Jeepster for your love

25 02 2010

My song of the moment is “Jeepster” by T. Rex from the Electric Warrior album.  I’ve been getting into T. Rex the last year or so, but mostly just piecemeal.  I hadn’t bought anything because their CD’s are kind of hard to find in stores it seems.

Two nights ago, though, I got ahold of Electric Warrior from the local library and I’ve played it a few times.  It’s one of those rare albums that I immediately loved.  Normally an album takes a few spins to get used to it, but this one was great the first time ’round.

It’s not a heavy album, despite the title.  There’s plenty of rock but it’s mostly understated, simple.  Still, the album grooves!  “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” is the big hit on the album, but “Jeepster” is my song right now.  This video is quite good.

There are some other great tracks on the album.  In fact, I think the whole thing is pretty damned good.   I can’t wait to get my hands on more T. Rex.  Next up: The Slider.


Abbey Road Studios: not for sale!

22 02 2010

Here’s a bit of good news (unless you were a prospective buyer.)

The man who invented the album cover

20 02 2010

I happened to be reading Word, a British music magazine, last night and came across an article about Alex Steinweiss, the man who invented the (artistic) album cover.  It had never occurred to me that any single person is credited with that.  I probably never thought about it, but I was fascinated to learn about Mr. Steinweiss, who is now in his 90’s.

The wikipedia entry for Mr. Steinweiss introduces him as:

In 1939, he was the first art director for Columbia Records, where he invented the concept of album covers and cover art; previously, recorded music was sold in plain, undecorated packaging.

Steinweiss was active in record cover design from its inception in 1939 until 1973, when he semi-retired to devote himself to painting. By his own admission, he has designed roughly 2500 covers.

A book of his cover art has been released and here are some of the reactions to the book, which are really reactions to the man’s work:

“Ignoring the clanging death knell of the physical media, TASCHEN are celebrating the great man’s work with a luxurious compendium that focuses on the sparkling jazz, pop and classical covers he produced before 1962, when rock and roll swept in an heralded the age of the photographic cover.”

Word Magazine, London

United Kingdom

“Alex Steinweiss is justly remembered for the way he brought Columbia’s records out of themselves. He managed to make Beethoven look like Pink Floyd, Xavier Cugat like a Disney film, and Louis Armstrong like Kanye West….TASCHEN’s book is stupidly, prohibitively expensive to most, but it’s still lovingly put together. The sleeves are the stars, but wonderful factory line-style photos and evocative shots of Steinweiss with his lifelong geau, smoking cigars, always wearing suits, fills it out in style.”

Record Collector, London

United Kingdom

“No one can hold a candle to Alex Steinweiss. With the coffee-table buckling Alex Steinweiss: The Inventor of the Modern Record Cover, TASCHEN gives a hearty high-five to the Columbia Records art director (now 92) who created the concept of cover art in 1940 with Smash Song Hits, a cabaret-jazz LP from Rodgers and Hart. If that weren’t enough, Steinweiss – whose swirly lettering and clean, vibrant graphics continue to influence design today – went on to pioneer the folded cardboard record sleeve as we know it. Respect.”

Nylon, London

United Kingdom

I’m a big fan of album covers.   It seems like so much that goes with the experience of listening to a song or album is lost without good cover art, liner notes, photos, booklets and other visual things that have been added over the years.  We have all of that to thank Mr. Steinweiss for as it was his idea to change the plain packaging in which discs were sold.

It seems we’ve come full circle (no pun intended.)  Music (popular, commercial) is simply an aural experience and little of art is to be found in or around it.

RIP (Detroit’s own) Doug Fieger

15 02 2010

The Knack lead singer Doug Fieger has died in his home after losing a battle with lung cancer. He was 57.

His passing was confirmed by his older brother, Geoffrey Fieger, to The Detroit News. The Knack also announced his death on the band’s website, “Our hearts are broken, we will miss you Doug.”

Fieger formed the band in 1978 in Los Angeles where the group quickly grew to becoming a staple of LA’s rock club scene in the late 1970s. He co-wrote their hit single, ‘My Sharona’, a year later with the band’s guitarist Berton Averre after meeting 16-year-old Sharona Alperin. The song was featured in their debut album, ‘Get The Knack’.

