The Who Play “Who Are You”

who_are_you_album_coverListen to this track by former mod representatives turned classic rock institution The Who. It’s “Who Are You”, the concluding song that served as the title track to their 1978 album Who Are You. That record would represent the end of an era for the band when drummer Keith Moon passed away a month after it was released. The attached rendition of the song here is featured in the 1979 documentary The Kids Are Alright.

In some ways, this song and its album marked the end of an era for rock music, too. By the end of the seventies, popular music was exponentially dividing into multiple streams including punk, new wave, and disco. Certain tracks on this album make direct reference to that. Meanwhile, the band itself was struggling along after a three-year recording hiatus with Moon’s health in visible decline. The dynamics between musicians and in turn between the band and the production team that included Glyn Johns and Jon Astley were beginning to fray at the ends as well. These were not easy sessions. Perhaps this was the result of a shot of self-awareness at being among the second generation of rock musicians beginning to sense the end of their prime period.

As usual on this particular song, guitarist and head songwriter Pete Townshend’s well-trodden themes of image, identity, and truth are firmly in place. This time, they come with a bona fide autobiographical component to the story that perhaps goes against expectations when it comes to old rockers versus new punks.  Read more

Advertisements

Pink Floyd Play “Louder Than Words”

Pink_Floyd_-_The_Endless_River_(Artwork)Listen to this track by psychedelic and progressive rock granddaddies Pink Floyd. It’s “Louder Than Words”, the sole lyrics-based song as taken from their final album under the Pink Floyd name, The Endless River. The album came out of scouring through the tapes leftover from 1994’s The Division Bell sessions, looking for gems that were good enough to release as a new record. After reviewing the tracks in their original form, overdubs were layered on top to make them new tracks by surviving and current members David Gilmour and Nick Mason.

The reasons for the release, after having been hounded by press and fans for so long around the subject of a reunion, are artistic. But, they’re also sentimental. And whose sentiment are we experiencing when we hear this song, so self-referential as it is (although with lyrics not from the band, but a close insider – guitarist David Gilmour’s wife Polly Sampson)? Well, there is something of  trace of self-examination over nearly fifty years of existance as a band. But, I think it delivers something else that is more universal, too. Read more

10 Songs From The ’80s By ’60s Musicians (Which Don’t Actually Suck)

The 1980s.

It is a decade that is very often maligned by rock and classic pop fans, particularly those who followed some of the innovators of the form from the 1960s. The ’80s were pretty hard on the artists of that previous era. And why was that?

Rusted volkswagons
(image: Lawrence Whittemore)

It could be that the ’80s had become a producer’s decade, a time when digital technology ruled the roost over the warmth of analogue technology of decades previous. This not only affected the way the records sounded. It also affected how they were recorded, too. Further, the ’80s was the first decade in which youthful visages on a TV screen became inextricably linked to mainstream success, forcing many veterans to rethink their presentation, sometimes with not-so-great results in the wardrobe/dance-move department. Quite simply, there was a new generation of competitors for the (dollar) attention of the average music fan. The veteran artists themselves who had established the rules of popular music in the ’60s were in a new arena, with time having marched on in all kinds of ways.

Needless to say, it seems like a given to say that most iconic artists of the Love Generation didn’t have a very good decade in the age of the Rubik’s Cube, the 20-Minute Workout, and the fuschia legwarmer-headband combo, at least not in terms of their comparable output in each period. But, this is too simple to be true across the board. Through it all, some very good music was made, maybe against all odds. Some of it was because of the new technology and approach that the decade offered which opened up stylistic possibiities. Some of it was inspite of that technology, with the artists turning to their considerable artistic strengths and experience in the face of younger competitors and new fangled tools.

Either way, here are 10 moments in the careers of the masters in a decade that was otherwise unkind to members of their generation and sometimes to them personally, critically speaking.

Read more

Elton John Sings “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time)”

Elton John Rocket ManListen to this track by million-selling piano man and singular ’70s rock clothes horse Elton John. It’s “Rocket Man (I think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time)”, a hit single in the spring of 1972, and a key track as taken from his Honky Chateau album that year.

