Today is the 40th anniversary of the release of one of Rock & Roll's greatest albums, David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. The concept album based around the story of an alien rocker who's come to spread hope five years before the end of the world (but gets sucked in by the earthly treats being a Rock God brings) reached No. 5 on the U.K. charts, but only made it to No. 75 in the U.S. Rolling Stone called the album the 35th best album in the history of humankind on its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.
All 11 songs on the album are amazing and about half our bona fide classics, including "Ziggy Stardust," "Suffragette City," "Starman," "Moonage Daydream" and "Hang on to Yourself."
The concert film/documentary Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars came out the following year, directed by the great D.A. Pennebaker. The film captured Bowie's surprise announcement that it was "Ziggy" and the band's last show. Just before playing "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide," Bowie says, "Not only is this the last show of the tour, but it's the last show that we'll ever do." Some thought Bowie himself was retiring (including several U.K. newspapers), but he was only retiring the character.
Here's the film — one of the best concert docs ever — in full.
On this day in 1968, one of Rock & Roll's Shakespearean tragedies came to an end as singer Frankie Lymon, a Pop superstar in the mid-’50s with Rock & Roll/R&B vocal group The Teenagers, died from a heroin overdose at the age of 25.
Actually, if you've ever seen the 1998 film Why Do Fools Fall in Love
(named for Lymon and the Teenagers' biggest hit), you know that the
singer's death was a trick ending. The story of Lymon's sad legacy
(blockbuster hit leads to lead singer ego explosion; quits group; can't
find solo success; finds drugs; gets drafted; quits drugs; mounts
comeback; celebrates with drugs; dies) took an unusual turn in the ’80s.
Three different women came forward claiming to be Lymon's widow and
entitled to his estate. Turns out, they were all
telling the truth — Lymon had married all three but never divorced any
of them. Ultimately, the singer's estate was awarded to his third wife;
if that conclusion was reached on a coin-flip, could you really blame
Here's archival footage of Lymon's last TV appearance, a 1965 slot on the program Hollywood A Go-Go where the 22-year-old singer lip-synched to the original version of "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" — recorded when he was 13.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a Feb. 27 birthday include Jazz legend Dexter Gordon (1923); ex-WKRP in Cincinnati DJ, Dr. Johnny Fever, aka Howard Hesseman (1940); Journey guitarist and MILF pilfer Neal Schon (1954); guitarist/songwriter with Metal giants Iron Maiden, Adrian Smith (1957); Sex Pistols hanger-on Nancy Spungen (1958); singer with R&B/Hip Hop/Pop trio TLC, Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas (1971); and Classical/Pop vocalist Josh Groban (1981).
Groban is the kind of singer who would be really easy to make fun of if he didn't have such a good sense of humor about himself already. One of those Classical/Opera crossover Pop stars (like Charlotte Church or Il Divo) who approaches Pop and Rock material with the same overly careful enunciation and melodrama, Groban has parodied himself on various comedy programs, including Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and this bit from Jimmy Kimmel Live, where the singer used his talents to make Kanye West's nutty tweets sound even nuttier.
On this day in 2004, Frank Black, Kim Deal, Joey Santiago and David Lovering put their differences aside to honor their legacy and make a shit-ton of cash, reuniting for a Pixies reunion tour that recently completed its seventh year. The first show back was at Minneapolis' Fine Line Cafe, where they opened with "Bone Machine," the first song on the group's first full-length, Surfer Rosa. The band has mixed things up on their global tour by performing albums in full and, uh, mixing up the setlist (maybe?), but one thing they haven't done is record more than a smidgen of new music. On the other hand, it seems only fair that the group members reap some rewards from their influential work. It would just be interesting to hear what the four of them could come up with if they attempted a new album.
Here's "Bone Machine" performed live on a TV show in the Netherlands, "back in the day." Scrappy!
Boston’s Barrence Whitfield & the Savages have returned to Cincinnati in a big way this week. The R&B/Soul-rockin’ crew has several local ties, including employing prolific locally-based drummer Andy Jody on the skins. The group also features Peter Greenberg of pioneering Boston band DMZ (as well as The Lyres) and groundbreaking Cincy Garage rockers The Customs (fellow Custom Jim Cole records with the band but doesn’t play live). The Savages recorded two albums in the ’80s; their 1985 Rounder Records release, Dig Yourself, was their last until the group's recent reunion activities.
