Tag: Pink Floyd

Day 998: Crossing Abbey Road

Header

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.

Frustrated-1

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 936: Number One With An Irreverent Bullet

Header

Here’s the part where the guy twitching in the hungry crosshairs of 40 tells you how the music topping the charts these days won’t inspire so much as a quiver of his trigger finger. But really, who cares? The purveyors of popular song have no interest in capturing my iTunes money. Just as my parents wondered desperately who on earth would want anyone to Rock Them Amadeus, I can’t fathom why Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”, a piece of simplistic monotony with a Clueless rip-off video, spent a month this summer at #1.

Ever since the end of the halcyon days of 80’s pop, the soundtrack that flipped the pages of my childhood, I have paid scant attention to the Billboard Hot 100 chart. While MC Hammer’s parachute pants flapped in the raucous wind of his success, my high school friends and I were discovering the mystical quests within the grooves of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd records. So I guess I haven’t been hip in about twenty-five years. I’m okay with that.

I’d always been a trifle suspicious of this chart anyway. What is it counting? Sales? Radio airplay? Likelihood of ending up as a parody on Weird Al’s next album? There is actually some math to this madness, and it’s far too complex for my mid-week brain to tabulate without a nap under its belt. But I’ll do my best.

PoorLittleFool-1

For almost two decades prior to the Hot 100’s debut in the pages of Billboard (yes kids, Billboard was and is an actual magazine. A magazine is kind of like Buzzfeed.com made out of trees), the chart tabulators kept track of three separate stats: the best-sellers, the songs most played by disc jockeys and the songs most played in jukeboxes. That last one was key, as a disgraceful clump of radio stations were refusing to play rock ‘n roll in the mid-1950’s. Billboard had to track what was big with the kids. Read more…

Day 922: Riding That Train, High On Cocaine & Pretty Much Everything Else

Header

Within a span of about five months, the notion of the Grand Hippie Music Festival had deteriorated from a three-day swoon of good vibes, great drugs and phenomenal tuneage at Woodstock into an angry and disorganized mess at the Altamont Speedway in northern California. I’ve written about the latter already, and I’ll have plenty to say about the former in an upcoming piece, but the question left unanswered by Altamont can only be: “what happens next?”

The digestible myth is that the disastrous Altamont concert nudged the nail in the sixties’ coffin, not only landing near the decade’s calendar terminus but also smushing into ash any hopes that the peace ‘n love generation could haul their good vibes into adulthood. But beyond Altamont you’ll still find the stellar 1970 Isle of Wight festival and the poorly-managed (but heartily rock-tastic) Concert for Bangladesh in 1971. The dream wasn’t dead, it just took a nasty little hit in late ’69.

One of the first post-Altamont gathering of groups took place in Canada in the triumphant early days of 1970’s summer. Where festivals like Woodstock and Monterey Pop had previously lured fans from neighboring time zones and beyond to the event, the Festival Express was set to cruse across the country, bringing the idea of a super-conglomeration of super-groups to a myriad of cities. It was a concert game-changer, and solid proof that the perpetual party of the previous decade had not yet reached last call.

KenWalker-1

Originally known as the Transcontinental Pop Festival, Ken Walker (above) along with his partners Thor and George Eaton aimed for four cities: Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. They secured a 14-car Canadian National Railways train for the artists, and booked a documentary crew to film the entire event. Walker and his associates booked passage for themselves on the train also, as no self-respecting businessman of that era was foolish enough to throw a party like that without attending it. Read more…

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

Header

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.”

JeffBeck-1

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 862: Uoy Tpurroc Ot Sdrow Dnasuoht A

Header

I was fifteen years old when my dad utilized his extensive technological prowess to produce a cassette recording for me of all the Beatles’ so-called backward messages. By “prowess” I mean he played a reel-to-reel tape backwards. It wasn’t tricky.

