Posts Tagged ‘Sex Pistols’

Doubleshot Tuesday: Never Mind The Bollocks/Nevermind

22 September 2009

[Today: Two atomic bombs...]

Sex Pistols | Never Mind The Bollocks
Nirvana | Nevermind

In the history of Rock & Roll, only a handful of albums have changed the landscape of music in a way that was both immediately obvious and historically significant. Over the last 35 years, I can come up with just five albums that fit this description. In chronological order, they are: 1) The Ramones’ self-titled debut, 2) Never Mind The Bollocks by the Sex Pistols, 3) Raising Hell by Run-DMC, 4) Appetite For Destruction by Guns N Roses, and 5) Nevermind by Nirvana.

It remains to be seen if this kind of effect can still be had in popular music, but increasingly fractured genres and extensive distribution networks make it seem like a phenomenon of the past. An album like Radiohead’s OK Computer, for instance, definitely changed the way that artists approached the construction of music, but it didn’t engender the kind of scorched earth, before-and-after dynamic that the aforementioned albums brought about.

For example, Never Mind The Bollocks and Nevermind represented instant sea changes in popular music – changes that weren’t just influential on other musicians, but instantly apparent to anyone paying even an iota of attention to music at the times of those releases. It’s remarkable that Nirvana named their 1991 album in homage to the Sex Pistols only full-length LP, because Nevermind finished the job that …Bollocks had started – namely, bringing Punk music into the mainstream.

Both albums exploded on the back of unlikely hit singles – The Sex Pistols incendiary ‘God Save The Queen’ and Nirvana’s generation-defining anthem ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. Both groups featured magnetic frontmen – Johnny Rotten and Kurt Cobain – who used anti-charisma to draw in fans like black holes. Both of these albums seemed like abrasive statements of anarchy on release, and only revealed their inner pop structures over time. And finally, both groups were doomed to short life spans, and collapsed under the strain of carrying the banner of change for musicians everywhere. Dropping the bomb on popular music is an act that ensures eternal fame, but it doesn’t come without casualties.

Listen: God Save The Queen [Sex Pistols]

Listen: Smells Like Teen Spirit [Nirvana]

Listen: Anarchy In The U.K. [Sex Pistols]

Listen: Come As You Are [Nirvana]

Weekend Playlist

23 February 2009

Here’s a sampling of what was in our ears over the weekend…

Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks
Sex Pistols | Never Mind The Bollocks

Woody Guthrie | Dust Bowl Ballads
Woody Guthrie | Dust Bowl Ballads

Downliners Sect | The Rock Sect's In
Downliners Sect | The Rock Sect’s In

Prince | Purple Rain
Prince | Purple Rain

Blackalicious | Nia
Blackalicious | Nia

Fred Eaglesmith | Lipstick, Lies & Gasoline
Fred Eaglesmith | Lipstick, Lies & Gasoline

Tom Waits | Swordfishtrombones
Tom Waits | Swordfishtrombones

Willard Grant Conspiracy | Everything's Fine
Willard Grant Conspiracy | Everything’s Fine

Old & In The Way | Old & In The Way
Old & In The Way | Old & In The Way

Lifesavas | Spirit In Stone
Lifesavas | Spirit In Stone

Groove Armada | Lovebox
Groove Armada | Lovebox

Minutemen | Double Nickels On The Dime
Minutemen | Double Nickels On The Dime

Nick Lowe | Basher: The Best Of
Nick Lowe | Basher: The Best Of

The Smiths | Hatful Of Hollow
The Smiths | Hatful Of Hollow

Joe Walsh | Look What I Did: The JW Anthology
Joe Walsh | Look What I Did: The JW Anthology

Mother's Finest | Not Yer Mother's Funk: The Very Best Of
Mother’s Finest | Not Yer Mother’s Funk: The Very Best Of

Various Artists | The Rhino Disco Box
Various Artists | The Rhino Disco Box

Lightnin' Slim | Rooster Blues
Lightnin’ Slim | Rooster Blues

John Prine | John Prine
John Prine | John Prine

Cold War Kids | Robbers & Cowards
Cold War Kids | Robbers & Cowards

Little Barrie | We Are Little Barrie
Little Barrie | We Are Little Barrie

Mazzy Star | So Tonight That I Migh See
Mazzy Star | So Tonight That I Might See

Terry Reid | River
Terry Reid | River

Gene Clark | No Other
Gene Clark | No Other

Wings | Wings Greatest
Wings | Wings Greatest

Bryan Sutton | Bluegrass Guitar
Bryan Sutton | Bluegrass Guitar

Manu Chao | Proxima Estacion... Esperanza
Manu Chao | Proxima Estacion… Esperanza

Massive Attack | Mezzanine
Massive Attack | Mezzanine

Outkast | Stankonia
Outkast | Stankonia

Various Artists | Brainfreeze Breaks
Various Artists | Brainfreeze Breaks

DJ Shadow | Endtroducing...
DJ Shadow | Entroducing…

Neu! | Neu!
Neu! | Neu! 75

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble | The Sky Is Crying
Stevie Ray Vaughan | The Sky Is Crying

R.L. Burnside | Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down
R.L. Burnside | Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down

Flying Burrito Bros | Gilded Palace Of Sin
Flying Burrito Brothers | Gilded Palace Of Sin

Sidestepper | 3AM (In Beats We Trust)
Sidestepper | 3AM (In Beats We Trust)

Dino Valente - Dino
Dino Valente | Dino Valente

John Legend | Get Lifted
John Legend | Get Lifted

Weekend Playlist

13 October 2008

Tales from my topographic turntable…


The Flying Burrito Brothers | The Gilded Palace Of Sin


Pink Floyd | Wish You Were Here


John Phillips | John Wolfking Of L.A.


