Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lou Reed, 1942-2013: He Taught Rock to Walk on the Wild Side

image from Lou Reed’s classic 1972 Transformer album

Rolling Stone reports that rock iconLou Reed has died. According to TheGuardian.com, the death has been confirmed by Reed’s UK music agent, Andy Woolliscroft. While no official word has been offered on the cause, he underwent a liver transport earlier this year. He is survived by his wife, performance artist Laurie Anderson, who he married in 2008. He was 71.

Reed was born Louis Firbank on 3/2/1942 in Long Island, New York. Sometimes dubbed “The Godfather of Punk,” the experimental singer/songwriter’s influence dates back to the 1960s when he helmed the Andy Warhol-produced art-rock group, The Velvet Underground. They never sold much, but their impact on the music world was immeasurable. Producer and musician Brian Eno famously quipped, “The first Velvet Underground album onl y sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band.”

The group was short-lived, but Reed embarked on a 40-year-plus solo career marked by classic albums like Transformer and Berlin, both of which rank in the top 1000 albums of all time according to Dave’s Music Database. DMDB Top 1000 song “Walk on the Wild Side” became an ode to the seedier and trampled-upon outsiders of society who populated Reed’s world. In regards to Reed’s impact on the music world, RollingStone.com’s Jon Dolan said, “Glam, punk and alternative rock are all unthinkable without his revelatory example.”

Alternative-music website SlicingUpEyeballs.com posted tweets from various musicians. The Pixies’ Black Francis simply said, “Rock and roll forever.” Lloyd Cole said, “Without Lou…I’d probably be a maths teacher.” Dave Navarro called him “one of my all time heroes.” Billboard.com also reported tweets from The Who: “R.I.P. Lou Reed. Walk on the peaceful side” and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea: “I love Lou Reed so much. Always.” Jim James, frontman from My Morning Jacket, said, “You made the world a better place. We are forever grateful.” Russell Simmons, who co-founded the Def Jam label, said, “New York lost one of our greatest gifts today.”

Walk on the Wild Side


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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Lorde hits #1 with “Royals”

Originally posted 12/25/2014.

image from billboard.com


Lorde “Royals”


Writer(s): Joel Little/ Ella Yelich O’Connor (see lyrics here)

Released: 6/3/2013, First charted: 6/29/2013

Peak: 19 US, 2 AC, 13 AA, 17 MR, 11 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 7.0 US, 0.6 UK, 8.53 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): 456.10


Review: “Royals” was the first single from New Zealand singer-songwriter Ella Yelich O’Connor, The singer, better known as Lorde, topped the U.S. pop charts when she was only 16 and became the first solo act from New Zealand to top the Billboard Hot 100. “Royals” also landed atop the charts in New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. It reached the top five in Australia and Switzerland.

She wrote “Royals” in a half an hour in July 2012, intending it as a “response to everything that’s on pop radio,” a sort of rant against the lyrics focused on fame and luxury. She was inspired by a July 1976 National Geographic magazine which showed Kansas City Royals’ baseball player George Brett signing baseballs. As she said to VH1, “It was just that word. It’s really cool.” WK

Lorde’s critique of the high life rubbed Feministing blogger Vernoica Bayetti Flores the wrong way. She said the song was “deeply racist, because we all know who she’s thinking when we’re talking gold teeth, Cristal and Maybachs.” WK However, The Washington Times’ Aziza Jackson defended the song as being about “consumerism and class, not race…Today’s hip-hop and pop lyrics are laced with the promotion of shiny yet empty lives that is not black or white, but green.” WK

However, the song was generally praised. Digital Spy said the song had an “addictive hook that thrives on its simplicity” and that “Lorde’s success is here to stay.” WK Spin magazine said “true artpop rarely announces itself as such.” WK The song won a Grammy for Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance.


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Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Beatles hit #1 with “Yesterday”: October 9, 1965

Originally posted 7/12/2014.

image from Wikipedia.org


The Beatles “Yesterday”


Writer(s): John Lennon/Paul McCartney (see lyrics here)

Released: 9/13/1965, First charted: 9/18/1965

Peak: 14 US, 13 CB, 8 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): 9.0 Video Airplay (in millions): 30.93


Review: Guinness World Records says this is the most recorded song of all time RS500 with more than 2500 versions RSP but the Beatles’ original “remains the most beautiful...of all.” RS500 Despite its present status, the Beatles almost didn’t record it at all.

