Ravi Shankar dead at age 92

12 12 2012

http://m.voanews.com/1563262.html One of the world’s most gifted musicians, a best friend of George Harrison, and the father of Norah Jones has passed away at age 92. His contributions to world music and rock and roll are immeasurable.





My Winter Albums (Part 1)

29 12 2011

Some songs remind us of love, family, friendships, joy, sadness, birth, death, events in our lives and even entire years or seasons. (At least that’s true for me.)  There are entire albums that, regardless of their release date, remind me of winter or are good albums to listen to during that season.

These are my winter albums.

5150, Van Halen — I faked being sick so I could stay home from school and hear the worldwide debut (on radio) of the new Van Halen’s first single, “Why Can’t This Be Love.”  Of my own memory, I can only recall that the day was cold and gray.  The song, though decent, was a bit of a letdown.  Amazon.com says the single was released on March 26, 1986, which sounds about right.  The entire 5150 album.  Was released in April of that year.  Why does it remind me of winter?  I don’t know other than to say that it was cold when I first heard the first single.  I know “Summer Nights” is on that album, but I had played it probably a hundred times before the ground thawed.

Rubber Soul, The Beatles —  I don’t know why exactly, but this album seems like one to listen to as fall breaks into winter, about this time of year.  That’s probably because I always envisioned in my mind the lyrics to “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).”  I imagined the couple drinking wine next to a roaring fire — though the “fire” that was “lit” in the song was the woman’s house burning to the ground after rejecting our protagonist.  Before I had the album, I had Love Songs, the compilation album of Beatles ballads that Capitol released in October 1977.  That has four songs from the British Rubber Soul album.  Love Songs was a Christmas present for me that year and I used to listen to it while wrapped in a blanket, laying on the floor, looking at the cold, gray sky outside.

The Beatles a/k/a “The White Album,” The Beatles — It opens with “Back in the USSR,” a song that plays on love in the cold Russian weather (in stark contrast to “California Girls”; sunshine and girls in bikinis.)  The outro, bleeding into the chiming guitar of Dear Prudence, is a howling, cold arctic wind.  After that, the entire two record set sounds like something that’s played indoors, away from the elements.   As far as I’m concerned, there’s no music on that album you’d think of playing at a beach or a picnic.

Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes — “White Winter Hymnal,” I think, sets the tone for the whole album.  These guys nailed the sound of winter (if there is such a thing.)

GN’ R Lies, Guns N’ Roses — In the old days, people used to be music in stores.  Those stores sold music on these large black discs called “vinyl records” or LP’s, meaning “long playing” discs.  These stores also used to sell music on small, rectangular cartridges that had magnetic tape in side them, which contained the music.  These cartridges were called cassettes.  Then there were CD’s or compact discs, which were shiny, plastic-encoated metal discs smaller than an LP.  I once worked in such a store, and spent a lot of hours in it during the holiday season of 1988.  That “record store” was Musicland in the Westland (Michigan) Mall.  We record store employees were encouraged to open and play sample cassettes or CD’s and we played GN’R Lies quite a bit.  Westland is (or was) a blue collar, hard-rockin’ town, and rockers by the hundreds came into the store around Christmas of that year to buy this album.  We were constantly running out of it and having to restock it.  It wasn’t the only big seller that year, but it is an album that makes me think of the winter of my senior year in high school.  I’m no GN’R fan, but it was a decent little album.  “I Used To Love Her” is a classic in my book.

To be continued, should the inspiration hit me…





Christmas Songs that Don’t Suck (or my favorite rock and roll Christmas songs)

17 12 2011

I can hardly stand to be in earshot of the radio stations playing holiday music this time of year.  The stations with all Christmas programming play the same 40-ish songs over and over and over and over…  I’ve heard no more than 2 to 2 1/2 hours worth of holiday music this season (while in banks and stores, at work, etc.)  and have heard “Happy Holidays” by Andy Williams no less than 4 times.  I’ve heard Gene Autry’s “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” about as many times.  A song I loved as a kid, “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney is in constant rotation.  I could go on.

Besides most of them being trite and annoying, they’re simply overplayed.  When possible, I avoid “Christmas music,” at least the stuff not sung by choirs.  But I admit to having some fondness for a handful of more rocky holiday songs.  Some of them I probably like primarily because I like the artist who recorded them.  Others I like just because they’re catchy.  Here are some of my favorite rock Christmas songs.





James Brown on the T.A.M.I. Show

19 07 2011

I heard it mentioned a hundred times in the song “When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around,” but I had no clue what the T.A.M.I. Show was.  In fact, I thought it was about someone named Tammy Show.  Then I found the DVD by accident in the local library and made the connection.

The T.A.M.I. Show was a 1964 concert held over two days in the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, and was recording in what was groundbreaking “electronovision.”  The concert was then released on the big screen.

