Tag Archives: music

Video Fridays: A “Morning Dew” Extravaganza

morning-dewI often think of myself as a pretty decent pop music historian, because in conversations with music geeks and non-geeks alike I very regularly can reference what others consider to be obscure music factoids.

And yet, paradoxically, I regularly learn something new that takes me totally by surprise.

Yesterday was one such time, thanks to a friend who posted a YouTube clip, not only of a British band from the mid-1960s that I’d never heard of, Episode Six, but of Episode Six covering a song I’d only ever heard before as performed by the Grateful Dead: Morning Dew.

I’d known that the song predated the Grateful Dead, but I never noticed that the song was written by Canadian folksinger Bonnie Dobson, and I certainly had no idea, until I did my research, just how many artists and bands covered the song, nor how wacky a variety of artists and bands it’s been.

As I commented on my friend’s Facebook post, “Any song that can be covered by the Grateful Dead, Jeff Beck, Lulu, and Devo, just to name a few, is one helluva song!” And, perhaps it’s the song’s heavy subject matter that has inspired so many to interpret it.

Per Wikipedia:

The song is a dialogue between the last man and woman left alive following an apocalyptic catastrophe: Dobson has stated that the initial inspiration for “Morning Dew” was the film On the Beach which is focused on the survivors of virtual global annihilation by nuclear holocaust.

Appropriately then, for this week’s Video Fridays installment, I’ve selected a handful of versions of Morning Dew to best capture this wacky variety, starting with the wackiest I could find.

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

(Disclaimer: The first is a fan-made video, and the second is audio-only, as there were no live performance videos available for these two.)

Wacky, because Devo:

The songwriter’s own recording:

Nazareth, because hair and tank tops:

Jeff Beck Group, because soul, funky bass, and general awesomeness:

Lulu, because campy earnestness:

And finally, magical, because, as I wrote two weeks ago, 1977 Grateful Dead:

Headline of the Day: Fun With Airtravel

From the name of the band that this guy is a member of, to the vivid image of his behavior in the airport, this headline is like a scene from This Is Spinal Tap.

Puddle of Mudd Singer Arrested for Riding Baggage Carousel

Rolling Stone

That he was bailed out by a fan is the icing on the comedy cake. LOL!

Video Fridays: The Magic of 1977 Grateful Dead

jerryDisclaimer: I recognize that this installment of Video Fridays may only appeal to music geeks like me, or maybe even to just Grateful Dead music geeks like me, but inspiration hit me and this is what I have to share today. That said, if there’s even a sliver of a chance that I can turn someone on to this music that I love so much, then my work here will not be in vain.

There’s an old Jewish saying that I love a lot.

Two Jews, three opinions.

Well, I’m convinced, after many years of debating the relative greatness of the different eras of the Grateful Dead‘s 30-year career, that it would be accurate to paraphrase the Jewish saying by substituting “Deadhead” for “Jew”.

Consider my recent communications with my longtime friend Keith, who has been featured in two prior posts of mine: Post 1, Post 2.

A few days ago, Keith emailed, imploring me to go to Archive.org, a gold mine for Deadheads, and to listen to what some believe is the greatest show the Grateful Dead ever performed, out of their 2,317 total concerts, a show from a year, 1977, believed by many more Deadheads still, to be their best.

This was the legendary May 8, 1977 concert at Cornell University’s Barton Hall in Ithaca, NY.

Having been intimately familiar with this show for many, many years, dating back to when I owned a bootleg of it on cassette tape, now sadly lost, I was more than happy to listen to it again, and doing so led me and Keith to exchange a total of 38 emails and 100+ text messages over the next two days.

During the course of the discussion, I started out agreeing that 1977 was a great year and that the Barton Hall show was great, but I disagreed with Deadheads calling it “the best”, as I was of the opinion that this distinction was not important, and I mentioned that lately I’d been listening to and loving shows from 1974 more than any shows from other periods.

But then, I inevitably became lured into a 1977 immersion, listening to shows at Archive.org and watching shows on YouTube, and while I still don’t think it’s important to label 1977 “the best”, it absolutely was a VERY special year.

