On this date in 1967, Floridian Psychedelic Folk band Pearls Before Swine (a precursor to contemporary so-called "Freak Folk") began the three-day sessions for its debut album, One Nation Underground. The album would become a moderate success, selling nearly a quarter of a million copies.
One of the album's tracks, "(Oh Dear) Miss Morse," was the source of some controversy. The subversive chorus of the weird little song (essentially a banjo riff with some organ blips) consists of vocalist/songwriter Tom Rapp (and that organ) "singing" in Morse code the letters "F," "U," "C" and "K" (Dit Dit Dah Dit/Dit Dit Dah/Dah Dit Dah Dit/Dah Dit Dah).
And they would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for some meddling kids! Famous New York DJ Murray the K was busted after playing the song on the air when a few smarty-pants Boy Scouts reportedly recognized the code and called in to complain about the veiled obscenity (or maybe brag that they figured it out).
It's not the only song to feature secret Morse code messaging. Mike Oldfield's album Amarok (featuring, essentially, one hour-long track) came towards the end of his contract with Virgin Records in 1990. Oldfield sent a little note to his boss on the album; towards the end, there's a Morse code message that spells out "Fuck Off RB," referring to Virgin label chief Richard Branson.
The Rush song "YYZ" from the 1981 album Moving Pictures also features Morse coding, in a pretty ingenious manner. Drummer Neil Pert's rhythm on the song is based on Morse for "YYZ." The letters weren't especially controversial, though — they were simply the code for Toronto's airport (Rush is from the area).
Other instances of Morse code in popular music: Roger Waters' album Radio KAOS features several Morse messages; Kraftwerk used it throughout their 1975 track "Radioactivity" (it simply spells out the title); and The Clash's "London Calling" has choppy guitar feedback at the end of the song that spells out "S.O.S."
Here's the Pearls Before Swing tune. NSFW (if you work for a former Boy Scout or telegraph expert).
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 7 birthday include late drummer for influential Rock bands New York Dolls and Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, Jerry Nolan (1946); Disco diva ("Don't Leave Me This Way"), singer/songwriter and actress Thelma Houston (1946); masterful German Boogie Woogie pianist Axel Zwingenberger (1955); Motorhead guitarist Phil Campbell (1961); Swedish one-hit-wonder, son of Jazz legend Don Cherry and half-brother to Neneh Cherry, Eagle-Eye Cherry (1971); drummer for British Pop/Rock stars Arctic Monkeys, Matt Helders (1986); and British singer Martina Topley-Bird (1975).
Topley-Bird is probably best known as a crucial part of Trip Hop pioneer Tricky's early (and biggest) success as vocalist on his classic album, 1995's Maxinquaye. The album made Tricky a Pop star, something that he admittedly was not prepared for and which drove him a little nuts. He recently told U.K.'s The Guardian that, going into the album's release, "I thought I'd be an underground artist. I had no idea it was going to do that and I was not ready for it." He says he spent much of the rest of his career trying to become more of a cult artist than a superstar. And he succeeded.
Topley-Bird parted ways with Tricky in 1998 and has made a trio of solo album (and worked with Gorillaz and Massive Attack). But late last month, she rejoined Tricky in England to perform Maxinquaye in its entirety. Well, that was the plan, anyway. Tricky reportedly disappeared during parts of the performances, which didn't exactly live up the "play the full album" billing. In a review of the performance in Manchester, ClashMusic.com wrote that the Tricky concert ultimately became "the Martina Topley-Bird show, with the singer providing the only reliable musical seam throughout, in contrast to an erratic and seemingly disengaged Tricky."
Here's Martina Topley-Bird's "Anything" from her acclaimed debut solo album, Quixotic.
Loudon Wainwright III could very easily have slid into the where-are-they-now realm of celebrity obscurity if he had allowed himself to be swallowed up by the one-hit wonderment of “Dead Skunk” in 1972. Although most people at the time only knew him for that ubiquitous single, Wainwright was confident that he had plenty of other weapons in his songwriting arsenal and set about to define the 40-year Folk/Pop career that has brought him certain measures of acclaim, wealth and notoriety as a songwriter, performer, actor and dysfunctional family man, each role woven inextricably into the fabric of the others (remember when he was Captain Spalding, the singing surgeon on M*A*S*H?). Clearly, the two paths that have intersected most often in Wainwright’s life are music and family; his itinerant singer/songwriter’s existence has been both a positive and a negative in his numerous attempts at familial stability and his parents, wives and children have been an endless source of grist for his songwriting mill.