It’s hard to find an adjective that’s not overused these days.  I try not to overstate things.  But there is no other way to put it that this film is incredible!  Imagine a concert these days with the starpower of the equivalent of these artists, many of them who were still to peak:

  • Marvin Gaye
  • James Brown
  • The Supremes
  • The Rolling Stones
  • The Beach Boys
  • The Miracles’
  • Chuck Berry
  • Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas
  • Gerry & The Pacemakers
  • Lesley Gore
  • Jan & Dean (who emceed the show)
  • The Barbarians

Besides the musical artists, there was an amazing backing or house band, apparently known as the Wrecking Crew, and there was a bevy of young dancers.  The story goes that both Terri Garr and Toni Basil were in the dance corps.

There really were few lows in this show.  I found that I didn’t care for James Brown’s “Please Please Please” which seemed to go on and on and on.  He played this little bit of pretending to fall to the ground sobbing, only to be helped up and off the stage by his bandmates, who draped a king’s robe over his back.  He would then throw off the robe and saunter back to the mic.  People with probably a lot better musical taste than me think James Brown’s performance was one of the best ever captured on film.  I found it cheesy and goofy in spots.  Other than that bit, though, he was …well…James Brown.

Marvin Gaye, the Miracles and The Supremes all represented Motown beautifully.  I watched Marvin’s “Can I Get a Witness” several times; I didn’t want it to end.  He was such an amazing talent and, for me, the best on that stage.  Smokey and the Supremes showed why the lit up the charts for years.

The Rolling Stones were absolutely superb.  At that point, though, they had not fully defined their own sound.  They still had that feel of a (great) cover band.   If you’re a Stones fan, the TAMI Show is a must-see.

I was fascinated to see both Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas and Gerry & The Pacemakers, if only because I had heard so much about their part in the so-called “British Invasion.”  They were, after all, Liverpudlians (some of them) and friends of the Beatles.  I had heard their songs but had never seen more than a few seconds of footage from either group.  It is cool to see bands like that that have become little more than footnotes in rock history.

The Beach Boys showed themselves to be a more-than-adequate 4 piece band.  They were never the greatest musicians as individuals, but they held their own in that concert.

Chuck Berry’s one of my all-time favorites.  It’s sad he only got 2 1/2 songs while Lesley Gore, who performed well, had double that.

Jan & Dean were a bit annoying.  Someone re-wrote “Catch A Wave,” put lyrics to it about skateboarding, and talked them into singing it at the show.  Bad decision.

The Barbarians were interesting.  With their long bowl haircuts and high energy rock, they were sort of a Pre-Ramones (or maybe the Ramones borrowed from the Barbarians.)

If you can get your hands on the DVD or watch it streaming, do it! It’s a highly entertaining great piece of rock history.





The Beatles’ 100 Best Songs, according to me (51-60)

5 11 2010

Continued from

https://soundofthepounding.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/the-beatles%E2%80%99-100-best-songs-according-to-me-41-50/

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51.  It Won’t Be Long — A masterful pop song with the perfect pop ending

52.  She Loves You — Apparently, She Loves You was the biggest selling Beatles single in British history and it was the second song to explode Beatlemania all over the United States.  Paul noted the use of the device of writing from almost a third person perspective.  The audience is the object of another’s love.  The singer’s a messenger.  The Beatles did this type of thing a few times and it’s a nice little twist on the standard pop song.

53.  She Said, She Said — Perhaps to obscure the inspiration for this great bit of psychedelic rock, John changed it from He Said to She Said.  Peter Fonda nearly managed to kill everyone’s buzz one evening in LA, telling John and whoever else that would listen that he knew what it was like to be dead.  John was annoyed by the persistence and morbidity of the message but it obviously triggered something of a creative spark.  I’m awful at talking about time signatures but this song seems to jump around a bit.

54.  Two of Us — In the midst of breaking up, John and Paul managed to put together a handful of performances that still showed there was a tremendous chemistry between them, musically and personally.  While this song is supposed to be about Paul and his then fiance, Linda, most of us fans hear it as a song from Paul to John.  After all, with whom did Paul “have memories longer than the road the stretches out ahead,” Linda or John?  If the song came out today it would be in the “alt country” genre.

55.  Don’t Let Me Down — One of the best things about Let It Be…Naked is the addition of this simple but great track to the Let It Be lineup.  I’d like to know how it never found its way onto Spector’s version of the album, especially considering it originated during the making of the album and was one of the rooftop songs.  You’ll not find a man much more vulnerable than Lennon in this song.

56.  Yellow Submarine — If you can’t find something to like about Yellow Submarine, there is something seriously wrong with you.  Sure it’s a novelty song, but it’s a great one.  It’s creative, catchy, has a lot going on.  It shows that the Beatles could do amazing things when they took their work seriously, even when the song wasn’t serious.  Two thumbs up for Ringo’s vocals.  No one else could’ve sung it in that band.

