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:
A quick Google search confirmed the terrible news that The Doors keyboardist had passed away on May 20 in Germany while seeking treatment for bile duct cancer.
By virtue of my mid-'50s birth, I am an actual child of the '60s and the parade of my musical heroes joining the choir invisible has seemed to pick up the pace here in the new millennium. So many have fallen, it's difficult to keep track.
My dear friend Rob, a high school bud from my Michigan hometown, has for years sent out emails with the name of a recently deceased musician in the subject line, which has led those of us in our immediate circle to refer to him as The Reaper. A few years back, he sent us an update about a new Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album and from his simple subject notation I came to the horrifying conclusion that Tom and the boys had gone down like Lynyrd Skynyrd.Fortunately, that was not the case.
Rob was in the midst of trying to send us all a message from his phone about Ray's passing when he got my email. He hates it when I scoop him, but this was not a scoop that I could lord over The Reaper. This was as devastating as a death in the family.
I teared up a few weeks ago when my comedy hero Jonathan Winters died and it was the same when Ray's death became a verifiable fact. Ray Manzarek wasn't simply one of the thousands of musicians who I greatly admire. He was the guy who made me listen to music.
My earliest exposure to Rock came, oddly enough, via The Ed Sullivan Show. For you youngsters, Sullivan was a well-connected entertainment reporter who wound up hosting radio shows in the late '20s and emceeing theater revues in the '30s and '40s which led to one of the first television variety shows, Toast of the Town, in 1948. Eventually renamed after its stiff but brilliantly intuitive host and talent booker, The Ed Sullivan Show occupied the Sunday-at-8 p.m. slot for 23 years.
Sullivan didn't care for Rock & Roll, but he knew teenagers were viewers and would attract advertisers, so he began booking the artists that would become the foundation of Rock in the '60s. I saw The Beatles on the Sullivan show in 1964, when I was 7 years old — I liked the music but I distinctly remember thinking, "I wish those girls would stop screaming so I can hear it." By the following year, The Beatles became a cartoon series and largely stopped being real people in my comic-book-obsessed head.
Sgt. Pepper changed that in 1967. So much changed in 1967.
The catalyst for all that change was The Doors' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in September of that magic year. I didn't know anything about the band beyond its interesting name. I always watched Sullivan for the bands (although I was just as intrigued by the plate spinners, magicians and comics; George Carlin was an early favorite), so I looked forward to it as much as any of the others who had displayed their wares for Sullivan's audience.
Until The Doors' hypnotic vibe came pouring out of the tinny speaker in my grandparents' old black-and-white Zenith, music had been little more than an accessory in my life. I didn't follow music or collect it or pay much attention to it beyond checking it out on the occasional TV program (Sullivan, Hullabaloo, Shindig, sometimes American Bandstand on a rainy Saturday). The bands were fun and interesting to watch — by then I'd seen The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Dave Clark 5 (whose big beat, roiling Farfisa organ and frenetic guitar hooked me more than most) and many more — but I had not yet been infected with the Rock virus.
That September evening, I camped out in front of the TV to see what Sullivan had in store before The Doors played the final segment. There were the standard array of variety acts that made Sullivan a star in his own right and there was a sweaty, bug-eyed comic who was pretty funny (it turned out to be Rodney Dangerfield, making his TV debut).
At commercial, I ran into the kitchen, probably for a chocolate chip cookie stack, and when I got back to the living room, there was Ed, arms folded across his chest, ramrod straight as if a stagehand had shoved a mop handle up his ass all the way to the base of his skull.
"Now, The Doors...here they are with their newest hit record, 'People Are Strange.' "
The insistent lope of the first single from The Doors' sophomore album, Strange Days (which was still a week away from being released), emanated from the television and I stood staring at the set, afraid to sit down for fear of missing something. In two brief minutes, I was galvanized, pulverized and mesmerized, between Robbie Krieger's three note guitar intro, Ray Manzarek's circus organ, John Densmore's shuffling beat and Jim Morrison's trance-like presence. The best was yet to come.
Without a break, The Doors — with dozens of actual doors forming a backdrop — segued straight into their real hit, "Light My Fire," which had come out just after the first of the year. When I heard Ray's masterful intro, I remembered having heard a bit of it on the car radio before my father changed the station, presumably to get away from it.
For the first time in my life, I got music.
"Light My Fire" seeped into my DNA and I went through what seemed like an alchemical transformation, touched by the philosopher's stone of The Doors' cryptic groove. It felt like every molecule in my body had changed places with every other molecule in my body. Outwardly, I looked no different. Inwardly, I was not and would never be the same.
Morrison was clearly a compelling figure onstage as he writhed without seeming to move to any great degree — and the emphasis when the word "fire" erupted from his throat was hair-raising — but it was Ray Manzarek who commanded my attention. I kept wanting the camera to get back to Ray so I could watch his hands and see how they corresponded to that transdimensional sound he was creating. Morrison's smoldering role in The Doors' passion play was clearly evident, but Ray's position was so much more subversive and fascinating to me.