"I met Peter at The Customs reunion in 2008, drummed for them the following year, which led to him contacting me to record Savage Kings upon the reformation of the original Savages," Jody says about his initiation into the band.
The Savages are in town to record a new album, returning to Ultrasuede studios, where they recorded Savage Kings.
"We decided to record here, partly logistics and partly in tribute to King Records," Jody says, "and it was the same studio where The Customs cut (their trademark tune) 'Long Gone.' "
Last night, Whitfield & the Savages debuted some of the new material at Shake It Records. Shake It, the label, released the Savage Kings in the States; The Customs' "Long Gone" single was the first release on the Shake It imprint.
The Savages will be warming up for recording this weekend with a two-night stand (Friday and Saturday) at The Comet in Northside. Both shows are free and kick of at 10 p.m. (Friday a DJ warms things up and Saturday Customs-inspired local rockers The Long Gones fittingly open the show). Click here for more info on the band. Below is a live clip filmed in Paris last year.
And here's a clip (with performances and interviews) from the band's earlier days when they were featured on the BBC.
Today's a big one for synthesizer fans. You know partly what I'm talking about if you've visited Google today (see below). But today also marks the 30th anniversary of a drastic and controversial move by the UK Musicians' Union. The union proposed a ban on synthesizers and drum machines because, to quote South Park, "Thur takin' our jaabs!" This is 1982, mind you, when Synth Pop and New Wave were huge and Hip Hop was beginning to find its legs in the mainstream. Musician unions worldwide struggled to come to peace with the existence of electronic instruments, many proposing tax hikes on the instruments to discourage use (like the U.S. does with cigarettes now).
The UK union's support of a ban caused a splinter group to form — the Union of Sound Synthesists was created to protect Electronic musicians' rights (or anyone else who wanted to use a "non-traditional" electronic instrument).
The attacks on synthesizers and drum machines due to a fear that one day a computer will be able to make ENTIRE SONGS seems a little funny given today's electro-heavy musical landscape.
On this date in 1977, there was another attack on "electronic" (or perhaps more appropriately "electric") instruments. Jefferson Starship's planned concert at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park was cancelled by the city because it violated a ban on electric instruments being used in the public park. The greatest tragedy of the incident was that it partially inspired one of the worst songs ever made, Starship's "We Built This City" (the song was not written by the band, as many have cited; Elton John songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, J. Geils Band singer not-the-J.-Geils-Band's Peter Wolf, Martin Page and Dennis Lambert are to be credited/blamed for the tune).
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 23 birthday include regional native and legendary vocalist Rosemary Clooney (1928); singer for ’80s Pop band Baltimora ("Tarzan Boy"), Jimmy McShane (1957); former MTV VJ Karen Duffy (1961); Radiohead drummer Phil Selway (1967); Maroon 5 drummer Matt Flynn (1970); modern Soul singer Maxwell (1973); singer/songwriter Jewel (1974); original blink-182 drummer Scott Raynor (1978); singer for Indie Pop girl group The Pipettes, Gwenno Saunders (1981); singer/songwriter Tristan Prettyman (1982); and Electronic music pioneer Robert Moog (1934).
First things first — it's pronounced "Mogue" (rhymes with "vogue"), not "Mooo-g."
After manufacturing theremins, Mr. Moog (who passed away in 2005) founded Moog Music and invented the Moog synth, one of the first widely used, commercially available synthesizers. Early Moog users like Wendy Carlos (who did the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange with Moogs and helped Bob design the machines), Keith Emerson, John Cage and Rick Wakeman helped popularize the instruments.
The instrument can be heard on hundreds of thousands of popular tracks since Moog first showed off his concept in 1964 at the Audio Engineering Society's annual convention. Paste magazine picked its Top 10 "quintessential" Moog moments last year, which included tracks by Kraftwerk, Rush's "Closer to the Heart" and this one from the late Donna Summer.
Paste also made a cool list of the best of today's Moog boosters, including St. Vincent, Wilco and Mastodon.
Google today has one of its best "Google Doodles" yet. In honor of Bob Moog's 78th birthday, the search site features a fully playable Moog synth on its front page; you can even record your Moog squiggles!
Today Moog Music Inc. is donating 50 percent of all clothing and merchandise (though not instruments) sales proceeds to the Bob Moog Foundation. The online shop has some very cool new T-shirts and other goodies.
"Moog Music and our customers celebrate Bob’s pioneering legacy. In a time when science achievement is declining in this country, we are proud to support the Bob Moog Foundation in their efforts to bring science alive through electronic music. We invite all of our customers to make a purchase online on May 23rd and support the Foundation’s important work,” said Mike Adams, Moog Music President & CEO, in a press release.
