Tag Archives: What Is a Band?

Gone and Not Forgotten

The headline read “Marshall Tucker Band Announces 50th Anniversary Tour” and although I have a depth of knowledge of that band that is approximately that of a sheet of paper, I read on, where I found, “‘Our special songs, guided by the lyrics of Toy Caldwell, have given us a deep emotional connection with our fans and friends,’” said founding MTB member Doug Gray. “‘We love you all and can’t wait to see you on the road in 2022.’”

Which made me wonder about that reference “founding MTB member.”

The band, which was organized in 1972 in Spartanburg, South Carolina, currently has one original member: Doug Gray, lead vocalist.

The aforementioned Toy Caldwell was lead guitarist, steel guitarist and vocalist. He also wrote all of the songs that appear on the band’s first, self-titled album, which was released in 1973. It includes “Can’t You See,” which arguably is one of the band’s biggest hits, or at least is one of the more recognizable tracks.

Caldwell’s younger brother Tommy had also been an original member of MTB.

Toy left the band and released an album in 1992, “The Toy Caldwell Band.” In 1993 he was found dead in his home, from cardiac arrest.

Brother Tommy had died in 1980 in a car accident.

One other original MTB member, George McCorkle, who played rhythm guitar, left the band in 1984 and died of cancer in 2007.

There are two other founding members: Jerry Eubanks (keyboards, flute), who left the band in 1996; Paul Riddle (drums) who left in 1983.

It seems that through the years there have been approximately 30 members of MTB.

And Doug Gray continues.

Continue reading Gone and Not Forgotten

Does This Sound Like the Real Thing or What Is Real?

“Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be. This unique existence of the work of art determined the history to which it was subject throughout the time of its existence. This includes the changes which it may have suffered in physical condition over the years as well as the various changes in its ownership.” —Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” 1935

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One of the things that is absolutely taken for granted is the ubiquity of the arts in our daily lives. Music comes from everywhere and while much of it doesn’t necessarily rise to the levels that one would imagine would have required the invocation of Euterpe, think only of the situation of someone 200 years ago:

One of the least expensive, most common instruments, the harmonica, wasn’t invented until 1821.

While we associate harmonicas with blues performers and hobos, it is a pretty good bet that back in the first half of the 19th century Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann’s instrument wasn’t an inexpensive item.

Hearing music–which we don’t even think about–was certainly something special for much longer than it hasn’t been.

Continue reading Does This Sound Like the Real Thing or What Is Real?

“They Got the Steely Dan T-shirts. . . .”

A friend who moved out of state keeps tabs on what’s going on in Michigan as those moving from one place to another are wont to do. Whenever I’m in a hotel and get a copy of USA Today outside the door I always look at the weather for Illinois, even though it has been a long time since I lived there and I’m not likely to go back, so the climate is irrelevant. But still. . .

She sent me an email letting me know that Steely Dan is scheduled to play at the Meadowbrook Amphitheater this summer, which is north of Detroit.

My response to her, which will come as no surprise to anyone who has been reading what I’ve been writing here for quite some time, was simply: “Steely Dan no longer exists.”

When Walter Becker died on September 3, 2017, the proverbial last nail in the coffin of the band was hammered in place: requiescat in pace.

Of course, as seems to be de rigueur for musicians who were once on top of the world and are now trying to desperately stay at least near the bottom, Donald Fagen is having none of that, so he sued Walter Becker’s estate, and the band, such as it is, continues on. If “Steely Dan” was Becker and Fagen, and there is no Becker, then how is that still the band? Certainly it can be labeled as the band—unless that lawsuit comes out against Fagen’s wishes—and let’s face it: nowadays truth and falsehood seem to be exchangeable.

Continue reading “They Got the Steely Dan T-shirts. . . .”

Who Do They Think They Are?

Although I have been MIA from this page for some time now, something that needs to be addressed has come to my attention, something far worse than I had originally thought as I looked into things a bit more.

As you are probably aware, “The Who” are going back on tour. It is called “Moving On!” Odds are that they’re moving on to still another tour.

As you are probably also aware, I put “The Who” in quotes because while half a band may be better than none, as I’ve argued many times, when you have half a loaf you have, well, half a loaf, not the whole thing. Daltrey and Townshend are certainly much of the substance of the mix, but let’s not kid ourselves: that label is about marketing. That is, while there are probably people who have picked up The Who T-shirts at their local Target and who are wearing them proudly, were you to ask them who Daltrey and Townshend are, they might answer, “Uh, law firm . . .?”

No, I am not going to go down that well-rutted road again.

But I am going to express my dismay at what it has come to for those veteran performers.

Upon receiving an email from Ticketmaster announcing the opportunity to getting tickets for “The Who” sooner rather than later, I looked into the “VIP Packages.” Go big or don’t go, right?

There are three packages.

And at this point, I must warn you: If you are a fan of The Who you might want to stop reading right now because otherwise you may be so disturbed that you will bin, erase or otherwise dispose of your collection.

The packages are, from top to bottom: “Baba O’ Riley Ultimate Soundcheck,” “My Generation Soundcheck” and “Who Are You Premium Seat.”

Continue reading Who Do They Think They Are?

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. . . ?

What’s In a Name?

Walter Becker died on September 3, 2017, from esophageal cancer. Now Donald Fagen is suing his estate. [Update: Becker’s estate responds.]

The issue, it seems, is the name “Steely Dan.” Or whatever that is.

The two had signed what is known as a “Buy/Sell Agreement” after the band formed in 1972, which essentially lets one member to buy the shares of the other, on behalf of “Steely Dan,” should there be a departure or death. The Becker estate wants Becker’s widow to have the shares.

