“Oh, Say Can You See” . . . : Jimi Hendrix and The National Anthem

When does a musical performance become much more than just a musical performance? When does such a thing become iconic? Hendrix’s rendition of the National Anthem at Woodstock is certainly on most lists of iconic rock guitar performances. What’s interesting is that it was seen by only a small fraction of the Woodstock audience, the majority having left by that point. It’s lasting cultural impact must be credited to the fact that it was captured on film for posterity.

The more things change . . .

Then as now, the world seemed crazy. Hendrix was not known for political statements but he made a big one without saying a word. Then, as now, people placed a lot of importance on symbols that were suppose to define your identity, both as an individual and as part of a greater community. Any version of the National Anthem that did not conform to “acceptable standards” was considered a venerable act of treason. During the 1968 World Series, Jose Feliciano’s version of the anthem generated significant backlash for what we today would consider a pleasant folk rendition of the tune. Given that benchmark, Hendrix’s version would just blow their fuckin minds . . .

Of course, the moment that truly makes this version memorable occurs at the phrase “the rocket’s red glare”. It is then that Hendrix goes off on a tangent, using his guitar to generate a cacophony of sounds, mimicking the chaotic sounds of war, before returning to the melody. When words fail, there is music . .


Jose Feliciano performs the National Anthem – 1968 World Series Game 5

 

Jimi Hendrix – The Star-Spangled Banner

 

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“It’s Not Unusual” . . . : This Is Tom Jones T.V. Show

Continuing the T.V. nostalgia theme from the previous post, I remember sometimes watching Tom Jones on television. This was a little before my awareness of rock music kicked in so I really wasn’t that into it. In hindsight that was a pity because looking back now, the show has some really kick ass musical guests and some very impressive collaborations between Tom Jones and said guests.

The show itself was in many ways a typical T.V. variety show of it’s era (running from 1969 to 1971) and certainly seemed ‘uncool’ to rock music sensibilities but the list of rock music guests he has on is impressive. Additionally, when Jones sings with these guests, you can’t help but get your mind a little bit blown. Not only is the idea of Tom Jones singing with Janis Joplin or CSNY mind blowing but he more than hold his own in such company.

 

Little Richard & Tom Jones – Rip It Up – This is Tom Jones TV Show 1970

 

Tom Jones & Wilson Pickett Medley – This is Tom Jones TV Show 1970

 

Tom Jones & Joe Cocker – Delta Lady – This is Tom Jones TV Show 1970

 

One of the things that I love about these performances is the expression on the faces of people like Wilson Pickett and Janis Joplin. You can tell that they are truly having a great time. In particular, check out the look on David Crosby’s face during an incredible performance of “Long Time Gone”. This was recorded just a few weeks after Woodstock and while supposedly Neil Young was asking what were they doing on this “square” T.V. show, you can see his expression turn from disdain to “wow”.


Tom Jones & Janis Joplin – Raise Your Hand (1969)

 

Tom Jones Crosby,Stills,Nash and Young Long Time Gone 1969

 

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“The World Sucks, Come Watch T.V.” . . . . : In Concert And The Midnight Special

Nobody exists on purpose
Nobody belongs anywhere
Everybody’s gonna die
Come watch T.V.
– Rick and Morty

I am a pessimist by nature. Over the course of the last several years that pessimism has morphed into a Rick Sanchez like cosmic nihilism. But when nothing matters it’s gets scary easy to just say “fuck it, fuck them all”. But with recent events, I’m trying to consider an alternative framework to view the universe. I’m still processing this all . . .

I remember when in the early 1970’s, television began to put on shows dedicated to rock music. They were on late Friday nights, after their respective networks late night talk shows. This is pre-internet, pre-cable television. I was too young to be out that late so I was glued to the television when these shows came on.

The best of the lot in my opinion was In Concert, which was shown on ABC. The format was straight forward: bands were taped “in concert”. It’s premier episode was the broadcast of a concert taped at Hofstra University in Long Island, NY on September 21, 1972 that featured Alice Cooper, Bo Diddley, Curtis Mayfield and Seals & Crofts. I recall that there was some “controversy” over Alice Cooper and his horror show theatrics prior to the show’s airing. In fact when the episode did actually air, the broadcast was terminated early in Cincinnati, Ohio. Apparently the station manager of the ABC affiliate station was watching the Alice Cooper segment and was so disgusted by it that he called the station’s master control room and ordered the station to take it off the air with a rerun of Rawhide quickly put in it’s place.

