BIG BROTHER & THE HOLDING COMPANY's CHEAP THRILLS (COLUMBIA, 1968) album is basically the STUNNING major label debut of the LEGENDARY POWERHOUSE singer JANIS JOPLIN. building off the hype that followed her in the wake of her ELECTRIC performance at the MONTEREY POP FESTIVAL the previous year, JOPLIN on CHEAP THRILLS showcases her PRETERNATURAL ability to channel both a sense of GUT-WRENCHING VULNERABILITY and HARD-WON SELF-AWARENESS that is as INTENSE as it is RAW. her UNMISTAKABLE voice today is every bit the PRIMAL SCREAM that it was back in the late 1960s. it is completely INIMITABLE and uniquely JOPLIN. when i consider the thought of similar like-minded singers, the FEROCIOUS yet UNGUARDED genius that was early BLUES singer BESSIE SMITH comes immediately to mind. with both singers there is UNBRIDLED and UNCOMPROMISING AUTHENTICITY to their voice that feels like they reached deep down and took their heart from their chest and placed it on a platter for you to observe. no show business trickery, just PURE INTENTION and DIRECT EXPRESSION.
the STANDOUT tracks from CHEAP THRILLS include renditions of both "BALL AND CHAIN" and "PEACE OF MY HEART." "BALL AND CHAIN" is an EMOTIVE cover of an absolutely BRUTAL BIG MAMA THORNTON song that dwells in the pits of despair over the PAIN, SUFFERING and SELF-DIRECTED ABUSE that comes with LOVE gone SOUR. in a BLUES setting it is an UNSETTLING number and JOPLIN carried that tradition forward in her BLUES ROCK interpretation of such. she is so CONVINVING in her delivery and presentation that it is difficult to not be moved by it. youd have to by a sociopath or dead to be unmoved by "BALL AND CHAIN." likewise "PIECE OF MY HEART" is arguably the most BELOVED song in JOPLIN's short catalogue, which besides a forgotten SUB-PAR, poorly produced debut on the INDEPENDENT MAINSTREAM RECORDS, entails two CELEBRATED solo albums, I GOT DEM OL' KOZMIC BLUES AGAIN MAMA! (COLUMBIA, 1969) and PEARL (COLUMBIA, 197`), before her untimely TRAGIC passing in 1970 from a heroin overdose. written by songwriting duo JERRY RAGAVOY and BERT BERNS, "PEACE OF MY HEART" was originally composed as a R&B/SOUL ballad for ARETHA FRANKLIN's sister ERMA, of all people, but in the hands of JOPLIN became something of a generational 1960s ROCK AND ROLL anthem. again, JOPLIN deftly projects a SEXUAL and PERSONAL CONFIDENCE by basically commanding the ROMANTIC object of the song to take a peace of her heart. its a confidence that is baked in a PALPABLE sense of VULNERABLITY. that UNNERVING CONFIDENT / VULNERABLE dynamic that JOPLIN so incredibly balances is arguably the reason she is such a RENOWNED 20th century icon and undisputedly one of the great MODERN singers of any genre. her voice just taps something PRIMAL and moves people to their core, even decades and generations later.
CHEAP THRILLS is required listening. end stop. for me personally the music of JANIS JOPLIN always reminds me of my mother, who i see channeled to another time and place every instance she hears her voice. i believe she still very much mourns her death like many from her generation. what a UNIQUE TALENT.
written mostly while on tour in the mid-2010s with KINGS OF CHAOS and WALKING PAPERS, HOW TO BE A MAN (AND OTHER ILLUSIONS) (DA CAPO, 2015) is very much a continuation of RENOWNED GUNS N' ROSES bassist (and published author) DUFF MCKAGAN's previous memoir IT'S SO EASY: AND OTHER LIES (review linked HERE) in that he offers ADVICE based on the HARD-FOUGHT second chance he got at LIFE, as outlined in the previous book. memorably, at thirty his appendix burst due to years of HEAVY DRINKING and he was ready to end his life. this book finds him looking back at all the WISDOM and EXPERIENCE he has gained from his post-GUNS N' ROSES sobriety as he nears fifty. if anything, HOW TO BE A MAN very much feels like an update on his life post-IT'S SO EASY and the actual difficult implementation of said INSIGHTS into regimes, boundaries, and a full acceptance of ADULT RESPONSIBILITIES to himself and his FAMILY, which he gushes about to no end. its all very ENDEARING and written in a DIRECT, CONFRONTATIONAL style that feels very HONEST and AUTHENTIC, as if he is attempting to point the way for peers, fans or anyone dealing with similar PAST ADDICTIONS and AILMENTS. the idea being that sober SELF-REFLECTION and SELF-DISCIPLINE can help anyone turn their life around. maybe even reconcile with others and themselves in the PROCESS.
the fact that the book is from the perspective of being on tour is SIGNIFICANT. you get the sense the he is making THOUGHTFUL observations about PAST CHOICES while he is in the proverbial belly of the beast. being on tour sounds GLAMOROUS until you realize the amount of ISOLATION involved and time spent apart from FAMILY. not to mention the REPETITIVE BOREDOM of it all outside of playing shows. SEX and DRUGS filled that space in the past, but now MCKAGAN is very much about READING BOOKS on his kindle or FINDING LOCAL GYMS to work out and palliate his FRUSTRATIONS or CREEPING NEGATIVE ENERGY. he also has a purpose to such efforts, that being the financial WELLBEING of his FAMILY. its that objective which finds him in EUROPE sleeplessly (and unknowingly) battling pneumonia for weeks on end in an UNGLAMOROUS splitter van, sharing rooms at LOCAL motels while trying to break WALKING PAPERS to a new audience. he does this because treating himself to buses and nice hotels isnt SUSTAINABLE longterm, and the responsible thing is to live at the level the band can afford.
that dynamic is only made more STARK and APPARENT since he joined that BACK-TO-BASICS EUROPEAN tour after a LUXURIOUS swing through SOUTH AMERICA with KINGS OF CHAOS, who are essentially USE YOUR ILLUSION-era GUNS N' ROSES members (SLASH, GILBY CLARKE, MATT SORUM) and a variety of FAMOUS singers from JOE ELLIOT (DEF LEPPARD) and GLENN HUGHES (DEEP PURPLE) to COREY TAYLOR (SLIPKNOT) and MYLES KENNEDY (ALTER BRIDGE) singing cover songs. he went from private jets with full-horizontal reclining seats and SWANKY boutique hotels to splitter vans and BUDGET motels literally overnight. and for him it is all EQUAL and part of the ROCK AND ROLL ETHOS of it all.
i think for MCKAGAN, all that entails being a man is as much about putting your sense of ENTITLEMENT, HUBRIS and EGO in check as it is about doing so with your FEARS and DEMONS. not that he doesnt acknowledge his past. there is a POIGNANT narrative he presents of being at a friend's place in the WEST VILLAGE in NYC for the weekend in preparation for SUPER BOWL XLVIII. he is their with JERRY CANTRELL of ALICE IN CHAINS and another friend, all former DRUG ADDICTS. during their stay they came across PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN (who MCKAGAN doesnt name in the book out of respect and discretion) on the street multiple times looking to score, waiting for the man. HOFFMAN ended up passing away the morning of the game. for MCKAGAN, being at the game felt like a victory over his past struggles with ADDICTION, of having survived to age fifty. bearing indirect witness to HOFFMAN's final days only made such a dichotomy that much more PRESCIENT.