Though today he is known as one of the strangest characters on "celebreality" TV, Gary Busey was once thought to have the potential to be one of the greatest actors of his generation. On this date in 1978, The Buddy Holly Story — featuring Busey in the title role — premiered. The film covered Rock legend Buddy Holly's all-too-short life, up through when he died in a plane crash in 1959 at the age of 22. Busey was 34 when the film came out, but his portrayal was very strong. In fact, it earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Busey never quite had that kind of critical reception again, going on to appear in such films as D.C. Cab, Predator 2, Point Break and the upcoming Piranha 3DD. Busey is known to younger generations as the "out there" guy from Celebrity Rehab, Celebrity Fit Club and Celebrity Apprentice. Is there a Celebrity Mental Institution yet?
There is allegedly a "Buddy Holly Curse" that may explain Busey's jagged career path since starring as the singer. This site details some "proof" of the curse, including the deaths of many artists who had some connection with Holly (Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Ronnie Smith, Cowboy Copas, David Box, Joe Meek and many others.)
Busey was involved in a serious, near-fatal motorcycle accident after he completed filming on the Buddy Holly movie. The film's screenwriter Robert Gittler committed suicide just prior to the movie's release. (The Who's Keith Moon made his last public appearance at a preview screening of The Buddy Holly Story; he was found dead the next day.)
Luckily, only Busey's career has suffered since the film and his close-call wreck. Here he is in his greatest role doing "Oh, Boy!" Busey was praised for singing his own parts instead of lip-syncing over Holly's originals. I have to agree with that praise. Maybe Gary needs to make a Rock & Roll album?
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 18 birthday include one of the men most responsible for Rock & Roll ("Shake, Rattle and Roll"), Blues shouter Big Joe Turner (1911); founding guitarist with Art Punk greats Wire, Bruce Gilbert (1946); singer/songwriter/producer and pops of The Strokes' guitarist, Albert Hammond (1944); keyboard wizard for Prog kings Yes, Rick Wakeman (1949); cofounder of New Wave renegades Devo, Mark Mothersbaugh (1950); Country legend George Strait (1952); Power Pop/New Wave rocker "(I'd Go the) Whole Wide World") Wreckless Eric Goulden (1954); singer with Christian Rock band dc Talk, Michael Tait (1966); Hip Hop artist ("It Takes Two") Rob Base (1967); and two Easy Listening giants of two very different eras — Perry Como (1912) and Jack Johnson (1975).
Como and Johnson both had/have a very easy-going way about themselves, musically and personally. That opened them up for a pair of pretty funny parodies on television.
In 1981, the brilliant late-night sketch comedy show SCTV ran the skit "Perry Como: Still Alive," which presented the way laid-back host making a Disco comeback. Eugene Levy — known today as "the dad from American Pie" — does a brilliant borderline comatose Como.
Former surfer (because what else could he be?) and smooth Pop singer/songwriter Jack Johnson has gotten the business from another late-night NBC program. (Cargo shorts) Saturday Night Live's (soon to be gone?) Andy Samberg has played the super-mellow Johnson in a few sketches, notably as the host of his own talk-fest The Mellow Show. (Flip flops.) Here, "Jack" interviews fellow mellow yellows Dave Matthews and Jason Mraz, as well as Ozzy Obsourne (played pretty well by Mr. Matthews himself). (Vegan cookies.)
On this date in 2004, modern "jam band" kings Phish announced on their website that they would be breaking up after a short summer tour. The group's "final" tour included a seven-song set on the Ed Sullivan Theater marquee for a swarm of fans on the street and a final show in Coventry, Ver., that attracted around 65,000 fans. That final show would have drawn more but the deluge of rain had organizers concerned that the stage would sink and cars were cut off from entering the site at one point, causing thousands of fans to leave their vehicles on the side of the road and walk to the grounds, Woodstock style.
Maybe God sent the rain because he's a huge Phish fan? What was he going to hippie dance to in heaven?!
In 2006, guitarist Trey Anastasio was pulled over and arrested for suspicion of drug possession (including hydrocodone, Percocet and Xanax), driving on a suspended license and driving under the influence. Though he had continued to be active musically, perhaps that was a "devil makes work for idle hands" kind of thing.
