On this day in 1940, American music icon Woody Guthrie wrote his most famous song and one that has become embedded into the DNA of American life, "This Land is You Land." The Folk music legend and notorious fighter for the social causes of the poor and working class is said to have written the song after hearing (a few too many times) Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," which he felt was too hyperbolic. Just like Roxanne Shante's "The Real Roxanne" was written as a response to U.T.F.O.'s "Roxanne Roxanne" (OK, maybe not JUST like), "This Land" was Guthrie's "answer song." Guthrie recorded the future standard five years later, but it wasn't until the ’60s Folk revival that the song really took flight, as everyone from Bob Dylan to The Kingston Trio covered the tune. Though "God Bless America" may be the song still sung at baseball games, "This Land is You Land" has endured as one of the greatest pieces of American art, a reflection of what many of us believe our country is all about — "We're all in this together and lucky to be on this wonderful little chunk of dirt, so shut up and quit being so selfish, jerk-ass!" Or something along those lines (maybe I read too much into it).
The song is still common at protests and used in political contexts. Bruce Springsteen closed his acoustic concerts in support of Barrack Obama in 2008 with a version ("Yes We Can" chants added), while Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello serenaded the mass of humanity at the Occupy Wall Street protest in NYC with the song (lost verses and all) this past October.
Here is one of the great "contemporary" versions — a rendition by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, who give the song a sweet vintage Soul makeover:
Click the jump for "Born This Day" featuring Aziz Ansari, the Mark Twain of Kanye West jokes.
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 day in 1958, the very first "Flying V" guitar shipped from the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, Mich. The guitar's distinct body — shaped, as the name suggest, like a "V," and made almost to look like it had aerodynamic qualities — was initially the instrument's downfall. In its first two years available, the pointy axe was a flop; according to Gibson's website and author Larry Meiners' book Flying "V": The Illustrated History of This Modernistic Guitar, fewer that 100 total Flying Vs were ordered in ’58 and ’59.
But the odd design was also a draw for at least some musicians. For Blues players Albert King and Lonnie Mack (who, according to Gibson, is said to have purchased his first at Glenn Hughes Music in Cincinnati), the unique aesthetic of the guitar became a part of their image. In the ’60s, the aesthetic suddenly seemed less flashy to Rock guitar gods like Jimi Hendrix, and demand caused Gibson to begin producing the instrument once again in 1967 (Jimi had one immediately). In the ’70s, the guitar's appeal was enough to keep it in production, as everyone from Marc Bolan (T Rex) to Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) began to sling one.
By the ’80s, the Flying V became most identifiable with Metal, used prominently by Ozzy sidekick Randy Rhoads, dweedle-dweedle master Yngwie Malmsteen and players from Judas Priest, Metallica, Megadeth, Scorpions and a bazillion others.
Alternative and Modern Rock players also took to the the V — Bob Mould of Husker Du used his V quite a lot, while the guys in Weezer were perhaps the first to use them "ironically." The instrument's endurance is mostly due to the Flying V's appearance, making it more of a fashion accessory than a guitar specifically picked for its sound (though it was lighter than the usual guitar, at least initially).
Here are two clips showing the V in action, the first featuring Lonnie Mack and the second a music video by Jay Reatard, the late cult hero from Memphis.
Click the jump for "Born This Day" featuring video of Nina Simone's first time on national television, playing The Ed Sullivan Show in 1960.
If you're a hardcore devotee of the creative Electronic Dance Music (EDM) scene exploding across the world right now, the place you'll most want to be tonight isn't your favorite dance club, but a movie theater. That's because the intriguing documentary film Re:Generation Music Project is premiering simultaneously in theaters across the country, including locally at the AMC theaters at Newport on the Levee and the Rave theaters in Florence, Ky. Showtime is 8 p.m. (Click here to buy advance tickets for tonight's screening or the encore ones Feb. 23.)
The film's premise is quite clever and not what you might expect from a documentary seemingly about the state of contemporary Electronic music. While five of today's most popular producers/DJs — Skrillex, The Crystal Method, Mark Ronson, DJ Premier and Pretty Lights — are at the heart of the movie, it really sounds like it is more about the inherent mongrel nature of music in general and how all music evolves organically through hybridization.
Acclaimed documentarian Amir Bar Lev directed the film, which follows the five featured artists as they prepare to write and record a new track with someone renowned for their work in a decidedly different field of study. Subtitled "5 DJs Turn the Table of the History of Music," Lev takes viewers along as recent Grammy winner Skrillex teams up with members of Rock band The Doors, The Crystal Method head to Detroit to collaborate with Motown legends Martha Reeves of The Vandellas and The Funk Brothers, Ronson gets down on some New Orleans Jazz with Trombone Shorty (as well as Mos Def, Erykah Badu, The Dap Kings and Zigaboo Medeliste), DJ Premier goes Classical with the Berklee Symphony Orchestra and Pretty Lights explores Bluegrass with Ralph Stanley (and LeAnn Rimes).
