Archive for June, 2013


Dark Side of the Moon

 

So kinda like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd is another band that I missed the boat on.  I guess I was just too busy rocking out to the Doors and the White Album in college while everyone else was “experimenting” with Pink Floyd.  Actually, I remember mon frere being a big Pink Floyd fan when I was a kid, and I think he actually went into Cleveland to see the show where they floated the giant pink pig into the stadium.  And I cannot forget Lighting 101 playing his Pink Floyd mix en route on the Crazy Pittsburgh Trip Version 1.0 (more on that when I get to a Metallica entry), with special emphasis on his favorite song, “Money”, which was really fitting since all of us except for the Elusive One worked at Mickey D’s Evil Empire.  Other than that, my only other Pink Floyd experience has been the wave of irony I feel, considering my chosen profession, every time I hear “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2”.

At any rate, I had never owned a Pink Floyd album until I picked this up for $6.99 (minus my 10% teacher discount) at the Half-Price Books on High Street (did I mention I love irony?) back in  early winter after a traditional Saturday morning breakfast with the Princess.  And listening to it, I realize that despite its status as the quintessential space rock album, it is really blues rock at its core.  However, it’s blues rock elevated to almost a symphonic level.  The beauty of quality symphonic music is that it evokes images in the listener’s head, and this record certainly qualifies under that standard.  The careful craftsmanship of each song and the running connection of each song to the next elevate this record to a level of true artistry.  Add in the incredible musicianship of the band members, who showcase the ability to build and swell, ebb and flow, and who imbue each track, instrumental or otherwise, with emotion, and you can see why this album has been elevated to the status of a master work.

Of course, there has been much talk over the years about “The Dark Side of the Rainbow”.  I had never done it before, so I rented “The Wizard of Oz” and watched it while I listened to this record.  I think I got the sync right (I started it right after the MGM lion’s third roar), and while at times certain elements of the music do align in an uncanny way with the film (the alarm clocks when Miss Gultch arives and the transition from side A to side B right as the movie goes from black and white to technicolor), for the most part it’s just a more pleasant way to watch the film than enduring the original soundtrack.  Now, I must admit, I’ve never been a big fan of “The Wizard of Oz”.  They used to show it once a year on network television when I was very young, and mi madre would always make a big deal about watching it, but I think it gave me nightmares (those flying monkees are trippy, man) and I just never really dug it.  And I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen it in about 25 years or so, but I was impressed by how iconic it actually is, because even with Pink Floyd playing loudly in my ear andwatching with the sound on the TV turned off and the subtitles on, I could still hear the melody of every song and I remembered pretty much exactly how each scene plays out (always gotta watch out for those poppy fields, my dear).  But yeah, “The Dark Side of the Rainbow” thing seems entirely coincidental.  But it was fun nonetheless.

Other lists: Pink Floyd ranks #51 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists, and David Gilmour ranks #14 on the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists.  And not surprisingly, this album ranks #3 on the newly created list of the 40 Greatest Stoner Albums.

My favourite track: “Us and Them”

Honourable mention: “The Great Gig in the Sky” (I have a feeling Thom Yorke has listened to this track quite a few times)

Quote: “Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain.  You are young and life is long an their is time to kill today.  But then one day you find ten years have got behind you…no one told you when to run…you missed the starting gun.”

Advertisements

The Doors

“No, no my friend…Doors fans aren’t made, they’re born.” The Kids in the Hall

I’ve always associated the Doors with the beginning of my inevitable teenage rebellion.  It was my later years in high school, and the thrill of grunge rock was already on the decline (although Pearl Jam had yet to release “Vitology” and Soundgarden was working on “Down on the Upside”, the other final masterpiece, Nirvana’s “In Utero”, was already out and bands like Stone Temple Pilots were mining the sound for all it was worth…industrial was on the horizon, but “The Downward Spiral” hadn’t landed yet).  At any rate, I was a bored teenager looking for something new.  I had pretty much decided, thanks as much to Ferris Bueller as anything else, that high school was a complete waste of time, and most nights I would drop my girlfriend off for her early curfew and head of to the Artistic One’s house, which was just a couple streets over.  Now the Artistic One’s father was one of our teachers, and an amazing teacher at that, but he never minded that we all hung out in his basement until all hours of the night playing nickel-dime poker and watching R-rated movies.  No, the Artistic One’s father understood our teenage rebellion…and after all, we weren’t doing anything that bad.  None of us were drinking or smoking or partaking in mind-altering substances.  We were just a bored group of sheltered teenagers passing the time.

