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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” charted for the first time

Originally posted 12/27/2011; updated 1/19/2014.


Adele “Rolling in the Deep”


Writer(s): Adele/Paul Epworth (see lyrics here)

Released: 11/29/2010, First charted: 12/25/2010

Peak: 17 US, 2 UK, 119 AC, 61 RB, 21 MR, 113 AA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 8.0 US, 0.8 UK, 14.0 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): 2.0 Video Airplay (in millions): 374.71


Review: While touring North America in support of previous album, 19, Adele’s bus driver introduced her to Wanda Jackson via a greatest hits album. SF She was also drawn to American country music while touring the Southern states. SF Those influences come through on “Rolling in the Deep”, which has been described as having a “hint of Wanda Jackson’s dirty-blues growl.” WK Barry Walters of Rolling Stone commends the song for its “British knack for rejiggering the sound of American roots music” WK while All Music Guide’s Matt Collar calls it a “propulsive gospel fever-blues anthem.” AMG

Collar also proclaimed it “one of the best singles of any decade” AMG and Billboard said it was the biggest crossover tune from the last quarter century, with appearances on a dozen different charts. SF The song hit #1 in eleven countries and sold more than 7 million copies worldwide. It was nominated for Grammys for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. It also landed a nomination for Video of the Year from MTV.

Critics raved about Adele’s vocals on the cut. The Sun described it as something “you would expect from a veteran of 20 years on the road.” WK Reviewer Bill Lamb said her voice “can raise chills up the spine.” WK Adele credited producer Paul Epworth, who had worked with Bloc Party and Florence + the Machine, for getting notes out of her which she didn’t know she could hit. WK

Adele told Rolling Stone that the song title is an adaption of the UK slang term “roll deep” which means to always have someone who has your back. SF She said that’s how she originally felt in the relationship which is dissected on the song’s parent album, 21, but that “ended up not being the case.” SF A day after she split with her unfaithful boyfriend, she arrived at the studio wanting to write a lovelorn ballad, but was persuaded by Epworth to pen a feistier song. SF As she told Spinner, “I was really, really angry with my personal life…I’m not really willing to be walked all over.” SF


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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

'Tis the Season to Be Listing

‘Tis the season for mistletoe, gawdy blow-up decorations in people’s yards, and earworm-inducing ad infinitum spins of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” This also means it’s time for scrawling those wish lists and checking them twice. Santa’s dropping down that chimney in just a few weeks and stuffing those stockings with CDs by Justin Bieber or Arcade Fire, depending on whether we’ve been naughty or nice. With an 8-year-old and 5-year-old, list-making in my household means children taking notes during television commercials.

Ah, but in the music world, this is the time of year for another kind of list-making as well. While Santa’s loading up his sleigh with goodies, editors of every music mag known to man (a phrase that begs the question, “are there ‘zines devoted to the auditory pleasures of, say, the platypus kingdom?”) are packing their year-end magazine issues with plenty of treats. Those often come in the form of best-of-the-year snapshots. Considering my inclination in that area, my Christmas wish list is generally comprised of which year-end issues rank highest as must-haves.

As a side note, my obsession with year-end lists has overwhelmed even my fictional writing. Last week, in my efforts toward penning that great music-themed novel everyone so desperately needs from me (yeah, right), I scribed an entire chapter devoted to two characters debating the best college rock tunes of 1983. I know. I have a problem and need to seek help.

In the spirit of the season of list-making, Rolling Stone has offered a unique spin with its playlist issue (Dec. 9, 2010; issue #1119). While their year-end wrap-up should be just around the corner, this time out the focus is squarely on artists making lists of other artists. I doubt the world has been on pins and needles awaiting the revelation that Maroon 5’s Adam Levine ranks “Man in a Suitcase” as his eighth favorite Police song, but they might care about what roots and reggae songs make Keith Richards’ top ten. I must admit that after perusing a couple lists even I was thinking what an exercise in tedium this seemed to be – and this is coming from a list devotee so obsessed that he’s created a website and Facebook page devoted to the crap.

However, when I read Patti Smith’s comments about how moved she was by “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” it matters not one whit whether that or “One Too Many Mornings” ranks higher on her list of favorite Bob Dylan love songs. (For the record, she ranked “Mornings” #1 and “Lowlands” #4). The importance comes not in the rankings, but the feelings evoked by the creation of the list. More importantly, for us readers it allows a glimpse into Smith’s world as she reverentially describes singing “Dark Eyes” with Dylan nightly while they toured together in 1995. Her comments about striving, and failing, to pen a song of gratitude to Dylan was revelatory; even the greats like Smith, no slouch in the lyrical writing department herself, have musical gods to whom they bow.

When Elton John calls Kanye West’s “Say You Will” the “2008 equivalent of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On,’” my browser is already heading toward my favorite quasi-legal Russian download site.