In line with the times when space missions were more common perhaps than they are today, or simply more celebrated, this song stormed the charts with top ten showings all over the world. It also marked a change in approach for Elton John who used his road band on the entirety of the recording instead of sessioners; Dee Murray on bass, Davey Johnstone on guitars and other assorted stringed instruments, and Nigel Olssen behind the kit.

Addtionally on this track, he worked with studio whiz, composer, and keyboardist David Hentschel who added the distinctive ARP synthesizer lines to this track, which gave it an appropriately futurist feel. This is not to minimize John’s own contribution, in particular his singing which is some of the finest of his career, completely selling this tale of space travel and emotional disconnectedness.

The result of all these elements would be one of Elton John’s best known and best loved songs. But, how does it perhaps apply to the touring rock star as much as it does to the story of the Rocket Man? Read more

Todd Rundgren Sings “Hello, It’s Me”

Something Anything Todd Rundgren Listen to this track by singer, songwriter, and pop music auteur Todd Rundgren. It’s his biggest hit, “Hello, It’s Me” as taken from his biggest selling album Something/Anything. The song was released as a single in 1973, where it reached a #5 showing, becoming something of a staple on classic rock radio from then until today.

Rundgren was among the earliest, and most high-profile proponents of the “record it all myself, and play everything too” school. Here on this song, Rundgren mitigated that approach slightly by playing almost everything himself. Either way, it would prove to be an enduring hit for him. And, it would have a lasting place in pop culture history as well, featured on soundtracks, and TV shows, as well as on classic rock radio.

But, there were other tools at work that helped Rundgren to enhance the rate of his output on a sprawling double album; drugs.

Read more

Led Zeppelin Reunion: To Be Or Not To Be?

In days of yore when the rock ‘n’ roll world was young, bands broke up for good.

Solo careers ensued. Years, decades, and trends passed like pages in an anachronistic desk calendar. And the stomping feet of rock fandom began to pound for reformations during an era when many bands had been introduced to new audiences by way of the X-Box.

When it comes to returning to the musical homesteads of old  by way of reformation after years of prodigal albeit often fruitful wandering, one big event on the rock fan’s horizon in recent news is the hint of the clue of the possibility that the mighty Led Zeppelin may reform in 2014.

They were the biggest band in the world for over half a decade once. While they roamed the earth as younger men, they defined what a large-scale rock band could mean to an audience in a (then) new technological era of the late ’60s and into the ’70s; moon landings, global satellite broadcasts, exponential amplification advances, and faster air travel. They created a musical template for many while they were at it. But by 2014, what would a Led Zeppelin reunion look like, and what would it represent in the Age of Internet memes and fragmented media?

Writer, cultural critic, and rock fan Geoff Moore is back on the ‘Bin to find out whether or not a Led Zeppelin reunion would sink like a leaden balloon, or soar like a Valkyrie.

Led Zeppelin reunion 2007
Image: Paul Hudson

***
Read more

Farewell, My Brother: A Life In Rock and Pop Music

When it comes to our development as music fans, the influence, opinions, and record collections of older brothers are often primary and very positive forces for our own musical sojourns.  As is often the case with shared musical interests, and subsequent memories, the bond between brothers becomes even stronger; stronger than death itself.

Geoff Moore loved his brother. This is his tribute, which we’re honoured and humbled to publish here on the ‘Bin. 

***

“‘Fun, Fun, Fun,’ all right!”

Those were my big brother Bob’s words caught on tape at a 1975 Beach Boys concert in Edmonton’s Coliseum. It was summer of course, probably August. He sauntered through the turnstile carrying one of those high tech, cinderblock-sized cassette recorders. Bob was 24, a man of the world who drove an orange MG convertible.

I was 15, awkward, frightened, a flailing Q & A prototype of my eventual, flawed myself. I was trailing him, blown away by the prospect of my first major rock show. Second hand pot smoke! Bob lead us to our seats (good ones, lower bowl, facing the stage), set the machine on his lap and when the lights went down he pressed RECORD.

Bob the bootlegger.

Bob died April 8th, Easter Sunday. We’d hung out at the University of Alberta Hospital the Saturday eve in a lovely, pacific and leafy public area Bob referred to as his office. We were well pleased the Canadiens had won their final game of a dismal season. Always fun to beat the Leafs.

