“I’m Just Trying To Break Your Heart” . . : Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy Teaches You To Write One Song

“If you want to think of yourself as a songwriter, write songs.” – Jeff Tweedy

For a long time I would read about the band Wilco (and it’s predecessor, Uncle Tupalo) but never really listened to them. That changed when one of the guitarists of the band I was in at the time suggested we do the song Jesus, Etc. from the Wilco album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Yeah, color me impressed.

So I found out recently that Jeff Tweedy, the songwriting force behind Wilco, wrote a book called How To Write One Song (order it direct from the Wilco website here: https://wilcostore.com/products/jeff-tweedy-how-to-write-one-song-book). In it, Tweedy tries to demystify the creative process from one in which only the certain few can tap into to the realty that it’s more a matter of developing your craft and being persistent in that pursuit. Tweedy provides several different exercises to help the budding songwriter develop ideas. The first two videos below go into two such exercises, the Word Ladder and the time honored tradition of taking a phrase from a book (the line “Mediocre artists borrow, great ones steal” comes to mind).

The third video below come from an interesting YouTube called The Songwriter’s Workshop in which the YouTuber (is that a word?) tries to write a song using the techniques and process of other songwriters, in this case, Jeff Tweedy. Watching someone go through the process and then hearing the results is a interesting watch, especially if, like me, you find the creative process itself to be fascinating.

Jeff Tweedy Songwriting Exercise #1 – Word Ladder (from his book How To Write One Song)

Jeff Tweedy Songwriting Exercise #2 – Stealing from a Book (from his book How To Write One Song)

How to write one song (according to Jeff Tweedy)

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

Holiday Haiku 2021

We Bid You Goodnight
A Song A Deadhead Knows Well
Happy Holidays

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Posted in Classic Rock, Country/Bluegrass, Grateful Dead, Jam Band, Uncategorized

“Hey! Oy! Let’s Goy!” . . : Kursten & Grohl The Hanukah Sessions

As tonight marks the last night of Hanukkah 2021, it’s a fitting time to mention the series of cover song videos put out by producer Greg Kurstin (who is Jewish) and renaissance mensch Dave Grohl (who isn’t) called appropriately enough, The Hanukkah Sessions.

Kurstin x Grohl: The Hanukkah Sessions (Intro)

The duo made a series of videos, starting in 2020, where they cover a tune by a Jewish rock musician, one for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah. The first year included tributes to Bob Dylan, the Knack, the Velvet Underground, Beastie Boys, Mountain, Drake, Peaches and Elastica. This year videos included Billy Joel’s “Big Shot,” a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Take the Box” with Grohl’s daughter Violet on vocals, a take on a Van Halen’s “Jump,” (heavy on the keytar), a metal version of Lisa Loeb’s folk-rock tune “Stay (I Missed You),” a heartfelt version of the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop”, an extra cheesed-up version of Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana” (if that were possible), the Kiss tune “Rock And Roll All Nite” and a really cool take on The Clash’s “Train In Vain” (learning that Mick Jones,co-founder of The Clash is Jewish via his Russian Jewish mother, makes me kvell).

My favorites . . . .


Kurstin x Grohl: The Hanukkah Sessions 2021: Night Two


Kurstin x Grohl: The Hanukkah Sessions 2021: Night Three


Kurstin x Grohl: The Hanukkah Sessions 2021: Night Four


Kurstin x Grohl: The Hanukkah Sessions 2021: Night Seven

To see all the videos (including The Hanukkah Sessions 2020), then go here:
The Complete Hanukkah Sessions – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLyjqnQsvvnpLzzLgIl0nBU8bBq3KYZGYZ

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“King Of The Mountain” . . : The Band Midnight Oil

I saw a news item today announcing that the forthcoming tour of Australian group Midnight Oil in support of a new album, Resist, will be their final one. The band was a fixture of Australia’s alternative rock scene but began to get more attention starting in 1987 with their album Diesel and Dust and the song “Beds Are Burning” which illuminated the plight of indigenous Australians. It was with their following album Blue Sky Mining from 1990 that I became aware of them, in large part because of airplay on Long Island’s alternative music station WLIR. I have fond memories of seeing Midnight Oil play during the Blue Sky Mining tour at Jones Beach Theater and they were amazing. Lead singer Peter Garrett is an commanding presence and the songs have great guitar interplay.

The band’s political activism, particularly in aid of anti-nuclear, environmentalist and indigenous people rights, are an integral part of their identity. In 1990 Midnight Oil played an impromptu lunchtime set in front of Exxon headquarters in New York with a banner reading, “Midnight Oil Makes You Dance, Exxon Oil Makes Us Sick,” protesting the Exxon Valdez oil spill the previous year. Garrett went on to become a senior minister in the Australian government between 2007 and 2013 after first being elected to the House of Representatives in 2004.

Below are videos for my favorite Midnight Oil songs. I hope they interest you enough to check them out further.

