Buzz's Blog

Friday, 21 November 2014


I still remember going out and buying my first VCR so I could record The Who’s farewell concert, which was simulcast from Maple Leaf Gardens in December, 1982.

Turns out they didn’t mean it – and still don’t since they’re already advertising their 50th anniversary tour scheduled for 2015.  Well, half The Who anyway.

The Who were not alone in giving us a long goodbye, as Rolling Stone’s 10 Farewell Tours That Didn’t Stick makes clear.  Judas Priest, Kiss, Cher … heck, even Sinatra couldn’t resist the temptation to give ‘er one more go.  Well, if we’re going to buy the tickets, why not?

It’s probably a good thing that we did get fooled again.  Between farewell tours,  re-union tours and why-should-I-stop(?) tours, a fair amount of joy has been spread through the land in the last couple of decades.

Anyway, it gives us a good excuse to wear those “Still Pissed At Yoko” tee shirts.

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Friday, 14 November 2014

I Put A Time Bomb In Your Submarine

Let’s play a game.  Picture a band doing a long jam that kinda summarizes everything that’s au courant, you know, everything that’s going on around them.

OK, when I say au courant, I mean sometime around 1970, since that’s about where I’m stuck.

Anyway, imagine them doing a really good job, so good that you find yourself thinking, “gee, that bit could be Zeppelin, and that bit sounds like The Moody Blues, hmm was that Cream or Deep Purple, maybe Black Sabbath?”

I came up with Alice Cooper’s Halo of Flies.  How about you?

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Friday, 31 October 2014

His Hair Was Perfect

Forget candy.  Forget schlocky horror flicks.

What you really need for Halloween is some kitsch, some funk, some pop, a couple of legendary riffs, and some butt-kicking rock.  Something like Billboard’s Top 10 Halloween Songs.  Go ahead and be thrilled.

Happy Halloween.

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Friday, 24 October 2014

No One Here Gets Out Alive

In each of the six decades since the birth of rock and roll, you can find some magic, and you can shake your head and wonder how anybody could listen to such rubbish. 

But for me, the 70’s is the big enigma.  Some of the best rock, much of it indelibly stamped into the concrete of our collective consciousness, was made in that decade.  And I couldn’t do without it.  But it was a confusing decade, one with little or no direction, a time of extremes and excesses.

Hard rock, prog rock, power pop, funk, metal, disco, jazz fusion, punk, folk-rock, singer-songwriter … and the leisure suits.  Brother.

The 70’s were not kind to a lot of 60’s icons.  The Stones, Clapton, and The Who, for example, all had their moments, but really they drifted through with mixed results.  Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd triumphantly pushed through, and then collapsed at the finish line.  Deep Purple didn’t make it.  The Beatles and Hendrix didn’t even get out of the starting block.

The energy that began as punk and coalesced into New Wave was certainly welcome.  It brought some much-needed focus to all that aimless thrashing about.  To borrow from Rossini’s invective against Wagner, the 70’s had wonderful moments, and dreadful quarters of an hour.

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Friday, 17 October 2014

Whole Lotta Riffs

The beat: definitely.  The energy: probably.  The simplicity: most of the time.  The lyrics: often.  The audacity: goes without saying.  But what really sets a great rock song apart is the riff.  The hook that buries itself into your DNA, where it forevermore acts as a switch, a trigger, a hypnotist’s command.

BBC Radio’s Greatest Guitar Riffs have most of the ones you’d expect: Whole Lotta Love, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Back In Black, Smoke On The Water and Layla landing in the top 5.  Can’t really argue with those.

And as you scan down the list, you realize – joyfully, I’ll bet – just how much great music we’ve been blessed with.  Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Rush, Free, Fleetwood Mac, Cream … on and on it goes.  I can’t think of one riff on this list that doesn’t deserve to be here.

However, it is nothing short of shocking that the Stones and Beatles have only one entry each.  Nice of the BBC to spread the joy, but I can think of another dozen or so riffs from those two groups that are more than worthy.  Nevermind.  I’ll get over it.

Sad, though, that there’s nothing current.  Rock riffs seem to have gone the way of the dodo, and that is not a good thing.

