On this date in 1962, a pre-performance speech by legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein, seen by some as an attack on guest pianist — the almost equally as legendary Glenn Gould — caused quite a stir in the Classical music world. The concert was to feature Gould performing Brahms' "First Piano Concerto," but apparently the pianist and music director (Bernstein) disagreed on how it was to be performed. The New York Philharmonic concert came towards the end of the orchestra's final season at Carnegie Hall.
The disagreement was largely over tempo — Gould felt the composition should be played very slowly. Before the intermission, the orchestra played selections by Carl Nielsen. Fearful that Gould would not even show up (he was notorious for last-minute cancellations), Bernstein had the Philharmonic prepared to play Brahms' First Symphony just in case. Gould showed, but to prepare the audience for the unorthodox performance, Bernstein took to the podium and delivered the controversial introduction/disclaimer/diss. (Bernstein delivered the same speech at a preview performance the night before.)
Don't be frightened. Mr. Gould is here. He will appear in a moment. I'm not, um, as you know, in the habit of speaking on any concert except the Thursday night previews, but a curious situation has arisen, which merits, I think, a word or two. You are about to hear a rather, shall we say, unorthodox performance of the Brahms D Minor Concerto, a performance distinctly different from any I've ever heard, or even dreamt of for that matter, in its remarkably broad tempi and its frequent departures from Brahms' dynamic indications. I cannot say I am in total agreement with Mr. Gould's conception and this raises the interesting question: "What am I doing conducting it?" I'm conducting it because Mr. Gould is so valid and serious an artist that I must take seriously anything he conceives in good faith and his conception is interesting enough so that I feel you should hear it, too.
But the age old question still remains: "In a concerto, who is the boss; the soloist or the conductor?" The answer is, of course, sometimes one, sometimes the other, depending on the people involved. But almost always, the two manage to get together by persuasion or charm or even threats to achieve a unified performance. I have only once before in my life had to submit to a soloist's wholly new and incompatible concept and that was the last time I accompanied Mr. Gould. But, but this time the discrepancies between our views are so great that I feel I must make this small disclaimer. Then why, to repeat the question, am I conducting it? Why do I not make a minor scandal — get a substitute soloist, or let an assistant conduct? Because I am fascinated, glad to have the chance for a new look at this much-played work; Because, what's more, there are moments in Mr. Gould's performance that emerge with astonishing freshness and conviction. Thirdly, because we can all learn something from this extraordinary artist, who is a thinking performer, and finally because there is in music what Dimitri Mitropoulos used to call "the sportive element", that factor of curiosity, adventure, experiment, and I can assure you that it has been an adventure this week collaborating with Mr. Gould on this Brahms concerto and it's in this spirit of adventure that we now present it to you
Many critics wrote about the intro and viewed it as the conductor's way of saying, "If this sucks, it's his fault." And many took Gould to task for his interpretation of the music (though some musicologists later said Gould's version was a correct reading of the material). Gould, for his part, said he enjoyed the performance and liked that it caused some in the audience to boo. Columbia had planned to release a recording of the performance but backed off given the controversy. Bootlegs spread like wildfire and Sony Classical, years later (in 1998), released the recording with Bernstein's remarks in tact. In the liner notes, Gould is quoted as saying, "Soloists and conductors disagree all the time. Why should this be hidden from the public, especially if both parties still give their all?" Bernstein also didn't seem too bothered by the controversy and he never stopped praising Gould's unique talent.
Here's a clip of Bernstein and Gould getting along just fine in 1960, performing Bach's "Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor."
Click on for Born This Day featuring Warren Haynes, Gerry Mulligan, Merle Haggard and Cobra Starship's Alex Suarez.
On this day in 1989, Pepsi dropped Madonna as a spokesperson after complaints about her "blasphemous" video for the single (also used in the Pepsi commercial campaign) "Like A Prayer." The Vatican condemned the video for its imagery of burning crosses and Madonna kissing a black man, while religious groups called for a boycott of all Pepsi-affiliated products. The soft drink manufacturer caved and cut and run from the Pop princess. But Pepsi gave Madonna a nice parting gift — the company was so eager to get away from the controversy that they let her keep her $5 million (yes, million) advance.
