Top 10 Countdown – Greatest Cover Songs # 9 (THE DICKIES – “Nights In White Satin”)

Authored by Dale Nickey:

# 9

The Dickies – “Nights In White Satin)

The fundamental mistake made in many cover versions is a slavish adherence to the original vision/version of the tune. The Dickies wisely take this classic rock evergreen out behind the shed and give it a good lashing. Multi-tracked power chords and stinging lead lines pay homage to the melody and pathos of the original with none of the sugary aftertaste.

Top Ten Countdown – Greatest Cover Songs – (# 10 – Eight Miles High by Husker Du)

Authored by Dale NIckey:

Number 10

Husker Du – Eight Miles High

Approach this version of The Byrds’ classic with the ears of a punk and the sensibility of a forensic investigator. Imagine viewing the muse of Roger McGuinn burnt beyond recognition. On this monumental track, leader/vocalist/guitarist Bob Mould replaces the Coltrane inspired electric 12 string solo of the original with a throat shredding howl that could cause a sudden flux of the bowels if unprepared.

Balls to The Hall (Why The R&R Hall of Fame sucks and why it still matters)

Authored by Dale Nickey:

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame continues its reign as the irrelevant pantheon that commemorates all that is famous in the world of ….ahem….Rock and Roll. Never mind that many inductees’ connection to the genre is tenuous at best and non-existent at worst….

Somehow Bobby Darin, Brenda Lee and The Dells have gained admittance while truly subversive and pioneering artists remain on the outs. You all know who they are, Johnny Winter, Jethro Tull,  Yes, The Moody Blues, Bjork, Kate Bush, and Brian Eno.  The British Music industry could fill a Hall of Fame roster all by their lonesome, and that might be part of the problem. America invented Rock and Roll, and as America always does, it eats it’s young and feels bad about it later. The Beatles came and showed us how its supposed to be done. American fans fell hard for The Beatles and the American music industry never forgave them. Ergo, it’s now all about the home team and reclaiming dominion over an indigenous music that “The Biz” initially shrugged off as a fad.

Why do I care? The true music lover reveres the artist and loves the music for the right reasons, correct? Moreover, real musicians and artists know who’s the real shit; so why not let “The Hall” vomit on itself and get on with life? Well, there are several reasons we should care. Rock Music is important. In its imperial phase (1964-1972) it eloquently called ‘bullshit’ on our leaders in a way that a hippy with a bullhorn never could. Somebody in power was shitting themselves; why else would the FBI try to deport John Lennon? And for that matter, why was Elvis made to heel and join the Army at the peak of his powers?

Let’s stipulate to one fact, Rock and Roll is truly dead. This is cool. All art movements have their day and recede into its rightful slot in history. I will get a lot of argument on this of course. It’s the old, “I saw The Rolling Stones at the Rose Bowl and they can kick the ass of kids half their age!” argument.  Well, yes….certain kids….and only so long as they play their repertoire from 35-50 years ago, when Rock was young. Hey Classic Rock fan….what’s the title of The Stones last album? Hey you with the ponytail and the Pink Floyd T-Shirt, what’s the name of that tribute singer who is fronting Journey these days?

Many of our musical heroes of yore will tell you the same thing. The rock that is Rock has already been formed and has long since cooled. The musical canon has been established, never to be improved upon (much like the Baroque period of Classical music). Moreover, any musical developments deploying Bass, Drums and Guitars that seem fresh and new will have been built with tools forged by those who have innovated long before. Hip-Hop you ask? Sorry, it’s still the runny nosed kid brother of the music world, talking a big game but still left wanting for it’s Beatlemania moment.

One incontrovertible truth we learn with age is – history matters. It’s the only road map we have that marks out the landmines in our future. To fully appreciate some of the music of our shared history, you had to be there. But what happens when those who were there are no longer here?

Unfortunately, it’s those who write history that make history. Rock and Roll history is too important to leave in the hands of non-musicians like Jann Wenner (chairman of the Rock Hall Foundation) and his committee of suits, nerdy journalists, and bean counting henchmen. They’re custodians of a legacy they don’t understand.

Chris Squire – Founder of Yes – Dies at 67

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Word has just come in to The Muse Patrol that Chris Squire, founding bassist of the Progressive Rock band Yes died Saturday after a battle with Leukemia. Squire began his recording career with Yes in 1968;  along with Paul McCartney and John Entwhistle, Squire was a key figure in dragging the electric bass out of the shadows of the background mix, making it a full and equal musical partner in the band dynamic. Squire was also a superior singer/composer and was a key architect in forging the airy three part harmonies that were a signature element in the Yes sound.

Squire was among the first bass guitarists in Britain to popularize the Rickenbacker bass guitar. The Rickenbacker was unique due to it’s stereo electronics and futuristic (yet classic) body design. The upper registers of the instrument had a serrated twang that Squire exploited to cut through the maelstrom of guitars, keyboards and drums (in Yes) to establish his own sonic identity. Chris Squire could be found playing a variety of cutting-edge designer basses throughout his career. But, it was the Rickenbacker he repeatedly returned to.

Squire recorded and performed in the psychedelic rock band The Syn before forming Yes. It was in The Syn that Chris Squire met guitar player Peter BanksChris Squire and Peter Banks – together with singer Jon Anderson – would form Yes and change the landscape of Rock Music in perpetuity. Not only did Yes introduce cutting edge technology to music making and stagecraft; they (along with other “Prog” groups) would ultimately give the late 70’s punk music movement something to rebel against. Other bands would arouse the ire of the DIY crowd, but it was Yes that would remain public enemy # 1 of the punks. Moreover, Yes would repeatedly suffer the slings and arrows of snarky music journalists when Progressive Rock fell out of fashion in the late 70’s.

