There Are Kids Who Are Learning What Music Really Is
Maybe There’s Hope For The Appreciation of Rock n’ Roll
Believe it or not I’m not that old. But I have lived long enough to have witnessed the virtual death of rock ‘n roll and the talent that is necessary to compose and perform it. To clarify, perform on an actual instrument, not a computer. An instrument that requires thousands s of hours of practice to not just have competence but to excel and display true talent.
Yet, when you go into almost any store like Sephora, Pac Sun or Hollister, in any mall in America you are bombarded by some loud sounds emanating from the store’s sound system. It’s the popular music of today.
It’s an assault on any adult entering with kids but that is why they are playing; A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Bebe Rexha, Rich The Kid, Lil Dicky, or Nipsey Hussle.
The stores play the Billboard Hot 100 pop dreck, hip-hop, or heavily computerized, synthesized autotune junk that appeals to kids and teens. Stores want them to shop there and that is what kids listen to and have grown up on for the last three decades. These kids and many of their elders know no other form of what they think passes for music. They like the instrument-less, undifferentiated ear candy which has permeated the minds of malleable Millennials and Generation Z for over 30 years.
But not all kids.
Here is the evidence. In Easton, PA in 2017 Houseband, apparently from the local School of Rock comprised of teens, playing Deep Purple’s “Burn.”
Realize, throughout history every adult generally despises music that is popular with their kids. Continue reading →
Boris Kosović, Multi-Talented Rocker In A Band That Shunned The Spotlight, Dies
Boris Kosović founder, lead singer and guitarist of Gruhak, in an undated photo
(We wrote a story about the amazing Croatian band Gruhak, in 2016 that can be read here.)
Boris Kosović the energetic vocalist-guitarist and sole remaining original member of the band Gruhak died on Thursday, September 20 in Dubrovnik, Croatia. He had been battling cancer for a year and a half. Kosović was 40-years-old.
Sweet – The 1970s Band That Should Have Been As Big As Anyone. They Released Their Final Hit In January 1978 – Love Is Like Oxygen
A Story of Sweet Success And Missed Opportunities
Sweet in their glam band outfits circa 1973. From l-r Brian Connolly, Steve Priest, Andy Scott and drummer Mick Tucker holding guitar.
If you were to name a rock band that should have had long-lasting, international success and made a major musical impact but didn’t, one of the top contenders would have to be Sweet.
In the pantheon of great rock bands, Sweet has been forgotten.
There are many reasons for this amnesiac neglect. Possibly the reasons add up like this: a series of bad breaks; not being taken seriously by a dismissive, indifferent critical press; an insufficient amount of American touring and radio exposure; and unsure musical direction. But certainly not because of a lack of producing great rock music.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Sweet’s final hit Love Is Like Oxygen which was released in January 1978. We’ll discuss the song at the end of this article, but here is an abbreviated version from the TV program Top of The Pops.
A very similar band from the same time, Queen, became, a juggernaut, filling arenas and stadiums, having tens of millions of album sales and critical acclaim – all things Sweet seemed destined to achieve, but didn’t.
And if you don’t think Queen was heavily influenced by Sweet, then maybe you should have a listen.
Despite over 35 million album sales and moderate touring success around Europe, Sweet never lived up to their potential. With the exception of a handful of songs, Sweet was rarely played on American radio, hampering whatever breakthrough success they deserved.
Today, younger listeners unfamiliar with Sweet during their heyday, will rarely be able to name the band when they hear them. They recognize the songs, but often mistake the band’s music for that of E.L.O., the Bee Gees, Queen or some other band.
In the 1970s, Sweet, an English glam pop band, morphed into a serious hard rock band with a long list of hits in the United States and England. Originally they recorded songs written by others, primarily their managers and main songwriters Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn.
But Sweet was more than just a Three Dog Night, Grass Roots or Monkees sort of band. Those bands could barely get by playing an instrument live and never or rarely wrote any of their own songs.
Sweet’s bass player Steve Priest, drummer Mick Tucker, guitarist Andy Scott and lead vocalist Brian Connolly were all accomplished musicians who could write and play their own music and do it damn well.
What made Sweet stand out was their vocal harmonies.
Frequently featured on the weekly British music show Top of the Pops, Sweet would, as the custom was at the time, go on stage and lip synch what they had done on record. Their disdain for lip synching was apparent and they would often make a mockery of their own performances.
Their early “hits,” all written by Chapman and Chinn, were simple but immensely catchy ditties, in the genre known as “bubblegum rock.” Innocent lyrics with just a bit of double entendre intended for a teen audience.