There are several factors that made it so, but one of the most striking things, clearly evident in Jerry Garcia’s smile in the lead photo I’ve included here, and as can be seen throughout the video below, as Jerry himself said, “We’re having fun again.”

The band had gone on a touring hiatus after their Fall 1974 tour, they only played four one-off shows in 1975, but they had a bunch of new songs from their 1975 album Blues For Allah, and a bunch more from the album Terrapin Station, which they recorded in the winter of 1976 and would release in July of 1977. All of that studio time had two interesting side effects.

First, it demanded discipline, as studio time is expensive and records are for posterity, leading to consistent cohesion and tightness in their music, and, as a performing musician myself, I can attest that this is up there near the top of the list of the most fun things humans can experience.

Second, after a grueling 1974 tour, with their legendarily massive “Wall of Sound” sound system, a system that demanded they play on large stages, where they tended to spread out from each other like this:

GD-74

…they set out on their 1976 tour with a a greatly reduced amount of sound equipment, and having been in the confining spaces of a recording studio, they set up their gear very close together, and for most of their time onstage for the next few years they’d be huddled together, like this:

Grateful Dead live

…paying really close attention to each other and playing off each other, often, as mentioned, smiling from the pure joy of it.

Time moves on, and due to a combination of the occasional internal strife that all bands struggle with, as well as having reached a level of maturity, musically, that no longer required them to play in such close proximity to each other, they gradually spread out on stage again, and from around 1980 onward, with the exception of the acoustic sets they did in the ’80s, they mostly looked like this:

GD-90

So, yeah, 1977 was special, magical even, if you believe in music magic, as I most decidedly do, and thanks to the Music Vault YouTube channel, another gold mine for Deadheads, we’re lucky to have access to a number of videos from 1976 and 1977, including the following treasure from the Spring ’77 tour, a full hour and 45 minutes from their April 26th show at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey.

Again, just watch Jerry to see how much fun he’s having! That fun comes through the music in a glorious, glorious way.

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

R.I.P. Joe Cocker

cockerwoodstockMan, it’s been a brutal December for rock & roll.

Joe Cocker, Iconic Rock Singer, Dead at 70

Even if The New York Times insists that the “celebrities die in threes” thing is a myth, I know I wasn’t alone in wondering who would be next, when music legends Bobby Keys and Ian McLagan died on two consecutive days earlier this month.

And, while it took a couple of weeks, it’s one of the creepiest things ever that the third to fall turned out to be Joe Cocker.

As I mentioned in my post mourning the loss of Keys:

…while most who do know and love his music associate him first and foremost with The Rolling Stones…I most closely associate Bobby Keys with his work on my all-time favorite live album, and the film for which it was the soundtrack, Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen.

I even included a clip from Mad Dogs & Englishmen, featuring a gorgeous Bobby Keys solo.

And then, in my post honoring Ian McLagan, I listed the many musicians that McLagan played with, among them…Joe Cocker.

How strange is life and death, that these three — two of them 70-years old at the time of passing, the other 69, all of them major players in the glorious rock heyday of the 1960s and 1970s, and all three having made music together — should pass on within the span of three weeks?!

Well, what else can I say about Joe?

My cousin Richard gave me a vinyl copy of the 1970 release Mad Dogs & Englishmen, approximately 10 years after it came out, and I admit that I was slow to take to it. I didn’t recognize many of the songs, and I had yet to fall in love, as I decidedly am now, with the R&B and soul music that Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, et al. were clearly channeling at the time.

But, something led me to hold on to that record, and now, as I’ve said, it really is my undisputed, all-time favorite live album.

If I had to use one word to describe Joe Cocker’s greatness, I would use the word commitment, because, when you watch and listen to Joe perform, you see and hear a man committing himself to the music to the fullest extent possible, giving himself over to it completely, giving all of himself without reservation.

There’s no way to fake what he did, and it’s my personal opinion that if you don’t find the following at all stirring, if this 20-piece band, replete with full-blown choir, doesn’t course through you with the power of love, well then, you might want to check yourself for a pulse.

Rest in peace, Joe, and thank you, thank you, thank you for the many years of beautiful music!

