Monday, September 30, 2013

King Crimson’s Different Drummers

King Crimson logo from Discipline
by , Psychedelic Sight:

King Crimson is back from exile.

Bandleader Robert Fripp says the famed prog band will “return to active service” in summer 2014, fronted by a trio of drummers.

Fripp made the announcement, of sorts, via his online diary:

“So, King Crimson is in motion. This is a very different reformation to what has gone before: seven players, four English and three American, with three drummers,” the British guitarist wrote in his not-surprisingly esoteric blog style.

The concept appears to be the trio of drummers working as frontmen.

Not making the lineup is guitarist Adrian Belew, who posted on Facebook Sept. 27 that “after 32 years I am no longer in King Crimson.” He said Fripp “informed me in an email that he was starting a seven-piece version of the band. He said I would not be right for what the band is doing.”

The new King Crimson are Fripp (pictured), Gavin Harrison (drums), Tony Levin (bass), Pat Mastelotto (drums), Mel Collins (saxophone), Bill Rieflin (drums) and Jakko Jakszyk (guitar, vocals).

Robert Fripp of King Crimson
The first five are band veterans, but all seven previously worked with guitarist Fripp.

Collins last played with the band in the mid-1970s.

Something like 18 musicians have been members of King Crimson since its debut in 1968.

Fripp cited several reasons for the 2014 return of King Crimson, including a “likely” settlement of his long-running legal battle with Universal Music Group, completion of a Guitar Craft book and the encouragement of his wife.

The revival is for touring and performing existing King Crimson material, with no plans for studio recordings, Fripp said.

“Right now the primary geographical focus is the United States,” Fripp told Uncut magazine, adding that the United Kingdom likely will be part of the band’s tour plans. Fripp dubbed the band King Crimson VIII.

In 2012, Fripp told the Financial Times his career as a musician was over because it was “a joyless exercise in futility.”

His primary beef was the treatment of his catalog by UMG, which had swallowed up several labels associated with King Crimson and released its music without Fripp’s approval.

Fripp’s other complaints about the music industry include Virgin’s longtime misplacement of the King Crimson master recordings.

Fripp has his own label, Discipline Global Mobile, which has been reissuing the band’s music in multiple audiophile formats.

More King Crimson content:

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in 100 Riffs

by , Open Culture:

Give the talented Alex Chadwick 12 minutes, and he’ll give you A Brief History of Rock ‘n’ Roll, with each defining moment represented by a famous guitar riff.

Our journey starts in 1953, with “Mr. Sandman” by Chet Atkins. Pretty soon, and quite seamlessly, we get to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, Queen and The Ramones, and eventually some more contemporary pairings - Green Day and White Stripes.

The video is sponsored by the Chicago Music Exchange, a store specializing in vintage gear, like the $32,995 1958 Fender Strat played in the clip. A full list of riffs appears below the jump.

1 Mr. Sandman – Chet Atkins
2 Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash
3 Words of Love – Buddy Holly
4 Johnny B Goode – Chuck Berry
5 Rumble – Link Wray
6 Summertime Blues – Eddie Cochran
7 Pipeline – The Chantays
8 Miserlou – Dick Dale
9 Wipeout – Surfaris
10 Daytripper – The Beatles
11 Can’t Explain – The Who
12 Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
13 Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix
14 Black Magic Woman – Santana
15 Helter Skelter – The Beatles
16 Oh Well – Fleetwood Mac
17 Crossroads – Cream
18 Communication Breakdown – Led Zeppelin
19 Paranoid – Black Sabbath
20 Fortunate Sun – Creedence Clearwater Revival
21 Funk 49 – James Gang
22 Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin
23 Bitch – Rolling Stones
24 Layla – Derek and the Dominos
25 School’s Out – Alice Cooper
26 Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple
27 Money – Pink Floyd
28 Jessica – Allman Brothers
29 La Grange – ZZ Top
30 20th Century Boy – T. Rex
31 Scarlet Begonias – Grateful Dead
32 Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
33 Walk This Way – Aerosmith
34 Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
35 Stranglehold – Ted Nugent
36 Boys Are Back in Town – Thin Lizzy
37 Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
38 Carry on My Wayward Son – Kansas
39 Blitzkreig Bop – The Ramones
40 Barracuda – Heart
41 Runnin’ with the Devil – Van Halen
42 Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits
43 Message in a Bottle – The Police
44 Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) – Neil Young
45 Back in Black – AC/DC
46 Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne
47 Spirit of Radio – Rush
48 Pride and Joy – Stevie Ray Vaughan
49 Owner of a Lonely Heart – Yes
50 Holy Diver – Dio
51 Beat It – Michael Jackson
52 Hot For Teacher – Van Halen
53 What Difference Does It Make – The Smiths
54 Glory Days – Bruce Springsteen
55 Money For Nothing – Dire Straits
56 You Give Love a Bad Name – Bon Jovi
57 The One I Love – REM
58 Where the Streets Have No Name – U2
59 Welcome to the Jungle – Guns N’ Roses
60 Sweet Child ‘O Mine – Guns N’ Roses
61 Girls, Girls, Girls – Motley Crue
62 Cult of Personality -Living Colour
63 Kickstart My Heart – Motley Crue
64 Running Down a Dream – Tom Petty
65 Pictures of Matchstick Men – Camper Van Beethoven
66 Thunderstruck – AC/DC
67 Twice as Hard – Black Crowes
68 Cliffs of Dover – Eric Johnson
69 Enter Sandman – Metallica
70 Man in the Box – Alice in Chains
71 Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
72 Give it Away – Red Hot Chili Peppers
73 Even Flow – Pearl Jam
74 Outshined – Soundgarden
75 Killing in the Name – Rage Against the Machine
76 Sex Type Thing – Stone Temple Pilots
77 Are You Gonna Go My Way – Lenny Kravitz
78 Welcome to Paradise – Green Day
79 Possum Kingdom – Toadies
80 Say it Ain’t So – Weezer
81 Zero – Smashing Pumpkins
82 Monkey Wrench – Foo Fighters
83 Sex and Candy – Marcy Playground
84 Smooth – Santana
85 Scar Tissue – Red Hot Chili Peppers
86 Short Skirt, Long Jacket – Cake
87 Turn a Square – The Shins
88 Seven Nation Army – White Stripes
89 Hysteria – Muse
90 I Believe in a Thing Called Love – The Darkness
91 Blood and Thunder – Mastadon
92 Are You Gonna Be My Girl – Jet
93 Reptilia – The Strokes
94 Take Me Out – Franz Ferdinand
95 Float On – Modest Mouse
96 Blue Orchid – White Stripes
97 Boulevard of Broken Dreams – Green Day
98 Steady As She Goes – The Raconteurs
99 I Got Mine – Black Keys
100 Cruel – St. Vincent

