Category Archives: Music

Music Blog – American Punk, the early years

American Punk

Dead Kennedys MC5 The Stooges the ramones

 

 

 

 

 

 

Punk Rock was first big in England. The hard driving, simple chord driven music was born out of the economic malaise of the ‘70s and took root with disaffected young white kids. The idealism and the promises of the ‘60’s slowly devolved into drugs and hopeless government policies. They saw the music of their parents, or older siblings, as stodgy, pretentious and commercial (the music we today call classic rock). Punk Rock was a rebellion against the culture, and against the previous rebellion against the culture. As with many things it crossed the ocean and mutated a bit.

The American economic situation was similar to the English one, but a bit less severe. The cultural situation was arguably worse. We had the disappointment at the failed promises of the ‘60s, but we also had something worse – Disco. Anti-disco sentiment turned to hard Rock as it’s salvation (eventually giving us Hair Bands, which made Disco seem like it wasn’t so bad), but Punk was there the whole time fighting the good fight against everything. Early American Punk resembled English Punk in it’s anger and ferocity, but it was flavored with surf rock and garage band influences. It is one of the few American music movements that happened on both coasts and the heartlands at the same time.

MC5 – MC5 might be the ur-American Punk band, ignoring for a moment all the surf bands. They had their time in the tainted sun from their first album in 1969 up until their dissolution in 1972. They only put out three albums, but they were as influential to American Music as the Velvet Underground. They were from Detroit and played music that was closer to rhythmic industrial noise than it was to any of the sugary pop or trippy hippy music of the day. They influences a generation of angry kids with guitars, maybe none more important than their neighbors from Ann Arbor, The Stooges.

The Stooges – Compared to MC5, the Stooges were a raging success story. Compared to the rest of the music industry, they were just raging. They played hard, experimental music that was influenced by the hippies, but rejected their peace and love message in favor of an expression of primal emotion. They were one part Velvet Underground, one part garage rock, four parts unidentifiable hazardous materials, and three parts Iggy Pop. They developed a reputation for wild, chaotic live shows involving nudity, raw meat, and self inflicted wounds. It can come as no surprise that the band’s story is one of chaos and abuse, but they held it together long enough to product some influential if challenging music.

Iggy Pop – Iggy is American Punk’s wild uncle who came back from the war a little off kilter, then shows up every few years and takes Dad for a three day adventure not unlike a Hangover movie. Iggy played in bands in high school, then he saw the Door live. He probably saw a kindred spirit in Jim Morrison, but one that just was not brave enough on stage. Iggy took it on himself to redefine what a stage show was (see the previous entry – the Stooges). When the Stooges came to one of their ends, he hooked up with David Bowie and made his two move acclaimed albums, one of which spawned the evergreen fun song “Lust for Life”.  He has spent the years floating from one style to the next, producing little hits every few years all the while making people say “He’s still alive?”.

 

Television – Dirty, dingy crime laden New York. Yes, this is the environment that spawns new music. Television was built around Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine, who had been bandmates before. Their music was punk in attitude, but the playing owed as much to the folk scene as it did to any other type of music. They were one of the very early bands to play regular gigs at CBGBs, reportedly being the ones who built the first stage. They suffered from having to many cooks (writers) and eventually Richard Hell left to form the Heartbreakers, who later became Richard Hell & the Voidoids. Their first album, Marquee Moon,  sold moderately in the US, but cracked the top 30 in much of the rest of the world.

Richard Hell & the Voidoids –  There wasn’t enough room for Richard Hell in Television, and probably not enough room on any stage for him with any band. Richard Hell was as insightful as the Dead Kennedy’s but not nearly as militant. He was more aloof, in an east coast way. He wrote wry observational or humorous songs about growing up in America, about girls, or New York. Many in the music industry picked this band to be the break out band from CBGBs. They had some success, but were quickly overshadowed by the more polished sounds of Blondie and Talking Heads. The band made several forgettable albums after their first one, then drifted into irrelevance. Richard Hell wrote a couple of books, some poetry, then drifted away.

Black Flag – Possibly America’s first hard-core Punk bank. They created the script that so many other bands would follow, knowingly or unknowingly, in the punk world. They had an anti-authority anti-consumerism, anti-conformity message that played very well to the warm malaise of suburban California life. They built their reputation as much on biting lyrics and hammering beats as on notoriety. They left a legacy of energetic performances, violent crowds, and stunning concert posters/t-shirts. Their influence is felt equally in Punk music as well as in Hair/Speed Metal.

