Is It Here to Stay? Rock’n’roll Considered


by Terry Teachout

via Commentary magazine

n May 9, 1964, Louis Armstrong’s recording of the title song from Hello, Dolly! became the best-selling single in America, leaping past the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Do You Want to Know a Secret?” to reach the top of Billboard’s pop chart. It would be the last jazz record, and the next-to-last show tune, to do so. When Armstrong’s “Hello, Dolly!” was replaced by Mary Wells’s “My Guy” a week later, an era—the one that has since come to be known as the “golden age” of American popular music—ended. Rock and roll, the preferred music of the baby boomers, thereafter supplanted golden-age popular song as the lingua franca of pop music in the U.S. and Europe.

Nothing stays popular forever, and by the ’90s, rock had in turn been supplanted by hip-hop as America’s top-selling pop-music genre. But the splintering of our common culture prevented hip-hop from developing into the new lingua franca. Instead, we now have many popular musics, none of which has anything remotely approaching the cultural dominance that was enjoyed by rock and roll for more than a quarter-century.

The surviving rock stars of the ’60s and ’70s are now in their own golden years, and their lives and work have become the subject of numerous biographies and journalistic histories. The latest, David Hepworth’s Never a Dull Moment: 1971, the Year that Rock Exploded, is a lively survey of the year that saw the release of such top-selling albums as Rod Stewart’s Every Picture Tells a Story, David Bowie’s Hunky Dory, Led Zeppelin IV, Harry Nilsson’s Nilsson Schmilsson, the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, Carole King’s Tapestry, and the Who’s Who’s Next.1 Hepworth, a veteran British rock journalist, contends that these albums constitute a “rock canon” that has proved to be of permanent artistic and cultural significance:

Many of the musicians who made those 1971 records are still playing today, in bigger venues than ever, in front of huge, multi-generational crowds made up of the children and even the grandchildren of their original fans . . . . These records are not just remarkably good and uniquely fresh; they have also enjoyed the benefit of being listened to more times than any recorded music in human history.


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Thelonious Monk Creates a List of Tips for Playing a Gig: “Don’t Listen to Me, I Am Supposed to Be Accompanying You!”


(via Open Culture)

We’re fascinated by lists. Other people’s lists. Even the ones left behind in shopping carts are interesting (Jarlsburg, Gruyere and Swiss? Must be making fondue.) But it’s the lists made by famous people that are the really good stuff.

It’s fun to peek into the private musings of people we admire. Johnny Cash’s “To Do” list sold for $6,400 at auction a couple of years ago and inspired the launch of Lists of Note, an affectionate repository of personal reminders, commandments and advice jotted by celebrities and other notables.

Most of the site’s best lists are in the “memo to self” category, some with tongue in cheek and others in earnest. But a few offer advice to others. Transcribed by soprano sax player Steve Lacy in a spiral-bound notebook, Thelonious Monk created a primer of do’s and don’ts for club musicians. For the greenhorns, Monk presented a syllabus for Band Etiquette 101 titled “1. Monk’s Advice (1960).” For the rest of us, it’s a view into one of the greatest, quirkiest minds of American music…

Read more:

Wedding Speeches 101


Credit for graphic to:

Recommended Albums #70


Phosphorescent: Here’s to Taking it Easy (2010)

While listening to the perfectly-titled Here’s to Taking it Easy by Matthew Houck, who records under the nom de plume of Phosphorescent, I can’t shake the feeling that this guy could be headed for Elliott Smith status someday.


With lilting, haunting melodies and simple, evocative lyrics sprawling lazily across relaxed, country-tinged arrangements, his songs have the effortless feel of Lucinda Williams’ best work.

When the layered harmonies join in on “Nothing Was Stolen” and “Mermaid Parade”, perfect unison is eschewed in favored of a sloppier, singalong feel that evokes The Band. This isn’t about perfect takes or instrumental virtuosity. It’s all about the feel, and the feel is reflective, forlorn, world-weary and somehow soothing at the same time.

The London Evening Standard praised Houck as “the most significant American in his field since Kurt Cobain.” And one Amazon reviewer observed:

“Phosphorescent’s Matthew Houck is probably one of those American writers and singers who knows that in ten years time a coterie of very hip young bands will record a huge tribute to his songs…and they will name check him as an influence”

If you wander through a Pro-Tools world with a 70’s vinyl heart, songs like “Mermaid Parade” will break that heart–in a good way.

Listen to: “Nothing Was Stolen (Love Me Foolishly)”

Listen to: “We’ll Be Here Soon”

Listen to: “The Mermaid Parade”

Listen to: “Tell Me Baby (Have You Had Enough)”

Listen to: “Heaven, Sittin Down”

Video of the Week: How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain

The Heart of Rock and Roll: 30 definitive quotes from music legends ranging from Little Richard to Keith Richards


(via Purple Clover)

Keith Richards

“Everyone talks about rock these days. The problem is, they forget about the roll.”

Elvis Presley

“Rock and roll music, if you like it, if you feel it, you can’t help but move to it. That’s what happens to me. I can’t help it.”

Bob Dylan

“When I first heard Elvis’ voice, I just knew that I wasn’t going to work for anybody, and nobody was going to be my boss. Hearing him was like busting out of jail.”

Read more:

Songs You May Have Missed #592


Eggs Over Easy: “Nonnie Nookie No” (1981)

From their 1981 Fear of Frying LP. Eggs Over Easy were the overlooked American band who essentially invented what is known as pub rock in the early ’70’s and influenced acts who would achieve greater prominence working the formula.

Their 1972 Link Wray-produced Good ‘N’ Cheap album and their Monday night residency at a London club called Tally Ho gave birth to the pub rock movement and influenced the punk scene that followed.

The band had subverted the club’s jazz-only policy by convincing management that they were a jazz band and asking to play on the club’s slowest night. Soon they were playing three nights a week at Tally Ho and attracting capacity crowds that included artists such as Nick Lowe, Graham Parker and Elvis Costello. Huey Lewis and the News were also greatly influenced by the Eggs.

Having returned to the US, they ended up touring in support of arena rock acts such as Eagles and Yes, ironic since the pub and punk rock movements in England they’d helped create were directly antithetical to the music of the megarock bands.

Eggs Over Easy’s legacy and music are getting a justified reappraisal thanks to a newly-released compilation.


Video of the Week: Harsh Words for David Crosby from Graham Nash

Video of the Week: Samuraiguitarist Plays Beethoven’s ‘Für Elise’ on Five Guitars

On a Lighter Note…


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