Tosca | J.A.C.


Jungle Brothers | Done By The Forces Of Nature


O Brother Where Art Thou? | Soundtrack


Dire Straits | Brothers In Arms


Bob Dylan | Infidels


Macy Gray | The Id


DJ Shadow | The Private Press


The Pharaohs | In The Basement


Sex Pistols | There Is No Future


The White Stripes | Elephant


Yo La Tengo | I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One


Jerry Garcia Band | Jerry Garcia Band


David Bowie | ChangesBowie


Repo Man | Soundtrack


Jimi Hendrix | The Cry Of Love


The Beatles | Rubber Soul

The 20 Greatest Debut Albums Of All-Time

17 August 2008

Some are born to sweet delight,
some are born to endless night.
” – William Blake

*****

Some artists just get it right the first time. The debut album is meant to be a stepping stone to future greatness, but sometimes the pieces come together and magic is made on the first try. A great debut is no guarantee of future success (Moby Grape, NY Dolls, Dr. Feelgood), and conversely some legendary artists have coughed up sub-par debuts (Neil Young, Prince, Radiohead), but is there anything more exciting than hearing a lights-out debut album by an exciting new band?

One ground-rule: solo debuts by artists in well-known groups were not considered here. The two most wrenching exclusions under this provision were Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks (he’d been part of Irish R&B sensation Them) and George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass (Harrison was the guitarist for a band from Liverpool who’s name I’m presently forgetting). Alas, the lines had to be drawn somewhere.

Here then are 20 debuts that captured a musical moment in time, launched a great career, or simply rocked from front to back, over and over again…


The Doors | The Doors (1967)

Introduced the world to the dark charisma of Jim Morrison through hits like ‘Light My Fire’ ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’ and ‘The End’. But the entire album is an assured and accomplished run through the sound that would make this group one of the biggest acts in rock.


The Jimi Hendrix Experience | Are You Experienced? (1967)

The electric guitar would never be the same after Jimi Hendrix dropped this love letter/anarchist manifesto on the world. ‘Purple Haze’ ‘Third Stone From The Sun’ and ‘Love Or Confusion’ are sonic assaults, while ‘The Wind Cries Mary’ and ‘Manic Depression’ show a masterful depth of touch. The axis of Jimi’s work would forevermore trace a line between boldness and loveliness.


Moby Grape | Moby Grape (1967)

Columbia Records loved Moby Grape so much that they decided to take the unprecedented step of releasing five singles at the same time. This so confused the record-buying public that the album tanked, sending the band into an artistic spiral from which it wouldn’t recover.


Captain Beefheart | Safe As Milk (1967)

From the blues/rock of ‘Sure Nuff ‘N Yes, I Do’ and ‘Zig Zag Wanderer’ to the straight doo-wop of ‘I’m Glad’ and ‘Call On Me’ to the savant ramblings of ‘Autumn’s Child’ and ‘Dropout Boogie’, Safe As Milk serves as a roadmap to the many places the good Cap’n would visit during his eccentric career.


The Band | Music From Big Pink (1968)

Music From Big Pink is a timeless masterpiece that changed the direction of rock music in the late 60′s. The Band eschewed psychedelic noodling in favor of solid roots rock, and inspired albums such as Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, Let It Bleed and the White Album.


Led Zeppelin | Led Zeppelin (1969)

Led Zep’s brand of bombastic blues rock may have sounded radical in the late 60′s, but it became the cornerstone for harder bands to come. The first of four self-titled albums is overshadowed by later releases, but ‘Dazed And Confused’ and ‘Communication Breakdown’ are among their heaviest songs, and ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’ and ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby’ among their purest blues.


Nick Drake | Five Leaves Left (1969)

Nick Drake sang melancholy, confessional folk songs that came from the bottom of his heart. Five Leaves Left is light as a feather, but cuts like a scalpel, and while it sounds rather spare, it has much more musical accompaniment than either of the other two albums Drake would release during his short life.


Black Sabbath | Black Sabbath (1970)

If Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode “could play the guitar just like a ringing a bell” then Sabbath guitiarist Tony Iommi played the guitar just like he was ringing the bell of doom. Ozzy Osbourne sang like a demented loon, and Black Sabbath helped build the temple of heavy metal. This is the first brick…


John Prine | John Prine (1971)

Prine was among the unfortunate handful of talented singer/songwriters of the late-60′s to be hung with the title of the “New Dylan”. On his debut, Prine showed the songwriting chops to earn that comparison, but songs like ‘Illegal Smile’ ‘Hello In There’ and ‘Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore’ flashed a wit that Dylan would rarely display after Highway 61 Revisited.


Steely Dan | Can’t Buy A Thrill (1972)

In the grand tradition of Tropicalia music, Steely Dan disguised biting social commentary as mainstream pop fluff. ‘Do It Again’ raps about addiction, ‘Kings’ compares Nixon and JFK, ‘Midnite Cruiser’ is about growing old – and that’s just part of side one of Can’t Buy A Thrill. The Dan would create more sophisticated music, but none that sounded better.


Patti Smith | Horses (1975)

“Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine” might just rank as the greatest opening line of any debut album in rock history. With that vivid declaration, poet/priestess Patti Smith expanded the scope of what constituted rock and who could be a rock star, and brought a genuinely artistic attitude to a genre (punk) that prided itself on artlessness.


