Posts Tagged ‘The Clash’

I Love Music – The Cover Art

12 June 2010

The title says it all. Here are 16 songs about how good music can make you feel…


[front cover]


[front inside]


[back cover]

*****

Here’s the playlist:

The O’Jays | I Love Music
Stevie Wonder | Sir Duke
The Spinners | Rubberband Man
The Rolling Stones | Dance (Pt. 1)
Wild Cherry | Play That Funky Music
Indeep | Last Night A D.J. Saved My Life
Metro Area | Dance Reaction
James Brown | It’s Too Funky In Here
Funkadelic | One Nation Under A Groove
Spearhead | Everyone Deserves Music
Black Mountain | Modern Music
Velvet Underground | Rock And Roll
The Blasters | American Music
INXS & Jimmy Barnes | Good Times
The Clash | This Is Radio Clash
Van Halen | Dance The Night Away

Buried Treasure: Mose Allison Sings

8 April 2010

[Today: The real deal...]

Mose Allison has spent a long career in the shadows of the bridge that connects Jazz and the Blues. Not fully either, but a whole lot of both, he plays piano and sings in a distinctly jazzy style, but his music is built from the raw materials of the blues. His songs include prison sentences, tragic love, country shacks and mystical signifiers, but they’re always leavened with a wry, detached delivery. Because he’s a white man singing the Blues, Allison has often been suspected of musical tourism – one interviewer actually accused him of stealing the blues, an encounter that inspired his 1990 song ‘Ever Since I Stole The Blues’.

Born in 1927 on his grandfather’s farm near the small town of Tippo in the Mississippi Delta, Allison grew up absorbing the music of blues artists like Memphis Minnie, Tampa Red and Lightning Hopkins, as well as jazz pianists Nat King Cole, Fats Waller and Earl Hines. Regardless of his credentials, he has created a singular style that hasn’t changed much through the decades. “You have to suffer a little to do anything well,” he told the Phoenix New Times in 1992. “It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with singing the blues. If blues had to do with suffering, believe me, we’d have a lot more blues singers.”

On his 1963 album Mose Allison Sings, he covers a wide variety of artists (including Jimmy Rogers, Willie Dixon and Duke Ellington), but every song is tailored so well to his style that each feels like an original. The few true originals here are keepers, including ‘Parchman Farm’ and ‘Young Man’, which was later covered by The Who as ‘Young Man Blues’ on Live At Leeds. But Allison’s influence extends well beyond The ‘Oo – The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, J.J. Cale, Tom Waits, The Clash and Frank Black are just a few of the artists that have been swayed by his style. Black has even claimed that the Pixies’ song ‘Allison’ is about Mose. He’s frequently been cited as a primary influence on the blues-based British Invasion artists of the late-60s, and he’s still going strong – after a 12-year recording hiatus, he just released his 27th studio album, The Way Of The World.

Listen: Lost Mind

Listen: Parchman Farm

Listen: The Seventh Son

Buried Treasure: A South Bronx Story

26 March 2010

[Today: Band of sisters...]

Here’s a South Bronx story: Helen Scroggins looks around her South Bronx neighborhood and watches kids being swallowed up left and right by the mean streets. In her living room, she sees her daughters grooving to TV programs like Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and the PBS program Soul. When the girls ask her to buy them instruments, she obliges one Christmas, on the condition that they actually put in the time to learn how to play. She believes this will give them something constructive to do and keep them out of trouble. Friday night “music reviews” become standard, and before long Renee (guitar), Valerie (drums) and Deborah (bass) have a sound, and a band. Their name comes from the initials of two of the sisters’ birth stones (emerald and sapphire) and the color they hoped their records would attain (gold).

“At first we used to just try to copy records from the radio,” Renee told NME in 1981. “Then we got tired of that ’cause it didn’t come out right. So we decided we wanted our own sound and we never tried to play after anyone else again.” After gigging around New York and opening for a wide variety of acts, from Grandmaster Flash to The Clash, they crossed paths with Factory Records owner Tony Wilson, who paired them with producer Martin Hannett (of Joy Division fame). His sparse production of the group’s 1983 debut Come Away With ESG accentuated their percussion-driven rhythms – the backbone of their punk/funk/disco/soul hybrid sound. Laced with conga drum and reverb, their music sounds like gritty funk recorded in a gleaming, sterile lab environment, and their clean beats have made them a favorite of DJs and sample-grabbers the world over.