Thirty years earlier, another music-related controversy erupted in the U.K. when the BBC decided that The Coasters' song "Charlie Brown" was not fit for airplay. Was it that the Peanuts comic strip was too controversial? Peppermint Patty's sexuality has always been a topic of debate. Were they afraid the youth of England would all mimic Charlie Brown's sparse curly-Q hairdo, essentially killing off the hair-care product industry? Was Pigpen's personal hygiene deficiency deemed a bad influence?
Nope — the BBC was worried about the song because it contained the word "spitball" and they were fearful kids all over would be inspired to destroy society with saliva-drenched missiles. Unlike Pepsi, the Beeb reversed its decision a couple of weeks later, apparently realizing how ridiculous the "ban" was.
Here are clips relating to both controversies. Watch at your own risk!
On this date in 1949, American musical icon Hank Williams made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry at the age of 25. It was the beginning of a very difficult relationship.
Even though things soured, Williams' Opry debut was a career-defining moment. The singer/songwriter wowed the crowd so much, he was called back for six encores (the encores ultimately had to be halted so the rest of the show could go on).
Williams' reputation for heavy drinking put off the Opry initially, but as his star continued to rise — boosted by the success of "Lovesick Blues" (recorded at the Herzog studio here in CIncinnati) — the Country music institution finally relented and invited him to perform.
Williams continued to make Opry appearances over the next three years, but he was banished in 1952 for his alcohol-related issues. Hank died just a few months later, in January of 1953 at the age of 29.
Over the past eight or so years, Hank Williams' grandson, Hank III, and other supporters have participated in a campaign to have Williams posthumously reinstated to the Grand Ole Opry. CityBeat also lent a hand, promoting the "Reinstate Hank" campaign during a tribute presented by the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation in honor of Hank's historic recording sessions in Cincinnati (Herzog studios was located where CityBeat and the CMHF headquarters now reside). Check a clip below.
The reinstatement campaign has yet to work and seems to have lost some steam. But click here to learn more about the attempts to right such a ridiculous wrong.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a June 11 birthday include the least hirsute (ironically!) member of ZZ Top, drummer Frank Beard (1949); Soft Rock god with Air Supply, Graham Russell (1950); guitarist/singer of Southern Rock group .38 Special, Donnie Van Zandt (1952); Flaming Lips drummer-turned-guitarist Steven Drozd (1969); and Heartless Bastards singer/guitarist Erika Wennerstrom (1977).
Though she and her band are currently based in Austin, Tex., Wennerstrom grew up in Dayton before relocating to Cincinnati. As Wennerstrom has grown, matured, changed and become more confident, so has her band's music. After releasing her first two albums, Wennerstrom headed to Texas and retooled the band, adding two different musicians also from our area — Jesse Ebaugh and Dave Colvin — who joined Wennerstrom in Austin. Since then, the Bastards' albums The Mountain (a more earthy, less balls-out effort) and this year's Arrow (a great combination of everything the band does well) have continued the trend of each successive HB album drawing the group higher praise and more fans.
A happy 35th b-day to Erika. We miss you here in Cincy. Below, check out an interview and acoustic session recorded for American Songwriter.
Today in 1996, one of the greatest, most influential bassists ever, Bernard Edwards of Disco/Funk group Chic, passed away after contracting pneumonia while on tour in Japan.
My personal favorite bass line is Sly Stone's lick on "If You Want Me to Stay," but it's hard to deny the power of Chic's "Good Times," a Disco-era hit that helped lay the groundwork for Hip Hop. Edwards' bass line from the song is considered one of the most sampled pieces of music ever and it has been mimicked almost as often. Songs that wouldn't exist with Edwards' riff include Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," Hip Hop trailblazers Sugarhill Gang's breakthrough "Rapper's Delight," Blondie's "Rapture," Daft Punk's "Around the World" and Wham!'s "Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)" (hey, they can't all be winners).
R.I.P Bernard Edwards. And thanks for the groove.
Click on for Born This Day featuring Bez, Skip Spence, Grandmaster Caz and Robert Christgau.
