Tag Archives: Rolling Stones

Musicians in a Time of Trouble

My sister, who is far more pragmatic than I, told me of the plight of a friend’s daughter. The young woman has received a graduate degree in liturgical music. Yes, as in playing organ and suchlike in places of worship. In the best of times that can’t be something where there is a whole lot of demand. In these times when there is but a slow return to churches and non-trivial concern regarding the spread of projected droplets from those who are lustily singing, finding a paying gig (she didn’t undertake those studies purely out of an interest in the subject; this was/is intended to be a career) is something that escapes her right now. She is working at a daycare center. Not as a musician.

While I am certainly sympathetic to her plight, I, unlike my sister, am glad that there are people who are studying things that don’t necessarily have an ostensible direct connection to a career. One could—and I will—make the argument that if we have learned anything over the past three-plus years is that we could probably use more poets and fewer politicians, more musicians and fewer cable blowhards.

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My niece, my sister’s daughter, entered the conversation. She quipped that Yo-Yo Ma recently had a live-streamed concert that was viewed by people who bought “tickets” to the performance. Cellists who aren’t Yo-You Ma or who are liturgical musicians would undoubtedly have a problem getting on a streaming platform like IDAGIO, which has an extensive suite of classical music performances lined up for its members to purchase. But for those classical musicians who have made it onto the platform, I couldn’t be happier because we need them, too.

Do you think that rock musicians have it tough? Consider this, according to Classical Music Rising, which describes itself as “a collaborative project of leading classical stations to shape the future of classical music radio as the field confronts evolution in delivery across multiple broadcast and digital platforms, demographic and cultural change, and significant disruption throughout the music industry,” the entire state of California has three classical music stations. Three. New York State: four. Plenty of states: zero. And were it not for pubic radio stations that have some classical music programming, the availability of hearing a bit of Beethoven would be non-existent for terrestrial broadcast listeners.

(My niece, incidentally, recently obtained her degree in instructional design and the company that she had been interning at, which she had intended to be employed by, one day folded up its tent and pretty much disappeared, leaving another large bit of commercial real estate full of pods, a contemporary version of Roanoke Island in the 16th century: seems like even the churches of commerce are taking it hard, as well. Had she gotten an art history degree she’d probably be in the same position she is right now: unemployed.)

Continue reading Musicians in a Time of Trouble

Time Is(n’t) on My Side

Given the most-recent Macaulay oeuvre on this site and the absence of same, some of you might have been thinking (if you thought about it at all), “Hmm. . .he kept writing about dead people; maybe he’s joined them.”

Nope.

Still here.

And not another piece about dead people.

Well, not exactly. They could be zombies, but. . . .

That is, Friday, February 7, I saw on the front page of the Detroit Free Press a piece about the Rolling Stones coming to perform at Ford Field, the football stadium named for (and owned by) the family that built it (and a few million other things every year), in mid-June as part of its North American tour, the tickets for which are becoming available on February 14, a.k.a., “Valentine’s Day.”

Here’s the thing: I’ve seen the Rolling Stones twice here in Detroit. Once in 1969 at Olympia Stadium, which no longer exists. The opening acts were B.B. King and Terry Reid. Everyone knows B.B. More people ought to know Terry Reid, but that’s a story for another time. That tour included Jagger, Richards, Wyman, Mick Taylor, and Ian Stewart. That was the tour where Jagger wore the Uncle Sam hat and a onesy.

The tour that was to end up at Altamont.

The second time was in 1972 at Cobo Arena, which also no longer exists. This time the aforementioned lineup was supplemented by Nicky Hopkins, Bobby Keys, and Jim Price. Stevie Wonder was the opening act.

I graduated high school in 1972. That was 48 years ago. I hate to do the math.

In subsequent years, I have had several opportunities to see the Stones. And I’ve never pursued those opportunities for the simple reason that I believe you can’t catch lightning in a bottle, and what was once there, sparking, hasn’t. Isn’t.

Continue reading Time Is(n’t) on My Side

New Exbats video: I Got the Hots for Charlie Watts

Video: The Exbats – “I Got the Hots for Charlie Watts”

The Exbats / I Got the Hots for Charlie Watts

From Kicks, Hits and Fits, due March 13 on Burger.

The Exbats are a father-daughter duo from Arizona: Dad/guitarist Ken Mclain and daughter/drummer/singer Inez (named after Mike Nesmith, naturally).

“I Got The Hots For Charlie Watts” is the title of their 2018 sophomore album, but the song doesn’t appear on it. And I mean, really, if you come up with a title that great, you might as well use it to its full potential.

And what a great song. Their label describes them as “bubblegum garage punk” which is accurate enough, I guess, but it doesn’t quite convey the ramshackle homemade charm. Kinda reminds me of an early Brian Jonestown Massacre recording.