Thursday, September 26, 2013

John Coltrane’s Handwritten Outline for His Masterpiece A Love Supreme

by Mike Springer, Open Culture:

love supreme manuscripts

The great jazz saxophone player John Coltrane was born 87 years ago today.

To mark the occasion we present this rare document from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History: Coltrane’s handwritten outline of his groundbreaking jazz composition A Love Supreme.

Recorded in December of 1964 and released in 1965, A Love Supreme is Coltrane’s personal declaration of his faith in God and his awareness of being on a spiritual path.

“No road is an easy one,” writes Coltrane in a prayer at the bottom of his own liner notes for the album, “but they all go back to God.”

If you click the image above and examine a larger copy of the manuscript, you will notice that Coltrane has written the same sentiment at the bottom of the page. “All paths lead to God.”

The piece is made up of a progression of four suites. The names for each section are not on the manuscript, but Coltrane eventually called them “Acknowledgement,” “Resolution,” “Pursuance” and “Psalms.”

In the manuscript, Coltrane writes that the “A Love Supreme” motif should be “played in all keys together.”

In the recording of “Acknowledgement,” Coltrane indeed repeats the basic theme near the end in all keys, as if he were consciously exhausting every path. As jazz historian Lewis Porter, author of John Coltrane: His Life and Music, tells NPR in the piece below:

Coltrane more or less finished his improvisation, and he just starts playing the “Love Supreme” motif, but he changes the key another time, another time, another time. This is something very unusual. It’s not the way he usually improvises. It’s not really improvised. It’s something that he’s doing. And if you actually follow it through, he ends up playing this little “Love Supreme” theme in all 12 possible keys. To me, he’s giving you a message here.

In section IV of the manuscript, for the part later named “Psalms,” Coltrane writes that the piece is a “musical recitation of prayer by horn,” and is an “attempt to reach transcendent level with orchestra rising harmonies to a level of blissful stability at the end.”

Indeed, in the same NPR piece which you can listen to below, Rev. Franzo Wayne King of the Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco describes how his congregation one day discovered that Coltrane’s playing corresponds directly to his prayer at the bottom of the liner notes.

In addition to Porter and King, NPR’s Eric Westervelt interviews pianist McCoy Tyner, the last surviving member of Coltrane’s quartet. The 13-minute piece, “The Story of ‘A Love Supreme,’” is a fascinating overview of one of the great monuments of jazz.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Monday, September 23, 2013

Jackie Lomax Dies: First Apple Artist

Apple Records artist Jackie Lomaxby , Psychedelic Sight:

Jackie Lomax, a British singer best known for his long association with the Beatles, has died at age 69.

Lomax was the first artist signed to the Beatles’ label Apple Records, releasing the album “Is This What You Want?” in 1969.

The album foundered, despite the presence on the recording of three Beatles - George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr - and other U.K. rock royalty such as Eric Clapton. Harrison produced the Lomax album.

Harrison wrote Lomax’s first single, “Sour Milk Sea,” released in August 1968.

The song, inspired by Sanskrit legends, was recorded by the Beatles as a demo and had been under consideration for the “White Album.” It apparently was the first composition emerging songwriter Harrison gave to another artist.

