Leon Russell collaborator with Joe Cocker and Elton John and a fine performer in his own right has passed on at 74
The premise of Jack Hamilton’s deep new study Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination seems like something that’s been on rock history’s tongue for a long time without ever quite leaving it. Chuck Berry, a black man with a guitar, had been a rock and roll archetype in 1960, but by the end of the decade Jimi Hendrix would be seen as rock’s odd man out for being... a black man with a guitar. How did that occur? "Tracing the Rock and Roll Race Problem" an interview in Pitchfork.
In June of 1979, a song called "Ready 'N Steady" appeared on Billboard's "Bubbling Under" chart and persisted there for three weeks, struggling up to number 102 before vanishing into a legendary obscurity. For the next 37 years, music historians were unable to find any other evidence of the song's existence—no recordings, no memories of airplay, no band or label information. This month, the mystery of the "phantom record" was finally solved: "Ready 'N Steady" exists, and you can listen to it here. [more inside]
Ambassador Samantha Power: "So let me just start by noting that I too am a musician. I sing in a band of other UN Ambassadors called 'UN Rocks.' [Laughter.] The Korean Ambassador plays the drums – this is not a joke, it’s real life [Laughter.]; the Thai Ambassador plays the bass; the Serbian and Danish ambassadors play the electric guitars; and the ambassador from Tonga plays the keyboard. And I wanted to take this opportunity to announce that I have some availability for gigs starting around January 20th, 2017. [Laughter.] In case anybody is interested." [more inside]
Paul Kantner, guitarist, lyricist, and founding member of the Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, KBC, and the Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra has passed at age 74. [more inside]
Ace's High (Part 1, Part 2) is a short documentary about a four-member Ace Frehley tribute band whose members all performed in full 1970s Ace Frehley makeup and costumes. [more inside]
Outlaw songs are at least as old as popular music itself. The image of a gallant loner battling a rigid and unyielding legal establishment has proved irresistible for generations of songwriters. In 1959, Texan Sonny Curtis wrote one of the best, "I Fought The Law." Intended as a vehicle for himself and the post-Buddy Holly Crickets, their single went precisely nowhere.That is, until it was covered -- the first hit cover was by The Bobby Fuller Four in 1965, then another major version came out 14 years later, from The Clash who revived the "oldie" into what is now a "punk anthem." From there, the covers start piling up.... [more inside]
"In the past 12 months, workers in the entertainment industry considered taking their own lives almost seven times more than the general population. Almost one in every 14 performers surveyed admitted to making an attempt on their life. For roadies and technicians, the figures were even more troubling, at almost one in 12. That compares with roughly one on 30 for the wider Australian population."
Unsurprising to anyone in the industry, startling to those outside, a recent study (pdf) sheds light on the sickness within the Australian entertainment industry [more inside]
Unsurprising to anyone in the industry, startling to those outside, a recent study (pdf) sheds light on the sickness within the Australian entertainment industry [more inside]
All 74 Led Zeppelin Songs, Ranked, A definitive, uncontroversial list from the fine folks at Vulture.
"I don't want to bring in the violins, but we all came from hardship," says McCartney. "All of us except for George lost someone. I lost my mum when I was 14. John lost his mum. But Ringo had it worst. His father was gone; he was so sick they told his mum he wasn't going to live. Imagine making up your life from that, in that environment. No family, no school. He had to invent himself. We all had to come up with a shield, but Ringo came up with the strongest shield."In anticipation of the inimitable Mr. Starkey's imminent (and long-awaited) induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Rolling Stone presents Being Ringo: A Beatle's All-Starr Life.
Part of that shield was playing the fool; part of that shield was booze. It led to a lost decade of L.A./London/Monte Carlo partying where Ringo woke up many mornings wondering, "Why are the birds coughing so loudly?" But he's been sober for 26 years, and there's one essential thing that keeps Ringo young: the sticks and the drum kit.