In 2009, the four band members decided that it was time to bring Phish back from the dead. Anastasio told The New York Times that it was because of the recession. Not that the members needed money — they wanted to provide an escape for fans hurting from the tough economic climate.
"For people in hard times, we can play long shows of pure physical pleasure,” he said. “They come to dance and forget their troubles. It’s like a service commitment.”
Alas, all concerts since the comeback have not been free.
This summer, Phish plays Riverbend on June 22. They're also a headlining act at Bonnaroo, coming up June 7-10. CityBeat is helping Phish fans who want to escape their money woes AND not spend lots of money doing it. Click here to sign up for a chance to win tickets to Phish's Riverbend show and here for a chance to score Bonnaroo tickets.
Here's the band performing "Maze" almost a year ago in New Jersey.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 25 birthday include Country music singer/songwriter Tom T. Hall (1936); American singer and songwriter; Country singer Jessi Colter (1943), frontman for German Metal giants The Scorpions, Klaus Meine (1948); Jamaican Reggae singer Sugar Minott (1956); still rocking former frontman for The Jam and Style Council, Paul Weller (1958); too-quiet-these-days Soul/Hip Hop genius Lauryn Hill (1975); guitarist for Pop/Rock band The Fray, Joe King (1980); and legendary lyricist Hal David (1921).
The best concert venue in Washington, D.C., may well be the White House. Hal David was recently honored there as part of a tribute concert to him and songwriting partner Burt Bacharach.
The pair was the latest recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. (David could not attend because he's recovering from a stroke; his wife gracefully and graciously accepted on his behalf.) The first winner of the prize — honoring great Americans' contributions to the world songbook — was Paul Simon in 2007. Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney have also received it. And received tribute concerts at the Prez's pad.
Obama's White House has also feted Motown, Country, Blues, Broadway and music from the Civil Rights movement; each celebratory concert was filmed and aired on PBS as part of its In Performance at the White House series.
"This is a pair that combined, like the Gershwins did, a very gifted lyricist (David) and a very gifted composer (Bacharach)," the librarian of Congress James H. Billington, told the Washington Post. "It's taken so long for a major national prize like this to be conferred on them, so we're very happy about it."
Bacharach & David's greatest hits include modern standards like "Do You Know The Way To San Jose," "What The World Needs Now Is Love," "Alfie," "I Just Don't Know What Do To With Myself," "I Say A Little Prayer," "Walk on By," "The Look Of Love" and "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head." The White House tribute — filmed in early May and aired this past Monday night on PBS — featured performances by Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, Diana Krall, Lyle Lovett, Arturo Sandoval, Michael Feinstein and, um, comedian Mike Myers (he cast Bacharach in Austin Powers and, at the White House, did a funny version of "What's New Pussycat?").
Watch (or skim through) the whole broadcast below:
Watch Burt Bacharach and Hal David: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize on PBS. See more from In Performance at The White House.
On this date in 1942 — months away from Christmas 1941 and Christmas 1942 — classic crooner Bing Crosby recorded what remains the best-selling single of all time, "White Christmas." Crosby first performed Irving Berlin's classic for radio on Christmas Day, 1941. On May 29, 1942, Crosby reportedly recorded the song — with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and Ken Darby Singers — in 18 minutes. It was released on July 30 that year as part of a collection of platters from the film Holiday Inn. The song caught on and hit the top of the charts in October of ’42, where it stayed through Christmas. The single was re-released and hit the chart-tops again in ’45 and ’46.
The single has sold over 50 million copies worldwide. The
closest runner-up in the all-time biggest selling singles race is Elton
John's tribute to Princess Diana, the re-recording of his "Candle in
the Wind" from 1997, which has sold around 33 million.
That original version is not the one we hear endlessly to this day around the holiday season. After the original master recording was damaged, Crosby and the same crew of musicians re-recorded "White Christmas." That's the version you know/love today. Here's the original version of "White Christmas." Happy holidays!
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 29 birthday include keyboardist and founder of progressive German "Kraut Rock" kings Can, Irmin Schmidt (1937); Jackson sibling and singer Rebbie Jackson (1950); former New Wave pioneer-turned-legendary-film composer Danny Elfman (1953); Jackson sibling and Playboy model (and singer?) La Toya Jackson (1956); singer for British Metal band Wolfsbane and temporary Iron Maiden vocalist Blaze Bayley (1963); former Oasis guitarist/songwriter/occasional singer Noel Gallagher (1967); bassist for modern British Rock legends The Verve, Simon Jones (1972); singer/dancer with Pop group Spice Girls, Melanie "Mel B" Brown (1975); co-founder of Hard Rock hitmakers Papa Roach, David Buckner (1976); and frontman for Swedish Garage Rock superstars The Hives, Howlin' Pelle Almqvist (1978).
