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.
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
On this day in 2004, Bob Pollard announced that his Dayton, Ohio-based Indie Rock group Guided By Voices would be calling it quits. The band would cease to be after the touring duties for the Half Smiles of the Decomposed were finished.
But he must have had his fingers-crossed behind his back when he announced it.
Pollard wrote online, ""I've always said that when I make a record that I'm totally satisfied with as befitting a final album, then that will be it. And this is it. I love the guys in the band, but I'm getting too old to be a gang leader."
Fans figured Pollard was Guided By Voices, anyway (or at least the songwriting engine and the only member to be a part of every GBV lineup), so, while their was some sadness that the name was being retired, GBV-esque material would no doubt continue to flood the market in the form of Pollard's prolific output.
In 2010, Pollard must have gotten his second wind. He became a gang leader again when it was announced that the "classic" GBV lineup (with the members who played on seminal ’90s albums like Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand) would reunite. Sixteen shows turned into more shows, which turned into more shows and, early last year, a new album.
In 2007, Pollard told Magnet magazine, "If you're gonna get the band back together, it should be to support a new record, not just to play the hits. That's like doing the county-fair circuit. I don't see Guided by Voices reforming." GBV fans were mostly thrilled he changed his mind. But Lou Barlow of fellow Indie stalwarts Sebadoh was less enthused. In October of last year, Barlow told CityBeat he found it a bit tacky for GBV to reunite, but only because they had already embarked on a "farewell tour." (He's a stickler for semantics, apparently.)
The Guided By Voices post-farewell tour reunion slowed down a bit this year. Upon the release of the new album, Let's Go Eat the Factory, in January, several more tour dates were expected, but the group pulled back and cancelled most of them. GBV has only two shows on their schedule for 2012 — July 15 at Cincinnati's first Bunbury Music Festival along the riverfront (details here) and Sept. 21 at a fest in Florida. Maybe Lou's comments really hit home? Or maybe Pollard is just trying to pay tribute to his idols, The Who?
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 26 birthday include the "Mother of the Blues," Gertrude Pridgett, better known as Ma Rainey (1886); twangy guitar legend ("Peter Gunn," "Rebel Rouser") Duane Eddy (1938); Italian songwriter/producer/film composer ("Love to Love You Baby," "Take My Breath Away") Giorgio Moroder (1940); Rock & Roll teen idol ("Wild One," "Volare") Bobby Rydell (1942); Soft Rock hitmaker ("Dream Weaver") Gary Wright (1943); the drumming Taylor of Duran Duran, Roger Taylor (1960); original drummer for Minneapolis rockers The Replacements, Chris Mars (1961); soap actor turned one hit wonder ("Rock On") Michael Damian (1962); singer for Pop trio TLC, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins (1970); drummer for masked Metal marauders Slipknot, Joey Jordison (1975); Hip Hop/R&B singer/rapper Ms. Dynamite (1981); and Japanese film producer and the creator of legendary movie monster Godzilla, Tomoyuki Tanaka (1910).
Tanaka — along with writer Shigeru Kayama, director Ishirō Honda and special-effects creator Eiji Tsuburaya — created Godzilla for the movies as something of a metaphor for the fear still looming over Japan after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The series of films based on the monster would go on to become huge cult classics in the U.S. and spawn not only the crappy 1998 blockbuster starring Matthew Broderick, but also a bunch of songs.
Without Tanaka, the world might not have tunes like Motorhead's "Godzilla Akimbo," Mr. Magic and Master P's "Ghetto Godzilla," The Flaming Lips' "Godzilla Flick," Siouxsie Sioux and The Creatures' "Godzilla!," jazzer Ben Allison's "Kramer Vs. Kramer Vs. Godzilla," Hardcore/Thrash band M.O.D.'s "Godzula," Metal ensemble Zebrahead's "Godzilla Vs. Tokyo," K Pop all-girl group Big Mama's "Godzilla Dub," P Diddy and Jimmy Page's "Come With Me" (the awful lead single from the ’98 Godzilla soundtrack) and, of course, Blue Oyster Cult's epic "Godzilla."
