“Pictures From An Exhibition . . : The Instruments Of Rock & Roll At The Met Part I

I recently went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the exhibition “Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll” which is showing through October 1, 2019. This is guitar geek heaven. The show has on display approximately 130 instruments, many of them being the actual instruments used on iconic records or played live on stage. These are the actual tools that were used to make musical history. If a museum can display the typewriter used by Jack Kerouac or paint brushes used by Edward Hopper then surely the acoustic guitar used to write and record Stairway To Heaven is worthy of similar veneration. So for the next bunch of posts I’m going to share my photos and thoughts about some of the amazingly cool stuff there.

Let’s start off with the aforementioned acoustic guitar used by Jimmy Page used on Stairway. It’s a Harmony Sovereign acoustic guitar that was one of Page’s main songwriting instruments and was used to compose material on the first four Led Zeppelin. It was also used to record most of Led Zeppelin III and the acoustic parts of ‘Stairway To Heaven”. Next to it is the  Danelectro guitar Page had in Celtic tuning (where the guitar is tuned DADGAD) and used on “When the Levee Breaks”, “In My Time of Dying” and “Kashmir”. I love the fact that such important instruments are not top of the line boutique instruments. Both Harmony and Danelectro were primarily budget instrument manufacturers.

Staying with the Jimmy Page theme, the above photo is of the Fender Telecaster that Page first used while in the Yardbirds. It was given to him in 1967 by Jeff Beck (wow!). Page hand painted the dragon design and replaced the white pickguard with clear acrylic. After the Yardbirds, Page used this guitar to record all of the first Led Zeppelin album (WOW!!).

Talk about iconic. This is the Gibson EDS-1275 Double Neck guitar that Page used to play live on “The Rain Song”, “Celebration Day” and of course, “Stairway To Heaven”. The combination six- and twelve-string guitar allowed Page to play the acoustic and electric parts live without needing to change instruments.

If you live in or near NYC or are going to be in the vicinity between now and October 1, 2019, then you should definitely check out this great exhibit at the Met.

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“Respect” . . . . : Aretha Franklin Receives The Pulitzer Prize

My previous post highlighted a classic performance from The Queen Of Soul,, Aretha Franklin in her prime. Yesterday it was announced that she was awarded a special citation Pulitzer Prize. The posthumous honor was given “for her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades”. This is just one more of the many honors and awards she’s received. Franklin, who died on August 16, 2018 at the age of 76, was a member of the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame and a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Below is an excellent video from Vox that discusses the gospel roots of Aretha Franklin and how it permeated everything she did. All hail The Queen of Soul.

Aretha Franklin’s musical genius in 2 songs –

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Posted in Blues, Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“We Are Not Worthy” . . . . : Aretha Franklin Live at Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland – June 12, 1971

Last week (March 25th to be exact) was what would have been the 76th birthday of Aretha Franklin. In honor of one of of the greatest vocalists this country has produced, we have the video below of an amazing performance that captures her at her peak. Taking place on June 12, 1971 at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland with what was her last live performance with the King Curtis and the Kingpins band that also recorded the phenomenal record “Aretha Franklin Live At The Filmore West”. The material ranged from a some of her greatest hits at the time to timely covers of Diana Ross’ “Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Amazing stuff. We are not worthy.

Setlist:
01. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (Carole King cover)
02. I Say a Little Prayer (Burt Bacharach cover)
03. Call Me
04. Brand New Me (Dusty Springfield cover)
05. Share Your Love With Me (Bobby “Blue” Bland cover)
06. Don’t Play That Song (You Lied) (Ben E. King cover)
07. Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel cover)
08. Dr. Feelgood (Love Is a Serious Business)
09. Spirit in the Dark
10. Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand) (Diana Ross cover)

Aretha Franklin Live at Montreux Jazz Fest., Switzerland – 1971

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Posted in Blues, Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

“Up on The Roof” . . . : Continued

I had recently posted about two concerts, each performed on rooftops in the center of a major city by a leading band of the day. The more well known one was by The Beatles on the roof of Apple Records headquarters in London on January 30, 1969. The other was by The Jefferson Airplane on the roof of The Schuyler Hotel, near Times Square in New York City on November 19, 1968 (see my post here – https://roymusicusa.com/2019/02/13/up-on-the-roof-two-rooftop-concerts-same-ending/).