Blockbuster, Wig Wam Bam, Funny Funny, and the American crossover hit Little Willy were just a few of their early chart successes. These were followed by more hits Hell Raiser, No You Don’t, AC-DC, Turn It Down and Sweet’s most famous song The Ballroom Blitz. Continue reading →
Some Highlights Of The Late, Great, “Fast” Eddie Clarke, Guitarist Of Motörhead
The “classic” Motorhead line-up on stage circa 1980 (l-r) Phil Taylor, Eddie Clarke & Lemmy Kilmister photo: Simon Fowler
When “Fast” Eddie Clarke (October 5, 1950 – January 10, 2018), guitarist with Motörhead from 1976-1982 died from pneumonia last week at the age of 67, it closed the book on what many consider Motörhead’s greatest line-up.
In the space of a little over two years, Eddie Clarke, singer-bassist and founder Lemmy Kilmister and drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor, all died.
The trio put out albums that are considered the high points of Motörhead’s career: Motörhead (1977), Bomber (1979), Overkill (1979), Ace of Spades (1980), No Sleep ’til Hammersmith (Live 1981) and Iron Fist (1982).
After being forced out or leaving Motörhead in 1982 (stories conflict on the departure), “Fast” Eddie formed Fastway with bassist Pete Way of UFO. Continue reading →
Though there is a band called AC/DC and they are still recording and touring, the 2008 Black Ice album was the last that Malcolm Young had a hand in writing. Musically, that is what is important.
Guitar players are replaceable. Great songwriters are not.
As great as a rhythm guitar player he was, writing music is what Malcolm Young did best.
Not just writing amazing songs, but incredible memorable riffs and jaw dropping solos performed by his brother Angus. They are deceptively simple, yet undeniably catchy songs and riffs that changed rock n’ roll and influenced, and will continue to influence generations of musicians.
Proof? Listen to the magical 1977 AC/DC album Let There Be Rock.
As hard as it may be, ignore Bon Scott’s brilliant tongue in cheek lyrics and just listen to the main riff of every song.
How many rock albums have two memorable songs? Let There Be Rock has, “Go Down”, “Dog Eat Dog” ,”Let There Be Rock”, “Bad Boy Boogie”, “Problem Child”, “Overdose”, “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be”, and “Whole Lotta Rosie”. Eight catchy songs, heard once – remembered forever.
Lead guitarist Angus Young, the only remaining original band member, has continued AC/DC.
I feel sorry for Angus Young. Angus certainly keeps AC/DC going not for the money, but because honestly what else is there for him to do? An entertainer, a performer has a need to perform.
However without retired bassist Cliff Williams, the unceremoniously dispatched lead singer Brian Johnson and drummer Phil Rudd and the late rhythm guitarist and main songwriter Malcolm Young, this is not AC/DC.
This is like calling Paul McCartney and his recent 2017 touring band The Beatles. It’s not and McCartney knows better.
The touring AC/DC is is basically a juggernaut of explosions, lights,and sound. Even with the great Angus Young heading them up, AC/DC are truthfully now no better than an AC/DC tribute band.
How many post-1982 songs were in AC/DC’s live set list in 2016 with Axl Rose on lead vocals? Continue reading →
Contaminated fish and micro chips
Huge supertankers on Arabian trips
Oily propaganda from the leaders’ lips
All about the future
There’s people over here people over there
Everybody’s looking for a little more air
Crossing all the borders just to take their share
Heading for the future
And we’re so abused and we’re so confused
It’s easy to believe that someone’s gonna light the fuse
Can’t happen here, can’t happen here, all that you fear they’re telling you, can’t happen here
Supersonic planes for a holiday boom
Rio de Janeiro in an afternoon
There’s people out of work but there’s people on the moon
Looking for the future
Concrete racetracks nationwide
Juggernauts are carving up the countryside
Cars by the million on a one way ride
Using up the future Continue reading →
Genius At Work – Handwritten Lyrics From Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Paul Simon, Rush, The Beatles and Others
Bob Dylan’s handwritten lyrics to Mr. Tambourine Man
Maybe you’ve wondered; how did some of the greatest songs in the history of rock ‘n’ roll get written? When a creative artist puts pen to paper in a moment of inspiration, what does it look like?
If you are Paul McCartney or Keith Richards, sometimes melodies and words come in a dream.
McCartney’s melody for “Yesterday” was penned right after he dreamed about it. The original words he thought of were very different from the final version. Instead of,
“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they’re here to stay. Oh, I believe in yesterday.”
the words McCartney originally thought of were,
“Scrambled eggs. Oh, my baby, how I love your legs. Not as much as I love scrambled eggs. Oh, we should eat some scrambled eggs.”
MCartney obviously worked on those lyrics for what has become one of the all-time great Beatles songs, with John Lennon apocraphally changing the title to “Yesterday.” Unfortunately there is no trace of McCartney’s original handwritten lyrics for Yesterday.