“George was a champion,” Lomax recalled years later. “He made time for me and was protective even, inviting me to his home. I felt really privileged. It was incredible. To have my name associated with The Beatles - what better thing could happen to a budding artist?”

Lomax, who knew the Beatles from their days at Liverpool’s Cavern Club, sang backup on “Hey Jude” and “Dear Prudence.”

He was a member of the Merseybeat band the Undertakers. Brian Epstein managed him for a short while and John Lennon was instrumental in his becoming a solo act. Lomax initially was signed to Apple as a songwriter.

Lomax recalled the superstar-heavy session for “Sour Milk Sea”:
When the backing tape was played back, I thought it worked as an instrumental. “You want me to sing on top of that?!” There I am in the studio and there are three Beatles in the control room watching me. That choked up my throat a bit.
Lomax recorded several strong psychedelic-pop songs, including “Sunset,” “Sour Milk Sea” and “The Eagle Laughs at You.”

His song “Is This What You Want?” had striking similarities to the Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus.” “Some of the chords are similar,” he later admitted, “but not exactly. The chorus is all R&B.”

While his early recordings reflected the psychedelic era sensibilities, Lomax drew on R&B influences such as Motown and the girl groups.

The singer-songwriter moved to the United States after his split with the Beatles label, living and recording in Woodstock, N.Y.

He then found his way to Southern California, working as a musician and in the restaurant business (he was the greeter for a while at Hollywood’s music biz hangout the Cat & the Fiddle).

Lomax’s 1970s solo albums included (for Warner Bros.) “Home Is My Head,” “Three” and (for Capitol) “Livin’ for Lovin,’” “Did You Ever Have That Feeling?” He was a member of the bands Heavy Jelly and Badger.

Lomax, who settled in the artists community of Ojai, Calif., played informally in Southern California with a British ex-pats Terry Reid, Mick Taylor and Brian Auger, as well as rocker Tom Petty. He also found work on the oldies circuit, playing bass for versions of the Coasters and the Drifters.

A new album, “Against All Odds,” was about to be released by Angel Air Records, which released Lomax’s “The Ballad of Liverpool Slim” a decade ago.

Lomax died of cancer Sept. 15, 2013, in the Wirral, Merseyside, where he was born. Survivors include his three daughters and his stepson, the fashion/celebrity photographer Terry Richardson.
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Thursday, September 19, 2013

VIDEO: George Harrison in the Spotlight: The Dick Cavett Show (1971)

by  , Open Culture:

This week, HBO will air George Harrison: Living in the Material World, a two-part documentary dedicated to The Beatles’ guitarist who long played in the shadow of John and Paul.

While George slips back in the spotlight, we should highlight his vintage interview with Dick Cavett.

Recorded 40 years ago (November 23, 1971), the conversation starts with light chit-chat, then (around the 5:30 mark) gets to some bigger questions - Did Yoko break up the band? Did the other Beatles hold him back musically? Why have drugs been so present in the rock ‘n roll world, and did The Beatles’ flirtation with LSD lead youngsters astray? And is there any relationship between drugs and the Indian music that so fascinated Harrison? It was a question better left to Ravi Shankar to answer, and that he did.

The rest of the interview continues here with Part 2 and Part 3. Also, that same year, Cavett interviewed John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and we have it right here.

Monday, September 16, 2013

VIDEO: Jack Kerouac Reads from On the Road (1959)

by , Open Culture:

Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road in three very short weeks in 1951. But then it took six years for the book, famously written on a long scroll, to reach the reading public in 1957.

Shortly after its publication, critics were at least quick to recognize what the book meant. One New York Times reviewer called it “the most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as beat.”

Another saw in the novel “a descriptive excitement unmatched since the days of Thomas Wolfe.” 54 years later, those early reviews have withstood the proverbial test of time. These days, Modern Library and TIME place the novel on their lists of the 100 greatest novels.

And now onto our vintage clip of the day - Jack Kerouac, the man himself, appearing on The Steve Allen Show in 1959, first fielding some questions, then reading from his beat classic. Of course, you’ll find this clip in our collection of 275 Cultural Icons.

Bonus: Yale’s course, The American Novel Since 1945, features two lectures dedicated to On the Road. More on that here.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

ALBUM REVIEW: A Shot of Quicksilver at the ‘Old Mill Tavern’

Quicksilver Messenger Service live album 1970
by , Psychedelic Sight:

The holy grails for Quicksilver Messenger Service fans are, alas, the stuff of dreams, and no more.

There will never be a classic studio album that captured the original lineup of the San Francisco band in its fiery glory - a record that enshrines them in the psychedelic music pantheon.

Nor will there surface another live set of the primo quality of “Happy Trails.”

Into the gap have come a stream of live recordings, some barely above bootleg quality.

A startling exception came in April, with the release of “Live at the Fillmore - June 7, 1968,” a double CD from Purple Pyramid (Cleopatra) Records.