Ramones | Ramones (1976)

By reducing rock and roll to its base elements – 2 minute songs, leather jackets, and absolutely no solos – the Ramones led the way for a fledgling musical movement called punk rock. In 14 songs and just less than 29 minutes, their debut album revolutionized and breathed new life into popular music.


Sex Pistols | Never Mind The Bollocks (1977)

John Lydon understood that everyone loves a good villain, and he did his best to oblige. The Pistols were provocative, but they also made great music – Steve Jones’ layered guitar amounts to a Phil Spector-ish wall of punk, and still sounds fresh three decades later. A musical supernova, this group left behind just one perfectly anarchist album. Bollocks!


Van Halen | Van Halen (1978)

Van Halen was a four-headed rock and roll beast that came roaring out of the Los Angeles club scene during the mid-70′s. By the time they released their self-titled debut album, they were a well-seasoned live band, and Eddie Van Halen was a guitar god on arrival. Van Halen is loaded with great riffs, amazing tunes, and plenty of David Lee Roth’s groaning and gyrating. A classic party starter…


Joy Division | Unknown Pleasures (1979)

Ian Curtis was one glum dude. He dabbled in Nazi imagery, suffered from severe epilepsy and depression, and hung himself at age 23 in May of 1980, on the eve of Joy Division’s first tour of the United States. Unknown Pleasures is the sound of a bad dream, a horror movie, a primal scream – and just another day in the short, unhappy life of Ian Curtis.


Dead Kennedys | Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables (1980)

Jello Biafra really knows how to piss people off. Like Jonathan Swift, Biafra is a social satirist of the highest order, matching his uber-liberal lyrics with the Kennedys’ high octane punk to startling effect. ‘Kill The Poor’ ‘Holiday In Cambodia’ and ‘California Uber Alles’ constituted some of the best political commentary of the 80′s. The band would eventually end up fighting obscenity charges in a lengthy court case that bankrupted them.


Guns ‘N Roses | Appetite For Destruction (1987)

When punk rock cornered the market on nasty in the late-70′s, regular rock-n-roll lost its swagger for the next decade. It took Appetite For Destruction to reintroduce rock fans to razor blade guitar riffs, scandalous lyrical content, and a lead singer who just didnt’ give a f*ck. It felt damned good, and songs like ‘Mr Brownstone’ ‘It’s So Easy’ and ‘Rocket Queen’ still have the power to kick your ass.


Eric B & Rakim | Paid In Full (1987)

Paid In Full isn’t just one of the best debut albums of all-time, it’s also one of the greatest Hip-Hop albums ever produced, period. This masterpiece saw MC Rakim Allah displaying an effortless yet incredible verbal dexterity on the mic, while DJ Eric B spun pioneering beats that popularized the sampling of James Brown records. This album is so good that it’s a natural dividing line between Hip-Hop’s old and new schools.


Massive Attack | Blue Lines (1991)

Massive Attack’s debut seemingly came from a new place – half hip-hop and half electronica – that charted a fresh course for both genres. Tricky, Horace Andy, and Shara Nelson each took thrilling turns behind the mic for this shape-shifting musical entity. And while the album was a radical departure in its time, ‘Safe From Harm’ ‘Be Thankful For What You Got’ and ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ are slow-burning gems that still sound contemporary.


Jeff Buckley | Grace (1994)

Every track on Grace cuts to the quick about love lost (including the definitive reading of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’) and the entire album is nothing less than the sound of a human heart falling to pieces, one fragile, intricate piece at a time. Buckley drowned during a midnight swim the day before he was due to record his second album, so we’ll never know what kind of music he might have made. But Grace is such a unique and lovely masterpiece that it’s hard to see how he could have topped it.

*****

And 40 more outstanding debuts…

Elvis Presley | Elvis Presley (1956)
Rolling Stones | England’s Newest Hit Makers (1964)
The Byrds | Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
Fred Neil | Bleecker & MacDougal (1965)
Neil Diamond | Just For You (1967)
Dr. John | Gris Gris (1968)
Funkadelic | Funkadelic (1970)
Lynyrd Skynyrd | Pronounced Leh*Nerd Skin*Nerd (1973)
Bob Marley & The Wailers | Catch A Fire (1973)
New York Dolls | New York Dolls (1973)
Tom Waits | Closing Time (1973)
Dr. Feelgood | Down By The Jetty (1975)
The Modern Lovers | The Modern Lovers (1976)
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers | Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (1976)
The Clash | The Clash (1977)
Talking Heads | Talking Heads: 77 (1977)
The Cars | The Cars (1978)
Dire Straits | Dire Straits (1978)
The Undertones | The Undertones (1979)
Black Flag | Damaged (1981)
Metallica | Kill ‘Em All (1983)
Stevie Ray Vaughan | Texas Flood (1983)
Beastie Boys | Licensed To Ill (1986)
Public Enemy | Yo! Bum Rush The Show (1987)
Nirvana | Bleach (1989)
Stone Roses | Stone Roses (1989)
The Black Crowes | Shake Your Money Maker (1990)
Pearl Jam | Ten (1991)
PJ Harvey | Dry (1992)
Wu Tang Clan | Enter The Wu Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
Nas | Illmatic (1994)
DJ Shadow | Endtroducing… (1996)
Queens Of The Stone Age | Queens Of The Stone Age (1998)
The Strokes | Is This It (2001)
Kings Of Leon | Youth & Young Manhood (2003)
Arcade Fire | Funeral (2004)
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah | Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (2005)
LCD Soundsystem | LCD Soundsystem (2005)
Bon Iver | For Emma Forever Ago (2008)
Fleet Foxes | Fleet Foxes (2008)

*****

Further reading…

Gibson.com – Instant Karma: 10 Great Debut Albums
Uncut – The 100 Greatest Debut Albums
Listology – Greatest Debut Albums

Stranded: Rock And Roll For A Desert Island

31 May 2008

The ‘desert island album’ was already a dusty cliche by the time Greil Marcus asked 20 writers to submit essays on the topic in 1978. The resulting book, Stranded: Rock And Roll For A Desert Island, features the writers that Marcus most wanted to work with at the time, including critics known (Lester Bangs, Nick Tosches, Langdon Winner, Dave Marsh, and others) and unknown (Ariel Swartley? Grace Lichtenstein? Joe McEwen? Tom Smucker?). As you might expect, the essays are hit and miss, depending on who you’re stuck on that island with.