While the presence of Kanye West on Elton John’s iPod might be eyebrow raising, it is no shock that Gerard Way, frontman for emo-rock group My Chemical Romance, would offer up his snapshot of the glam rock world. It is hardly groundbreaking to see David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” and Mott the Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes” make the cut, but Way defines glam in a broader context to include Roxy Music, Brian Eno, Alice Cooper, and the New York Dolls. We’d all do well to similarly expand the boundaries we’ve placed on genre classification.

This is why I love music lists. Ultimately, it isn’t about what ranks at #1 and what comes in at #68. It is more about being on the list at all. A list is a celebration of what shows up and a surefire argument starter over what doesn’t. Either way, the end benefit is the discussion spurred by a list. Heated debates over what should and shouldn’t make the grade really are mini-musical history lessons. Why should an artist be lauded with “best ever” status? How has so-and-so’s album left its mark? What has “song X” done to change the musical landscape?

Of course, there never really can be such a thing as a “definitive” list – although I cheekily attach the tag to many of the posts on my Dave’s Music Database Facebook page. Any list is subject to debate or change – just ask my kids. If they watch any TV tonight, they’re bound to scratch something off their Christmas wish lists and add a couple new things.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re stumped over what to get me, I’d be fine with the $750 thirty-disc box set of Elvis’ studio recordings. You know, just in case you’ve got nearly a grand burning a hole in your pocket that you desperately feel a yearning to throw my way. Merry Christmas all. Here’s hoping you get at least something on your list.

Monday, November 15, 2010

In Concert: John Mellencamp

image from billboard.com

Venue: Midland Theater; Kansas City, MO


The Set List:

1. Authority Song
2. No One Cares about Me
3. Deep Blue Heart
4. Death Letter
5. Walk Tall
6. The West End
7. Check It Out
8. Save Some Time to Dream
9. Cherry Bomb
10. Don’t Need This Body
11. Right Behind Me
12. Jackie Brown

13. Longest Days
14. Easter Eve
15. Jack and Diane
16. Small Town
17. Rain on the Scarecrow
18. Paper in Fire
19. The Real Life
20. Human Wheels
21. If I Die Sudden
22. No Better Than This
23. Pink Houses
24. R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Coming Soon to a Stage Near You

A friend on Facebook posted photos of ticket stubs from concerts he attended, mostly in the latter half of the eighties. Among them were The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, U2, Eric Clapton, Van Halen, Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, ZZ Top, Fleetwood Mac, R.E.M., Billy Joel, Bob Seger, Styx, Foreigner, The Cars, and Heart. It proved quite the enviable list of classic rock artists – of which I’ve seen a mere four. I’ve accumulated my share over the years, but Steve amassed as many shows in half a decade as I’ve seen in my lifetime.

I was a latecomer to the rock concert scene, not seeing my first show until my college days. My introduction to the world of live music was via the Rainmakers, a local Kansas-City based group. Their music fit snuggly in the classic rock format with jangly pop that recalled Big Star and that group’s subsequent followers such as Tom Petty and R.E.M. Lead singer Bob Walkenhorst’s unique vocal delivery encompassed some of the nasal snarl of Bob Dylan along with the hiccups and twang of classic country from the 1940s and ‘50s.

The show was on our college campus and I went with a bunch of friends. I don’t remember much – we had seats in the balcony and Amy was disgusted with us for not getting up and dancing (never a strong suit of mine). My virginal concert outing did a lot to make the group’s debut album, 1986’s The Rainmakers, one of my 20 favorite albums of all time.

I’ve amassed a slew of memories since. I traveled to Chicago to see Marillion (my favorite band) and trekked to Minneapolis for The Police. My one-time neighbor and childhood playmate grew up to be a percussionist/drummer with Rod Stewart and got about thirty of us backstage. When I saw Bob Dylan, a gang of us locked arms at an outdoor festival with no ticketed seating to safeguard our primo location from being overrun by people trying to shove in front of us. For my 40th birthday, my wife surprised me with Eric Clapton tickets and more than a half dozen friends to accompany us to the show. A buddy got box seats for the Allman Brothers and we sat next to local DJ Skid Roadie. My brother caught a drum stick at a Styx concert. I loved the clever short film featuring Jerry Stiller that opened the Rush show and seem to remember they had a fridge on stage. I saw Yes with Jon Anderson replaced by Benoit David, a guy about twenty years younger than the rest of the band and about twenty years too energetic. I felt for the guy who’d wasted all that dough to see Roger Waters only to pass out before the thing even got started.

All right, so plenty of memories – which will make this next comment very odd. In general, I’m not wowed by the whole concert experience. Perhaps this is due to a failure to be, shall we say, “properly stimulated.” Maybe a distaste for the party vibe is to blame. I also lack the sense of awe that many possess in the presence of legends. Similarly, hearing a group’s gotta-play-it hit fails to lift me to the heights to which most of the audience are transported. My inability to play an instrument, a complete lack of schooling in musical theory, and a failure to appreciate the technological complexities of putting on such productions all play huge parts. It’s a wonder I go to concerts at all.

