The Strokes: Textbook Rock Band Implosion

The Strokes exploded on the scene with This Is It (2001), one of the shining examples of the garage rock resurgence. The band, full of charismatic personalities, did not handle success well and soon fell prey to the stereotypical band killers (ego, drugs). Their follow-ups, derided as both too similar and too divergent, did not do nearly as well commercially and the band was left chasing what it had thrown away. Vulture provides a beautifully illustrated, and brutally honest, retrospective of a band that could have been.

The Last Moment of the Last Great Rock Band

Vulture.com, 5.15.17

The National’s “Boxer” (2007)

The National took the long view and it has paid off for them. Incubating in the same Brooklyn scene as The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Interpol, the band watched all three explode to international popularity while they nurtured a more modest fan base with a decidedly less intense sound. With their third studio album, Alligator (2005), something started to click. On endless tours their audiences started to grow organically and expectations grew for the their next album. Boxer would have a difficult birth, however, as the band exited the record studio after months of effort with a half-finished album. Their diligent work and experimentation would pay off, though, as the album would catapult the band to newfound fame.

Everything counts a little more than we think: An oral history of The National’s Boxer

AVClub.com, 9.7.17

Raw Comedy: “Curb Your Enthusiasm”

On the eve of Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s return The Hollywood Reporter provides some choice excerpts of an oral history podcast about the show. The unique sitcom’s unabashedly honest approach makes for an interesting dynamic amongst the cast. Shrinking violets need not apply. The quotes chosen for the piece are almost universally funny and are absolutely worth your time.

‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ The Early Years: Crazy Auditions and the Art of the Cringe

HollywoodReporter.com, 9.8.17

Lumascape: Making Order Out of Chaos

Terence Kawaja introduced Lumascape, a one-page graphical representation of the online advertising industry, in 2010. At that time things were nutso. Google’s AdWords was taking over the world, and the industry was growing, evolving, and consolidating all at the same time. His industry landscape became a sensation in that it helped provide definition to the players and their roles. Plus, he used their logos, which made everyone happy. Digiday takes a look back at one of the most famous PowerPoint slides of all time.

‘I just wanted to organize this mess’: An oral history of the Lumascape

Digiday.com, 9.12.17

NASA’s Golden Boy: Cassini Readies for the Plunge

On the eve of Cassini’s plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere the Los Angeles Times gathers the spacecraft’s human progenitors and stewards for a look back at one of the most successful missions in history. It was a mission that survived two budget crises (although it lost project scope and functionality each time) as well as environmental protests concerning the safety of its plutonium fuel, but once it left Earth the spacecraft has seen smooth sailing. Its mission has been extended twice as it has found ocean worlds and moons suitable for life, all while extending our knowledge of the iconic ringed gas giant by orders of magnitude. The nicely illustrated piece is a worthy look back.

‘OK. Let’s do it!’ An oral history of how NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn came to be

LATimes.com, 9.12.17

George Brett and The Pine Tar Game

It’s one of the most replayed video clips in MLB history: George Brett charging out of the dugout like he wanted to kill someone. He had just had a home run nullified because of excessive pine tar and he was displeased. The league office would eventually overturn the call, saying that it was technically correct but stupid. The remainder of the game would be replayed and it became a Kansas City win instead of a loss. No one remembers that part. Nowadays it’s just good for storytellin’, and Sports Illustrated does a good job of getting everyone’s best lines.

An oral history of the Pine Tar Game

SI.com, 7.24.13

Menswear Was Late to the Blogging Party, But It’s Made Quite the Entrance

Women’s fashion made great use of the internet for the early days for obvious reasons–pictures and video of high fashion were perfect of the internet, and blogging/message boards easily found an eager audience. Menswear, however, was neglected in the boom years. For many connoisseurs that changed when Style.com added a men’s section in 2008. Since then, it’s been gangbusters. Early blogs like TheSartorialist.com and PutThisOn.com exploded in popularity and were soon followed by hundreds of imitators. Brands took notice and launched their own male-oriented content streams and now business is booming. GQ.com traces the meteoric rise.

Reblog This: The Oral History of Menswear Blogging

GQ.com, 12.13.11

“Good Burger”

On the millennial Mount Rushmore of childhood programming is Good Burger, a send up of the fast-food industry courtesy of a couple good-hearted pranksters. Good Burger started as a comedy sketch on Nickelodeon’s All That and did so well that Paramount decided to option it for a movie.  Besides stars Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell the production roped in a bunch of guest stars included Abe Vigoda, George Clinton, Carmen Electra and Sinbad. Although critics didn’t love the admittedly silly movie, Paramount certainly liked grossing $24M on a $9M budget. Complex revisits a 90’s classic.