By the time the Doors completed the two-and-a-half minute single version of "Light My Fire," I was paralyzed (the first time I heard the long version, probably a few months after the Sullivan show, my head nearly exploded). It was the first time I can remember thinking, "Play something else. Play that thing over. Play someone else's song. Just do that to me again."
From that moment on, I pursued music. I found the cool radio stations that played Rock and Pop and began paying strict attention. Motown had already been in full swing for a few years and that sound got its hooks into me as well. I kept an eye out for a repeat Sullivan performance by The Doors but it never happened; little did I know at the time that Ed and CBS executives had told the band to change the "girl, we couldn't get much higher" lyric in "Light My Fire" because of its possible drug connotation, which Morrison agreed to do and then either defiantly or nervously forgot. Sullivan was furious and reportedly shouted at the band after the show, "You'll never do the Sullivan show again," to which Morrison allegedly replied, "Hey, we just did the Sullivan show."
Over the next four years, my reverence for The Doors grew exponentially and I continued to be captivated by everything they attempted. I was not deterred by what some critics deemed inferior songs on Waiting for the Sun and The Soft Parade, and the epic tales of Morrison's booze-and-drug consumption merely added to his mythic status. Only his conviction for public indecency was worrisome, from the standpoint that a jail term could have stopped them from recording and touring.
I was not even dissuaded when I realized that Ray was only four years younger than my father.
After its April 1971 release, L.A. Woman became the soundtrack for the end of my sophomore year in high school and the beginning of my 14th summer. On July 3, 1971, my stepbrother Rick and I were listening to WVIC in Lansing when we heard the news of Morrison's death from a supposed heart attack in Paris, where he had decamped just after the release of L.A. Woman.
I was devastated, but I thought, "At least it wasn't Ray."
After Rick and I discussed what we thought were the band's possible options for a while, I sat down with pen and paper and wrote a letter to the surviving Doors, imploring them not to quit in the wake of their terrible tragedy. I told them, "You can't quit. It's not what Jim would have wanted, it's not what we want and, if you're honest with yourselves, it's not what you want."
I found a Doors fan address in one of my Rock mags and mailed the letter off a few days later. (I would send an eerily similar letter to the Allman Brothers four months later, just after the death of Duane Allman; those are the only two fan letters I have ever sent).
A few weeks later, I received a hand-signed form letter from Danny Sugerman, who was The Doors' second manager, which stated that the band appreciated their fans' concern and best wishes and they were definitely staying together and working on a new album that would be released in the fall.
Other Voices was an amazing album, although critics generally hated it. I looked at as if it were a Ray Manzarek solo album; from that perspective it was great. The following year, they pushed even further into Jazz territory on Full Circle and then decided to officially end The Doors. Ray began his real solo career with The Golden Scarab in 1973, followed by 1974's The Whole Thing Started With Rock and Roll, Now It's Out of Control.
Scarab was magnificent (particularly the unhinged instrumental, "The Moorish Idol," the first song I heard from the album on a college radio station), as it offered up serious musical chops but also something that Morrison found difficult to achieve; whimsy and humor. Out of Control was aptly named as it was slightly chaotic, but it was Ray so I found plenty of ways to love it. I still do.
After that, Ray took a zig-zag approach to his solo career. An Electronic Rock version of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana," a collaboration with Phillip Glass, was extremely cool, but his work after that was sporadic at best. He did a couple of cool albums in the late '70s with his new band, Nite City, and he produced the first three X albums in the early '80s (their version of "Soul Kitchen" is harrowing).
As an artist, Ray tended to stick to collaborative situations (although he did release a true solo album in 2006, an instrumental set of originals titled Love Her Madly, presumably the soundtrack to a B-movie he wrote, directed and starred in). In recent years, he had done a couple of albums with slide guitarist Roy Rogers, including the blazingly excellent Translucent Blues in 2011. And of course, he and Krieger famously pissed off John Densmore when they relaunched The Doors, first as Riders on the Storm, then as the 21st Century Doors and then, due to legal acquiescence, as Manzarek/Krieger.
The fact is, with Doors record sales topping 100 million worldwide, Ray could do whatever he wanted to do, for as long as he wanted to do it and he did just that. But it could be equally argued that Ray did exactly what he wanted in The Doors as well, because that gothic Rock sound didn't exist before The Doors' debut album in 1967. While many tried to replicate it in the aftermath of their staggering success, no one could quite master the formula of Morrison's shamanic poetry slam, Densmore's fluid pulse and Krieger's combination of Rock swagger and Jazz swing.
Most importantly, they could not fathom the incredible musical ability and intuition of Raymond Daniel Manzarek, and without that, there would be no Doors.
I would have come to Rock in some form or fashion; weeks after seeing The Doors on Sullivan, I heard Jimi Hendrix's "Foxey Lady" and "Purple Haze," yet another subatomic moment, and weeks after that was my first mindbending spin through Sgt. Pepper.
But it was all teed up because of The Doors and their singular keyboardist, the man who revealed the universe of music to a 10-year-old boy in Michigan and sent him on a pilgrimage to find more of the same, a journey that continues to this day with the same passion and dedication that marked its initial steps over half a century ago.
