Friday, 30 March 2012

Something Somewhere Has To Break

Was listening to Synchronicity II the other day, one of my favourite Police songs.

Great driving beat, terrific tension, overwhelmingly depressing lyrics tempered with humour ... a great song.

One of its best features is the non-solo. Some noises and screeching sounds explode, complimenting Daddy's seemingly secret knowledge that it's all pointless and we're all doomed.

Explosions, noises, howls, yet it's all very understated ... maintaining the tension as the incessant guitar riff wells back up, taunting, baiting, threatening untold malice. Keep running, man. Unspeakable horrors are still to come.

Pretty clever for a song built around guitar riffs to not have a guitar solo. I guess The Police knew there was only so much more we could take.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Dazed and Confused

Back on the lists. This one is The Rolling Stone Best Lead Singers Of All Time list - and it's wrong.

I mean, it's good and has most of the names I expected to find, but it's not right.

BTW, there was a previous list published by RS. That one was created by "experts." This one is a reader's poll thing.

Here's the list:
1. Robert Plant. Look. Zeppelin was great. He was fantastic. But best ever?
2. Freddie Mercury. Stronger case. Amazing singer. So powerful on stage.
3. Bono. Ditto, but not quite top 5 in my book.
4. Mick Jagger. The older I get (he gets?) the more I respect him. Definitely Top 10.
5. Jim Morrison. Aw, I dunno. Decent voice, powerful persona. Just wasn't really ever a fan.
6. Roger Daltrey. I'm an on-again-off-again Who fan. Sorry, but one scream does not a singer make.
7. Eddie Vedder. Well, the last two decades have been a bit of a wasteland, so sure.
8. John Lennon. Number 1. Hands down. Versatile, energetic, passionate, haunting, perfect.
9. Chris Cornell. Not a big Soundgarden fan so can't really comment.
10. Kurt Cobain. See Eddie Vedder. Personally, I would have Liam Gallagher as a "recent" pick.

Where in hell is Paul McCartney? Where's Elvis? Aretha? Sam Cooke?

Methinks this list is child of the corporate Classic Rock playlist.

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Circle Dance

I played around a bit with my Music Map, adding some of the sub genres.

It looks like this:

Some of the placements are pretty straightforward: Folk Rock, Rockabilly, Blues Rock.

Others are what I hear: Southern Rock has a Blues influence, Metal has an R&B groove (twisted perhaps), Pop is where Classical melodies meet R&B and are given a backbeat. My favourite psychedelic bands embraced the R&B groove, but straddled the Blues and Classical music. You may hear differently.

You may place Prog Rock over towards Jazz and Fusion, but the stuff I like has a more Classical flavour with just a touch of Folk. You may not distinguish between Pop and Easy Listening. For me, take away too much rhythm and your Pop is mushy Classical, which is why I put some of it inside the circle. But there's nothing wrong with mellow as long as it has a backbeat.

I couldn't figure out where to put Reggae. Somewhere near Folk Rock was one idea.

Anyway, interesting exercise.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

What Happened

I'm back on to the lists. Here's an interesting one, Gibson's 10 Events That Changed Rock & Roll Forever

1. Ike Turner records Rocket 88 - arguably the first rock song.
2. Elvis records at Sun Studios - got it going for the white folk
3. Buddy Holly dies in a plane - who knows what he could have accomplished?
4. The Beatles Appear on Ed Sullivan - and changed everything, forever
5. Bob Dylan Goes Electric - the stuff of legend, but can't say I noticed
6. Woodstock - we actually thought we would change the world, versus vice versa
7. The Sex Pistols release Never Mind the Bollocks - well, punk arguably saved rock. I guess.
8. MTV Launches - and it was so very exciting for a couple of years, then Broadway took over.
9. Nirvana topples Michael Jackson - yes, and that was cool, but have we ever recovered?
10. Napster - well, we certainly haven't recovered from piracy, have we?

Good list. Glad to see Ike Turner instead of Bill Haley. Some other notable deaths might have made the list: Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin? 4-8-16-32 track recording? Synthesizers?

Nice to see a list without The Beach Boys on it, anyway.

Monday, 19 March 2012

The Venn and Zen of Music

I sometimes get to wondering why I like certain types of music but not others, especially when those others have something in common with the certain types that I like.

So I sat down and tried to map my personal view of musical genres and how they relate.

Yours will be different, but mine looks like this:


In the centre is Rock. No surprise.

Around the outside are the major genres in our Western culture. There are many overlaps, reflecting the huge variety available to us. In my view, some circles - like Blues, R&B and Classical - get closer to the core of Rock. That is, I dig more of that music, and I tend to favour artists or songs where those influences stand out.

Others, like Folk and Country, don't intersect as much, meaning that - while there is much that I really like in those genres - there is probably more that I don't like.

Jazz? Well, it's on the outside looking in.

I frequently venture out to explore the outer circles of the outer circles (well, Jazz: not so much), but give it a backbeat and you got my attention.

Your map will look different, reflecting your taste and your interests. Different overlaps, different placements, maybe even different circles.

And that's what makes the world go 'round.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Songs For My Generation

I can't get away from these lists. I'm trying. Honest.