One critic (Lichtenstein) chose to strand herself with The Eagles’ Desperado, which led me to contemplate – for the first time in my life – the phrase ‘If I were stuck on a desert island with an Eagles album, I’d ____________’ (in case you’re curious, some representative answers were a) drown myself, b) go raving mad, and c) break the thing over my knee).

On the positive side, Langdon Winner makes an excellent case for Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica as the perfect desert island album. According to him, “[it] offers two features that other records do not: 1) an enormous variety of musical puzzles that require a considerable amount of time and concentration to figure out, and 2) a seemingly inexhaustible supply of unfinished ideas that one can fill in oneself.” Winner’s essay doesn’t just stand out in this collection, it’s perhaps the most persuasive argument ever put forth on behalf of Beefheart’s offbeat classic.

Stranded is stunning in its lack of musical breadth, and shows how many critics of the day were drinking directly from the same punch bowl. The Rolling Stones and Van Morrison each get two essays, and the four black artists represented were pre-Beatles artifacts. Very little of the music represented here lives outside the rock canon of the 60′s and 70′s. Robert Christgau laments as much in his forward to the 1995 edition (pictured above), “It would be nice to encounter James Brown or George Clinton or Public Enemy in this context.”

A profane phrase in Nick Tosches’ essay on Sticky Fingers offended the publisher so much that publication of the book was delayed by nearly a year. To his credit, Marcus refused to let the book be released without the offending phrase. If all the essays included here had the wit and edge of Tosches’ piece, this would really be something. Yet as it stands, Stranded is a book that all too often leaves you feeling just that.

*****

AND THE OBVIOUS QUESTION: What’s your desert island album?

*****

Some great answers…

Dire Straits - album
Gene says Dire Straits: “…[an] excellent air guitar album — and when you’re on a desert island you don’t have to worry about being seen…”

The Wall - album
Rob M says The Wall: “…every time I listen to that album, I hear something I never heard before…”

Josh Ritter - album
kdub says Golden Age Of Radio: “…two of my DI albums would be two you introduced me to: Alabama 3’s Exile on Coldharbour Lane and Josh Ritter’s Golden Age of Radio.”

Bad Brains - album
Punker Foo says Bad Brains: “The range of this album is fantastic and it has so much raw material to work with, it is to the music lover what a set of Lincoln Logs would be to a stranded architect.”

Tribe Called Quest - album

EZ Rawlins says People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm: “…deep, wide, and soulful. It’s a journey.”

Sex Pistols - album
DancingTool says Never Mind The Bollocks: “It’s the perfect blend of anger and frustration with just enough pop riffs to keep me from talking to a volleyball.”

War Of The Worlds - album
Jimmy James says War Of The Worlds: “Richard Burton narrating War Of The Worlds. Incredible.”

Sgt. Peppers - album
CindyPinc In The Stink says Sgt Peppers: “I’ve already proved to myself that I can listen to it over and over and over and over again and never lose interest.”

Matthew Sweet - album
Cordell says Girlfriend: “Now I’m going to have trouble sleeping as I sit and wonder if I chose correctly.”

Pelican West - album
Pricklee Pete says Pelican West: “…it’s an album that will always make me feel good even when I’m pondering how high up my leg I’ll need to amputate to keep the gangrene at bay.”

Nick Drake - album
Rob F says Five Leaves Left: “…if only for Cello Song which, despite the fact I’ve heard it a million times, never, ever fails to make my bones ache (in a good way).”

Police - album
Dylan says Zenyatta Mondatta: “Solid songs start to finish.”

Elvis Costello - album
LC says The Very Best Of Elvis Costello & The Attractions: “It has the right song for almost every emotion.”

London Calling - album
RKelly says London Calling: “It’s a no-brainer.”

Too $hort - album
Arlo Chingaderas says Life Is… Too $hort: “A true west coast classic.”

Beatles - album
jkg says Abbey Road: “I can rediscover songs on that record over and over again.”

A Dozen Great Band Logos

12 February 2008

A great band logo makes everybody happy. It gives music fans a ready symbol by which they can express their undying love, while providing bands with a logo they can plaster onto mountains of merchandise. The best logos become synonyms for the bands they represent, and often provide a visual representation of the sound of the band in question. Here are 12 that stand out from the crowd:

Stones - logo
The Rolling Stones - The Stones’ logo is the Nike Swoosh of Rock – it’s instantly identified with the group the world over. The fact that it resembles a certain lead singer doesn’t detract from its considerable charm.

Dead - logo
The Grateful Dead - The ‘steal your face’ design is just one of many signifiers the group has used throughout their long, strange trip. Dancing bears, skulls and roses, various turtles, and a cornucopia of other colorful images have covered their merchandise, but it’s the skull with the lightning bolt that instantly reads Dead.

