Tag Archives: Rolling Stones

Charlie Watts, R.I.P.

And so I call it an end. An end of the Rolling Stones. It withstood the death of Brian Jones. It got past the departure of Mick Taylor. Bill Wyman took his bass and left. Ian Stewart was only sort-of in the band.

But with the death of Charlie Watts, that’s it.

Fini.

Yes, there are Mick and Keith. The remaining originals. Ronnie Wood has been playing in the band since 1975, which is arguably a career and then some.

But Watts was special.

Funny thing: There are often apologists for Ringo Starr, who maintain that he is a far better drummer than he is typically given credit for being. Presumably much of that capability was honed over hours and hours of working the skins with sticks. (And a solid measure of McCartney’s bitching.)

But you never heard any excuses for Watts. He got the job done, and then some.

The Rolling Stones have typically been fluid in the musicians that it only lets the spotlights glance at. The sound of the band is made up of more than the marque members.

The sound of the backbeat was always Watts.

Continue reading Charlie Watts, R.I.P.

No Filter

So what do you do?

The bank is full, regardless of how many ex-spouses that need to be paid, regardless of how many progenies are on the loose.

There is, of course, always the potential that things could go pear-shaped.

Perhaps a Bernie Madoff-type makes off with a sizeable chunk of doubloons. Perhaps there is an ever-increasing compulsion that results in an ever-decreasing amount hidden under the bed.

Things that could cause a need for more money.

What do you do?

Much of your life has been spent somewhere.

Sometimes you don’t even know where is there. Someone needs to tell you. Or at least remind you.

Things have gotten to the point where it is a different room and when you get up at night you’re not twigged to where in the suite the bathroom is located.

But that’s the life. And you remember when it was something where you were in a caravan and simply had to use the nearest tree or wall.

At one point it got old. Tired. Really old. And then you were young.

But like the sound barrier, you broke through and now you are on the other side.

Always on the other side.

At this point there is no going back.

And you ask yourself what exactly it might be that you’d be going back to.

Continue reading No Filter

Some Days in July and The Beatles

According to The Beatles Bible, “Lennon was a notoriously bad driver.” On July 1, 1969, the day that recording was to begin for Abbey Road, Lennon, Yoko Ono, her daughter Kyoko and his son Julian were involved in a car accident, as Lennon drove into a ditch in Scotland. He would have probably been better off had he (1) been a better driver or (2) had a better work ethic, such that he’d show up in the studio, which is located in London, on July 1.

He did make it to the studio on July 9. As Yoko sustained more injuries than John, a double bed was ordered from Harrods and delivered to the studio, so she could be on hand in order to provide her insights into the music. Their first bed-in protest against the Vietnam War had occurred a few months earlier, in March, in Amsterdam. May 26-June 1 they had their second, in Montreal. Perhaps this bed was a protest about something else.

The first day Lennon was in the studio the band did takes 1 to 21 of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” The following day they did overdubbing and mixing of the tune.

Lennon, evidently, missed Ringo’s 29th birthday, which was on the 7th.

The song in question is about a serial killer. That Macca is quite the crack-up.

Apparently John was completely dismissive of the song, reportedly not participating. George and Ringo didn’t much like it, either, but they performed on it.

One of the reasons they weren’t chuffed about it was that it took three days to complete. A three-minute, 27-second ditty. Three days.

Paul must have really been invested in it.

Bang! Bang!

Continue reading Some Days in July and The Beatles

How to Write an Earworm

In the days of AM radio, when songs were under three minutes long, there were a variety of sequences of songs played—repeatedly—which were generally described by the disc jockey as being the “top 10.” It was never entirely clear what the number described (i.e., top 10 of what?).

But it should be noted that while there was undoubtedly the whiff of something shady (to mix a couple of metaphors), radio station managers knew that they had to be exceedingly careful because of Congressional investigations into so-called “payola” in 1960, which even caused comment by then-president Dwight Eisenhower, who considered this to be an issue of public morality.

Which seems a bit too far.

But be that as it may, the FCC established a law that says, in part, “When a broadcast station transmits any matter for which money, service, or other valuable consideration is paid or promised to, or charged or accepted by such station, the station, at the time of the broadcast, must announce: (1) that such matter is sponsored, paid for, or furnished, either in whole or in part; and (2) by whom or on whose behalf such consideration was supplied.

In other words, the issue was (and conceivably still is) that the station (or more likely the DJ who was getting swag and whatnot from the A&R man repping the label and musician) would play a given cut over and over and over again. The effect would,  presumably, be one of an excessive number of listeners buying into the ad populum fallacy: if it is being played that much it must be good.

Or there is another thing that could have come into play: the Ohrwurm phenomenon. The earworm. The hearing a song “in your head.” A song “stuck” in your head.

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Googling “how to write a hit song” results in 386,000,000 results.

According to Robin Frederick, who operates mysoundcoach.com,

“Here’s the simple skeleton structure on which most hits are built

  • VERSE / CHORUS
  • VERSE / CHORUS
  • BRIDGE / CHORUS”

Ms. Frederick goes on to explain, “Those monster radio hits often add a section between the verse and chorus called the pre-chorus. It’s used to build anticipation and excitement leading up to those huge hooky choruses. Pop/Dance hits will sometimes have a section after the chorus called a post-chorus. This is where the music producer gets to show off his or her chops.”

Got it?

The chorus counts.

Continue reading How to Write an Earworm

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. . . ?