“It is no exaggeration to say that the sound of mainstream pop/rock drumming in the 1980s was, to a large extent, the sound of Jeff Porcaro.” — AllMusic [more inside]
The Killer at Peace: Jerry Lee Lewis's Golden Years
In the living room, directly above Lewis' chair, is a framed photo from the day in December 1956 when Lewis, Cash, Carl Perkins and Presley – a.k.a. "the Million-Dollar Quartet" – hung out and recorded at Sun. Elvis is at the piano, looking upward, eyes fixed on Lewis. Above the bar is a photo from the sessions for the Class of '55 LP, a 1985 reunion of Lewis, Perkins, Cash and Roy Orbison. "All of them, really good friends," he says quietly. "All gone." Lewis took his survival as a point of pride by naming his 2006 comeback LP Last Man Standing. "A lot of people didn't like it when I said that. But they had to accept it."Jerry Lee Lewis is still alive and rocking, having just released his third album in the 2000s, titled Rock & Roll Time, though his most raucous days are behind him.
The Best of Paul Stanley's Epic Stage Raps - the video companion piece to "People, Let Me Get This Off My Chest" [previously]
Studio engineer Matt Ross-Spang wasn't even born when most of Sun's most famous records were cut. Nonetheless, he's thought a lot about what makes them sound the way they do (transcript). Matt has been buying up old gear for a few years, returning the Sun Records studio to a vintage state (with a few exceptions), and he is still practicing "sonic archaeology," trying to figure out how Sam Phillips made records sound like Sun Records. There's more to it than the Sun tape echo. [more inside]
Exactly what the title says. The author is Colin Gawel, from the legendary (in Columbus, OH anyway) rock band Watershed.
The Jon Spenser Blues Explosion was (is) a groundbreaking rock and roll band (not a blues band) well known for its live performances. Not much video footage of their concerts is extant, but this performance on an Australian TV show in 1994 is pretty typical, if the word "typical" is suitable for someone trying to incite a riot. [more inside]
In March 1993 Bikini Kill toured the UK. "It Changed My Life" is a film about that tour, with openers Huggy Bear, & contributions by the Raincoats, Sister George, and Skinned Teen. [more inside]
The 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations are out, headlined by Nirvana, thanks to its 1988 cover of Love Buzz that just meets the 25-year eligibility requirement. [more inside]
In October 1974 BBC host Russell Harty had a teenage musician named Brett Smiley on his show to perform his song 'Space Ace' and then interview him and his manager Andrew Loog Oldham. It was a pretty intense 4 minutes. The public reaction to both him and his music was similarly negative, and his record, Breathlessly Brett, was never released. It was recently re-issued, and Smiley is being recognized as a lost icon of the glam movement. [more inside]
In 1986, an episode public-access TV show Forestville Rocks began with these words: "Butch Willis has moved into the most selective rock n roll territory, that of the inspirational primitive. Guided by neither the commercial concerns of mainstream pop nor the calculated artsiness of new wave nor the hip rage of punk, Willis stands quite alone; undaunted, he dreams the rock n roll dream..." [more inside]
It's been twenty years since Dante Ferrando opened the Black Cat Club on 14th St in DC. The neighborhood has changed immeasurably, but the music is still going.
The New(er) South, a 2013 essay by Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers reexamines the questions and contradictions of the American south originally explored in their 2001 album Southern Rock Opera. [more inside]
The Baseballs are a German rock and roll band founded in Berlin in 2007. They became popular with 50s and 60s style rock cover versions of modern hits such as "Umbrella","Hot n Cold","Call Me Maybe", "Tik Tok", and "Poker Face".
Louie Louie is a song with a curious history. Inspired by (and/or partially copied from) El Loco Cha Cha by Rene Touzet and Havana Moon by Chuck Berry (YouTube), the original song by Richard Berry and The Pharaohs (YT) is a mix of calypso, cha-cha, and rhythm & blues. The next version was by Rockin' Robin Roberts & The Wailers (YT), which added a certain rock and roll swagger that will sound more familiar to most folks. But the vocals are all wrong, as they're too sharp, too easy to understand. The Kingsmen made the version everyone was talking about, with concerns of obscene lyrics getting the FBI involved (choice excerpts on The Smoking Gun). [more inside]
Jason Anderson, the singer who's "equal parts Bruce Springsteen and Van Morrison" has remastered and rereleased his classic EP 'Omaha' and is offering it for free from his website. You can read an interview with him here, which talks about meeting Calvin Johnson and his days as Wolf Colonel.
