You are loved, Eric!

U2 Tweets x 2

Video Fridays: Saturation Point Edition

head-in-sand

Hiding Your Head In The Sand

It’s a saying that always has a negative connotation.

Literally speaking, there is some logic to that assessment. After all, when your head is in the sand your butt is in the air, highly vulnerable, and you are unable to see any threats coming your way.

And yet … I believe that the impulse to hide one’s head in the sand resides in a precious moment of righteous self-preservation, a moment when one reaches the saturation point, unable to take in one more portion of “real world” shit, no matter how wafer-thin.

Example: I’m driving my car, I have six presets on the radio, several of them are NPR stations, two air Democracy Now!, and all of them, during commute times, broadcast news/talk programs. Invariably, before I get halfway through my drive I’ve heard so many horrors that I can’t switch to music on my CD player, or from my phone via Bluetooth, fast enough.

I contend that at that precise moment I am most in tune with reality, aware that all of those horrors are an insult to reality, a violation of reality, the reality that all people, all beings, the planet, and the universe are all one and interdependent, that the optimal state, then, is one of mutual respect, cooperation, and preservation.

Besides simple silence — also a good remedy — music works reliably well for me as protection from all that does not earn the label “real”. As a musician myself, I know what it takes to make music, even more, what it takes to make good music, and good music is the product of a desire to make something beautiful, beautiful in that artistic sense, beauty that can sometimes include ugliness, but an ugliness made pure and valid as an expression of the human experience.

Anyway, I’m feeling this whole topic quite acutely today, feeling the need for music right now more urgently than normal, and making a selection for this installment of Video Fridays was very easy because I’ve been on a serious R.E.M. binge lately, during which I rediscovered and reveled over a YouTube treasure, an entire show from 1985, via the amazing German television show Rockpalast, from the European tour for one of my favorite of their early albums, Fables of the Reconstruction.

Watching and listening to this makes me feel good on SO many levels, though it does induce a powerful, potentially unfulfillable longing for a 12-string Rickenbacker.

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

R.I.P., Tom Petty :-(

tom-pettyOh man, I wish it didn’t take the death of one of my Rock & Roll heroes to get me back to Fish & Bicycles after a six month break, but it’s just the way it is and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Tom Petty was a quintessential rocker.

More than that, he was a prototypical rocker.

He was a Chuck Berry, a Jerry Lee Lewis, a Buddy Holly, an Elvis Presley.

He was a prolific songwriter and a natural, charismatic frontman. He was cool without flash, and onstage he always looked like he was doing the only thing he really wanted to do.

He was a bandleader in the most important ways. Not an egomaniac who demanded obedience, but a consummate musician who built one of the tightest bands of the era, a band that he could command with just the nod of his head or the wave of his hand. He was to The Heartbreakers what Bruce Springsteen has been to the E Street Band.

Rock & Roll has an intoxicating power. As someone who has had the privilege of performing in a rock band, I can tell you that it is incredibly easy to let the music take over, to entirely lose control of it.

Imagine all five members of a band experiencing that at the same time, imagine doing this in front of thousands of fans who are on their feet and grooving to the music, and then imagine Tom Petty, with his back to the rest of the band, just raising the headstock of his guitar in the air and then suddenly jerking it back down, stopping this freight train in its tracks.

Yes, he was that powerful.

I remember when The Traveling Wilburys happened, and many people wondered what Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne of ELO fame were doing in a band with legends Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Bob Dylan. I might have even held that belief momentarily when first hearing about the “supergroup”.

Now, Jeff Lynne still seems the odd man out, a successful songwriter for sure, but for all his success he was mostly there because he’d become good friends with George Harrison after producing George’s comeback album Cloud 9. I don’t really give a shit, he’s a great musician and talented producer, but it’s true that he just didn’t have as impressive a resume.

Tom Petty, on the other hand, by the time the Wilburys came together, had released one of the most impressive string of records ever over just 10 years.

Back in May 2013, I wrote this about the band Dire Straits:

Seriously, their first three albums are frickin’ incredible…

(Yes, there’s some great stuff after that, like Telegraph Road, a very Springsteen-ish song from their 4th album, Love Over Gold, and some of the stuff on Brothers In Arms.)

…and I think it’s stunning to think about them in the context of what was going on in music at that time, the late 70s and early 80s, so dominated by punk, post-punk/new wave, etc., and there wasn’t much else out there that sounded like Dire Straits. Maybe Tom Petty and a few others.

Early Dire Straits was like a great early to mid 70s Rock & Roll band, full of American roots music influences, who stubbornly decided to just keep making great early to mid 70s Rock & Roll.

Tom Petty also made it through the entire 1980s without abandoning his roots, which is a considerable accomplishment.

I wasn’t the biggest Petty fan. I didn’t buy every record and see him on every tour. But, his influence on me was huge. Like Tom, I play rhythm guitar and I sing, and when I’m at the mic, singing and strumming my six string, I often think of him, as I did just a few weeks ago, when me and my band played our medley of George Harrison’s Beatles-era If I Needed Someone and Petty’s Listen To Her Heart.