Midnight Oil – Beds Are Burning

Midnight Oil – Blue Sky Mine

Midnight Oil – Forgotten Years

Midnight Oil – King Of The Mountain


If your interested in checking out the band’s history, here is a video from the music You Tube channel Todd In The Shadows who talks about Midnight Oil and the song Beds Are Burning during his series One Hit Wonders (which makes a point of saying that the term One Hit Wonder doesn’t really apply here).

ONE HIT WONDERLAND: “Beds Are Burning”

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“When Sunny Gets Blue” . . : Pat Martino 1944 – 2021

Pat Martino, jazz guitarist extraordinaire, passed away recently at the age of 77. Pat started out in the Philadelphia jazz scene, playing in the soul jazz organ combos of Charles Earland, Don Patterson and Jack McDuff. You can certainly hear these roots in his early records like his 1967 debut for Prestige, El Hombre. But Martino’s music always had an exploratory side as shown by his 1968 record Baiyina (The Clear Evidence) which incorporated elements of Indian classical music and by the mid-’70s, Martino had begun delving into jazz fusion with records such as Starbright and Joyous Lake.

I first became aware of Pat Martino when Guitar Player magazine did a feature review of his 1972 record Live! which featured his killer version of the pop tune Sunny. I was really getting into guitar at this time and this just blew my mind as it did to many other guitar geeks at the time. Martino’s playing displayed incredible technique but also had a an amazing clarity to it even at fast tempos. Here just check it out. I’ll wait . . . .

Pat Martino – Sunny

Pat Martino – Impressions


Pat Martino – Blue Bossa

Suddenly, in 1980, Pat Martino undergoes emergency neurosurgery for a brain aneurysm that saved his life but also damaged his memory. Martino then spent several years relearning the instrument by listening back to his own recordings while also dealing with issues of depression and struggling with the grueling process of recovering his motor skills. Despite all this he reemerged in 1987 with The Return, displaying miraculously undiminished chops. Martino continued to perform and record for the next three decades, often playing in hard bop or organ combo settings reminiscent of his early career,

Wow . . .
R.I.P. Pat Martino

Pat Martino – Oleo
Recorde
d – January 1, 2002 – Teatro Mancinelli, Orvieto, Italy

Pat Martino – Hipsippy Blues


Pat Martino Quartet – Midnight Special (Live at Blues Alley)


Pat Martino Quartet – Lean Years (Live at Blues Alley)

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Posted in Improvisation, Jazz, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Back Porch Blues” . . . : The Videos of Justin Johnson

There’s something about acoustic blues guitar that can sooth the soul (at least mine) in ways that no other music can. My upbringing was about as far from the Mississippi Delta as you can get yet I can get lost in listening to this music for hours. That brings us to the videos of guitarist Justin Johnson.

Justin Johnson has been putting great videos of instrumental acoustic blues guitar and fingerstyle guitar arrangements of classic rock tunes. His videos showcase not only his impressive fingerstyle chops but also his slide guitar playing He also has a collection of very cool looking guitars and a music making man cave to die for.

I’m just gonna let the music speak for itself so just do what I do. Play the music and go where it takes you. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the trip.

Over 10 Minutes of Laid-Back Acoustic Blues Guitar to Escape To

BLUES GUITAR • One Hour of Laid-Back Solo Blues Guitar

GEORGIA ON MY MIND | Relaxing Smoky Blues Guitar

“HURT” by Johnny Cash / NIN • Fingerstyle Guitar Version

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN • Solo Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitar

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Posted in Blues, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Lost In The Ozone Again” . . : George Frayne (aka Commander Cody) 1944 – 2021

Being a young Deadhead in the early Seventies, I was familiar with other bands that could be fitted into that very loose genre known as country rock. Actually, it didn’t matter very much if you were a deadhead or not, it was all over the rock radio in the early seventies. There were The Eagles, Allman Brothers (debate if they were country rock or not, Ramblin’ Man could definitely be considered country rock), Poco, The Marshall Tucker Band and others. Then there was Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.

Unlike other country rock bands who took their cues from folk rock and bluegrass, Commander Cody mixed their rock with Western swing, rockabilly, Bakersfield honky tonk and jump blues, all built on the boogie-woogie piano of George Frayne, aka Commander Cody, who sadly passed away last month at the age of 77.

Compared to the more commercially successful bands mentioned above, Commander Cody were much (for the lack of a better word) rawer and became something of a cult favorite during its ten year existence, with constant touring, usually playing bars and small venues. Their 1974 album Live From Deep in the Heart of Texas, recorded at Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, was once ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the top 100 albums of all-time.

When the band released its first album, “Lost in the Ozone” in 1971, it spawned a surprise hit with “Hot Rod Lincoln,”, a cover of Charlie Ryan’s 1955 rockabilly song. But having what was essentially a novelty song as your first hit is also a death sentence. The success of “Hot Rod Lincoln” basically got them pigeonholed as a novelty band.


Having seen the band, I can attest to how good they were live with the Commander being one hell of a boogie-woogie piano player.

RIP George Frayne, aka Commander Cody.