ESG wasn’t a punk band musically, but by performing in front of live audiences after limited self-training, they handsomely paid off the theory of punk music. In several ways they were the inverse of the Ramones – they were actually siblings, they really didn’t know how to play (the Ramones, like most punk bands, were better musicians than they let on), and their sound was funky and futuristic. But like the Ramones, ESG never found commercial success. The title of their 1992 EP Sample Credits Don’t Pay Our Bills told the story of a band struggling to stay afloat. The group has broken up and re-formed several times in the interim, and the best moments from their on-and-off career can be heard on the 2000 compilation A South Bronx Story.

Listen: Moody

Listen: My Love For You

Listen: You’re No Good

Doubleshot Tuesday: The Clash/Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack

19 January 2010

[Today: Searching for an authentic beat...]


Punk and disco. Disco and punk. Have there ever been two more diametrically opposed forms of music that sprung up in the same place at exactly the same time? I think not. These two genres were polar opposite reactions to the same conclusion about the world – mainly that it’s nothing but a big bucket of shit. Disco’s answer was an offer to dance the night away, while punk was audio lighter fluid to help burn down the house. Disco has gained a reputation as a plastic, vapid music made for the oblivious, coked-up whirling dervishes at Studio 54 – artistically frivolous and creatively barren.

Punk meanwhile is serious music for serious people. At the dinner table of music, punk is the sneering, know-it-all kid who still lives with his parents and can’t wait to tell everyone how they’re screwing things up. Punk is full of slogans about the word’s ills, but never offered much in the way of solutions – its sum was little more than hit-and-run posturing. Punk often presented itself as a musical revolution, but political sloganeering was for punks what facepaint was for KISS or tight pants were for Whitesnake – an angle to help sell the goods.

Joe Strummer was indisputably sincere about his politics, but so what? As soon as The Clash started painting political slogans on their clothing, they blurred the line between style and substance in a way that seemed awfully vacuous. Strummer’s greatest achievement wasn’t moving the needle politically, it was (as is) his band’s ability to make you tap your toes and have a good time. The Clash’s schtick was political, but confusing that with real politics (what I affectionately call The Bono Effect) does a disservice to real politicians who slither into the capitol every day and give each other hand jobs to get things done. Politics is politics and music is music, and neither will meet Mark Twain.

In this respect, disco is some of the most honest music out there. It’s often regarded as synthetic, inauthentic fluff, but it was designed for nothing more than making people shake their tails and forget their cares, and never sold itself as anything but. Call me crazy, but claiming to be about revolution when you’re really about commerce seems 100 times more inauthentic than using a synthesizer or programmed beats. For fake music, disco has spawned a pretty impressive musical family tree, playing a major role in the birth of both hip-hop and electronica. During the same span, punk has diffused into an attitude that can be found in decidedly non-punk artists like Steve Earle and Tori Amos. A few punk true-believers like Henry Rollins and Ian MacKaye carry on, and truly walk it like they talk it, but they’re the exceptions that expose how much of punk comes down to practiced poses and intentionally bad haircuts. Don’t get me wrong, I love punk music in general and The Clash in particular, but it amuses me that punk enjoys a free pass as “authentic” music, while its sincerely fun-loving cousin gets painted as phony…

Listen: I’m So Bored With The U.S.A. [The Clash]

Listen: Stayin’ Alive [Bee Gees]

Listen: I Fought The Law [The Clash]

Listen: Jive Talkin’ [Bee Gees]

Doubleshot Tuesday: Stop Making Sense/Everyone Deserves Music

15 September 2009

[Today: Spearhead burns down the house...]

