“Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?” . . : Grateful Dead At Cornell 5/8/77

On May 8th, 1977, the Grateful Dead played what many consider, one of their best shows ever. It’s certainly is one of their most famous, that being their show at Barton Hall at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

Why the big whoop about this particular show. Well the band was in one of their peak playing periods. They were coming off recording their new album, Terrapin Station for new label Arista. Label president Clive Davis wanted the band to deliver a strong ‘hit’ record and brought in producer Keith Olson. Olsen had the band practice parts until they were nailed and as a result, the Dead were a tight by the time of the the Spring 1977 tour. If you think about it, Clive Davis was indirectly responsible for Cornell 5/8/77. So the band is playing some of the tightest, most musically interesting shows of their career up to that date. And on that night, the band was especially ON.

Another of the reason why this show is so popular is due the the fact that an excellent recording began circulating among fans shortly after the show. If a deadhead wanted to give someone an introduction to the Dead, they would give that person a copy of Cornell, May 8th 1977.

Anyway, to celebrate (?) this day in GD history, here is a video from the YouTube channel Weeping Willow Guitar Lessons who I have featured previously (see https://roymusicusa.com/2020/12/28/a-merry-jerry-holiday-25-days-of-jerry/). Here he provides a collection of solo transcriptions from this classic show.

Time stamped as follows:
00:00 Scarlet Begonias
02:05 They Love Each Other
03:20 Deal
05:04 Brown-Eyed Women
06:08 Estimated Prophet

Cornell 5/8/77 | JERRY GARCIA | Guitar Solos

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Posted in Grateful Dead, Jam Band, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“There’s A Riot Going On” . . : Duke Ellington’s Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue At Newport Jazz Festival, 1956

The mid 1950’s were not the best of times for Duke Ellington and his Orchestra. While dominating jazz from the late 1920s through to the 40s, his post war recordings suffered in comparison. In addition, changes in popular culture were putting downward pressure on the band’s popularity. The advent of television was changing behavior with people staying home instead of going to the swing ballrooms that had big bands playing for dancers. In addition, rock’n’roll – which would soon displace jazz as America’s, and the world’s, popular music – was beginning to advance across the country.

Ellington was down but not out. On July 7th, 1956, at the Newport Jazz festival at Freebody Park, Rhode Island, the Duke Ellington Orchestra played a gig for the ages. Thunderstorms had delayed the start of Duke’s set and Ellington was worried that many fans would leave before or during his set. The show started uneventfully until Ellington called for what was a new arrangement of two older tunes now arranged as a medley called Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue. The piece featured a solo by tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves and on this occasion, he played a solo that nearly caused a riot and becameonly famous in the annals of jazz history.

That night, Gonsalves, who hadn’t played the piece in a while, and was initially uncertain of his way around it – played 27 improvised choruses in a style more R&B then bebop. It was an amazing example of a musician playing in a way that can be described as transcendent. The audience responded, with the normally seated crowd spontaneously bursting into a frenzy of dancing, standing on chairs, and audience members rushing the stage. In a review of the show for Down Beat magazine, the critic Leonard Feather, wrote: “Here and there in the reduced, but still multitudinous crowd, a couple got up and started jitterbugging. Within minutes, the whole of Freedom Park was transformed as if struck by a thunderbolt … hundreds of spectators climbed up on their chairs to see the action; the band built the magnificent arrangement to its perennial peak and the crowd, spent, sat limply wondering what could follow this.”

Ellington’s reputation was rejuvenated overnight with the performance earning one of the loudest ovations in Newport festival history, and on the strength of it, the bandleader made the cover of Time magazine a short time later. That night inaugurated a period of creativity that lasted until Ellington’s death in 1974.

This song, along with the other songs from the performances, were released as a live recording which became a big hit for Ellington and helped revive his career.