So why do I? A little more than a week ago, I saw Roger Waters performing Pink Floyd’s The Wall in its entirety. The album, its brief tour, and the movie in the late seventies and early eighties have all reached legendary status. I bought the album years ago and saw the movie, but missed the original concert experience. An actual wall was constructed on stage throughout the performance, literally and symbolically closing the band off from the audience. The complexities of staging the show, however, led to only a handful of concerts.

When Roger Waters announced plans to revisit the show with a full-fledged tour, I was in immediately. Here was a show for which I’d built up expectations over nearly three decades. I wondered if I might be setting myself up for a huge disappointment.

I was giddy upon arriving just to see the edges of the wall on either side of the stage that would, in the hands of a busy tech crew, become the eventual barricade between us and them. Throughout the show, the visual projections cast upon that slowly-erected wall were a mix of powerful imagery, eye-tricking effects, a rainbow of colors, and poignant graffiti-scrawled commentaries. A homeless man pushed a shopping cart around the arena floor pre-show. Waters performed “Nobody Home” in a motel room set that came out of the wall. The guitar solo for “Comfortably Numb” was played atop the wall. During “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. II”, a gaggle of local kids taunted the monstrous teacher puppet lifted straight out of the movie version of The Wall with a chorus of “hey, teacher, leave those kids alone!” Of course, the gasp from the audience as the wall crumbles at the show’s close is priceless.

That show, the one I’d anticipated more than any other – and one that didn’t disappoint – is the quintessential example of the theatrical possibilities of the concert-going experience. While I doubt the visual spectacle of that extravaganza will ever be matched for me, there’s more to concerts than just what meets the eye. There are smaller, but no less poignant possibilities in every show. I pray that an artist will grace listeners with a creative re-interpretation of a beloved hit (John Mellencamp’s calypso version of “Jack and Diane”). I dream of a song moving me to tears (Bruce Springsteen’s “The River”). I relish the unexpected (like being ho-hum about Peter Frampton as an opening act, only to become a believer after seeing the sheer joy he still received from playing “Baby, I Love Your Way” for the umpteenth time).

For some, it may be about the impressive concert ticket collection. For others, it’s the party or whatever substance circulates through the aisles. There are those who will get a rush from the energy of the crowd and others who are awed by a guitar God nailing just the right chord. It might be the lights or the pyrotechnics or a ten-minute drum solo. It could be the sheer grandiosity of an arena or the intimacy of a club. No matter the specifics, the cherished memories and moments are about the music and the atmosphere surrounding it.

I still have a long wish list. Please bring U2, Squeeze, Fish, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and others to a venue near me. Give me a great light show or a moving theatrical production. Give me an inspiring moment where an artist plays that familiar hit in a less than familiar way. Most of all, give me a chance to walk out of an arena clutching a ticket stub that will remind me of some special moment for years to come.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Do You Mean, No One Needs 21 Versions of “Purple Haze”?

On my Facebook page for Dave’s Music Database, I recently posted a link about the newest Jimi Hendrix box, due for a November release. I mockingly asserted that the set was necessary because Hendrix just hasn’t been anthologized enough.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. For a man dead since 1970, he has an astonishing ability to continue to release product. On my DMDB web page for Hendrix, I spotlight nine collections of studio material released after his death and six live albums. These are just the most significant official releases.

I’ve long joked that the true sign of a great musician is an ability to make music from beyond the grave. The best dead stars all have this talent – Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, and Tupac Shakur. The late rap titan has even landed three posthumous #1 albums, a feat which, to my knowledge, has yet to be matched by any other performer six feet under.

Of course, the bigger commentary here concerns recording companies’ crass efforts to turn the deceased’s every grunt, croak, or belch captured on tape into gold. Perhaps nowhere is this greed better on display than via the handlers of Hendrix’s catalog through the ‘70s and well into the ‘90s, before the Hendrix estate wrestled control back. The three studio albums made during Jimi’s life are staples on best-of-all-time album lists; you won’t see anything after he died showing up on these lists.

Still, record companies don’t shovel out the product in steady streams if no one’s dropping cash. Fortunately for them, there will always be lunatics and freaks willing to shell out the bucks for that never-before-released thirteenth take of “Insert Title of Obscure Album Track Here” because, after all, this is the one that included the producer barking out a couple orders to the formerly-living-and-breathing music maker before recording commenced.

It is here that I will attempt to both awkwardly distance myself from such behavior while simultaneously embracing it. In the aforementioned Facebook post, I confessed to having 21 versions of “Purple Haze.” I don’t mean covers of the song – I mean 21 versions all done by Hendrix. I didn’t intentionally seek out that many; I just slowly accumulated them from picking up a live collection here, a box set of studio outtakes there. This is, by my own admission, behavior worthy of serious psychological evaluation. What can one possibly need with that many versions of a song?

