Friday, 27 September 2013

Love or Confusion

The recent anniversary of the death of Jimi Hendrix got me thinking about our relationships with our cultural idols.  I mean, they might not know us (ya ya ya, especially the dead ones), but we feel we know them and emotions are involved, so it is a relationship, right?

Anyway the annual barrage of “remembering Jimi” stuff that floated across the net (you know: Jimi didn’t die, God just wanted guitar lessons) reminded me that I have a very uneasy relationship to this particular hero of mine.

Idolize him?  Sure.  But the awe is mixed with healthy doses of resentment and guilt.  Guilt because I don’t accept as an article of faith that Hendrix was the best ever guitarist.  Resentment, because I always felt he could have been if he had, had, had … well not tried harder exactly, and, well not really been more disciplined, but maybe been more judicious. 

More guilt because I understand if he’d been less of a free spirit then the brilliance would not have manifested itself.  Resentment because it wasn’t all brilliant, sometimes it was kinda sloppy.  More guilt because you’re not supposed to feel that way about cultural icons of his stature.  Mustn’t criticize.

And a little more resentment because he offed himself too soon and should have given us so much more.  And a little more guilt because that’s kinda a selfish.

But in the end, I always try to push all that bunk aside and just remember that he was someone to love.

Complex enough for a real relationship, isn’t it?

Monday, 23 September 2013

Still Crazy After All These Years

Oh.  So Rolling Stone ran a readers’ poll on the Greatest Rock & Roll Rebels, and it makes a bit more sense.

Including the intro, which says these rebels pushed boundaries and refused to conform.  That’s a little more on point.

Here’s the list: Jim Morrison, Dylan, Zack de la Rocha, Keef, Iggy Pop, Johnny Cash, Lennon, Zappa, Axl Rose, Bowie.

All in all, there’s a lot more cohesion here than in the previous list.  Interesting that Johnny Cash is the only name to appear in both versions.  And also interesting, I guess, is that I’m more qualified to be a reader than an RS editor, since my list was closer to the general public’s.  Of course, the editor guys’ job is to spark discussion and debate.  Like we’re gonna conform!

Anyway.  Play by your own rules.  That’s the message.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Rebel Rebel

So Rolling Stone compiled a list of Rock & Roll Rebels, and introduces it with a smorgasbord of context.  Rebels are: bad boys, sensitive, revolutionaries who don’t understand why things have to be the way they are. 

Not sure that gives me a clear picture of what a rock & roll rebel is, but here’s their list:
Plastic People of the Universe, Fela Kuti, Elvis Costello, MC5, Peter Tosh, Sinead O’Connor, Kurt Cobain, Victor Jara, Jerry Lee Lewis, Public Enemy, Marilyn Manson, Steve Earle, The Clash, Sex Pistols, Johnny Cash

Neither does the list.  Some of these folks aren’t really rockers, although you can’t dispute the rock and roll attitude.

But rebel against what?  The government, parents, the “establishment”, societal norms, expectations, good taste?  Rebel consistently, or once upon a time?

Depending on your definition, there are lots of other candidates: Lennon, Richards, Dylan, Alice Cooper, Bowie, Zappa, Morrison, Hendrix …

Maybe the definition doesn’t matter, ‘cause at bottom rock and roll is about rebellion, isn’t it?  As Brando would say, “what’ve you got?”

Friday, 13 September 2013

We Will Rock You

So, there are all these lists out there, but I can’t find a list of best rock anthems.  Curious or what?  Radio DJ’s, critics and the like use the term casually, but no one’s bothered to assemble a list.  Interesting.

Wikipedia says an anthem is a song of celebration, usually acting as a symbol for a distinct group of people.  With that as a reference, we could easily come up with a few rock anthems, right?

Like: Won’t Get Fooled Again, Stairway to Heaven, We Will Rock You,
Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2, Born in the U.S.A., Imagine, Sunday Bloody Sunday

Or, if you soften the definition to say people easily identify with the song, you could add: Won’t Back Down, Hotel California, Smoke on the Water, Woodstock,
Bohemian Raphsody, Hey Jude, All You Need Is Love

Or maybe the song just gets your juices flowing, like: Armageddon It, Layla, Southern Man, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Solsbury Hill, Born to Be Wild, American Woman

Or    it just feels like an anthem, say: My Sweet Lord, Free Falling, Let It Be, or pretty much anything by Rush

Hmmm    that wasn’t easy.  Maybe the ‘identify’ bit makes such a list too personal; you could build your own list but couldn’t expect anyone else to agree.

Anyway, for my money, the song that should top the list is Won’t Get Fooled Again.  It kicks you in the butt, fills you with a “ya, dammit!” attitude, and entertains you with some of the most powerful rock ever recorded.  If that isn’t an anthem, I don’t know what is.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Building On Fire

What do you get when you cross Motown with James Brown with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones?  The Talking Heads.

Not sure quite how James Brown holds his own against an entire genre plus the two biggest bands of all time, but there you have it.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Play With Fire

Now here’s a difficult list to assemble: Gibson’s Keith Richards' 10 Coolest Guitar Riffs.  Difficult to narrow down to only 10, that is.

Here’s the list:
Satisfaction, Get Off My Cloud, 19th Nervous Breakdown, Mother’s Little Helper, Paint It Black, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Gimme Shelter, Honky Tonk Women, Brown Sugar, Start Me Up.

Easy, right?  Sure, but what about: Street Fighting Man, Beast of Burden, Bitch, The Last Time, even Tumbling Dice?  Keef is rivaled only by John Lennon and Jimmy Page in terms of volume, impact and unforgettability of killer riffs.  As the article points out, these riffs are now part of the culture.

You may or may not think Keith Richards is respectable, but time appears to be on his side.