Duke Ellington Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue

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Posted in Jazz, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Rollin In My Sweet Baby’s Arms”: A Guide To Bluegrass History By Subgenre

A little while back I got on a bluegrass kick. I even learned a little bit of dobro (see https://roymusicusa.com/2021/06/28/seven-year-twitch-a-long-strange-trip-and-the-debut-album-of-wire-wood-steel/). While I wasn’t a complete stranger to the history of Bluegrass, I was aware that there were big gaps in my knowledge of the music. For example, I heard of the New Grass Revival but I had not actually heard them and I really had no context to appreciate their place in Bluegrass.

This brings me to the You Tube channel Lessons With Marcel (https://www.youtube.com/@LessonsWithMarcel). His channel is a goldmine of info for bluegrass guitar. There are a countless number of guitar transcriptions, interviews and history. Below is an excellent quick introduction to the assorted subgenres of Bluegrass. If you’re diving into bluegrass, you can now get a sense of where Billy Strings and Molly Tuttle fit into the whole Bluegrass picture and how David Grisman and Tony Rice are connected to Greensky Bluegrass and The Infamous Stringducters.

A Guide to Bluegrass History by Subgenre

Also, check out the website (https://lessonswithmarcel.com/) for lessons, merch, etc. Support the artist.

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Posted in Country/Bluegrass, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“This Is Your Brain On” . . . . : How Playing An Instrument Benefits Your Brain

When you think about it, the actual process of how we hear music is pretty amazing. Something, say like a plucked string, puts out vibrations that travel through the air and somehow get inside the ear canal. These vibrations tickle the eardrum and are transmitted into an electrical signal that travels through the auditory nerve to the brain stem, where it is reassembled into something we perceive as music. The means which the brain process these sounds into music is an ongoing study. Extend that question into what goes on in your brain when you’re playing music.

Science has shown that musical training can modify one’s brain structure. Playing an instrument is a complex process that is integrating information from an individual’s senses of vision, hearing, and touch in addition to coordinating fine motor skills and movements. This in turn can result in long-lasting changes in the brain.

How playing an instrument benefits your brain

There you have it. Save a brain, make music.

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Posted in Music Appreciation and Analysis

Cause We Ended As Lovers . . : Jeff Beck 1944 – 2023

If you are reading this, then you’re into guitars and if you’re into guitars then you no doubt know of the passing of guitar legend Jeff Beck. There are plenty of online articles and videos that have gone into Beck’s life and amazing playing so I am just gonna present what I consider to be some of the more interesting and unique examples of the genius of Jeff Beck.

An amazing version of the Mingus tune Goodby Pork Pie Hat from B.B. King Blues Club And Grill sometime in 2006.

Jeff Beck – Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

The clip below is pretty well known among guitar geeks. From Eric Clapton’s Crossroads concert in 2007, a version of Cause We Ended As Lovers that features an epic bass solo from the then 21 year old Tal Wilkenfeld. Bonus points for the Bill Murray intro.

Jeff Beck – Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers – Crossroads 2007

From the same show, a cover of the Billy Cobham tune Status.

Jeff Beck – Stratus- Crossroads 2007

The next group of clips show how well Jeff played with others. From a 2002 in London with John McLaughlin guesting on the modern jazz standard Django.and the Beck tune Scatterbrain.

Jeff Beck and John McLaughlin – Royal Festival Hall, London 9/14/2002

Jeff Beck with Stevie Wonder playin Superstion at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary. Priceless moment at 1:26 – Stevie yelling “Jeff, do your thing son”. Jeff proceeds to melt faces.

Stevie Wonder and Jeff Beck Perform “Superstition”

After being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by his old friend Jimmy Page, Beck rips into the classic Beck’s Bolero with Jimmy joining him mid way for an Immigrant Song teaser before coming back to Bolero. Epic.

Jeff Beck performs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Induction Ceremony 2009

Jeff Beck joining The Rolling Stones on their opening show of the 50 and Counting tour in 2012 in London.

The Rolling Stones – Going Down – with Jeff Beck – live 2012

This is from a 2019 Rod Stewart show in Los Angeles. After Stewart’s solo set, Beck joined his former bandmate for a five song encore. This, in a word, is amazing.

Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck – full set – live -[BEST AUDIO]- Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles CA – 9/27/19

This is the famous guest appearance of Jeff Beck during Bowie’s last performance as Ziggy Stardust.