Well, my friends, this is the distinction between the casual music fan and the gone-round-the-bend fanatic. Frankly, my completist tendencies rear their ugly head once an act crosses from the “yeah, I like them” to the “oh, I love them” threshold. My sanity goes out the window and I gobble up every scrap I can find like a vampire craving a blood smoothie. I have 33 CDs of Kevin Gilbert music; only ten are official releases and even those are obscure.

For some, such behavior is all about bragging rights. Maybe it’s a Deadhead who can boast to possessing a rare bootleg of a long ago show or a Beatlemaniac who claims to have tape of the long-lost “Carnival of Lights” track. Sometimes it is just about “having it all.” Once you have the thirty-something studio albums by Dylan, why stop?

For others, it genuinely is a musical journey in which they legitimately pick out the distinctions in 21 different versions of “Purple Haze.” Maybe they can trace how the song first developed in the studio to how it transformed on the stage. Maybe they become enthralled with how Hendrix changes the guitar solo here and there.

Personally, I lack the musicianship to notice that the third take of some long forgotten album cut included a snare drum absent from the version released on the B-side of an obscure Scottish single. As for impressing others with individual acts in my collection, most people are in awe enough of the sheer total size to dig deep enough to notice that I have over six hundred Bob Dylan songs.

So why do I have 600+ Dylan songs and 33 Kevin Gilbert CDs and 21 versions of “Purple Haze”? Dunno. Just do. Stay tuned – numbers destined to change as quickly as the miles roll by on an odometer.

For daily doses of my musical obsession, check out Dave’s Music Database Facebook page.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Consequence of Sound - Top 100 Albums of All Time

image from newmossrecords.com

Consequence of Sound’s “Top 100 Albums Ever

1. The Beatles: Abbey Road (1969)
2. The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds (1966)
3. The Clash: London Calling (1979)
4. Michael Jackson: Thriller (1982)
5. The Velvet Underground & Nico: Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
6. Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run (1975)
7. Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
8. The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
9. Talking Heads: Remain in Light (1980)
10. Radiohead: OK Computer (1997)

11. Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde (1966)
12. The Rolling Stones: Let It Bleed (1969)
13. Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
14. Pixies: Doolittle (1989)
15. Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures (1979)
16. The Who: Who’s Next (1971)
17. Kate Bush: Hounds of Love (1985)
18. David Bowie: Hunky Dory (1971)
19. Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On (1971)
20. Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998)

21. Van Morrison: Astral Weeks (1968)
22. The Beatles: The Beatles (aka “The White Album”) (1968)
23. Public Enemy: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)
24. Neil Young: After the Gold Rush (1970)
25. Peter Gabriel: So (1986)
26. Johnny Cash: At Folsom Prison (1968)
27. Jimi Hendrix Experience: Are You Experienced? (1967)
28. Joni Mitchell: Blue (1971)
29. AC/DC: Back in Black (1980)
30. Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

31. Ramones: Rocket to Russia (1977)
32. Nirvana: Nevermind (1991)
33. Simon & Garfunkel: Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
34. U2: The Joshua Tree (1987)
35. Guns N’ Roses: Appetite for Destruction (1987)
36. Stevie Wonder: Talking Book (1972)
37. The Police: Synchronicity (1983)
38. Pink Floyd: The Wall (1979)
39. Meat Loaf: Bat Out of Hell (1977)
40. The Beatles: Revolver (1966)

41. Patti Smith: Horses (1975)
42. Bruce Springsteen: Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978)
43. David Bowie: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)
44. Miles Davis: Bitches Brew (1970)
45. Nick Drake: Pink Moon (1972)
46. The Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street (1972)
47. Dr. Dre: The Chronic (1992)
48. The Stooges: Raw Power (1973)
49. Black Sabbath: Paranoid (1970)
50. Prince & the Revolution: Purple Rain (soundtrack, 1984)

51. Sonic Youth: Daydream Nation (1988)
52. The Replacements: Let It Be (1984)
53. Bob Marley & the Wailers: Exodus (1977)
54. The Strokes: Is This It (2001)
55. Prefab Sprout: Steve McQueen (aka “Two Wheels Good”) (1985)
56. The Who: Quadrophenia (1973)
57. Genesis: Genesis (1983)
58. Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (1977)
59. My Bloody Valentine: Loveless (1991)
60. The Band: Music from Big Pink (1968)

61. Green Day: Dookie (1994)
62. Wu-Tang Clan: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
63. R.E.M.: Document (1987)
64. The Doors: The Doors (1967)
65. Arcade Fire: Funeral (2004)
66. Devo: Duty Now for the Future (1979)
67. Leonard Cohen: The Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967)
68. Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)
69. The Smiths: The Smiths (1984)
70. The Beatles: Rubber Soul (1965)

71. Tom Waits: Rain Dogs (1985)
72. Red Hot Chili Peppers: Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)
73. Radiohead: Kid A (2000)
74. Bob Dylan: Blood on the Tracks (1975)
75. Jay-Z: The Blueprint (2001)
76. Sigur Ros: Agaetis Byrjun (1999)
77. Cat Stevens: Tea for the Tillerman (1970)
78. Sly & the Family Stone: There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971)
79. Bjork: Post (1995)
80. Paul Simon: Graceland (1986)

