Beck, Beastie Boys Give To Sweet Relief Auction

Auction of rockers' donated items will raise money for musicians' medical treatment.

Organizers of the second annual Sweet Relief Holiday Ornament Auction said

they hope music fans and collectors will once again come to the aid of ailing

musicians by ponying up big bids for one-of-a-kind items donated by leading

rockers.

This year bidders will be picking from items offered by collage-rocker Beck,

punk-rappers the Beastie Boys and dozens of others.

"We would like to raise at least three times as much as last year," event

coordinator Noa Jones said of the $20,000 earned from 1997's event. "That was

a trial run, and it gave us a warm fuzzy that so many people came out of the

woodwork to help."

The online auction -- which benefits the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, a

nonprofit organization established in 1994 by singer/songwriter Victoria

Williams to provide financial and medical assistance to musicians -- will start

Dec. 1 and culminate in an online auction at 9 p.m. (PST) Dec. 8, according to

Jones.

Among those helped by the fund over the last year, Jones said, were a street

musician diagnosed with tongue cancer, a drummer who suffered a cerebral

hemorrhage and a musician suffering from a uterine tumor, all of whose names

Jones said the fund was not at liberty to divulge.

Items purchased last year included a glass ball from the Fox cartoon "The

Simpsons" that fetched $1,000, as well as signed ornaments by such rock and

rap stars as Alanis Morissette, Everclear, the Wu-Tang Clan and Sonic Youth,

and a harmonica from folk-legend Bob Dylan.

Organizers have already secured a number of unique items for the 1998

auction.

Punk-rappers the Beastie Boys have donated a mobile, a signed ball and future

concert tickets. Roots-rockers the Counting Crows have offered up a signed

guitar, as has Lenny Kravitz. Kitsch-poppers the Barenaked Ladies have

handed in a signed song/story book.

Counting Crows guitarist David Bryson said the members of the L.A. group

(which had a major hit in 1994 with "Round Here" [RealAudio excerpt of live version]) decided to

make a donation -- which includes both a signed Epiphone acoustic guitar and

an ornament -- because they realize that not every musician can fall back on

health insurance. "We are fortunate to be able to afford health insurance,"

Bryson said. "It's great that Sweet Relief is there to help those who can't."

Williams herself was the first recipient of Sweet Relief funds when, following her

1992 diagnosis with multiple sclerosis, friends such as Pearl Jam and Evan

Dando pitched in for the first Sweet Relief record, which featured covers

of Williams' songs. The fund has distributed more than $450,000 in grants to

musicians to date, according to Jones.

Jones said Everclear drummer Greg Eklund, who designed his band's

ornament, half-jokingly told organizers he looked at his band's contribution as

an investment in his own future. "You never know when, some day down the

line, I'll come running to you because of liver disease or something," Eklund

said.

With 79 items donated so far, Jones said organizers hope to surpass last year's

total of 100 biddable lots.

Among this year's donors of signed and unsigned items are former Simon and

Garfunkel member Art Garfunkel (CD and ornament); the B-52's (ornament);

divas Barbra Streisand (CD), Bette Midler (signed clear plastic ball filled with

feathers) and Madonna (clear plastic orb with feathers); blues-rocker Bonnie

Raitt (ornament); Blondie singer Debbie Harry (ornament); rappers the Fugees

(ornament); defunct jam-legends the Grateful Dead (unsigned Dead

paraphernalia); the Smashing Pumpkins (ornament); and the Spice Girls

(signed photo).

Items also have come in from chanteuse k.d. lang (signed photo), retro-rocker

Lenny Kravitz (signed "Flying V" guitar), Live (signed album), the Indigo Girls

(signed ornament), Janet Jackson (tour jacket), Everclear (original ornament),

the Cowboy Junkies (origami dragon in a clear ornament), No Doubt

(spray-painted ornament), the Red Hot Chili Peppers (ornament), ex-X leader

John Doe (signed ornament) and shock- turned glam-rocker Marilyn Manson

(signed ornament).

Among the more unusual items turned in so far are a package of promotional

goodies from trip-hoppers Massive Attack, including T-shirts, unreleased

12-inch discs and a video compilation in a jean tote-bag and backpack; a

signed proof of the album cover art from R.E.M.'s latest album, Up, as

well as a handmade pottery ornament and signed CD; two rocks from the home

of adult-cartoonist R. Crumb; and a frilly, signed and slightly used stage shirt

from crooner Tom Jones.

Additional artists expected to deliver ornaments and other auctionables are

blues-rocker Ben Harper, swing-revivalists Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, defunct

punk-rockers the Circle Jerks, former Lemonheads leader Evan Dando, the Foo

Fighters, Oscar-nominated indie-darling Elliott Smith, Grant Lee Buffalo and

Hole.

Starting Dec. 1, bids can be submitted at www.bhauction.com, the home of this

year's sponsor, the Beverly Hills Charity Auction. Jones said that because the

charity auction house has signed on as sponsor this year, every dollar raised

will go directly to the fund.

As with last year, the auction will be held in conjunction with a live party, at an

undisclosed L.A. location, which is expected to be attended by a number of

musicians. All the donations will be on display at the live event, which, like

1997's party, is likely to feature some performances from the participating

artists.