Why the Brilliantly Cynical Music of Steely Dan Is the Perfect Quarantine Binge

(via Mel) by Tim Grierson

Global catastrophe? A spiritually sick society beyond the point of saving? Donald Fagen and Walter Becker have been waiting for this moment.

During times of chaos, it’s natural to seek some semblance of control. So it’s probably no surprise that, as the coronavirus quarantine took hold, I turned to a band I always find comforting. I can’t think of music more perfectly controlled than the roughly six hours and 10 minutes worth of songs that Steely Dan recorded. Just don’t call it easy-listening. Sure, as they evolved from an ace L.A. rock band to a precision jazz-pop unit, their tunes only grew more swinging and pretty. But beneath all that beauty were tales of killers and creeps, dudes who were into their cousins or dudes who were into women way too young for them. No amount of gorgeous saxophone solos could mask the spiritual wretchedness at the center of these songs. If this is how the world ends — with idiots ignoring warnings to practice social distancing and the rich hogging access to medical help — then I won’t be shocked. Steely Dan prepared me…

Reed more: https://melmagazine.com/en-us/story/why-the-brilliantly-cynical-music-of-steely-dan-is-the-perfect-quarantine-binge

Unpopular Opinion: 80’s Homogeneity Killed the Radio Star

heart 2

There are multiple reasons why the 80’s were my least favorite decade for pop music. I grew up mostly on organic and not sampled sounds. Warm, carefully crafted arrangements rather than sterile synths. Heartfelt vocal performances that gave you the feels rather than the flat and robotic delivery typical of New Wave.

Most of all I like diversity in music. And the 80’s seemed to swallow diversity and spit it out all one color and one flavor–that is, no flavor.

The 70’s were a decade when Carly Simon, Led Zeppelin, the Average White Band and Tom Jones could play consecutively on the radio.

The 80’s, conversely, were the decade when drum sounds, keyboard sounds, vocal performances and even (thanks in part to MTV) fashion and hairdos became more regimented. It’s like all the sudden there was a uniform you had to wear to qualify for the top 40.

Take a listen to this sample of three of the decade’s more ubiquitous hits–by Heart, Cher and Starship respectively:

 

And now a bit of a medley of some of the diverse sounds created by the same artists in the decades prior:

 

The first clip illustrates the sound of 80’s pop radio, typified by its uniformity of style and arrangement.

The second is all over the place musically, from riff-driven rock to folk pop to orchestrated adult contemporary to fusion to psychedelia. And yet it’s the same three artists.

The second clip is culled from the years when these artists each forged an identity. And the first is from the decade when they apparently had to forego that identity to stay on the radio.

How many of the 70’s greatest artists became hollowed-out versions of themselves creatively in the decade of the 80’s?

Chicago, Aerosmith, Heart, Jefferson Starship, ZZ Top, Kansas, Neil Diamond, Rod Stewart, and on and on.

I’m not saying these artists didn’t sell loads of records in the 80’s. But I will say their 80’s output a) typically lacked the imagination and diversity of their earlier work, b) was more often written by outside writers than the work that made them famous and c) kind of sucked.

As a teenager Steven Tyler wrote:

Every time when I look in the mirror
All these lines on my face getting clearer
The past is gone
It went by, like dusk to dawn…

Sing with me, sing for the years
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tears
Sing with me, just for today
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away

As a 40-year-old he wrote:

Love in an elevator
Livin’ it up when I’m goin’ down
Love in an elevator
Lovin’ it up ’til I hit the ground

And as for Chicago’s steady decline into Easy Listening post-Terry Kath well…Look Away indeed.

As for 80’s pop radio’s slavish devotion to the new, processed, synthy sound, I think it precipitated interesting shifts in radio formats. Plenty of artists who had success on pop radio in the 70’s had to redefine themselves as Country artists in the 80’s.

Exile (“Kiss You All Over”), The Bellamy Brothers (“Let Your Love Flow”), Michael Murphy (“Wildfire”), Michael Johnson (“Bluer than Blue”) and others made music too distinctly traditional-sounding and too organic for New Wave-dominated 80’s radio. After tweaking their sound and their songwriting just a bit they were welcomed by country radio, which experienced a shift toward a more pop-friendly crossover sound in the same decade.