Talking Heads | Stop Making Sense
Spearhead | Everyone Deserves Music

Spearhead played The Fillmore in San Francisco on Saturday Night, and to my utter, jaw-dropping amazement, came out and opened for themselves as a high-energy Talking Heads cover band called The Rocking Heads. They proceeded to burn down the house with a mini-set of Talking Heads songs that stayed surprisingly faithful to the originals and whipped the capacity crowd into an ecstatic frenzy. In terms of pure sound, it’s hard to think of a whiter band than Talking Heads or a more afro-centric group than Spearhead, but that chasm was quickly bridged by ripping versions of ‘Psycho Killer’ ‘Girlfriend Is Better’ ‘Take Me To The River’ and more. Spearhead frontman Michael Franti was decked out in a big white suit (naturally) and dorky glasses, and looked like a genetic mutation of Bob Marley and David Byrne.

I could dig deep and try to find parallels between these groups, but it would be a disingenuous attempt to make sense out of a wild evening. And sometimes it’s better to stop making sense and just let the music flow. For those not familiar with their music, if Spearhead were a cocktail, this is what the recipe would look like:

1 part The Clash
1 part John Lennon
3 parts Bob Marley
Shake vigorously
Smoke a doobie
Serve chilled

Like Lennon, Marley and The Clash, Spearhead is committed to addressing social injustice and changing the world through music. But their influences extend well beyond those musical muckrakers, and during their main set, they quoted bits of songs by AC/DC, George Gershwin, Seals & Crofts, Neil Diamond and The Police, among others. So perhaps I shouldn’t have been too surprised by their opening set.

“This was really fun for all of us,” Franti said at the end of The Rocking Heads’ set, and he could have been speaking for everyone in the building. The Fillmore is a legendary venue that has hosted an untold number of great concerts through the years. You never know when you’re going to catch some magic there, but Saturday was one of those nights…

Listen: Girlfriend Is Better [Talking Heads]

Listen: Everyone Deserves Music [Spearhead]

*****

[Special thanks to our friends Tiffany & JD for getting the tickets and putting the evening together. We miss you guys...]

Masterpiece: London Calling

24 July 2009

[Today: Redrawing the boundaries of Punk...]

The Clash | London Calling

London Calling upped the ante considerably on what a punk album could be, and in the process provided the final fissure in a genre that was about to crack into a thousand pieces. Coming as it did during a time when lesser punk bands were forced to walk the plank for such transgressions as playing their instruments well, exploring other genres, and generally rocking out, London Calling was a fearless exploration of sounds and ideas. The album art was a stylistic nod to Elvis Presley’s 1956 RCA debut, and the music within provided a living link to the greased up Rock & Roll of the 1950’s.

Here The Clash dip into many different musical styles, from reggae (‘Rudie Can’t Fail’) to rockabilly (‘Brand New Cadillac’) and beyond, and explores far-flung topics such as anti-racism (‘Clampdown’), Montgomery Clift (‘The Right Profile’), fidelity (‘Train In Vain’), existentialism (‘Lost In The Supermarket’), and of course, the apocalypse (‘Four Horseman’ and the title track). Producer Guy Stevens had a first-take-is-good-enough philosophy and was known to bust up studio furniture to get the band in the proper mood to play. That rough intensity, along with the band’s revolutionary zeal, drives the album through its breadth of sound and depth of ideas, making this a super-charged gallop through the history of rock.

With 19 tracks spread over two LPs, this sprawling, ambitious album reached far beyond where punk had ever attempted to go before. These songs proved that the fire of punk needn’t be fueled by small-minded, two-chord simplicity, and the genre never really snapped back to the narrow boundaries that had previously defined it. The Clash were the thinking man’s punk group and also the rock fan’s punk group, and those crossovers made them the object of punk suspicion and scorn. But nearly three decades later, London Calling stands as a slice of pure rock & roll rebellion that helped redeem the artistic ambitions of the very punks that sneered at it on release.

Released in mid-December of 1979, London Calling was both the last album of the 70’s and the first album of the 80’s – a great, solid bridge between two very different decades of music, and one of the very best albums ever recorded.