Chris Squire solo releases were few and far between. However, in 1975 he turned in what is considered (by consensus) the finest Yes solo album in the band’s discography when he released “Fish Out of Water”.

In the early 80’s, Squire nearly pulled together one of the major super-groupings in Rock history when he and (Yes drummer) Alan White began rehearsing and recording demos with Jimmy Page. The band was called XYZ  and it was Page’s stated hesitance to form a band so soon after John Bonham’s death that derailed the union.

Members of Yes came and went, but until his death Squire was the one contiguous member that remained in the band from 1968 to present. He was most responsible for the band’s resurrection in the 80’s as a commercial entity (courtesy of monster # 1 single “Owner of A Lonely Heart”) when he inducted Prog-Pop renaissance man Trevor Rabin into the band. The band would fall out of fashion again in the 90’s with the advent of Grunge but would retool and reboot for a triumphant return to the Hockey arenas of yore with their 2002 Reunion featuring their their classic line-up from the 1970’s.

Chris Squire was a thunderous and towering figure in the history of Rock and Roll. He leaves behind four children.

The void in The Hall remains.

 SQUIRE OLDpg

Book Review – “Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys” (Viv Albertine)

Reviewed by Dale Nickey:

vivbook

Postcards from the hedge…

At a time when any sane fifty-something housewife and mother would be asking herself,  “Is that all there is?”, Viv Albertine shouted, “I want more!”.

In case you didn’t know, Viv Albertine was the guitarist and songwriter for the seminal British punk band The Slits. In the late 1970’s, The Slits – along with The Clash and The Sex Pistols – invented Punk music, fashion and culture. Her experiences could fill a book; and In fact, they did. In 2014, she published her critically acclaimed and award winning book,”Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys”. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction, and in this book, life imitates art.

With no ghost-writer in sight, Albertine leaves it all on the page and never blinks. She chronicles her experiences with masturbation, poverty, sex, Heroin, abortion, depression, sexism, cancer, marriage, motherhood, divorce and (above all) music.

Albertine’s  remembrance of the golden age of Punk (1977-1979) is loaded with grimy, mundane detail. She befriended Sid Vicious and blew Johnny Rotten. She had a three year relationship with Mick Jones of The Clash. She took guitar lessons from Keith Levene (PIL). She shot Heroin with Johnny Thunders. She dated Vincent Gallo and beat back cancer. Her life has been an extreme roller coaster ride through a gale of blood, sweat and shit. Moreover, she is clearly not done yet.

The Frank Sinatra/Sid Vicious evergreen “My Way” could have been written by Viv Albertine. Where most Rock music autobiographies obscure your view with the high gloss finish of ghost writing, co-authorship and/or over zealous copy-editing, Albertine sticks to the Punk ethos and puts her own pen to paper (warts and all). There are dodgy moments as regards syntax and punctuation. However, much like a great punk record – where passion trumps perfection – Albertine’s narrative has an edge and energy that would surely be diluted by literary precision.

If you assume the most engrossing part of the book revolves around her memoirs of London’s Punk scene, you would be dead wrong. The Punk era merely serves as preamble and allegory to the remainder of her life. Punk was about demolishing stagnant cultural forms and rebuilding from scratch. Viv Albertine not only applied this ethos to her music, but her life as well.

There’s heartbreak, humor and heroism on every page. Albertine has stated that she views her book as a self-help guide for young girls navigating the choppy waters of sexism and failure. Yes, it’s all that. But, it’s also an inspirational treatise for those of us navigating the infinitely choppier waters of ageism and mortality.

In the tired genre of the Rock Music autobiography, “Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys” (along with Bob Dylan’s “Chronicles”) stands  a world apart and miles above. A drop-dead masterpiece.

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In the clip below, the author talks about her book…..

Morning Music Funnies # 6 – (Kate Bush and Mr. Bean)

After The Beatles disbanded in 1970, a long estrangement began between the British and American music industries. No longer was it automatic that British superstars would be unconditionally loved by the American record buying public. In the late 70’s, Kate Bush achieved a level of fame and ubiquity that totally bypassed the American market. After her debut single “Wuthering Heights” hogged the number 1 spot for six straight weeks, Kate Bush’s image was inescapable. He picture was on busses, billboards and tabloids. Mainstream comedy shows had a field day doing parodies. And, though her early videos basically jump started the music video industry, the only sure path to mass exposure was Television. So Kate dutifully submitted to the ‘dog and pony’ show that included, a network Christmas Special, BBC documentaries and interviews, as well as the Euro talk show circuit. She was also sporting enough to do a bit on Comic Relief in 1986 with British comedy icon Rowan Atkinson (Black Adder, Mr. Bean).

At the close of the seventies, Kate Bush was a name brand recognized by every citizen in Western Europe and much of the civilized world. However in America, cult stardom was the best she could muster. It was reported that she boldly turned down an offer to open for Fleetwood Mac on a world tour during their most commercially successful period. Interesting to speculate how her careen might have turned if she had said yes. However, our Kate doesn’t ‘do’ second banana does she?

Morning Music Funnies – # 5 (Steve Coogan and Bjork) – “Short Term Affair”

On this 1997 Comic Relief number, famed British comic Coogan and Icelandic Pop Icon Bjork team up for “A Short Term Affair”. Bjork reveals her affinity for Broadway as she and Coogan have a hoot and a half for charity. A different side to Bjork we seldom see.