The Oral History of Nickelodeon’s ‘Good Burger’

Complex.com, 7.25.17

Pearl Jam Outlasts Them All

In August 2017 Spin digitized and posted an oral history of Pearl Jam from August 2001. They did that because it’s really good–the Pearl Jam guys are nothing if not honest, and they openly share painful and embarrassing memories in a way that seems alien now. In many ways the band came together from the ashes of Mother Love Bone after lead singer Andy Wood’s overdose death. That was a tough spot for San Diego surfer Eddie Vedder to step into, and when he became the face of the band (and one of the biggest stars on the planet) it led a difficult transformation within the band. Pearl Jam famously struggled with pop culture stardom and there are choice anecdotes from aging superstars like Pete Townshend and Bono about the advice they provided. And, of course, there was the “rivalry” with Nirvana and the subsequent cataclysmic suicide of Kurt Cobain. Lots of meat on this bone. Two thumbs up!

Past Ten

Spin.com, 8.1.17

 

The Iranian Hostage Crisis

Early in the morning of November 4, 1979, an enraged group of medical and engineering students stormed the American embassy in Tehran and took the whole staff as hostages. The students were enraged that Jimmy Carter had granted asylum to the Shah, the former leader of Iran, viewing that as confirmation that the Americans were planning a coup against the Islamic Revolution in order to reinstall the Shah. None of this was true (the Shah was dying of cancer for one) but it didn’t matter. The students planned to hold the embassy for 2-3 days while they searched for confirmation that the embassy was housing coup planners and spies. The leaders of the Resolution, including Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, however, quickly realized the embassy seizure was a political gold mine that allowed them to consolidate power and eliminate opponents. A completely botched rescue attempt further inflamed the Iranians. The crisis eventually ended with the election of Ronald Reagan, meaning the Iranians achieved their goal of keeping the hated Jimmy Carter to just a one-term presidency. The shameful episode was the first exposure to Islamic radicalism for many Americans, and it wouldn’t be the last.

444 Days in the Dark: An Oral History of the Iran Hostage Crisis

GQ.com, 11.3.09

Tales From the Borderlands

Telltale Games is a beloved game development studio known for story-driven splatfests. They’re best known for The Walking Dead gaming series and Tales From the Borderlands was viewed as a bit of a odd departure into comedic fare. However, the five-part series proved to be a great success in the mid-2010’s and brought a new brand of fan to the studio. Campo Santo does a fascinating deep dive into the creative development process for the series, and Telltale’s employees, to their credit, are refreshingly honest. It’s honestly an interesting view into a successful (and stressed) creative team, regardless of whether you care about the video game product that came out the other side.

Tales from the Borderlands: The Oral History

Quarterly.CampoSanto.com, 8.8.17

The “Moneyball” Draft

The 2002 draft would come to be known as the Moneyball draft due to the bestseller’s focus on that draft for the Oakland A’s. The strategy, which focused on allocating resources to undervalued skills, meant that at the time the A’s identified on-base skills as a talent they could focus on as a small-market team. In the draft their focus was on college talent. Unfortunately for them–the draft had exceptional high-school talent (Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Prince Fielder, Scott Kazmir, Jon Lester, Brian McCann). The A’s did hit on the first-round pick (Nick Swisher) but the rest did not work out as well. MLB.com recaps the famous draft, which despite the top-5 picks all being busts, still produced a ton of quality MLB talent.

#TBT: An oral history of the ‘Moneyball’ Draft

MLB.com, 6.8.17

“Battle of the Network Stars”

Battle of the Network Stars was a fun, very 70s show that presaged the celeb-obsessed culture to come. The premise was not complicated–get a bunch of famous, good-looking celebs and have them run and goof around for the camera. The celebs liked it for the exposure and the extra pay check (winners took him $20K). With a reboot on the horizon The A.V. Club gathers many of the principals to talk about their experiences on the show, including how seriously they took it and impressive/embarrassing events. Interviewees include Jimmy Walker, Jamie Farr, Scott Baio, Todd Bridges, LeVar Burton and Adrienne Barbeau.