Chief among Wainwright’s influences has been his often larger-than-life father, whose death at 63 left a gaping hole in his 17-year-old son’s life and psyche. A great deal of Wainwright’s unresolved love and anger issues concerning his father have been worked out in his songs over the past few decades, but his latest uniformly excellent album finds him looking back at his long timeline after reaching the milestone birthday of 65, a momentous and bittersweet benchmark that inspired the album’s title; Older Than My Old Man Now.
Like much of his recent work, Wainwright explores the familiar subjects of family, aging, death and lust on Old Man, which he does with typical candor, humor and reflection. Wainwright opens with the jazzy “The Here & the Now,” an annotated but honest account of his 65 years (“I took a wife, we had some kids/I screwed that up and went on the skids”), a history that he continues tracing on the contemplative and mournful “In C.” In the eloquent spoken word intro to the title track, Wainwright calls his father his “principal ghost” and then launches into a Delta-flavored vamp that addresses the psychic conundrum of having more calendars under his belt than his dad (“Sixty four is awful old, you know what can happen next/Hey, I’m older than my old man ever was, and I’m trying to keep it in context”).
Wainwright’s broad range is best typified by the ridiculously funny “I Remember Sex,” a parlor piano duet with Barry Humphries’ female alter ego Dame Edna Everidge, and the sublimely heartbreaking realizations of “The Days That We Die,” where Wainwright expounds, in prose and rhyme, on the reality of getting closer to life’s finish line without having fully reconciled with his children for his real and imagined sins. Listening to Wainwright and son Rufus trade soul-searching verses about life and change and forgiveness will bring a tear to the most cynical eye.
Over the course of the past few albums, Wainwright has honed his songwriting style to a fine point and narrowed his focus to very personal issues which he has translated into impossibly universal songs. Older Than My Old Man Now finds him in peak form in that regard, and reinforces the idea that he’s probably got plenty more to say on every subject as his finite journey heads inexorably toward the infinite horizon.
Critically acclaimed Indie Folk act Vandaveer returns after a successful stop here last year at the MidPoint Music Festival. The Washington, D.C.-based group was formed in 2006 by mastermind Mark Charles Heidinger, who has roots that put him closer to the heart of Americana music (born in Ohio and raised in Kentucky). The band has taken many forms since then, both in the studio and onstage, with a rotating cast of musicians fluttering in and out. One mainstay is singer Rose Guerin, who gives Vandaveer its magnetic harmonies.
Vandaveer — whose new Dig Down Deep album came out April 26 — performs a free show at 10 p.m. tonight at MOTR Pub. Opening is local AltFolk troupe Young Heirlooms, who are currently recording their first full-length and a music video (look them up soon on Kickstarter if you’d like to help the band release them).
Here's Vandaveer's clip for "Dig Down Deep," from the new album.
• In a more Metal mood? Then you can head to Bogart's for the Hed2Head Tour 2.0, featuring Hed PE and Mushroomhead (get it? "Hed" to "Head"?), along with Corvus, American Head Charge and Tenafly Viper. California's Hed PE mixes Punk, Metal and Hip Hop — to make what they call "G-Punk" — while Cleveland's Mushroomhead wear masks and make Electro-Industrial-strength Metal. The Mushers were formerly embroiled in a feud with another masked band — Slipknot — but ultimately both sides kissed and made up. Relations are just fine now, so much so that Corey Taylor has expressed an interest in launching a masked-bands tour featuring Slipknot, Mushroomhead, Mudvayne (part-time maskers) and GWAR.
Tickets for tonight's show are $20. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Here is Mushroomhead's clip for the song "Come On."
• Georgia-born/NYC based Pop singer-songwriter Ron Pope brings his tour behind the new album Atlanta to Hamilton's Galaxy CDs this evening for a 7 p.m. performance. Joining Pope for the all-ages show are Josiah Leming and Jesse Ruben. Admission is $8.