Now we have the label’s follow-up, “Live at the Old Mill Tavern - March 29, 1970.” It captures Quicksilver as it entered (or re-entered) the Dino Valenti era, as a six-piece, before the singer-songwriter turned the remains of the band into his supporting cast.

The late Valenti often got the Yoko Ono treatment for the downfall of the original psychedelic Quicksilver, justifiably so to some extent. “From many accounts,” Dave Thompson writes in the liner notes, Valenti “was already treating his bandmates as though they were hired hands.”

But this set finds Valenti bringing strengths to the lineup, as does ace pianist Nicky Hopkins. The band had just released “Shady Grove,” which (perhaps tellingly) gets no promo push in the set list. Instead, we get five new Quicksilver songs (out of eight), none of them yet recorded.

Personnel on the single-CD album are Valenti, Hopkins and the classic quartet - Gary Duncan (guitar, vocals), John Cipollina (guitar), David Freiberg (bass, vocals) and Greg Elmore (drums). The audio is better than you’d expect, a bit trebly but OK.

This being live Quicksilver, there’s “Mona,” and it’s a corker. Clocking in at a relatively restrained 8 minutes. Guitarists Cipollina and Duncan are up to their old tricks, weaving lines like jazz masters. Check out the killer wah-wah, the power of Elmore’s tribal pounding and the bar-band roll of Hopkins’ keyboards.

Valenti’s singing on “Mona” is strong and direct, hard to fault - there’s a powerful bit when the band steps up to sing gruff harmony, on the “need you baby and it ain’t no lie” line.

The album opens with “Subway” (“I’m just a country boy”) which wouldn’t find its way on record until 1970 (“What About Me”). It’s focused and obviously the most-rehearsed number.

The next song, the snappy blues “The Truth,” came out in ’71. And the other solid original, the hard rocker “Mojo,” remained on ice until 1972.

“Baby, Baby,” another song from “What About Me,” is so new Valenti half-seriously asks the audience for suggestions on how to make it work: “We’ve never heard it before we walked up on the stage.” It has a ragged charm, unlike the lame eco-protest “Rain” that follows.

For some, the five new songs will simply be prelude to two extended jams with the harp player James Cotton - adding up to about 23 minutes.

The first piece (“Stepping Out”) is a terrific piece of blues rock, with Cotton snake-charming the band. You half expect to hear Paul Butterfield’s vocals kick in. The lengthy second jam (“Flip Flop and Fly”) is more of the same, with extended soloing.

Liner notes writer Thompson argues that this record is proof that, at least for the moment, “one of the finest jam bands in history (wasn’t) becoming a folky-rocky-pop vehicle for singer-songwriter Valenti.” History, he writes, “can take a flying jump.”

Liner notes: Bo Diddley, composer of “Mona,” lived on some land outside Gainesville, Fla., in the late 1970s. My pal Bill wrote a feature article about the old Chess Records rocker, who wasn’t getting much run in those days. Newspaper editors around the country were eager to print the story, though. I was along for the ride when Bill brought Diddley a stack of clippings.

Diddley was gruff but nice enough. He spent much of our hourlong visit complaining about the people who’d robbed him of his music and his money. At one point, he broke out one of his famous cigar-box-shaped guitars and played some of those immortal riffs, standing there in a field.

When he opened the guitar case, he pulled out a T-shirt advertising some oldies concert and threw it my way (I wore it to tatters).

Anyway, I asked Bo Diddley what he thought of Quicksilver Messenger Service and their half-hour takes on his songs. He looked at me through half-closed eyes and said he’d never heard of them. But, he was sure, they were robbing him of his music and his money.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

VIDEO: Captain Beefheart Issues His “Ten Commandments of Guitar Playing”

by , Open Culture:

If you do not believe in Captain Beefheart, I doubt the 1974 Old Grey Whistle Test appearance above will convert you. If you are a Beefheart believer, you know.

And if you don’t know where you stand on Beefheart, get to know this wild-eyed rock and roll shaman, poet, bluesman, painter, and childhood friend of Frank Zappa (start with his fairly straightforward take on Delta blues and sixties garage rock, 1967′s Safe as Milk).

Beefheart’s Magic Band, a shifting collection of musicians that initially included Ry Cooder (who served as something of a musical director) created some of the most warped music of the last few decades, much of it very recognizably blues-based and much of it (such as the freak outs on Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica) occupying a space all its own - a space that only exists, really, in Captain Beefheart’s head and heart.

While Beefheart acquired a reputation as an uncompromising, and singularly demanding, employer of musicians, speaking as a musician, there are few others that I wish I’d had the chance to play with in their heyday.

Despite his demonically inspired weirdness and storied difficulty, what attracted musicians to Beefheart was his ability to push concepts so far beyond the bounds of intelligibility so as to make insanity make perfect sense.

Take, for example, his list of instructions, or rather “commandments,” issued to Moris Tepper when the guitarist joined Beefheart’s band in 1976.

This is not an obnoxious practical joke - it is the technique of a Zen master, disorienting his student with nonsensical truths mixed in with some very practical advice. Which one is which is for the student to decide.

