Archive for the 'Music' Category
I was listening to “Boneyard” the XM Radio station whose one-time motto was “the station of road-trippin’ and binge drinking” and they said that “The Number of the Beast” by Iron Maiden was turning 35 years old. In that moment, I felt old, too.
“The Number of the Beast” is the first album by Iron Maiden featuring singer Bruce Dickinson with his soaring vocals. The prior singer, Paul Di’Anno, had a much lower, punk sort of voice range that was a bit less commercially successful. This was also the album that made them giant in the United States, with their videos such as “Run to the Hills” being played incessantly on MTV.
I took a snapshot of the album cover from Apple Music on my iPhone – I’m sure that somewhere there is a cassette, album, and CD of this disc somewhere that I’ve purchased and lost over the years. This is one of their best covers, with the mascot “Eddie” pulling the strings on the devil (who has his own little Eddie on a string).
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This work by Tom Russell is a highly ambitious album: a song-cycle, practically an opera, whose storyline extends from Ireland to the American West to the island of Molokai, where the priest Father Damien cared for outcast lepers.
In the title song, Johnny Dutton tells of being beaten up by the father of the beautiful 15-year-old Rose (after being caught in the hayloft with her) and making his way from Ireland to the United States, where he planned to live out the dreams he had absorbed from cheap novels of the West.
Johnny works for the legendary rancher Charlie Goodnight, but eventually turns to a life of crime. He is caught and found guilty, but escapes. He is pursued by his nemesis Augie Blood, US Marshal and evangelist, who travels in a prairie schooner (drawn by mules named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) with a cross on the sail and a saloon piano in the back on which he plays gospel tunes.
Will Johnny escape Augie Blood? Will he ever be reunited with the Rose of Roscrae? Will his longing for Ireland ever take him back to the Old Country?
A few of the songs:
He Wasn’t a Bad Kid When He Was Sober. (Russell got a letter from “a rather well-known Western artist” who apparently wanted him to write a song based on “new information that Billy the Kid was a real hero of sorts. A true Irishman and a friend of the Mexican poor.” This song is Russell’s answer)
There are a LOT of performers on this album, in addition to Tom R himself, they include Johnny Cash, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Maura O’Connell, Ian Tyson, and Gretchen Peters. There is even a Swiss Yodel Choir!
When I first heard this album, I liked it but didn’t think it quite measured up to TR’s earlier song-cycle, The Man from God Knows Where (link goes to my review) But The Rose of Roscrae grows on you. An exceptional piece of work, well-worth buying and listening to many times.
Growing up I was a big fan of The Who. Since I didn’t always have a lot of money for records I tried to “stretch” my budget often times by buying “greatest hits” albums. Initially I thought that “Who’s Next” by The Who with the iconic photo of them pissing on some sort of concrete slab WAS a “best of” album simply because almost every track had been played to death on the radio with the exception of “My Wife” by Entwistle (which was a song I liked a lot) and “Love Ain’t for Keeping”.
Recently I saw a presentation by the photographer Ethan Russell who took that classic cover photo along with an amazing amount of other images you’d recognize instantly, from the pictures of the Beatles on the “Let It Be” album to some great Rolling Stones’ photos from their classic late 1960’s – early 1970’s era. If he comes to your town I would highly recommend that you go out and hear him talk.
I bought a signed print of that Who’s Next cover and sent it on to a friend of mine who also was a big fan of The Who growing up. I’m sure he’ll like it.
Cross posted at LITGM
Dan is much smarter than me and he holds on to all the ticket stubs for concerts and sporting events that he’s attended over the years. He recently sent me a rug and a coffee mug that he created based on the ticket stub for a special concert we attended almost 30 years ago when we were at the University of Illinois. The show was Stevie Ray Vaughan at Foellinger Auditorium.
At the time I was in college and had almost no money. I saw that Stevie Ray Vaughan was coming to campus and thought I would get up early and stand in line to purchase tickets before class (I rarely got up early in those days when I could avoid it). Alas, the line was already long and I pretty much gave up right away. There was a guy who was scalping tickets, however, so I went up to him and bought two tickets for what I remember was about $50.