Listen: Revolution Rock

Listen: Clampdown

Listen: London Calling

Weekend Playlist

18 May 2009

It was so hot this weekend in the Bay Area that The P and I just sat in front of the turntable and a fan, and melted into puddles. Here’s some of what we melted to…

Front 242 | Front By Front
Front 242 | Front By Front

Grootna | Grootna
Grootna | Grootna

Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen | Lost In The Ozone
Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen | Lost In The Ozone

Various Artists | Darker Than Blue: Soul From Jamdown 1973-1980
Various Artists | Darker Than Blue: Soul From Jamdown 1973-1980

Various Artists | Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus Soundtrack
Various Artists | Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus Soundtrack

Roots Manuva | Run Come Save Me
Roots Manuva | Run Come Save Me

Eddie Vedder | Into The Wild Soundtrack
Eddie Vedder | Into The Wild

Massive Attack | Protection
Massive Attack | Protection

Spank Rock | Yo Yo Yo Yo Yo
Spank Rock | Yo Yo Yo Yo Yo

Atmosphere | Seven's Travels
Atmosphere | Seven’s Travels

My Morning Jacket | Z
My Morning Jacket | Z

Fred Neil | Bleecker & MacDougal
Fred Neil | Bleecker & MacDougal

M. Ward | Hold Time
M. Ward | Hold Time

Santana | Abraxas
Santana | Abraxas

Otis Rush | Right Place, Wrong Time
Otis Rush | Right Place, Wrong Time

The Clash | Sandinista!
The Clash | Sandinista!

Fleetwood Mac | Then Play On
Fleetwood Mac | Then Play On

Nina Simone | The Best Of Nina Simone
Nina Simone | The Best Of Nina Simone

The Beach Boys | The Beach Boys Today!
The Beach Boys | The Beach Boys Today!

Various Artists | Ghana Soundz
Various Artists | Ghana Soundz

Pink Floyd | Animals
Pink Floyd | Animals

Otis Redding | In Person At The Whisky A Go Go
Otis Redding | In Person At The Whisky A Go Go

Gary Higgins | Red Hash
Gary Higgins | Red Hash

Paul Simon | Rhythm Of The Saints
Paul Simon | The Rhythm Of The Saints

Jimmy Forrest | Out Of The Forrest
Jimmy Forrest | Out Of The Forrest

John Fahey | The Best Of John Fahey 1959-1977
John Fahey | The Best Of John Fahey 1959-1977

Weekend Playlist

20 April 2009

Here’s a sampling of some of the music The P and I got into over the weekend…

Various Artists | Superfly Soul
Various Artists | Superfly Soul

Chet Baker | In Paris: The Barclay Sessions 1955-1956
Chet Baker | In Paris: Barclay Sessions 1955-1956

Peter Tosh | Equal Rights
Peter Tosh | Equal Rights

Brazilian Girls | Brazilian Girls
Brazilian Girls | Brazilian Girls

ESG | A South Bronx Story
ESG | A South Bronx Story

Simon And Garfunkel | Bridge Over Troubled Water
Simon And Garfunkel | Bridge Over Troubled Water

Bonniwell Music Machine | Ignition
Bonniwell Music Machine | Ignition

Fela Kuti
Fela Anikulapo Kuti & The Africa 70 | Up Side Down
[cover not pictured]

The Black Keys | Thickfreakness
The Black Keys | Thickfreakness

The Cars | Greatest Hits
The Cars | Greatest Hits

Steve Earle | Washington Square Serenade
Steve Earle | Washington Square Serenade

Dillard & Clark | The Fantastic Expedition Of Dillard & Clark
Dillard & Clark | The Fantastic Expedition Of Dillard & Clark

Lee Dorsey | Yes We Can
Lee Dorsey | Yes We Can

Tony Joe White | Tony Joe
Tony Joe White | Tony Joe

Babe Ruth | First Base
Babe Ruth | First Base

HP Lovecraft | HP Lovecraft
HP Lovecraft | HP Lovecraft

The Meters | Look-Ka Py Py
The Meters | Look-Ka Py Py

The Clash | Live At Shea Stadium
The Clash | Live At Shea Stadium

Atmosphere | Seven's Travels
Atmosphere | Seven’s Travels

Nas | Illmatic
Nas | Illmatic

A Dozen Pieces Of Sound Advice

12 February 2009


When it comes to words of wisdom, musicians are generally full of shit. Most are too busy rhyming ‘moon’ with ‘June’, spouting third-rate philosophy (think Sting) or pontificating on matters beyond their realm (think Bono) to offer much in the way of sound advice that a body can live with. But the dearth of deep thoughts in rock only makes the genuine pearls of wisdom shine that much brighter. Here are a dozen of my favorites…

Bob Dylan | Bringing It All Back Home
The artist: Bob Dylan

The song: ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ (from the album Bringing It All Back Home)

The advice: You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

What makes it good: In typically cryptic fashion, Dylan speaks to the value of thinking for yourself, and puts a cool hippie twist on Mom’s old favorite: If All Your Friends Jumped Off A Cliff, Would You?