57.  Old Brown Shoe — Looking at it conventionally, nothing about this song suggests that it is anything but filler.  It’s not a hit but it’s a nice rock song.  The guitar, the drums, the bass, the vocals — all ugly-funky-good!  In fact, it’s one of my favorite McCartney bass tunes.  OBS shows George a capable rock writer.

58.  I Don’t Want to Spoil The Party — I don’t have the energy to verify it, but I seem to recall that John considered this song a throw-away.  That wouldn’t be shocking considering he was pretty tough on his Beatles output.  Still, I think it’s a great bit of country-rock.  It’s another almost alt country bit.  The guitars sound great and the vocals are superb; another example of how great Paul and John sounded singing together.  Guys, if you’re being honest, you will admit to having a moment or two like this in your life. It’s a weep in your beer song.

59.  I’ve Just Seen a Face — It’s surprising how little credit George gets as a guitarist.  Songs like this get overlooked.  It would be too much to credit the Beatles for launching the folk-rock movement, but this song certainly would’ve helped bolster it, help keep music moving in that direction.  Capitol Records put this song on the American Rubber Soul to strengthen the album’s folk rock feel, to take advantage of the money-making bands like the Birds were doing.

60.  She’s Leaving Home — Probably some of Paul’s “granny shit” if you were to ask John, She’s Leaving Home tells a story that maybe spoke more to what was going on in homes in America and Britain than parents would have cared to admit.  It’s soft rebellion.  Don’t despise your parents, just leave.  Do what you want to do.  Not that the Beatles were necessarily advocating that, but the story plays to some of the stereotypes about the so-called “Me Generation.”  As a bit of music, it’s spectacular.  McCartney was not one to regularly sing falsetto, but he nailed it on this track.





The Beatles’ 100 Best Songs, according to me (41-50)

17 10 2010

Continued from prior posts

https://soundofthepounding.wordpress.com/2010/09/26/the-beatles%E2%80%99-100-best-songs-according-to-me-31-40/

https://soundofthepounding.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/the-beatles-100-best-songs-according-to-me-11-20/

https://soundofthepounding.wordpress.com/2010/09/02/the-beatles-100-best-songs-according-to-me-1-10/

https://soundofthepounding.wordpress.com/2010/09/09/the-beatles-100-best-songs-according-to-me-21-30/

_______________

41.  Hello Goodbye — Lyrically, it’s terrifically simplistic.  Musically, there’s a lot going on, many layers to the song.  There are a bunch of instruments you can’t even hear on the new remasters.  HG is a fun song, well sung by Paul.

42.  Help! — John later admitted it was his “cry for help,” but at first blush it’s a very cool power pop song.  Help is iconic, one of those songs that epitomizes the mid-60’s and the British Invasion.

43.  Drive My Car — Another one of Paul’s attempts at capturing the Motown sound became a great bit of early white funk.  The opening guitar riff is delicious.  Follow the bass through the song; it has that flow.

44.  Things We Said Today — Following this song is a tiny bit like trying to imagine what would happen if you traveled back in time and did something that prevented your existence.  How could you go back in time and do that if you had never been born?  The lyrics themselves are hardly artsy, but the changes in tense is what makes the song interesting.  Paul starts singing about something his lover just said about the future, but he refers to it as an exchange that took place in the near past.  “Someday when we’re dreaming, deep in love, not a lot to say, then we will remember things we said today.”  In the future things will be different and they’ll look back to the past to see that.  Pay attention to how it jumps around and you’ll see its subtle cleverness.

45.  Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except for Me and My Monkey — It’s a dirty little guitar driven rock track, some of the best hard guitar work the Beatles ever did.  I really don’t remember where the title came from, but there’s never been another rock song that pull off something that lyrically clumsy so…awesomely!  “Come on it’s such a joy” is apparently something the Maharishi was fond of saying.  His influence all over the White Album despite the way the Beatles’ love affair with him ended.

46.  Sexy Sadie — Speaking of the Maharishi, Sexy Sadie’s all about him and his alleged transgressions in India which was cause for John, George and Magic Alex to leave the Ishram.  From what I know about the story, Maharishi allegedly made a pass at a woman camper, which apparently John felt was a breach of etiquette.  (Maybe there was a feeling that the campers were supposed to be living a clean lifestyle and that the master should, therefore, lead by example.)  McCartney later said that leaving under that pretext seemed a little “prudish” on John’s part.  When Lennon went back to England he proceeded to dump his wife in favor of Yoko.  Apparently yogis cannot hit on women but pop stars can dump their ways.  Whatever really happened, it resulted in a great song.