Captain Beefheart’s “Ten Commandments of Guitar Playing”
1. Listen to the birds
That’s where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren’t going anywhere.
2. Your guitar is not really a guitar
Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you’re good, you’ll land a big one.
3. Practice in front of a bush
Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush doesn’t shake, eat another piece of bread.
4. Walk with the devil
Old Delta blues players referred to guitar amplifiers as the “devil box.” And they were right. You have to be an equal opportunity employer in terms of who you’re brining over from the other side. Electricity attracts devils and demons. Other instruments attract other spirits. An acoustic guitar attracts Casper. A mandolin attracts Wendy. But an electric guitar attracts Beelzebub.
5. If you’re guilty of thinking, you’re out
If your brain is part of the process, you’re missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.
6. Never point your guitar at anyone
Your instrument has more clout than lightning. Just hit a big chord then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field.
7. Always carry a church key
That’s your key-man clause. Like One String Sam. He’s one. He was a Detroit street musician who played in the fifties on a homemade instrument. His song “I Need a Hundred Dollars” is warm pie. Another key to the church is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin’ Wolf’s guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty - making you want to look up her dress the whole time to see how he’s doing it.
8. Don’t wipe the sweat off your instrument
You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.
9. Keep your guitar in a dark place
When you’re not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don’t play your guitar for more than a day, be sure you put a saucer of water in with it.
10. You gotta have a hood for your engine
Keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house, the hot air can’t escape. Even a lima bean has to have a piece of wet paper around it to make it grow.

If any of the above leads you to think you need to know more about Beefheart, then watch the documentary above, introduced and narrated by the legendary tastemaker John Peel, a true Beefheart believer if one there ever was.

Via Letters of Note
Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Beatles' "LOVE" by Cirque du Soleil

by Sixties Beat:

Last week, my husband took me to see The Beatles' Love Cirque du Soleil production at The Mirage in Las Vegas.

The French-Canadian contemporary circus company is known for fantastic shows, but this 2006 theatrical production combines the re-produced and re-imagined music of The Beatles with the interpretive, circus-based artistic and athletic stage performance.

A joint venture between Cirque and The Beatles' Apple Corps Ltd, the music directors are Sir George Martin (producer of nearly all of The Beatles' records) and his son, record producer Niles Martin.

I had heard rave reviews of the show, but we were truly amazed at the unbelievable acrobatic and aerial performers paired with the perfect soundtrack.

The show samples 130 songs from The Beatles' catalog to create 26 musical pieces, and the songs are mixed so that the lyrics and instrumentation blend from one song to the next.

The loose storyline traces the band's biography in board strokes and incorporates characters inspired by their songs including Sgt. Pepper, Eleanor Rigby, Her Majesty, Lady Madonna, Lucy, Nowhere Men, and so on.

For Beatles fans, this stellar production is a must-see, and even for the non-Beatles fan, the awesome sights and sounds will entertain for the entire 90 minutes.

Enjoying the colorful entrance to the theater.
Stock photo from the show.

Here's the show's trailer, just to give you a taste of the impressive circus with Beatles-inspired costumes and psychedelic sets.

As someone who knows the music of The Beatles by heart, I was very impressed with the re-working of certain songs. One of my favorite moments was hearing a new version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," which matches the first studio demo from 1968 with a new string arrangement written for Love by George Martin. In contrast to George Harrison's original blues rock song, here's the hauntingly beautiful version used in the show. 
My husband hanging out with a Blue Meanie (from the Yellow Submarine film) in the gift shop.

Definitely a groovy night of astounding sights and sounds!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

VIDEO: Psychedelic Scenes of Pink Floyd’s Early Days with Syd Barrett, 1967

by , Open Culture:

Roger Waters of Pink Floyd turns 70 years old today.

Waters was the principal songwriter and dominant creative force during the band’s famous 1970s period, when it released a string of popular and influential concept albums such as Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall.

But today we thought it would be interesting to take you all the way back to 1967, when Waters was 23 years old and the band was led by his childhood friend Syd Barrett.

The video above is from a May 14, 1967 broadcast of the BBC program The Look of the Week.

Pink Floyd hadn’t released an album yet. Only two nights earlier the band had staged its attention-getting “Games for May” concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

In the TV broadcast, Pink Floyd plays its early favorite “Astronomy Domine” before Waters and Barrett sit down for a rather tense interview with the classically trained musician and critic Hans Keller.

It’s amusing to watch Keller’s face as he expresses his extreme irritation at the band’s loud, strange music. “My verdict is that its a little bit of a regression to childhood,” he says with a grimace. “But after all, why not?”

Waters and Barrett manage to hold their own during the interview. Barrett comes across as lucid and well-spoken, despite the fact that his heavy LSD use and mental instability would soon make him unable to function within the band.

By December of 1967, Pink Floyd would add guitarist David Gilmour to the lineup to compensate for Barrett’s erratic behavior. By March of 1968 - only 10 months after the BBC broadcast - Barrett would quit the group.