Ken talked to Punknews: “Swoon for Keith Moon? Check. Flame for Hal Blaine? Check. Hots for Charlie Watts? Check. ‘The old gods have a died, a couple survive. But it’s only echoes, cash from the past,’ but we can’t help a fascination with the titans of rock’s past. And for us, it keeps coming back to the Stones…and The Monkees. The Stones had the attitude and The Monkees had crazy 60’s energy with songs from the great songwriters of the time. Groups like these old timey guys inspire us. And one guy just totally kept his cool through decades of navigating enormous egos, Charlie Watts. He just didn’t give a shit about all the weird stuff going on around him, he just showed up looking great and doing his thing. Driving some of the most badass songs ever played. What a guy, man, he’s the best. Totally unflappable.”

It’s true, of course. Charlie’s the coolest Stone.

The Exbats: bandcamp, insta, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

The Road

One of the aspects of rock and roll that gets little general attention is the Sisyphusian life on the road. Ideally the band gets a tour. The tour commences. If things go really well, then (a) the tour gets extended or (b) another tour is established hard on the heels of the first. There is no visible end. Until the end. Then it isn’t pretty.

While touring is certainly a good thing vis-à-vis “making it” (and, presumably, making money), there is a price to be paid for this by the participants. When starting out, travel is fairly primitive and grim. Beat-up vans that have a tendency to break down or buses with a toilet that is dysfunctional on better days. Maybe a motel where the carpet is such that shoes stay on.

If it is a band that has made it, then, certainly, the level of accoutrements is elevated. And while it may seem, initially, exceedingly wonderful to be staying in hotels that had only otherwise been seen while thumbing through a lifestyle magazine in a dentist’s waiting room, that sense of wonder soon dissipates.

Just consider a simple aspect of this. Life on the road means life not spent at home. Not with family. Possibly with friends (but this is no lock, even if a bandmate is family). No possibility of doing “ordinary” things, like going to a favorite restaurant or taking out the trash.

But it is the job. The life.

Somehow the rock musician is elevated in the minds of many who would consider the life of a traveling salesman to be sad, possibly tragic. And how is that different from playing in a band?

A band that has been touring for what could be the definition of “forever” is the Rolling Stones. The extent to which the band is on the road would make the road normalcy and home something unusual.

Continue reading The Road

50 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Issue 15

Rolling Stone issue #15 had a cover date of August 10, 1968. 24 pages. 35 cents. Cover photo of Mick Jagger by Dean Goodhill.

Features: The Rolling Stones Return With Beggars Banquet by Jann Wenner, featuring tons of great photos by by Dean Goodhill; “Cream Breaks Up”; “Merle Haggard: Home-Fried Humor and Cowboy Soul” by Al Aronowitz [misspelled “Arnowitz”]; “Eric Jacobson in Town with Hybridized Production Trip” by Ben Fong-Torres; “Fiddlin’ in Berkeley” by Charles Perry; “Electronic Roll” by Edmund O. Ward; “The Burning of Los Angeles,” a poem by David Gancher.

News: The Who Does a Full-Length Rock Opera; Fillmore Scene Moves to New Carousel Hall; Nice Not Nice To America; Beatles Declare National Apple Week; KMPX Scabs Pay Their Dues.

Columns: Visuals by Thomas Albright (“Top of the Underground: Reel Humor & Flashes”); “Soul Together” by Jon Landau on a benefit concert at Madison Square Garden for the Martin Luther King Memorial Fund featuring Joe Tex, King Curtis, Sonny and Cher, Sam and Dave, the Rascals, and Aretha Franklin; John J. Rock (aka Jann Wenner) on Jim Morrison’s “rather worn-out and self-conscious stage maneuvers,” Michael Nesmith’s instrumental Wichita Train Whistle (“awful”), and Life magazine’s rock and roll issue (“a disappointment”).

Continue reading 50 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Issue 15

Sounds Like. . . ?

Apparently there is a museum in France dedicated to the works of a late 19th- early 20th century painter, Étienne Terrus.

The museum, located in Elne, France, in the Pyrénées, is full of paintings by Terrus.

Or at least many of the 140 paintings are by the artist.

And even more of them are, as has recently been discovered, fakes.

Experts have come in and determined that 82 of the paintings were not executed by Étienne Terrus, who died in 1922.

One of the clues in one of the landscapes: buildings that weren’t built until after the artist died.

You would think that something like that might be noticed.

But you often don’t see something unless you are looking, even if you’re looking right at it. And arguably there have been hundreds of people looking at those paintings, thinking to themselves, “That’s a nice Terrus.”

As the tagline for this site is not “Gouaches Can Change Your Life,” you are probably wondering what the Terrus Museum has to do with anything.

It got me to wondering about how we actually know whether music that we think has been recorded by an individual or a band really is aural evidence of that.

Continue reading Sounds Like. . . ?

The Rolling Stones and Existence

“Do the Rolling Stones still exist?”

That, I’m afraid, was my reaction when I read about the band’s apparent continuation of its “No Filter” tour, which will start up again next month with 11 dates in Europe.

