Hear It Anew

Never thought of this as a rocknroll song but they rock the shit out of it. I heard that Keith wasn’t happy with this song in particular and that’s why the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus was never aired. Typical musician. Embrace the garage, Keith.

Also notable in that Brian Jones is still around. Maybe Keith was pissed because the camera is on Jones when Keith is playing.

Roots

Have we done anything on murder songs? We should. This one isn’t exactly murder but the threat is refreshingly explicit.

I wonder how many real murders have been directly – inspired isn’t quite the word here – influenced shall we say – by songs? It must have happened a few times. Music has been a major player in various murder cults of course, and war of course, but individuals who committed murder under the influence of a song – how rare is that? Inquiring minds want to know.

Anyway, Sonny Boy II has his very own blues style, and I happen to think that he’s one of the greatest singers ever, not to mention maybe the best harp player, both instantly recognizable at any rate, and his band swings the blues good.

 

Afternoon Snack: Roxy Music, “Prarie Rose” meets Talking Heads, “The Big Country”

I cannot same that I am as crazy about Roxy as my mate Gene, but I do indeed love them, their sound, and a shitload of their songs.

I have my loves–Out of the BlueVirginia Plain, and All I want is You–but Prarie Rose has something to it that pushes beyond being just a favorite Roxy tune.

Aside from being just a wonderful piece of music and lyric, their are links to both Talking Heads (The Big Country) and Big Country’s In a Big Countrythat line being core to Roxy first.

Here are the Heads, live in a song that sort of has that great feel between driving and laid back thanks to great drumming laying down that fantastic groove.

Here is Roxy from a few years back, and though the hand held IPhone camera is way shaky, the audio is pretty good, and Phil Manzanera just fucking kills his solo even if we cannot really see him (check the video behind Ferry and I think that is a simulcast?)

Stuart Adamson’s fine Big Country band will be saved for another day!

Lyrics

The worst lyrics ever have to be “We Are The World.” As far as I remember, every line in the song is a lie. Maybe there are a couple of mere bland statements, it’s been a while and it can never be too long, but anyway it’s close. I won’t inflict it on you. All I remember at this late date is “We are the world” – no you’re not, you’re a collection of pop stars. “We are the children” – I don’t hear any kiddies in there, maybe you could have flown some in from Africa. To meet your wonderful selves, the ones who “make a brighter day.” Somehow it didn’t work out that way.

I don’t care about lyrics because wopbopalubopawopbamboom is good lyrics. But when you hear bad lyrics blaring that’s another story. Lucky for me I can’t understand a lot of them. Usually I don’t want to know what the singer is saying. I’m fine with I love you so never let you go. Please come back. Come on come on let’s do the go somewhere and fuck.

It’s not that I don’t like good lyrics, it’s that if they try to be good they must actually be good. I love the words to Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, and I would play it for you, except that the only Dylan version I can find is again too painful to dump on you, you a busy guy/gal and all. But ya know, I’ll post it to illustrate how a great lyric can be destroyed by the vocals. The wedding band behind him doesn’t help either:

Sorry. That is atrocious, from the big star Bob, who won’t allow his songs on youtube because I guess he doesn’t have enough money. Always fighting for justice that Bob.

There are some great picture-painting lyrics. Some go back a long way, like to 1936. Bryan Ferry at his best:

There, that makes up for Dylan. Sublime kitsch. Ferry covered “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” on the same album, a delicious juxtaposition with “It’s My Party” and of course “Sympathy for the Devil.”

Ferry is a great lyricist. This is a song in danger if falling down the memory hole it seems to me, one of Roxy’s best:

 

 

Night Music: Gene McCaffrey, “This is the End”

My buddy Gene wrote this song, and with each iteration he raises the level of the vocals and the cleanness of the mix. Which is good. But the reason to love this song are the propulsive guitars and the rock solid drums. This thing kicks from the stall to the cleaning stall and probably even to the sleeping stall (I’m borrowing my daughter’s horse vocab here).

A metaphor lives forever.

http://www.reverbnation.com/bluegene/song/19254234-this-is-the-end

Night Music: Reform School Girls, and Don’t Touch Me There

If you have ever been in a band–and I hope my buds Steve and Gene affirm this–you are doomed to play covers.

Speaking for myself, and the Biletones, between my own catalog of originals, and that of  bandmate/singer/rhythm guitarist Tom Nelson, we could easily play a two hour set of tunes we penned.

However, especially if your group does not have, shall we say, “a name,” then for the most part you have to get used to playing Little Queenie, Dead Flowers, Moondance, and a zillion other tunes that I have played way more often than I wish.

Still, it goes with the territory, as people want to hear and dance to stuff they know. We do play Tom’s Rich Girlfriend as a regular tune, and have done my own Geography Matters, as well as a couple of more Tom wrote (Bad Dreams, DUI Bars) but for the most part we have to squeeze the desire to play originals into playing more obscure covers.

That means we play a chunk of Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, and Wilco, all of which are fine by me, to go along with Queenie and the more mainstream cover ilk.

Sometimes those odd covers work (Gravity’s Gone, by Drive by Truckers) and sometimes not (Having a Party by Sam Cooke, and Borrow your Cape by Bobby Bare, Jr.).

Well, about a month ago, the song Reform School Girls, by Nick Curran and the Lowlifes appeared on the weekly practice list.

