Category Archives: Music

The Beatles… Oddities

Just stumbled into these various videos, created by “You Can’t Unhear This” (who has a channel on YouTube) that examine some of the various oddities found in songs by The Beatles.

If you’re as big a fan of The Beatles as I am -and who doesn’t like The Beatles?!- then you may find this stuff fascinating as well…

First up, an examination of the song I’m Looking Through You, found on the album Rubber Soul, which features a bunch of odd notes and sounds and whom the author of this video deems The Beatles’ “messiest” song…

Next up, something I already knew about but still find quite funny. It’s the case of the hidden “F-Bomb” in the very famous song Hey Jude

Here we have the mysterious guitar solo in Let It Be

And here we examine the “craziest” edit in Beatles history, found on the song Strawberry Fields Forever. I was aware of the change in singing but I have to admit it never occurred to me this was a splicing of different “takes” on the song together. Ingenious stuff!

Finally, we have the “mystery” of who did the “aaaahhhhss” in what is to many, including myself, the very best song The Beatles ever made, A Day In The Life. I have to admit, of the videos presented, this one to me seemed the most obvious and I always assumed the person singing this part was the person they said it was (I’m trying not to give away the video). Anyway, here you go!

The Most Mysterious Song on the Internet

I love a good mystery, and this one is so fascinating!

As the headline notes, this involves a song which is bouncing around the internet, a fairly catchy song clearly created in the early 1980’s by persons unknown, though there are those who are very curious to figure out the name/band behind the song.

I stumbled upon the article about this mysterious song on Rollingstone.com. Here is a link to the article which was written by David Browne:

The Unsolved Case of the Most Mysterious Song on the Internet

As always, and at the risk of giving the article away, here’s that mysterious song…

The article itself points out the history of the song being “discovered” and inquiries being made as to who created it.

Personally, I like the song but I’m a fan of post-punk 1980’s alternative music. Having said that, the song isn’t some lost classic, either. It’s fairly simple and repetitious and, I agree with the article, likely the creation of a German/Polish/etc. band. The song is in English but it doesn’t appear that English is the singer’s original/principle language.

The music itself is remarkably clear, ie you hear clearly the guitars, the drumming, the bass, etc. This suggests the song isn’t a “live” recording (ie in front of an audience) but rather was recorded and mixed in a studio and likely then released to fans and or/clubs along with radio stations. That’s probably how it made it to what one assumes is the airwaves: It was probably featured on a radio show back in the day that promoted “new” music.

I further strongly suspect the band never really hit it all that big and, like many other bands out there, never connected with audiences to the point where they could continue this career. Perhaps this song proved their sole foray into the airwaves and, afterwards, they were forced to return to their “real” lives and work.

Given the song is likely from the early 1980’s, it is also possible the singer/musicians may no longer even be alive today. If the people who made the song were, say, in their mid-late 20’s when the song was released in the early 1980’s, they could be in their late 50’s or even early 60’s now.

Regardless, its a fun mystery and I really hope they figure out the people behind this song.

Perhaps they have another out there as well?

Sad music news…

A few days ago, September 1st to be exact, I wrote about an article by Damon Linker over at week.com regarding The Coming Death of Every Rock Legend. You can read my original article here.

The gist of Mr. Linker’s article was that many Rock legends, musicians who rose up and became popular during the1960’s and into the early 1980’s, are getting quite old now. They were part of a certain generation that, today, are in their 70’s.

In my writing, I pointed out some of the other artists who are not mentioned in Mr. Linker’s article. I pointed out the members of The Cars and, very sadly, yesterday it was reported that lead singer/songwriter Ric Ocasek had passed away…

CNN: Ric Ocasek, lead singer of The Cars passes away at 75

Mr. Ocasek was often the face of The Cars and wrote most of their songs. Benjamin Orr, the band’s other lead singer, sang many of the most popular songs. Reportedly Mr. Ocasek knew Mr. Orr was a better singer and stated something along the lines of “When I write a good song I sing it. When I write a great song I get Benjamin to sing it.” Mr. Orr passed away from cancer in 2000.

It’s so sad to read about Mr. Ocasek’s passing and, like Mr. Linker’s article points out, we’re at a point where reading about very popular musical stars passing is going to become something of a regular thing.

Case in point: Three days ago, on September 13th, news came of the passing of singer Eddie Money, whose death was related to esophageal cancer, which he revealed to the press a month or so before his passing.

In honor of both, I present a favorite Eddie Money song followed by one of my favorite The Cars tunes…

Loved that tune!