Now I know that Jagger, Richards, Watts, and Wood are still alive, so it wasn’t an issue of the band ceasing to exist because a key member died. (One could make the argument, perhaps, that the band really stopped being what it once was when Brian Jones died in a swimming pool 49 years ago.) But it struck me that there is a visible absence of the Stones in the context that they were once part and parcel of popular culture as delivered in various forms, not just in the pages of something like Rolling Stone: they made music, they made news, they were there, out in the public, and people, like it or not, knew it. Given that they are still touring, given that the 11 dates are a continuation of a tour that they were on last fall, means that they are no less public.

But are they?

In keeping up with the characters, we have:

• Mick—Sir Mick—age 74 with a one-year-old child whom he had with his 31-year-old girlfriend. He has seemingly become an item for the gossip pages, sort of like Frank Sinatra in his heyday.

• Keith—who is still working hard everywhere, most recently performing at the second-annual Love Rocks NYC concert at the Beacon Theater.

• Ronnie—who recently announced that he is free of lung cancer. (Although he looked awfully cool back in the day with his rooster-shag haircut and a smoke dangling from his lips as he made magnificent sounds come out of his guitar (most of us would have a difficult time smoking and playing at all), his cancer is a cautionary tale, more telling that the warnings on cigarette packs.)

• Charlie—who told The Guardian in February “It wouldn’t bother me if the Rolling Stones said that’s it. . .enough.”

Enough.

Continue reading The Rolling Stones and Existence

My rock and roll library update

The Zapple Diaries: The Rise and Fall of the Last Beatles Label by Barry Miles (Harry N. Abrams, 2016)

Do we need another Beatles book? Is there any facet of the Beatles’ 12-year existence as a group that hasn’t been written into the ground? Well, at least until Mark Lewisohn completes his definitive multi-volume history, it looks like we’re going to continue to get more. This one is a specific first-person look at the big-idea, short-lived subsidiary label that the naive idealists formed to release experimental recordings. Miles was hired to record poets such as Charles Bukowski, Laurence Ferlinghetti, and Allen Ginsberg. Spoiler alert: Zapple ended up only releasing two records (vanity projects by George Harrison and John Lennon) before new manager Allen Klein fired everybody and closed shop.

The Underground Is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America by Michaelangelo Matos (Dey Street, 2015)

I’m probably not the intended audience for this book since I don’t really know the difference between house and techno and jungle and dubstep, and I don’t particularly care. Dance music people are very into genre differentiation, but it’s still rock and roll to me. I do, however, enjoy reading well researched and engaging history, and this book is full of that. Lots of young people doing their own thing, making their own scenes, getting loaded, and digging music. Despite the fact that Matos has claimed “The book is not about recordings,” I could have really used a soundtrack when reading it since virtually all of the music was unfamiliar to me.

Sound Man: A Life Recording Hits with The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, Eric Clapton, the Faces… by Glyn Johns (Plume, 2014)

It’s rare that I start but don’t finish a book. This is one of those rarities. For all the characters and events this guy witnessed, you’d think he’d be able to come up with some interesting insights or at least a few good stories. Nope. It’s just tame and boring. Which is a shame because I’ve read interviews with Johns where he’s been hilarious and opinionated. Unfortunately, this book — at least the first half — doesn’t reveal any of that.

Willie Nelson: An Epic Life by Joe Nick Patoski (Back Bay, 2008)

I picked up this book after reading Patoski’s Oxford American article about drummer/character Paul English, “Watching Willie’s Back.” Willie Nelson is an American hero whose greatness has only occasionally been captured on tape despite the fact that he’s got 50+ years of recording under his belt. This book goes a long way in explaining what it is about Willie that makes him such a compelling and unique figure. He’s as close to the Buddha as this country is every going to produce.

Continue reading My rock and roll library update

I’m Down With Alan Thicke

I’ve mostly avoided the hullabaloo around Robin Thicke because I thought I didn’t care, but the truth is that it bugs the shit out of me. Not because I feel a need to defend him (but I will) or that I think he’s some amazing artist (who cares?) but because the hypocrisy of the whole thing is just obnoxious. I mean, really…are we really ready to surrender to the squares?

The basic argument against Thicke breaks down along two lines:

  1. He “stole” Marvin Gaye’s mojo for his song of the summer, “Blurred Lines”
  2. He’s a lout for carrying on with Miley Cyrus at the Video Music Awards and calling women bitches

The first is so preposterous I am amazed I even have to address it, but here it goes: Popular music always has and always will feed on itself.

Traditional folk music and bluegrass structure is built around a handful of simple patterns. Same with the blues. Same with most rock and roll, including so much of the rock canon we all adore.

Continue reading I’m Down With Alan Thicke

The Pretty Things – Come See Me

The Pretty Things - Come See Me Among the many, many unsung bands of the 1960s are The Pretty Things who have an impressive lineage, if little commercial success. Central to that lineage is Dick Taylor, who was briefly in the nascent Rolling Stones and that band’s precursor, Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys. The latter band was the first that featured Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as bandmates.

Most music snobs know The Pretty Things and they’re beloved in the garage rock world, but if this video didn’t turn them into international stars then the 60s truly were crazy times. Dig this appearance on Dutch TV.

Video: The Pretty Things – “Come See Me”

The Pretty Things: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, eMusic, MOG, wiki