B12 Solipsism

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Which Rock Star Will Historians of the Future Remember?

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Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph
Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph

Chuck Klosterman wrote an interesting essay, with a subject my inner rock historian appreciates: who will be the John Phillips Sousa of rock music, as viewed by students 300 years in the future? What artist will stand in for the genre itself? Will it be The Beatles? The Rolling Stones? Elvis Presley? Or Bob Dylan? Or someone else entirely?

The symbolic value of rock is conflict-based: It emerged as a byproduct of the post-World War II invention of the teenager, soundtracking a 25-year period when the gap between generations was utterly real and uncommonly vast. That dissonance gave rock music a distinctive, nonmusical importance for a long time. But that period is over. Rock — or at least the anthemic, metaphoric, Hard Rock Cafe version of big rock — has become more socially accessible but less socially essential, synchronously shackled by its own formal limitations. Its cultural recession is intertwined with its cultural absorption. As a result, what we’re left with is a youth-oriented music genre that a) isn’t symbolically important; b) lacks creative potential; and c) has no specific tie to young people. It has completed its historical trajectory. Which means, eventually, it will exist primarily as an academic pursuit. It will exist as something people have to be taught to feel and understand.

I imagine a college classroom in 300 years, in which a hip instructor is leading a tutorial filled with students. These students relate to rock music with no more fluency than they do the music of Mesopotamia: It’s a style they’ve learned to recognize, but just barely (and only because they’ve taken this specific class). Nobody in the room can name more than two rock songs, except the professor. He explains the sonic structure of rock, its origins, the way it served as cultural currency and how it shaped and defined three generations of a global superpower. He shows the class a photo, or perhaps a hologram, of an artist who has been intentionally selected to epitomize the entire concept. For these future students, that singular image defines what rock was.

So what’s the image?

(click here to continue reading Which Rock Star Will Historians of the Future Remember? – The New York Times.)

Bob Dylan - The U.S. Invasion is Underway
Bob Dylan – The U.S. Invasion is Underway

From my perspective, Bob Dylan is a better candidate than Elvis, simply because his music is more interesting to me. But who knows? It might be Prince, especially if the unreleased music contained in his vault turns out to be good, and culturally resonant for years to come. Or someone else entirely, like Chuck Berry.

All Alone In This World Without You
All Alone In This World Without You

Klosterman’s thought experiment is full of good lines, of course, including this train of inquiry:

In 2014, the jazz historian Ted Gioia published a short essay about music criticism that outraged a class of perpetually outraged music critics. Gioia’s assertion was that 21st‑century music writing has devolved into a form of lifestyle journalism that willfully ignores the technical details of the music itself. Many critics took this attack personally and accused Gioia of devaluing their vocation. Which is odd, considering the colossal degree of power Gioia ascribes to record reviewers: He believes specialists are the people who galvanize history. Critics have almost no impact on what music is popular at any given time, but they’re extraordinarily well positioned to dictate what music is reintroduced after its popularity has waned.

“Over time, critics and historians will play a larger role in deciding whose fame endures,” Gioia wrote me in an email. “Commercial factors will have less impact. I don’t see why rock and pop will follow any different trajectory from jazz and blues.” He rattled off several illustrative examples: Ben Selvin outsold Louis Armstrong in the 1920s. In 1956, Nelson Riddle and Les Baxter outsold “almost every rock ’n’ roll star not named Elvis,” but they’ve been virtually erased from the public record. A year after that, the closeted gay crooner Tab Hunter was bigger than Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino, “but critics and music historians hate sentimental love songs. They’ve constructed a perspective that emphasizes the rise of rock and pushes everything else into the background. Transgressive rockers, in contrast, enjoy lasting fame.” He points to a contemporary version of that phenomenon: “Right now, electronic dance music probably outsells hip‑hop. This is identical to the punk‑versus‑disco trade‑off of the 1970s. My prediction: edgy hip‑hop music will win the fame game in the long run, while E.D.M. will be seen as another mindless dance craze.”

(click here to continue reading Which Rock Star Will Historians of the Future Remember? – The New York Times.)

I agree with Gioia in this sense: there is a lot of music in my library that I only encountered because someone wrote about it, either a music critic, or a liner-note scribe, or similar. Word of mouth only covers so much ground. Big Bill Broonzy died before I was born, as did the career of Syd Barrett, The Sonics, The Velvet Underground and many, many other bands I never encountered on the radio, nor in a local tavern. 