Here's the playlist:
On this day in 2002, rapper for the Pop group TLC, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes died in a traffic accident in the Honduras. The star was allegedly trying to pass a truck, but another vehicle was coming the opposite way when she made her move. To avoid it, Lopes swerved off the road. The Mitsubishi Montero Sport Lopes was driving flipped, hit a couple of trees and threw all four passengers out of the vehicle. Lopes died from head and neck injuries; the other passengers survived.
Left Eye was just a month away from her 31st birthday.
Lopes' casket was engraved with lyrics from the TLC hit "Waterfalls" ("Dreams are hopeless aspirations, in hopes of coming true, believe in yourself, the rest is up to me and you"). Lopes gave an interview to MTV News about her first solo album, 2001's Supernova, in which she described her song/poem "A New Star Is Born," which was dedicated to her late father. In the interview, she said, "That track is dedicated to all those that have loved ones that have passed away. It's saying that there is no such thing as death. We can call it transforming for a lack of better words, but as scientists would say, 'Every atom that was once a star is now in you.' It's in your body. So in the song I pretty much go along with that idea. I don't care what happens or what people think about death, it doesn't matter. We all share the same space."
There are a lot of Left Eye remembrances going on in cyberspace today since its the tenth anniversary of her death. Check out word on a new track — and some remembrances from her former TLC pals — featuring Lopes and Bootleg of the Dayton Family here.
Here's a video tribute to Lopes put together by a fan and set to "A New Star," followed by an earlier different kind of tribute to TLC by Cincinnati's own Afghan Whigs (who just announced their first non-festival reunion date in the U.S., scheduled for October in New York City).
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 25 birthday include: Jazz/R&B saxophonist Earl Bostic (1913); legendary Jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald (1917); influential Blues guitarist Albert King (1923); wildly successful songwriter and producer (with writing partner Mike Stoller) Jerry Leiber (1933); bassist for Classic Rock band CCR, Stu Cook (1945); singer for Prog band Marillion, Derek William Dick, much better known as Fish (1958); singer for Synth Pop legends Erasure, Andy Bell (1964); original Jane's Addiction bassist Eric Avery (1965); and the "Father of Hillbilly Jazz," fiddler Vassar Clements (1928).
Clements' improv approach to Bluegrass was a revelation. Putting a Jazz twist on Roots music makes him a spiritual godfather of the whole "Newgrass" movement.
Clements grew up in Florida and taught himself to play violin at the age of 7. When he was 21, he joined Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, recording with them in the early ’50s. Word of Clements' prowess and innovative style traveled and he became an in-demand session player. In 1971, Clements joined John Hartford for the groundbreaking Aereo-plain album, widely considered one of the first "Newgrass" records. Hartford and Clements were joined by Norman Blake, Randy Scruggs and Tut Taylor for the album, which was produced by David Bromberg.
During his 50-year career, Clements would go on to become a crucial part of the progressive Bluegrass movement of the ’70s, including appearances on a couple of other trailblazers — the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Will the Circle Be Unbroken and Old and in the Way, featuring Jerry Garcia, David Grisam, Peter Rowan and John Kahn. By the time he passed in 2005 at the age of 77 (from lung cancer), Clements had played with everyone from Paul McCartney, The Monkees and The Grateful Dead to Stephane Grappeli and Woody Herman.
Here's Clements performing with the Del McCoury Band in 2003.
On this day in 1984, arguably the greatest concert film ever made, Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense, premiered. The film was directed by Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, a trio of Neil Young documentaries) and shot during three concerts at Hollywood's Pantages Theater in December of 2003. Along with being a compelling piece of art in itself, the movie was also groundbreaking in that it was the first made with all digital audio.
The film was also noteworthy due to Demme and the band's avoidance of concert movie cliches. The audience was barely shown; no color lighting was used onstage; there were no fast edits, behind the scenes footage, interviews or close ups of intense guitar soloing; and crew members are shown shuffling set props and equipment on and off the stage (instead of the usual "It's all magic!" approach).
Here's a song from the flick, "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)," from the Speaking in Tongues album (which was the record the band was touring when the film was shot).
