Your Local Black Friday/Record Store Day Shopper's Guide

Categories: Gift Guide

Photo courtesy of
Historically speaking, "Black Friday" is a phrase synonymous with discount hand-mixers and 5 a.m. tramplings at the local Walmart. By definition alone -- so not hip. And while all of you normal folks -- who would rather pay the extra $50 for a PS4 over pitching a tent in the shantytown that accumulates outside Best Buy every Thanksgiving night -- are highly advised to sleep in and enjoy some tasty Tofurky leftovers this Friday, you may just want to venture out after the early-bird deals have ended and get in a little record-shopping at your favorite locally owned spots.

The reason being that, as you may not know, the organizers of April's nationwide Record Store Day have declared Black Friday a secondary annual event aimed at encouraging shoppers to buy from independent shops. To that end, indie record stores around the country are scheduling various special events for this coming Friday, November 29. In addition, major labels have planned special releases and limited editions to be debuted for the occasion. (See a full list here.)

So, if you're a vinyl junkie, there's no better time of the season to supplement your collection or do a little early gift-shopping. Not a record enthusiast, per se? Who cares! Everyone is bound to need a little family-time time-out... and did we mention free booze?

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Essential Rock and Roll Literature for Budding Music Writers

Right about now young, budding rock writers and nerds are sitting on gift cards and credit from the holidays, and may need to know what books to pick up at the local bookstore or Amazon to further their education.

It's not enough to just read every new music blog or (gasp!) pick up a few music magazines whenever the mood strikes. At least it wasn't for this writer. It was spending hours at used-book stores and finding fellow nerds' leftovers. Rolling Stone, Nick Kent and Lester Bangs compilations, stuff like that.

A healthy dose of Chuck Klosterman ushered me along the path, too.

I still owe my local library a chunk of change for "relieving" them of a cool Stones book in 2003. I also acquired a handful of reference books, popular music guides, and encyclopedias from bookstores and garage sales.

So, what should you aspiring rock writers have in your personal curriculums? Well, stop aspiring and start being, for one thing. Start a blog. Make us sweat.

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Bruce: New Springsteen Book Is the Boss of Them All

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Photo courtesy of SXSW
Bruce Springsteen at SXSW, March 2012
By Peter Ames Carlin
Touchstone Books, 512 pp., $28.

Let me start by saying that Carlin -- who has also penned books on Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney -- has written the definitive Springsteen straight-bio here with Bruce, an engaging, thorough, and compelling look at the man and his music.

Nothing against Dave Marsh's Two Hearts (a bit hagiographic and now out of date) or Marc Dolan's recent, masterful Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock and Roll (which includes more sociological/cultural-impact analysis). But Bruce has...well, Bruce himself.

Carlin writes in the afterword that he had been working on the book for about a year and a half --with word getting around Bruce's camp -- when he got a call from manager/guard dog Jon Landau.

And though not an authorized biography, Springsteen ended up giving hours and hours of interviews to Carlin, which opened up the door for the author to speak with many others in the form of current and former band members (including Clarence Clemons, just shortly before his death), friends, business associates, and Bruce's own family, including his octogenarian mother.

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10 Odd Musical Gift Ideas for the Last Christmas on Earth

Categories: Gift Guide


Back in the day, Christmas shopping for music lovers couldn't have been simpler: just head on down to the record store, pick up the latest hot release or a rare collector's item, wrap it up with a Warehouse Music gift certificate and you were golden.

Now that the music business has evolved into a digital game, our options have basically been reduced to the dreaded iTunes gift card. Has there ever been a less exciting gift to unwrap in the history of Christmas?

No, not that we're aware of.

That's why we recommend getting a little creative with your music-related Christmas shopping. We realize that you're probably a little busy trying to find parking at the mall at the moment, so we've saved you the trouble of thinking by coming up with the following list of weird and quirky gift ideas for the (gasp) Last Christmas on Earth.

Truly, some of them are better to give than receive. Read on to see what we mean.

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$430 Beatles LP Box Leads 2012's Big-Ticket Holiday Music Buys

Categories: Gift Guide

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It may be Thanksgiving today, but retailers know it better as the day before Black Friday. Music retailers know it even better as the day before Record Store Day Jr., a post-Thanksgiving vinyl bonanza. Saturday is Small Business Day on top of that, so record stores ought to have a healthy if exhausting weekend.

Rocks Off visited Cactus Music Tuesday night to scout out some of the bigger-ticket items on offer. The clerks were even nice enough to let us in after hours; we thought it closed at 10. They said that by far the biggest new item on offer is the complete remastered Beatles discography on 180-gram vinyl, which goes for $420 as a set or about $23 for each of the LPs.

Perfect for all those people with warm fuzzy memories of Paul McCartney's Minute Maid Park show last week, we imagine. Cactus also has in-stores lined up for The Manichean (1 p.m.) and Young Girls (3 p.m.) Friday, and Castle Lights (1 p.m.) and The Pharmacy (3 p.m.) Saturday.

