Lately, I've been digging up a lot of film of Jimi Hendrix. Since I began playing guitar, this is something I do routinely. I like to study his fingers and handling of the guitar (and see if there is anything I can pinch :-). After all these decades and mounds of AMAZING guitar players who have emerged, I still can't find anyone as innovative and natural as Jimi. He is just an 'once in a lifetime' individual who transcends artistic and musical spirituality. Accept it. I did a long, long time ago. Anyway. Mr. Hendrix is someone who continues to inspire, influence and grace the guitar. This is one of my all-time favorite segments of Jimi. Although he is universally known for his electric guitar style, this is just him on an acoustic 12-string performing a phenomenal version of 'Hear My Train A' Comin'. I've always said that the only way to truly tell the talent of a guitar player is to hear him/her play on an acoustic.
Enjoy & happy Friday ya'll!
Today is 'Greek' Easter (although to us Greeks, it's just Easter :-). To honor this I wanted to post the following video of Van Morrison & Bob Dylan jamming together in Athens. Enjoy! Χριστός Ανέστη και Καλό Πάσχα!!!
Malcolm McLaren, who was a British manager/impresario/fashion designer/promoter, formed Bow Wow Wow in 1980 (partly to cross-promote his and business partner Vivienne Westwood's New Romantic fashion lines). His initial claim to fame was managing the Sex Pistols (and recruiting Johnny Rotten to front the group). From the ashes of the band's implosion (for numerous reasons that will be left for another blog :-), he was approached to managed Adam and the Ants. Shortly after this encounter, McLaren encouraged guitarist Matthew Ashman, bassist Leigh Gorman, and drummer David Barbarossa to leave Adam Ant and form a new group. The new band embarked on a six-month audition process to find a lead singer. A mutual friend of McLaren's had stumbled across a 13 year old girl singing while she was working at a local dry cleaner. Her name was Annabella Lwin. Liking what he heard, he brought her in to try out for the band. McLaren loved it, and Bow Wow Wow was born. Initially, Boy George (then known as Lieutenant Lush) was going to join as a second lead singer. However, he was deemed 'too wild' for the band. Of course, Boy George would move on to Culture Club and other various escapades. The band's sound was an eclectic mix of New Wave, African Tribal, surf instrumentals, and girlie pop vocals. This blend created a unique, explosive vibe that resonated through the 'hey day' of New Wave.
Unfortunately, the band was short-lived. Their influence, however, is far-reaching (most notably with bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers and No Doubt). They released a couple of records in the early 80s. By 1983, Annabella Lwin was ousted from the band. The remaining members formed a new group called Chiefs of Relief with Ashman taking over lead vocals. Lwin moved on to a solo career. In 1995, Matthew Ashman died of complications from diabetes. There have been various incarnations of Bow Wow Wow since their split. However, they never featured the original line-up (with the exception of a 2010 reunion tribute concert on the anniversary of Ashman's death). As of today, Leigh Gorman owns the name Bow Wow Wow and has reformed an entirely new band.
Stateside, they were known for their hit 'I Want Candy' (which is a cover of the 1965 hit performed by The Strangeloves - which, in my opinion, is a far better version). The song I always felt exemplified the group, however, is 'Baby Oh No.' The lead guitar work layered over the huge, tribal drums is enough to get anyone going. Sprinkle Lwin's exquisite vocal work glued together by Gorman's slap bass, and you've got yourself a stew going!
Today McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters, would have turned 100 years old. Whenever anyone asks me to rank my 'top 5 musical influences,' Muddy Waters ALWAYS makes that list. I know I'm not being original. I mean, the man has influenced so many legendary artists: The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Cream/Eric Clapton, Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughn...the list goes on and on and on. Although all these artists can be considered legendary, Muddy Waters is a LEGEND. He is an once-in-a-lifetime entity, an original. Well before the 60s electric blues movement occurred (as well as before Dylan went 'electric'), Muddy Waters was a pioneer of plugging in and lettin' 'er rip! His voice commanded one to take notes and pay attention. His guitar ached, screamed, hummed the Blues. When Muddy played, you weren't an audience member, a voyeur, of the process; - you lived the music with him. He is a lifestyle and an attitude onto himself. His songs, music, feel of the Blues are unmatched anywhere in the scope of auditory history.
When I first started to learn guitar, this was the man I turned to. Two records in particular were in constant rotation: Muddy 'Mississippi' Waters - Live and a European release of material from the late 50s/early 60s that I had found in Greece (I can't recall the title). I would play along to these records before I went to bed - almost nightly - for a solid year. One song in particular, 'Streamline Woman,' always struck me as the quintessential Muddy Waters track. Off the Live album, this song has it all: the right lyrics, the perfect feel, on-point blues guitar. It is the first song I ever learned how to play, and it's still a song I routinely perform live.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find a live performance (visually) of 'Streamline Woman.' I did stumble upon this:
Happy Birthday, MUDDY!!! - love gypsy.