is definitely a book that is worth checking out as its message is UPLIFTING and INSPIRING without dismissing the SEEDIER and DARKER aspects of the human condition. its sense of balance is what makes it feel that much more AUTHENTIC, HOPEFUL and RELATABLE, even for those of us fortunate enough to not have past DRUG ADDICTIONS. that being said, we all are ADDICTS to one thing or another.
since childhood ive always been partial to LED ZEPPELIN's fifth album HOUSES OF THE HOLY (ATLANTIC, 1973). written and recorded in comfort at the band's two home studios in the wake of their landmark LED ZEPPELIN IV (ATLANTIC, 1971) release, its contents are a bit more EXPANSIVE and EXPERIMENTAL than their previous material and marked a turning point in their sound.
not that i knew that as a kid. i remember going to my father's stereo system and plugging in his SONY MDR7506 studio headphones and completely get lost in the MAJESTY of epic tracks like "THE RAIN SONG," "OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY," "THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME" and especially "NO QUARTER." i recognized that these songs had a sonic narrative arc to them, as if through the music alone an EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE had been expressed evocatively in VIVID TECHNICOLOR. for me that DOWNTEMPO and ATMOSPHERIC side of LED ZEPPELIN's material always stood out, even amongst the ROCK N ROLL numbers they are renowned for. the CINEMATIC peaks of HOUSES OF THE HOLY hold up and are still RELEVANT today and one needs to look no further than ALL-EMBRACING bands like TORCHE, BARONESS, JANE'S ADDICTION, ISIS, TOOL, MASTODON, HIGH ON FIRE and INTRONAUT, all of whom touch on this same HAZY DYNAMIC in their sound.
strangely, this is also the record where LED ZEPPELIN seemingly found their GROOVE, like literally. tracks like the downright FUNKY "THE CRUNGE," the START-AND-STOPE-ON-A-DIME riffage of "THE OCEAN" as well as the REGGAE-inspired "D'YER MAK'ER" found the band playing around with UNCONVENTIONAL TEMPOS and SONIC TEXTURES hitherto unexplored. some find this record unfocused relative to their previous discography, but in my mind i liken it to THE BEATLES' WHITE ALBUM (APPLE, 1968) in that they were taking advantage of the opportunity their stature in the industry afforded them and really went about exploring the STUDIO AS AN INSTRUMENT in and of itself. the only song ive never been crazy about is "DANCING DAYS," which the ALTERNATIVE ROCK band STONE TEMPLE PILOTS famously did a STANDOUT cover of in the 1990s. for me that song stuck out as something more down the middle and a retread of past ideas, not that there is anything wrong with that.
for me this is an all-time CLASSIC album of the first order. its part of my early childhood and my personal narrative of getting into music, so im completely prejudiced, much like i also am when discussing THE SMITHS, THE STRANGLERS, THE BEATLES or THE ANIMALS as well. regardless, HOUSES OF THE HOLY is absolutely worth checking out and exploring again and again and again.
JIM MORRISON of THE DOORS was and will remain a ROCK AND ROLL ICON for the ages. at his peak he was this sort of HYBRID POET / SHAMAN / PROPHET figure that pointed the way to PUNK ROCK decades in advance and tapped into this previously unexploited thread that effectively unleashed the existing DRUG CULTURE and SEXUAL REVOLUTION on an unprepared square, conventional MIDDLE AMERICA mental prison from which he was raised under. ELVIS PRESLEY and THE BEATLES may have hinted at and pointed the way, but JIM MORRISON was culturally the first AVATAR of unbridled DIONYSIAN LUST and UNADULTERATED CHAOS in AMERICAN musical culture. he was the perfect frontman for that period in AMERICA's history that was turmoil at the height of the VIETNAM WAR, CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT and the emergence of the COUNTERCULTURE as a POLITICAL BLOC.
he is identifiably on the short list of his most INFLUENTIAL ROCK AND ROLL singers of all time and his example was picked up on and pushed forward by his legions of later PROTO-PUNK, PUNK ROCK, POST PUNK, HARDCORE and ALTERNATIVE ROCK acolytes including that of most notably IGGY POP (THE STOOGES), ALICE COOPER, PATTI SMITH, DARBY CRASH (THE GERMS), IAN CURTIS (JOY DIVISION), DAVE GAHAN (DEPECHE MODE), KURT COBAIN (NIRVANA), IAN MCCULLOCH (ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN), PERRY FARRELL (JANE'S ADDICTION), ROBERT SMITH (THE CURE), MARK LANEGAN (SCREAMING TREES), IAN ASTBURY (THE CULT), NICK CAVE (THE BIRTHDAY PARTY) and ANTON NEWCOMBE (THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE) among countless others. at this stage more than half a century later, his influence on AMERICAN culture is undeniable and self-evident. his CHARISMATIC, MYSTICAL example is irreparably baked into the very notion of being a ROCK AND ROLL star. what has been reevaluated in scholarly circles in the years since his passing is the literary quality of his POETRY and the relative OUTALNDISHNESS of his LOUTISH behavior. for example JOHN LENNON of THE BEATLES is recognized as one of the great songwriters (if not the greatest) of the 20th century while at the same time treated women poorly and was a TERRIBLE, absentee father to his first son. both things are true. so such are the modern evaluative critical fault lines with JIM MORRISON.
the recent documentary JIM MORRISON: THE WILD CHILD (ENTERTAIN ME PRODUCTIONS, 2019) seems to want it both ways, presenting him at times as both ADONIS and ICARUS. there are only a handful of no-name experts of DUBIOUS quality rendering their opinion and no peers or later acolytes rounding out the critical evaluation. at times it seems they cant decide whether this film is a HAGIOGRAPHY or a critical take down of his legacy. i'm game for it either way, but it just felt HALF-BAKED in the end and i felt at the very least THE LIZARD KING deserved a COGENT argument for or against. the guy was COMPLICATED but not that hard to discern and construct a COHERENT narrative around.
this documentary left me disappointed and i would recommend fans of THE DOORS, CLASSIC ROCK and all things JIM MORRISON to seek information elsewhere as this documentary has all the markings of a CHEAP cash grab. people are STRANGE, indeed.
i know its hard now to imagine a time when AEROSMITH didnt suck, with all the EMBARRASSING, SCHMALTZY, TRITE DIANE WARREN-cowritten torch songs the NEW ENGLAND quartet became known for in the later years of their career, but there was a time when they were a LOOSE, SWAGGERING outfit that competed with the best of them. that period was the early-to-mid 1970s which coincided with their first four records, i.e. AEROSMITH (COLUMBIA, 1973), GET YOUR WINGS (COLUMBIA, 1974), TOYS IN THE ATTIC (COLUMBIA, 1975) and ROCKS (COLUMBIA, 1976). for context, during this time AEROSMITH was prominent enough to have prominent support acts including the likes of RUSH, JEFF BECK, SLADE, NEW YORK DOLLS, FOGHAT, TED NUGENT, AC/DC and MOTT THE HOOPLE. it is this era of their career that had a profound influence on everyone from SLASH (GUNS N' ROSES, VELVET REVOLVER), MICK MARS (MOTLEY CRUE) and JAMES HETFIELD (METALLICA) to less obvious musicians like DC HARDCORE legends HENRY ROLLINS (BLACK FLAG) and IAN MACKAYE (MINOR THREAT) among many others.