As a follow up, here are two videos that go into the backstory of the Beatles rooftop concert. The videos go into the haphazard way it came about, from grandiose plans to just “whatever . . “.  and shows how sometimes great art comes from just going out and doing it.

The Beatles and The Rooftop Gig: Part 1 – Live Shows in 1968?

 

The Beatles and The Rooftop Gig: Part 2 – A new phase BEATLES performance…

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“You Ought To Be In Pictures” . . : The Broken Formula Of Music Biopics

Given that the Oscars are coming up and Bohemian Rhapsody is nominated, it seems like an apt time to do something different from my usual posts. Musical biopics (biographical pictures) have been a common staple of contemporary movies for a while now. As a little kid I remember seeing movies like The Glen Miller Story or The Benny Goodman Story on TV. More recently there have been hits like Ray or Walk The Line and or course, Bohemian Rhapsody. I can’t say that any of them really knocked me out though I still have yet to see Bird (Charlie Parker) or Don’t Look Back (Bob Dylan). Many of them just seemed to be dramatized versions of the old VH1 series Behind The Music.

This brings me to the video below. Here the music biopic is discussed not from the viewpoint of a music nerd but from the perspective of a film geek. Patrick (H) Willems has a great YouTube channel featuring video essays that analyze movies. Framed and interspersed with an ongoing skit that serves as meta commentary on the music biopic formula, Willems gives a brief history of film biographies in general and music biopics specifically before deconstructing the standard tropes of the genre and the problems they present from a cinematic perspective.

The Broken Formula of Music Biopics –

There are a bunch of artists that I think would be great source material for a biopic.Here’s a idea: George Harrison. The story of someone who has to find himself as an artist while in the shadow of greater artists before the world recognizes his greatness. You have Beatlemania. You have the love triangle between his wife Patti Boyd, his friend Eric Clapton and himself. You have his relationship to Eastern Spiritualism and of course his sad passing. There is a lot there.

Hollywood, call me.

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“Up On The Roof” . . . : Two Rooftop Concerts, Same Ending

Just recently was the 50th anniversary of what turned out to be the final performance of the Beatles. On January 3oth 1969, The Beatles went up on the rooftop of the headquarters of Apple Records in central London and played an impromptu gig. At the time, The Beatles were recording their album, Let It Be, and the rooftop show let them run through various tracks from those sessions. Songs played during the set include “Get Back,” where the Beatles were accompanied by Billy Preston on the keyboards, and “Don’t Let Me Down” (see the video below), “I’ve Got A Feeling,” “One After 909,” “Danny Boy,” “Dig A Pony” and finally, another version of “Get Back.” The performance ends with the police shutting down the show due to noise and John Lennon uttering the immortal words, “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition.” Luckily, film director Michael Lindsay-Hogg (who also worked with The Rolling Stones) captured the performance as well as the reactions of people on the street.

The Beatles – Don’t Let Me Down

Not as well known was a brief rooftop performance by the Jefferson Airplane in New York City roughly two months before The Beatles. On Tuesday, Nov. 19, 1968, the Airplane had agreed to participate in a work-in-progress by the radical French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, tentatively titled One A.M. (for One American Movie). As they’d often staged free concerts in their hometown of San Francisco, as well as in New York, the Airplane and Godard decided to set up their equipment on the roof of the condemned, nine-story Schuyler Hotel, at 57 W. 45th Street near Times Square. Needless to say, they didn’t bother securing a film permit and the band only has the opportunity to play one song before being shut down. The performance of that one song however is epic. The song is “House at Pooneil Corners,” a post-apocalyptic song from their recently released fourth studio album, Crown of Creation. Written by singer Marty Balin and rhythm guitarist/vocalist Paul Kantner as a sequel to the earlier “The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil,” the song showcases the band at it’s peak with each of the singers (Grace Slick, Balin and Kantner) weavuing lines around each other and the instrumentalists—lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, bassist Jack Casady and drummer Spencer Dryden, with Kantner on rhythm guitar, displaying a fierce intensity.