81. Neil Young: Harvest (1972)
82. Smashing Pumpkins: Siamese Dream (1993)
83. John Lennon: Imagine (1971)
84. The Who: Tommy (1969)
85. Michael Jackson: Off the Wall (1979)
86. Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)
87. N.W.A.: Straight Outta Compton (1989)
88. Nine Inch Nails: The Downward Spiral (1994)
89. Beastie Boys: Paul’s Boutique (1989)
90. Refused: The Shape of Punk to Come (1998)

91. The Clash: The Clash (1977)
92. Pavement: Slanted and Enchanted (1992)
93. Parliament: Mothership Connection (1975)
94. Metallica: Kill ‘Em All (1983)
95. Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here (1975)
96. Beck: Midnite Vultures (1999)
97. Elliott Smith: Either/Or (1997)
98. Led Zeppelin: Physical Graffiti (1975)
99. Talking Heads: Fear of Music (1979)
100. Kanye West: The College Dropout (2004)


Friday, September 10, 2010

VH1 – 100 Greatest Artists of All Time

image from vh1.com

This was originally posted on the DMDB Facebook page the week of September 6-10, 2010, when VH1 originally presented this countdown. The five segments and my commentary have been stitched together here as one piece.


September 10, 2010:

The countdown is over. For all its flaws, at least they put the Beatles at #1. They had so many people throughout the countdown singing the praises of Michael Jackson that I was afraid the gloved one was going to trump the Fab Four. Of course, rankings on a list such as this become almost silly to debate, but that would have been a crime! I would agree that MJ has had more impact on the music industry in the last 30 years than any other recording act. However, when one looks beyond 30 years, the title quickly falls to the Beatles or Elvis (sadly rated way too low at #8). All in all, there are some definite head scratchers here (Cheap Trick? Sade?) and the list should be called the “100 Greatest Artists of the Rock Era” or the “100 Greatest Artists of the Last 60 Years”, but there are a lot of deserving artists here.

1. The Beatles
2. Michael Jackson
3. Led Zeppelin
4. Rolling Stones
5. Bob Dylan
6. Jimi Hendrix
7. Prince
8. Elvis Presley
9. James Brown
10. Stevie Wonder
11. Bob Marley
12. David Bowie
13. The Who
14. Nirvana
15. The Beach Boys
16. Madonna
17. Queen
18. Pink Floyd
19. U2
20. Marvin Gaye


September 9, 2010:

Well, instead of continuing to whine about who isn’t on this list, I’ll celebrate my favorite moment of the countdown so far. The reason for making shows like this is to see someone like Run-D.M.C.’s Darryl McDaniel nearly in tears saying that Elton John saved his life. That’s the power of music.

21. Bruce Springsteen
22. The Clash
23. AC/DC
24. The Velvet Underground
25. Chuck Berry
26. Neil Young
27. Aretha Franklin
28. Elton John
29. Radiohead
30. Aerosmith
31. John Lennon
32. Black Sabbath
33. Guns N' Roses
34. Tina Turner
35. Johnny Cash
36. Paul McCartney
37. Fleetwood Mac
38. Sly & The Family Stone
39. The Kinks
40. The Police


September 8, 2010:

Well, for all my bluster about this countdown’s inability to hear a note of music that occurred prior to 1950, they’ve gone and done it! They’ve humiliated me and proven how off I am by reaching WAAAAY back, all the way to…1949. That’s when Ray Charles (#43) first hit the R&B charts with the Maxine Trio and the song “Confession Blues.” My sincerest apologies to VH1 for assuming they couldn’t remember music from more than 60 years ago. Who knew they’d go so far back – to a whopping 61 years ago? What will they think of next? Ranking someone like, oh, I don’t know, Sade, ahead of Little Richard? No! They’d never do that, would they?

41. Van Halen
42. Metallica
43. Ray Charles
44. Joni Mitchell
45. Al Green
46. Ramones
47. Jay-Z
48. Rage Against the Machine
49. Parliament-Funkadelic
50. Sade
51. Billy Joel
52. Beyonce
53. Little Richard
54. Public Enemy
55. Peter Gabriel
56. KISS
57. Iggy & the Stooges
58. Cheap Trick
59. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
60. Whitney Houston


September 7, 2010:

With another 20 artists counted down, there’s still no sign of anything prior to 1950. I’m sure that’s because Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and Hank Williams are in the loftier rungs of the list, right?