Over at Sig's Lagoon, Tomas Escalante says his shop is knocking $100 off the Beatles set Friday. Otherwise, he laughs, "there's so much crap coming out it's hard to keep track."

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Top 10 Kitschy Pop-Related Gift Items to Give This Year

Categories: Gift Guide

Thanksgiving is in ten days, and then we'll all be fully immersed in the holiday season. While shopping recently, I noticed that Taylor Swift now has her own greeting-card line featuring her photography and sweet words.

If you were to receive one such card from a loved one, would you swell with fuzzy warm joy and thoughts of kittens and double rainbows? Oh, you're a few years older than 16? You just threw up in your mouth a little? What a bunch of cynics.

That being said, there is a cornucopia of artist-branded merchandise for you to give those close to you this holiday season. To help get your personal wish list started, here is a selection of the greatest music-related kitsch currently available in stores and online.

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Happy B'Day, Beyoncé: 10 Gift Ideas for Houston's Homegrown Megastar

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Photo by Daniel Kramer
B at Toyota Center in 2009
"What do you get for the woman who has everything?" That question must have been plaguing Sean Carter for the past weeks, at least. His lovely wife, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, whom he so callously stole away from our fair city even though she is 100 percent too good for him, turns 31 today.

In the past, HOVA has gone big. In 2010, he bought her her very own private island off the coast of Florida for a cool $20 million. Well, good luck topping that shit, asshole. Where do you go from there -- her own archipelago?

Those of us who wipe our asses with regular toilet paper instead of platinum chains that we don't want anymore have to get a little more creative with our gift-giving than just picking out the most expensive thing we've ever heard of and sticking a bow on it. Because we realize you probably spent your Labor Day weekend too intoxicated to think, we've helpfully come up with a list of affordable presents that we think Beyoncé would enjoy.

Whatever you do, though, don't forget the card! Unless you're Jay-Z, in which case we hope you do forget the card, get into a fight about it, and get a divorce, you lucky son of a bitch.

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Iron Maiden Gets Superfan Treatment in New Coffee-Table Book

Rewind: 10 Iron Maiden T-Shirts Sure to Prove Your Metal Cred

Maiden Nation is counting the hours before Saturday night's gig up north at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, but any self-respecting Iron Maiden fan should have been cuddled stoically studying Neil Daniels's new tome Iron Maiden: The Ultimate Unauthorized History of the Beast, released in late June.

Daniels's Maiden textbook is bursting with behind-the-scenes photos from the past four decades of the group (formed in 1975) plus shots of nearly every piece of merch the group has released, from shirts, stickers and hats to a collection of set lists, backstage passes and ticket stubs.

Plus, if you ever wanted to own a picture of lead singer Bruce Dickinson in tight blue man-panties, you are in luck.

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Happy Belated Birthday, Scott Stapp: 10 Gift Ideas for a Rock Icon

Categories: Gift Guide

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Photo by Jim Bricker
Are you readay-yaahh?
Well, we've done it again. Creed singer Scott Stapp's birthday came and went this week (he's 39), and we didn't get him a thing. Didn't even shout him out on Twitter. After the considerable musical gifts this man has given us over the years, that's completely unacceptable.

There's only one way to make things right, and we think you know what that is: a belated birthday present and a nice card (no CVS garbage). He's probably a little offended that we forgot, so we've got to put a little thought into it. Once you're already late, a Starbucks gift card ain't gonna cut it.

Rocks Off has come up with 10 perfect gift ideas for the greatest rock star of his generation, and just in case you're in the same boat as we are, we're sharing our list with you. Any one of these gift ideas would show Mr. Stapp the appreciation and generous spirit that this artistic contributions to the soundtrack of our lives have earned him.

We'll be honest: It's going to be pretty hard to pick just one. WWJD? He'd buy ALL of them for Scott Stapp, that's what. Can we faithfully do any less?

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Congrats, J: 10 Graduation Gift Ideas for Justin Bieber

Categories: Gift Guide

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So, this happened.
Teen pop sensation Justin Bieber managed to graduate from high school recently, earning his diploma from St. Michael Catholic Secondary School in Stratford, Ontario, a school that was kind enough to offer him electronic courses uncontaminated by loathsome U.S. politics. Bieber moved to Atlanta with his mother five years ago to break into the music biz, a plan which appears to have gone fairly well for them to this point.

We were a little embarrassed that we didn't attend the commencement; we've got bills to pay, as we're sure Mr. Bieber would understand. How do we know? Well, he didn't attend his own graduation ceremony, either. That gives us an opportunity to save face. Nothing says "Congrats, Grad!" like a thoughtfully chosen graduation gift, and we've got a few bright ideas on what Justin might like.

Since more than a few of our loyal readers probably neglected to get Selena's man anything as well, Rocks Off has helpfully compiled this handy list of gift ideas for the Bieb's big day. If you decide to get him one, just tell him it's from both of us.

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