Rubin decides dictionary is the death of Def

Def American Recordings head Rick Rubin is planning a funeral for Aug. 27, and it promises to be a joyful event.

Rubin is “burying” Def American, the record company he founded in 1988. But it will be reincarnated as a new label called American Recordings.

According to the Burbank-based label’s publicist Heidi Robinson, Rubin has decided to deep-six the Def because the word has become mainstream and meaningless. Apparently Rubin was horrified to find that it even rated a mention in the New Webster’s dictionary where it is defined as a slang word of unknown origin meaning “excellent.”

The reasoning behind the new name remains unclear, though Robinson cited the Revolutionary War and fighting for the rights of others — the spirit Rubin embodies, she said.

So the independent label, whose diverse roster includes the Black Crowes, Johnny Cash and soon-to-be-signed Seattle grrrl group 7-Year-Bitch, will hold a funeral service at a Hollywood cemetery and follow it with a christening party.

Details are still being finalized, but this much is known: A casket, plot and black granite plaque have been procured. A “well-known” minister will lead a chapel service, from which a horse-drawn hearse will take the coffin to its final resting place.

The mood will abruptly change as a marching band strikes up joyous tunes and a police motorcade escorts the mourners to a party that will be attended by 1, 500 guests. A number of bands will provide entertainment.

Following the success of last year’s “Wish” album and world tour, Robert Smith and his “gloom pop” band the Cure return this fall with a full schedule of product issues, including two live albums and the group’s second theatrical film release. Leading the parade mid-August will be the major-market release of “Show ,” a full-length concert docu filmed last July at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich. The movie, directed by Aubrey Powell and released by Fiction Films/Polygram Video, features a digitally recorded, 48-track soundtrack.

The film is the Cure’s second pic, after 1986’s “In Orange.” Musical accompaniments to the film are numerous. A five-cut CD single, “Sideshow,” will bow in early September and feature four songs not included on the CD version of the subsequent full live album, “Show.”

Coming in late October will be a second complete live recording, “Paris,” taken from the band’s fall 1992 concert in that French city. This album will include what’s being described by a band spokesperson as more obscure material, much from the group’s earlier recordings.

The Ambassador Foundation, long a heavyweight in the Los Angeles area’s live classical music scene, is trying to increase its clout in jazz as well. Ambassador’s jazz flagship, the Pasadena Jazz Festival — which checks in at Ambassador Auditorium this weekend — is well on its way to providing a strong alternative to larger summer festivals like the Playboy and Long Beach.

David Hulme, VP of the Ambassador Foundation and the sparkplug behind the festival, said ticket sales have doubled over ’92, a sign that the event is catching on.

The festival opens Saturday night with a Brazilian program featuring Dori Caymmi, Ricardo Silveira and Ivan Lins. Sunday’s lineup includes appearances by Diane Schuur, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Dave and Don Grusin and the Ken Peplowski Quintet.

The concerts in the auditorium are counterpointed with outdoor music and alfresco dining on the Ambassador mall, with food provided by several Pasadena restaurants. As in 1992, $ 10,000 of the festival proceeds will be donated to the Red Cross, earmarked this year for Midwest flood victims.

Already Hulme is thinking of expanding the festival, possibly over three or four days starting in midweek. But he doesn’t anticipate moving it to a larger locale.

Radio Report: The hottest new song this week is Mariah Carey’s “Dreamlover.” The pop diva’s first single from the upcoming album, “Music Box,” was added by 199 of the 270 stations that report to the Network Forty, a Top-40 radio trade paper (where this reporter is editor). That’s the highest number of out-of-the-box adds of any single this year other than Janet Jackson’s “That’s the Way Love Goes,” which broke 200.

Columbia Records is also enjoying the multiformat success of Billy Joel. The debut single and title song from his new album, “River of Dreams,” was far and away the most-added record at Top 40 last week. What’s more, another song off the album was the most-added record at Rock Radio, according to Album Network. The song, “No Man’s Land,” features former Mountain guitarist Leslie West.

The No. 1 single in the country is by the English pop/reggae cover outfit UB 40. Their version of Elvis Presley’s hit, “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” is the No. 1 song on radio for the third week in a row. The new single is off both the soundtrack to the film “Sliver,” and their just-released album, “Promises And Lies.” Ironically, the next single, “Higher Ground,” is not the Stevie Wonder classic, but a song written by the band.

Twenty years after its inception, Kiss is still drawing fans — if not to the sold-out arena concerts of yesteryear, then at least to the various promotional devices that seem to go hand-in-hand with the Kiss vision.

Last May, the band was inducted into Hollywood’s Rock Walk and honored with a “Kiss Day” by then-Mayor Tom Bradley to celebrate the release of “Kiss Alive III”– their third live album and 26th disc overall. The album entered and peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard charts.

Following “Alive III’s” release was a 30-date, 40-city campaign in which fans were given tickets to screening parties to view the band’s fifth homevideo, “Kiss Konfidential” (released July 20). In certain cities, some fans were given tickets upon purchasing any Kiss album in advertised record stores. With entry assured to the screening, the fans then had a chance to meet Kiss either in-store or at a party. Locally, the party was held at the Palace last week.

A nod to the devoted Kiss Army or a clever marketing scheme? Bassist Gene Simmons, who co-founded the band with guitarist Paul Stanley, believes such endeavors are a gesture of goodwill to their fans. “We have always been a ‘People’s Band.’ The idea (of the promotional tour) was to look into the eyes of the people that put you there in the first palace and really hear what’s on their minds.”

Evidently, those fans will have plenty to occupy their minds (and their wallets) when a “Top Secret” album of Kiss cover tunes performed by the likes of Garth Brooks and Lenny Kravitz, as well as a “big, massive, leather-bound” coffee-table book come out next year.

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