Chris Richards, formerly of DC post-punk outfit Q and Not U asks: Are foodies quietly killing rock and roll?
The Cramps ripped it up, madly channeling the sordid specters of rock 'n roll's past while staying true to its psychedelic future, even when voxman Lux Interior was a lean 59 years old. The first show from their last-ever tour does nothing but prove it. [more inside]
If anyone has heard of artist Bill Stout, it is probably because of his paintings of prehistoric life, or perhaps you recognize some of his movie poster art. Early in his career, Stout produced cover art for bootleg records issued by the Trademark of Quality label. The artist recently published a three-part interview about his work for that label. It has lots of wonderful anecdotes, but most importantly, lots of great art. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.
Rock’n'roll as spontaneous Paganism: Mick Farren on Nick Cave, Elvis and the Devil is an essay by the author of Gathering Of The Tribe: A look at the role of the occult in music through key albums. Another excerpt is Punk-Esotericism: The Occult Roots of the Wu-Tang Clan
Every Word Handwritten is a new short film by New Jersey rockers The Gaslight Anthem centered around the lifespan of a single vinyl record. It's title comes from a line in Handwritten, a song off their album of the same name. The Gaslight Anthem have long written about the power of old music formats, from their proclamation that they're the 'last of the jukebox Romeos' on their first album to their many invocations of the mythical 'radio' on songs like Angry Johnny and the Radio and Queen Of Lower Chelsea to 45, another song from Handwritten.
English rocker Tony Sheridan, who took the Beatles under his wing in their early Hamburg days, using them as one of his backing bands, acting as their fashion guru (outfitting them in sleek, bad boy black leather) and introducing them to the music of Little Richard, has died at age 72. [more inside]
Grantland's Steven Hyden writes the winner's history of rock and roll, in four parts (so far), and charts the death of rock music as a major pop-cultural force in the 21st century by looking at some (not necessarily well-loved) bands that helped to transform it into a Big Business: Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith (and coming up in the next installment, Metallica). Rock isn't dead, by any means. But for better or worse, it ain't what it used to be.
Mina Caputo began her career as Keith Caputo, founder of the heavy metal band Life of Agony. In the early 1990s the band became huge in Europe, and the teenage Caputo found herself trapped in the life of a macho metal superstar when what she really wanted was to be a nice young lady attending Julliard. She performed as Keith for over 20 years, then in 2010 Niko Bikialo's quietly devastating music video for Caputo's song Got Monsters [brief nudity] put the viewer inside the mind of a transwoman as she struggles to find her place in the world and make a friend of the stranger she sees in the mirror. A year later, Caputo shocked metal fans when she officially announced she was transitioning. [more inside]
Somebody got really, really stoned and came up with a rather creative interpretation of Pulp Fiction (slreddit) [more inside]
The Rolling Stones rock Warhol's East Hampton Pad, Montauk 1975 - Half way through the tour, Truman Capote met the group in Kansas City. In tow was his new best friend, Lee Radziwill. The mix of rock royalty and Fortunate Four Hundred did not work well. Jagger hated Capote’s mincing manners, and Capote called Mick – "…a scared little boy… about as sexy as a pissing toad." Stones guitarist Keith Richards welcomed the cultured Radziwill by banging on her hotel door that night, screaming "Princess Radish… C'mon you old tart, there’s a party going’ downstairs!"
