For some reason, or maybe no reason, I woke up with zombies and an earworm. Okay, let’s make it clear quickly that these were The Zombies, not those amalgamations of decimated flesh now creeping constantly across your television screen. Nah, what was rattling around in my head was that British Invasion band and that great song, “Tell Her No.” If you’re a Gen B member, bet you can sing a few bars of that hit (and if you don’t know the truth about earworms, get the scoop).
There was a certain minor-key inflection to the song that set it apart from some of the perky pop of the early-to-mid 1960s. And a maturity to the lyrics as a guy admonishes a friend to stay away from a girl he loves, opening, “And if she should tell you come closer / And if she tempts you with her charms / tell her no, no, no…” Continue reading
I can’t recall with certainty when or how I heard Neil Young for the first time. It was probably through Buffalo Springfield, a short-lived yet influential group that still stands up well. I definitely recall Neil’s first solo effort in 1969, but it was the next two–“Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” and “After the Gold Rush”—that firmly implanted his voice and guitar into my soul. I distinctly remember Neil’s singular company while driving fast and hard through rural North Carolina late one night to visit a girl whose well-heeled parents had little interest in a long-haired kid in ragged jeans stopping by: “I was lying in a burned out basement with the full moon in my eyes…” Continue reading
Accompanied by a robust gin & tonic, I retired the other evening to a quiet spot in front of the fire to ponder the fate of the universe and perhaps consider my own as well. It was deepening twilight, or, as the Scots would so sweetly term it, in the gloaming. It’s always useful to peace of mind to find a moment for reflection, or to think your way through whatever’s tumbling around in your head—or at least try.
And I did make a valiant attempt to wrangle disparate thoughts whirling around like a Hendrix solo. But I found myself succumbing more and more to the music I’d clicked on, without real consideration—just what was already in the box.
For the first time in its history, the supreme rulers of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have decided to allow input from the humble listening public on the 15 nominees for induction in 2013. To accomplish this, an online fan poll has been posted that allows the public to “vote for the five nominees they believe to be most deserving of induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
The five nominees receiving the most votes by the December 3 deadline will comprise a “fans’ ballot” that will be tallied with other ballots to select the 2013 inductees. Which sounds pretty good until you dig a bit deeper and discover this will be just one of the more than 600 others submitted by artists, historians and music-industry executives. That means our humble ballot—the fans—will count a bit less than 1% of the total. According to Terry Stewart, the hall’s president, “This is not ever going to be American Idol, no matter how much some people want it to be. But we thought it was important for fans to have a way to express themselves and for it to have some legitimacy.”
While the concept of “some legitimacy” leaves something to be desired, it’s better than sitting back and wondering just what goes on behind the scenes in this sometimes baffling process. Like 2011, for example, in which Leon Russell was finally inducted, but not as a “performer” but as a “sideman.” Okay, Leon is, without doubt, one of the finest and most versatile session players in the business. But his songwriting, solo career, and participation and influence on some of rock and roll’s greatest albums certainly deserve recognition as a “performer.” After all, the Hall of Fame says its process considers “factors such as an artist’s musical influence on other artists, length and depth of career and the body of work, innovation and superiority in style and technique, but musical excellence shall be the essential qualification of induction.” Continue reading
One of the often rewarding things about writing is the research and, sometimes in tandem, the serendipity. Eliot Smith, the main man in Eliot’s Tale, is someone for whom the music of his early years retains its hold on him, just as it does for many of us who came of age in the 60s and 70s. The music of those days became more than background sounds; it took an upfront and personal place in the culture and the time.
There came one point in the construction of the story that Eliot is driving hard, aimed at yet another destination where he believes that someone will aid him with his quest for understanding “things done and left undone.” He happens across a radio station that’s serving up a wholesome helping of classic soul music, and Eliot has settled into the groove. But just as the station begins to fade out, he hears the one and only Otis Redding launch into that stuttering killer opening: “These…arms…of…mine…” Realizing the need to hear all of that tune and others, Eliot digs out his prized copy of the big man’s greatest hits, which includes “Try A Little Tenderness,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and “Respect”– which too many people don’t realize Otis wrote even though it was Aretha who scored big with it. Continue reading