Joe Jackson sang, “Everything gives you cancer.” Fed up, cynical, that sneering ‘Sunday Papers’ attitude and righteous because collectively we seem to really, really like being fed the mulch of mass hysteria. Yet perhaps cancer (in its many forms) is a disease (or diseases) we have brought upon ourselves or maybe have at least exacerbated since the Industrial Revolution and the corner cutting acceleration of mass production.

The byproducts of progress and ease are spewed, leaked and packaged filth and poisons. I have smoked a pack a day for 37 years. Bob might have had one puff of a cigarette for a joke in 60. Cancer does not discriminate; it doesn’t pick and choose, it just is and it does the awful things it does. Nothing personal, you understand. Robbie Robertson sang, “You gotta play the hand that’s dealt ya.” My brother did with uncommon dignity.

This is not an era of leeches, blood-letting and voodoo priests. Modern medical science and technology have rubbed away some of the opaque condensation coating Madame Marie’s crystal ball. Today there’s a fair chance that you’ll know how you’re going to die and you’ll probably have a pretty good idea as to when.

This foreknowledge can be a powerful tool in the hands of an artist. Warren Zevon’s best records always sounded desperate; The Wind was cut while he knew he was dying from lung cancer. The selfish fan is slain by his version of ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door:’ “Let me in! Let me in!” He meant it. Send lawyers, guns and money.

The late Joey Ramone, another victim of cancer, did a thousand-mile-an-hour rip-through of Louis Armstrong’s standard ‘What a Wonderful World’ to lead off his solo LP, Don’t Worry About Me. Nobody really wants to go and most of us will never manage to get our affairs in order; tough to take care of business from the ICU.

My brother was so thin, maybe 110 pounds counting the layers of robes and the IV stick on castors. The ravens had been circling for three and a half years. We held hands before I left him that last time and he squeezed my fingers hard enough to almost break a knuckle. After this most recent setback we would get down to discussing big, important stuff again: which two people should les Canadiens hire for their vacant GM and coach positions?
Foreknowledge for the eventual survivors is an unwelcome gift, a head start on grieving. These past few months I’ve surrendered repeatedly to the compulsion of playing Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Streets of Philadelphia.’ It eventually dawned me that the narrator is addressing Death itself: “Ain’t no angel gonna greet me, it’s just you and I, my friend.” I know my brother felt this to be true.

This is the sentiment of a lapsed Catholic. Bob grew up with a portrait of his guardian angel and a crucifix augmented with a dried and brittle yellow palm frond tucked behind Jesus hanging over his bed; my room had the same décor. The next line utterly destroyed me: “And my clothes don’t fit me no more.” Press REPEAT, weep, sip Irish whisky, press REPEAT.

Cancer does not discriminate; it doesn’t pick and choose, it just is and it does the awful things it does. Nothing personal, you understand. Robbie Robertson sang, “You gotta play the hand that’s dealt ya.” My brother did with uncommon dignity.

.

Bob’s only discernable musical talent was his ability to replicate the flying arrow sound effect in Sam Cooke’s ‘Cupid.’ He had the ‘Eros with Bow’ pose down too. Whoosh! He knew all the words to ‘El Paso,’ easily the best of the Marty Robbins gunfighter ballads: “There’s no chorus!”

Yet he loved songs with an inane, catchy chorus like Wilson Pickett’s ‘Land of a Thousand Dances’ or the Isleys’ ‘Shama Lama Ding Dong.’ He sang-along slaughtered the Drifters and the Temptations. Aaron Neville, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin – no one was safe. He danced like an awkward white man mimicking James Brown; if you’re imagining Jagger now, presume that the actual Jagger was trained by the Moscow Ballet. Ain’t we got fun. Add beer and tequila.

I suspect that I was shipped off from Montreal to Bob in Edmonton that summer of ‘75 at his insistence; I’ve never asked him outright and he never brought it up – this is us, we are Moores. Talking is for other people. Our divorced parents married their new partners and the house we grew up in was sold while I was out west, out of sight and out of mind. He was looking out for me while I was mesmerized by his record collection: Stevie Wonder and more, more Motown, the sounds of Philadelphia and Memphis, Van Morrison and the absolutely magical hook of ‘My Maria’ by B.W. Stevenson. Nobody else in high school listened to this stuff.