Written by Seth Anderson

May 23rd, 2016 at 8:29 am

2013 Year End Reviews – Mick Ronson – Play Don’t Worry

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Mick Ronson – Play Don’t Worry

Rating: B

1

Mick Ronson, guitarist and arranger extraordinaire, was famously screwed out songwriting credits by David Bowie, rocked out on Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue tour (Hard Rain), recorded with Mott the Hoople and/or Ian Hunter, arranged John Mellencamp’s hit Jack & Diane, played in Morrisey’s band, etc., before dying of pancreatic cancer in 1993.

https://i1.wp.com/farm6.staticflickr.com/5508/11466969276_6fc762cc82_z.jpg?resize=640%2C640
Mick Ronson and Hard Rain

So how is this, Mick Ronson’s second album? Not quite as tasty as his first solo album, Slaughter on 10th Avenue, but still well worth hearing, especially if you like melodic hard rock with moments of wah-wah guitar. There is a pretty rocking cover of White Light / White Heat that was an outtake to David Bowie’s Pinups album.

Footnotes:
  1. maybe a B+ []

Written by Seth Anderson

December 20th, 2013 at 11:50 am

Posted in Music

Tagged with , ,

The Rolling Stones forbidden documentary

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We’ve discussed Cocksucker Blues before,1 but apparently if you are wealthy enough2 to purchase the Super Deluxe package release of Exile On Main Street, you’ll be able to see snippets from Cocksucker Blues:

Exile On Main St Dlx

It’s hard to know what the Stones expected from [Robert ] Frank, whose previous films, including the Beat landmark “Pull My Daisy” (1959), showed little interest in conventional narrative of either the fiction or nonfiction variety. (At one point, Frank theorized he was chosen because his friend Danny Seymour, who appears in the film, was adept at procuring hard drugs, which made him a valuable commodity in the Stones’ circle.) In any case, the Stones didn’t like what they saw — or at the very least considered it unwise to release. According to one account, Jagger told Frank he liked the film but worried that “if it shows in America, we’ll never be allowed in the country again.” The band successfully sued to prevent the release of “Cocksucker Blues,” with showings limited to those at which Frank was physically present (a requirement that has been slightly loosened in recent years as the 85-year-old Frank’s ability to travel has been curtailed). Video was verboten as well, of course, although VHS bootlegs and now Internet downloads have always been within the reach of the curious and determined. It’s also made appearances on various streaming video sites, although its tenure is inevitably short-lived.

“Cocksucker Blues” is infamous for its scenes of debauchery, like an incipient orgy on the Stones’ private plane where women shriek as their shirts are pulled off and Jagger and Richards bang instruments like a satanic house band. (Carefully edited snippets appear on the “Exile” DVD, although the Glimmer Twins now seem to preside over a mild outbreak of tickle fighting.) But such spectacles would hardly have damaged the reputation of a band whose image was based in excess. And besides, the Stones are absent for many of the movie’s most notorious scenes, including those in which unidentified hangers-on stick needles in their arm and a sperm-spattered naked woman sprawls on a hotel bed and fingers her crotch in postcoital reverie.

What was perhaps more damaging — and, to the outside observer, most intriguing — is just how dull the life of the world’s biggest rock ‘n’ roll band could be. At times, Frank goes out of his way to portray the drudgery of life on the road, as when he intercuts footage of a couple shooting up in a hotel room with scenes of Keith Richards quietly playing cards. In one sublime sequence, included on the “Exile” DVD, a lugubrious Richards makes a slurred and unsuccessful attempt to order a bowl of fruit from a woman in a Southern hotel.

There’s concert footage as well, much of it astonishing; many fans regard the 1972 tour as the Stones’ finest hour. It’s a shame the “Exile” DVD only shows us the second half of their duet with Stevie Wonder, who toured as their opening act, picking up with “Satisfaction” but omitting the segue out of Wonder’s “Uptight (Everything’s Alright).” But the vividly colored stage performances only heighten the dolorous feel of the black-and-white behind-the-scenes footage. In his novel “Underworld,” whose third section is named for the film, Don DeLillo described it thus: “The camera phalanx in the tunnels. People sitting around, two people asleep in a lump or tripped out or they could be unnoticeably dead, the endless noisy boredom of the tour — tunnels and runways.”