The song is a great paean to the Phil Spector sound, as well as an homage to the Bitch Groups like the Shangri-Las, and well, once we started playing it, I found myself humming it for days at a time.

Written by the very talented Curran, who sadly passed away from oral cancer in  October of last year at the age of 35, Reform School Girls is as beautiful a send up to the genre as is the Tubes Don’t Touch Me There.

Enjoy!

The Real Rock in Roll

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There has been a lot of banter among us about what really constitutes rock ‘n’ roll.

For those of us who have contributed to the site–as well I suspect to those who have been kind enough to read us–we all have our interpretations and definitions of the musical form that ushered our generation into control of the various airwaves.

For certainly no matter what else be said, when Led Zeppelin and Steppenwolf and even the Beatles Revolution are the sound backing mainstream TV commercials (for the cynics, note that Joni Mitchell has never let a song of hers be used for advertising purposes) then the influence of rock in our culture simply cannot be denied.

But, it has struck me with the first challenge tunes going back to the very early days of the genre Alan Freed so aptly named, the real soul of the music belongs to the African American community.

Not that I am the first to note this, but when we do talk about the music and its roots, and what it really means, Bill Haley always gets a nod. And, that is fine for Haley was a trendsetter, and had a great band and deserves some respect there.

But really it was Shake, Rattle, and Roll, recorded in February of 1954 by Big Joe Turner, five months before Bill Haley covered the same tune and three months before Rock Around the Clock was recorded and released, that probably owns the title of the breakthrough song pushing the then new form to the masses.

Of course, what cannot be denied is that irrespective of the quality of either version of Shake, Rattle, and Roll, it is the Haley version that got the ink and reaction and coverage in those days. It was also a much bigger hit, as was his cover of Rock Around the Clock.

However, it is important to remember the context of why, and the large reason Haley enjoyed more success than his African American counterparts was that in 1954, the civil rights movement was still in its infancy.

So, aside from the fact that Haley reached a bigger market, white America’s attitude to the African American community was such that music, styles, food, hell virtually anything from the rich culture that emerged  from slavery, and to a large degree out of the notion that necessity is the mother of invention (guess whose band grabbed at that one?) was driven by evil dark forces.

It was in May of 1954, that the Brown v. The Board of Education case declared that segregation, and the notion of “separate but equal” was unconstitutional. And, that decision, was 15 months before Rosa Parks and her dog tired dogs, after a hard day of work, refused to step to the back of the bus.

Even with that, it was seven more years until James Meredith was granted admission to the University of Mississippi, the first African American to gain entrance to that institution, and one that met with a fair amount of violence at the time (I still remember reading the headlines, and not being able to understand who cared who went to what school as a then nine-year old). Mind you, that was almost a decade after segregation was ruled unconstitutional.

But, as with Pat Buchanan, inexplicably announcing before his dismissal from MSNBC a few years ago that America was built on the backs of white people, the real grunt work of the country–and like it or not, our current music scene–can completely be owned by that same African American community in the same sense that the Egyptians or the Romans can take credit for their great civilizations, but the building of the cities and the pyramids was completed by slaves.

And, while I can give that respect to Haley, for example, I can give none to Pat Boone for bastardizing the true rock ‘n’ roll of Little Richard. For, Richard, and Chuck Berry come as true to defining the form for me as anyone (and the truth is, it would not matter to me if they were pink Martians, they still rocked the shit out of what Boone and his ilk turned into pablum).

For Boone’s treatment of Little Richard was sanitized out of the fearfulness that the African American community–particularly their men–simply wanted to get white women drunk and/or stoned and then have sex with them, using music as part of the means to that end. And, if that sounds outrageous, try reading Daniel Okrent’s excellent narrative on Prohibition, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition(Also remember that the Volstead Act was repealed barely 20 years before the Brown V. the Board of Education decision.)

In fact, in reviewing Okrent’s tome to that troubled period in our history, Publisher’s Weekly notes that ” He unearths many sadly forgotten characters from the war over drink—and readers will be surprised to learn how that fight cut across today’s ideological lines. Progressives and suffragists made common cause with the Ku Klux Klan—which in turn supported a woman’s right to vote—to pass Prohibition.”

If you wonder about this, here is a vid of Boone’s treatment of Tutti Fruitti:

And, now, here is the man, Little Richard showing us exactly how it should be done:

But, essentially the blues form, and rhythm and blues, and Motown, can all be looked to as the seeds of modern rock and pop whether anyone likes it or not, for virtually all modern rock ‘n’ roll stems from that 1/4/5 chord motif that the blues presented.

Further, if you look to the British wave of music, that followed Haley and Richard by ten years, the bands who made a difference–The Beatles, The Who, The Stones, for example–all cut their early chops playing a heavy dose of Motown and Soul music.

In fact, it really was that amalgamation of American rhythm and blues and the Noel Coward sort of tin pan alley that formed the essence of the Brit-pop that invaded America and changed the musical scene around the world forever.

Oddly, despite now being almost 60 years beyond Brown V. the Board of Education and Shake, Rattle, and Roll being released, we are still essentially fighting the same stupid fights, with laws about immigration and diversity (which are the essence of America’s success) and voting rights.

It is easy to get sanctimonious about all of this, but, at the end of the day, as noted by another great freedom fighter, Mohandas Gandhi, “in the end, the truth is still the truth.”

Long live Chuck, Richard, Turner and rock! They started it all (with a little help from their friends).