Video Fridays: Barbershop Sexual Healing

ragtime-galsTo paraphrase the oft-quoted Most Interesting Man In The World, I don’t always watch TV (no cable and no antenna), but when I see clips on the interwebs, many of my favorites come from Jimmy Fallon, previously from his stint on Late Night, and now on The Tonight Show.

And as I tried to select this week’s Video Fridays, given I’ve been in a bit of a funk this past week, I wanted something light and funny, and the following clip delivers heaping portions of light and funny.

Fallon hilariously calls the barbershop quartet that appears in this recurring bit The Ragtime Gals, and I love these bits for several reasons. First, there’s the contrast of the early 1900s, painfully white genre mixing with contemporary, decidedly non-white songs. Second, barbershop singing is NOT easy, and yet these are done very, very well.

The Ragtime Gals have been joined by guests in the past, notably Justin Timberlake and Kevin Spacey, and this past week Steve Carell is featured in this awesome version of the Marvin Gaye classic Sexual Healing

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend!

The Poet Makes Grief Beautiful: Revisited

gillian-welchI just read a terrific column at Salon.com by someone known more for setting words to music than journalism, the wonderful singer-songwriter Gillian Welch.

The crux of the piece is best explained by Gillian in her opening paragraph:

I want to talk about the tradition of tragedy in Southern folk music. This tradition connects with why people make art – to deal with the gnarliest, most painful events that occur. Things beyond your control, almost beyond human understanding. This is why we sing about them: the sinking of the Titanic, hurricanes, rapes, assassination, murder, suicide, drugs …

I highly recommend reading the rest, but the reason I’m sharing it here is because it reminded me of one of my earliest posts here at Fish & Bicycles, published five years ago in only my second month, something titled The Poet Makes Grief Beautiful.

In that post, I covered some of the same territory visited by Ms. Welch, and so I thought I’d share this excerpt:

[Poet James] Stephens writes:

For, as he meditated misery
And cared it into song — Strict Care, Strict Joy!
Caring for grief he cared his grief away:
And those sad songs, tho’ woe be all the theme,
Do not make us grieve who read them now —
Because the poet makes grief beautiful.

This is why art is so important. It is nothing less than our humanity in action. We work through our experiences, experiences of grief and hardship and joy, shaping them into words, melodies, images, movements, theatrics, structures, etc., and the care we take to make something meaningful of these experiences is an incredibly powerful, positive, hopeful thing. And we receive these gifts from artists and find that these works speak to similar experiences we’ve had, making us feel sympathetic solidarity, enabling us to feel less alone with the pain and love and even terror we have been through.

I can honestly say, without exaggeration, that discovering great music, literature, and visual art saved my life, and I can’t imagine surviving a life void of this Strict Care.

Video Fridays: R.I.P. Ian McLagan

ian-mclaganREALLY tough week for rock & roll.

The day after we lost unsung legend Bobby Keys, which I wrote about on Tuesday, the sad news came that another unsung legend, Ian ‘Mac’ McLagan, had passed.

It’s uncanny that these two amazing musicians should leave us at the same time, given their similar career arcs. Both Bobby and Mac played supporting roles for many, many rock & roll greats, a veritable Who’s Who, I listed Bobby’s credits on Tuesday, and Mac’s are just as impressive, including a shared longtime collaboration with The Rolling Stones: Small Faces, Faces, Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood, Mick Taylor, Pete Townshend, Chuck Berry, Jackson Browne, Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan, Melissa Etheridge, Bonnie Raitt, Paul Westerberg, John Mayer, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg, Lucinda Williams, etc.

Of all his work, however, I’m deeply partial to Faces, whose classic lineup included Mac, Rod Stewart, Ronnie Lane, Ron Wood, and Kenny Jones. They only produced four albums, from 1969 to 1973, but in that brief time, before Rod Stewart became a cheesy pop star, their music was soulful, gritty, raw, and powerful.

Lucky for us, there are 40 minutes of live Faces goodness available on YouTube, and I present it here in honor of Ian McLagan, featuring, at about the 29:20 mark, Mac’s amazing Wurlitzer electric piano work on the classic Stay With Me.

Thanks for all of the wonderful music, Mac! You’ll be missed!