We’ll close with an even earlier video of Pink Floyd performing at the legendary UFO club in London.

Filmed on January 27, 1967, the clip is from the February 7, 1967 Granada TV documentary on British youth culture, So Far Out It’s Straight Down. Pink Floyd plays another major song from it’s psychedelic era, “Interstellar Overdrive.”

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Deity of British Blues: Alexis Korner

by The Music Court:

Alexis KornerRobert Johnson, Charley Patton, Son House, Ma Rainey, Big Bill Broonzy - names that are forever linked with their god-like status among the propagation of American Blues - an extensive genre that had an indelible impact on the future molding of rock ‘n’ roll.

On the other side of the pond, British jazz musicians and fans became ensconced with the Blues music of musicians like Ma Rainey and Fats Waller, acquiring much of these tunes from African-American GIs stationed there during the Wars.

After the Skiffle craze died down in the 1950s, many Skiffle-influenced musicians turned their attention to pure Blues music.

Muddy Waters had a shocking electric (literally) visit to England where he shocked Brits with his amplified electric blues.

Some were appalled by his lack of reverence for the classic style, but the youth ate up this edgy playing. Among them was a guitarist by the name of Alexis Korner, who, like the Blues ancestors above, would spark a focus on Blues in Britain and influence a slew of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest musicians.

Thus, he too should be considered a true Blues god, and it should come to no surprise that he is often given the moniker of the “Father of British Blues.”

Korner’s elaborate music history is extensive and impactful. It is not easy to keep the plenitude of anecdotes to a minimum, but for the sake of the reader I shall limit my focus to a few stories.

Like, for example, in 1969 while touring with a new band, Korner was jamming with a little-known singer named Robert Plant. Jimmy Page, who often performed with Korner at the Marquee Club, was intrigued by Plant’s voice and asked him to join The New Yardbirds … who would soon turn into a rock band called Led Zeppelin with Page and Plant at the helm.

But I am getting ahead of myself. That was in the late 60s. Korner’s career (even though he dabbled in Skiffle) really began in 1961 when he founded Blues Incorporated with Blues harmonica extraordinaire Cyril Davies.

Blues Incorporated (like The Yardbirds, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, and Cyril Davies’ All-Stars) was an early example of a “supergroup.” But, in truth, it was just a platform for talented blues musicians to play music.

Blues Incorporated, though, has the special mark as the first electrified Blues band in Britain. The band secured a residency at the Marquee (mentioned above) and even established an R&B Night at Ealing Jazz Club.

Remember what I said about the youth loving electrified Blues music? Well, where do you think they went to hear this music? And who do you think inspired them to pursue this music?

So when I tell you that Korner played with musicians like Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Paul Jones, Eric Burdon, and many, many others, you should not be too surprised. Most of the early Blues musicians in Britain are linked with Alexis Korner in some way.

He is like the Kevin Bacon of British Blues. And when Cyril Davies left Korner to form his All-Stars he played with musicians like Nicky Hopkins and Long John Baldry until he died far too young in 1964.

The All-Stars were led by Baldry who created Hoochie Coochie Man, featuring a singer named Rod Stewart. Page also had a few All-Stars jam sessions, adding individuals like Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Bill Wyman, and Mick Jagger to the mix.

But back to Korner for one more story before I urge you to watch this documentary about him.

Blues Incorporated was asked by BBC radio to broadcast a session in the early 60s, but the producer only had room for six musicians. The seventh member of the group with a singer named Mick Jagger. Jagger was asked to gather some friends and play the normal spot at the Marquee.

The friends he gathered were Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Ian Stewart on piano, Dick Taylor on bass and Tony Chapman on drums. The band went by the name of  Rollin’ Stones after a Muddy Waters tune.
Cyril Davies on vocals and harmonica. Alexis Korner playing a mean acoustic guitar. Released in November, 1962.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Get Back To Where You Once Belonged: Sir Paul McCartney Set to Regain Rights to Beatles Back Catalogue

Cover of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Clu...
by Emily Sheridan, Daily
Sir Paul McCartney is set to win back the rights to The Beatles songs. 

The veteran rocker, 71, lost ownership of the publishing rights to the songs he co-wrote with late bandmate John Lennon.

Sir Paul was furious when his former friend Michael Jackson outbid him to buy the Associated Television Corporation (ATV)'s back catalogue, which includes The Beatles' tracks, in 1985.

The King Of Pop paid a reported $47.5million for between 160 and 260 Beatles classics, including Yesterday and Let It Be. However, the 1976 US Copyright Act means Sir Paul will now be able the claim back the titles once more in five years, according to The Sun.

A source told the paper: 'Paul's been fuming for decades. It's as much personal as business. Now he'll get back what's rightfully his.' The Act means songs written prior to 1978 turn into the property of the songwriter after 56 years. 

Sir Paul and Michael, who recorded several songs together in the '80s, including The Girl Is Mine, famously fell out over the purchase. 