Here's the Rolling Stones Top 10 Songs Of The Sixties list:

1) Dylan - Like A Rolling Stone. Of course.
2) Beatles - A Day In The Life. Interesting choice, but iconic, certainly. Trippy. Progressive.
3) Stones - Satisfaction. Would have expected top 3 for sure.
4) Stones - Gimme Shelter. For me it resonates more. Talks more to the turbulent times.
5) The Who - My Generation. You do expect it, but I really don't remember it being big back then.
6) Doors - Light My Fire. Expected. It was beyond huge, however worn out it is now.
7) Beatles - Hey Jude. Expected. Impressive on so many levels, but never near their best song.
8) Led Zeppelin - Whole Lotta Love. Yes. It was so big, so overpowering, so dominant. Occasionally I still remember how exciting it was before it became a cliché.
9) Hendrix - All Along The Watchtower. Still freakin' amazing.
10) Beach Boys - God Only Knows. Sigh.

I guess something had to slip in to this otherwise rock solid list. Some of the list is revisionary for sure - how we've decided to remember The Sixties as opposed to how we experienced them. But you know, it's not easy to see through the Purple Haze of time.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Bottom's Up

Well, it turns out there's another list, the Gibson Top 10 Bassists Of All Time. I like this one better. Here it is:

1) Paul McCartney. Yes. That's more like it.
2) James Jamerson. Someone was listening.
3) John Entwistle. A better placement.
4) Cliff Burton.
5) Geddy Lee. About the same as the Rolling Stone list.
6) Jaco Pastorius. Ditto. Guess I better go find out about this guy.
7) Les Claypool. Double ditto.
8) Flea. Hmmm. Rolling Stone had him better placed near the top.
9) Chris Squire. Not a big Yes fan, but he probably belongs on the list.
10) John Paul Jones. Well, 10 is better than 6.

Only major quarrel is no Jack Bruce. But overall, a much better list, at least from the standpoint of this Gibson ES-335 player.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Top Bottoms

Got your attention?

Actually it's another list: the Rolling Stone Top 10 Bassists Of All Time.

Here's the list:
1) John Enwistle. Not surprising. Not a bad choice.
2) Flea. Cool.
3) Paul McCartney. #1, people. #1. Fancy bass work, while singing, while winking at the girls.
4) Geddy Lee. I've always been lukewarm towards Rush, but they all deserve respect for sure.
5) Les Claypool. Couldn't say.
6) John Paul Jones. Really, I think any bass player would have done. Don't you?
7) Jaco Pastorius. Couldn't say.
8) Jack Bruce. #2. Soloing while singing, & etc.. I know: I've said it before.
9) Cliff Burton. Couldn't say. Guess I don't know my bassmen.
10) Victor Wooten. Really, I don't seem to know them!

Except to say ... where is James Jamerson? Where is Bob Babbitt? Where is Donald Duck Dunn? Motown and Memphis built their sounds on these guys, and everyone borrowed from those. These are shocking omissions.

Someone should get to the bottom of this.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Bonzo List

Well, I've found another list, the Rolling Stone Best Drummers Of All Time list.

Pretty good, and I guess predictable. Here it is:

1. John Bonham. Not a surprise. Page's riff's defined the songs, but Bonham held them together.
2. Keith Moon. Not a surprise, though I've always thought Moon was more famous for being nuts than for his drumming.
3. Neil Peart. Well, he wins on the size of his kit anyway.
4. Dave Grohl. Had to look him up to learn that he drummed for Nirvana and Foo Fighters.  Showing my age, I guess, but two great bands.
5. Ringo. Nice surprise. Just by association, he deserves be there. And for being Ringo.  And for figuring out drum parts for, say, Maxwell's Silver Hammer.  See? There is justice.
6. Buddy Rich. I suppose.
7. Stewart Copeland. Well, he helped changed the beat, and The Police were huge, so sure.
8. ?uestlove. ???
9. Ginger Baker. No. Much, much higher. Anyone who can solo over top of Clapton and Bruce (x2, since he sang and played bass solos at the same time) and still keep the song together is #1 or 2.
10. Michael Shrieve. OK, so he played one of the most famous drum solos of all time. So did Gene Krupa. Where's he?

Speaking of ... where is Ian Paice? Mitch Mitchell? Clive Bunker?

Anyway, it's all good. Most music, especially rock, is all about the beat. All decent drummers are worth their weight in gold.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Somewhere, Man

Listen to Nowhere Man by The Beatles. Really. Listen to it now.


How did you like the ending? That last chorus of "making all his nowhere plans for nobody"?

Killer. If you weren't already knocked out by the lyrics, the music, the harmony, the flawless production, the perfect poignancy of the rest of the song, that last line will get you.

Feeling sad? Sorry for the nowhere man? A bit worried that he is you? Uplifted because the music is upbeat even though the lyrics are mostly regretful? Hopeful because the chorus offers some form of redemption? Confused because you're not sure how you're supposed to feel? Anxious because you don't know what will prevail?

All of the above?

Sure you are.

Then Paul gives you one last soaring "making all his nowhere plans for nobody," over top of John's bittersweet melody. And whatever you're feeling, you're pushed over the edge. Hopeful, melancholy, joyful, remorseful  - all at once, forever and always.

Simple, impenetrable, palpable, mystical, universal, personal.

That's what I'm talking about.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Over The Hill And Far Away

I while back, I went to another one of those "classic albums live" shows. This one was Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin.

They did a good job and it was more fun - which is to say less morbid - than the last time I went. I don't know if this is a case of conditioning through repetition or what.

Anyway, my main memory isn't the music. It was the audience, which was a bunch of people my age, more guys than women, all looking very safe and normal.

I could have been at a meeting to discuss the teacher's pension fund, or volunteering opportunities for the newly retired. I kept looking around me, thinking that, when I first became a Led Zeppelin fan, I never would have believed that anyone who looked like us could in any way ever listen to this music. Ever.

And then this thought came to me: despite all of our best intentions, sooner or later we all become respectable.