61. Cream
62. Genesis
63. The Notorious B.I.G.
64. Talking Heads
65. The Doors
66. Justin Timberlake
67. Coldplay
68. Otis Redding
69. Tupac Shakur
70. Def Leppard
71. R.E.M.
72. Janis Joplin
73. Van Morrison
74. The Cure
75. Rush
76. Run-D.M.C.
77. Lynyrd Skynyrd
78. Judas Priest
79. Eminem
80. Mary J. Blige


September 6, 2010:

Sigh. I love collecting lists – it is the reason for Dave’s Music Database – but VH1’s latest is the kind that leaves me shaking my head and rolling my eyes. VH1 started their countdown Monday night (9/6) that will go all week, one hour each night, revealing #1 on Friday. The list was created by compiling votes from more than 200 of today’s music stars. I intend to blog in what is likely to be excruciating detail over my pet peeves regarding this list, but let me just say for now that I’d just about bet my entire music collection against names like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Beethoven actually making this list.

Here’s the list so far:

81. Abba
82. Steely Dan
83. Earth, Wind & Fire
84. Curtis Mayfield
85. The Band
86. N.W.A.
87. George Michael
88. Bee Gees
89. Beastie Boys
90. Elvis Costello
91. Green Day
92. LL Cool J
93. Pearl Jam
94. Mariah Carey
95. OutKast
96. Journey
97. Pretenders
98. Depeche Mode
99. Daryl Hall & John Oates
100. Alicia Keys

Without going into personal opinions about who is here so far, I can’t help but share the most shocking moment so far: John Oates no longer has a mustache. Suddenly, ‘80s pop music as I knew it has lost all meaning.


Resources and Related Links:

The Greatest Artists of All Time…Or at Least Since 1950

Sigh. I love collecting lists – it is the reason for Dave’s Music Database – but VH1’s latest is the kind that leaves me shaking my head and rolling my eyes. VH1 started their countdown Monday (9/6) and ran it all week, an hour a night, revealing #1 on Friday (9/10). The list was compiled by gathering votes from over 200 of today’s music stars. Check out the list here.

The reason I compile multiple lists and average them together is to weed out some of the idiosyncrasies of individual lists and offer up at least slightly more objective results. VH1’s list suffers from the most gargantuan of the “greatest” list flaws – the absurdly, over-the-top “greatest of all time” claim. Really? All time, huh? Apparently if you look up “all-time” in the VH1 office thesaurus, it lists “last 60 years” as a synonym.

We won’t even get into how most music lists are oblivious to artists who have recorded outside of the Western world and in any language other than English. Even my aggregate lists can’t correct that problem. Sorry, Wei Wei. Maybe you have sold 200 million records – which out-distances the likes of U2, David Bowie, and Prince – but since the non-Chinese speaking world pretty much has no idea who you are, you don’t exist.

Here’s another pet peeve – to me, “artist” implies an individual performer while the more appropriate “act” suggests either an individual or group. That may be more a personal quibble over language, though, so we’ll let it slide.

As long as I’m linguistically nitpicking, though, I’d also prefer a less inflammatory proclamation than “greatest.” The word immediately invites scorn, begging boorish morons to unleash potty mouths on blogs, shredding all those deemed unworthy of a “greatest” tag and crucify the list for overlooking their personal favorites. While a simple title change will not dissuade haters from loudly (and poorly) trumpeting their completely subjective opinions as facts, can we at least go with a title like “The Top 100”? At least that heading implies that the data was gathered in some objective manner and that the list is merely a presentation of those who were the top vote getters.

But let’s go back to that All Time = Last 60 Years point. The oldest act on the list is Ray Charles. His first chart hit goes back to 1951. If we include his work with the Maxine Trio, we can even go back as far as 1949. This means, roughly, that VH1 is unaware of the existence of music prior to the rock and roll era. At least a 1998 list also generated by the network acknowledged Robert Johnson, B.B. King, and Muddy Waters as well. The latter two date to the ‘40s while Johnson goes all the way to 1936. Still, that doesn’t mean that VH1 actually knew these artists made music before 1950. After all, these are generally considered influential acts in the development of rock ‘n’ roll, so maybe VH1 also considers them part of the rock era.

Of course, VH1 just tabulated the results of today’s current recording artists’ votes, so really shouldn’t be held responsible for the callous neglect by today’s musicians of music made before they were born. That being the case, let me offer up a gentle reminder for the next go-round that there is actual documented proof of recorded music prior to 1950. One doesn’t even need to dig through the vaults at the Library of Congress to find them. They are as close as one’s Internet-capable device of choice. Here’s a few acts to check out:

1900s: Billy Murray, Henry Burr, Byron G. Harlan, Arthur Collins
1910s: Al Jolson, Ben Selvin
1920s: Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Paul Whiteman, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo
1930s: Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday
1940s: Nat “King” Cole, Hank Williams

These are just the most notable artists of the era of recorded music prior to the 1950s. Asking these musicians to explore the world before the existence of iPods, CDs, tapes, eight tracks, and phonographs would be roughly the equivalent of asking Sarah Palin to accept that creatures trolled this Earth more than 6000 years ago. Despite the evidence, we’ll continue living in the odd musical vacuum that selects Cheap Trick and LL Cool J as greatest artists of all time while blissfully wandering through life unaware that Beethoven and Mozart ever walked the planet.