The tickets were up front in the first couple of rows as it turned out but way, way on the left side of the stage. Dan and I got rip roaring drunk before the show (which was the custom, back in the day) and we headed to Foellinger. Note that Foellinger was a lecture hall and I had many classes in that room – the room had bolted-down desks with the fold out panels that you could write on, so it was kind of odd that they had concerts at that same room (I also saw the punk band Husker Du in that same lecture hall, which seemed even odder).
Posted by Lexington Green on 6th January 2017 (All posts by Lexington Green)
This is beautiful.
Pop music of the older sort, which reached a peak in the 1960s, is about beauty and joy, and their usual antecedents, youth and love. As these things have faded out of our civilization, pop music turned to the shit we have now. But occasionally some of the old vintage shows up and surprises us and reminds how it can be. And Regina’s lyrics are clever and funny and sweet.
Here it is live:
Lyrics below the fold.
Posted by Ginny on 15th October 2016 (All posts by Ginny)
In the mid-sixties, Bob Dylan’s music was the soundtrack to our lives. Now, in 2016, he’ll receive a Nobel. In that half century he’s become central to later generations and in other ways. But between the years when “everyone” quoted Childs numbers and when the Beatles took America by storm, Dylan’s voice was important. The folk singer who lived upstairs in ’65 patterned his style – music, clothes, harmonicas – after Dylan, placing roses on the stage at Pershing when Dylan played Lincoln; another friend wrote poems filled with Dylan allusions, murmuring Mr. Tambourine Man. Dylan did Nashville Skyline; in Chicago, watching him on Johnny Cash, I began to love country: a less surreal, more seductive Dylan singing Lay Lady Lay. In 1975 Austin, newly married, we bought Blood on the Tracks, with “Shelter from the Storm”
And in 2016, he will stand another stage. His website is workmanlike; in his mid seventies, his tours continue. The “News” section doesn’t (tonight) have the Nobel listed. It’s hard to put my memories of a man who seemed to speak for and to lost boys in the context of his (and our) maturity, of all those years and all his work between then and now. For me, he remains fixed in the past, mine is ambivalence and nostalgia, but that larger, longer public context: Washington Post; Wall Street Journal; New York Times.
If Dylan didn’t touch your life, Sohrab Ahmari’s take on one who did might be worth comment. Seven years has produced a world a less smug and ahistorical vision would have foreseen.
What I learned was that these gentlemen were entirely comfortable with their U.S. identity. They did not pine for the Confederacy to rise again. They did not blame the U.S. military for Confederate wartime deaths. There was no anger in connection with Sherman’s march, and the destruction of southern cities, farms, infrastructure, and other public & private property. So what exactly did bother them–what precisely was their beef? It was The Battle Hymn of the Republic. It upset them to no end. I was young then. Perhaps, I should have understood why it upset them so much. In my defence, I can say, after some years (decades) of reflection, I figured it out.
Interesting thoughts. More here.
…my feelings right now as expressed in song, prose, and poetry.
For I’, substitute ‘we’:
Once I had mountains in the palm of my hand
And rivers that ran through every day
I must have been mad
I never knew what I had
Until I threw it all away
Now gather up sea shells
And write down brave words
Your prayers are unanswered
Your idols absurd
The seaweed and the cobweb
Have rotted your sword
Your barricades broken
Your enemies Lord
British general Edward Spears, describing his feelings in the aftermath of Munich:
Like most people, I have had my private sorrows, but there is no loss that can compare with the agony of losing one’s country, and that is what some of us felt when England accepted Munich. All we believed in seemed to have lost substance.
The life of each of us has roots without which it must wither; these derive sustenance from the soil of our native land, its thoughts, its way of life, its magnificent history; the lineage of the British race is our inspiration. The past tells us what the future should be. When we threw the Czechs to the Nazi wolves, it seemed to me as if the beacon lit centuries ago, and ever since lighting our way, had suddenly gone out, and I could not see ahead.