X – X was formed in the growing years of American Punk. While they looked like a punk band with their dyed hair and multiple piercings, they played with a bit of a twang. Somewhere along the line, some rockabilly DNA mixed into the Punk soup and a new strain was the result. The band went through many record labels, with their sound always evolving. Even so, you can always count on them to play it fast, loud, and with a bit of country.

Dead Kennedys – Only America’s musical crucible, California, could have produced the Dead Kennedys. As political as the hippies, as satirical as Frank Zappa, and about four-fifths as energetic as Dick Dale, they were for many, the prototype for an American Punk band. Their history is marked by biting every hand that ever fed them, and by biting each other. They serve as an object lesson in how bands with a strong political message are not above all the things that typically befall bands – drugs, creative squabbles, money bickering. They did produce one of the finest satirical songs ever, California Uber Alles. Given today’s political climate, this cynical biting indictment of conformity might actually be considered naïve.

The Ramones – They sound like a poorly tuned, poorly recorded garage band playing surf rock, must be another California band, right? Nope. The Ramones were as New York as a slice of flat greasy pizza, as a cabbie flipping off a tourist, and as a five pound rat. They had matching black shag haircuts, matching dirty jeans, and matching black leather jackets. They played hard, happy surf riffs while they sang about mental illness, drugs, and girls. The band had modest success, but built a fanatical following by touring constantly and always giving the fans a good show. They lasted long enough to be seen as elder statesmen, a tag that would probably make them puke. They are probably the most widely known of any American Punk band.

Monday –MC5 “Kick out the Jams”, The Stooges “Search and Destroy”, Iggy Popp “Lust for Life”
Tuesday – Television “See No Evil”, Richard Hell & the Voidoids “Blank Generation”
Wednesday -Black Flag “Rise Above”, X “Johnny Hit and Run Pauline”
Thursday – Dead Kennedys “California Uber Alles” & “Holiday in Cambodia”
Friday -The Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated”, “Sheena is a Punk Rocker”, “Blitzkrieg Pop”

60’s Pop Music – Lost in the Shuffle

Hermans Hermits The Turtles Happy Together

In the wake of the Fab 4’s explosion onto the music scene, many, many bands with shaggy hair, strong harmonies, and sweet love songs got signed to record labels. A few of them were really good bands who happened to have the misfortune of living in The Beatles considerable shadow.

The bands and songs on this list are some of my favorites from the era. History has not been kind to most of these bands. When you think of ‘60’s music, the socially conscious, protest, and hippie stuff springs to mind first. While in retrospect, that music probably had the strongest impact on society and music, it was not necessarily the most popular music at the time. Take the top songs of 1965:

Billboard Top 10 songs of 1965
01.Wooly Bully » Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs
02. I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) » Four Tops
03. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction » Rolling Stones
04. You Were On My Mind » We Five
05. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ » Righteous Brothers
06. Downtown » Petula Clark
07. Help! » Beatles
08. Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat » Herman’s Hermits
09. Crying In The Chapel » Elvis Presley
10. My Girl » Temptations

One Rolling Stones song, and one Beatles song. Petula Clark, the Four Tops, and Elvis were still very popular. This reinforces the point that while the boomer generation may want to remember the ’60’s as a time of social consciousness and musical exploration, simple pop music ruled the roost.

The following list highlights some of my favorite music from the era that history has chosen to overlook. So, hop over Youtube, Pandora or Spotify and listen to some of these bands/songs that represent the best of ’60s pop music.

The Turtles “Elenor”, “Happy Together”
The Zombies “She’s Not There”, “Tell Her No”
Herman’s Hermits “I’m into something good”, “There’s a kind of a hush”
Grass Roots “Midnight Confessions”
Tommy James & The Shondells “I Think We’re Alone Now”
The Monkees “Steppin’ Stone”, “Daydream Believer”, “You just may be the one”

Ebony & Ivory Redux – The Black Keys and The White Stripes

Dan Auerbach El Camino Get Thee Behind Me Satan

Yes, I’m going to bring up Pandora again. I do so, because it has taken the place of radio for me in that this is where I hear about new music.  I listen, hear something I haven’t heard before, make a new station with that song/artist as a seed and I get exposed to a whole new world of music. This method has introduced me to Modest Mouse, The Editors, Beats Antique, Balkan Beat Box, Bon Iver, as well as reintroducing me to Foghat, Blackfoot, and Treat Her Right. It’s working for me, so you are going to hear about it.