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Thursday, 2 October 2014

Almost Fab

Speaking of songs that shoulda been recorded by The Beatles, there have been quite a few down through the years that engendered a “that’s a Beatles tune” reaction.  For me, anyway.

Sometimes it’s the melody, sometimes the chords, or the overall feel, or the sound of the singer’s voice.  It can vary.  It happened a lot in 70-71 when I was, like many (most?) people, still ticked about their breakup.

Examples include:
Cheap Trick’s If You Want My Love You Got It
Argent’s Hold Your Head Up
Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, and his Steeler’s Wheel’s Stuck In The Middle With You
America’s Goldenhair – guess that was the George Martin production?
Yes’s Love Will Find A Way
Pretty much everything by Badfinger

Then of course, you had the solo work by the four fabs.  On the stronger songs, you couldn’t help but wish for a better backup band.  Well, I couldn’t anyway.

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Thursday, 25 September 2014

You Won’t Find A Better Loser

Some people think Bell Bottom Blues is a wonderful song, one of Clapton’s best.  Many people think it’s rubbish.

I happen to be in the former camp, but I kinda get why some people don’t like it too much.  Even though I enjoy it, it can come across somewhat unsettling, like something’s not quite right. 

Well, 40+ years later, I think I’ve finally put my finger on it:  it’s performed by the wrong band.  Instead of Derek and the Dominoes, it should be a Beatles record, with John singing, and Paul doing the harmony.  Clapton is guesting, as is Billy Preston.  George and Ringo make their presence known, tastefully as always.

Can you picture it – I mean hear it?  Nice, eh?

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Thursday, 18 September 2014

Rockumentary Heaven

Rolling Stone’s 40 Greatest Rock Documentaries nicely illustrates just how much good video is out there to enjoy.

Dylan, Page, White, U2, Rush, Bowie, Neil Young, James Brown, The Stones, Hendrix, The Who, Zep, Floyd, a little band out of Liverpool called The Beatles  - they’re all there.

Kinda like my desert island playlist, but without enough blues and folk.

Some masterpieces (Talking Heads), some silliness (Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus), some cultural chronicles (Monterey, Woodstock), and a lot of great music.

The list has something for everyone, so I won’t complain, other than to say I would have included:

The Concert For George – my favourite concert video, period
AC/DC Live at Donnington – killer performance, surpassed only by
Queen Live At Wembley – Freddie’s control over the audience is simply mesmerizing.

Speaking of which, there’s a lot of rubbish (OK, music that didn’t age too well) on the Live Aid video, but some of it is great, so it deserves at least an honourable mention.  Maybe?

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Friday, 12 September 2014

Undercover Agent For The Blues …

… and Rock!  Take a look at the influence John Mayall has had.  The connections.  The influences. The great music that came out of his influence.

It’s almost unbelievable.  The diagram just depicts the most obvious connections.  The ones that could fit on a page.  It’s missing the Yardbirds-Page-Zeppelin link.  It obscenely abridges Clapton’s reach.  It skips the whole Dylan universe outside the Willburys.  It doesn’t even try to show who Phil Collins has touched, which is, like, everybody.

Was John Mayall as influential as Lennon, Dylan, Jagger, Hendrix or Page?  Maybe not, but when you think about who he’s played with – and who they played with, he’s touched just about everything.  Mayall is one important cat.

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Friday, 29 August 2014

The Session Men

Gibson’s 10 Great Session Guitarists brings some well-deserved focus to some brilliant musicians who have delivered a heap of magic over the years.

Lukather, Cropper, Carlton, Tedesco, Atkins, Spedding … where would pop/rcok/blues/soul be without them?  Or, to put it another way, where would Rod Stewart, Michael Jackson, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Steely Dan, Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell, Elvis, Ricky Nelson, Sam Cooke, Bryan Ferry, Elton John and  Aretha Franklin be without them?

OK, some of them would probably have done OK, but you get the point.

And then there was this cat by the name of Jimmy Page.

Note to Gibson.  No one is going to dispute the importance of James Jamerson, but he was a bass player.  Is there really no other session guitarist out there that should have made the list?

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