Unpopular Opinion: Prince Lowered the Bar for Sexual Innuendo in Music

While I can appreciate a titillating suggestive lyric in a pop song, I believe even the low-minded can be artfully rendered. And I’d argue that the man most associated with lyrical sexual innuendo was hardly its most literate or proficient practitioner.

Prolific? I’ll give him that. It’s almost be simpler to name the Prince songs that don’t feature bawdy double entendre than it is to give examples of his, uh…dirty mind. I won’t bother.

Popular? A hundred million sold, as McDonald’s used to say.

I’m just here to say he sucked at it.

So if you think

Cream
Get on top
Cream
You will cop
Cream
Don’t you stop
Cream
Sh-boogie bop

…is as high-minded as lowbrow gets, I’ll see your Purple One and raise you one Ian Anderson, front man of English art rockers Jethro Tull.

Singer-songwriter-flutist-guitarist and all around mischief maker Anderson rose to the occasion when it came to penning innuendo-laced lyrics, then set them in some of the most ambitiously ornate musical arrangements you’ll hear.

If his mind was in the gutter, his oldfangled English was strictly front parlor. His command of the language turned innuendo into high art. Check out “Hunting Girl” from 1977’s Songs from the Wood:

‘We found it rolled up in a tube’: Alice Cooper Discovers Warhol Classic after 40 years

Photo courtesy of Alice Cooper

(via The Guardian) by Edward Helmore

The rock star Alice Cooper has found an Andy Warhol masterpiece that could be worth millions “rolled up in a tube” in a storage locker, where it lay forgotten for more than 40 years.

The work in question is a red Little Electric Chair silkscreen, from Warhol’s Death and Disaster series. Never stretched on a frame, it sat in storage alongside touring artefacts including an electric chair that Cooper used in the early 70s as part of his ghoulish stage show.

According to Shep Gordon, the singer’s longtime manager, Cooper and Warhol became friends at the famous Max’s Kansas City venue in New York City…

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/jul/24/alice-cooper-andy-warhol-little-electric-chair

Photograph courtesy Bob Gruen

Quora: Who is Bungalow Bill in that Beatles song?

(via Quora) Answered by Jon Pennington

The real life inspiration for Bungalow Bill was a 27-year-old American man named Richard A. Cooke III (known as “Rik” for short). In 1968, Rik was in Rishikesh visiting his mother, Nancy Cooke de Herrera, a publicist for the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. As the Maharishi’s publicist, Nancy would also serve as a liaison between the Maharishi and the Beatles, while the Beatles were learning Transcendental Meditation.

The actress Mia Farrow described Nancy’s arrival at the Maharishi’s ashram as follows:

A self-important middle-aged American woman arrived, moving a mountain of luggage into the brand-new private bungalow next to Maharishi’s…People fled this newcomer and no one was sorry when she left the ashram after a short time to go tiger hunting.

I can’t quite get a read on what the original motivation was for the tiger hunt. Some depictions I’ve read portray Nancy and Rik as two socialites who blithely jaunted off to go safari while in the middle of a shallow spiritual quest. Other depictions I’ve read say that an Indian guide, Avi Kohli, encouraged Rik to kill the tiger, because the tiger was endangering some elephants and might have even endangered some villagers too…

Read more: https://www.quora.com/Who-is-Bungalow-Bill-in-that-Beatles-song

Woody Guthrie’s New Year’s Rulins

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Quora: What do you think of McCartney’s bass playing in Harrison’s “Something”? It seems to get mixed reviews.

(via (Quora) Answered by Jake Gerber, Musical Session Player

Put more succinctly : his playing is friggin BRILLIANT !!! I wish I was getting paid for this answer. In any event … I’ll commence with this. Anyone that doesn’t believe Paul put everything he had into Georges songs is mistaken. Paul took great pride in respect to everything he played. He upped the ante on three of George’s songs I can think of, two of which are on Abbey Road, the third on Revolver…

Paul’s playing on “ Something “ could be studied in a music theory class in university level. The first time you hear the song played through a proper playback system ( vinyl ) where you can actually hear the bass, you might think Paul was overplaying, there’s a lot of movement going on, and the songs a ballad which in popular music are rather restrained in respect to the bass lines, if indeed it even actually has a dedicated bass line per se…

Read more: https://www.quora.com/What-do-you-think-of-McCartneys-bass-playing-in-Harrisons-Something-It-seems-to-get-mixed-reviews

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