Yet it was only two years after Munich that Britain demonstrated its magnificent resistance to Nazi conquest.
I am a little wounded but am not slain
I will lie me down for to bleed a while
Then I’ll rise and fight with you again
Lie down to bleed a while, if you need to–but not for too long–but do not give up. The stakes are way too high.
Remember the standard:
“If you are going to cover a song, rip it apart a bit and make it your own.”
Changes, by David Bowie:
And a remake by Lewis and Clarke:
I saw this one while perusing Jeff Carter’s excellent blog, Points and Figures, which you should take a look at every day. It particularly struck me today as I am going through some big changes in my life right now. Some good, some bad, but in the end, as my daughter keeps telling me, “everything will be just fine”.
Posted by Lexington Green on 6th April 2016 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Merle Haggard is dead.
God rest his soul.
The last and greatest of the musical titans finally falls.
Possibly the greatest of them all, in our national history, at capturing in music the hard, Jacksonian core of America.
Merle Haggard riding his bicycle as a kid, too young to get in, hanging around by the back door, to hear Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, part of a continuity that stretches back to the peopling of the American backcountry, and beyond that to the bloody world of the English border, and poor and proud people who made their own music.
Merle lived hard. Nine lives at least.
If you are not yet a Merle Haggard fan, get that way.
Merle Haggard, we will never forget you.
We will never stop loving your music.
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 3rd April 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
“Bei Mir Bistu Shein” (Yiddish: בײַ מיר ביסטו שיין, “To Me You’re Beautiful”) is a popular Yiddish song composed by Jacob Jacobs (lyricist) and Sholom Secunda (composer) for a 1932 Yiddish comedy musical, I Would If I Could (in Yiddish, Men Ken Lebn Nor Men Lost Nisht, “You could live, but they don’t let you”), which closed after one season at the Parkway Theatre in Brooklyn, New York City. The score for the song transcribed the Yiddish title as “Bay mir bistu sheyn”. The original Yiddish version of the song (in C minor) is a dialogue between two lovers.
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 2nd March 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
Time for a break with ‘Gypsy Jazz’ creator Django Reinhardt and sometimes collaborator Stephane Grappelli.
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 30th December 2015 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
Joni wrote this. She’s 22 years old here.
Newgrange is an ancient structure in Ireland so constructed that the sun, at the exact time of the winter solstice, shines directly down a long corridor and illuminates the inner chamber. More about Newgrange here and here.
Grim has an Arthurian passage about the Solstice.
Don Sensing has thoughts astronomical, historical, and theological about the Star of Bethlehem.
Vienna Boys Choir, from Maggie’s Farm
Lappland in pictures…link came from the great and much-mourned Neptunus Lex
Snowflakes and snow crystals, from Cal Tech. Lots of great photos
A Romanian Christmas carol, from The Assistant Village Idiot
In the bleak midwinter, from King’s College Cambridge
A Christmas reading from Thomas Pynchon.
The first radio broadcast of voice and music took place on Christmas Eve, 1906. (although there is debate about the historical veracity of this story)
I’ve heard quite a few good new songs this year…not all “new” in the sense of being just-released, but at least new to me. Some of them…
Reflections from the beyond of an Irish immigrant who fought in both the American Civil War and at Little Big Horn: Mick Ryan’s Lament, sung here by John Sheahan, Jane, & Shane.
Laura Orshaw: Guitar Man
I heard this sequence of songs on the radio while driving home one foggy night:
John Prine, Clay Pigeons
Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams, Midnight Highway
Jason Isbell, Hudson Commodore
Nanci Griffith, Waiting on a Dark Eyed Girl (can’t find Nanci’s version online, the link goes to one by Kevin Welch)
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 16th December 2015 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 9th December 2015 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
This year is the 50th anniversary of the theatrical release of The Sound of Music. This was one of last things to come out of the Old Hollywood studio system which was broken apart first by anti-trust laws and later by the advent of TV. The tattered remains of Hollywood were then occupied by the communists and nihilists of the late 1960’s who proceeded to destroy whatever artistic foundations remained. Hollywood is completely incapable of producing a movie of this artistic quality and beauty today. Everyone, I think, feels the loss.