Now for The Cars. This song, and video, were heavily played on MTV back in the day…

Great stuff. May they both rest in peace.

Death of Rock Legends…

Rather depressing article I stumbled upon written by Damon Linker and presented on the week.com regarding…

The coming death of every Rock Legend

As they say, time ticks on, for wealthy and poor, and the reality is that most of the “biggest” rock legends, those who emerged in the 1960’s and 70’s, are getting awfully old. Some, like David Bowie, Lou Reed, and Tom Petty, have already passed, while its only a matter of time for many, many others.

At the risk of giving away the article, this paragraph illustrates only too well the current situation regarding many rock stars of that era:

Behold the killing fields that lie before us: Bob Dylan (78 years old); Paul McCartney (77); Paul Simon (77) and Art Garfunkel (77); Carole King (77); Brian Wilson (77); Mick Jagger (76) and Keith Richards (75); Joni Mitchell (75); Jimmy Page (75) and Robert Plant (71); Ray Davies (75); Roger Daltrey (75) and Pete Townshend (74); Roger Waters (75) and David Gilmour (73); Rod Stewart (74); Eric Clapton (74); Debbie Harry (74); Neil Young (73); Van Morrison (73); Bryan Ferry (73); Elton John (72); Don Henley (72); James Taylor (71); Jackson Browne (70); Billy Joel (70); and Bruce Springsteen (69, but turning 70 next month).

Oh my.

(Note Paul McCartney is listed but the other surviving Beatles bandmate, Ringo Starr, who is 79, is not listed!)

And as I was thinking about the people listed above, I couldn’t help but recall some people not on the list.

For example, how about Fleetwood Mac’s classic Rumours lineup? We’ve got Stevie Nicks (71), Lindsey Buckingham (69), Christie McVie (76), Mick Fleetwood (72), and John McVie (73).

Who else? How about the original members of Yes? Jon Anderson (74), Steve Howe (72), and Rick Wakeman (70).

Let’s move along to the original members of KISS. Paul Stanley is 67 (relatively young!). Gene Simmons is 70, Peter Criss is 74, and Ace Frehley is 68.

What about the members of Black Sabbath? Ozzy Ozbourne is 70. Tony Immi is 71. Bill Ward is 71. Geezer Butler is 70.

One more: The surviving members of The Cars (Benjamin Orr, the band’s bassist and lead singer on many of their biggest hits, including Drive, passed away from cancer in 2000): Ric Ocasek is 75. Elliot Easton is a very young 65, Greg Hawkes is 66, and David Robinson is 70.

I could go on and on, listing members of various bands or famous singers, and depress myself all the more about their ages and the fact that we will indeed, likely in the next decade or so, see many of these people pass.

It’s articles like this one that make what could be a bright and beautiful day all the more sobering. Enjoy life while you can!

Haunting…

So I’m here writing my latest book and generally suffering through the frustrations of trying to once again create something new while simultaneously dealing with all the fixes to my home and general tight time to do it all…

…and then I stumble upon this, the 50th Anniversary release -and remastering by Tony Visconti, David Bowie’s long time producer- of the first big David Bowie hit, Space Oddity.

Yeah, haunting is the right word…

The video seems to mix footage from David Bowie’s 50th year anniversary concert (that’s Bowie with the reddish hair) with footage which seems to have been taken during the Let’s Dance years (or thereabouts) in the 1980’s. That would be the more black and white-ish footage with Bowie having the much fuller hairdo.

The new Visconti mix, IMHO, is terrific. The drums in particular sound very crisp. The reverb upon Bowie saying “Liftoff” could be a little much to some, but I didn’t mind.

Terrific stuff.

Makes me all the sadder that we’ll not hear any “new” material from Bowie… other than stuff that’s already in the vaults which hasn’t seen the light of day.

I’ve mentioned it before and, what the heck, let me post it again: One of my favorite buried treasures by Bowie, the original version of Candidate, which until the 1990’s and during the Ryko Disc releases of his previous material, hadn’t seen the light of day.

Originally intended for the Diamond Dogs album, I absolutely love this version of the song!

You can now ignore just about every opinion I have…

I’m three songs into the seemingly universally loathed Lou Reed and Metallica album Lulu…

Lulu (2CD)

…and I kinda like it!

My understanding is that David Bowie loved the album though acknowledged it was ahead of its time.

Perhaps.

Look, its an oddball album with some very oddball lyrics (the first lines in the very first song are very off putting and borderline idiotic).

And yet… I’m digging what I’m hearing. I won’t say the album is up there with the great works of Lou Reed (both solo and with The Velvet Underground) or Metallica, yet its interesting, IMHO, in its own weird way.