ROCKS is considered by many to be the pick of the litter from this period and the STANDOUT album of their career. singer STEVEN TYLER and guitarist JOE PERRY were never more on point as a songwriting tandem. guitarists still look back at the SLINKY, DIRTY grooves on tracks like "BACK IN THE SADDLE," "NOBODY'S FAULT," "GET THE LEAD OUT" and "RATS IN THE CELLAR" as a master class in CLASSIC ROCK N ROLL riffage. id even argue that for guitarists of a certain age, this is the PERRY that comes to mind in their childhood imagination. and TYLER comes off untethered like a feral cat slithering throughout the songs adding exponential ENERGY, CHARISMA and PASSION to already UNDENIABLE instrumentals that were already SMOLDERING to begin with. that being said, just like some people are not a GEDDY LEE guy (and i know plenty), i want to be frank and admit that i was never a TYLER guy. unlike PERRY, i just find him to be a SECOND-TIER talent next peers like ROBERT PLANT (LED ZEPPELIN), IAN HUNTER (MOTT THE HOOPLE), ROBIN ZANDER (CHEAP TRICK), RONNIE JAMES DIO (RAINBOW), BILLY GIBBONS (ZZ TOP) and even BON SCOTT (AC/DC) and PHIL LYNOTT (THIN LIZZY). in fact, much as with SCOTT and LYNOTT, TYLER had a similar role in being a bit of a hype and ENERGY man for his band that superseded his somewhat DIMINUTIVE natural talents. because of that lack of INDISPUTABLE talent and the EFFORT exerted on stage, again like SCOTT and LYNOTT, there has always been a WORKING-CLASS appeal to TYLER and his band that extends to the modern day. such is seen with their sold-out arena tours long, long after their CREATIVE peak years in the mid-1970s.
and more power to them. ROCKS is a CLASSIC ROCK masterpiece and most definitely worth checking out.
its difficult to quantify, verbalize or even get my head around the cultural impact of FRANK ZAPPA. when you think about truly INNOVATIVE musicians from the last century, the short list includes the likes of everyone from composers like IGOR STRAVINSKY, ARNOLD SCHOENBERG, GEORGE GERSHWIN, DMITRY SHOSTAKOVICH, AARON COPELAND, SERGEI PROKOFIEV and JOHN CAGE to songwriters like BOB DYLAN, JOHN LENNON / PAUL MCCARTNEY, LOU REED, NEIL YOUNG, LEONARD COHEN and DAVID BOWIE just for starters.
what makes ZAPPA so COMPELLING in my mind was that he took a bit from both camps and was an EXPERIMENTAL songwriter and AVANT GARDE composer. not only that but he was politically OUTSPOKEN and seemingly BOUNDLESS in his drive to create, making use of virtually every genre imaginable and molding such to his IRREVERENT sonic sensibility. even friend and out-there creatives he played with and championed, like CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, are today considered musical pioneers for the ages. learning about ZAPPA is endless fascinating because he was MERCURIAL and ever expanding his CREATIVE PROCESS, whether that be TECHNIQUE, PRODUCTION, TECHNOLOGY and/or a new vein of INSPIRATION. for instance, his son DWEEZIL showcased some of his guitars and many had PECULIAR, BESPOKE preamps and out-of-phase pickups installed to expand his sonic palette (video linked HERE). it was an ongoing affair and really speaks to his unending fascination with sound.
i also appreciate his ability to speak in opposition concerning causes he passionately believed in, whether that be the VIETNAM WAR or the PARENTS MUSIC RESEARCH CENTER (PMRC) hearings. everything these days related to musicians feels TRIVIAL and part of a branding exercise, even political advocacy. none of this modern crop hold any cultural weight. LENNON had that. DYLAN had that. ZAPPA absolutely had that.
not sure who has that sense of CLOUT these days. ED SHEERAN? MILEY CYRUS? DRAKE? we're all doomed.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC that originally aired exactly four years to the day back in 2019. the playlist includes music from throughout FRANK ZAPPA's ECLECTIC catalogue. enjoy!
written and recorded alone at a rented house in rural COLTS NECK, NEW JERSEY after the conclusion of a long tour in support of THE RIVER (COLUMBIA, 1980), BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN's NEBRASKA (COLUMBIA, 1982) is a masterful turning point in his evolution as a songwriter and observer of AMERICAN life. at this point in his career SPRINGSTEEN was already an ICON, arguably the most CELEBRATED singer-songwriter since BOB DYLAN (with all due respect to NEIL YOUNG, STEVIE WONDER, JOHN FOGERTY and JONI MITCHELL). he'd made a string of successful records with his E STREET BAND companions that thoughtfully penetrated and examined the AMERICAN PSYCHE, but he found himself at a CROSSROADS both personally and professionally. if anything his all-encompassing fame and notoriety left him feeling ISOLATED and DETACHED from society. maybe its easier in this digital era of social media AVATARS to consider how DISILLUSIONING it must have felt to become socially trapped by a PUBLIC PERSONA you fought to create but is now out of step with your own sense of IDENTITY.
for me that SELF-REALIZATION is what makes NEBRASKA such an INTRIGUING album. its a STRIPPED-BACK affair that was recorded alone utilizing a handheld TASCAM PORTASTUDIO (meant for recording interviews) and a pair of industry standard SHURE SM57 microphones in a guest bedroom. it was in essence LO-FI before the LO-FI aesthetic was a thing. standout tracks include "STATE TROOPER," "ATLANTIC CITY," "JOHNNY 99," "REASON TO BELIEVE" and the title track "NEBRASKA." all starkly deal thematically with the DOWN-AND-OUT and petty criminality that besets DOWNTRODDEN characters with no resources and no hope for the future. in other words NEBRASKA is basically the antipodal perspective of the OPTIMISM and faith in middle-class values that marked most of SPRINGSTEEN's earlier work. the title track itself is written from the perspective of a death row inmate looking back over their life, partly inspired by the debut BADLANDS (WARNER BROS, 1973) film by TERRENCE MALICK. that film was a fictional account of the real-life 1958 murder spree of CHARLES STARKWEATHER and his girlfriend in rural NEBRASKA, one of which was conducted seemingly out of BOREDOM. the NEBRASKA album cover itself with its bleak, black-and-white dashboard depiction of a lonely snowy road makes one consider where the viewer is headed towards or away from. its INTERESTING that this is one of the few major records in his catalogue that doesnt trade on SPRINGSTEEN's looks or physique on the cover, the other notably being his debut WELCOME TO ASBURY PARK, N.J. (COLUMBIA, 1973). the focus with NEBRASKA is unquestionably on the ETERNAL MORAL CROSSROADS that SPRINGSTEEN, our country and even the listener find themselves trapped within.