A Battle Royale Revisited: An Oral History of Battle Of The Network Stars

AVClub.com, 8.14.17

The Passion Project to Bring a Rainforest to Iowa

Ted Townsend was a rich heir with a dream: He wanted to build a functioning rainforest in Iowa, complete with apes. He had travelled extensively and was enamored with the way we could learn from apes and the way they learned from us. He had inherited a fortune in sausage money and he was ready to spend generously. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley pulled some old-school politician shit to get $50M earmarked for the facility that the architect described as “like building Jurassic Park.” To get the federal money, however, they needed to get matching contributions from the private sector. That proved to be an issue as the private sector thought that the idea was awful. Complaints ranged from environmental impact to tax money usage and the project languished until dying out in 2007. In its way it was a beautiful, bold idea, though, and Inverse goes back to give it a good look.

An Oral History of the Indoor Rainforest Iowa Almost Built

Inverse.com, 8.14.15

“Trainspotting” (1996)

The Trainspotting phenomenon started with the Irvine Welsh’s semi-autobiographical novel, part of the 90’s trend of over-the-top gutter punk storytelling. The book was a huge hit in Britain and led to a successful play, then BBC’s edgy Channel 4 agreed to finance fledgling director Danny Boyle’s movie production. Boyle fully realized Welsh’s in-your-face depiction of young, uninhibited heroin addicts, headlined in a star-making role by Ewan McGregor. The film, despite a paltry $3.5M budget, proved just as successful, even in America during its dreadful “family values” years. The Hollywood Reporter gathers the core crew for a look back.

‘Trainspotting’ Oral History: Danny Boyle, Ewan McGregor Reflect on Cult ’90s Brit Hit

HollywoodReporter.com, 2.9.17

 

 

Chicago’s Dance Mania Label Ushers in Ghetto House Music

The Dance Mania label grew organically out of a record store distribution and retail operation, building off local DJs who couldn’t keep up with demand as ghetto house exploded in the late 80s. The old house heads didn’t approve because the new stuff was gloriously obscene, but the kids loved it and would buy any new release just because of the Dance Mania reputation. After ceasing operations in 2001, the label relaunched in 2013 due to ongoing demand and the booming EDM scene. FACT takes a look back at Chicago’s beloved homegrown label.

“No one was doing the type of music we were doing”: An oral history of Dance Mania

FACTmag.com, 3.4.14

The 1971 NFL Draft: The First “Year of the Quarterback”

Some of the best-known NFL drafts are the ones that produce a bunch of star-quality quarterbacks, such as 1983 (Elway, Marino, Kelly) and 2004 (Eli Manning, Rivers, Roethlisberger). However, the original “Year of the Quarterback” was 1971 when QBs went 1-2-3 overall and brought a bushload of backfield talent in the league. Jim Plunkett went first overall to the Patriots, followed by Archie Manning to the Saints, and then Dan Pastorini to the Oilers. Also in the draft were Joe Theismann, Lynn Dickey, and Kenny Anderson. All six would have long, productive careers although Manning and Dickey played for consistently awful teams. Sports Illustrated spoke to all six as well as some front office personnel for a fun look back at the beginning of the age of the quarterback.

Oral history of the 1971 NFL draft: The original Year of the Quarterback

SI.com, 4.21.16

Chris Berman Makes Sports Fun Again

ESPN changed television in the last couple decades of the 20th century. An all-sports network? No way that’ll work! Leading the charge was the affable Chris Berman, who changed sports highlights with his nicknames, sound effects, and infectious enthusiasm. Yes, his act wore thin in later years, but he’s an absolute titan of sports media, and Sports Illustrated sends him off into retirement with a fond look back.

Chris Berman: ‘The Vin Scully of the NFL’

SI.com, 1.10.17

Michael Bay Blows Up Hollywood

Michael Bay does not make artistic films. He is unapologetic about this. He makes entertainment, and he’s done it more successfully than any other director this century. Film snobs decry his reliance on overdone pyrotechnics, and kindergarten dialogue, while his actors moan about his abrasive personality, but he gets it done. Bad Boys, Armageddon, Transformers, his list of hits is impressive. GQ provides a wonderfully entertaining overview of the polarizing Bay.

An Oral History of Michael Bay, the Most Explosive Director of All Time

GQ.com, 6.27.11

The American Soap Opera

The soap opera is notorious for its outlandish story lines but hidden beside the demon babies and fake deaths were some plot points that advanced what was “proper” to show on television, including the first TV abortion, rape, and depiction of HIV. But, of course, any good oral history of soap operas is going to get the dirt on the craziest scene a participant ever saw, and metal_floss does not disappoint in that regard!

Sex & Death in the Afternoon: An Oral History of the American Soap Opera

mentalfloss.com, 8.25.11