POSTSCRIPT: Ok, so I’ve made it through the entire album and my earlier comments still apply: I feel this album is far better than the absolute calamity so many -critics and fans alike- thought it was.

On the other hand, it does contain more than a few rough edges and weird/crude/unintentionally(?) funny lyrics which can be off putting to audiences.

Further, I can see why David Bowie liked the album: In many ways it reminds me of Bowie’s 1. Outside. While 1. Outside is a stone cold classic, Lulu is a decent enough stab at avant garde which, at times, slips into silliness.

Still, I repeat what I said before: It’s far from the absolute calamity people felt it was.

Megadeth’s Killing Is My Business… And Business is Good 2018 Remaster

All right, so I’ve dealt with the remastered editions of some VERY big heavy hitting talent in recent days, first David Bowie with his Loving The Alien boxed set, which includes a pretty good re-do of what many consider his career worst album, Never Let Me Down, and more recently the beautifully remastered The Beatles, aka The White Album.  You can read about the Bowie remaster here and The Beatles here.

Remastering albums is certainly not a new thing, and at times it has been met with anger.  In recent years, however, it seems like newer remasters have been better.  Certainly in the case of the Bowie and The Beatles albums, it was for the best.

Megadeth, one of the pioneer thrash/heavy metal groups fronted by one-time Metallica member Dave Mustaine, released their first album in 1985.  Titled Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good, it was a more than decent first effort with some really fun songs (I loved the very profane remake of These Boots).  The sound, however, was quite muddled and, when I heard Mr. Mustaine was remixing the album back in 2004, I was hopeful that the muddled sounds would be alleviated.

Alas, the end result was not very good.  Worse, the original authors of These Boots were apparently quite offended with Mr. Mustaine’s… uh… reinterpretation and new lyrics of the song and would not allow it to be re-released as it was.  So, in a very silly move, the remixed version of 2004 featured the song with “bleeps” to negate the offending lyrics.

Fast forward to (and unknown to me until yesterday) June of this year and a new re-mix of Killing Is My Business was released.

I have to say, Killing Is My Business is a terrific improvement over the original 1985 release and most certainly much better than Mustaine’s 2004 remix.

Killing Is My Business...And Business Is Good - The Final Kill [Explicit]

If you like that album, getting this remaster is a no-brainer.

As for These Boots… it appears we’ll never again see the release of the original Megadeth version of the song.  However, this time around they wisely nixed the whole “bleeped” version of the song and, instead, remastered the music and had Dave Mustaine simply sing the song with its original lyrics.

Yeah, it isn’t quite as darkly funny as the original version and, yeah, Dave Mustaine’s voice is clearly more worn down than it was on the original album (decades of concerts and singing will certainly do that to you… check out Bruce Springsteen’s voice in some of his earliest albums versus while currently on tour).

So, if you’re into 1980’s era speed/thrash metal, checking out the most recent remix of Killing Is My Business is a no-brainer.

The Beatles, a (right on time!) review

On November 22, 1968 The Beatles released an untitled  double album which, over time, came to be known as “The White Album”.

The album, IMHO, is incredible and, in retrospect, one can view it as something of a line in the sand.  There’s the stuff that came before and, sadly, this album was pointing toward what was to come, ie The Beatles’ eventual breakup.

The album features a mind-bogglingly number of great songs in so many different genres that one can’t help but admire the group’s ability to stretch their boundaries.  There are rock songs, there are ditties.  There are songs that seem to fall into country, there are songs that fall squarely into a avant guard.  There are fragments of songs, there are songs that seem almost like children’s compositions.  There are hard rockers and even what can be called a proto-metal composition.

There’s an incredible amount of music of all different types and what’s the most amazing thing is that when one listens to the album, it feels like there’s a flow to the compositions, a logic that only a band with as much talent as The Beatles could dare to try… and, incredibly and perhaps improbably, succeed.  For the most part, anyway.

There are those who feel there’s a superb single album buried in this double album, and even I have some songs I don’t care that much for. Still, how can you knock something that ambitious and successful?

When I heard Giles Martin, son of the late George Martin who was the original producer of almost all of The Beatles’ albums, was doing to The White Album what he did to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, i.e. doing an intricate remastering, I was so there.

What Mr. Martin did with Sgt. Pepper’s was revelatory.  He made an already superb (IMHO!) album sound even better, and managed to make two songs in particular I didn’t care as much for on the album shine like they never did before.

This past weekend I finally got my hands on the “Super Deluxe” edition of The White Album’s re-release.