Besides, a simple name change to the list can forgive these omissions. Taking into account my other suggestions, how about re-christening the list “The Top 100 Acts of the Rock Era”? That would fix everything, now wouldn’t it?

Well, not exactly. There are some significant acts from the last six decades who are overlooked. First off, back in 1998, even VH1 acknowledged Fats Domino, Buddy Holly, Miles Davis, Sam Cooke, Eric Clapton, the Byrds, Rod Stewart, the Supremes, and the Temptations. Now that a dozen years have passed, apparently these acts’ contributions pale in comparison to the legacies of Sade and the Notorious B.I.G.

I’m picking on VH1 for all this, but these are not unique problems. Listmakers tend to make bold proclamations. Hey, it generates interest and let’s face it, accurate titles like “VH1 Submits a Bunch of Ballots to People Who Make Music So That We Can Compile the Results and Present a Top 100 List of the Results Over Five Nights and Hopefully Make a Lot of Money Off Ad Revenues” just doesn’t roll off the tongue.

Oh, well. Enough whining for now. I’ve got to get to work on the latest DMDB list. Coming soon: “The Latest Top 100 of All Time List Presented by Dave’s Music Database in Hopes of Getting You to Become a Facebook Fan, Regular DMDB Reader, and Eventual Customer for the Slew of DMDB Books I Hope to Publish.” Enjoy!

For daily doses of my musical obsession, check out the Dave’s Music Database Facebook page.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Once Upon a Time in the Pre-MP3 Era

Gather ‘round, children, for a tale of the days of old when music came from stores instead of cyberspace. What now takes up mere megabytes on a hard drive or an iPod once occupied actual physical space – be it piano rolls, sheet music, 78 RPM records, LPs, cassettes, 8-tracks, or compact discs.

The 8-Track Era

My first dip into the music-as-consumable-product pool came in my tween years. It was the late ’70s and the 8-track had dreams of knocking the LP off its throne. The chunky tape owes its existence to the impracticality of blasting Ted Nugent from a record player while tooling around town in a Trans Am. There was a trade-off; 8-tracks erased the luxury of dropping a needle on a specific song or location within one. And while records might scratch, warp, or even break if abused enough, they never punished listeners with loud, annoying ka-klunks mid-song.

With portability being the 8-track’s only pro and me being a few years shy of the teen dream of blasting whatever I chose from my car stereo, I inexplicably dove into the album world via the 8-track. My first album purchase was a K-Tel various artists compilation called High Energy. While mostly disco *ahem* “classics”, it also inexplicably included Styx’s “Renegade”. Why this album rock standard was keeping company with Amii Stewart’s funked-up take of “Knock on Wood” remains a mystery, but it got K-Tel’s grubby hands on my wallet.

The Cassette Is King

With an eye on correcting the 8-track’s flaws, the cassette introduced fast forward and rewind capability and – most importantly – recordability. Now any tune that traversed its way across the radio airwaves was within grasp of any kid with a tape recorder – so long as DJ-interrupted or chopped-off song intros and outros were acceptable.

My first tape garnered me no bragging rights of growth in musical taste. People deserve forgiveness for their first, generally peer-influenced and therefore often dubious, musical purchases. However, my pass had expired by the time I plunked down change for the Xanadu soundtrack, by Olivia Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra. Even ONJ and ELO fans don’t hail it as either’s greatest work. Nonetheless, I’ll confess to still having a “you’ll-always-cherish-your-first-love” fondness for it.

It was during the cassette-dominated first half of the ‘80s, however, that my radio dial shifted from Q104’s top 40 format to the album rock of KY102. Styx’s “Renegade” was no longer the abnormality amongst pop-oriented fare, but the standard bearer. When my friend Nick and I plunged into the buy-12-albums for-a-penny record club, my first acquisitions included Styx’s Paradise Theater (natch), Journey’s Escape, Foreigner 4, REO Speedwagon’s Hi Infidelity, Queen’s Greatest Hits, and J. Geils Band’s Freeze Frame. They didn’t afford me the hip quotient of Elvis Costello or the Clash, but they were a step-up from the Olivia, John Denver, and Neil Diamond fare in my eight-track collection.

My college years significantly expanded my musical palette. My roommate Steve was buying Aerosmith and Deep Purple and I was taping the Rush and Led Zep catalogs thanks to Steve’s head-banging pal Blake.

Ah, but Blake’s was only one music collection. Every new person represented a new audio library. More than once, I drooled my way back to my dorm room with handfuls of tapes borrowed from recent acquaintances surely skeptical about ever seeing their music again. To all the whoever-you-weres out there – thanks for Squeeze, Violent Femmes, the Smiths, the Indigo Girls – all the alternative-rock oriented stuff that most shaped my music personality. And yes, I think I returned everything.

When I wanted to actually buy music, options were limited. With Wal-Mart being my college town’s only music source, I had to satiate my hunger with occasional road trips to Streetside Records in Sedalia with my fellow tune-obsessed buddy Mike, who also conveniently had a car (a Mustang with “Bad Co.” vanity plates, no less).