David Bowie with Jeff Beck – The Jean Genie – Hammersmith Odeon – London – July 3, 1973

In case you need more of the man, here is an excellent documentary of Jeff Beck from 2015.

Jeff Beck – A Man For All Seasons: In the ’60s

R.I.P Jeff Beck

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

Holiday Haiku 2022

This year has been hard
With music it’s been better
So let us play on

(music in link below)

Jingle Blues

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Posted in Country/Bluegrass, Jam Band

“Mrs. Peel . . . We’re Needed”: British TV Spy-Fi Music From The Sixties

Being the boomer that I am (yes, I know that as a member of a given market derived demographic I represent all that is wrong with the world. . . . you’re welcome) I have different pop culture references than subsequent generations. A recent example was when someone mentioned the Avengers. I know they were talking about the Marvel characters but my initial thoughts were of the British television series. It was created in 1961 but was not shown in US until it’s fourth season starting in 1965 and running til 1969.

Unlike the music associated with the James Bond movies of the time (see my previous post https://roymusicusa.com/2021/04/15/shaken-not-stirred-james-bond-spy-music/), the theme music of The Avengers did not prominently feature the guitar. It opens with a musical figure similar to the bass lines played in boogie woogie piano but played by a harpsichord. How very British. Strings enter with the main melody and answered by a brass counter melody.

The Avengers Opening and Closing Theme (Series 5) 1965 – 1968

The other British “spy-fi” show whose theme music left an indelible mark on my musical psyche was The Prisoner. The opening sequences of the The Prisoner is a great example of the old screenwriting adage “Show, don’t tell”. It’s remarkable how much the the protagonist’s back story is conveyed in a few short minutes and with no dialogue. Just visuals and great music.
The music over the opening and closing credits, as broadcast, was composed by Ron Grainer, a composer whose other credits include the theme music for Doctor Who.

The Prisoner ~ Opening Sequence

Be seeing you . . .

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Posted in Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Roam If You Want To” . . . : The B-52’s

I recently read the the B-52’s were making their farewell tour. I first encountered the B-52’s when my brother came home from Baltimore and brought some of his records with him, including the first B-52 album. I was still in college and I was in peak Deadhead mode but I immediately liked it. The B-52’s stood out from their contemporaries in sound and style but I believe that the media’s emphasis on their thrift store chic visual style obscured what a great band they were.

Formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1976. The band consisted of Fred Schneider (vocals, percussion), Kate Pierson (vocals, keyboards, synth bass), Cindy Wilson (vocals, percussion), Ricky Wilson (guitar), and Keith Strickland (drums, guitar, keyboards). Ricky Wilson died of AIDS-related illness in 1985, and Strickland switched from drums to lead guitar.

The B-52’s didn’t sound like anyone else at that time. There was the juxtaposing of surf guitar and cheesy Farfisa organ with the angular vocal melodies of Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson and the talk/sing of Fred Schneider. As I said earlier, too many people assigned a “novelty band” sticker to the band due to their quirky style and that’s too bad. The rhythm section of guitarist Ricky Wilson and drummer Keith Strickland were tight and made the music so.damm.danceable.

The B-52’s – 52 Girls

And among the frolic and fun there were moments that unexpectedly hit you like during the song Dance This Mess Around when Cindy Wilson sings “why won’t you dance with me/I ain’t no Limburger”.

The B-52’s – Dance This Mess Around

In the summer of 1980 I saw the B-52’s at the old Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park as part of the summer concert series held there at the time. They were just about to release their second album, “Wild Planet”, and were playing the new songs. Private Idaho was an immediate crowd favorite but the moment that I will always remember was when they played Give Me Back My Man which I consider to be one of their best songs. The instrumental outro is still one of my favorite pieces of music and you can feel the pain in Cindy Wilson’s vocals.