No doubt Sir Paul, who has a reported £680 million fortune already, will be looking forward to receiving royalties and licensing money for tracks he wrote in the '60s and 1970.

Years ago, he complained at having to pay Michael royalties every time he wanted to perform a Beatles song: 'The annoying thing is I have to pay to play some of my own songs. Each time I want to sing Hey Jude I have to pay.'

While it is unknown how much the back catalogue would be worth nowadays, in 2005, Sony paid Michael $95million for 50 per cent of the rights.

When Jackson died in 2009, Sir Paul denied reports he was 'devastated' not to have been left the rights by the tragic singer in his will.

He said at the time: 'The report is that I am devastated to find that he didn't leave the songs to me. This is completely untrue. I had not thought for one minute that the original report [about the will] was true, and therefore the report that I'm devastated is also totally false.'

In an interview after Michael's death, Sir Paul admitted his resentment against the singer had faded somewhat: 'I got off that years ago. It was something for a while I was very keen on and you can see why, naturally ... [but these] sort of things can eat you up'.

'I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael. He was a massively talented boy man with a gentle soul. His music will be remembered forever and my memories of our time together will be happy ones.'
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Friday, September 6, 2013

VIDEO: Eric Clapton’s Isolated Guitar Track From the Classic Beatles Song, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ (1968)

by , Open Culture:

George Harrison of the Beatles was an accomplished guitar player with a distinctive soloing style.

So you might think that with a song as personal and guitar-centric as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” he would do his own playing. In fact, the song features guitar playing by Eric Clapton.

It was recorded on September 6, 1968, during the acrimonious White Album sessions.

Harrison had been struggling off and on for over a month to get the song right. He first tried it with his own playing on a Gibson J-200 guitar along with an overdubbed harmonium. He later experimented by running the guitar solo backwards. Nothing seemed to work.

So finally Harrison asked his friend Clapton for a little help. When Harrison walked into Abbey Road Studios with Clapton, the other Beatles started taking the song seriously.

In a 1987 interview with Guitar Player magazine, Harrison was asked whether it had bruised his ego to ask Clapton to play on the song.

No, my ego would rather have Eric play on it. I’ll tell you, I worked on that song with John, Paul, and Ringo one day, and they were not interested in it at all. And I knew inside of me that it was a nice song. The next day I was with Eric, and I was going into the session, and I said, “We’re going to do this song. Come on and play on it.” He said, “Oh, no. I can’t do that. Nobody ever plays on the Beatles records.” I said, “Look, it’s my song, and I want you to play on it.” So Eric came in, and the other guys were as good as gold - because he was there. Also, it left me free to just play the rhythm and do the vocal. So Eric played that, and I thought it was really good. Then we listened to it back, and he said, “Ah, there’s a problem, though; it’s not Beatley enough” - so we put it through the ADT [automatic double-tracker], to wobble it a bit.

For the impression of a person weeping and wailing, Clapton used the fingers on his fretting hand to bend the strings deeply, in a highly expressive descending vibrato. He was playing a 1957 Gibson Les Paul, a guitar he had once owned but had given to Harrison, who nicknamed it “Lucy.”

You can hear Clapton’s isolated playing above. And for a reminder of how it all came together, you can listen to the official version below. We’d also encourage you to listen to the acoustic demos for the album.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

VIDEO: A Symphony of Sound (1966): Velvet Underground Improvises, Warhol Films It, Until the Cops Turn Up

by , Open Culture:

“We’re sponsoring a new band,” announced Andy Warhol at the end of the 1966 documentary posted here yesterday. “It’s called the Velvet Underground.”

Brian Eno would much later call it the band that inspired every single one of its listeners to start bands of their own, but that same year, Warhol produced The Velvet Underground: A Symphony of Sound.

The film shows the group, which features young but now much-discussed rock iconoclasts like John Cale, Lou Reed, and (on tambourine) the German singer Nico, performing a 67-minute instrumental improvisation.

Shooting at his New York studio the Factory, Warhol and crew intended this not as a concert film but as a bit of entertainment to be screened before actual live Velvet Underground shows.

It and other short films could be screened, so the idea developed, their soundtracks and visuals intermingling according to the decisions of those at the projectors and mixer.

“I thought of recording the Velvets just making up sounds as they went along to have on film so I could turn both soundtracks up at the same time along with the other three silent films being projected,” said director of photography and Factory member Paul Morrissey, best known as the director of Flesh, Trash, and Heat.

“The cacophonous noise added a lot of energy to these boring sections and sounded a lot like the group itself. The show put on for the group was certainly the first mixed media show of its kind, was extremely effective and I have never since seen such an interesting one even in this age of super-colossal rock concerts.”

Alas, someone’s noise complaint puts an end to the Symphony of Sound experience: one policeman arrives to turn down the amplifier, and Warhol tries to explain the situation to the others. But the bustle of the Factory continues apace.

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mick Jagger Tells the Story Behind ‘Gimme Shelter’ and Merry Clayton’s Haunting Background Vocals

by , Open Culture:

In the fall of 1969 the Rolling Stones were in a Los Angeles recording studio, putting the final touches on their album Let it Bleed.