Well, one of the movies that we always watched on VHS while we were playing poker was the Oliver Stone vision of “The Doors”.  We tended to be attracted to anything that involved a debaucherous lifestyle and scantily clad women (“A Clockwork Orange” was another favorite), but Oliver Stone’s movie about the Doors also offered great music and a window into the rock and roll lifestyle we all wished we were living (and as John McCrea pointed out, the lifestyle we wished we could afford).  So not being satisfied with just watching the movie, one day I went to Jerry’s Records and Tapes (or maybe it was already Slappy’s by then…I can’t remember) to buy the two disc “Greatest Hits” package.  While I was there in the store admiring the long box packaging, I ran into Dub Step.  Now, I had known Dub Step practically since kindergarten, and he played bass for our show choir, but we rarely spoke.  He was famous around school for being able to play “Enter Sandman” on bass, and we just simply ran with different crowds.  But he saw me buying the Doors’ “Greatest Hits” and he said “Man, I could listen to the Doors everyday”.  It was one of those moments were walls break down and we had our first good conversation in years.

Melodrama aside, the Doors continued to unite people in my life.  My two disc “Greatest Hits” package was a big hit on the debaucherous 19th floor of Lincoln Tower my freshman year of college.  And there was a Doors cover band called “Moonlight Drive” that used to play both back home at the Cove in Geneva-On-The-Lake and at the Newport Music Hall here in Columbus.  Well, two female friends of mine from high school were basically groupies for that band, and the first time I ever got backstage at the Newport was thanks to those girls and their connections with the band.  It goes without saying that they were huge Doors fans as well.

So knowing that this album was coming up on my list, I pulled it out and listened to it the week that Ray Manzarek sadly passed away (that same week I was playing keyboard in this little 3-man combo that was rehearsing for a retirement party and I remarked that I was not doing the spirit of Ray Manzarek justice…it was true).  It has a BMG label on it, so I’m sure I got it when I was scamming BMG back in college for countless free CDs.  It’s not my favorite Doors album (“Waiting for the Sun” takes that honor), but it is a part of a trilogy of the first three Doors albums (this album, “Strange Days”, and “Waiting for the Sun”) that are my favorite period for the band.  Stylistically, no band can match the atmosphere and the mood that the Doors were able to create.   There is actually a lot of filler on this record, but songs like “The Crystal Ship” can bring you solace while songs like “Break on Though” can incite rebellion and songs like “The End” can teleport you out into the middle of the desert on a blue bus.  Add in the cabaret humor of “Alabama Song”, a song written by German theater composer Kurt Weill, and you have quite the musical hodgepodge.  And while the focus has traditionally been on Jim Morrison and his poetry (I clearly remember Lightning 101 stealing the sign from Morrison Avenue back in Geneva and walking down the railroad tracks swinging a fifth of Jack Daniels), the band is an amazing ensemble.  Apart from the atmosphere they create all throughout the album, the jam on “Light My Fire” (that was cut for the single version) is truly remarkable, showcasing amazing interplay between Ray Manzarek’s keyboard, Robby Krieger’s guitar, and John Densmore’s drumming.  And of course, the entire album closes with Morrison’s drug-infused Oedipal opus, “The End”.  Fantastic stuff.

Other lists:  “Light My Fire” ranks #35 and “The End” ranks #336 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  The Doors are #41 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists, Robby Kreiger is #76 on the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists, and Jim Morrison is #47 on the list of the 100 Greatest Singers.  “The Doors” is also #34 on the newly created list of the 100 Best Debut Albums.