Black Flag - logo
Black Flag – Using just four simple bars, Black Flag’s logo completely conveys the hardass, take-no-prisoners edge that runs through all their music. Artist Raymond Pettibon is the brother of group founder Greg Ginn.

Ramones - logo
Ramones - Da Brudders’ logo features a suspiciously Presidential-looking seal that features an eagle holding a baseball bat and a ribbon bearing the inscription ‘Hey Ho Let’s Go’. Perfect for the first family of punk…

KISS - logo
KISS - Disclaimer: my brother and I both marched in the KISS Army, so I’ve been under the sway of these four letters for decades. The band took this logo to the bank – literally, with one of the most aggressive and successful merchandising efforts in the history of music.

Public Enemy logo
Public Enemy – PE makes serious hip-hop about serious issues, so this logo works like a charm. Every element of the group – from their dancers’ fake Uzis to the Bomb Squad’s production to this emblem – screams revolution. If you’re not part of the solution, you better duck.

AC/DC logo
AC/DC - The lightning bolt and pronged type brilliantly and simply pay off the electrical theme of the band’s name. But the typeface is also imbued with a middle-ages, Latin gravitas that fits the band’s heavy sound.

DK - logo
Dead Kennedys - This logo owes more than a passing debt of inspiration to the scratched ‘A’ that stands as the symbol for anarchy. Which is just about right for any band fronted by funnyman and anarchist-wannabe Jello Biafra.

The Who - logo
The Who - The group’s sound is based in the mid-60′s mod movement, and so is this classic logo. The arrow pushing upward out of the ‘O’ gives this logo a feeling of motion and freedom (or at least that’s what I’d say if I were an art director).

Ween - logo
Ween - It’s hard to tell whether Ween’s logo (named ‘Boognish’) has been sniffing glue or is just rocking out. Either way, it’s an excellent expression of the fun that’s to be had from this band of would-be brothers.

Sex Pistols - logo
Sex Pistols - Artist Jamie Reid’s design work for the Sex Pistols provided the band with a graphically interesting look that would be become visually synonymous with an entire genre of music. The ransom-note style lettering conveys both the DIY philosophy of punk and the menace to be found within the music.

RHCP - logo
Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Chili Peppers’ asterik is a simple but strong design element that the group has employed in a variety of ways. Created on a whim by lead singer Anthony Keidis (who’d been asked for a logo by the group’s promotions team) it is often referred to as the “angel’s asshole”.

*****

Further reading:
IntuitiveDesigns.net runs down the Top 10 Rock Band Logos.
This blog is totally dedicated to band logos.

*****

There are a lot of great band logos out there. Which did I overlook??

Op-Ed: Punk’s Dream Deferred

28 October 2007

“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up – like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore – And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over – like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags – like a heavy load. Or does it explode?” – Langston Hughes

Sex Pistols - picture

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols. The Pistols’ express purpose was to destroy the music industry from within, but after this lone LP and a disastrous tour of the United States, it was the band who bit the big one. Bollocks… effectively painted them into a corner regarding their nihilistic rhetoric. It was a great – ridiculously great – album, but it was still just amped up rock & roll, and it didn’t really change anything. The industry didn’t die. It fed on the corpse of The Pistols and their punk brethren, and continues to do so, in the form of re-issues, compilations, and box sets. Rather than killing the giant, punk music ended up nourishing it and helping it grow like Jack’s beanstalk.

Thirty years to the month after The Pistols released their manifesto, another – albeit less surly and antagonistic – British band has stuck a well-placed, perhaps fatal, dagger into a reeling, bloated industry. By making their new album, In Rainbows, available for download online, allowing fans to decide what (or if) to pay for it, and circumventing the industry altogether, Radiohead have plucked a DIY chord that other artists seem eager to emulate. Nine Inch Nails and Madonna have already announced plans to do likewise and release subsequent albums independently. Many others are sure to follow suit.

Whether this can become a realistic business template for less established artists remains to be determined. But one thing is clear: by setting up a simple website and giving their music to their fans, Radiohead have struck a major blow for artistic control, and changed the way that musicians will do business with their fans in the future.

It’s an accomplishment that every punk can applaud – and be downright envious of.

Listen: House Of Cards

The Top 40 Punk Albums Of All-Time – The Cover Art

10 October 2007

Here is the cover art for my compilation The Top 40 Punk Albums Of All-Time. This mix is a couple of years old, and while it inspired this post, the blog write up is a generation or two removed from the original, and includes several different album choices.

This cover was totally inspired by Jamie Reid‘s classic artwork for the Sex Pistols in the 70′s. I printed out a color picture of the safety pin, and then added the cutout newpaper letters to this, one by one. I then color-copied that and sized it down to cd cover size. I figured the punk ‘zine look would probably be my only chance to use my lousy handwriting on one of my mixes (and get away with it) so that’s the back cover.

Not perfect, but it’s something…

Here’s the front cover:
Punk - front
[This is a scanned version of the original cover - much darker than the original.]