no E STREET BAND, no production and arguably no hope. it is INCREDIBLE that this album (which is arguably a demo) even exists and was made to be released on a major record label, especially after SPRINGSTEEN's recent more outwardly PERFORMATIVE and sonically DECORATIVE affairs. NEBRASKA is definitely my favorite SPRINGSTEEN record and one that people interested in the power of songwriting and songwriters should take note of. i consider it in the tradition of all the great folk and blues songwriters from ROBERT JOHNSON and LEADBELLY to WOODY GUTHRIE, JOHNNY CASH, BOB DYLAN and beyond. definitely worth checking out.
seemingly all metalheads have their own favorite BLACK SABBATH album that they will endlessly advocate on behalf of and for me such is undoubtedly their third release MASTER OF REALITY (WARNER BROS, 1971). more than their debut BLACK SABBATH (review linked HERE) or their universally CELEBRATED follow-up PARANOID (WARNER BROS, 1970), MASTER OF REALITY is the record that cemented their reputation for being UNGODLY HEAVY and provided the template for EXTREME DOOM, STONER and SLUDGE METAL sub-genres that followed in its wake. HERALDED songs like "CHILDREN OF THE GRAVE," "AFTER FOREVER," "SWEET LEAF," "LORD OF THIS WORLD" and my all-time favorite BLACK SABBATH song "INTO THE VOID" are all QUINTESSENTIAL TONY IOMMI with PRODDING riffs that still SNARL and hold their weight more than half a century later. yes i said a half century, those SIGNATURE riffs that are as RELEVANT today as they were 50+ years ago which is beyond RIDICULOUS and showcases why their legacy endures.
OZZY OSBOURNE is likewise firing on all cylinders through this album, celebrating both the potential for EXPANSIVE CONSCIOUSNESS provided by MARIJUANA as well as warning HUMANITY against the SURGING drumbeat of a NUCLEAR APOCALYPSE spurred by competition between rival nations. his voice never sounded more POWERFUL and his lyrics more COHESIVE and PENETRATING. its just a VALIANT, INCREDIBLE effort on all fronts and presciently addresses on cultural touchstones related to INDIVIDUAL FREEDOMS and STATE-SANCTIONED VIOLENCE that have only festered and further DIVIDED DEMOCRATIC NATIONS in the decades since. in retrospect, his fears and INSECURITIES a few generations before were WELL-FOUNDED and there is a sense of DREAD and LACK OF HOPE at a potential solution being salvaged from this wreckage. MASTER OF REALITY is both an exercise in ESCAPISM from the HARSH REALITIES of the period (i.e. VIETNAM CONFLICT) as well as a DAMNING indictment at the forces that seek to divide us and allow for us to stare deep into the VOID of our own DESTRUCTION.
as long as their are TYRANTS, foreign and domestic, that seek to subjugate and enslave us, the MASTER OF REALITY will be the soundtrack to both the rise of such DESTRUCTIVE POLITICAL, ECONOMIC and GOVERNMENTAL SYSTEMS and the popular revolution that seeks its eventual DOWNFALL. in other words, this record will only prove to be more RELEVANT as the new century continues and competition for dwindling resources in an altered INHOSPITABLE CLIMATE carries on unabated.
MASTER OF REALITY is required listening. end stop.
much like its follow-up BACK IN BLACK (review linked HERE), the seminal CLASSIC ROCK album HIGHWAY TO HELL (ATLANTIC, 1979) by AUSTRALIAN ROCK N ROLL icons AC/DC is a transitional record. it is the last record BON SCOTT is featured on before his untimely death and also is the first record to feature producer MUTT LANGE.
at the behest of their label ATLANTIC RECORDS, it marks their first creative effort with LEGENDARY ZAMBIAN-born producer LANGE after being forced to abandon their previous production team of GEORGE YOUNG, their brother, and HARRY VANDA. the results are obvious, HIGHWAY TO HELL on tracks like "GIRL'S GOT RHTHYM," "SHOT DOWN IN FLAMES," "TOUCH TOO MUCH," "WALK ALL OVER YOU" and the title track "HIGHWAY TO HELL" all have a BEEFIER LOW-END that contributes to their trademark STOMP hitting that much harder as it accentuates the SWINGING PUSH-AND-PULL DYNAMICS of MALCOLM YOUNG's PERCUSSIVE DOWNSTROKES and drummer PHIL RUDD's ever-so-behind-the beat UPSTROKE snare hits. the result is a pure GROOVE that empowers the record with a FORWARD MOMENTUM and POWER that was only hinted at on previous releases. as such HIGHWAY TO HELL is a DEFINITIVE AC/DC record for the ages inasmuch as its CELEBRATED and emotionally charged follow-up.
as for SCOTT, his trademark SWAGGER and BRAVADO is on full display throughout the record. when i he states at the close of "HIGHWAY TO HELL" that "im goin down / all the way / im on the highway to hell," there is a sense of UNADULTERATED INTENTION and AUTHENTIC COMMITMENT that is unquestioned, much like the similar LYRICAL SENTIMENTS of other ROCK N ROLL badasses of the period like LEMMY KILMISTER, PHIL LYNOTT, OZZY OSBOURNE or IGGY POP. SCOTT really was a rare breed and his death seemingly marks an end to an era. because of his LOOMING PRESENCE, its difficult to dissociate the record from his fate much like listening to IN UTERO or UNKNOWN PLEASURES or READY TO DIE or DOUBLE FANTASY. its all baked into the cake at this point, but unlike those aforementioned albums, HIGHWAY TO HELL is pure celebration of a VIGOR for adventure and a LUST FOR LIFE that was uniquely BON SCOTT. it stands forever as an eternal declaration of such and has been universally lionized ever since. as for me, i have to be careful because when driving listening to this record, my speedometer has a tendency to ever so subtly creep northward.
unlike SCOTT, i dont want to be on that highway to hell. i just want to get home in one piece.
RIP MALCOLM YOUNG & BON SCOTT
ive been thinking about the whole concept of second chances recently. in so many places ive been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to spend time in abroad, life is a STRUGGLE and is quite basically about SURVIVAL. being such COMMUNITY bonds are TIGHT and there is a definite give and take in terms of ones ability to differentiate themselves and assert their INDIVIDUALITY. the upside is that being part of a TIGHT-KNIT COMMUNITY you are LOVED, VALUED and considered a part of the fabric of SOCIETY which gives one a palpable sense of PERSPECTIVE and PEACE with their surroundings.
i dont find that in AMERICA. you are free to be whomever you wish to be, but beyond your immediate family you are largely on your own in a CUTTHROAT business and cultural environment where your VALUE is COMMODITIZED along the lines of what financial gain you can effectuate with future potential collaborators. PIRATE CAPITALISM it feels like, where one feels SOCIALLY ISOLATED and CULTURALLY DISTANT from those in within the confines of their own immediate surroundings.
whenever i stare to long into this particular sun i keep thinking about the idea of DAVID BOWIE and his fascinating career. one where he was constantly altering and expanding his sound, literary and cultural influences as well as presentation. before the modern conceptualization of avatars and curated social feeds projecting one's INNERMOST ASPIRATIONS, there was BOWIE and his MAJOR TOM (SPACE ODDITY), ZIGGY STARDUST (ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS), THE THIN WHITE DUKE (STATION TO STATION) and HALLOWEEN JACK (DIAMOND DOGS) characters lighting the way to render the whole concept of AUTHENTICITY mute. will the real SLIM SHADY please stand up, or does he even exist in the first place?