It was a tumultuous time for the Stones. They had been struggling with the album for the better part of a year as they dealt with the personal disintegration of their founder and multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones, whose drug addiction and personality problems had reached a critical stage.

Jones was fired from the band in June of that year. He died less than a month later.

And although the Stones couldn’t have known it at the time, the year would end on another catastrophic note, as violence broke out at the notorious Altamont Free Concert just a day after Let it Bleed was released.

It was also a grim time around the world. The assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, the Tet Offensive, the brutal suppression of the Prague Spring - all of these were recent memories. Not surprisingly, Let it Bleed was not the most cheerful of albums.

As Stephen Davis writes in his book Old Gods Almost Dead: The 40-Year Odyssey of the Rolling Stones, “No rock record, before or since, has ever so completely captured the sense of palpable dread that hung over its era.”

And no song on Let it Bleed articulates this dread with greater force than the apocalyptic “Gimme Shelter,” in which Mick Jagger sings of a fire “sweepin’ our very street today,” like a “Mad bull lost his way.”

Rape, murder!
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

In an interview last November with Melissa Block for the NPR program All Things Considered, Jagger talked about those lyrics, and the making of the song.

One of the most striking moments in the interview is when Jagger describes the circumstances surrounding soul singer Merry Clayton’s powerful background vocals.

“When we got to Los Angeles and we were mixing it, we thought, ‘Well, it’d be great to have a woman come and do the rape/murder verse,’ or chorus or whatever you want to call it,” said Jagger.

“We randomly phoned up this poor lady in the middle of the night, and she arrived in her curlers and proceeded to do that in one or two takes, which is pretty amazing. She came in and knocked off this rather odd lyric. It’s not the sort of lyric you give anyone - 'Rape, murder/It’s just a shot away' - but she really got into it, as you can hear on the record.”

The daughter of a Baptist minister, Merry Clayton grew up singing in her father’s church in New Orleans. She made her professional debut at age 14, recording a duet with Bobby Darin.

She went on to work with The Supremes, Elvis Presley and many others, and was a member of Ray Charles’s group of backing singers, The Raelettes. She is one of the singers featured in the new documentary film, 20 Feet From Stardom.

In an interview last week with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, Clayton talked about the night she was asked to sing on “Gimme Shelter”:

Well, I’m at home at about 12 - I’d say about 11:30, almost 12 o’clock at night. And I’m hunkered down in my bed with my husband, very pregnant, and we got a call from a dear friend of mine and producer named Jack Nitzsche. Jack Nitzsche called and said you know, Merry, are you busy? I said No, I’m in bed. he says, well, you know, There are some guys in town from England. And they need someone to come and sing a duet with them, but I can’t get anybody to do it. Could you come? He said I really think this would be something good for you.

At that point, Clayton recalled, her husband took the phone out of her hand and said, “Man, what is going on? This time of night you’re calling Merry to do a session? You know she’s pregnant.”

Nitzsche explained the situation, and just as Clayton was drifting back to sleep her husband nudged her and said, “Honey, you know, you really should go and do this date.”

Clayton had no idea who the Rolling Stones were. When she arrived at the studio, Keith Richards was there and explained what he wanted her to do.

I said, Well, play the track. It’s late. I’d love to get back home. So they play the track and tell me that I’m going to sing - this is what you’re going to sing: Oh, children, it’s just a shot away. It had the lyrics for me. I said, Well, that’s cool. So  I did the first part, and we got down to the rape, murder part. And I said, Why am I singing rape, murder? … So they told me the gist of what the lyrics were, and I said Oh, okay, that’s cool. So then I had to sit on a stool because I was a little heavy in my belly. I mean, it was a sight to behold. And we got through it. And then we went in the booth to listen, and I saw them hooting and hollering while I was singing, but I didn’t know what they were hooting and hollering about. And when I got back in the booth and listened, I said, Ooh, that’s really nice. They said, well, You want to do another? I said, well, I’ll do one more, I said and then I’m going to have to say thank you and good night. I did one more, and then I did one more. So it was three times I did it, and then I was gone. The next thing I know, that’s history.

Clayton sang with such emotional force that her voice cracked (“I was just grateful that the crack was in tune,” she told Gross).

In the isolated vocal track above, you can hear the others in the studio shouting in amazement. Despite giving what would become the most famous performance of her career, it turned out to be a tragic night for Clayton.

Shortly after leaving the studio, she lost her baby in a miscarriage. It has generally been assumed that the stress from the emotional intensity of her performance and the lateness of the hour caused the miscarriage.

For many years Clayton found the song too painful to hear, let alone sing. “That was a dark, dark period for me,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 1986, “but God gave me the strength to overcome it. I turned it around. I took it as life, love and energy and directed it in another direction, so it doesn’t really bother me to sing ‘Gimme Shelter’ now. Life is short as it is and I can’t live on yesterday.”

Sunday, September 1, 2013