I had already heard of the Black Keys before they came up on Pandora. They are two guys from Akron, Ohio that play rootsy, guitar driven music with biting, sometimes dark lyrics. They were recording and touring in the early ‘00s, but broke through to major audiences in 2008 with the album “Attack & Release”. They’ve followed up that album with “Brothers” in 2010 and “El Camino” in 2011. Each album has been more successful than the last. In 2009, Dan Auerbach released a solo album to critical acclaim.

The White Stripes were just two people – Jack and Meg White. He played guitar and she plays drums. Jack is the creative force in the band, and can be a bit of a divisive figure due to his rock n roll sized ego. I will say that he backs it up with great music output. They specialized in simple, almost sparse songs that still managed to come across with a sense of force. They have released a series of powerful and complex albums like White Blood Cells, Elephant, Get The Behind Me Satan and Icky Thump. Jack and Meg broke up but the band has continued on but with a reduced output due to Jack’s numerous side projects, like The Raconteurs.

Monday – The Black Keys “Tighten Up”, Ten Cent Pistol”

Tuesday – Dan Auerbach – “Mean Monsoon”, “Street Walkin”

Wednesday – The Raconteurs – “Steady as She Goes”, “Hold Up”

Thursday – The White Stripes –“We are going to be friends”, “Seven Nation Army”, “My Doorbell”

Friday – The White Stripes –  “The Denial Twist”, “A Martyr for my love for you” , “Cause and Effect”

Music Blog – Bellydancing Music? Really?

beats Antique Lindsey Stirling Yoshida Brothers

(Pandora – ScottWeberwriter: World Beats station)

I have a need to see, hear and think things that I have not done so before. You could say I am mentally very restless. Many people consider this an admirable trait that represents curiosity and results in a life of learning. That might be true, but it also has downsides. I get bored with things easily, I have very little tolerance for repetition, and I can be dismissive of others opinions if I have already thought of and rejected them. Those are not great behviors for the work world, or for parenting. So, I try to channel my restlessness into certain areas. I devour news, I take up and drop hobbies, and I am constantly on the search for new music. Again, here is where Pandora is like a super heroin for me. And that finally leads us to the actual topic – Belly Dancing Music.

It all started when I was listening to a channel I created called “Techno-Rave Indulgence”. It started with Paul Oakenfield, Juno Reactor and a couple of others. It’s good enough when I am in that mood. Then, Pandora surprised me by playing something I had never heard before – Slow Techno with a Japanese feel. This was the Yoshida Brothers. They play the Tsugaru shamisen which is a three stringed Japanese folk instrument a bit like a banjo, only they play it as if Hendrix was born in Osaka and was schooled in Jazz, New Age, and Rock. I liked it so much I created a station based on just Yoshida Brothers. What I got was a whole set of things I hadn’t heard of or thought of before. I got to hear Techno-Classical Violin, Indian Dance/Rap, Balkan party music, and finally belly dancing. Hope you Enjoy.

Lindsay Sterling – She made a name for herself on YouTube and as a quarterfinalist on America’s Got Talent. She combines classical music training with strong beats, mixes in a big dose of actual dancing, then sprinkles in just the right amount of geek. The music is great to listen to, and I keep expecting her to land some music score gigs. For the full experience check out her Youtube videos. If you have bit of the geek in you, don’t miss the Skyrim ones.

Punjabi MC – He was born in Coventry England, he raps in English and Punjabi, and he might be the best long term result of English Imperialism. I am pretty late to this game, as he had his first hits in the late ‘90’s in Europe and early ‘00s. He works often as a mixer and collaborator for other artists.

Balkan Beat Box – A Romanian-Israeali drummer/producer meets an Isreali saxophonist in Brooklyn and they find a shared interest in Gypsy, Balkan, and electronica. Yes, of course all those things should come together. All I can say is that this music sounds like the soundtrack for fun, kinda like Ska but wearing more wool.

Beats Antique – Finally we come to the belly dancing music. This band was put together to make music for Bellydance Superstars, a troupe of professional bellydancers that tours internationally. A connection with dancer Zoe Jakes led to collborations that blended their sound with Jakes personal style of dance. The combine very traditional parts of middle eastern music with trance, electronica, reggae, and more.