I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to become. I was still trying to figure out where to find the dots we’re all supposed to connect although one day I would eventually get a haircut and get a real job. All of this vinyl, this music stored in milk crates opened my eyes and changed my life: Why was I listening to the same stuff as everybody else back home when there was a whole new world waiting in the record store if I would just take the time to browse a different aisle and then spend four or five dollars a risk?

Bob Moore agreed with Bob Dylan who once said, “Nostalgia is death.” Even so when the Calgary Stampede in late April announced a July gig of the reunited Beach Boys here my first impulse was to call my brother and at least float a trial balloon. Something like, “It’s still a few months away; we’ll get tickets and if you’re feeling up to it…” I’d try to sell him on Brian Wilson’s participation, a 42-song set list, the ease of Bob and his wife Ann staying at our place. All of this in a nanosecond before remembering that I cannot phone my brother anymore and realizing that there is no way I can go to this show without him. Staring at the dial pad I catch another of wave of sorrow. I do not believe this tide can ever turn.

***

Geoff Moore is a writer and music fan who grew up in Montreal, and is living and working in Calgary. Luckily for us, he’s also a regular contributor here on the Delete Bin.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Play “Refugee”

Listen to this track by Floridian rock ‘n’ roll flame-keepers Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. It’s their top twenty Billboard hit “Refugee” as taken from their high watermark 1979 album Damn The Torpedos. The song was released as a single in January 1980, standing as one of their breakthrough songs into the top 40 from that time forward.

“Refugee” is an angry tune, sung angrily by Petty. And in 1979, the swagger put back in rock ‘n’ roll in this fashion was a very good thing. Yet, at the same time, there is a pretty timeless quality to this song too, reminding us that the pissed-off, frustrated lover in a relationship marked by baggage that won’t be put down is as much a part of pop music as it’s ever been.

It doesn’t matter whether its sung in 1979 or in 2012. Because when at its best, the power of pop music is that it runs neck and neck with shared human experience.

But, at the time, only just before this song scored such career-cementing success as a single for Petty, the artist really was in a relationship he wasn’t happy with and was having a hard time getting out of.  And it had very little to do with love. Read more

Cream Play “Crossroads”

creamwheelsoffireListen to this track by British power trio, “supergroup”, and hard-rock pioneers Cream. It’s their live performance of Robert Johnson’s 1936 song “Crossroads Blues”, a take on the song that also quotes another Johnson song, “Travelin’ Riverside Blues”, and showcases the three-way assault of each member of the band (For you stereo listeners: Bassist Jack Bruce to your left, drummer Ginger Baker just behind you, and Eric Clapton to your immediate right).

The song itself is a tale of an unnamed dread, a fear of nightfall and being out on the road alone. Many associate this song with the legendary and very often repeated tale of a deal going down at a crossroads in Misssissippi, where Robert Johnson is rumoured to have sold his very soul in order to become no less than King of the Delta Blues Singers. Johnson’s influence is certainly proven by this cover version, performed in March of 1968 at San Francisco’s famed Winterland Ballroom, a mecca of rock ‘n’ roll history. Cream scored a #28 hit with this rendition of the song.

But, what is the real story behind this tune, and the real source of dread hinted at in its lyrics? Is it the terror of a supernatural force, or is the threat the song’s narrator is alluding to more of a mortal concern? Read more

Rock Collectibles: Meaning-Making and Memorabilia

Frederick J. Waugh The Knight of the Holy Grail (Smithsonian American Art Museum)

Like the Catholic Church, rock ‘n’ roll is often most recognized by its artifacts, its iconography, its symbols of power, and yes, images of its saints and martyrs, too. Seeking artifacts of rock ‘n’ roll glory have long been compared to the search for the Holy Grail among rock collectors.

But, a good deal of the value in such objects is in our personal relationship to them, or what they represent to us as individuals who have sought them out, or have personal stories attached to them. In an era of aging populations, mass media, and the recession, if the legwork is done for you, the fruit of another’s journey, can it really mean as much?

Resident pop culture critic, rock fan, and soon-to-be sophomore novelist Geoff Moore opens the dusty vaults of rock collectibles, rock auctions, and rock memorabilia, after a visit to a bona fide rock auction in his native Calgary …

***

Read more