Pope is a great example of the current climate wherein an artist can post a video on YouTube and within months be known around the globe. A very simple fan-made video of the break-up song "A Drop in the Ocean" has amassed an astonishing 18,201,114 hits (as of minutes ago) on the site. Pope scored a major label deal but, after just two singles, he backed out of it to remain independent. Since 2008, he has put out about a dozen recordings on his own and has been featured on numerous TV show soundtracks.
Here's the clip that made Pope explode:
• Speaking of artists doing it for themselves, Roster McCabe is another group taking advantage of the increased ease of riding on the D.I.Y. route and actually being able to maintain a career as a musician. And they do it with a mix of old- and new-school promotions. The Minneapolis Rock/Reggae/Funk/Electro/Dance group is on pace to play 220 shows this year and, helping them do that, they've released all of their music for free via download on their website. Billboard calls the five-piece Jam scene up-and-comers one of "five up-and-coming jam bands that could draw audiences to the festivals of tomorrow."
Here's Roster McCabe doing their thang live and making all the people dance with their song "Stargazer" (joined by Steve Molitz of Particle and a collaborator of Cincy's own Freekbass). The group plays The Mad Frog in Corryville tonight with guests Grover.
Tonight at Molly Malone's in Covington, guitar hero Bill Kirchen and his band Too Much Fun perform at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18.
Dubbed "The Titan of the Telecaster," Kirchen hails from Ann Arbor, Mich., where he attended high school with Iggy Pop and Bob Seger. In the early ’70s, he played with Commander Cody's Lost Planet Airmen, forming Roots Rock band Too Much Fun a few years later in D.C. Along with his own albums, Kirchen has performed with Emmylou Harris, Link Ray, Doug Sahm and Elvis Costello (Costello, Nick Lowe, Maria Muldaur and a slew of other friends/fans joined him on his 2010 release, Word to the Wise).
Here is the title track (and Tele tribute) from Kirchen's 2007 album, Hammer of the Honky-Tonk Gods.
On this day in 1973, the musical act Richard Nixon dubbed "young America at its best" performed at The White House. At Nixon's request, Adult Contemporary superstars The Carpenters performed for the Pres and visiting German Chancellor Willy Brandt.
Laugh now, but that will seem cutting edge after the fourth or fifth time The Osmonds play Mitt Romney's White House.
Meanwhile, at the Obama White House, Bob Dylan will be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, later this spring, along with Madeleine Albright, John Glenn, Toni Morrison, basketball coach Pat Summitt and several other honorees.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May Day birthday include vocalist (best known for her rendition of "God Bless America") Kate Smith (1907); Country/Pop crossover star ("Young Love") Sonny James (1929); the Charlie Parker and/or Jimi Hendrix of Blues Harmonica, Little Walter Jacobs (1930); Jazz singer/pianist Shirley Horn (1934); singer/songwriter Judy Collins (1939); the singer forever tied to Ghostbusters, Ray Parker, Jr. (1954); half of Wang Chung, Nick Feldman (1955); Country star Tim McGraw (1967); original bassist for The Smashing Pumpkins, D'arcy Wretzky (1968); late Garage Punk artist Jay Reatard (1980); and singer Rita Coolidge (1945).
Along with her hits with versions of Jackie Wilson's "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" and Boz Scaggs' "We're All Alone," Coolidge was something of an artistic muse in the ’70s. Leon Russell wrote "The Detla Lady" about her, she was married to Kris Kristofferson for seven years and Willie Nelson's refers to her in "Devil in a Sleepin' Bag" ("Just got back from New York City/Kris and Rita done it all/Bought perfection there for all the world to see/Lord, I heard an angel singing in that Philharmonic Hall/Rita Coolidge, Rita Coolidge, cleft for me").
Coolidge continues to record and tour. She formed a group with her sister and niece called Walela, which performed in a traditional Native American style (Coolidge is part Cherokee). Check out Rita's Facebook page to see what she's up to lately.
Here is Coolidge and Kristofferson on the U.K. show The Old Grey White Test in 1972.