Playing music backwards is a phenomenon that has existed since the advent of recorded music. Occultist and all-around weird cat Aleister Crowley  suggested in 1913 that anyone who was wishing to become fluent in the language of magic should listen to phonograph records backwards in order to train their brains. The realm of avant-garde music has experimented with backwards music for decades. But apart from the occasional squonked-brain traipse through the Beatles “Revolution 9” (forward or backward – there’s very little difference), I don’t care much for the avant-garde.

Luckily, the more ear-friendly genres under the canopy of rock music have toyed with stashing backwards lyrics – known as backmasking – within the folds of some well-known songs. Sometimes it’s done as a joke, and other times it’s because rock musicians are clearly in league with Satan and have devised a way to plant subliminal backwards messages in their music in order to corrupt our children and get them to take up smoking. Or something.

Rain-1

One evening whilst under the strictly medicinal effects of marijuana, John Lennon accidentally played the vocal track for “Rain”, his band’s new single, backwards. He loved the effect, and within a few short months the track was released with a snippet of lyrics at the end played backwards, sounding a little like John had picked up a foreign language during Ringo’s extended drum fill. Their accompanying album, Revolver, featured two backwards guitar solos, but it was the vocal message that really weirded people out. Read more…

Day 644: Unwrapping The Unwanted – Worst Candy Part 1

Header

When it comes to candy, taste is truly in the tongue of the beholder. There is no Wikipedian compendium of the world’s worst candy, as there is for the worst movies, TV shows and music. My daughter, my own flesh and blood turns up her nose at the coveted Coffee Crisp bar, yet she can make an afternoon out of eating Sour Soothers and watching Nickelodeon. Does that make her wrong and me right? Well, in this case yes, but that’s not my point.

Due to the utter subjectivity of such a list, I understand I must open myself up to criticism and dissent. When I penned a piece about the fetid strip of film celluloid known as From Justin To Kelly, no one disagreed. When I bemoaned the asinine choice to put the Mini-Pops on TV, nary a soul came to its defense. I expect no such kindnesses today.

To be clear, I’m forgoing the obvious choices that I have not tried, like candied cockroaches or Buttered Potato Kit Kat. These are the drippings from my own 39 years of wisdom, collected in a pool of unappetizing dessert. Feel free to shout me down if you feel it’s necessary to do so.

CubanLunch

Here’s one so obscure I couldn’t find a decent photo of its packaging online. I remember as a hungry child, immune to metabolic slow-down and tooth decay, every item on the candy bar shelf looked tempting. Except for the Cuban Lunch. Sure, it was an innocuous slab of peanut-laden chocolate, but the only thing I knew about Cuba back then was that they made my dad’s cigars. I didn’t want a treat that tasted like that. Read more…

Day 637: Great White Way-Out Trivia

Header

As the lack of such topics on this site may indicate, I am not a raving fan of Broadway musicals. I’ve seen some that I quite liked and other that were Cats, but they just aren’t my thing. Naturally, I married someone who teaches musical theatre for a living. So in much the same way my wife now begrudgingly cares about Peyton Manning’s passer rating, I too can admit to having truly enjoyed a handful of the musicals that without her, I probably would have avoided.

So today I’m passing off the mic to that oh-so-fabulous inner voice of mine which has been moved to a whooping frenzy in the quivery afterglow of an outstanding Broadway show.

In some ways, a performance in a musical can be the absolute pinnacle of showing off one’s thespian chops. I’ll always be more of a movie guy than a theatre guy, but ultimately I’m an arts guy. I’ll applaud anyone who blows brains to the back of their skulls (metaphorically of course) through their art. So in that spirit, here’s a smattering of facts that even my non-theatre-loving friends might enjoy.

JonathanLarson

Rent, based on Puccini’s La bohème (though more rockish and less opera-y, to put it in industry terms), was set to debut off-Broadway on January 25, 1996. Jonathan Larson, the writer who had poured his impassioned soul and frothy guts into the musical, died suddenly that morning of an aortic dissection, the tragic result of an undiagnosed genetic disorder. He was literally hours away from seeing his vision open up in front of a New York crowd, one that would wind up praising the hell out of the show. Read more…

Day 594: “Til Her Night Cheese Was Ready To Poop” & Other Mondegreens

Header

“Ye highlands and ye Lowlands,

Oh, where hae ye been?