Keith Richards said he recorded Satisfaction, the breakout song for The Rolling Stones while dreaming as well. Instead of a pen, Richards had a tape recorder by his bed in a hotel while on tour in 1965. In the morning he checked his portable recorder and was surprised it was at the end of the tape. He rewound it to the beginning and discovered he had laid down the main riff and chorus and the words “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” He had no memory of actually recording the song, but surmises he woke up while dreaming it and proceeded to record what he had dreamed and went back to sleep! Richards presented the song to the band, and singer Mick Jagger later helped with the lyrics.
Outside of dreams, words come to musicians in a variety of ways. We will not look at the story behind the songs, but the actual drafts of the lyrics to those songs.
Searching the internet for the early drafts of songs with corrections yielded few results. But this assemblage is still interesting to look at.
Jim Morrison singer and poet of The Doors wrote the haunting Riders on the Storm, and it was placed as the last song on the final album Morrison performed on, L.A. Woman. It was also the last song to be recorded for that album.
Interestingly guitarist Robbie Krieger’s name is crossed out. Well, we know Morrison didn’t write the entire melody, but Krieger quite possibly contributed some of the words. It is the only song on the album where all four band members receive writing credit.
Next, Paul Simon of Simon and Garfunkel with The Boxer from the 1970 album Bridge Over Troubled Water. Here you can see Simon’s thought process at work with most of the words never making it into the final version.
Robert Plant Finally Performs The Iconic Song “Kashmir” As A Solo Act At The Royal Albert Hall in London Tuesday March 14, 2017
Kashmir, the name itself conjures up grandiose images of the mighty Led Zeppelin at their peak of performance.
But for whatever reason former Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant refrained from performing the song without co-writer and Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, that is until Tuesday night, March 14, 2017.
In a performance with two members of Plant’s solo band The Sensational Space Shifters, Plant joined famous violinist Nigel Kennedy at the Royal Albert Hall in London..
For the first time since 2007 when Led Zeppelin reunited at the O2 and played Kashmir, Plant decided it was time to play the song on his own. Every other live performance of Kashmir by Plant had been alongside Jimmy Page, whether it was in the 1990’s on the Page/Plant tour or with Led Zeppelin in the 1970’s.
With a full orchestra backing Plant, he starts off Kashmir in a dirge-like manner. You immediately think he has turned Kashmir into a slow whispered lament. Finally after the initial introduction to the haunting first phrase of lyrics, Plant and the band kick off a powerful performance of a revised version of Kashmir.
Gruhak? Yes Gruhak From Croatia. An Amazing Rock ‘n’ Roll Cover Band
If Gruhak ever does a concert in the United States, I’m going to see it.
Since the 1970s I’ve seen over 300 concerts. Among them: AC/DC, Deep Purple, Paul McCartney, Motörhead, The Rolling Stones, Metallica, The Clash, Kiss, Iron Maiden, Rush and countless other classic bands.
Sometimes the shows have been great, other times it’s been a disappointment. Especially now because as the older the bands get, the harder it is for them to perform live. In the past 10 years I’ve mostly stopped going to shows rather than see my rock ‘n’ roll illusions shattered.
Enter the tribute or cover band, that in some cases can deliver a performance that sounds better than the band they are copying. Cover and tribute bands are a dime a dozen, many of them are not very good and they play the bar circuit. There are a handful of bands that can make a full time living at it and have developed their own fan following.
It is rare that there is a band that can have the energy, the vibe and the talent to cover multiple groups and do it well.
That fits the description of Gruhak, a five piece band from Dubrovnik, Croatia. The word “gruhak” means a loud and obtrusive person.
Rather than go on and on about their talent, have a look and a listen.
First up – The Who – We Won’t Get Fooled Again.
Now performing in a totally different style, Gruhak takes on The Doors with Love Me Two Times.
It’s not that Gruhak sound like The Doors. It’s not an imitation, but an interpretation and it’s a damned good one. Gruhak’s singer Boris Kosović, has Jim Morrison’s intonations and the band sounds more like the Doors, than the band that Doors members Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger put together a dozen years ago with Ian Astbury, formerly of The Cult, on vocals.
As far as Gruhak’s version of We Won’t Get Fooled Again, it’s as if we’re hearing Roger Daltrey and company in their prime. The other musicians in Gruhak are equally accomplished. Continue reading →
An Unlikely Trio – Alice Cooper, Ethel Kennedy and Andy Williams at The Rainbow Room – 1974
An odd assortment of celebrities gathered together at the Rainbow Room in New York on October 16 1974. Rocker Alice Cooper (r) sits with Ethel Kennedy widow of Robert Kennedy, as singer Andy Williams stands between them.
Andy Williams is smiling in spite of having been robbed the day before at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel. While Williams was showering, a maid let a woman into the room who claimed she was Williams’s wife. Among the items the woman stole were Williams’s checkbook, four tuxedos and two leather jackets. Continue reading →