The Sound of Music became the highest grossing film of its time, bringing in $286,214,076 worldwide ($2.366 billion in 2014 dollars), finally displacing Gone With the Wind. The film was adapted from a Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical that opened in 1959 and starred Mary Martin. I’ve listened to the recordings of Mary, and I have to say Julie Andrews is much, much better. That’s probably because it was near the end of Mary’s career, which began in 1939, and Julie Andrews, age 30, was at the peak of her ability. She did a spectacular job in this film and I still get it out once in awhile to revel in its music and beauty.
It was directed by Robert Wise: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), West Side Story (1961), The Sand Pebbles (1966) The Andromeda Strain (1971), and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). A young Robert Wise edited Citizen Kane.
The critical reception, from Wikipedia…I had to laugh at the NYT getting it completely wrong, even back then:
The film had its opening premiere on March 2, 1965 at the Rivoli Theater in New York City. Initial reviews were mixed. Bosley Crowther, in The New York Times, criticized the film’s “romantic nonsense and sentiment”, the children’s “artificial roles”, and Robert Wise’s “cosy-cum-corny” direction. Judith Crist, in a biting review in the New York Herald Tribune, dismissed the movie as “icky sticky” and designed for “the five to seven set and their mommies”. Wise later recalled, “The East Coast intellectual papers and magazines destroyed us, but the local papers and the trades gave us great reviews. “Indeed, reviewers such as Philip K. Scheuer of the Los Angeles Times described the film as “three hours of visual and vocal brilliance”, and Daily Variety called it “a warmly-pulsating, captivating drama set to the most imaginative use of the lilting R-H tunes, magnificently mounted and with a brilliant cast”.
The movie is a celebration of love, of family, of the beauty of the world on a summer day, and the importance of family and friendship in the worst of times. That “The East Coast intellectuals” would completely miss that, well, it doesn’t surprise me in the least.
Some nights when I have time to kill I just put on a recorded music video show from MTV2 or Palladia and fast forward until I see something that looks interesting. I stopped briefly on a new band out of the UK that looked like half glam / half punk just long enough to get a screen shot… I don’t even care enough to spend ten seconds looking on the internet to figure out their name.
What I really thought about was that once it took guts and rage to look different from everyone else and music / lifestyle / looks were one and the same, not just an act that you put on like makeup. If you want to read about that in action, try “Get in the Van” by Henry Rollins, the iconic lead singer of the seminal Southern California punk band “Black Flag”.
Growing up we listened to Black Flag all the time, especially the iconic “Damaged” album. I was too young (and too chicken) to go see them in concert, but reading the “Get in the Van” book really brought home all the violence and flat-out deprivation that it took to live that lifestyle, with Rollins completing a set after being punched and kicked and often drenched in spit. We also forget that Rollins was one of the first individuals to get interesting tattoos in addition to his hairstyle and overall look, which constantly got him in fights everywhere he went. If you want to read about a real and dedicated artist, not some band that was prefabricated for TV and the internet, just read anything Rollins writes but start with “Get in the Van”.
Reading the book prompted me to get back in the spirit and listen to my favorite Black Flag albums. However, they’ve been lost from vinyl to cassettes to CDs and I’m pretty much done with physical media anymore. So I just signed up for Apple Music and there they all are – the whole catalog. Kind of ironic to listen to music that was made and played with fire in such a bloodless manner as through my iPad and bluetooth speaker…
Cross posted at LITGM
The story about the runaway surveillance balloon, especially in conjunction with the report that there may have almost been an unauthorized missile launch in Formosa, at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, reminded me of this song.
Original German version, with on-screen lyrics, and an attempt at directly translating the lyrics into English.
