Song of the Week – Had 2 Know (Personal), White Denim

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

A few months ago, Austin based White Denim released their 7th album (well, 7th including their debut EP), Stiff. White Denim is an indie rock band from Austin that covers a wide range of musical styles – blues, rock, soul – in their repertoire.

The band was launched in 2006 as a trio – James Petralli (vocals, guitar), Joshua Block (drums), and Steve Terebecki (vocals, bass). In 2010 the band added Austin Jenkins as a second guitarist. But in 2014 Block and Jenkins hooked up with fellow Texan Leon Bridges during a White Denim hiatus, but decided to be a permanent part of his group. For a while that left the status of the group in limbo.

But Petralli and Terebecki hired Jonathan Horne (guitar) and Jeffrey Olson (traps) as replacements and picked up right where they left off.

The band has always had a knack for creative promotional gimmicks to foster a loyal fan following. Their first recordings were self-released on iTunes only. Their EP Workout Holiday was only sold at their gigs. A 2008 release called 11 Songs was sold on their 2008 spring tour as a CD-R. (It was later given a proper release under the title Explosion.)

In order to promote the new album, this winter the band did a series of “pop up” shows in small clubs in Austin. The photo below was taken at a show my nephew and cousin attended on February 18th at the Hotel Vegas, a venue that could only accommodate 150 fans.

WhiteDenimOnStage2

Today’s SotW is “Had 2 Know (Personal)” from Stiff.

This is the first song on the album and kicks it off like horses coming out of the starting gates at Churchill Downs. It has a classic rock sound, much like contemporaries The Black Keys – big guitar riffs and strong vocals. These good ‘ol boys are throwing a party and all you have to do is sing along to be a part of it.

If you don’t believe me just watch the video of them playing the song in a local music store that the band produced in April. The tablature scrolled across the bottom so viewers could learn to play it and upload their own versions to the band’s web page, Instagram or Twitter accounts by May 6th.

They promised to award a signed vinyl copy of Stiff, a limited-edition tour poster and a set of custom guitar picks to the winning musicians making the best version.

Enjoy… until next week.

Why? Some Boring Self-Indulgence

Since it appears the fight is over after one round, I was thinking further about why rock ‘n’ roll discussion always has to include discussion of music that isn’t rock ‘n’ roll.

If this was Country Remnants, we wouldn’t be discussing disco. If this was Disco Remnants, we wouldn’t be discussing Black Sabbath.

What are Donna Summer and Miles Davis doing in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame? Does the Jazz Hall Of Fame feel obligated to induct The Beatles? Surely there were bits and pieces of jazz in Beatles’ music. (The Miles Davis Wiki listing says, “In 2006, he was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, which recognized him as ‘one of the key figures in the history of jazz.'” Huh? It ain’t “The All Kinds Of Music Hall Of Fame”, boys and girls.)

What is rock ‘n’ roll? It works like the porn test, when I hear it, I’ll tell you.

Was also thinking we should change the name of this blog to “Rock ‘n’ Roll Remnants – And Disco.”

Hooray!

Obit: Bernie Worrell (1944-2016)

Bernie Worrell, the influential keyboard player first for Parliment/Funkadelic, and then the Talking Heads and various cool bands who were clear just how killer Worrell’s playing was, has passed away at age 72.

I was not only lucky enough to catch the Heads on the “Big Suit” tour when Worrell toured with the band, but I also actually saw Parliment at a Lollapalooza in 1994. And, they were unquestionably the best live band I ever saw.

Mind you, I have seen a lot of bands, and as a result a lot of killer sets and performances, but note for note, player for player, no band was as tight and energetic with such a full and powerful sound as George Clinton and his mates.

Period.

Check the band out doing Rumpofsteelskin with Bernie on keys, and let by Clinton and Bootsy.  Peace out Brother Bernie…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbiW48EaDeA

 

 

 

 

In Defense of Disco

Frankly, my defense of disco would last about 100 words. It was unapologetic dance music that was the soundtrack to a great public flowering of gay and interracial utopias, hedonistic, aspirational, happy, at a time when really the whole world was going to hell.

The funny thing is that it wasn’t too long before this culture, so flamboyant and energetic and just plain wonderful, was destroyed by the darkness of AIDS.

The music, which started out as dance music by Kool and the Gang and the Ohio Players and the Commodores among many others, really straight up R&B, evolved into that pulsing 128 BPM sheen, a music that sacrifices swing for relentless intensity and pistonlike movement. This wasn’t music for sitting around and contemplating, this was music for getting sweaty on the dancefloor and sweaty in the bathroom and more sweaty at home, if you know what I mean. Utilitarian music, dance music, sex music.

Alright, that’s 154 words. Here’s a link to a story by a younger guy from Macon who explains it more, if you’re interested. The story starts out at Duane Allman’s grave, which is kind of cool.

Here are a few songs I think of as liking from that time, when you would go into a club and everyone would feel like they were in the minority. Everybody felt like they were venturing out, being a little dangerous, and also connecting to a world that hadn’t ever really existed before, to people they may not have seen before. Oh, I should also mention cocaine and amyl.

I guess my point is that you can freely hate all this music, these tunes, the beats, the arrangements, the crappy clothes the singers wore, but it really isn’t fair to say Disco Sucks. That’s because Disco was so much more bigger than the music.

 

A Little Housekeeping

1) Just started reading Under The Big Black Sun:A Personal History Of L.A. Punk by John Doe. It’s a little pretentious (like X) but I can tell it’s gonna be a great read. Highly recommended.