Here’s the back cover:
Punk - tray

Here’s the track listing:

40 – Devo * Gut Feeling
39 – Buzzcocks * Ever Fallen In Love…
38 – The Seeds * Pushin’ Too Hard
37 – The Cure * Three Imaginary Boys
36 – Germs * Lexicon Devil
35 – Mission Of Burma * Secrets
34 – The Heartbreakers * One Track Mind
33 – Richard Hell & The Voidoids * Blank Generation
32 – Husker Du * Never Talking To You Again
31 – The Cars * Don’t Cha Stop
30 – Ramones * Cretin Hop
29 – Pixies * Crackity Jones
28 – The Dils * Blow Up
27 – XTC * Making Plans For Nigel
26 – Wire * Dot Dash
25 – Black Flag * Rise Above
24 – Circle Jerks * When The Shit Hits The Fan
23 – NY Dolls * Personality Crisis
22 – The Jam * The Modern World
21 – Dead Kennedys * Let’s Lynch The Landlord
20 – Patti Smith * Gloria
19 – Fear * Let’s Have A War
18 – Gang Of Four * Damaged Goods
17 – Talking Heads * New Feeling
16 – Nirvana * About A Girl
15 – X * In This House That I Call Home
14 – Joy Division * Transmission
13 – Bad Brains * Banned In D.C.
12 – The Saints * I’m (Stranded)
11 – Velvet Underground * Rock & Roll
10 – Radio Birdman * Murder City Nights
9 – Monks * Monk Time
8 – The Undertones * I Gotta Getta
7 – The Modern Lovers * Roadrunner
6 – The Stooges * T.V. Eye
5 – Buzzcocks * Autonomy
4 – Minutemen * #1 Hit Song
3 – The Clash * Brand New Cadillac
2 – Sex Pistols * Bodies
1 – Ramones * Blitzkrieg Bop

The 20 Greatest Bootlegs† Of All-Time

9 September 2007

†[’Bootleg’ is defined here as a previously unreleased work, such as a concert or a collection of demo recordings. A ‘pirated’ recording is an illegal copy of a copyrighted work. In other words, 'bootleg' good, 'pirate' bad.]

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“Taste cannot be controlled by law.” – Thomas Jefferson

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The term ‘bootlegging’ orignally referred to moonshine whiskey that was made and sold during prohibition, but the act of copying the artistic works of others goes back to Shakespearean times. In fact, if it weren’t for actors smuggling scripts, and audience members transcribing lines (the renaissance equivalent of wearing a mic into a concert) many of Shakespeare’s plays wouldn’t have survived to modern times.

In 1966 some enterprising souls marketed a set of alternate recordings by Bob Dylan under the title Great White Wonder. These records marked the first rock bootlegs (live opera, classical, jazz and folk had been recorded for years) and started a sensation that persists to this day.

Clinton Heylin’s excellent book Bootleg: The Secret History Of The Other Recording Industry is a must read for anyone with even a shred of interest in the topic. Bootleg weaves a spellbinding narrative around the renegades, music-lovers and money-grubbers who have perpetuated this black market industry.

Heylin’s book was written in 1994, so it ends before the advent of affordable recordable CDs, Napster, mp3s, and RIAA lawsuits against downloaders of music. These developments have made bootlegs much more readily accessible to the lay listener. Indeed, many savvy musicians now set up websites that allow their fans to download shows and demos – often at a price.

While some in the music industry claim that bootleg recordings eat into artist profits, in almost every case someone downloading a show will spend – or has spent – money buying the studio albums of the artist in question. Indeed, as bootlegs have become more readily available, it’s easier than ever to see that only the die-hard fans are interested in most of the marginalia floating around.

But for those with an insatiable desire for music, these below the board recordings are something of a Rosetta stone, used to try to unlock the hidden secrets of their favorite bands. Live music being what it is, you never know when a magic moment might occur. Thankfully, there’s usually somebody in the audience hiding a mic, and capturing this fleeting magic for the rest of us.

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Lou Reed | American Poet

Lou Reed * 12/26/72 Ultrasonic Studios, Hempstead NY
(aka American Poet or Despite All The Amputations or Streets Of Berlin)

This is the show that every Lou Reed fan would love to see. It’s got minimal attitude, lots of great songs (including a generous smattering of hits) and FM quality sound.

Also check out: 6/22/03 The Warfield, San Francisco CA

Neil Young | Chrome Dreams

Neil Young * Chrome Dreams

This would-be 1976 release contains alternate takes of songs that would appear on American Stars and Bars, Comes A Time, Rust Never Sleeps, and Hawks & Doves.

Also check out: 5/16/74 Bottom Line, NYC & 11/15/76 Auditorium Theater, Chicago IL

The Rolling Stones | LiveR Than You'll Ever Be

The Rolling Stones * Live R Than You’ll Ever Be (11/9/69 Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA)

The first concert bootleg album – many still consider it to be the definitive live document of the Stones experience.

Also check out: The Alternate Exile On Main St. (aka Arcives Pathfinder) & The Trident Olympic Sessions, Volumes 1 & 2

Van Halen | Zero
Van Halen * Zero

The demos for Van Halen’s first album prove that the group was fully formed and ready to rip on their very moment of arrival. KISS’ Gene Simmons put the money up for these sessions, and he must have been very pleased with what he heard.

Also check out: 5/29/83 US Festival, Devore CA

Lynyrd Skynyrd | The Unreleased KBFH Show

Lynyrd Skynyrd * 11/4/75 Capitol Theater, Cardiff Wales (aka The Unreleased KBFH Show)

One of the best live groups of the 70’s swashbuckle their way through a great set. A ferociously focused band and sparkling sound quality make this the ultimate Skynyrd experience. Ronnie Van Zandt is pure badass, of course.

Also check out: 3/7/76 Winterland, San Francisco CA

Bob Dylan | Ten Of Swords [Box Set]

Bob Dylan * Ten Of Swords (Box Set)

Beautifully packaged box set of rarities was issued a few months before Dylan’s own Biograph box; many critics felt this was the better release.

Also check out: The Genuine Basement Tapes

Traffic | Fillmore East 11/18/70

Traffic * 11/18/70 Fillmore East, NYC

Bill Graham intones, “In association with her majesty the queen, we bring you Traffic” someone titters, and you’re off. The sound just jumps out of the speakers, making this a perfect timepiece from the Fillmore East.