By exploding genre and generational barriers, Re:Generation makes a great point about the development of music in society. While Stanley and Pretty Lights' Derek Vincent Smith are a half a century apart in terms of age, they share the common ground of being artists and creators, which makes them able to "get" what the other is doing on a unique level that often only artists can access. The new generation of Electronic Dance Music artists are also perfect to focus in on, since the younger musicians of today (especially in electronic music) feed off of invention and seem willing to experiment with any source. As long as it services the song, who cares where it's placed in the iTunes store?
Here's a clip from the film featuring Skrillex and his legendary collaborators, The Doors.
Are you watching the Grammys alone tonight? Wishing you had someone there with you to enjoy the performances and award presentations help make fun of any and everything that deserves to be? Whether you're solo snarking, hanging out with a few pals, throwing your own Grammy mega-party or at the ceremony in person (we hear Taylor Swift is a big citybeat.com fan), join me tonight at this very cyber spot for some hot live blogging action. And when those witty comments pop into your head (or you become outraged with something I've written), feel free to post some comments of your own. The show airs live on CBS at 8 p.m.; pre-show red carpet festivities are probably going on now on E! And you can watch the program (and pre-show activities) through the Grammys site or through the Grammys YouTube channel.
Below is a little "pre-game show," addressing some of the more interesting story-lines this year, the saddest of which began just last evening when superstar Whitney Houston was found dead in her Beverly Hills hotel room. Even though her tragic death occurred just over 24 hours before the Grammys were set to begin, Houston's shadow will loom large over the ceremony, if not overshadow it completely.
There have been an increasing number of examples — especially in the past decade — of conservative politicians using songs in their campaigns by artists who do not want their music used in that way. Recently, a member of Survivor who owns the copyright for the Rocky III anthem, "Eye of the Tiger," asked Newt Gingrich to stop using the song at rallies (the problem being that not only is the song being used in public, but it also ends up soundtracking YouTube clips from the same rally and lives on eternally on the web). Likewise, British Funk/Rock band The Heavy freaked when Newt's people blared their "How You Like Me Now?" hit to rile up supporters.
It almost seems like these occurrences happen on a weekly basis now. Usually, when asked to cease use, the politicians' campaigns comply immediately. But, with it happening so frequently, wouldn't a campaign manager be a little more aware of the music they're deciding to co-opt? And if a campaign refuses, are there really any legal ramifications?
Since our Morning News and Stuff writer hates football and refused to comment on the Super Bowl (not even the Puppy Bowl!), I thought I'd take a minute to discuss yesterday's huge game. Well, the music heard during the TV broadcast, anyway.
While I'm not a huge Madonna fan (I love the idea of her more than her music), I thought her halftime show was excellent. Then I looked on the internets and it told me that I was stupid and it was actually horrible and, even worse, offensive! Things I learned: Madonna is, like, really old; she may have lip-synced during portions of the performance; and MIA said "Fuck you, America" with her middle finger. (Like Janet Jackson's boob, I wouldn't have even noticed had it not been overblown in cyberspace.)
Oh, and MIA, according to the AP report, also "appeared" to say a cuss word. (She didn't, clearly stopping her line, "I don't give a shit," at "Shhhh" — nice reporting AP!)
I caught a tweet from Noam Pikelny (The Punch Brothers) the other night. It said the new Rascal Flatts song “Banjo” made him want to kill a small pet. While I tend to steer clear of anything involving Gary LeVox and the gang, I will listen to anything involving a banjo. So, I clicked on his link to a YouTube video.
I made it to the end of the chorus before I not only stopped the video, but I shut down my entire web browser. The last two lines of the chorus are, “And you kick it into four-wheel drive when you run out of road and you go, and you go and you go-go-go/’Til you hear a banjo.”
Of course I understand that “Banjo” is supposed to be a fun, light-hearted song, but I still don’t appreciate the fact that these “country artists” have once again tried to associate the banjo with little more than Deliverance.
There’s something about the written word that adds finality to a subject. Contracts are finished with a signature, newspapers are often considered bastions of truth and obituaries often put a person’s death in perspective for their loved ones. Perhaps this is why I put off writing this story for so long; I didn’t want to admit the truth: at the end of the year, two of the most important places in my life will cease to be. The Mad Hatter has already shuttered its doors and the Southgate House is closing after Saturday. And I can’t quite bring myself to accept that.
This might seem somewhat blasphemous, but I hold no real alliance with the Southgate House. I moved back here from Florida to go to college. The greatest benefit to moving here was that I was no longer in the South Florida concert rut. Cincinnati is right in the path between a lot of much larger cities. I was excited to be somewhere that would, hopefully, get more concerts than Palm Beach. This proved mostly true. But, more often than not, I still find myself heading to Cleveland, Chicago or Nashville for gigs. Which is why, after living here for six years, I’d only stepped foot in the Southgate House a couple times. But that’s only a minor reason as to why I’m not exactly heartbroken to see the venue close.