On this day in 1967, The Beatles continued work on arguably their best song, "A Day in the Life." After a debate over how to end the track following the huge orchestral build-up (sustained choral vocals were considered, but scrapped), the group decided to simultaneously strike a massive E chord on three pianos and sustain the notes for as long as possible. Adding overdubs (and a contribution from producer George Martin on harmonium), the final resonating notes hang in the air for over 40 seconds on the recording. As the held chords faded on the pianos in the studio, the engineer had to crank the recording level, which picked up some incidental sounds (like a creaking chair and, certainly, something about Paul being dead) from the studio.
That E-major chord that closes the song — and the whole Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, considered one of the best ever — is widely considered one of the most famous chords in Rock/Pop history. Which means that The Beatles are responsible for the most popular opening chord in modern music — the mysterious G7sus4-ish that kicks off "A Hard Day's Night" — and the most notable final chord with the "A Day in the Life" finale.
Below is audio of BTO guitarist Randy Bachman explaining the "Hard Day's" chord mystery (frustrated guitarists should feel better about their inability to figure it out), followed by today's biggest Pop superstar performing that famed final note from Sgt. Peppers.
Click the jump for "Born This Day" featuring live footage from one of the final Sublime concerts with Bradley Nowell.
On this date in 1987, a Beastie Boys/Run DMC concert in Liverpool, England, turned into a riot and ended with the arrest of Adam "Ad Rock" Horovitz. The pumped-out crowd reportedly began throwing bottles and cans at the group, which the Boys playfully batted back at them. At first. After just a few minutes, things continued to get out of hand and the concert was cancelled for the safety of all involved. At the hotel later that night, Horovitz was arrested because police believed he was responsible for the beer can that struck and injured a female fan.
Horovitz spent the night in jail and, in November, Ad Rock — 21 at the time — was found not guilty of the charges.
Here's an ancient MTV segment featuring the Boys at Spring Break (to give you a sense of the trio's pre-enlightenment personalities around the time of Horovitz's arrest).
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 30 birthday include legendary Big Band bandleader and clarinetist Benny Goodman (1909); founding bassist for Punk giants Dead Kennedys, Geoffrey Lyall, better known as Klaus Flouride (1949); Jazz Fusion bassist Dann Glenn (1950); on-again/off-again drummer for The Clash, Topper Headon (1955); singer for Swedish Pop duo Roxette ("It Must Have Been Love," "The Look") Marie Fredriksson (1958); drummer and founding member of progressive Canadian Metal greats Voivod, Michel Langevin (1963); Country star Wynonna Judd (1964); Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello (1964); frontman for Indie Rock icons Pavement, Stephen Malkmus (1966); singer for Brit Pop crew The Charlatans, Tim Burgess (1967); Hip Hop-turned-Pop superstar Cee-Lo Green (1974); singer for Metal band Shadows Fall, Brian Fair (1975); "Freak Folk" poster child Devendra Banhart (1981) and Hip Hop MC Remy Ma (1981).
Remy was born Reminisce Smith and grew up in the Castle Hill Projects in the Bronx. Neighborhood MC Big Pun was an early mentor, putting Remy (then "Remi Martin") on a pair of tracks from his Yeeeah Baby album. It was a bittersweet debut, though; Pun died from a heart attack in 2000 and the album came out two months afterwards. (Big Pun was reportedly 698 pounds when he died.) Another big rapper, Fat Joe, took Remy under his wing and made her a member of Terror Squad. She was featured on the Terror Squad's huge 2004 single "Lean Back," which was a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks that summer. It also earned Remy a Grammy nomination.
Remy's debut solo album, There's Something About Remy: Based on a True Story, dropped on Feb. 7, 2006, the sixth anniversary of Big Pun's death. The album was critically acclaimed but didn't sell very well (Fat Joe and Remy blamed poor promotion and choice of singles). She left Terror Squad in 2007.