It is worth taking a look back at the band, such as it was, as one could say that it has always been a duo with an array of supporting musicians.

The first album, Can’t Buy a Thrill, was released in 1972. It was followed with a series of annual releases: Countdown to Ecstasy, ’73; Pretzel Logic, ’74; Katy Lied, ’75; The Royal Scam, ’76; and Aja, ’77. There was a short break, as Gaucho didn’t appear until 1980.

In 1995 Alive in America was released. The next studio album was Two Against Nature, 2000, the same year another live album was released, Plush TV Jazz-Rock Party.

The final Steely Dan album was released in 2003, Everything Must Go.

Fagen had four solo albums: The Nightfly, ’82; Kamakiriad, ’93; Morph the Cat, ’06; Sunken Condos, ’12.

Becker had two: 11 Tracks of Whack, ’94; Circus Money, ’08.

According to steelydan.com, in 1973, “The band in various configurations tours the U.S. and Britain.”

Then there was something of a touring hiatus, it seems.

The site notes that in 1980 “Becker and Fagen go their separate ways.”

So the first tour had an assortment of musicians and seven years later, after that flurry of annual albums and then Gaucho, that was it.

Continue reading What’s In a Name?

Who’s Left?

When I saw that the Who had recently performed a couple of classics on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon I immediately forwarded the link to Stephen Macaulay. Mac has a long history with the Who, dating back to seeing them at Cobo Hall in Detroit when he and the band were all scruffy young guys. He’s been quite vocal over the years on his disappointment over what they have become. -ed.

Video: The Who: “I Can See for Miles” (live on the Tonight Show)

Imagine listening to “I Can See for Miles” with your eyes closed. Wouldn’t you imagine that this was a good cover band, but something sounds slightly off on the lead vocals, as though the singer was trying too hard or having too difficult a time?

And then you open your eyes and watch.

It’s him.

But what the hell is Daltrey doing with that acoustic guitar? Does he really think that Pete and Simon can’t handle it? Or is it that he doesn’t quite have the confident moves anymore and so the guitar becomes a prop that keeps him from having to make those moves. Plus, with Pete teasing and doing the windmills is physically distracting.

(There is no crutch for the vocal cords, however, at least not, apparently, in this venue.)

Continue reading Who’s Left?

To a Musician Not Dying Young

Recently I was with a few people from southern California who had come to musical maturity in the ‘70s. I learned that there is a robust “tribute” or “cover” band scene there. One of the women I was with had been a backup singer in a Segar tribute band. It seems, she explained, that many of the people in these bands are unsuccessful in getting their own music to break and so they perform—or could that be “pretend”—as others.

So there are bands like the Dark Star Orchestra, the Australian Pink Floyd Show, The Fab Four, Nervana, and multitudes more.

In many cases it is not enough to have a note-for-note rendition of the original band in question, but some of these tribute bands cover themselves in the clothing and the hairstyle of the individual musicians making up the bands in question.

(Of course, the Iron Maidens have a look that doesn’t duplicate the original for obvious reasons.)

We will not see the Beatles again. Not Pink Floyd or Nirvana. And while the situation with the Dead is uncertain, Jerry’s not going to be on stage.

And the music created by the originals is often so good that it exists independently of the people who made it in the first case, so it could be the case that there are several people who go to the clubs who have no idea of what’s being covered and when they leave they go home and download “Katmandu.”

Which is certainly a good thing for all concerned, be it the tribute band, the listener or, in this case, Seger.

But there was a comment that one of the people made that struck me as being odd and in some ways unsettling, a comment that was agreed to by the others in attendance: “Well, we can’t see the originals any more so this is just as good.”

Is it? Really?

Without going all Walter Benjamin and “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical [Digital] Reproduction,” doesn’t authenticity matter?

Continue reading To a Musician Not Dying Young

Who's First?

Pete and RogerLet’s say that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr decided that they’d kick off 2009 with a worldwide tour, starting in Liverpool, moving on to Hamburg, then going everywhere else. Would this be a “Beatles‘ Reunion”? I don’t think so. Even though it represents 50% of the band, even though Paul was certainly as integral to the group as John Lennon was, and even though, it must be admitted, it was pretty much a toss up between George Harrison and Ringo, the two members of the band don’t constitute the band, period.

So consider the case of the band currently known as “The Who.” Which includes Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey. Keith Moon is long passed; he hasn’t been a member of the band for 30 years. John Entwistle has been gone for six. And, arguably, The Who stopped being The Who as the members went on to do other things (including Entwistle playing in the “All Starr Band”).

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Who Are They Kidding?

“Roger Daltrey has been a world-famous star since the early 1960s when he began his career as the lead singer of The Who, and has since become one of the most popular vocalists in rock music history.” So claims a press release from CBS Entertainment, which draws attention to the fact that Daltrey is going to have a role on a forthcoming episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. “World-famous star.” “Most popular vocalists in rock music history.” Well, it would be hard to disprove that, although the pneumatic praise is a little humid and musty.

“Daltrey is currently on a major worldwide tour with The Who, promoting their current album, Endless Wire,” the release notes. Here is something that can be completely disproved. When Daltrey became a “world-famous star” it was with a band consisting of four people. Two of the four are dead. Now Daltrey and one of them, the guy who wrote the song that’s used as the theme song for CSI, are out touring. That’s 50%. Which effectively makes it a duo. “The Who” does not exist, marketing notwithstanding. “The Who” is effectively a part of “rock music history.”

[To put Daltrey’s appearance on CSI in perspective, consider this: Mr. Britney Spears, Kevin Federline will be guest starring in tonight’s episode – ed.]