(click to continue reading The Rolling Stones’ forbidden documentary – Documentaries – Salon.com.)

Footnotes:
  1. Wikipedia entry []
  2. or a big enough Rolling Stones fan []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 23rd, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Mick Jagger and Internet Piracy

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Mick Jagger is quite right about this: look at the finances of Muddy Waters, or Blind Lemon Jefferson, or The Carter Family, or even someone like Fats Domino. Being a career musician was about being a live musician, because that’s what paid the bills. The records themselves were not how most musicians paid their bar bills.

In an interview with the BBC, Jagger is asked if he is worried about sales of his back catalog in the days of internet downloading

He replies:

Music has been aligned with technology for a long time. The model of records and record selling is a very complex subject and quite boring, to be honest.

BBC: But your view is valid because you have a huge catalogue, which is worth a lot of money, and you’ve been in the business a long time, so you have perspective.

Well, it’s all changed in the last couple of years. We’ve gone through a period where everyone downloaded everything for nothing and we’ve gone into a grey period it’s much easier to pay for things – assuming you’ve got any money.

I am quite relaxed about it. But, you know, it is a massive change and it does alter the fact that people don’t make as much money out of records. But I have a take on that – people only made money out of records for a very, very small time. When The Rolling Stones started out, we didn’t make any money out of records because record companies wouldn’t pay you! They didn’t pay anyone! Then, there was a small period from 1970 to 1997, where people did get paid, and they got paid very handsomely and everyone made money. But now that period has gone. So if you look at the history of recorded music from 1900 to now, there was a 25 year period where artists did very well, but the rest of the time they didn’t.

(click to continue reading BBC News – Sir Mick Jagger goes back to Exile.)


“The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St. (33 1/3)” (Bill Janovitz)

Exile On Main Street has long been a favorite album of mine, probably the last Rolling Stones LP (chronologically speaking) that I really like. The re-issue is currently a bit too pricey for my taste, I’m more interested in the remastered version of the original album, presumedly this will be available eventually by itself.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 14th, 2010 at 8:59 am

Posted in Music,Suggestions

Tagged with ,

Editorializing about Iggy Pop

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I wish more newspapers would praise Iggy Pop on their editorial pages. Sigh. Much more interesting than sales tax increases or whatever topic de jour.

“Before he began flogging car insurance, Iggy Pop, aka James Newell Osterberg, aka the Iguana, aka the Godfather of Punk, was the singer for the Stooges. Well, we say singer, but he was more like a human shock absorber for a band that did not so much give concerts as go to war with audiences. Going by this newspaper’s review page yesterday, some of that antagonistic spirit is still on display as the band tour the UK this week: our man noted that Iggy Pop ‘flings himself into the audience at the slightest provocation’.

Such gonzo hostility was never merely a matter of idiosyncratic stagecraft, but ran all the way through the band’s albums too. Search and Destroy, on the 1973 classic Raw Power, sums it up nicely: ‘I’m a streetwalking cheetah with a heart full of napalm / I’m a runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb’. Like many good things in pop music, the Stooges came out of industrial Michigan in the 60s, but Iggy’s band didn’t go in for Motown’s melodic optimism; no, their songs were marked by a reckless nihilism. I Wanna Be Your Dog, for instance, combined lyrics such as ‘Now we’re gonna be face to face / And I’ll lay right down in my favourite place’ with a leering, distorted guitar and a one-note piano riff. Perhaps their best album was Metallic KO – ostensibly a concert recording, but it sounded more like what would happen if you stuck a rock band in a Cortina and drove them off a cliff. Its high point? That would have to be Louie Louie, which must be the closest pop has ever come to a public flagellation.”

(click to continue reading In praise of … Iggy and the Stooges | Editorial | From the Guardian | The Guardian.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 6th, 2010 at 9:29 am

Posted in Music,Suggestions

Tagged with , ,

Barry Goldberg and The Only Album Bob Dylan Ever Produced

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“Barry Goldberg” (Barry Goldberg)

Michael Simmons reports on a bit of Bob Dylan related obscurity, namely that Barry Goldberg (songwriter of such hits as Devil With A Blue Dress and I’ve Got To Use My Imagination as well as being half of


Two Jew’s Blues

along with Michael Bloomfield) has reissued his mid-70s album with the original vocals restored.

