PERSONAL NUGGETS FROM THE ATTIC
PERSONAL NUGGETS FROM THE ATTIC
I wasn't going to blog this week. Not many people are around, so why bother. Then I thought what the hell. Though I'm working through the holidays, there’s a lot of down time, so I've been rediscovering my collection. Digging out vinyl (I still have a turntable), cassettes (Lots of demos, airchecks and strange stuff there), CD's, I-Pod and of course XM. I let my 8-Track rest in peace. The following are a few thoughts from my formulative years. I tried to stay away from the obvious Beatles or Dark Side of the Moon...but not get TOO obscure....just a few random thoughts from the dusty collection...
THERE'D PROBABLY BE NO EDDIE VAN HALEN'S WITHOUT: The Ventures. Surf purists may prefer Dick Dale, but the Ventures were simple enough to learn from, original enough to create a "sound" and totally cool. The best era is the early and mid 60'd before they started doing Top 40 cover songs. Walk Don't Run and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue demonstrate mastery of the early Surf guitar.
ROCKERS COULD LEARN A FEW THINGS FROM THIS GUY: Chet Atkins. A lot of people think Country...and then you see he does songs like "Mr. Sandman"...then you listen and he plays so effortlessly...but DAMN this guy is amazing, partially because he DOES make everything sound so effortless.
THE PERFECT SINGLE: From the USA---Good Vibrations. Immaculate construction. Commercial perfection that was so damn original, if not revolutionary. . No wonder it sounds as fresh today as the second it was released.
MOST EXPERIMENTAL SINGLE: Telstar. The fist UK record to be #1 in the USA. Written and produced by madman Joe Meeks. Sped up pianos, slowed down toilets flushing and so much more sonic insanity... became an otherworldly smash. There had never been anything that sounded like this before on the charts.
SIMPEST SINGLE: Johnny Cash. I Walk The Line. Budget musta been ten bucks. I hear that the drums were actually brushes played on a phone book. Bare brilliance. Innocent. Spontaneous.
COOLEST SINGLE THAT WAS ACTUALLY KNIDA SAPPY: Our Day Will Come by Ruby and the Romantics. How can anyone NOT like this one....?
REALLY CLEVER ALBUMS NOT MADE BY THE BEATLES: The Who Sell Out. One of the most under appreciated early classic rock era albums. A concept album celebrating "Big L" aka Radio London, one of the Pirate stations off the coast of England. I guess it came out before the Who broke big...they were still a little culty back then in the pre Tommy days. But it was a joy to listen to, it was so...clever. The Yes Album. Critics hated them, they kinda got way off course (though remain a phenomenal live band), but in the Autumn of 1970 they recorded this epic that if a Yes hater would strap on headphones and actually listen to, would likely be converted. Cinematic production, exceptional musicianship and telepathic arrangements make this more of a journey than an album.
UNDER-RATED SINGER: Gene Pitney. For a white guy, he had some soul going on. Plus he wrote and arranged his material, but that voice is so emotion packed...yet honest. In an age where Male pop stars tended to be all about fashion, Gene was the real deal.
WEIRDNESS AT IT'S BEST: Freak Out by the Mothers of Invention. By today's standards, it’s not that weird, but back in '67, it was so incredibly sick and out there. Completely experimental but melodic (mostly), funny and mildly offensive for all the right reasons. Rumor has it that this album was recorded without drugs. Hard to believe.
MY FAVORITE FOLK ALBUM NOT BY BOB DYLAN: Gibson & Camp at the Gate of Horn. Funny, energetic, socially relevant in a 1962 way. A ton of fun to listen to...
THERE'D PROBABLY BE NO LED ZEPPELIN WITHOUT: Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, etc....the Blues giants.
At the time, I thought the original Blues versions were too loose, too organic and guys like Led Zeppelin made the songs palatable to the masses by infusing the electric British sound. In recent years, I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for the pure emotion transmitted in those early original recordings.
THERE'D PROBABLY BE NO ROCK N ROLL WITHOUT: The Crows and those early R&B artists. Kinda like the Blues thing where there was a generation of artists emerging that took that sound, ”cleaned it up" for the mainstream. Take that early R&B mix it with Country and even some Pat Boone and the cocktail became Rock n Roll. Yes---highly simplified, but the point is how absolutely critical to the mix the R&B bands were. Without them, The Beatles may have been cutting their teeth on the McGuire Sisters.
TWO GUITAR SOUNDS THAT OPENED THE EYES OF THE MAINSTREAM. Jeff Beck's scorcher in Shapes of things and the oddball 12 string in Eight Miles High. We'd never heard anything quite like those, at least not on pop radio. It opened doors.
WHY PETER GABRIEL SHOULD JOIN THE GENESIS REUNION. Watcher of the Skies, Suppers Ready and The Fountain of Salamacis. If you aren't familiar with those songs....listen to them.
BEST USE OF AN ORCHESTRA IN A POP SONG. I said I wasn't going to mention the Beatles, but they're the only ones that did it right.
BACK WHEN PROGRAMMERS WERE OPEN ENOUGH TO PLAY A FORIEGN LANGUAGE SONG. Sukiyaki by Kyu Sakamoto and Dominique by the Singing Nun both soared to #1. Both had great melodies and proved that the strength of a melody performed right could overcome the language barrier. I think that STILL exists, but most pop programmers and the label machinery is so hooked into the system that it'll probably never happen. Too bad, I’ll bet there are quite a few big hits from overseas that would make some noise here. Discovery knows no borders.
FIVE DEEJAYS YOU SHOULD GET TAPES OF. Back when DJ's were tied at the hip with the songs, instead of being disconnected card readers,”funny local morning guys" or simply annoyances. Try Alan Freed mid 50's as he was among the first. A pied piper for teenagers...the guy tour parents didn't want you listening too because you may hear that satanic "race music". Rick Shaw on WQAM mid 60's. The epitome of a guy completely connected to the streets of Miami. The Real Don Steele late 60's. One of the few guys that could take the ultra restrictive "Drake" sound and make it real. Oozed Southern Cal. Al Benson WGES early 50's. The voice of Bronzeville. A raconteur who was the voice of R&B to the South Side of Chicago. Allison Steele WNEW early 70's. A lethal combination of sex, soul and new music. Then there’s just about any all night guy on a big 50kw AM…especially the Country guys. Pure Americana. Folksy radio magic.
I continue to believe that you can't design the future without understanding the past...If you are old like me you'll remember this stuff...if you aren't old--check it out, it’s good for you.