2) Despite overwhelming contrary consensus here (some rock ‘n’ roll site, huh?), the book reminds me that disco truly did (and does) suck.

3) Was forced to listen to Down At The Sunset Grill at the supermarket this morning. Sheesh, what a piece of dog shit. Toggles between droning (not in a good way) and meandering. What is the appeal of this music? Someone, please tell me.

Chazz Kaster Profile in the Nashville Scene

Who Da Fug is Chazz Kaster? Well, um, the killer guitarist in Hans Condor. The only rock ‘n’ roll band left in this world alive.

Screenshot 2016-06-22 00.13.26Kaster broke up the Condor a few years back because he became a dad, and because he was a dad he became a cop. Weird, eh?

But after some time spent in the Halls of Justice Nashville style, he gave up his badge and went back to bartending.

Plus playing kick-ass guitar in a great rock n roll band with better and cleverer songs than other rock bands.

You can read the profile here.

The odds of me getting to Nashville are slim. The band is in North Carolina this weekend, but that’s no better.

I want to see these guys live. That’s all I can say.

I think you can find most of their recorded work on this site if you search Hans Condor, but here’s a little reprise for those who are wondering what the fuss is about.

Here’s the coda to a tune:

Here’s their excellent music video, supporting their album, with a fine rock n roll song:

 

 

Song of the Week – Taurus, Spirit

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

Back in February 2009 I wrote a post featuring “I’m Confused” by Jake Holmes. I pointed out that “Dazed and Confused” by Led Zeppelin was a blatant rip off of Holmes” song.

In fact, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant have a long history of lifting other people’s riffs or lyrics and repurposing them, often very creatively, for songs that they’ve claimed writing credits.

To some, this is just an extension of the old folk/blues tradition of handing songs down from one generation to another – add a new verse here, alter the chords or melody there. All harmless, no?

To others it’s plagiarism and causes economic harm to the original copyright holder. A prime example is Zeppelin’s first big hit, 1969’s “Whole Lotta Love.” The lyrics are very similar to a 1962 Muddy Waters song, “You Need Love”, written by Willie Dixon.

You’ve got yearnin’ and I got burnin’
Baby you look so ho sweet and cunnin’
Baby way down inside, woman you need love
Woman you need love, you’ve got to have some love
I’m gon’ give you some love, I know you need love

Sound familiar? The courts thought so and Led Zeppelin settled out of court with Dixon in 1985 for an undisclosed sum. As part of the settlement, Dixon’s name was added to the credits for “Whole Lotta Love” on all subsequent releases.

This week Page and Plant are in court again. This time it’s over the intro to their timeless classic “Stairway to Heaven.” Some claim it bears a striking resemblance to the instrumental “Taurus”, today’s SotW, by the California psych band Spirit.

So far the plaintiffs – the estate of the song’s author, Randy California – are trying to establish that Page and Plant heard the song on record or in performances before they wrote “Stairway to Heaven.” Page, under sworn testimony has denied it. Rolling Stone has been reporting on the trial. You can read their coverage here:

Rolling Stone – Stairway to Heaven trial part 1

Rolling Stone – Stairway to Heaven trial part 2

For my part, I hear the similarity, but in this particular case I find it a stretch to concede that there’s enough of a case to award Spirit a favorable judgement and monetary damages. Whatever influence he may have nicked from “Taurus”, Page takes “Stairway to Heaven” way further. No contest here.

But it will still be interesting to see how it is decided in the courts.

Enjoy… until next week.

Carlene Carter, Every Little Thing

I’ve been listening to the new Brandy Clark album this week. Brandy is a country songwriter who has been trying to break as a performing artist. Her album 12 Songs I wrote about here a while back. The song Stripes is the kick ass fun number, but there’s lots of other good stuff on that album.

The new album has equally clever and direct songwriting, but it has some extra production patina and maybe some compressed audio to make it more contemporary radio friendly. Hard to argue with that. I’ll probably post about the song The Girl Next Door soon, since I’ve been playing it a ton.

But the funny thing about listening to Clark is that after a few songs play in the mix I get distracted and I start thinking about Carlene Carter.

Carter is the daughter of June Carter and her first husband Carl Smith. I’ve written about her here before. She has a big strong voice, and a terrific other voice as a songwriter. She was married to Nick Lowe for about ten years, and they made some terrific records together and others looking at each other. But the record that Brandy Clark pushed me toward is Little Love Letters, the 1993 record she made after Carter’s Lowe adventure was over.

It’s a terrific record, country in flavor and sentiment with a solid foundation of rock beat on the fast ones. Her constant collaborators here are Howie Epstein and Benmont Tench (both of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), but she also writes a song with Bernie Taupin, and this one, Every Little Thing, with Al Anderson of NRBQ.

Is this a song of love, lust, or maybe something more unhinged?

Which reminds me of some other Every Little Thing songs.

The Police had this tune that kind of exposed them (or at least Gordon Sumner) as cheese balls. But the dysfunction of the narrator and the crazy calypso feel are for me irresistible. Yes, dismiss it as fodder, the video suggests the Police are just cranking out what they can, but at the same time it’s about a strong and creepy emotion that hasn’t been as well expressed since Every Breath You Take. Hmm. Or Don’t Stand So Close to Me. The Police were good at perversity, weren’t they?

And, of course, the Beatles have their own Every Little Thing.

The YouTube versions are all chopped up bootlegs, so not much pleasure in the listen, but there’s enough here to suggest that the Beatles too found in the expression Every Little Thing a bit of unhealthy obsession.

Maybe it’s the word Every that does it.