Also check out: 1/23/70 Anderson Theater, NYC (aka Woodwind)

Grateful Dead | Barton Hall, Cornell University 5/8/77

Grateful Dead * 5/8/77 Barton Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca NY

The, er, users on Deadbase rate this the greatest Dead show of all-time, and they know of what they speak. Versions are in circulation with Donna Godchaux’ voice digitally removed, but with or without her, it’s a fantastic show.

Also check out: 9/15/78 Gizah Sound & Light Theater, Cairo Egypt & San Diego, CA 11/14/73

The Beatles | The White Album Demos

The Beatles * 5/68 George Harrison’s Home, Esher England (aka The White Album Demos)

Listen in as the Fab Four take a dry run through the songs that would comprise the White Album – plus a few that didn’t make the cut. Below average sound quality, but well worth the trouble.

Also check out: The Alternate Revolver & 8/29/66 Candlestick Park, San Francisco CA

Pink Floyd | Total Eclipse [Box Set]

Pink Floyd * Total Eclipse (Box Set)

A comprehensive collection of rarities from 1967 to 1990 spread over 4 discs and lovingly packaged like a real box set, complete with liner notes. The 8-Track version of ‘Pigs On The Wing’ should have been mastered from a better source, but otherwise, this deserves an A+ for breadth alone.

Also check out: Brain Damage & 9/30/71 Paris Cinema, London (aka Meddler)

Hendrix - photo

Jimi Hendrix * 2/24/69 Royal Albert Hall, London

While most Hendrix boots are of questionable sound quality, this Royal Alert Hall show is crystal clear, and (of course) a virtuoso heavy guitar performance by the master himself.

Also check out: Acoustic Jams

Ramones | On The Road To Ruin

Ramones * On The Road To Ruin

The hardest working band in punk was fairly new to the road when these nuggets were plucked from the soundboard. Take a band that gave their all every night, factor in youthful energy, and then take the best of the best of that, and you’ve got this stone classic.

Also check out: X * 7/23/82 Clutch Cargo, Detroit MI

Hank Williams | Live At The Grand Ole Opry

Hank Williams * 1949 Grand Old Opry, Nashville TN

The best sound recordings have the power to literally whisk you back in time. This is one of my personal favorite episodes of this phenomenon. Pull up your 200lb radio and listen to Hank Sr. crank up the hits and change the face of modern music.

Also check out: Johnny Cash * Unreleased Acoustic Demos

Jimmy Page & Robert Plant [1974]

Led Zeppelin * 2/12/75 Madison Square Garden, NYC (aka Flying Circus)

Even better than the 1972 shows that made up How The West Was Won, 2/12/75 features Robert Plant in a great mood (and voice), the usual bevy of hot licks, and crystal clear sound quality.

Also check out: The Alternate Physical Graffiti (aka Brutal Artistry)

Sex Pistols | Never Mind The Filthy Lucre...

Sex Pistols * Never Mind The Filthy Lucre… Here’s The Sex Pistols

Filthy Lucre… interweaves songs from the Pistols’ last show ever (from Winterland) with hilarious snippets of a SF radio call in show featuring the band fielding calls from haters, groupies, loonies, and one guy who simply asks “What makes you guys so great?” Essential listening for any fan of punk.

Also check out: The Clash * I Fought The Law (aka 1/3/79 London Lyceum)

mmj - photo

My Morning Jacket * 5/28/04 Opera House, Toronto ONT

Of the nearly 100 MMJ shows available on Archive.org (if you love live music and don’t know about this site, do yourself a favor…) this takes the cake. A greatest hits-like set list, and above average sound do justice to a sizzling live band.

Also check out: Allman Brothers * 8/26/71 WPLJ-FM NYC

The Kleptones | A Night At The Hip Hopera

The Kleptones * A Night At The Hip-Hopera

This quantum level mash-up features hip hop’s best of backed by tasty power riffs courtesy of Queen. Spoken word segments from sources as far out as Dan Rather and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off add to the sense of joy ride.

Also check out: 24 Hours

KZEW | KZEW FREAK

KZEW (Dallas, TX) | Production Masters 1975

KZEW (Dallas, TX) Concert Promos * 1974-1979

A collection of 70′s concert promotion ads for Dallas/Ft. Worth radio station KZEW, these hilarious time capsules of rock hype are ready-made comic relief for your iPod or CD changer. The Alan Parsons Project and Aerosmith spots are particularly side splitting.

Also check out: There’s nothing quite like this one…

Calexico - photo

Calexico * 4/25/03 China Theater, Stockholm

Another steller outing from the Southwest’s finest. Calexico burn through a greatest hits-like set on a tape that is soundboard quality. This show also features a wide spectrum of guests and instrumentation to match the group’s cinematic vision.

Also check out: Michelle Shocked * 8/31/02 Strawberry Music Festival, Yosemite CA

White Stripes - photo

White Stripes * 3/1/01 Silver Lake, CA

There are plenty of really great Stripes shows out there, but this blistering set from 2001 gets the nod on set list alone. From ‘Dead Leaves & The Dirty Ground’ to ‘Jolene’, this is a fine representation of one the best live bands around.