I would guess that my marching orders from Ray right now would be similar to those I offered to him and his grieving bandmates in 1971: Keep going, because it's what I want, it's what we want and, if you're honest with yourself, it's what you want.
Australian Pop/Rock band Men At Work hit me — and many other music fans around the world — at just the right time. I was 12 when the single “Who Can It Be Now?” exploded onto the charts. I was intrigued by the group’s quirkiness, but it was singer/guitarist Colin Hay’s voice that initially drew me in. As a huge fan of The Police, I found Hay’s effortlessly high-pitched vocals highly appealing.
In the summer of 1983, Men at Work’s Cargo came out and instantly became my favorite album. I got to see the band perform live on that tour — at Kings Island’s Timberwolf Amphitheater with a new, unknown Australian band called INXS opening — and I spent that summer in France as an exchange student with Cargo (and The Police’s Synchronicity) at my side.
Though I didn’t fully yet understand the emotions being expressed on Cargo’s first single, “Overkill,” they still hit me like a ton of bricks and the song was played on my Walkman (for younger readers, that was akin to a wooden MP3 player with various levers and pulleys) more than any other that summer. Just the sound of it (as well as the visuals in the accompanying video) matched up perfectly with my bouts of homesickness.
To this day, when I hear “Overkill” — no matter if it’s the original, a great cover version (the band that did the theme song to the TV show Scrubs, Lazlo Bane, did a fantastic version with Hay and Dashboard Confessional’s version was also pretty strong) or Hay singing it solo acoustic — it sends shivers, particularly when it hits the intense release of the last verse. I remember that ancient sense of loneliness and isolation, but also various heartbreaks I’ve suffered — as a young adult, I finally got the “ghosts appear and fade away” bit and it made the song resonate within me even more.
“Down Under” might be Men At Work’s most known song, but “Overkill” is the tune that will stand the test of time for eternity.
Hay is far removed from his Men at Work days now. The band broke up in 1986 (though they reunited for concerts in the late ’90s) and Hay has managed to have a modestly successful solo career, still touring the world and releasing strong solo efforts, including his most recent (and 11th overall), Gathering Mercury, perhaps Hay’s finest solo moment yet.
Hay's songwriting still has emotional weight and substance (as well as great hooks) and if you catch his local show tonight at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley, he’ll definitely play some old favorites, will surely says some words about his recently deceased fellow Man At Work, Greg Ham, and undoubtedly charm the pants off the whole crowd with his legendary sharp wit.
Here's my video playlist tribute to Hay and one of his greatest songwriting achievements.
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 2000, Scottish Indie Pop giants Belle and Sebastian made their first appearance on the British show Top of the Pops. With a gorilla (see video below).
Some of the band members also almost made their first appearance in jail after reportedly breaking onto the set of hugely popular BBC soap opera Eastenders following a few too many drinks at the "BBC bar," according to the NME.
According to reports, a security guard saw them and called police. Luckily for the musicians, the show's host and producer happened by as they were being busted and convinced the guard they were guests of the BBC.
A B&S spokesperson told NME.com, "I think they were quite lucky. It's not the sort of thing they'd usually do and they almost got into real trouble over it. They'd just been celebrating a bit too much as they'd had such a wonderful time on the show."
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a June 1 birthday include legendary Big Band leader Nelson Riddle (1921); Gospel singer Marie Knight (1925); white-bread Pop singer Pat Boone (1934); Bluegrass great Hazel Dickens (1935); Faces/Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood (1947); half of Country duo Brooks & Dunn, Ronnie Dunn (1953); Depeche Mode's Alan Wilder (1959); The Cure bassist Simon Gallup (1960); drummer for The Smiths, Mike Joyce (1963); Pop singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile (1981); and Canadian singer/songwriter Alanis Morissette (1974).
Though Morissette never recaptured the superstardom of her ’90s, Jagged Little Pill days, she has remained consistently active professionally. Overall, she's managed one of the more interesting careers in contemporary music, going from child actress (as a cast member of Nickelodeon's You Can't Do That On Television) and young Pop star (she toured with Vanilla Ice in 1991!) to angst-ridden Grunge-era idol, occasional actress and fascinating dater (she was linked to Full House actor Dave Coulier and hunky future ScarJo beau Ryan Reynolds and is currently married to an obscure rapper named MC Souleye).
Yesterday, Morissette (unwittingly or not) became a spokesperson for the "attachment parenting" movement, which came to wider public attention recently when Time magazine ran its infamous "grown woman with apparent pre-teen attached to her boob via his mouth" cover. On The Billy Bush Show and Good Morning America, she spoke about her dedication to breastfeeding until her 16-month-old son says "When."
"I'll stop (breastfeeding) whenever he wants. I know some children who have weaned naturally at two, some kids wean naturally a couple of years later. I mean, it's up to every child," she said on Good Morning America.
She also said, "I think it affords the child, when he grows up, to have a lot less therapy to go to."
Because breastfeeding your second grader isn't going to cause any emotional issues, right?
Alanis is clearly not worried about the damage a 7-year-old could inflict on her humps, her humps, her lovely lady lumps.