Tom, thanks for all of the wonderful music and the great fun you brought into the world. You’ll be missed, brother!

I’ll always think of you like this:

 

 

Video Fridays: The Beatles In The Studio, “Hey Bulldog”

john-paul-bulldogThough there’s a risk here of hyperbole, it’s a risk I’m willing to take:

Today’s Video Fridays installment features one of the greatest videos of ALL TIME!!!

There, I said it, and I mean it!

Via GuitarWorld.com:

Even though the Beatles hired a film crew to document the 1969 recording sessions for what would become Let It Be, it’s a bit uncommon to see studio footage of the band at work before that time.

Which is why the “Hey Bulldog” music video is so unique.

The February 1968 footage seen in the clip was originally utilized in the “Lady Madonna” promotional video, until someone (perhaps a talented lip reader) noticed the band was actually recording “Hey Bulldog” (The band recorded both songs during the same sessions). The footage was later re-cut to fit “Hey Bulldog,” one of many standouts from the Yellow Submarine soundtrack album.

I have LOVED Hey Bulldog ever since I first heard it as a kid, particularly because it was not one of their ginormous hits that have been played to death on the radio. And so, getting a glimpse like this, of The Beatles in the studio at their peak, performing this song, is a like discovering hidden treasure.

I love everything about Hey Bulldog: from the tempo and vibe-setting piano opening, to the James Bond-esque signature guitar riff, Paul’s punchy and bouncy bass, George’s wicked solo, Ringo’s stuttering tom work, John’s quirky lyrics, and John’s and Paul’s vocal harmonies (if ever two voices fit together as one!).

But without a doubt, the highlight of the video is watching John and Paul having so much fun singing this song together, a poignant contrast to the breakdown in their relationship that would begin very soon after this recording session.

Anyway, there’s a lot of crappy stuff going on in the world right now, so it’s more important than ever to celebrate the good things like this.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

 

 

Belated R.I.P.s: Leonard & Leon

leonard_leonIf all you did was compare the musical styles of Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell, both of whom, this past week, sadly departed this world, you might not see all that much in common between the two.

But delve just beneath surface and you find two prolific songwriters acclaimed for their lyrics as much as their music, two songwriters who had long-lasting and wide-ranging influence on other musicians, the latter resulting in their songs having been performed by an astonishing list of their peers.

Just two examples:

Leonard’s Hallelujah: Bob Dylan, John Cale, Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, k.d. lang, Brandi Carlile, Regina Spektor, Willie Nelson, Susan Boyle, Bono

Leon’s A Song For You: Billy Eckstine, The Carpenters, Ray Charles, Peggy Lee, Willie Nelson, Helen Reddy, Whitney Houston, Elkie Brooks, Amy Winehouse, Donny Hathaway, Christina Aguilera

Additionally, both Leonard and Leon went through fairly dramatic transformations over the course of their careers:

Leon, from one of the originators of the Tulsa Sound; to a member of the legendary group of Los Angeles session musicians collectively known as the Wrecking Crew, who recorded pop hits by artists ranging from Frank Sinatra and Sonny & Cher to The Monkeys and The Beach Boys; to hippie soul man bandleader, piano and guitar player on Joe Cocker’s epic Mad Dogs & Englishman tour, the album from which I happen to consider the best Rock & Roll live recording ever, and my deep love of which I mention in the obit I wrote upon Joe Cocker’s passing.

Leonard, from published poet and novelist; to folk music singer-songwriter; to elegant elder statesman of sophisticated literary pop music; to Zen monk.

But, of all the things they had in common, my absolute favorite was Leonard’s song Bird on the Wire, the greatest version of which, in my opinion and no surprise given what I said above, comes from Mad Dogs & Englishmen, on which you can hear Leon’s gorgeous, dare I say Liberace-esque, piano playing.

So, thanks Leonard and Leon for all you shared with the world. May all drunks in midnight choirs rejoice in your work!

Video Fridays: Pavement

pavement-quarantineSo, it’s happened again.

I’ve written before about how I fancy myself quite the student of music, and yet, despite my diligent efforts to know what’s going on, I occasionally discover that a particular band or artist has somehow escaped my attention.

Well, this time it’s ’90s indie, alt, rock, or whatever you wanna call it band, Pavement.

Yeah, I know, I’m only just getting into a band that officially broke up in 1999 and was insistent during their 2010 reunion tour that they were not getting back together again.

I’ve heard of Pavement for all of these years, heard just as much about their frontman, Stephen Malkmus, and his other projects, but it took coming across a video clip of one of my favorite bands, Wilco, doing a cover of a Pavement song for me to finally get it.

I’ve been listening to their stuff all day and find I really enjoy their punk-attitude-infused sound, very electric-guitar-centric, and yet melodic at the same time.

Only time will tell as to just how deep I’ll plunge into Pavement, however painful that sounds, or how long I’ll be as into them as I was today, but for now I’m happy to discover some great music that is new to me.

For today’s Video Fridays installment then, I hope you enjoy, as much as I did, this full show from the 2010 reunion tour.

Happy Weekend, everyone!