maybe that is the answer. in a our POSTMODERN world there is no need for the INDIVIDUAL. we are all just providing data entry for UNTHINKABLY IMMENSE DATA SETS that will eventually spit back ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE-enabled facsimiles of ourselves sans our COLLECTIVE HUMANITY. the world we are entering feels like a conceit to an UNWRITTEN BOWIE song. kind of makes sense that his last CREATIVE ACHIEVEMENT was through the avatar of THE BLIND PROPHET (BLACKSTAR) on his final release days before his death. knowing the future isnt the same as experiencing it. i just adore that PESSIMISTIC and rather NIHILISTIC tone that marked his final incarnation and put a stamp on his WILDLY CREATIVE recording career as a FEARLESS and PEERLESS cultural innovator. i feel like in the end you are defined by your ability to CREATE and SELF-DEFINE, outside of financial valuations and one's place as a COMMODITY in a grand IMPERSONAL marketplace. but that is a MENTAL PRISON one has to navigate on their own.
i look to BOWIE, as well as LOU REED, BJORK, SUN RA, MF DOOM, PRINCE, GEORGE CLINTON, DAMON ALBARN and even EMINEM as prophets of INDIVIDUALISM and SELF-LIBERATION in that regard. none of us are defined, we are always in the process of BECOMING. there will always be another opportunity.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode from the summer of 2019 on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC dedicated to the music of DAVID BOWIE from just about every phase of his career. enjoy!
the music business is notoriously BRUTAL and filled with SHARKS and VAN HALEN were no different as articulated by their former manager, the late NOEL E. MONK in his memoir RUNNIN' WITH THE DEVIL: A BACKSTAGE PASS TO THE WILD TIMES, LOUD ROCK, AND THE DOWN AND DIRTY TRUTH BEHIND THE MAKING OF VAN HALEN (DEY STREET, 2017). for all its BAWDY behind-the-scenes detailing of the MORAL DEPRAVITY, CHEMICAL OVERINDULGENCE, SEXUAL DEBAUCHERY and unrestrained EGOMANIA of this INFAMOUS band at their peak, what actually made the book captivating was its LUCID and SOBER depiction of FRAYED INTER-PERSONAL RIVALRIES and business dealings and maneuverings from a management perspective. the running thesis for the book are THE LENGTHS (EMOTIONAL, PHYSICAL, CHEMICAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, SPIRITUAL) a competent manager must endure to keep a growing business intact that is paradoxically DETERIORATING as it is expanding. for me that dynamic of having to appease the unappeasable, of having to manage an UNSTOPPABLE FORCE (VAN HALEN) meeting an IMMOVABLE OBJECT (their INSATIABLE GREED, DRUG ABUSE and utter LACK OF LOYALTY), is what makes this memoir so COMPELLING.
im just gonna come out and say that the band fired MONK after the touring cycle for their blockbuster 1984 (WARNER BROS, 1984) album. there was no financial malfeasance or bad career advice on the part of MONK, the band had just decided to find new management utilizing connections through their expanded family network. they effectively cut MONK out of a merchandising operation he spearheaded to expand their revenue and offered him crumbs as a possible booking agent. all in all it was a brazenly COLD and DISRESPECTFUL end to a relationship that saw the band benefit from his renegotiating their contract with WARNER BROS (due to a clerical mistake the he caught) as well as nurturing their remarkable journey from a promising local act from PASADENA to arenas and world stadiums the globe over. MONK's immediate previous gig to VAN HALEN was ironically the infamously doomed SEX PISTOLS' AMERICAN tour. if anything, surviving that TORTUROUS FIASCO of a moving operation intact proved his worth to the brass at WARNER BROS that initially positioned him with VAN HALEN as their touring manager. he effectively taught them the ropes of becoming an effective entity on the road. its just interesting that this FRANKENSTEIN that he nurtured grew to consume him with it.
it is hard to take any lessons from this memoir. it was his relationships that he leveraged on their behalf and in the end the band BETRAYED him. BETRAYED his efforts. BETRAYED his loyalty. but that in essence is the gig. it seems COUNTERINTUITIVE that in business one must be able to rely on others while concurrently TRUST NO ONE. but that seems to be the message of RUNNIN' WITH THE DEVIL. DAVID LEE ROTH, ALEX VAN HALEN and EDDIE VAN HALEN come off as supremely TALENTED yet overly PETULANT children with next level NARCISSISM. only bassist MICHAEL ANTHONY comes off with his reputation in tact as a PLEASANT, AGREEABLE person who keeps his indulgences relatively in check and his moral compass somewhat unblemished. goes without saying he got SCREWED OUT OF ROYALTIES by the other three in the process as well, relegating him to a wage earner in the band in spite of his sacrifices and years of service to VAN HALEN.
what i learned from this memoir was the INCREDIBLE extent to which both ROTH and the VAN HALEN brothers were irredeemably SELFISH ASSHOLES. that is to say not much since i already had a confirmation bias regarding such going into the book. in business there are seemingly no rules and no moral victories, at least where VAN HALEN is concerned. they make MOTLEY CRUE as depicted in THE DIRT (review linked HERE) come off like a bunch of morally upright choir boys. in odd circuitous way, that group with its legendary EGOMANIA is still a touring entity and its members are still somewhat looking out for the interest of one another in complete contrast to VAN HALEN. who knew?
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the VAN HALEN!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
i really have to watch myself when driving while blasting this record from my stereo system, since it slowly creeps up and then you being to notice that you are now 20 miles an hour faster than usual.
recorded in the wake of the untimely passing of former vocalist BON SCOTT, AC/DC's BACK IN BLACK (ATLANTIC, 1980) is both an acknowledgement of his influence and one of the truly great second acts in music history. its hard to imagine what it must have been like for new vocalist / lyricist BRIAN JOHNSON when he stepped foot in that BAHAMAS studio, knowing full well how BELOVED and sorely missed his LEGENDARY predecessor had been to the global ROCK AND ROLL community. and to carve out his own legacy in the process is just so incredibly INSPIRING, with STUNNING classic tracks like "SHOOT TO THRILL," "HELL'S BELLS," "YOU SHOOK ME ALL NIGHT LONG" and, of course, the ICONIC title track "BACK IN BLACK." the quality level was maintained and did not dip through the transfer of vocalists and remains the gold standard of such transitions to this day (i.e. PINK FLOYD, ALICE IN CHAINS, JOY DIVISION / NEW ORDER, THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, etc.). its hard not to listen to this record and not feel inspired to go out and live life no matter the obstacles.