Listen: Subterranean Homesick Blues

The Fabulous Johnny Cash
The artist: Johnny Cash

The song: ‘Don’t Take Your Guns To Town’ (from the album The Fabulous Johnny Cash)

The advice: Don’t take your guns to town.

What makes it good: As Plaxico Burress can tell you, these are words to abide by…

Listen: Don’t Take Your Guns To Town

Woody Guthrie | Dust Bowl Ballads
The artist: Woody Guthrie

The song: ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’ (from the album Dust Bowl Ballads)

The advice: Some will rob you with a six gun, and some with a fountain pen.

What makes it good: Leave it to a man from The Great Depression to sum up the current economic mess. Bank bailout anyone??

Listen: Pretty Boy Floyd

Supertramp | Breakfast In America
The artist: Supertramp

The song: ‘Take The Long Way Home’ (from the album Breakfast In America)

The advice: Take the long way home.

What makes it good: Modern life often feels like a race – it never hurts to slow things down and look around some.

Listen: Take The Long Way Home

Lynyrd Skynyrd | Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd
The artist: Lynyrd Skynyrd

The song: ‘Simple Man’ (from the album Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd)

The advice: Take your time, don’t live to fast. Troubles will come, and they will pass.

What makes it good: Those words speak for themselves…

Listen: Simple Man [Live]

Funkadelic | America Eats Its Young
The artist: Funkadelic

The song: ‘If You Don’t Like The Effects, Don’t Produce The Cause’ (from the album America Eats Its Young)

The advice: If you don’t like the effects, don’t produce the cause.

What makes it good: George Clinton shares a simple formula for happiness.

Listen: If You Don’t Like The Effects, Don’t Produce The Cause

The Clash | Combat Rock
The artist: The Clash

The song: ‘Know Your Rights’ (from the album Combat Rock)

The advice: Know your rights.

What makes it good: A well-informed citizen is a good citizen.

Listen: Know Your Rights

Beatles - Revolver
The artist: The Beatles

The song: ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ (from the album Revolver)

The advice: Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.

What makes it good: Stress kills…

Listen: Tomorrow Never Knows

Jim Croce | Photographs & Memories
The artist: Jim Croce

The song: ‘You Don’t Mess Around With Jim’ (from the album Photographs & Memories: Jim Croce’s Greatest Hits)

The advice: Don’t spit into the wind.

What makes it good: Beyond the literal interpretation, this is a good reminder to pick your battles wisely.

Listen: You Don’t Mess Around With Jim

The Rolling Stones | Let It Bleed
The artist: The Rolling Stones

The song: ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ (from the album Let It Bleed)

The advice: You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.

What makes it good: Might as well get used to little defeats – life is full of ‘em.

Listen: You Can’t Always Get What You Want

John Phillips | John, The Wolfking Of L.A.
The artist: John Phillips

The song: ‘Holland Tunnel’ (from the album John The Wolfking Of L.A.)

The advice: Hock your watch and ring, ’cause it don’t mean a thing.

What makes it good: Shiny trinkets are not what happiness is made of…

Listen: Holland Tunnel

Music From Under The Cherry Moon
The artist: Prince

The song: ‘Kiss’ (from the album Parade: Music From Under The Cherry Moon)

The advice: You don’t have to watch Dynasty to have an attitude.

What makes it good: An open invitation to work that sass…

Listen: Kiss

Magic Moment: The Clash Do ‘Magnificent Seven’

8 February 2009

Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon. Was there any cooler band in the late-70’s/early-80’s? Not a chance. In June of 1981 they played ‘Magnificent Seven’ – from their triple album Sandinista! – on The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder. You can be there with the click of a button…

Cheeseboiger!


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