Monday – Lindsey Sterling “Crystallize”, “Moon Trance”

Tuesday – The Yoshida Brothers “Storm”, “Kodo – Inside the Sun Remix”

Wednesday – Punjabi MC “Mundian”, “Snake Charmer”

Thursday – Balkan Beat Box “Habibi Min Zaman”, “Sunday Arak”

Friday – Beats Antique  “Beauty Beats”, “Tabla Roy”

Bonus – go to Pandora and search on ScottWeberwriter. The station I have there that features this music is called “World Beats”

Music Blog – Songs That Don’t Fit

Welcome to my music blog. In these entries I will highlight a particular genre, time period, or artist and give you a week’s worth of listening as examples. You can go to Pandora, Spotify, or your favorite music site to listen to or download the music.

I wish I could say each list was the result of years of research, my own musical experience, and critical consensus  of critics, but they aren’t. They are just things I find interesting. I listen to many types of music, but I tend to love to find overlooked bands/songs or bands that were big but that history has kind of forgotten.

There will be glaring omissions, egregious inclusions, and outright mistakes. If you agree or disagree, want to clue me into other possibilities, or explain some odd point of music history, please leave a comment.

Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the music.

Nick Cave The Modern Lovers The Replacements

Songs That Don’t Fit

I have a warm spot in my heart for oddball bands and oddball songs. A lot like my love for strange cars and cult movies. Pieces of artistic expression that show a strong sense of the artist’s point of view, but that are completely out of step with the times. There is probably a personal life metaphor in there somewhere, but I’d really rather not think about it.

The songs on this list are ones that are really hard to classify, but one that also have touched me in some way (I’m not going to discuss that metaphor either). Some are spooky, some are silly, and others are just very tender and honest. I don’t know if they were made out of some deep desire on the part of the artist, or if they were a lark, or if they were drug fueled indulgences caught on tape for posterity. All I know is that I like them.

Nick Cave – Nick is from Australia and was part of a pioneering goth group called “The Birthday Party”. He formed a group of former punk artists called “Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds” and proceeded to blaze an experimental trail across the ‘80s. He has recorded with the band and solo since then and has continued to be experimental. The song “Red Right Hand” is one of the creepiest, and most cinematic songs I have ever heard.

The Bad Examples – A Chicago band popular in the ‘90s. They were strong regionally, playing somewhere constantly, but never managed to break into the national scene. They were fueled by Ralph Covert’s catchy tunes, and his twisted pop sensibilities. The band slowed down after the death of the lead guitarist (heart attack, odd for rock n roll), and Ralph launched into a very successful career in childrens music.

Little Feat – By all rights they should have been a southern band in the tradition of the Allman Brothers, or /38 Special, but their main creative force, Lowell George, was never content to write arena rock. They toured constantly, refining their sound and building an audience, but when Lowel died in ’79 the wheels fell off the bus. This song “Dixie Chicken” is one of my all time favorites.

The Modern Lovers – While they had their moment in the clouded sun during the punk years, it is hard to call them punk. They were much more of an underground or cult band in the vein of the Velvet Underground. Through the ‘70s they always seemed on the edge of semi-stardom, but never got there. The original band went through many changes, but the creative lead Jonathan Richman remained and the band ended up being his vehicle.

Billy Bragg – Folk music generally makes me want to pull a Belushi and smash the guitar, but I find that when folk artists sing about love, relationships, or just don’t get preachy I kind of like them. Bragg spent time doing work in the ‘80s for liberal causes like political rallies, strikes and benefits. Through this he built up an audience for his crisp guitar work and concise biting lyrics.

The Replacements – Prince cast a long shadow over the ‘80s music scene in Minneapolis. This frozen land isn’t known as a musical hotbed, but for a few years during the Regan administration it was on the map. The Replacements were kind of a post punk band, but tempered with Midwestern and pop sensibilities. They were supposed to be the next big thing, until a disasterous drunken performance on Saturday Night Live showed they were not ready for the limelight. Paul Westerburg went on to have a fairly successful solo career, but I will always mourn what could have been.

Monday – Nick Cave “Red Right Hand,  Warren Zevon “Werewolves of London”

Tuesday – The Bad Examples “Sammy the Dog”, “She Smiles like Richard Nixon”

Wednesday – Robert Palmer “Hey Julia”, Little Feat “Dixie Chicken”

Thrusday – The Modern Lovers “Pablo Picasso”, Billy Bragg “A New England”

Friday – Nora Jones “Man of the Hour”, The Replacements “Skyway”

Bonus – Devo “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” – Yes, I like it better than the original. Not even close.

Music Blog – Lesser Led Zeppelin

Welcome to my music blog. In these entries I will highlight a particular genre, time period, or artist and give you a week’s worth of listening as examples. You can go to Pandora, Spotify, or your favorite music site to listen to or download the music.