Anyway, this rock ‘n’ roll Zelig also pounded the ivories behind Bob at Newport ’65 when Zimmy stuck his middle finger in an electric socket and his hair frizzed out, after which every one else began letting their hair frizz out (or something like that). When you’ve shared a stage with someone in front of a hostile audience, it’s like sharing a trench. They stayed in touch and jammed together with the Band and Sir Doug Sahm and, of course, Bloomfield. In ’73, Goldberg had a heap of good songs and was gonna record a single at RCA Records. His pal Bob sez “No no Barry, let me take ’em to Jerry Wexler,” the legendary R&B producer at Atlantic Records. Wex agrees to sign him and take Goldberg into the studio but says Bob’s gotta co-produce the sessions with him.

When Bob Dylan is handed to you on a silver platter as producer (co or udderwise), you say yes. With relish. Especially when you’re the only artist he’s ever offered his services to in this role (and ever will).

So everybody descends on Muscle Shoals, Alabama — Barry and wife/co-writer Gail and Dylan and Wex. Waiting for them are the hotshot Southern studio cats with whom one Duane Allman had paid his dues before the Brothers and who’d grooved on Two Jew’s Blues. Eddie Hinton, Jimmy Johnson, Pete Carr, David Hood, Roger Hawkins and friends. If you’ve ever dug an Aretha Franklin tune from the late ’60s, you’ve heard these aces of soulfulness. They tracked Barry’s Gladys Knight tune and one Rod Stewart covered called “It’s Not the Spotlight” and a bunch of others. “…Spotlight” and “Minstrel Show” were damn good songs about being a working musician. “Orange County Bus” is about the kind of legal trouble hippie musicians experienced all too frequently in them days. It’s a song of its time, as is “Dusty Country,” a paean to the earthy rural ideal sporting a lovely dobro. Even the strings on “She Was Such A Lady” and “…Spotlight” sound natural — no cold synthesizers that were beginning to be popular in that period. A solid album. Comfortable. Real. What they now call Americana.

[Click to continue reading Michael Simmons: The Only Album “Bob Dylan” Ever Produced ]

Sounds like perfect Rock snob fodder…

Written by Seth Anderson

December 29th, 2009 at 8:27 am

Freedom Rock Man

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Keep Off Rock
posting this photo led to a Flickr pal leaving a YouTube link for the infamous Freedom Rock late-night television commercial (ran in the late 80s, has been a punch line for hipster jokes since then)

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eGWW8KOQio

I assume there is a bittorrent for these songs; at the least, they are floating around in MP3 form. Kind of a funny list actually, Deep Purple and Jethro Tull don’t really mix well with Seals & Crofts or Dion, at least when I am manning the DJ controls. Also somewhat surprisingly, there is no Wikipedia entry for Freedom Rock, at least that I could find.

Because I’m waiting for a file to download and have some time to waste, I marked an asterisk next to the songs that currently exist in my iTunes library. I really need to burnish up my Freedom Rock credentials, don’t I?

Disc One:
*The Byrds – Turn, Turn, Turn
Ten Years After – I’d Love To Change The World
*Jethro Tull – Locomotive Breath
Joan Baez – The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
Edwin Starr – War
*Santana – Black Magic Woman
Harry Nilsson -Jump Into The Fire
*Deep Purple – Smoke On The Water
Brotherhood of Man – United We Stand
Coven – One Tin Soldier (The Legend Of Billy Jack )
*Jefferson Airplane – Somebody To Love
*Canned Heat – Going Up The Country
Friend and Lover – Reach Out Of The Darkness
*America – A Horse With No Name
*Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird
Allman Brothers Band – Ramblin’ Man
The Guess Who – Share The Land
Elton John – Friends
Ocean – Put Your Hand In The Hand
Three Dog Night – Black & White