ALICE COOPER GROUP – I’m Eighteen ( ABC In Concert ’72)


ALICE COOPER GROUP / School’s Out (ABC In Concert ’72)

 

The second episode, broadcast on December 8, 1972 featured The Allman Brothers Band. This was the last performance of bassist Berry Oakley, who died following a motorcycle accident a month before the broadcast.


The Allman Brothers Band – Full Concert – 11/02/72 – Hofstra University (OFFICIAL)

 

The Midnight Special was a much slicker “Hollywood” production. Instead of filming a band live on stage, here bands performed in a television studio in front of an audience. To their credit, the bands did actually perform live which was uncommon for the time since most television appearances during the era showed performers lip-synching to prerecorded music. As the compilation videos below show, they had some really good bands on the show. A partial list of some of the bands: Doobie Brothers, T-Rex, David Bowie, Blondie, Steely Dan, Aretha Franklin, Fleetwood Mac.

The Midnight Special 1973 –


The Midnight Special Million Sellers – 

 

This all is but a temporary diversion from the dumpster fire that is our world right now but maybe we all just need a little nostalgic respite before we all go out to fight the good fight.

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“When The Living Was Easy” . . . : Gershwin’s Summertime

Normally (yeah, what’s that now . . ) the end of May would be the start of summer with thoughts of vacation plans, beaches, outdoor concerts (yeah, about that . . .)

The song Summertime was written by George Gershwin in 1034 for his opera Porgy and Bess with lyrics credited to Ira Gershwin and DuBoise Heyward, the author of the novel Porgy on which the opera was based. Although Gershwin said that he did not use any previously written spirituals in his opera, musicologists and other music wonks have argued that it was based on a African American spiritual. Others have argued that it was inspired by a Ukrainian Yiddish lullaby. Most just split it down the middle.

Whatever the origins, Summertime has become possibly the most popular song written by an a American composer with over 25,000 recordings of the song. It’s one of the first jazz standards most of us learn. It’s harmony is flexible enough that you can jam over it with your trusty blues licks or you can add enough chord substitutions to make it a virtual harmonic ski trail (double back diamond, of course).

Below are some of my particular favorite versions of the tune.

Sidney Bechet (on soprano sax) was one of the first important soloists in jazz (he recorded before Louis Armstrong by several months), I love how he interacts with the guitarist.

Sidney Bechet – Summertime (1939)

 

Ella Fitzgerald with the Tee Carson trio. Live in Germany in 1968. So soulful.

Ella Fitzgerald – Summertime (1968)

 

Miles Davis with Gil Evan’s orchestral arrangements. Classic.

Summertime – Miles Davis (1966)

 

Ella Fitzgerald sang Summertime with a quiet solfulness. Janis brought intensity. Also dig he pseudo baroque instrumental intro.

Janis Joplin – Summertime

 

The Reverend Al Green. Gershwin meets Memphis.

Al Green – Summertime

 

Two of my favorite young guitarists, Billy Strings and Marcus King in a intimate guitar duet. Billy Strings channeling Doc Watson.

Summertime – Billy Strings & Marcus King

 

To better summer and better days.

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Posted in Classic Rock, Country/Bluegrass, Jazz, Music Appreciation and Analysis, Uncategorized

“What I Did On My Permanent Vacation” . . : New Music Project

Like many at the start of their self isolation, I thought this would be a good opportunity to be productive. There were projects that were on my ‘to do’ list: organize papers, clean closets . . .

Yeah, that hasn’t happened. I must say however that I did get one thing accomplished; I started learning the dobro.

I have previously written about th dobro (see https://roymusicusa.com/2019/10/31/that-high-lonesome-sound-a-very-quick-intro-to-the-dobro/). I’ve always loved the sound of the instrument and earlier this year (before the world as we know it ended) I decided to give myself a present by getting myself one. I was able to find a cheap dobro online (if you’re interested, here is the link to amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ktone-Acoustic-Electric-Resonator-Natural/dp/B00DVWAOGO). In addition to being cheap enough to be willing to take a chance on, it was also an electric acoustic model which would make recording easier by allowing to just plug it into an audio interface rather than miking it. Just to be clear, it’s not the greatest dobro. There were some quality control issues: a rattle that required me to disassemble the faceplate to correct the problem and a tuning peg issue that I’ve found a work around for but will require more attention once I can get to a guitar store. That being said, it’s good enough for me to learn on and it’s been a blast. Because I have experience playing slide guitar and fingerpicking, I’m not starting from absolute zero but the tuning is different and hell, it’s played lap style, so it’s not without some transitional effort.

