Tag: Hammond Organ

Day 998: Crossing Abbey Road

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This Friday marks the 45th anniversary of what I believe to be the greatest album of all time.

Before you flick lint in my beer or pelt me with wads of Big League Chew for not designating this title to Pink Floyd’s Piper At The Gates of Dawn or Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Too-Rye-Ay, allow me to point out that there are many albums that are flawless – sometimes in spite of a number of actual flaws. Nary a wayward note blemishes Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key of Life, and Paul Simon’s Graceland is among the few utterly perfect slabs of 1980’s vinyl. For me, “the greatest” combines not only artistic and technical brilliance, but the subjective distinction of having served as the soundtrack to many of the most fantastic moments of my life. Your results may (and probably do) vary.

The story of Abbey Road is one of pure, primal mirth, flecked with auburn specks of encroaching melancholy. It is the last glorious and romantic trip to Maui for an otherwise doomed marriage. It marks the greatest rock band in history (an assertion I’ll stand by as wholly factual) producing one final brushstroke upon their legacy before heading their separate ways.

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This is not a happy group.

In January of 1969, the Beatles were moving in four different directions, and had been for over a year. Their plan was to return to the studio, record a back-to-their-roots album, perform their first concert since the summer of 1966 (the Pyramids in Egypt were a proposed locale, as was a barge adrift in the Atlantic), and film it all for posterity. This attempt to reconnect resulted in a cavalcade of arguments, the grandiose concert reduced to a noon-hour gig on the roof, and the temporary quitting of George Harrison. Read more…

Day 916: I’m About To Lose My Worried Mind – Led Zep 4Ever

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With practically the entirety of recorded music’s history available at the touch of a trackpad, it’s hard to find a lot of common ground among the masses. Back in the sepiatone days when I was in high school, there was certainly a cultural splintering effect afoot – some grooved to Hammer-time, others nodded angrily and forcefully to Nirvana, while still others begged C+C Music Factory to make them sweat upon a hormone-clogged dance floor – but there remained some sacred touchstones.

For whatever reason – and I pray a sociological study will one day uncover the mystery behind this collective madness – the girls in my high school were united under the secret thrill of ABBA. The boys, however discreetly some of them held back their own cravings for retro Swedish vocal-pop, united under an unwavering commitment to one of the greatest rock bands in ear-thumping history: Led Zeppelin.

Most of us had bands we liked more. For me, there was always the Beatles, while my other friends leaned toward Pink Floyd, Roxette or Extreme (yes, Josh, I’m talking about you). But we all sang along when Robert Plant belted out the first “Hey hey, mama” of their conspicuously untitled fourth album. Today Zep nets a kilograph, if for no other reason than as a thank you for the respite they provided after five straight listens of “More Than Words.”

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The group’s origin story funnels straight back to this guy, one of the most awe-inspiring yet least well-known (among today’s younger rock-lovers) guitar gods of the 1960’s. Jeff Beck had joined up with the Yardbirds after Eric Clapton had left the group in frustration. Now Jeff was feeling the pull of sweet freedom, and his frustration led him to record his own thing, away from the rest of the group. He invited his buddy (and future Yardbirdian) Jimmy Page to play guitar. Read more…

Day 578: Rockin’ With The Ludicrously Tragic – Worst Films Part 6

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Back in the day when news was printed on paper and I wasn’t too tired to even lift my head in the morning let alone read something, I was a huge fan of movie reviews. I’d look forward to Friday, when all the week’s new releases would get treated to the passable but sometimes bang-on opinions of my local paper’s film buffs.

I’d usually scan the week’s offering, making note of the five-star reviews to read later, then dig into the one-star movies. A well-written review for a horrendous movie should find itself peppered with comedy, with a dash of hyperbole and just enough quality metaphor to allow the mind’s molars to masticate its meaning. A five-star review is full of raves and praise and flowery gushables, but you can get your hands dirty with a one-star blurb. That’s where the literary swords can go Inigo Montoya all over someone’s ass. That’s where the fun is.

Every so often I’d find a zero-star movie. Those are the ones worth writing about here – the films truly deemed the worst. And today I’m adhering to a theme – miserable music movies.

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I’m going to pick on Wild Guitar because I just watched it, beginning to end. Fun fact: Turner Classic Movies occasionally airs terrible films on Fridays and Saturdays around midnight – it’s a marvelous way to enjoy the weirdness of Hollywood’s past.

Wild Guitar stars Art Hall Jr., who appeared in my last Worst Films article for his role in Eegah, which was released the same year – 1962. As I’d mentioned last month, Arch Hall Sr. was trying to launch his son to stardom as a young Elvis-like teen idol. Wild Guitar is a straight-up Elvis movie, but without the talent. Read more…

Day 163: My Overdue Cliff Notes

As a self-proclaimed music geek, I’ve assumed an obnoxious, smug confidence in the breadth of my knowledge of popular classics. I’ve sat through the entirety of Thick As A Brick, skipped out on buying Roxette tickets in high school so that I could see the Everly Brothers, and even named my daughter after a Beatles album (Magical Mystery Tour).

But I’ll admit, there are holes in my knowledge. I had decades of great music that came before me to catch up with, along with the onerous task of sifting through the crap factory of current music for discs that didn’t suck. Also, I wasted years of my youth listening to inane, regrettable pap like Taco, Starship, and Robbie Nevil.

Screw you, Robbie Nevil. Ce n'est pas la vie!

One album that never truly blipped on my radar was Jimmy Cliff’s The Harder They Come. I knew a little about it – it was a soundtrack to a film they never showed on TV, it featured reggae from before Bob Marley redefined reggae in the 1970s, and everyone seems to love it. Rolling Stone, which at one time was considered knowledgeable and relevant, ranked the album #119 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. I’ve seen that list, and I think I’ve heard every album above it, at least the ones that would interest me.

So how did I miss this one? I could blame my parents, who force-fed me 80s soul music as a child, which I believe is at least 65% responsible for my current, fragile mental state. I could also blame the music industry in my formative years. I had to hide under a reinforced Physical Graffiti sleeve in high school to protect myself from an onslaught of hair metal and parachute pants. Maybe the responsibility is all my own.

No, I'm going with the music industry on this one.

Today I change everything. I have acquired a copy of the album, and plan to listen to it right now. Rather than spend a kilograph detailing the story behind the recording sessions, or the impact the album had on the charts, I’m just going to listen to it and react. Read more…