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 24 birthday include: Jazz tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson (1937); singer/actress Barbra Streisand (1942); legendary producer (Bowie, T. Rex, Sparks, Thin Lizzy) Tony Visconti (1944); drummer for classic rockers CCR, Doug Clifford (1945); bassist for New Wave/Pop group Blondie, Nigel Harrison (1951); Punk trailblazer with The Damned, Raymond Burns, better known to the world as Captain Sensible (1954); singer/bassist for ’80s rockers Knight Ranger, Jack Blades (1954); drummer for The Cure (1984-1993), Boris Williams (1957); singer for underrated "really AltCountry" band Tarnation, Paula Frazer (1963); bassist for eclectic rockers Faith No More, Billy Gould (1963); Pop superstar (and American Idol's primary "success story" testimonial) Kelly Clarkson (1982); singer for Pop/Rock band All American Rejects, Tyson Ritter (1984) and Alt music pioneer with Bauhaus, Tones on Tail and Love and Rockets, David J (1957).
Born David John Haskins (his younger brother, Kevin Haskins, was also drummer in Bauhaus, Tones and L&R), J — like Peter Hook of New Order/Joy Division — had a very distinctive sound, which is rare for a bassist. Never one to rest on his laurels, J seems to be in a consistent state of creativity, releasing records and recording with numerous collaborators outside of the Bauhaus/L&R realm. Late last year, J released his latest solo album (the first for him in eight years), Not Long for This World, and staged the premiere of his avant-garde play, The Chanteuse and the Devil's Muse, based on The Black Dahlia murders.
J — who also wrote and sang several Love and Rockets songs (including the hit "No New Tale to Tell") — has benefited greatly from Kickstarter, the website that helps artists find funding for projects via fan contributions. Both the play and his latest solo album were funded with Kickstarter. (As if that wasn't plenty on his plate, around the same time, J also staged the one-woman show he wrote and directed, Silver for Gold: The Odyssey of Edie Sedgwick. Check out J's site for a look at/listen to more of his recent projects.)
Here's J's Kickstarter video for Not Long, as well as the track, "Spalding Gray Can’t Swim."
On this day in 1981, The Survivors Live, an album featuring Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, was recorded in West Germany. The story goes that the three artists — who all started out together on the trailblazing Sun Records — were touring Europe at the same time and Lewis and Perkins joined Cash at a concert on their day off. The trio reportedly played the concert without rehearsing, performing several of each others well known tunes and covers like the finale, "I Saw the Light," a Hank Williams standard (listen below). The threesome were 3/4 of the "Million Dollar Quartet," named for a legendary recording session in 1956 that featured Perkins, Lewis, Cash and some fella named Elvis Presley (The Survivors name, obviously, a reference to Presley's absence; he died four years earlier).
The trio would get together one last time for a recording. The 1986 album Class of ’55 also featured Roy Orbison (who, coincidentally, would have turned 76 today).
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 23 birthday include early Boogie Woogie piano pioneer "Cow Cow" Davenport (1894); Rock legend Roy Orbison (1936); violinist for the ’70s version of Prog aces King Crimson, David Cross (1949); musician/writer/producer (Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin) Narada Michael Walden (1952); late, longtime Def Leppard guitarist Steve Clark (1960); stylish former bassist for Interpol, Carlos "D." Dengler (1974); and singer and guitarist for Icelandic Post Rock group Sigur Ros, Jónsi (1975).
Jónsi provides the bowed guitar and falsetto vocals for Sigur Ros (among other things), which has been an internationally acclaimed band for the past decade or so with their enrapturing, cinemascopic sound. The band's new album, Valtari, is due May 28 and, this July, Sigur Ros is embarking on a very brief North American tour.
If you are unable to make it to one of the nine North American dates announced thus far, this Friday you will be able to experience an artsy, quality approximation of the Sigur Ros live show right here in Cincy. Earlier this month, as part of the auxiliary programming related to its current Spectacle music video exhibition, downtown’s Contemporary Arts Center welcomed in award-winning singer/songwriter Feist and music video director Martin de Thurah for a special screening and talk. This Friday, the CAC welcomes another music video auteur, Vincent Morisset, who will present a screen of the widely acclaimed black-and-white Sigur Rós concert film titled Inni (Morisset also made the Sigur Rós flick Heima.)
The movie screens at 6:30 p.m., followed by a discussion with Morisset about the Sigur Rós projects, as well as his stunning music video work, including Arcade Fire’s riveting “interactive” video, “Sprawl II.” The screening and chat are free to attend with regular gallery admission ($7.50; free for members). Click here for more details.