The song came effortlessly. Paul McCartney said, “[I] tumbled out of bed and put my hands on the piano keys and I had a tune in my head.” RSP He assumed he’d unconsciously plagiarized it, TB remembering one of the many jazz tunes his dad had known. RS500 As he told The Hollywood Reporter, “I…spent about three weeks asking all the music people I knew, ‘What is this song?’ I couldn’t believe I’d written it.” BR1-185

Despite such an auspicious beginning, the Beatles initially couldn’t make it work. Paul first played the song for producer George Martin in January 1964, before the Beatles had landed in America, but it would be another year and a half before they recorded it. RS500 Paul even attempted giving it to blues shouter Chris Farlowe and fellow Liverpudlian Billy J. Kramer. HL

When the Beatles took a shot at it, Ringo couldn’t make the drums work and John struck out on the organ; RSP Lennon also disliked the song’s “mawkish sentimentality.” HL Martin decided to abandon the more expected rock arrangement of guitar, bass, and drums in favor of a string section. HL McCartney’s reaction was that, “We were a little embarrassed about it…We were a rock & roll band.” RS500 Martin convinced McCartney to try it, assuring him that they could always re-cut it if the idea didn’t work. HL Needless to say, no such redo was necessary.


Resources and Related Links:

  • The Beatles’ DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • HL Heatley, Michael, and Spencer Leigh. (1998). Behind the Song: The Stories of 100 Great Pop & Rock Classics. London, England: Blandford Books. Page 18.
  • RS500 RollingStone.com “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • RSP Rolling Stone (September 8, 1988; Issue 534). “The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years." New York, NY; Straight Arrow Publishing Company. Page 60.
  • TB Thunder Bay Press. (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 73.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Glenn Tilbrook at Kansas City's Riot Room - October 7, 2013

image from arconline.co.uk

Thanks to my brother, Mark, and buddy, Steve, for accompanying me to see Glenn Tilbrook, best known for his days in Squeeze. His songwriting with partner Chris Difford was celebrated as new wave’s answer to Lennon and McCartney. While Squeeze’s last studio album came out in 1998, Tilbrook has stayed active recording solo albums and other collaborative efforts.

This set list was dependent on his post-Squeeze work (including several seemingly new songs) and the earliest years from Squeeze but strangely overlooked about a decade and a half (1984-1999) of his career completely. Still, there was no denying Tilbrook’s easy charm and light banter with the audience. Percussionist Simon Hanson added some nice touches with a toy xylophone and a frantic bongo solo using only his index fingers.

The small crowd – a couple of hundred at best – was comprised of mostly forty-somethings and up who were understandably excited most by the Squeeze songs, but hung in throughout. Not bad for a venue with a small stage and no chairs. Kansas Citians may remember The Riot Room, located in the Westport area, as the Hurricane.

The Setlist:
  1. Up the Junction 2
  2. Best of Times 17
  3. Dennis 19
  4. Everybody Sometimes 19
  5. Another Nail in My Heart 3
  6. Pulling Mussels from the Shell 3
  7. You See Me 15
  8. Beachland Ballroom 17
  9. One for the Road 16
  10. Still 17
  11. Annie Get Your Gun 6
  12. If I Didn’t Love You 3
  13. Is That Love 4
  14. Resolve (sung by bassist)
  15. Parallel World 15
  16. Parsephone 19
  17. Ray 19
  18. Until You Come Back to Me (cover)
  19. Black Coffee in Bed 5
  20. Kev and Dave (sung by drummer Simon Hanson)19
  21. Rupert 19
  22. Chat-Line Larry 18
  23. Tempted 4
  24. Take Me I’m Yours 1
  25. Goodbye Girl 2

Glenn Tilbrook Discography *

1 U.K. Squeeze (Squeeze, 1978)
2 Cool for Cats (Squeeze, 1979)
3 Argybargy (Squeeze, 1980)
4 East Side Story (Squeeze, 1981)
5 Sweets from a Stranger (Squeeze, 1982)
6 45’s and Under (Squeeze compilation, 1982)
7 Difford & Tilbrook (Difford & Tilbrook, 1984)
8 Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti (Squeeze, 1985)
9 Babylon and On (Squeeze, 1987)
10 Frank (Squeeze, 1989)
11 Play (Squeeze, 1991)
12 Some Fantastic Place (Squeeze, 1993)
13 Ridiculous (Squeeze, 1995)
14 Domino (Squeeze, 1998)
15 The Incomplete Glenn Tilbrook (solo, 2001)
16 Transatlantic Ping Pong (solo, 2004)
17 Pandemonium Ensues (Fluffers, 2009)
18 The Co-Operative (with Nine Below Zero, 2011)
19 Happy Ending (solo, 2014)

* Full discography listed, but he played nothing from albums 7-14!


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