So anyway, I’m starting a new music project called Wire, Wood & Steel which will feature new acoustic based music. I hope to start recording soon (another of those projects . . ) and put out short videos. The first one is of an original tune in honor of our front line workers called 7 O’clock Song.

Wire Wood & Steel : 7 O’clock Song –

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Posted in Country/Bluegrass, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“That Was Then, This Is Now” . . . : Musical Flash Mobs

A reminder of a different time. A time when people gathered in public places casually, going about their business until they notice that the person beside them is carrying a bassoon. And that person coming up the escalator is holding a french horn. Suddenly an ad hoc music group has appeared out of nowhere, play a piece of music and then just as suddenly, disappear back into the crowd.

Flash mobs were a thing in the 2000’s. Originally they were more an exercise in artistic expression, not unlike the art “happenings” of the sixties. Then it became more of a marketing/public relations thing for companies but it still provided moments of beauty and wonder in this world for people just going about their day.

Here’s to a time when flash mobs can become a thing again.


Flashmob Flash Mob – Ode an die Freude ( Ode to Joy ) Beethoven Symphony No.9 classical music

 

RAVEL’S BOLERO, amazing FLASHMOB! (Spain)

 

Christmas Food Court Flash Mob, Hallelujah Chorus

 

Flashmob Performs ‘Here Comes the Sun’ in Madrid Unemployment Office

 

Party Rock Anthem – LMFAO / Flashmob Marchingband TSV Lauf

 

Flashmob: Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen

 

Technically, the Apartment Sessions videos are not flash mobs but their Halloween videos on the NYC subway are pretty cool nonetheless (check out their other videos here:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpU_PAsVFl2fO649QF6Zj0Q)

Queen – Somebody To Love (Apartment Sessions)

 

Stevie Wonder – Sir Duke (Apartment Sessions)

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Posted in Classic Rock, Classical, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Quarantine Is Painless” . . . : Musical Mashups For Your Amusement

As I understand it a musical mashup is the blending together of two or more existing songs, by superimposing the melody of one song over the backing track of another. The practice has existed for centuries but with modern DJ and sound editing software tools it has become something of an art form in itself. The better ones have a smart ass snarky appeal *(“Oh, aren’t we clever”) that I find to be the right antidote for these times so below are some of the better musical mashups (IMHO).

Sweet Fat Bottomed Alabama (Queen + Lynyrd Skynyrd) Mashup

 

Stayin’ in Black (Bee Gees + AC/DC Mashup) by Wax Audio

 

Whole Lotta Sabbath (Led Zeppelin + Black Sabbath Mashup) by Wax Audio

 

Mashup James Brown vs Led Zeppelin Whole Lotta Sex Machine

 

Michael Jackson vs The Doors – Billie Jean on the Storm

 

We Will Rock You, Bossa Nova! Mashup (Elvis vs RHCP vs Queen vs Flo Rida vs Cee Lo Green)

 

For the music geeks out there, the video below from You Tuber extraordinaire Adam Neely goes into the theory of musical mashups.

The music theory of mashups

 

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis, Music Theory

“Bring Out Your Dead” . . : Resources For The Quarantined Deadhead

Welcome my friends to crazy times here in NYC. Unless you literally live in a cave you’ve heard of the fun times we’re having here with Covid-19. Personally, I haven’t felt much of a change in my daily routine. Being the anti-social troll that I am, I have been self isolating and social distancing for years now but my old friend Stevo was quarantined (thankfully now finished) and was going a little stir crazy. Back in our college days, Stevo and I went to many a Dead show together so I thought it would be cool to let my fellow Deadheads know of a couple of Youtube channels to help pass the time in isolation.

Wall of Sound has been posting some great Dead shows (audio only). They’ve been of excellent sound quality, as befitting the channel’s name. A recent post that I’ve been enjoying is the complete Grateful Dead set at Watkins Glen on July 23 1973. I’ve previously only have heard the soundcheck so this was a pleasant surprise.

