to deliver. . . I think we finally realized on the PopMart tour that it was time for us to start stripping back again. . . . We realized that it was time for us to get back to the essence of what we do."