as i mentioned before SCOTT's presence is all over this record and there are more than a few references to DEATH and the GRIEVING PROCESS, especially on "HELL'S BELLS" and "BACK IN BLACK." whats so compelling is that ultimately the concept of ROCK AND ROLL and its embedded 'take no prisoners' mantra (which SCOTT shared) is where one finds both RESOLUTION and ABSOLUTION. it is through music and the community built on it that we all TRANSCEND our individual circumstances and even DEATH itself. the music makes us IMMORTAL. the fact that BACK IN BLACK exists and is such a SLAMMING album for the ages is the biggest testament of LOVE and RESPECT for their departed friend that could ever be expressed, as it furthers his legacy and the passion he shared with his audience. it really is a SINGULAR achievement. to this day, every time AC/DC perform it is a proclamation of their brotherhood and remembrance of not only SCOTT, but more recently MALCOLM YOUNG as well.
i have to mention that sonically this record, like all AC/DC projects, does not deviate from the tried-and-true formula of previous releases as it is all very much rooted in BLUES open-chord riffs played in that pocket just behind beat. its such a simple yet REFINED sound and it has a SPARTAN appeal that endures to this day but has not been matched by generations of ROCK AND ROLL bands. like most lovers of ROCK AND ROLL, BACK IN BLACK is a SEMINAL record that is worthy of all the hype and more than a little admiration for the fact that it even exists at all.
its required listening.
being from SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, i feel predisposed to idol worship bordering on the HYPERBOLIC regarding BRIAN WILSON and his SINGULAR achievement in conceiving and producing THE BEACH BOYS' REVOLUTIONARY PET SOUNDS (CAPITOL, 1966) album. tracks like "WOULDN'T IT BE NICE," "GOD ONLY KNOWS," "I JUST WASN'T MADE FOR THESE TIMES," "HANG ON TO YOUR EGO" and THE KINGSTON TRIO cover "SLOOP JOHN B" are not just the sound of my formative years in CALIFORNIA, but also ive imagined a link to a HALCYON era of musical culture and EXPANDED consciousness that happened in that state long before i arrived.
and i know the reality was not that case. previous to PET SOUNDS, WILSON had had suffered a mental breakdown on tour and effectively became a hermit / homebody back home. while the rest of the band stayed on tour, he spent that time writing and constructing the new record by exploring the STUDIO AS AN INSTRUMENT in very much the same vein of PIONEERING WALL OF SOUND producer / engineer PHIL SPECTOR. in fact, he employed similar production techniques and even the same seasoned team of studio musicians, THE WRECKING CREW, to quickly make sense of his EXPANDED orchestrations and to help manifest what he had imagined into reality. this ALCHEMY of PRODUCTION, SONGWRITING and CHEMISTRY is what makes PET SOUNDS such a CREATIVE experience and arguably as RELEVANT as ever.
much has been made about the mutual admiration society that was THE BEATLES and BRIAN WILSON, but just that sentence alone showcases that WILSON alone for a moment was on par with arguably the most SIGNIFICANT songwriting partnership of the twentieth century. the example of PET SOUNDS spurred a creative spark in JOHN LENNON and PAUL MCCARTNEY, along with producer GEORGE MARTIN, to dive deeper into EXPERIMENTAL territory with INNOVATIVE sonic studio manipulations to create what is arguably their magnum opus SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (PARLOPHONE, 1967). rarified air indeed.
makes you wonder what WILSON could have done with proper support system or writing partner on his level. or maybe not. WILSON seems to be a world in of himself. most people dont know this, but much of the lyrical content of PET SOUNDS was cowritten with an advertising copywriter named TONY ASHER, who previously had been writing television jingles for MATTEL. cant make this up. the EXPANSIVE composed harmonies and LUSH studio orchestrations are held down with SUCCINCT observations on the nature of love and relationships in ICONIC songs like "WOULDN'T IT BE NICE," "CAROLINE, NO" and "GOD ONLY KNOWS" as well as perceived social alienation in "I JUST WASN'T MADE FOR THESE TIMES." that push-and-pull interplay between the lyrically direct and the musically opaque is absolutely MAGICAL. in fact, some would even argue SPIRITUAL. ive long had a hard time accepting outright RELIGIOSITY in music, as many times it comes off heavy-handed or self-lionizing in practice, but there are exceptions (PRINCE, BOB MARLEY, KENDRICK LAMAR, THE BYRDS, U2, STEVIE WONDER, A$AP ROCKY, LEONARD COHEN) and PET SOUNDS is one. the music is just so transcendently EXUBERANT, JOYOUS and SOUL-AFFIRMING that even without lyrics it could be argued that such is SPIRITUAL in nature on its own.
i know people that say PET SOUNDS is OVERHYPED. they're wrong. this record is well worth checking out with repeat listens throughout your life. a SINGULAR achievement by a SINGULAR artist.
much has been discussed, CELEBRATED and parsed out regarding the generational GLOBAL CULTURAL PHENOMENON that as THE BEATLES, so it is always interesting when a recent documentary takes a stab at a narrative most fans feel they already have a handle on. RON HOWARD's THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK - THE TOURING YEARS (APPLE CORPS, 2016) as its title suggests is concerned with the influence that their live performances had on the band's state of mind and thus their CREATIVE MINDSET up through their last touring performance in 1966 (famously the band did a one-off final performance in 1969 from the rooftop of their LONDON APPLE CORPS office to a film crew, coworkers and unsuspecting bystanders).
in essence their two major stateside touring cycles that saw them play to FANATICALLY ENTHUSIASTIC crowds, first in theaters and later in stadiums, drained the band. though immensely FINANCIALLY LUCRATIVE (as the band made relatively little from their lopsided record deal), these live gigs due to the feverishly impassioned teenage crowds quickly became an UNCONTROLLABLE CIRCUS. they played through terrible PAs and could barely hear themselves on stage. adroitly the RON HOWARD-directed film picks up on the powder keg of a POLITICAL, SOCIAL and CULTURAL MOMENT that was the UNITED STATES in the mid 1960s in the wake of the JFK assassination, CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT and the VIETNAM WAR. in a sense THE BEATLES found themselves having to deal with issues such as CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALISTS manipulating their words in bad faith with sinister ulterior motives and SEGREGATION at shows in the AMERICAN SOUTH. i never knew that THE BEATLES refused to play a series of dates starting in FLORIDA id they did not integrate the crowd. those shows were historically the first integrated events at those football stadiums, which is INCREDIBLE.
luckily for the band members, they experienced all of this as a group. unlike say ELVIS PRESLEY who went through similar cultural heights all alone. the band kept each other grounded and when they made a decision as a group they stuck together on such. they essentially EMPOWERED themselves with the further assistance of like-minded manager BRIAN EPSTEIN, who had their best interests at heart. that PRESSURE-COOKER live atmosphere of their gigs led to them developing an INTIMATE sense of group cohesion that led to a deep focus when entering the studio. for them the studio was a place of respite from the press and outside obligations. it was a site of CREATIVITY and COLLABORATION.
the push and pull of the road and the studio is something i hadnt considered before. post 1966 the band abandoned live gigs and dove headfirst into expanding their sonic and conceptual palette into a string of records that basically defined their lasting impact on WORLD CULTURE.
just seems TRAGIC in a way that their stateside live gigs where such a DANGEROUS and ultimately UNFULFILLING affair for the band on nearly every level. seems a bit of a WASTE.