My favorite track:  “The End”

Honorable mention: “Break on Through (To the Other Side)”

Quote: “Can you picture what will be?  So limitless and free…”

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols

 

“There is a little punk rock mafia everywhere you go.  She is good to me, and I am good to her…” E. Hutz

Well, so far we’ve had the fathers of punk rock (the Ramones) and punk rock’s favorite child (The Clash), so it’s fitting that now we get the bastard sons of punk rock.  I was pretty excited when I found this album at the Half-Price Books in Upper Arlington (isn’t U.A. where all the punks in Columbus hang out?  I mean, who dares mess with the Chef-O-Nette gang?) for $6.99 minus my 10% teacher discount, and I popped it right into my car’s CD player on the way home.  And the first thing I noticed was how much this single release from the Sex Pistols influenced Guns ‘N Roses.  I have some early Guns demos, and they are pretty punky, but I never realized how much Slash and Izzy took directly from “Never Mind the Bollocks”.  How many times on “Appetite” and the “Illusions” do the Guns do that little guitar break where they take the rhythm part just a little higher under the solo, leading into the3rd verse/ final chorus?  “Nighttrain” is a good example from the Guns, and it comes straight out off of this record.

Actually, the similarities between the two bands don’t end with the music.  Both bands enjoyed excess, reveled in chaos, struggled with addictions, and fell apart after relatively short careers.  Both bands were notorious for inciting riots at their shows, both were censored due to their lyrical content, and both had a reputation for sloppy play.  Personnel wise, both bands had notoriously difficult lead singers, both bands fired a member (Glen Matlock for the Pistols and Steven Adler for the Guns) early on, and both bands split apart due to friction between the members.  Finally, both bands reference firearms in their names.  I’m sure the hardcore punk rockers will not be pleased that I am comparing one of the genre’s sacred bands to Guns ‘N Roses, one of the most reviled (and yet at the same time, revered) bands ever, but the similarities are there.

As for “Never Mind the Bollocks”, it is a fun 40 minutes of sarcasm and angry ranting.  Surprisingly melodic, there are singable choruses present that do not get lost in the sonic assault of the guitar, bass, and drums.  And while this album sort of fails to achieve the political righteousness of the Clash or the dead-pan sense of humor of the Ramones, it’s a nice balance between the two…fueled by a whole lot more anger.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that all the hate on this record that was directed at government and the class system and record labels also works perfectly when directed at the University of Michigan football team by the Dead Schembechlers.  No future for you.

Other lists: “Anarchy in the U.K.” is #56 and “God Save the Queen” is #175 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Also, the Sex Pistols rank #60 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists and Steve Jones ranks #97 on the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists.

My favourite track: “God Save the Queen”

Honourable mention: “Holidays in the Sun”

Quote: “Blind acceptance is a sign of stupid fools who stand in line.”

Forever Changes

Looking back on the previous 39 albums on this list, I realize that this album is the first one that I had absolutely no knowledge of either the artist or the music on the album.  Sure, there have been others that I have been unfamiliar with, but I had at least heard of the artist or heard some of the songs on the radio.  But when I bought this album from Amazon for $8.71, I had absolutely no idea who Love was or what their music sounded like.  In short, I had no preconceived notions about this band whatsoever.  And as I write this, I am listening to the album for the third time, and I can’t help but think that this is what it would have sounded like if the Doors, the Byrds, and the Who had had a weeklong beach party during the Summer of Love with members of the London Philharmonic and a Mariachi band.  And on one night Bob Dylan stops by to hang out, and on another Hendrix shows up.  And finally, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band comes and hangs out for the weekend.  And this album is the lovechild that is produced from that weeklong hippie festival.

All kidding aside, this album is very interesting.  I have read that it has generated more critical acclaim than popular appeal, and my guess is this is because this album is very free form and devoid of most popular music structures.  In a way, its similar to the direction Radiohead took with “Kid A” and “Amnesiac” in the 2000s.  None of the songs are in strophic form, and only one actually has a chorus.  Many of the songs suddenly take strange directions, and instrumental breaks with Mariachi horns and orchestral strings abound.  And despite being firmly routed in the ’67 Summer of Love, the lyrics are surprisingly dour, dealing with themes of isolation and apocalypse.  But somehow it all sort of fits together into a sort of hippie symphony.

Other lists: “Alone Again Or” is #442 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

My favorite track: “Alone Again Or”

Honorable mention: “You Set the Scene”

Quote: “This is the time and life that I am living, and I’ll face each day with a smile, for the time that I’ve been given’s such a little while, and the things I must do consist of more than style.”