They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray

And Lady Mondegreen.”

According to writer Sylvia Wright in a 1954 Harper’s Magazine essay, this was how she’d heard the first stanza of “The Bonny Earl O’ Moray”, a 17th-centuy ballad. The actual last line of the verse is “And laid him on the green,” but this wonky little misunderstanding led Ms. Wright to coin the term ‘mondegreen’ to refer to any misheard lyric, though ideally one which makes the song better. In this case, because it increases the song’s death count, I guess.

I think the term ‘better’ here is too subjective. When I used to sing along to the Beatles’ “Bad Boy”, I never understood what John was singing for the line, “He worries his teacher till at night she’s ready to poop.” I thought he was singing, “…till her night cheese was ready to poop.” Is mine better? The image is certainly a bit more interesting.

And then it became a Liz Lemon meme. Maybe I'm not the only one who heard the song that way.

And then it became a Liz Lemon meme. Maybe I’m not the only one who heard the song that way.

But we all do it. Our ears inevitably trip over some muffled lyric and allow our brains to process the wrong data. If we hear a term with which we aren’t familiar – and many lyrics tend to consist of poetic tweaks on the language – our brains will process an interpretation that we can understand. That doesn’t explain the ‘night cheese’ thing though. Read more…

Day 539: The Flaming Pies Of Band Names

Header

How did the Beatles come to be called the Beatles? Well, the official story is this: “It came in a vision. A man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them, ‘From this day forward you are Beatles with an A.’ Thank you Mister Man, they said, thanking him.” That’s the tale John Lennon told Mersey Beat back in 1961 – notably three years before he began experimenting with mind-altering drugs.

Of course the reality isn’t quite so surreal. They were inspired by the crickets, and even played as the Silver Beetles for a while, before deciding to co-opt the pun of having the word ‘Beat’ in their name. Ironic, since they fired their drummer shortly afterward.

The origin stories of band names can be a dicey topic – some names have multiple story origins, depending on who you ask, and others remain a mystery because the band members just like to mess with their fans. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead was alleged to be a line from a Mayan ritual chant, but lead singer Conrad Keely let it slip that his band’s origin story was just a joke. My guess is that they just wanted to sound ‘dark’ and ‘deep’.

Anyhow, here are a few others:

Ramones

The Ramones, perhaps the greatest awful band in the history of rock, took their moniker’s inspiration from the Beatles. Before you start combing lyrics sites, I’ll save you the trouble. When the Beatles were touring with Johnny Gentle back in 1960, they all adopted pseudonyms – not so much in an effort to keep the chambermaids from scouring their bathrooms in search of sellable pubic hair, but just because it was something to do. Paul’s new name was Paul Ramon. Read more…

Day 408: A Half-Century of Beatles Gold

Header

First off, I’d like to apologize in advance to all members of the baby boomer generation. This article may assist in making you feel old. That said, you’re going to have to get used to the fact that every significant cultural accomplishment of the 1960’s is going to turn 50 soon, and that begins today.

When the Beatles woke up in the morning of February 11, 1963, they had two British singles under their belt: “Love Me Do”, which had barely cracked the top 20, and “Please Please Me”, which was threatening to do the same. They reported to EMI Studios on Abbey Road around 10:00am, with a plan to devote the next thirteen hours to recording the entirety of their first album. It was the 60’s. They had too much to conquer; there was no time to waste.

They even wore suits, but no jackets. They were in a hurry.

They even wore suits, but no jackets. They were in a hurry.

British pop albums traditionally came bundled with 14 songs, because songs were generally less than three minutes long, and prog-rock/jam-band/one-song-a-side albums hadn’t been invented yet. The Beatles had two A-sides and two B-sides ready, but ten vacancies that needed to be filled. Read more…