With his ceaseless energy and hilarious, sometimes nonsensical between-song bantering, Almqvist is the reason Spin magazine once called The Hives "the best live band in the world." (The mag also called him one of the "50 Greatest Frontmen of All Time.")
The Swedes have a new album due out a week from today (June 5) called Lex Hives. According to a press release, the title comes from "the ancient Roman practice of enacting a system or body of laws and accepting them as a standard. Thus, the 12 songs on Lex Hives make up the holy laws after which all life from now on must be lived." Obey!
Here's a video clip of the band performing the new album's first single, "Go Right Ahead." Click here for a preview stream of the full album courtesy of The Guardian.
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!
On this date in 2006, Taylor Hicks won that year's American Idol karaoke contest, laying waste to runner-up Katharine McPhee. Soul Patrol!!!
McPhee would bounce back and is currently starring in the hit network TV show Smash. Hicks, of course, went on to superstardom, scoring major hits with songs like … oh, wait. What ever did happen to that guy? Best guess: manager of a suburban Applebee's somewhere?
Post-Idol, Hicks did score a role in the traveling production of Grease and his self-titled album went platinum, but Hicks was dropped from his label in 2008 and hasn't been heard from much since.
Last night, a fella named Phillip Phillips (no lie! that's his name!) won this year's American Idol, beating a lady named Jessica Sanchez. I must confess I've not watch one second of American Idol this year (or the year before, or the year before, etc.), but reading The New York Times story on him from today, it appears Phillips actually can play guitar pretty well and covered songs by Damien Rice and The Box Tops when he was allowed to chose his own material to perform.
Will Philly Phillips be a star, post-Idol? These things are hard to predict (ask Taylor Hicks), but it seems — from my admittedly peripheral view — that Phillips is more David Gray or Dave Matthews than Clay Aiken or Adam Lambert.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 24 birthday include creative Jazz saxman Archie Shepp (1937); American music icon Robert Allen Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan (1941); big-voiced and bigger-haired R&B diva Ms. Patti LaBelle (1944); producer and guitarist (with Stevie Nicks, Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon and others) Waddy Wachtel (1947); singer/songwriter and eldest daughter of Johnny Cash's, Rosanne Cash (1955); frontman for Soul/Funk group Cameo ("Word Up"), Larry Blackmon (1956); former keyboardist for Beastie Boys pals Luscious Jackson, Vivian Trimble (1963); bassist for Redd Kross and current member of old-school Punk supergroup OFF!, Steve McDonald (1967); guitarist for rockers The Black Crowes, Rich Robinson (1969); and singer/songwriter and Country artist Mike Reid (1947).
Born in Altoona, Penn., Reid attended Penn State, where he excelled on the football field. The tackle finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting his senior year (1969) and earned a Bachelor's degree in music.
In the 1970 NFL draft, Reid was the Cincinnati Bengals' top first-round selection (seventh overall). Known for his pass-rushing, Reid was a dominant defensive player selected All-Pro at his position in 1972 and 1973 (both years he made the Pro Bowl, as well). In ’74, an injured Reid posted lower numbers and retired at the end of the season as the Bengals all-time leader in sacks with 49. (Remember, the Bengals had only been a team since 1968.)
During the off-season, Reid played piano with orchestras in Utah and Dallas, as well as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. With some help from Larry Gatlin, he was ready to go into music full-time after retiring from professional football. Focused on songwriter, Reid won his first Grammy in 1984 for writing Ronnie Milsap's "Stranger in My House." We would go on to write several songs that hit No. 1 on the Country charts, including "Walk On Faith," the only No. 1 he also performed.
Reid's songs were recorded by the likes of Etta James, Conway Twitty, Willie Nelson, Alabama, George Jones, Wynonna, Lee Greenwood, Kenny Rogers, Shelby Lynne, Shania Twain, Oak Ridge Boys, Collin Raye, Alabama and Tim McGraw over the years. But his "time capsule" tune has to be his 1992 hit with Bonnie Raitt, "I Can't Make You Love Me," his biggest Pop chart success.
Reid is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. In honor of his 65th birthday, here's Reid's biggest song sung by himself, followed by a pretty chilling more recent version by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.