Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Let’s Work Together

Today is Robert Ernest Hite’s 70th birthday – at least it would have been if he hadn’t died of a heart attack in 1981.

And who was Robert Ernest Hite, you ask?  He was aka Bob The Bear Hite, one of the singers and guitarists in Canned Heat, a truly great boogie rock blues band from the late 60’s.  Oh, and he played flute on Going Up the Country, the unofficial anthem of Woodstock, where they also played.  And some harmonica.

This is the band that gave us On the Road Again, the trippiest blues song ever.  But it was their cover of Wilbert Harrison’s Let’s Work Together (originally Let’s Stick Together) I love best.  Straight ahead blues rock and a sentiment that pretty much summed up the way most folks felt at the time.

I mean, why not work together?  ‘Cause:
            Together we will stand and divided we’ll fall
            Come on now people let’s get on the ball
            And work together, come on, come on let’s work together

Maybe it’s good that Bob The Bear died at the tender age of 38.  He’d be pretty sad with the state of things today.

Happy birthday, Bob.  I’m sticking with you.

Friday, 22 February 2013

For Your Life

I always worry about what I’m going to find in reader’s/listener’s polls because they tend to reflect the conditioning and narrowness of corporate radio.  But Rolling Stone’s Best Led Zeppelin Songs of All Time is a happy exception.

Here’s the list:
 1. Stairway to Heaven
 2.  Kashmir
 3. Achilles Last Stand
 4. Since I’ve Been Loving You
 5. When the Levee Breaks
 6.  Whole Lotta Love
 7.  The Rain Song
 8.  Ramble On
 9.  Ten Years Gone
10. No Quarter

While these songs are common on current radio playlists, most of them are not songs that were big when their respective albums were new.

When Zep IV came out, Black Dog and Rock and Roll were played far more than Stairway to Heaven.  When the Levee Breaks?  Forget it.

When Houses of the Holy was released, Dancing Days and The Song Remains the Same were the popular numbers, not No Quarter and The Rain Song.

On Zep III, Since I’ve Been Loving You was passed over in favour of Celebration Day and The Immigrant Song.

The big exception on the list is Whole Lotta Love, which is a big exception of a song.

The article points out that 78 different songs were nominated, and that’s not surprising.  For most of their existence, Led Zeppelin was just about the biggest thing going.  A ton of great songs didn’t make the list.

But it’s nice to see the fans in charge for a change, you know, not getting trampled under foot by their friends in the boardroom.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Love Interrupted

Wow.  I can’t pretend to really understand what he was doing, but I do know Jack White's 2013 Grammy performance was:

1.  Real
2.  Refreshing in what was a typical, overly sanitized TV show
3.  The only exciting performance of the night

Keep it up Jack.  Never compromise.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Don’t Bring Me Down

So, Sir Paul has recently said – not for the first time, actually – that Yoko didn't break up The Beatles.

You know, at the time I viewed her as a terrible annoyance, but I blamed Paul for the breakup.  You watch Let It Be and you can’t help but see how Paul’s arrogant bossiness was strangling the life out of the best thing that ever happened to music (and a few other things, for that matter).  This followed by publicity thievery when McCartney and Let It Be were released, followed by a decade or so of self-serving I-was-the-one-it-was-all-me horror.

Don’t get me wrong; he put out some terrific music.  He was still Paul McCartney, and you had to love him.  But he ticked me off, and I know I wasn’t alone.

But I was in the minority.  Everyone else blamed Yoko.  It was easy.  She was weird.  She made (a weird) John even weirder.  She arrived on the scene just as things were falling apart.  You can’t blame Paul, for goodness sake!  He’s Paul!  Blame Yoko.

Paul has been making nice with Yoko ever since John died, and the David Frost interview referenced above is hardly a revelation.  What it is, is irrelevant.  No one cares what Paul thinks.  They’ve made up their minds.

I was at a Tom Petty concert a couple of years ago and saw someone wearing a tee-shirt that said “Still Pissed With Yoko.”  That about sums up the situation, Paul.  Good for you for being nice and everything, but you’re gonna have to carry that weight alone, ‘cause we all know she’s so heavy.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Disappearing Acts

Sometimes ideas for lists must seem good until you try to populate them.  Take Rolling Stone’s 13 Rock Stars Who Disappeared list, for example.

Not all rock stars burn out.  Some fade away.  Some gracefully withdraw.  And when they command our attention for so long, we do want to know what happened.  So cool idea.

Then Rolling Stone tries to add an additional twist by measuring people against the (Syd) “Barret Scale”, using him as the benchmark for rock star dropout reclusive weirdness.

Cool idea, but it weakens the argument for including many names on the list.  The article admits that Fats Domino is “more retired than reclusive.”  After making a big deal of what sounds like the mysterious departure of David Bowie, it then admits “it's hard to be a true recluse while you're posing for red carpet photos with your supermodel spouse.”  OK then.

Billy Joel, Grace Slick, The Everly Brothers  -  these people are retired.  John Deacon knew that Queen died with Freddie, so he is smart.  John Frusciante definitely registers on the “Barrett Scale,” but not many of the other names do.  If they really wanted to use this “Barrett Scale,” why didn’t they include Peter Green?  He’s been lurking in the shadows so long the scale could be named after him!

But Joni Mitchell?  She’s always done her own thing.   Sly Stone?  Maybe he sensed he had overstayed his welcome, or used up more than his fair share of public consciousness.

An interesting variation on the list might have been rock stars that walked away while on top:  Little Richard, Conway Twitty, Dave Clark, Linda Ronstadt.  Barrett, Green and Frusciante definitely belong on that list.

Postscript: since the list came out, Bowie actually released a new single and announced a new album.  Not terribly reclusive, then, is it?