Posted by Ginny on 29th June 2015 (All posts by Ginny)
David Foster writes of the “reset” button. I wanted to thank him in a comment, but it lengthened. And as he begins with the mistranslation, I should begin with an apology: I still know no Czech. But a memory from the eighties came so powerfully, I wanted to share it.
In those years, we hosted various musical and academic visitors. My language incompetence was a difficulty: fluent English wasn’t always an aid in getting those visas. Often a scholar or musical group was substituted for the requested one; visa granting was erratic and subject to bureaucratic whims.
But I remember vividly a group sent to a conference, around 1983 or so. One of the local Czechs, a family dedicated to the language (the father had taught Czech at A&M, his brother at UT), invited them to visit their farm. The folk singers were given tea and cake; sitting in the farm’s front yard, with grasshopper pumps near the house and broad land and skies behind that, they chatted. But then, they stood and began singing acapella with deep and strong voices an old hymn – one they knew well, but never sang at concerts, they said. The resonance came from their hearts. I didn’t know the language and decades have come between. Perhaps it was this one (or this) . If not, the simplicity and clarity were similar. It was a breathtaking moment.
Most of the tributes you see and hear today about BB will feature crap like “The Thrill Is Gone” and that terrible song he did with Bono. This is the real deal and is what I cut my teeth on when I was discovering the Blues. You can thank me later. Godspeed.
Cross posted at LITGM.
There is a festival here in Chicago focused on movies about music which also has a bunch of bands playing as well. It is our attempt to have a little “South by Southwest” action in the city of Chicago. At least they have some nice weather this year – this weekend seems to be the start of spring and everyone is out side and on balconies and has a lot of positive energy. Here is a shot from one of the movies on the cover of the Reader.
Unfortunately I can’t go to any of the events because I can’t stand in lines for too long and I can’t be jostled or have someone step on my foot and that’s what usually happens at a concert. I will look for some of these movies out there on the internet though later or if they come to an art house movie theater or something. Here is the site listing what is going on and an interview with the founder on Chicago Tonight (a great program) and below are some of the ones I’d go to see if I was able to do so.
- “Danny Says” which is a movie about the manager of the Stooges and the Ramones. That guy must have seen a lot of crazy stuff
- “808” a story of how a device never intended to be a beatbox helped launch hip hop and modern music
- “Morphine – Journey of Dreams” one of my favorite bands of the 1990’s was Morphine and I was very saddened when their lead singer / bassist dropped dead at a show overseas. Also the remaining members played a show under “Vapors of Morphine” as well
- “Jaco” is about the fantastic bass player Jaco Pastorius who was a little crazy and unfortunately died young after being beaten by a club bouncer. At the festival the bass player from Metallica (who is from Suicidal Tendencies if you go way back to “Institutionalized”) talks about Jaco, as well
- Local H is playing too. They are awesome and one of the few survivors of the 1990’s. See them when they come to your town
Cross posted at LITGM
I am an enormous fan of “top lists” and almost any sort of categorization. If it is the top 100 guitarists, the greatest bands, a type of warship, or anything else – I like to see it in a category and classification that can explain trends and try to cut through complexity by organizing the data into different groupings.
Sirius XM radio stations are a great example of categorizations. Recently on a trip with Dan and our friend Brian we had the station stuck on “Hair Nation” – and then we started thinking through the different stations and how Sirius has chosen to allocate music across each of them.
Some bands are solidly “Hair Nation” – Poison, Warrant, LA Guns, and everything else with spiky hair and all about having a good time. While Dan is more “Hair Nation” – I am more on the “Boneyard” station, which has a big overlap with Hair Nation but a whole host of songs that aren’t on Hair Nation, such as UFO and older heavy metal like Judas Priest.
We started to have a mock “debate” in a snooty English style of “Dear Sir – I beg to differ with your classification of the band Skid Row. “Monkey Business” is more of a hard Boneyard song while their ballads of course could reside properly within the confines of Hair Nation.”
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