summing up the cultural legacy of seminal 20th century experimental ROCK AND ROLL musician and composer FRANK ZAPPA neatly is such a difficult task, but accomplished BRITISH director ALEX WINTER (yes, of BILL & TED fame) does an admirable job in this recent estate-authorized documentary ZAPPA (MAGNOLIA FILMS, 2020). as such, this is the first film given access to the extensive ZAPPA archives and it shows since there is much intimate footage of the composer, THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION and all iterations of his band over the years, not to mention family footage of his four children growing up.
im convinced this is one of the better music documentaries i have seen in recent years, partly because of the respect WINTER pays towards his subject. this is not a hagiography by any means and ZAPPA is shown warts and all. we see him as a man possessed by a ferocious drive and manic creativity that is a result of his being a "slave to his inner ear." we also see him as a womanizer and someone that put career in front of family for much of his professional life. in fact, his hit only hit song "VALLEY GIRL" was created as an excuse by his daughter MOON UNIT to spend time with him. again, WINTER does not shy away from his shortcomings that made him a complicated figure.
an aspect concerning ZAPPA that i was unaware of was the extent to which he was independent after his time at WARNER BROS, establishing ZAPPA RECORDS and later BARKING PUMPKIN RECORDS to put out his own records as well as those of supposedly commercially unviable acts like ALICE COOPER and THE GTO'S. this commonplace now for major artists, but back in 1981 not so much. seems ZAPPA was trailblazer from a business perspective as well.
one thing that comes across in spades is ZAPPA's love of MUSIC and MUSICIANS. this can be seen not only in his numerous collaborations with talented musicians, but also with regard to his sticking his neck out at congressional hearings related to the PARENTS MUSIC RESOURCE CENTER and their efforts to censor music. ZAPPA and his music was not a target, but his stature and credibility provided the opposition to this wave of potential overreach with a fitting white knight and spokesperson. i dont recall seeing BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, BOB DYLAN or TOM PETTY up their selflessly fighting the good fight. kinda sad that none of them did. with all the bullshit going on currently in FLORIDA with banned books and whatnot, it feels very much like we are coming full circle on this matter.
also im glad that a significant portion of this film was dedicated to the orchestral compositions written by ZAPPA throughout his life. it is a lesser known and criminally under-appreciated aspect of his immense oeuvre by the general public. especially at the end of his life when he was dealing with terminal PROSTATE CANCER, it was rehearsing and conducting these orchestral compositions that gave him great pleasure. so im glad that such was not overshadowed by his celebrated ROCK AND ROLL career.
when i think of ZAPPA i am presented with a towering cultural figure who more than anyone else i am aware of, never compromised his vision. he is the very embodiment of creative freedom. who knew the CZECH people agreed in that estimation. his music has not aged a bit and has influenced countless musicians that seek to challenge and push the medium forward. i hear his influence in everyone from ANIMAL COLLECTIVE, THE RESIDENTS, PRIMUS and SYSTEM OF A DOWN to THE FLAMING LIPS, THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS, KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD and TALKING HEADS.
ZAPPA is an incredible achievement and is most definitely worth checking out.
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating legendary songwriter JOHN FOGERTY!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
its been almost ten years ago now i was with my godmother, who is a music supervisor by profession, at an NPR radio program being recorded in some long hallway at LINCOLN CENTER watching the surviving members of MUSCLE SHOALS being interviewed as part of a promotional effort for an upcoming documentary. famously the house band / studio musicians at MUSCLE SHOALS known as THE SWAMPERS played on legendary tracks by ARETHA FRANKLIN, WILSON PICKETT, ETTA JAMES, PERCY SLEDGE and even THE ROLLING STONES. now MICK JAGGER, KEITH RICHARDS and company namely recorded three tracks off of STICKY FINGERS (ROLLING STONES, 1971) at MUSCLE SHOALS SOUND STUDIO in ALABAMA with THE SWAMPERS including perennial crowd pleasers "BROWN SUGAR" and "WILD HORSES." during this NPR interview one of the participants was asked about which ROLLING STONES songs he was a part of and could only remember "BROWN SUGAR" and "YOU GOTTA MOVE." my godmother turned to me and asked me which one he forgot, to which i muttered sheepishly "i think 'WILD HORSES' is the other song." without hesitation she blurted out "WILD HORSES" in from our position in the back of the audience, heads turned around and then back to the dude on stage who nodded and said something to effect of, "yeah, 'WILD HORSES,' thats right." my godmother then told me that she knew there was a reason she asked me to join her. at that moment i was stunned and petrified.
STICKY FINGERS is a legendary ROLLING STONES album that was part of a string of massively influential generation-defining albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s that also includes the likes of BEGGARS BANQUET (DECCA, 1968), LET IT BLEED (DECCA, 1969) and EXILE ON MAIN ST (ROLLING STONES, 1972). the band, being part of the BRITISH INVASION cohort of ENGLISH musicians (including but not limited to THE BEATLES, THE KINKS, THE WHO, THE YARDBIRDS, THE ANIMALS and so on), were all obsessed with the AMERICAN BLUES traditions of the deep south. recording at MUSCLE SHOALS during a break on tour provided such an opportunity at a facility and team known for churning out the best BLUES and SOUL MUSIC of the era. this record is also notable as it marks the introduction of MICK TAYLOR on a ROLLING STONES studio recording and the first since the death of founding member BRIAN JONES.
"BROWN SUGAR" is one of those CELEBRATED yet MISUNDERSTOOD songs. it very much should be regarded as more PROBLEMATIC and CONTROVERSIAL than it currently is. originally entitled "BLACK PUSSY," its lyrics pretty explicitly talk about the middle passage from AFRICA of a women that was sold into slavery and then raped by her white master. i mean end stop right there. but somehow given the mood and feel of the song, many listeners dont consider the lyrics other than it being vaguely about female black sexuality, which is still PROBLEMATIC. call me crazy, but i always assumed the song may have been about heroin, as there is a later long storied tradition of BRITISH songs that may possibly be about love or heroin, such as THE BEATLES' "EVERYONE'S GOT SOMETHING TO HIDE EXCEPT ME AND MY MONKEY," BLUR's "BEETLEBUM," SUEDE's "SO YOUNG" and THE STRANGLERS' "GOLDEN BROWN" among many others. despite its immense popularity the song has been retired in recent years due to JAGGER's unease with its subject matter as society has evolved over the past half decade.