I wish I could say each list was the result of years of research, my own musical experience, and critical consensus  of critics, but they aren’t. They are just things I find interesting. I listen to many types of music, but I tend to love to find overlooked bands/songs or bands that were big but that history has kind of forgotten.

There will be glaring omissions, egregious inclusions, and outright mistakes. If you agree or disagree, want to clue me into other possibilities, or explain some odd point of music history, please leave a comment.

Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the music.

Zeppelin 1 Zeppelin 2 Zeppelin 3

Much of my musical taste was formed by the music of the ‘70s, despite being in high school in the early ‘80s. Part of it was that I started seriously listening to music around ’77 or so, a few years before most of my peers. Another explanation would be that I grew up in the Midwestern flatlands – anything of any cultural consequence took three to five years to filter in from the coasts. Anyway, I have a deep and abiding love for the huge pre-arena rock sounds of the ‘70s. I have already professed my love for UFO, and April Wine on these pages, and have very fond memories of the first Aerosmith album, early Foreigner, Boston and Kansas. All these bands I consider second generation Rock bands, after the Big Four – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Led Zeppelin.

The Big Four each shaped and defined Rock music. The Beatles all but invented the concept of the album (Rubber Soul is possibly the first real album, argue at will). The Stones create made rock big with their tours and the made it bad with their behavior. The Who gave us the rock opera and the early concept album. Led Zeppelin gave us, well I like to think they gave us everything else.

Zeppelin is my all-time favorite band. I have all of their songs on my playlist, I have all of their albums. I have bought the first album 4 times, changing formats or replacing worn out ones. I could go on and on, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that they loom large in the formation of my musical tastes. They also figure heavily as a musical influence for all the Hair Bands of the ‘80s (Great White is often considered a flea market knock off of Zeppelin) as well as for Grunge in the early ‘90s.

You have probably heard their music if you are over 30, or have spent time with classic rock radio. My selections this week feature some of their lesser known, lesser played songs from the first three albums. Three albums recorded in less than 18 months that changed music, and set the stage for one of the most influential albums of all time, Zeppelin 4. I hope you enjoy these bluesy, folky tracks that didn’t make it on the radio much then and won’t ever make it now.

Monday – “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”, “Your Time is Gonna Come”

Tuesday – “How Many More Times”, “I Can’t Quit You Baby”

Wednesday – “What is and What Should Never Be”, “Thank You”

Thursday – “The Lemon Song”, “Bring It on Home”

Friday – “That’s the Way”, “Since I’ve been Loving You”

Music Blog – New(ish) Music – Pandora Presents 2

Welcome to my music blog. In these entries I will highlight a particular genre, time period, or artist and give you a week’s worth of listening as examples. You can go to Pandora, Spotify, or your favorite music site to listen to or download the music.

I wish I could say each list was the result of years of research, my own musical experience, and critical consensus  of critics, but they aren’t. They are just things I find interesting. I listen to many types of music, but I tend to love to find overlooked bands/songs or bands that were big but that history has kind of forgotten.

There will be glaring omissions, egregious inclusions, and outright mistakes. If you agree or disagree, want to clue me into other possibilities, or explain some odd point of music history, please leave a comment.

Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the music.

Editors the Back Room MGMT Santigold

New(ish) Music  – Pandora Presents 2

This list is the second of what I will call my New(ish) music list. Regular readers will harken back to February when I did this the first time and went on a Modest Mouse and Kings of Leon binge.

I actually pay for the service (and yes, I know all the cool kids are using Spotify before switching over to the new Twitter Music app).  Pandora has been really good for me to help me find music that I have missed over the past 10 or so years. I just plug in a current song I like and in time Pandora will play something I have never heard before that I really like. Last year I started a list with Gotye, Foster the People, and Florence and the Machine. This list has provided me with a non-stop supply of new music that fits my tastes, as well as popping in an oldie now that then that fits – as I am typing Pandora is playing me Depeche Mode “Precious” for example. This list had brought me Interpol, The Editors, and Arctic Monkeys. For someone like me, who always needs new inputs to stimulate his deteriorating brain, the Pandora list is heaven.

Monday – Young the Giant “My Body”, “Cough Syrup”

Tuesday – Santigold “Disparate Youth”, “Big Mouth”

Wednesday – Phantogram “When I’m Small”, “Running from the Cops”

Thursday – MGMT “Kids”, “Indie Rockers”

Friday – Editors “Munich”, “An End has a Start”