After the tumultuous revolution of The White Stripes, the twisted Pop/Rock convention of The Raconteurs and the Blues/Indie Rock gene splice of Dead Weather, there was nothing left for Jack White to do but to hang his own name on the marquee and go the solo route. There is an argument to be made that every White project is an extension of his musical persona regardless of the personnel he surrounds himself with or what he calls it; even the album's he produces bear his distinctive mark. At the same time, it’s also true White uses his shifting musical guises to offer a prismatic glimpse into the unique facets of his creative psyche, each one cut from the same bolt of cloth but patterned into something subtly but noticeably different.
White’s debut solo album, Blunderbuss, follows that logic line in much the same way. He explores and expands upon many of the genre variations that have defined his catalog to date in the service of imploding love songs that, at least on the surface, would seem to point toward his recent divorce as inspiration. In fact, the lack of actual drama surrounding that event indicates that White has written a song cycle about theoretical bad love rather than using pages out of his tear-stained journal for his muse.
Musically, Blunderbuss is a mixed bag of White’s best tricks; the Who-like guitar blast of “Sixteen Saltines,” the Prince-channels-the-Stooges Soul squall of “Freedom at 21” and the bluesy sugar swing of “I’m Shakin’.” But White also pushes his work down some interesting new paths as well, from the Americanapolitan Soul of “Love Interruption" (where White and singer Ruby Amanfu duet in a manner befitting Robert Plant and Alison Krauss) and the purer Country sway of the effecting title track to the Ray Davies-tinged dancehall Pop of “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” and the loungey piano Pop of “Hypocritical Kiss.”
Blunderbuss is another prime example of Jack White’s impeccable track record as one of Indie Rock’s most reliable chameleons.
(Edited to correct White's duet partner on "Love Interruption")
Tonight at The Drinkery on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, excellent local Pop/Hip Hop/Rock crew Gold Shoes release its first long-player in conjunction with a free performance (the album is conveniently titled The Gold Shoes LP). The band was formed in 2009 and features MC vocals from rapper Buggs Tha Rocka (a great solo artist as well), Steven Shaefer on guitar/sax, Mike Weigand (keys), Kevin Johnson (bass), Tony Kuchma (drums/percussion) and singer/guitarist Archie Niebuhr. Gold Shoes has a magnetic, endearing sound that mixes Hip Hop and Rock with great hooks and touches of Jazz and Blues. Fun, cool stuff. You can purchase or give the album a preview spin online here.
Tonight's show starts at 9 p.m. and also features Vito Emmanuel, The Zoo Crew and DJ Sinceer.
Late last year, the band released the album's first single and video, "Trade Your Wings." More recently, they unveiled another great music video for the track "Barely Alive." Check 'em both out below.
At Mayday in Northside, widely acclaimed singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten comes to town on her tour supporting her latest album, Tramp, which features contributions from members of The National (local boy-done-good Aaron Dessner produced the album), The Walkmen and Beirut. Van Etten spoke with Jason Gargano for this week's CityBeat about how the new album was her first attempt at serious collaboration, as well as what working with Dessner brought to the project and why she's been getting "dolled up" a little more lately ("A friend of mine once said, 'When I’m not feeling very confident I put on lipstick' and she just feels better. I kind of like that idea," she told CityBeat). Read the entire interview here.
Doors open at 8 p.m. tonight and, unlike most Mayday shows, there is an admission fee ($12). Opening the show is Flock of Dimes, the solo guise of Jenn Wasner of acclaimed group Wye Oak.
Here's a video from earlier this year of Van Etten performing songs from Tramp in NYC.
• Local rockers Messerly & Ewing present a really cool after-party for Building Value's annual fundraiser/design competition ReUse-apalooza in Northside (click here for details). Following the event, the M&E band will head to Northside Tavern to perform a special tribute to R.E.M.'s 1988 album, Green.
The band has some really unique swag to auction off for the cause (get a look at some examples here) and R.E.M.'s official website even gave the event some attention. To help M&E perform the album, they'll be joined by a slew of special guests: Mike Fair (Adventure Seekers), John Erhardt (Wussy, Ass Ponys), Chris Comer (Chris Comer Trio), Pete Janidlo (Clifford Nevernew, Seven Speed Vortex), Tricia Suit (Seven Speed Vortex) and poet Nick Barrows (Eagle to Squirrel). Wussy and Shiny and the Spoon will also do what's being called "R.E.M. album inspired performances."
Showtime is 10 p.m. and it's free to attend. Here's the whole album to get you in the mood.