Starting with the original album itself, I have to once again give Mr. Martin an incredible amount of credit.  The songs sound extraordinary, and he’s managed to make some compositions I didn’t care all that much for suddenly light up.  He’s brought the instruments out and made the voices clearer and… jeeze, its like you’re there in the studio, listening to the lads as they play the material for you.  There is an intimacy and clarity you didn’t realize the album needed to make it even better than it already was (and, if I haven’t made it clear already, I felt the album as it was was pretty damn great to begin with).

And the bonuses… oh my.

First up are the so-called Esher Demos.  After finishing their trip to India, The Beatles got together at George Harrison’s house and essentially created rough demos of the majority of the songs that eventually made their way to The White Album.  Here then you have those demos and they’re wonderful to hear in their embryonic, and sometimes quite close to finalized, form.  You also have some songs that didn’t make the cut -at least not at that point- which are fascinating to hear as well for a total of 27 songs.

Following that you have another FIFTY alternate/early takes of the various songs which eventually made it to The White Album along with a few that did not, including early versions of Hey Jude, Across The Universe, and Let It Be!

Incredibly fun stuff to hear and it again makes you realize that this band, when it came to music, was on a whole ‘nother level when it came to releasing original compositions.

The price for the Super Deluxe edition of The White Album ain’t cheap.  The CD release will set you back about $140 and I can’t even begin to guess how much the vinyl version is.  There is a cheaper CD version (I saw it at Target on sale for around $25) which includes the full album plus the Esher Demos.  It does not include the other bonus material, including all the other takes of the songs plus those I mentioned above.

So if you’re anything at all like me, you either get the whole thing or nothing at all.  If you don’t feel you need the wealth of other demos/alternate takes, then you may be fine getting the smaller package.

Either way, this is a hell of a gift to music lovers and The Beatles lovers in particular.

A very, VERY easy recommendation.

*****

I’ve found some interesting lists online regarding ranking the songs on The White Album from best to worst.  Here’s one list, found on Ultimateclassicrock.com and written by Michael Gallucci, where he offers…

Beatles White Album songs ranked from worst to best

A second ranked list can be found on stereogum.com and was written by Chris DeVille…

Beatles White Album songs ranked from worst to best

I find such lists fascinating, and I do have to offer my 0.02 cents.

Worst song on the album?  It may be Wild Honey Pie for me.  Or perhaps Revolution #9, John Lennon’s trip into the avant guard.  However, listening to these songs now, in this freshly remastered version, has quite literally opened my ears and even these works feel fresh and interesting to me.

Best?

George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps is terrific, as are Lennon compositions like Dear Prudence and Julia.  Much as I like the single version of Revolution, the slower, bluesier Revolution #1 is quite terrific as well.  Paul McCartney was also on a roll, bringing some great rockers like Birthday, Back in the U.S.S.R. (a hilarious parody of Beach Boys-type “Americana” music), and, especially, Helter Skelter, easily the “hardest” music The Beatles ever made and arguably one of the earliest “heavy metal” tunes.

All of it is damn good stuff!

What do critics think of Loving the Alien…?

At the risk of beating a dead horse…

From metacritic.com, a survey of the reviews for the latest David Bowie Box set, Loving the Alien

Loving the Alien (1983-1988) metacritic reviews

While most professional reviews (and there aren’t terribly many of them so far) are generally positive, I’m always intrigued by the most negative reviews.

It’s not that I’m a sadist -as I wrote, I liked the boxed set and felt the new version of the much maligned Never Let Me Down album was a tremendous improvement- but I am intrigued by those who don’t like something I may like and the reasons why they feel that way.

In that spirit, here we have Stephen Dalton’s review of the boxed set found on loudersound.com:

David Bowie – Loving the Alien (1983-1988) album review

Mr. Dalton clearly doesn’t think very highly of Mr. Bowie’s releases during this period of time and his conclusion regarding the new version of Never Let Me Down is quite negative.  Here are his thoughts, from the link above, regarding the “new” version of that album:

So is it really possible to reverse-engineer a ‘lost’ avant-rock album from a lacklustre soft-rock misfire? Arguably. On the positive side, Bowie’s vocals are now generally clearer and more sympathetically framed, especially on the sweetly romantic title track. But adding discordant drones, minor-key shifts and sci-fi trip-hop rumbles to thin material like Day-In Day-Out or Shining Star (Makin’ My Love) is more cosmetic gimmick than inspired transformation. Trying to salvage Bowie’s most derided album is an admirably ambitious experiment, but low-grade source material was always going to be an obstacle. Some turds just cannot be polished.