The clip ends with the police stoping the show.  “If they continue the music, lock ’em up!”

Jefferson Airplane – House at Pooneil Corners (In a New York roof 1968)

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Posted in Classic Rock, Music Appreciation and Analysis

Five More Classic Jazz Songs For Your Classic Rock Friends

This is a continuation of my previous post “Five Classic Jazz Songs For Your Classic Rock Friends” (https://roymusicusa.com/2019/01/13/five-classic-jazz-songs-for-your-classic-rock-friends/).  In that post, I was talking about classic jazz tunes that might appeal to your friends who are more inclined to listen to classic rock. The songs highlighted tended to be hard bop tunes that shared with classic rock, elements of blues, gospel and R&B along with a driving groove. So, here are five more classic jazz tunes for your classic rock friends.

“The Sidewinder” by trumpeter Lee Morgan is considered one of the defining recordings of Soul Jazz. It was actually a crossover hit in 1965 with an edited version released as a single. This is definite head bopping music. On a perverse biographical note, Morgan was killed at the East Village jazz club, Slugs’, where his band was performing, when he was shot by his common law wife between sets.

Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder

The general consensus is that Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” is his masterpiece but for the non jazz listener I would suggest starting with some of his earlier hard bop recording, in this case “Giant Steps”. Coltrane was the jazz saxophone version of what is referred today as a shredder, a hot virtuoso player. The tune Giant Steps has become something of a rite of passage for aspiring jazz players. The tune has a incredibly difficult chord progression to play over and is played at a very fast tempo. Like listening to your favorite hot guitar solo, it’s a thrill ride.

John Coltrane – Giant Steps

 

Drummer Art Blakey and his group The Jazz Messengers were considered to be the quintessential Hard Bop band and no tune exemplified this more than “Moanin'”. Written by pianist Bobby Timmons, the song, like last post’s Mingus tune “Better Get It On Your Soul”, wears it’s gospel influences out front, with it’s call and response melody and “amen” chords. It then segues into some great swinging blues based playing with Blakey’s drums kicking ass and taking names. In some ways the Jazz Messengers remind me of the bands of British blues legend John Mayall. Mayall’s bands featured players like Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Mick Fleetwood and others, The Jazz Messengers alumni include players Lee Morgan, Benny Golson, Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Chuck Mangione, Keith Jarrett, Wynton and Branford Marsalis.

Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers – Moanin’

Thelonious “Sphere” Monk (his middle name was Sphere ’cause he was the opposite of square, daddy-o). There is so much I want to say about Monk but I’m going to save that for a later post (or three). For now, let me limit it to this particular tune, his classic (as is most of his tunes),”Straight No Chase”. First off, a great catchy riff for a melody (actually the melody is a short five note motif that is rhythmically displaced across a twelve bar blues progression). The rhythm section is just grooving as is Charlie Rouse’s sax solo. Then there is Monk’s piano playing. I’ve always thought of it as the art of beautifully making square pegs fit round holes. There is just something about his playing that makes me smile whenever I hear it.

Thelonious Monk – Straight,No Chaser

 

Finally, The Duke. Like Monk, so much to say with no amount of words able to do proper justice to the man’s musical genius. So again, let’s focus on the tune. Starting as just a piano trio before signaling the rest of the orchestra to come in. This tune interweave so many cool little riffs so seamlessly that it’s easy to miss cool little details in the writing like the way the opening melody played by the reeds are answered by the brass in the background. To listen to this tune is to hear joy.

DUKE ELLINGTON – Rockin’ in Rhythm

I think that if you put the songs I recommended in these last two post together into a playlist, you would get a pretty good introduction to jazz for your rock friends and a great playlist to listen to as you bop your way through this crazy world. Good luck.

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Posted in Jazz, Music Appreciation and Analysis
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