Hailing from Swindon, England, XTC is one of those great bands with fantastic tunes, a storied history, critical acclaim, influential for many bands (including me), yet seem to be 'known' and simultaneously 'not known.' Reasons are varied. However, it all begins and ends with Andy Partridge, the lead singer and primary songwriter. By the early 1980s, XTC was gaining moderate success (especially in the UK; per usual, the US was behind the musical times). They were frequently touring and even garnered a number one album in Australia. All this came crashing down when Andy Partridge developed a severe case of 'stage fright' and suffered a massive nervous breakdown. It was reported that this event was precipitated by Andy's wife throwing away his supply of Valium (apparently, he was prescribed the medication as a teenager during his parents' divorce and eventually became addicted). The band abruptly ceased touring after this. However, XTC did continue producing great music. In fact, some great albums followed post-breakdown: Mummer (featuring the awesome tune, 'Love On A Farmboy's Wages'), Skylarking (produced by Todd Rundgren), Oranges and Lemons (featuring such great songs as 'The Mayor of Simpleton,' 'King for a Day,' 'Poor Skeleton Steps Out'). With all these great records post-breakdown, I believe that XTC's 1980 release, Black Sea, is their best album. This record is a great combination of New Wave, post-Beatles Pop sprinkled with very astute social and political commentary. The big 'hits' off this record are 'Generals and Majors' and 'Sgt. Rock (Is Going To Help Me).' However, I have chosen to post the video for my favorite tune, 'Respectable Street' (as a side note: my other favorite tune from Black Sea is 'Living Through Another Cuba;' however, I couldn't find a good video for it :-). Do yourself a favor and check out XTC's catalog of fantastic albums & phenomenal tunes. ENJOY!
Keeping with the theme of late 70s/early 80s artists, I have chosen the BEST BAND of the era that never was. The band's name is Translator. They experienced some moderate success in the early 80s - mostly on college radio & the west coast. Their sound was a combination of British Merseybeat mixed in with punk and psychedelia. Their lyrics were often ironic, self-deprecating sprinkled with existentialism (remember this was happening in an era when disco was still king, and Williamsburg was crack alley). Their debut album, 'Heartbeats and Triggers,' is one of the best I have ever heard. It took me many years to, in fact, find a copy of this particular record (since it's out of print). During one of my MANY random road trips, I stumbled across a used copy on vinyl at a tiny record shop in the Haight (I'm assuming I lucked out on this adventure since Translator was a Bay-area band). Recently, their entire back catalog has become available on iTunes. If you'd like to download/check out their debut, click on 'Heartbeats & Triggers.' Their biggest hit is 'Everywhere That I'm Not.' Although this is an AMAZING tune, my personal favorite is 'Necessary Spinning.' Regardless, they are an awesome band that should not be over-looked. Below is there one and only music video (to my knowledge) for their most famous song. Enjoy!
Joe Jackson is probably one of those artists who you have never heard of, but you have heard his songs. The height of his success was in the late 70s/early 80s, when he was a prominent figure on the New Wave/Pop UK & US scenes, respectively. He is still active, although his most recent work has been a hybrid of jazz & classical (and less of his more known new wave/pop style). His best album (in my humble opinion) is his 1979 debut, 'Look Sharp!' However, one of my favorite tunes of all time is his song, 'Steppin' Out,' from his 1982 release 'Night and Day' (and, yes, the title is an homage to Cole Porter). It's not that the song itself is particularly brilliant (sample lyric: 'we are young but getting old before our time/we'll leave the TV and the radio behind/don't you wonder what we'll find/steppin' out tonight'). The thing that makes this song so special is in its performance/recording/arrangement. The use of the piano & glockenspiel over the simple, yet pulsing rhythm truly encapsulates the feeling of getting ready to go out into the 'big city.' The use of analog synths creates just the right layer of metropolitan chaos. The removed vocal style meshes with the melody as if it were a song from a bygone era. All these elements come together making the song equally romantic & ethereal, lively & forlorn.
However, if you don't want to take my word for it, check it out for yourself!
Wall of Voodoo is an AMAZING New Wave band from the late 70s/early 80s. They are best known for the song 'Mexican Radio' (unfortunately). Those of you who haven't dug deeper into their work are missing something very special. Stylistically, they merged synth pop, punk and 'spaghetti western' film music. The band was originally formed by Stan Ridgeway with the intention to score low-budget horror films. In fact, the band's early formation began at Acme Soundtracks, an L.A.-based film score business. Marc Moreland, guitarist for the Skulls, started jamming with Ridgeway at the Acme Soundtracks office. Soon, other members from the Skulls joined in (Bruce Moreland on bass & Chas T. Gray on keyboards) along with drummer Joe Nanini (Black Randy and the Metrosquad). From there, the first incarnation of Wall of Voodoo was launched into the musical stratosphere. Although the band went through various line-up changes, Stan Ridgeway remained the consistent creative force in the band. He is still active as a solo performer & film composer.
Below is a live version of my favorite Wall of Voodoo song, 'Can't Make Love.' Enjoy!
'Instant Karma is gonna getcha!' - gypsy george via john lennon.