Ouch!

Look, I totally understand those who look down on this boxed set and, specifically, this new version of Never Let Me Down.

The fact of the matter is that when compared to the previous boxed sets, where Mr. Bowie first made his career starting with his glam rock era and following it up with some truly adventurous work (including the justifiably lauded Berlin trilogy), one can look at this era in his musical career as a step down.

And I’m not going to argue that point: It is!

Mr. Bowie hit the proverbial ball out of the park with Let’s Dance, a slick, radio friendly, and eminently enjoyable collection of wonderful pop songs.  To my mind, that was a terrific album and it moved Mr. Bowie from being a famous but rather “cult” figure into the mainstream and his success was white hot.

The problem came afterwards.

Mr. Bowie clearly lost his way following the success of the album.  Tonight the album that followed Let’s Dance, was what I consider merely adequate.  There were some terrific songs on it, specifically Loving the Alien (which this boxed set used as its name) and the ultra-cool Blue Jean.  I also enjoyed Tonight and Neighborhood Threat.  But after that?  Well… I can’t get into much of the rest.  Perhaps the album’s worst song is Bowie’s remake of the Beach Boys’ God Only Knows.  It was daring, to say the least, to take on of that band’s most beloved works and try to redo it, but Bowie here seemed so out of his element.

Which brings us to Never Let Me Down, again.  I can’t help but feel that Bowie was burning the proverbial candle at both ends at this time.  He was appearing in films and doing soundtrack songs (included on this boxed set are the absolutely terrific songs This is Not America and Absolute Beginners, along with his songs for the movie Labyrinth, which he co-starred in).  This, along with a grueling concert schedule, must have taken their toll and I’ve read (but take it with a grain of salt) that he was exhausted during the making of NLMD.

Could this be why he later stated that he didn’t feel like he had much control over the album?  Did he entrust too much of its creation to others?

One could think so, though I strongly suspect that if the album had been a hit, Mr. Bowie would welcome the adulation.

But, of course, that wasn’t the case.  NLMD was a critical flop.  As the years passed, most people had a sour view of the album and that era for Bowie’s music.

I can totally see why someone would scoff at this boxed set and feel that “fixing” NLMD is the equivalent of “polishing a turd”.

And yet…

My opinion remains.  I didn’t like NLMD upon its original release.  As I wrote in my review of the boxed set, I felt that album was too scattershot, too all-over-the-place.  Having said that, I felt there were good songs to be found here and there.  It wasn’t a complete train wreck but it seemed something was lost between the various song’s creations and the ultimate cut used.

Which, to my mind, has been fixed tremendously with this “new” version of the album.

Will this new NLMD come to be viewed as another landmark Bowie album, one initially scoffed at a la 1. Outside, which was lambasted by professional critics upon its initial release but which now many people consider among his very best later releases?

I don’t know.

But it’s the way things go, isn’t it?  Sometimes things are viewed very negatively when initially released and, over time, people come to view a certain worth to the product.  Or it may never be rehabilitated.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

David Bowie – Loving the Alien

As I’ve posted before, the main reason I was curious to buy the just released Loving The Alien box set by David Bowie was  to listen to the new mix of Never Let Me Down.

Considered by many, including Bowie himself, as his “worst” album, I was very curious following the release of a remixed version of Time Will Crawl a few years back whether the album could be salvaged. My curiosity increased when this boxed set was announced along with the fact that it would feature a complete remix of that much maligned work. While Mr. Bowie sadly passed before the album was remixed (and therefore he personally could not approve of the overall work), when early releases of Zeroes and Bang Bang were available, I found them intriguing and my curiosity piqued.

Now that I’ve heard the whole thing, I have to say I’m incredibly impressed.

I too didn’t care for Never Let Me Down in its original version. It felt like too much was going on at once. It was too busy, too scattershot. Well, the new mix of the album fixes that. The album feels far more cohesive and some songs I really didn’t like, such as ‘87 and Cry, are truly transformed into something great. Listening to this new mix of Never Let Me Down is like finding a “new” great David Bowie album. It’s that good, IMHO.

The rest of the compilation is quite good as well. You have Let’s Dance, the crown jewel of this set, along with Serious Moonlight (a live concert), Tonight (a so-so album with some great highs and some equally low lows), the original Never Let Me Down (which one can use as a comparison to the remix, if you’re not terribly familiar with it), Glass Spider (another live concert), and a bunch of odds and ends and some great singles (This is Not America is a particular standout, IMHO).

If you’re a Bowie fan, very much worth getting!