As a free agent, Remy reportedly received numerous label offers and even a reported deal for a reality show. She had her second album in the works, as well as the debut of the super-trio 3Sum, featuring fellow MCs Jacki-O and Shawnna, when things went really bad for Remy. She turned herself into police after a shooting outside of a nightclub that wounded a woman who had allegedly tried to rob the rapper. The woman ID'ed Remy as the shooter. In 2008, Remy was convicted of assault, attempted coercion and weapons possession. She was sentenced to eight years in prison. In 2008, she married her fiancee, Hip Hop artist Papoose.
Remy — who also has a young son — lost her appeal last June. The earliest she can be released is Jan. 31, 2015. If she has to serve her whole sentence, she won't be out until March 23, 2016.
Despite her jail stint and the limited material released, Remy Ma remains a big influence on established and up-and-coming female Rap artists.
Here's part of an interview Remy did with StreetHeat about her life in prison.
On this day in 2003, the Iraq war quagmire began. Depending on where you stand and your perspective of "facts," the war was a) a huge mistake based on fabricated information, b) a nobly-intentioned-attack-turned-Bush-administration-blooper ("Whoops, sorry!"), or c) a perfectly reasonable military operation that spread democracy and made Toby Keith a billionaire.
It is estimated the war has killed well over 100,000 Iraqi civilians and displaced over 2 million. Our government claims that 4,422 Americans have died as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom (and over 31,000 have been injured).
The South Carolina State Legislature marked the beginning of the war by attacking a Country music trio. State Rep. Catherine Ceips introduced a resolution that commanded the Dixie Chicks to apologize to President Bush for daring to say in front of an audience in London that they were embarrassed to be from the same state (Texas) as W.
Chick Natalie Maines DID apologize a week before, saying she should not have been disrespectful to the Prez. But it apparently didn't matter and the Chicks became another tool used to raise support for the war. In an interview with Tom Brokaw a month later, Bush said that the group members had a right to say what they wanted. But, "I don't really care what the Dixie Chicks said. I want to do what I think is right for the American people." Whoopsie.
Despite Bush being the one proved wrong, no one EVER apologized to the Dixie Chicks, who lost a substantial amount of money due to the ginned-up controversy.
On that same day, Bruce Springsteen played a concert in Australia and dedicated "Land of Hope and Dreams" to "innocent Iraqi civilians." He opened the show with his stunning acoustic version of "Born in the U.S.A.," followed by a cover of Edwin Starr's "War (What Is It Good For)."
Click on for Born This Day featuring Chester Bennington, Natacha Atlas, Jerry Reed and Lee "Scratch" Perry.
On this day in 2003, the singer of one of the best known anti-war protest songs, "War," died from a heart attack at his home in England. Born in Nashville and raised in Cleveland, Edwin Starr (born Charles Hatcher) moved to Detroit in the ’60s and eventually started recording for Motown. In 1968, he had his first big hit, "Twenty-Five Miles," but two years later he'd release a song originally recorded by The Temptations (and written by genius songwriting team Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong) that would become his signature.
Motown wasn't keen on letting The Temptations release "War" — a very obvious protest number ("War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothin' ") aimed at the Vietnam War — out of fear that it would alienate the group's fans, so Starr recorded it, giving it a more intense delivery, and it went to No. 1 upon its release in the summer of 1970, where it stayed for three weeks.
Starr embraced his role as outspoken anti-war critic and released the single "Stop the War Now" in 1971 (it was yet another song also recorded by The Temptations, who clearly had dibs on material).
Starr ultimately left Motown, tiring of the more formulaic material they were producing, and moved to the U.K. He recorded several songs with the British group, Utah Saints, including a new version of "War" in 2003, which became his final recorded output. Bruce Springsteen repopularized the song when he performed it towards the end of his Born in the U.S.A. tour. The Boss' version was released as a live single in 1986 and made it to No. 8 on the Billboard singles chart. (Oh, and also in the ’80s, Frankie Goes to Hollywood covered it, though I think just so Holly Johnson could reprise his "Hunnhhhh!" shout from "Relax.")
The Temptations did release a slightly less direct song with societal commentary in 1970 that made it to No. 3, the superb "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)."
Click on for Born This Day featuring Serge Gainsbourg, Marvin Gaye, Dr. Demento and Zeebra.