Disc 2:
*Derek & The Dominos – Layla
Moody Blues – The Story In Your Eyes
Five Man Electrical Band – Signs
Jonathan Edwards – Sunshine
The O’Jays – Love Train
*Cream – White Room
*Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit
Judy Collins – Both Sides Now
Seals & Crofts – We May Never Pass This Way Again
Zager & Evans – In The Year 2525
*Alice Cooper – Eighteen
*Deep Purple – Hush
The Youngbloods – Get Together
Sonny & Cher – The Beat Goes On
Dion – Abraham, Martin & John
Melanie – Lay Down
*Spirit – I Got A Line On You
*James Taylor – Fire And Rain
Lobo – Me And You And A Dog Named Boo
*Otis Redding – (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay

and of these, probably the only song I wouldn’t skip past would be Locomotive Breath, and maybe The Byrds doing Bob Dylan’s, Turn Turn Turn. The rest are either horribly over-played, or just exist to be played in ironic context, i.e., not often.

Written by swanksalot

July 8th, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Posted in humor,Music

Tagged with , , ,

Reading Around on July 2nd

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Some additional reading July 2nd from 13:49 to 19:05:

  • Travel With Your Mind: Sky Saxon Remembered – Sky Saxon, lead singer with 60s garage punk legends the Seeds, died on the morning of June 25, 2009 (or as his official web site put it, he “passed over to be with YaHoWha”); as it happened, he died the same day as both Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, ensuring that the entertainment press, who might have been expected to treat his passing like a one-line filler item, didn’t even give it that much attention. But Saxon hadn’t been a celebrity in the traditional sense for a very long time. Sky may have been a rock star for about two years on the strength of the singles “Pushin’ Too Hard” and “Can’t Seem To Make You Mine,” but after those twenty-four months as a bargain-basement Mick Jagger, he evolved into Flower Power’s Last Man Standing, a guy who let his freak flag fly with a wild-eyed sincerity that made most of his peers from the Sunset Strip scene look like weekenders, and transformed his story into something far more interesting than the typical two-hit wonder and cult hero.
  • The Perfect Burger and All Its Parts – NYTimes.com – While some chefs have groused quietly about the insatiable demand for burgers, most are philosophical. “All chefs can be frustrated by the buying public sometimes,” said Clark Frasier, a chef with restaurants in Massachusetts and Maine. “In this economy I’m happy to sell anything they want to eat.”

    All this high-powered attention has produced some new ways of thinking about and cooking burgers. Interviews with 30 chefs provided dozens of lessons for the home cook that aren’t terribly difficult and don’t cost much money. And it all yielded the ideal burger.

  • Daily Kos: How a Kos diarist helped spark McCain-Palin infighting – Schmidt put the matter to rest with an breathtaking reply to Palin:

    "Secession," he wrote. "It is their entire reason for existence. A cursory examination of the website shows that the party exists for the purpose of seceding from the union. That is the stated goal on the front page of the web site. Our records indicate that todd was a member for seven years. If this is incorrect then we need to understand the discrepancy. The statement you are suggesting be released would be innaccurate. The innaccuracy would bring greater media attention to this matter and be a distraction. According to your staff there have been no media inquiries into this and you received no questions about it during your interviews. If you are asked about it you should smile and say many alaskans who love their country join the party because it speeks to a tradition of political independence. Todd loves his country

Written by swanksalot

July 2nd, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Rock Snob

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Had a lot of fun yesterday consuming the


Rock Snob Dictionary

in one sitting. Well, I did jump up a few times and add tunes to my new iTunes playlist, Rock Snobs. I guess I am bonafide, as the playlist has several days worth of material already, and I’m not done adding yet.

A few excerpts from the book at posted at snobsite.com. Fun stuff.

At last! An A-to-Z reference guide for readers who want to learn the cryptic language of Rock Snobs, those arcana-obsessed people who speak of “Rickenbacker guitars” and “Gram Parsons.”

We’ve all been there–trapped in a conversation with smarty-pants music fiends who natter on about “the MC5” or “Eno” or “the Hammond B3,” not wanting to let on that we haven’t the slightest idea what they’re talking about. Well, fret no more! The Rock Snob’s Dictionary is here to define every single sacred totem of rock fandom’s know-it-all fraternity, from Alt.country to Zimmy. (That’s what Rock Snobs call Bob Dylan, by the way.)

Haven’t managed to see Cocksucker Blues nor Eat the Document, yet. Though apparently, some of the footage from Eat the Document made its way into

No Direction Home

Written by Seth Anderson

December 29th, 2006 at 8:22 am