Below, you can check out the trailer for Inni and also register to win a signed Inni poster (the drawing for the winner will be done at the screening). Just enter your email address below.
On this day in 1939, Adolf Hitler's 50th birthday was a national holiday in Germany. It was also the day Billie Holiday recorded her version of the stirring "Strange Fruit," which some consider the first Civil Rights protest song/anthem. Originally a poem written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish high school teacher in New York (who later adopted the children of convicted spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg), about the lynching of black people. Some believe he was inspired to action after seeing a photo of a 1930 lynching in Marion, Ind. The poem was published in a teacher's union magazine in 1936 and Meeropol later set it to music (despite claims that it was actually Holiday and some other musicians who made it a song).
Holiday recorded the tune, despite fears of being targeted by racists, and it became the dramatic finale in her set during which Holiday performed the song with the room totally dark, save a single spotlight on her face. Holiday's label, Columbia, wouldn't release the song due to its "controversial" nature, so the company allowed Holiday to record it for the Commodore label. Time magazine dubbed in the "Song of the Century" in 1999.
"Strange Fruit" has been covered by Nina Simone, Sting, Diana Ross, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Lou Rawls, Jeff Buckley, Cocteau Twins, Tori Amos and UB40, to name a few. It has also been recorded by a pair of bands with local ties — The Twilight Singers (the post Afghan Whigs band of Hamilton native Greg Dulli) and The Sundresses.
At 7, the young prodigy was given her first guitar by her uncle, Bill Owens, and by the time she was 11, she was a regular on a pair of Tennessee radio programs. Dolly's other uncle, Henry Owens, was acquainted with the owner of Goldband, leading to her first single being released.
It was an early example of Parton's underrated talents as a songwriter (she co-wrote the tune with her uncle Bill), though she would mature lyrically from such lines as, "Pullin' my pig tails makes me mad/When you kiss me, makes me glad/You turn to leave and make me sad/Still you're the sweetest sweetheart I've ever had." (Note: A more popular song called "Puppy Love," was a hit a year later for its writer, Paul Anka, and over a decade later again for a version by Donny Osmond. Dolly's version was included on the Dolly boxset in 2009.)
Here's Ms. Parton's adorable debut (where she's already showing off her impressive pipes):
On this day in 1943, chemist Albert Hofmann embarked on the first LSD "trip." As a Swiss chemist working in the lab of Sandoz pharmaceutical company in Switzerland five years earlier, Hofmann was the first to create the psychedelic drug. But the psychedelic aspect of wasn't discovered until April 19, 1943.
On that day 69 years ago, Hofmann took .25 milligrams of lysergic acid diethylamide and not long after asked a coworker to take him home. He did, on a bike, and Hofmann kind of freaked out before he was able to reel in the anxiety and enjoy the "colors and plays of shapes that persisted … Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me," as he later wrote.
Today is known as "Bicycle Day" because of the historic trip. Fans of psychoactive drugs have celebrated today by indulging in the chemical. (I sprinkled eight microdots into my morning coffee today, for example.) Tomorrow, of course, is 4/20, the pot-smokers celebration of … an established excuse to smoke pot all day. Saturday (April 21) is Record Store Day. That's quite a three-day holiday for the counterculture!
LSD has inspired a lot of music. It famously influenced The Beatles' mid-’60s musical expansion; their song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is widely considered an acid tribute, though John Lennon said it wasn't, the "L," "S" and "D" in the title merely a coincidence. The songs "She Said She Said" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" from Revolver were confirmed to be about the drug, though. The Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" was another huge LSD song, and bands like Pink Floyd and The Grateful Dead became forever associated with the drug thanks to their trippy sounds.
There are, of course, as many songs about doing acid as their our Country tunes about lovin' America and drinking beer. More than anyone could ever listen to, in fact — from Syd Barrett's entire solo discography to some of today's top Dance music makers.
WHOA! Does everyone else see that? Please tell me everyone else sees that.
Here's a short film documenting (allegedly) Syd Barrett's first acid experience (NSFW, I suppose, but only for druggy silliness).
Happy birthday, tripping balls!
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.