Also check out: “Mississippi” John Hurt * 1955 Youngstown, OH

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20 more on the RIAA’s hit list…

Jeff Tweedy * 10/21/99 Chicago, IL
Bob Marley * 12/79 Santa Cruz, CA
AC/DC * 11/2/79 Hammersmith Odeon, London
Stevie Wonder * 7/4/73 Brighton, UK
Miles Davis * 11/6/67 Salle Pleyal, Paris
Beastie Boys * 5/22/92 Seabright, NJ
Radio Birdman * 11/30/77 Geelong, AU
Van Morrison * The Inner Mystic
Kings Of Convenience * 10/16/04
Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash * CBS Sessions – Nashville
Nirvana * 3/87 Raymond, WA
Eric Clapton * 6/6/04 Dallas, TX
The Yardbirds * More Golden Eggs
Iggy Pop * 8/20/88 The Ritz, NYC
Flying Burrito Brothers * 3/3/69 Avalon Ballroom SF
Elvis Presley * Elvis’ Greatest Shit
Steve Earle * 3/30/02 Byron Bay, AU
M. Ward * 9/22/06 Denton, TX
David Bowie * 10/20/72 Santa Monica, CA
Ween * 8/18/00 Bizarre Festival

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General releases packaged to look like bootlegs…


The Who * Live At Leeds


The Beatles * White Album


Aerosmith * Live Bootleg


Joy Division * Still


Pearl Jam * Live Releases (’00 series)


Sublime * Acoustic: Bradley Nowell & Friends


Led Zeppelin * In Through The Out Door


Pink Floyd * Wish You Were Here


Neil Young * Living With War

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Bootlegs that became legit releases…

Bob Dylan & The Band * The Basement Tapes
The Beatles * Live At The Hollywood Bowl
Sex Pistols * No Future
New York Dolls * Seven Day Weekend
Frank Zappa * Beat The Boots Series
Elvis Presley * The Sun Sessions
Iggy & The Stooges * Metallic KO
Bob Marley & The Wailers * At The Roxy
The last disc of every box set in existence

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Inspired by boots…

Beatles * Anthology I, II, & III
King Biscuit Flower Hour
Bob Dylan * Bootleg Series
Grateful Dead * Dick’s Picks Series
The last disc of every box set in existence

11 Incredibly Strange Collaborations

20 August 2007

Ah… the collaboration. It’s the musical equivalent of the old saw “one hand washes the other.” A guest spot is a great way for an artist (usually Paul McCartney) to help out an associate while staying in the public eye. Because there’s a certain amount of star power inherent in any true “collaboration” (non-starring collaborator = studio musician) and stars don’t go throwing their power around indiscriminately, many collaborations work quite well. They can bring together heavyweights (think McCartney and Michael Jackson), pit complementing voices against each other (Connor Oberst and Emmylou Harris), or match pleasingly oddball pairs (Art Of Noise and Max Headroom). Here however, are eleven collaborations that didn’t go quite so smoothly, and aren’t likely to be fondly remembered by many:


Axl Rose & Elton John

At the MTV video music awards in 1992, the man who penned the lyrics “Immigrants and faggots/They make no sense to me” performed a duet with the man who sang “Crocodile Rock” – and a nation wept.

Ronnie Biggs - single
Ronnie Biggs & The Sex Pistols

Almost immediately after Johnny Rotten left the Pistols, Malcolm McLaren came up with the hair-brained scheme of matching the remaining members of the group with notorious “great train robber” Ronnie Biggs. This was shortly before McLaren finally realized that the group consisted of more than just bailing wire and promotional genius.

Jacko/presley - photo
Michael Jackson & Lisa Marie Presley

Jackson and Presley’s 1994 stunt wedding slash cry in the dark for publicity wasn’t strictly a musical collaboration, but it nonetheless left us all scratching our heads in pure wonder.

Elvis/Nixon - pic
Elvis Presley & Richard Nixon

In December of 1970, Elvis arranged a meeting with President Nixon, where he offered to become a DEA deputy to help squash the distribution of drugs within the music industry (cue laugh track). This was clearly his effort to gain more legal means of obtaining and traveling with his own little slice of pharmacopia, but it made for one of the more interesting photo ops in modern history.

Metallica - album
Metallica & The San Francisco Symphony

This little gem has been alienating fans of metal, classical, and common sense since 1999.


David Bowie & Bing Crosby

While it’s hard to see what Bowie stood to gain from this collaboration, Crosby wisely took full advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform Christmas music with a creature from outer space.

Phil Collins - photo
Led Zeppelin & Phil Collins

When Zep reunited for Live Aid in 1985, they could have played with nearly any drummer in the world. They chose… Phil Collins. After playing an early set with Sting in London, Collins jumped on the Concorde and flew to Philadelphia, where he took part in Zeppelin’s anticlimactic set. This feat made Collins the first balding, overrated musician to play in front of unadoring fans on two continents in the same day. Bravo Phil!

Waits/Gayle - album
Tom Waits & Crystal Gayle

Waits’ 1982 collaboration with human hair farm Gayle gets solid reviews all around (allmusic.com gives it four & a half out of five stars), but fans of his normal whiskey-and-razorblades vocalizing will be thrown for a loop by it.

Eminem/Elton John - photo
Eminem & Elton John

Noted homophobe Marshall Mathers performed ‘Stan’ with noted homosexual Elton John at the 2001 Grammys. No word yet on when Eminem and Axl Rose are getting together to cut ‘Rocket Man’…

Brandon Cruz - photo
Dead Kennedys & Brandon Cruz

Former Courtship Of Eddie’s Father star Cruz (he played Eddie) had a background in the 80′s Los Angeles Punk scene, but was still an eyebrow raising choice to replace Jello Biafra as lead singer of the group from 2001 to 2003.

KLF - single
The KLF & Tammy Wynette

Ancient? Yes. Justified?? Not so much.


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