Click here for even more live music events going on around town tonight.
On this day in 2003, Iggy Pop reunited The Stooges to perform at the 2003 Coachella festival in California. Well, as much of a "reunion" as possible — original bassist David Alexander died in 1975. But you can't do much better than Mike Watt (Minutemen, fIREHOSE) as a substitute. Pop re-teamed with guitarist Ron Asheton and drummer Scott Asheton for a few tracks on his Skull Ring album, which led to talk of playing some shows (joined by Steve Mackay, who played sax on Fun House).
Like the Pixies, the reunion seems never-ending. The original reunion shows usually stuck to material from the group's first two albums, but eventually they added material from Raw Power (which featured James Williamson on guitar and Ron Asheton on bass) and the band's mixed-reviewed new album, The Weirdness.
In January of 2009, Ron Asheton died of a heart attack. He was 60. The remaining Stooges issued a statement saying, in part, "We are shocked and shaken by the news of Ron's death. He was a great friend, brother, musician, trooper. Irreplaceable. He will be missed."
Then they replaced him. By May, the group had announced plans to keep going with former guitarist Williamson rejoining the band. Pop told NPR, "Although 'The Stooges' died with Ron Asheton, there is still 'Iggy and the Stooges'."
The group picked up reunion-touring that November, adding more Raw Power material to their set. In 2010, after a lot of clamoring from fans and even just those who understood the influence of Pop and Co., The Stooges were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
I saw the first Stooges reunion a couple of times and Pop and the band, while perhaps not as "dangerous" as they once were, still put on a great live show. It would be hard for Pop not to at this point, though it should be interesting to see how much longer the seemingly bulletproof 65-year-old can keep prancing around, shirtless (of course), on stage like a 25-year-old. Is 70 too old? 80? Will Pop keep throwing himself around the stage and working out until his veins protrude from his skin when he's 90? He certainly doesn't show any signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Here's a bit from the historic 1970 Iggy & the Stooges show here in Cincinnati at the ol' Crosley Field (yes, it was broadcast nationally on TV). Read all about the event here, from a 2010 CityBeat feature story on the 40th anniversary of the Cincinnati Summer Pop Festival.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 27 birthday include: legendary Rock drummer (John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Carly Simon, Elvis Costello) Jim Keltner (1942); Soul singer/songwriter ("I Can't Stand the Rain") Ann Peebles (1947); lead singer for the Soul group The Main Ingredient ("Everybody Plays the Fool"), Cuba Gooding, Sr. (1944); singer/songwriter/guitarist for Beatles-approved rockers Badfinger ("Come and Get It," "No Matter What"), Pete Ham (1947); vocalist with New Wave group The B-52's, Kate Pierson (1948); original KISS guitarist Ace Frehley (1951); Scottish Pop star Sheena Easton (1959); former Belle & Sebastian singer/cellist Isobel Campbell (1976); frontman for Fall Out Boy and solo artist Patrick Stump (1984); and America's countdown king, broadcaster Casey Kasem (1932).
And now, a long-distance dedication (to be read it in Kasem's voice):
When I was a youngster, I was addicted to your American Top 40 syndicated radio show. I'd listen every Saturday, just as I'd watch the morning cartoons (which you were also a part of, as the voice of Shaggy on Scooby Doo, as well as Robin on my must-see TV of the time, SuperFriends, among other shows.)
In a few years, my musical tastes would develop and I became less and less interested in most Top 40 music, so I didn't listen as much. But I'd still pop in every now and then, to check and see how my favorites, like Men at Work or The Police, were doing that week. And, if I was lucky, you'd throw in a fun fact or two about the artist behind the next song you were going to play (like, "… and that gas-station attendant was none other than Sheena Easton").
As I grew older, I also listened to commercial radio less and less, and I lost touch with my old friend, though I loved the clips of you losing it while recording your show. Earlier today, I noticed on Wikipedia that you officially retired from your radio shows in 2009 (and, apparently, you were still voicing Shaggy until that year as well). I felt bad that I thought you disappeared from the radio in 1986. So, Casey, could you please play Killing Joke's "Eighties" for my old pal, you, on his/your 80th birthday?
Oh, and YOU keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.
Mike B. from Ohio