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Posted in Classic Rock, Country/Bluegrass, Jam Band, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Reacting To The Reactor’s Reactions” . . . : Professional Musicians React

If you’re a music nerd like yours truly and you spend a decent amount of time on YouTube in say, the last three years, then you have no doubt come across a music reaction video. Most of the time it basically boils down to someone who falls under the category Gen Z (and yes, I had to look up what differentiates a millennial from a Gen Z from a whatever, all I know is that I’m old) “reacting” to a classic rock song.

In the beginning of this trend I watched a bunch of these videos but I quickly tired of them. Boomers may want to feel the need to have their musical tastes (and therefore themselves) validated by non boomers. Personally I don’t need someone to tell me what I like is good. It’s what I like, that’s good enough. I also can’t help but feel their is an intrinsic dishonesty to the process. The people who put out these videos are aware of the all powerful You Tube algorithm. If you put out a video with an unfavorable reaction to a favorite band/song than you risk getting a dislike and hurting your video’s possibility to be recommended to other fans of said artist. That can have a direct economic impact on the You Tuber. The whole thing reeks of five day old click bait.

But besides these misgivings the biggest reason I stopped watching these videos is that for the most part, these reactors were, how do I put this delicately, oh I know, IDIOTS! Please note that I think there are some exceptions but for the majority of the videos I watched, I stand by my assessment.

Maybe it’s because of my interest as a musician but I would much rather watch something that will point out something new about a classic song, not just reaffirm my taste and tell me what I want to hear. That brings me to the videos below from a fairly new You Tube channel Professional Musicians React.

With a semi rotating panel of professional musicians, the videos dissect some classic songs (as well as songs from contemporary artists such as Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift), discussing aspects of the song like it’s harmony, composition, vocal performance, production and other cool things for music geeks to dig. Like the panel, you now notice little things about a song you heard so many times but now realize you never really listened to before. Another thing I like about these videos is how they will explain a technical term for the layman. When they refer to things like gate, sidechain or low pass filter, they make a point of explaining it.

Professional Musicians React – Stevie Wonder Superstition

Professional Musicians React – The Beatles – Here Comes The Sun

Professional Musicians React – NirvanaSmells Like Teen Spirit

If this whets your appetite for a deeper appreciation of great music by people who actually know what they’re talking about then go check out their channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/Professionalmusiciansreact/featured

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“Charlie’s good tonight, ain’t he?” . . : Charlie Watts (1941 -2021)

There’s not much I can to say that really matters so I’ll leave it to these snapshots of a life well lived.

From the Keith Richard’s memoir “Life”


Shot by Martin Scorsese in 2006 at New York’s Beacon Theater.A Charlie Watt’s view of it all.

Charlie Watts / Jumpin’ Jack Flash

Charlie Watts / All Down the Line

Just one of the many examples of the genius of Charlie Watts. The isolated drums/percussion track of Gimmie Shelter (Jimmy Miller on güiro).

Charlie Watts – Gimmie Shelter Isolated Tracks

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Posted in Blues, Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis, Uncategorized

“She don’t remember the Queen of Soul”. : Aretha Franklin’s Rock Covers

It came up that earlier this week was the three year anniversary of Aretha Franklin’s death with numerous Internet music websites marking the occasion. One of them was UCR (Ultimate Classic Rock) who I want to thank for this one. . .

Aretha Franklin sang everything great. Her roots were in gospel. Her early Columbia records had her sings jazz and songs from the Great American Songbook (Gershwin, Cole Porter, etc.). Her classic Atlantic recordings cemented her place as the Queen of Soul. She even once kicked ass singing opera as a last minute replacement for Pavorati on the Grammys. Aretha Franklin had broad musical tastes and throughout her long career recorded more than her share of rock songs, many of which are classic versions in and of themselves.

From Franklin’s second album for Atlantic Records with Muscle Shoals’ Swampers for backup and a horn section led by King Curtis.

Satisfaction

The Young Rascals’ song has blue-eyed soul meet the Queen of Soul. Backed up once again by the Muscle Shoals studio musicians known as the Swampers with backup vocals from Cissy Houston and sister Carolyn Franklin.

Groovin’

Franklin takes the Beatles to church with gospel choir backup vocals and a sax solo. This was also the first version of the song to be released commercially, as the Beatles’ single did not come out until two months after Franklin’s.

Let It Be

Featuring Duane Allman on National Steel guitar and King Curtis leading the horn section. I find it interesting that Franklin’s version puts a more R&B spin on the Band classic rather than the more gospel tinged version The Band later did with The Staple Singers on The Last Waltz. In the end it doesn’t matter what I think, it’s still f**king amazing.

The Weight


From Franklin’s epic record Live At The Fillmore West, one of the greatest live records of all time. If you haven’t heard it, then do so ASAP. You’re welcome.

Love the One You’re With (Live at Fillmore West, San Francisco, February 5, 1971)


Aretha Franklin debuted her gospel hymn-like treatment of the Simon & Garfunkel tune at the 1971 Grammy Awards where the original Simon & Garfunkel version won Record and Song of the Year. Franklin’s single went gold and won its own Grammy in 1972, for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

Bridge Over Troubled Water

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis
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