Grateful Dead – 7/28/73, Watkins Glen NY – Soundboard – Complete show

Check out all the other shows on the channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOn8Nb8Tw5jyEmnmJIIZfTg/videos

The other channel I want to tell you about is OkieDeadhead. This kind soul has been sharing their impressive archive of Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia and other related material. A recent post of a March 19, 1977 show at the Winterland in San Francisco is a good example.

Grateful Dead 3/19/1977

You can find OkieDeadhead videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/CaptainTrips57/videos

Remember, a virus doesn’t care about your timeline so be safe and self-isolate.

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Posted in Grateful Dead, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“If You Get Confused Just Listen To The Music Play” . . : A Video Asks, “Was Jerry Garcia a Jazz Improviser?”

As a musician and as a Deadhead, I have had on more than one occasion a conversation with non-Deadhead musicians who dismiss Jerry Garcia as someone who just plays scales up and down, someone who “noodles”. This pisses off Deadhead musicians like myself because we know that such opinions are not based on any real listening to Garcia’s playing. Jerry’s playing was so much more than just running scales. Garcia was an intense student of many different genres of music, including jazz. While the Dead never covered a Charlie Parker tune, Garcia could certainly approach a tune with a jazz musician’s mindset. Instead of using a common scale to play over a song’s chord progression, Garcia would approach each chord individually but also as part of a progression of chords, being aware of linking his melodic ideas from chord to chord. His note choices went beyond the basic vanilla ones, often adding “spicy” chromatic tones to play against and highlight the more consonant chord tones. This is all jazz stuff.

The video below is from Amaruitar, whose video series dissecting Garcia’s solo on Deal from a 1989 performance I discussed previously (see https://roymusicusa.com/2020/02/29/dont-you-let-that-deal-go-down-learn-jerry-garcias-solo-from-deal-7-4-89-buffalo/). Here he presents the case for Garcia, being, if not a jazz improviser per se, than at least being a musician who was more than capable of hanging with the jazz cats.

Was Jerry Garcia a Jazz Improviser?

 

The end of the clip featured a short bit of Garcia performing with Ruben Blades for some television show and you can hear him play in what is for Garcia, a very uncharacteristic latin jazz setting. And he rips. Check out more of Garcia with Ruben Blades below.

Ruben Blades & Jerry Garcia (MueveteI) – Aug. 2nd 1989

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Posted in Grateful Dead, Improvisation, Jazz, Music Appreciation and Analysis, Music Theory

“Don’t You Let That Deal Go Down” . . . : Learn Jerry Garcia’s Solo From Deal (7/4/89 Buffalo)

I had lunch the other day with my old friend Errol. Errol is an excellent guitarist and we have been in bands together on and off for about forty years. Errol is currently in an excellent Jam band based in Rockaway, NY called Solshyne (check out their facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/solshyneband/app/2405167945/). He remarked that the band was adding some new Dead tunes to their repertoire and in doing so he once again appreciates just how amazing Garcia was. The talk then went on to YouTube instructional videos on Garcia’s playing and I mentioned the YouTube channel of Amarguitar as an excellent resource of Dead guitar information. I have previously written about Amarguitar videos which analyze several different Phish jams (see https://roymusicusa.com/2019/06/18/bouncing-round-the-room-videos-that-put-phish-jams-under-the-microscope/) but he has also created a whole series of videos dissecting Garcia’s guitar style. If you really want to dive deep than I suggest the video series he created that transcribe and analyze Jerry Garcia’s first guitar solo on Deal from the Grateful Dead’s performance on July 4th, 1989 in Buffalo, NY, Amaruitar literally goes over the entire solo bar by bar with the solo transcribed in guitar tablature (a form of musical notation that shows the guitar strings and frets to be played) so there are a load of Garcia lines to be learned. Good stuff.

Grateful Dead Guitar Lesson – Deal Jerry Garcia Solos with Tab (7/4/89 Buffalo)

For context, here is the whole performance of Deal from the show.

Grateful Dead Deal 7-4-89 Rich Stadium Orchard Park NY

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Posted in Classic Rock, Grateful Dead, Improvisation, Jam Band, Music Appreciation and Analysis, Music Theory
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