47.  I Will — Probably because it was on the Beatles Love Songs double album that I had as a kid that I have always liked this one.  Paul sings it beautifully.  It’s one of those dozen songs that helped cement McCartney’s reputation as a sentimentalist and a balladeer.  What works best about the song is, intentionally or unintentionally, it’s got a Buddy Holly thing going.

48.  Can’t Buy Me Love — I’ve never been able to tell if “me” means “for me” or “my.”  Money can’t buy love for me or it can’t buy my love.  You know how the Brits sometimes say “me” in place of me.  I’ll never know I suppose.  It’s one of the best pop songs ever.

49.  I Saw Her Standing There is proof that John and Paul had an innate ability to write songs that they just happened to be blessed enough to be able to hone to a sharp point.  It was probably written in the late 50’s and stands up against pretty much any of the early American rock n’ roll hits.  It would fit nicely in the Chuck Berry catalog.

50.  Do You Want to Know A Secret — I believe there are a bunch of Beatles songs that are better in both measureable and immeasureable ways, but this works as a kind of doo-wop rock piece that is especially catchy.  It’s dated but almost sounds better after all these years.  You gotta love George’s nasally Scouse accent pouring through the speakers.





The Beatles’ 100 Best Songs, according to me (31-40)

26 09 2010

Continued from prior posts…

https://soundofthepounding.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/the-beatles-100-best-songs-according-to-me-11-20/

https://soundofthepounding.wordpress.com/2010/09/02/the-beatles-100-best-songs-according-to-me-1-10/

https://soundofthepounding.wordpress.com/2010/09/09/the-beatles-100-best-songs-according-to-me-21-30/

_______________

31.  I Am The Walrus — Elementary penguin singin’ Hare Krishna, man you shoulda seen them kicking Edgar Allen Poe.  Brilliant avant garde psychedelia.  McCartney’s bass lines almost go unnoticed in a song so rich, but they quite good.

32.  I Want to Hold Your Hand — “Bubble gum pop” is used dismissively to describe some of the mega-hits of Beatlemania:  She Loves You, Please Please Me, All My Loving.  There’s no doubt the Beatles still say rock and roll as (perhaps) limited its most common theme – love.  What is sometimes forgotten is that their songs were, even then, rock n’ roll!  The opening rif of I Want to Hold Your Hand is still, I think, a very powerful guitar statement.  It’s a great little rock song.

33.  This Boy — It’s straight out of the 50’s, which makes it one of the few Beatles songs one could argue is “dated.”  It really pre-dates their own sound.  What makes it great is the vocal work.  John sounds incredible on lead and George and Paul do a great job backing him.  The use of the third person, “this boy” vs. “me” or “I,” is a nice change of pace.

34.  You’re Gonna Lose that Girl — Where She Loves You was meant to reassure the other poor sap that his relationship was secure, in You’re Gonna Lose That Girl, the male lover is told she’s about ready to dump him for the singer.  It seems a bit ballsy to tell another guy, presumably to his face, that you’re about ready to steal his girlfriend.  The bongos and the vocals do it for me.  When I was a kid I thought the Beatles “sounded American” when they sang, but when you listen closely you can really hear George’s and Paul’s Scouse accents.

35.  You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away — Dylan’s influence oozes out of this tune.  It hints at the more folk-like sound to come on Rubber Soul.  This one’s a personal favorite of mine.  The flute at the end is a great touch.

36.  I Want You (She’s So Heavy) — I’d be remiss to fail to mention an Abbey Road song on this the 41st anniversary of its release.   IWYSSH is dirty, grungy, groovy, loud, lounge-y.  It couldn’t be any simpler lyrically but it’s varied layered musically.  It has a “wall of sound” quality to it.   All the guitars must have (each) been multi-tracked, or so I would guess.  It proves (once again) the sometimes the best rock n’ roll is the simplest.

37.  You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) — Good evening and welcome to Slagger’s, featuring Dennis O’Bell.  No matter how many times I hear this, I crack up.  It’s a smart little piece of lounge music besides being funny.

38.  Here Comes the Sun — Although it’s now a staple of oldies radio, it’s hard not to smile everytime it comes on the radio.  The guitar work is stellar.  George, who could appear so dour, spews optimism, an incredible feat considering he’d only “quit” the band a few months previously and wrote this in the midst of the breakup.  Maybe he was foreseeing freedom in his future.

39.  Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight — It might be technically improper to break up the famous side 2 medley into individual songs or to treat these as one, but I’ve always listened to Golden Slumbers/Carry that weight as one song.  When I feel like crap, this song is soothing.

40.  Eleanor Rigby — It’s a great piece of rock art.  Apparently there’s debate over who really wrote what in this song.  If this was truly collaborative — with George even pitching in — it’s evidence why the Beatles were so great as a unit.