The B-52’s Give Me Back My Man

The B-52’s – Private Idaho

In 1981, the band started what was to be their third album with Talking Heads’ David Byrne producing. The recording sessions for the album were aborted, reportedly due to differences with Byrne over the album’s musical direction. The record company however demanded product which prompted the band to release what they salvaged from the sessions and put out the EP Mesopotamia in 1982. The vocal melodies were more angular and the instrumental tracks were more that a little reminiscent of those found on Talking Head’s Speaking In Tongues.

The B-52’s – Mesopotamia

The band “came back” in 1989 with the album Cosmic Thing which had the hit singles of Love Shack, Roam and Deadbeat Club, great songs all.

The B-52’s – Love Shack

The B-52’s – Roam

The B-52’s – Deadbeat Club

Great band. Well done.

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Posted in Classic Rock, Uncategorized

“Playing In The Band” . . : An Interactive GD Experience

This should of interest to all my fellow Deadheads out there. It’s obvious appeal is the musicians among you but I believe this would be illuminating to any fan of the music. It’s a new feature on the official Grateful Dead website (www.dead.net). Called Playing In The Band, it provides the listener with the individual tracks of each instrument for four songs (five if you count the China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider medley as two distinct songs) from the Dead’s classic show from Veneta, Oregon on 8/27/72. The other songs, besides the aforementioned China/Rider are Bertha, Playing In The Band and Sugar Magnolia, classic Dead songs all. A virtual mixer allows the listener to mix the instruments respective volumes to taste. it let’s the listener isolate any combination of instruments and cooler still, give the listener the ability to position a given instrument within the total mix. You can listen to only Phil Lesh’s bass (something I’ve personally been enjoying) or listen to only Bob Weir’s guitar. You can listen to Weir and Garcia play off each other by panning one to the hard right and the other to a hard left. It you ever had trouble distinguishing who does what, this should help you figure it out. Needless to say, you can now play along in an immersive way that really is unique. The video below will explain.

Playing In The Band – A Grateful Dead Interactive Experience

The link to this is below. Enjoy.


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

“White Stuff On My Nose” . . . : I Wanna Be A Lifeguard by Blotto

As we come to the tail of end of summer here, there’s a song that always comes to mind. The song: I Wanna Be A Lifeguard. The band: Blotto.

I Wanna Be A Lifeguard – Blotto

Coming from Albany, New York, the band Blotto came out with some of the best examples of mixing music and humor. I have very limited patience for “novelty” songs but Blotto’s best songs hold up well (IMO).

Starting in 1978 as a “post-hippie” comedy jugband called The Star Spangled Washboard Band, they eventually morphed in a music that combined new wave and soul/R&B, with comedic themes. As part of the joke – and as an homage to the Ramones, the band members took the name “Blotto” as their surnames, making them sextuplets of different mothers (there’s Bowtie Blotto, Sergeant Blotto, and Broadway Blotto, Blanche Blotto, Cheese Blotto and Lee Harvey Blotto).

They began to get a following and began playing in the New York City area clubs such as The Ritz, SNAFU, and My Father’s Place. New York City radio station WNEW-FM began playing their initial recording of “I Wanna Be A Lifeguard,” as well as the Dr. Demento Show, They began touring frequently especially among Northeast college towns.

They self released two EPs on their own Blotto Records label and with the assistance of video production students at SUNY Albany, they produced an early music video for “I Wanna Be A Lifeguard”. The video was played on the first day the MTV aired and for a while was in frequently rotation. Eventually, Sony put out a “Video 45” on VHS that featured three videos from Blotto including including “I Wanna Be A Lifeguard”.

As much as I like “I Wanna Be A Lifeguard”, I think Blotto were at their best with a song from their first EP called “We Are The Nowtones”, a brilliant send-up of the all purpose lounge lizard bands you would find playing at that hotel bar just off the highway. This song shows that these guys had skills as they would quick change through different musical styles in the course of a single verse.

We are the Nowtones- Blotto

In December 2020, a June 1980 show from My Father’s Place in Roslyn, Long Island was released on Spotify (“Blotto: Live at My Father’s Place 6/26/1980” ) that provides a listen to their fun live shows at a time when the band just started to tour. Check it out.

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis
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