While Quebec’s status as the only primarily French-speaking province in Canada has resulted in a distinct cultural industry—particularly with regard to film and music—the province still enjoys many cultural products from English Canada. While movies and TV shows are often subtitled or dubbed into French, it is rare that the same is true of music. A notable exception is the music of Toronto-based Big Sugar. [more inside]
On Halloween night 1992, a skinny, gravel-voiced man in a blue dress and horn-rim glasses took the stage at a tiny Atlanta dive bar/strip club along with his band, The Opal Foxx Quartet (which was not a four-piece; around a dozen people crowded the dark, low-ceilinged space). This would be their final show, and it's a barn-burner. [more inside]
Louder Than Love: The Grande Ballroom Story. While not as famous as Bill Graham's Fillmore Theaters, from 1966 to 1970, Detroit's Grande Ballroom hosted national acts such as Cream, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck, and Pink Floyd. The brainchild of Russ Gibb, with help from activist John Sinclair, the Grande provided a stage for local bands like The MC5, SRC, The Rationals, The Amboy Dukes, The Frost and the The Stooges. The Grande had it's own psychedelic poster artists Gary Grimshaw and Carl Lundgren. Leni Sinclair took pictures. Local boys from the Grande that went on to national prominence included The Bob Seger System, Alice Cooper, and Grand Funk Railroad. [more inside]
Closed Frontier: Is rock over? "Rock ’n’ roll is to 21st-century America what the Wild West was to 20th-century America: a closed frontier, ripe for mass mythology....Exciting new music still thrives in the subgenres, but modern musicians draw increasing amounts of inspiration from tradition, not originality. The sexagenarian Rolling Stones do serial victory laps around the world, just as an aging Buffalo Bill toured America and Europe in the 1880s and 90s, performing rope and horse tricks alongside Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull."
Before hip-hop beefs, there were response records, also known as answer songs, usually replies to well-known songs. There are a few key eras: blues and R&B recorded music in the 1930s through 1950s, including a number of responses to "Work With Me, Annie" (1954), recorded by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, with answers including "Annie had a Baby," and "The Wallflower" by Etta James; and Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog" (1953), with a quick response by Louis Innis and Charlie Gore, made a mere week after the original was released, and Rufus Thomas' "Bear Cat" (1953), Sun Records' first hit. Country, rock & roll, doo-wop and pop music picked up where the blues left off, with most activity in the 1950s to 60s. Two examples from this era are "Are You Lonesome To-night" and "Who Put The Bomp," and responses to both. The most well known from the next decade was Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" (1974), a response to Neil Young's "Southern Man" (1970) and "Alabama" (1972). Until the 2000s, no answer songs had charted as high as the original hits. That changed with Frankee's "F.U.R.B. (Fuck You Right Back)" (2004), a response to Eamon's "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)" (2003), which was the first answer song to reach number 1 in the UK. Six years later and across the pond, Katy Perry's "California Gurls" was a response to "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z. It was the first answer song to reach No. 1 in the Billboard Hot 100. More Responses inside. [more inside]
Do you know The Treniers? Back in the 40s and 50s, they straddled the lines between jump blues, swing, early rock'n'roll, jazz dance, hep jive and comedy. They were a whole hella fun, and they happened to be the backing band for what must be the best dance performance Jerry Lewis ever gave the world. That particular clip, BTW, from a Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis "Colgate Comedy Hour" in 1954, is purported to be the first rock'n'roll performance on national television, and it may well have been.
60 years ago, two moments in musical history took place in Cleveland, Ohio: The first, being the original Moondog Coronation Ball, hosted by disc jockey Alan "Moondog" Freed; the event was hailed as the first ever rock concert, and continues in spirit with a commemorative anniversary performance featuring Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees, Sam Moore, and Creedence Clearwater Revisited. The second event was the subsequent riot which broke loose that evening, when a printing error on the venue's tickets caused twice the audience's standing capacity to be sold. Frustrated and impatient concertgoers surged into the building, which led to cancellation, a formal apology from Freed, and the cementing of the 50's music scene as dangerous and unruly.
Queen is looking for very special twenty-five year old. On August 9, 1986, Queen played their what would end up being their very last concert with Freddy Mercury at Knebworth House in Hertfordshire, England. It marked the end of an era for the band, but the beginning of a new one for a rock-and-roll baby born at the show. [more inside]
Well, bust my britches, here it is January 8, Elvis Presley's birthday! Now, a mere 20 days after the young rock crooner had celebrated his 21st, back in 1956, he stepped onto the stage at CBS Studio in New York City and made his US national television debut, on the Dorsey Brothers show. Seems he was hot property from the get-go, cause he was back on that stage, straightaway, for five more appearances, on February 4th, 11th and 18th, then again on March 17th and 24th. And, yeah, heck, he was pretty good.
200+ Famous Musicians Who Died Too Young. Ordered by age, from 17 to 54, with brief descriptions and links to their last.fm pages.