"WILD HORSES" is similarly considered another classic first-tier ROLLING STONES song on par with "SATISFACTION," "GIMME SHELTER," "TUMBLING DICE" "RUBY TUESDAY" or "PAINT IT BLACK." its a PLAINTIVE ballad originally written by RICHARDS that was born out of his TREPIDATION for going out on the road after his son was born. there is some speculation that JAGGER channeled his relationship with MARIANNE FAITHFUL into the track, but at its core the song seems to speak to the sorry inevitability of the longing and HEARTACHE that comes with physical distance. its not a road song but it kind of is. i remember reading that this song had a big impact on the next generation of songwriters, especially with poetic upstarts like PATTI SMITH. the ROLLING STONES did ballads from time to time but this one still stands out amongst their catalogue and is a crowd favorite.
my personal favorite song on the record is "BITCH." like all the best ROLLING STONES songs, its just all GROOVE with just a hint of MENACE. my understanding is that the song is all about JAGGER's LIBIDO. the idea that love is a bit of an unnecessary trouble when he is interested in is getting down. you cant say that the dude is not HONEST, i mean that is what JAGGER is known for. and god bless him for that!
so yeah, dont let me be the first one to encourage you to check out STICKY FINGERS. like the other much-heralded ROLLING STONES records from this period, STICKY FINGERS is pretty much an institution unto itself. it is most definitely worth checking out.
lets get something straight: there are no bad BEATLES albums.
that said, the longtime critical knock against MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR (PARLOPHONE, 1967) has been its supposed stylistic and conceptual in-cohesiveness. such criticism is hard to dismiss outright, especially given that its predecessor, SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (PARLOPHONE, 1967), besides being a cultural milestone and landmark album, is arguably on the short list of greatest concept albums of all-time. if not the greatest. so there is that.
i look at it from a different tack. where critics see in-cohesiveness i see eclecticism. THE BEATLES were constantly attempting to push the boundaries of their work in terms of PRODUCTION, SONG CONSTRUCTION and PRESENTATION. each time they made an artistic breakthrough, such on celebrated releases like RUBBER SOUL (PARLOPHONE, 1965), REVOLVER (PARLOPHONE, 1966) and the aforementioned SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, the subsequent release was an earnest attempt to break out of expectations both in terms of the public and within themselves. so even SGT. PEPPER'S as an CULTURAL ARTIFACT became a gilded cage of a sort for THE BEATLES.
that is why i totally love the fact that they embraced nonsense on MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. yes there are poignant INTROSPECTIVE songs with an observational bent like the PAUL MCCARTNEY-penned "PENNY LANE" and "THE FOOL ON THE HILL" tracks, but far and away the most enjoyable are more LEWIS CARROLL-adjacent psychedelic songs like "HELLO GOODBYE," "STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER" (which was a double A-side non-album single with "PENNY LANE" originally but has been included on subsequent rereleases), "BLUE JAY WAY," "MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR" and of course most famously "I AM THE WALRUS." the album is a soundtrack to a television film the band directed about a bus of BRITISH tourists being taken on a tour (presumably in ENGLAND near LIVERPOOL) with fantastical happenings taking place along the way. its a ludicrous premise devised by MCCARTNEY with KENEY KESEY's MERRY PRANKSTERS exploits almost certainly front of mind, but what said premise did was free up the band to essentially create nearly anything on such a broad canvas without worry of it being THE BEATLES. its almost an anti-concept concept album in a sense. further releases, most famously THE BEATLES [WHITE ALBUM] (PARLOPHONE, 1968) had a subtext regarding the fragmentation and ultimately the dissolution of the band. MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR represents the last team effort of sorts, maybe due to the fact of the recent passing of their beloved manager BRIAN EPSTEIN (but who really knows?).
the FREE-ASSOCIATION, CODED NONSENSICALITY of the lyrics may be in part a result of the bands collective embrace of TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION and its focus on settling the mind into a state of restful alertness. its a technique since made famous by famous adopters like DAVID LYNCH, MIA FARROW and even HOWARD STERN who swear by its creative benefits in allowing outside and internal noise to dissipate and allow uninhibited expression to prevail. again, i cant imagine the constraints and pressures of being a member of THE BEATLES, notwithstanding a creative unit that had since lost their leader and primary support system in EPSTEIN.
MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR is one of my favorite BEATLES albums, in part because of its IDIOSYNCRASIES and just plain WEIRDNESS. dont ask me what its about, i couldnt tell you.
years ago when i was an secondary english teacher as a matter of necessity (i was tasked with creating an elective) i started teaching PHOTOGRAPHY. the class very much dovetailed with the online school newspaper i also helped initiate. there was some instruction regarding composition and light but the thing i always attempted to instill was the idea of capturing a MOMENT. french photographer HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON even had a term for it, THE DECISIVE MOMENT.
in the recent documentary SHOW ME THE PICTURE: THE STORY OF JIM MARSHALL (SAMPSONIC MEDIA, 2019) you are presented with an all too human figure in legendary PHOTOGRAPHER JIM MARSHALL who despite his serious shortcomings created an almost MYTHICAL body of work in how well he captured intimate moments with CULTURAL ICONS as they were in the ALCHEMICAL process of SPIRITUAL TRANSCENDENCE and ARTISTIC ACHIEVEMENT. being bombarded with his generation-defining photographs of the likes of MILES DAVIS, JANIS JOPLIN, BOB DYLAN, JIMI HENDRIX, JOHN COLTRANE, MUDDY WATERS, THE WHO, CHUCK BERRY, JOHNNY CASH, SANTANA, LED ZEPPELIN, B.B. KING, CREAM, THELONIOUS MONK, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE, THE ROLLING STONES, JOHN LEE HOOKER, THE BEATLES, DUKE ELLINGTON, JOHN MAYALL, ARETHA FRANKLIN, THE GRATEFUL DEAD, DUANE ALLMAN as well as regular people during moments of POLITICAL STRIFE and PERSONAL COURAGE during the midst of the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, it becomes apparent of his preternatural gift to anticipate the moment and capture it at its peak EMOTIONAL POTENCY. my breath was taken away because i have had t-shirts and posters of several of what i learned were his PHOTOGRAPHS. they are iconic 20TH CENTURY CULTURAL MOMENTS, no way around it.
and what makes this documentary so interesting is that for a man with such SENSITIVITY and INTIMATE capacity to capture such images, there was an alternate figure that inhabited the same body that harnessed a mountain of SELF-LOATHING, manic drug consumption and glowing adoration of the PHYSICAL INTERPERSONAL INTIMIDATION that came with gun-wielding. its very much a JEYKLL and HYDE dynamic at play which allowed him unlimited access and deep TRUST on the part of his subjects and the manufactured fear and loathing of those who tried to get close to him. growing up in a single-parent immigrant household with just memories of a brutally ABUSIVE father, it make sense that he had issues with INTIMACY outside of what he found in his viewfinder.
but we are all the more enriched that his work exists and its interesting to consider how the medium itself has transitioned in recent years with the advent of SOCIAL MEDIA and the the proliferation of amateur photographers utilizing the camera phone in their pocket. we are inundated and bombarded on a minute-by-minute basis with an unrelenting cacophony of poor PHOTOGRAPHY. much like music, PHOTOGRAPHY itself has been DEVALUED since the advent and CULTURAL UBIQUITY of the IPHONE over the past two decades. id argue such a state of affairs makes his work stand out that much more. its interesting to consider that he left the field in the late 1970s once his access became limited by the CORPORATIZATION OF LIVE PERFORMANCES. in true capitalistic form, even someone as brilliant as MARSHALL was DISPOSABLE and seemingly REPLACEABLE by know-nothing bean counters and invested parties who wanted to control all assets of wealth-generation, including event PHOTOGRAPHS.
so MARSHALL marks the end of an era of sorts. its hard to believe that his kind will appear again, just given the state of the music business and the pervasiveness of SOCIAL MEDIA. again, we are all enriched by his work and hopefully this documentary will shed some light on what to the public is an often invisible occupation.
this documentary is a revelation. SHOW ME THE PICTURE is definitely worth checking out.