Although the song was released in disco music’s heyday, the song went on to top the Billboard pop charts for six weeks. ‘My Sharona’ became a pop cultural phenomenon and was parodied by Weird Al Yankovic and featured in several commercials.

The song saw a revival in the Billboard charts in 1994, peaking at #91, after being featured in comedian Ben Stiller’s directorial debut ‘Reality Bites’. It gained attention again in 2005 when it was reported that the song was listed in then-American president George W. Bush’s iPod.

7 02 2010

As the old proverb says, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”  Considering that physical violence is not the path taken by most people, particularly not peace loving pop stars, the kind of revenge one would expect in the music world would be lyrical.  There was perhaps no one more able to verbally eviscerate an adversary than John Lennon.  Not only did he do it to great effect, he did it somewhat frequently.

Consider “Sexy Sadie.”  John wrote that in response to an alleged but unconfirmed attempt by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to bed a female guest at his ashram.   It is not entirely clear why, had the Maharishi actually made such an advance — something which even John’s fellow Beatles never believed — he would have been making a “fool of everyone.”  John said of the song:

That was inspired by Maharishi. I wrote it when we had our bags packed and were leaving. It was the last piece I wrote before I left India. I just called him, ‘Sexy Sadie,’ instead of (sings) ‘Maharishi what have you done, you made a fool…’ I was just using the situation to write a song, rather calculatingly but also to express what I felt. I was leaving the Maharishi with a bad taste. You know, it seems that my partings are always not as nice as I’d like them to be.

“Sexy Sadie” was relative tame compared to the “answers” John was to deliver in the 70’s.   Flowing out of his “Primal Scream Therapy” stage came “Mother,” the bitter-sweet kiss off to his parents, neither of whom had been particularly devoted.  His mother died just as she was coming back into his life.  His father had never really been there at all.   There’s no doubt his parents deserved to here from him in this way.  Still, as a parent this kind of message from a son would be hard to swallow, deserved or not

Mother, you had me but I never had you,
I wanted you but you didn’t want me,
So I got to tell you,
Goodbye, goodbye.
Farther, you left me but I never left you,
I needed you but you didn’t need me,
So I got to tell you,
Goodbye, goodbye.

Next up: Paul McCartney.  On the same album in which John asked the rest of the world to imagine a “brotherhood of man” and people “living life in peace,” he shredded to bits his former songwriting partner and once best friend.  “How Do You Sleep?” is vicious, and that’s the released version.  The anger directed toward Paul during the studio sessions got so bad that George Harrison, no lover of McCartney at the time, had to demand John and Yoko cool out.

One of the major conflicts that split the Beatles was Allen Klein’s involvement as manager.  McCartney wanted his inlaws or anyone but Allen Klein and the other three Beatles insisted Klein be their manager.  The details of that are interesting and can be found elsewhere.  John learned only years later what Paul had been trying to tell them, that Klein was a bad guy.  He ended up suing both John and George.  In fact, he bought the music company that was suing George for “My Sweet Lord.”   What came out of the breakdown between Lennon and Klein was “Steel and Glass,” one of John’s finest solo songs.  Interestingly, it sounds a bit like “How Do You Sleep?” and certainly follows that formula.

I wish they’d died before they got old

7 02 2010

No, I really do not wish they had died, at least not literally.  But I do wish The Who had bowed out gracefully after the death of John Entwistle.  The Who was never really The Who after Keith Moon’s death, but Peter, Roger and John, with a succession of replacement drummers, managed to maintain some semblance of Who-ness.  Now, the once most powerful four piece band on earth cannot make music without a bloated backing group.

I personally don’t see the point in going to see them live.   They really are a shell of their former selves.  There’s no more heart, no more energy.  Here’s a bit of the Super Bowl performance.  Decide for yourself.

Woke up in my clothes again this morning

3 02 2010

I woke up my clothes this morning, wondering how I got there. I had no memory of laying down. I woke up in a room upstairs but apparently I started the evening on the couch downstairs. It’s strange not having any clue about where you were for 10 hours.

I had not alcohol or drugs, illegal or otherwise. But I feel like something had been slipped into my evening tea.

The strange experience made me think of this song, one of my favorites by the Police.