Marillion, Malls, and Music Exchange

My most important college-era purchase, however, was over Christmas break during my freshman year. That fall, Marillion’s “Kayleigh” mustered a fair amount of radio airplay on KY. I was intrigued by the song, but hesitant to shell out the dough for the whole album. After all, these were pre-Internet days. There was no surfing Amazon.com to hear track samples. There weren’t used-CD stores for test spinning discs via in-store players. One had only the radio and friends to rely on – and if neither of them were playing it, you were out of luck.

However, taking the plunge was softened by my giddiness about being back on my home turf where I could shop at multiple music stores under one roof (kids, they called them malls – they’re now nearly as extinct as the 8-track). Having some Santa stocking money to blow made the art work of the song’s parent album, Misplaced Childhood, even more appealing. Just what was inside this painting of a barefoot kid in a military jacket surrounded by a rainbow, a magpie, and a poppy flower? Well, when I plunked my cash on the Camelot counter, I took the leap into what became my favorite album of all-time.

Obviously, not every risk has paid off so swimmingly. I’ve nabbed my share of duds that gathered dust on the shelf until eventual banishment to the discard pile. Still, even they resulted in fond memories. The artsy part of town that housed most of Kansas City’s bars also offered up the metro area’s best options for purchasing used music. I’d traipse down to Westport, usually with Steve #2 (so named here to distinguish him from Steve #1, my college roommate), to trade my cast-offs in hopes of venturing home with a new batch of listening treasures.

Steve #2 was quite the sport to tolerate my obsessive need to hit not one, but several stores on each spree. Music Exchange was a given, but there were other shops to hit as well. Steve #2 also patiently endured my methodical search through everything from A to Z. I often left with a dozen or more tapes. I might grab up four or five Sammy Hagar or Bob Seger albums, not because I wanted their complete discographies, but because I was trying to compile anthologies. Once I’d recorded the requisite tunes on to my own greatest-hits collection, back to the discard pile the source material went.

The Dawn of the Disc

I treaded reluctantly into the CD age. As music collectors can attest, there’s nothing quite so maddening as having to overhaul one’s music library to stay technologically current. My first venture into the world of discs was with Marillion’s 1987 album Clutching at Straws, the follow-up to Misplaced Childhood. I didn’t actually own a CD player, but had to have the bonus track not on my cassette version. Thankfully, the Steve who lived across the hall (Steve #3 for those keeping track), let me listen on his CD player.

Needless to say, it was far from my final CD. In my post-collegiate twenty-something years, I became a disc fiend. What used to be pilgrimages to Westport were now weekly treks to Disc Traders (often right after a trip to the library to read up on new releases in Billboard magazine). I was a regular on a first-name basis with the staff and bought more than a few of their recommendations. Thanks, Dan! Thanks, Saul!

A dozen years and over a thousand CDs later, I welcomed the new millennium as a newlywed and a thirty-something. I was now supposed to limit my music spending to only a handful of albums a year, and all by artists I’d first heard 20 years ago. However, music obsession trumps age and I continued to spend every bit of leisurely cash on music by new and established artists.

The Revolution Will Be Converted to MP3 Files

Another music revolution accompanied my life changes. This time, however, it came not at the hands of big-time record execs, but college student and computer programmer Shawn Fanning. The recording industry tried desperately to put the Napster genie back in the bottle. The same companies who shamelessly milked the record-buying public through the LP, 8-track, cassette, and CD eras now made the brilliant move of suing their customer base for illegal downloading and copyright infringement. This was the kind of PR nightmare that made the makers of New Coke breathe sighs of relief that finally, for the first time since 1985, someone else could be the brunt of all the worst-marketing-moves-ever jokes.

I expanded my music library by leaps and bounds. Initially, I burned my legal and ill-gotten booty onto disc (a Clapton in the ‘90s collection was the first CD I made). Eventually, though, the reality of the new age dawned on me and my computer hard drive now houses more music (35,497 songs as of this writing) than my wall of CDs.

What’s next? A card that fits in your wallet that lets you access your entire collection anywhere you go? Music on-demand just by thinking a tune and having it play in your brain? Who knows. But I’ll be ready to overhaul my collection again when the time comes.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Arcade Fire Release Third Album, Find Grammy Gold: August 3, 2010

Originally posted August 3, 2011.



In 1985, the U.K. launched the Brit Awards. Initially they acknowledged only British works, but in 2001 added an international album category. These awards had neither the prestige nor history of the Grammys, which were first handed out in 1959. They were, however, edgier and more in touch with current popular music.

The Grammys and Brit Awards co-existed for 35 years before they crossed paths and both crowned the same album as king of the hill – Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs. It certainly fit with the hip quotient of the Brit Awards, but giving the nod to this fresh-faced band from the indie scene was a surprise coming from the notoriously stuffy Grammys.


Click photo for more about the album.


Then again, the album racked up Album of the Year titles left and right in 2010. The Suburbs has already taken up residence as one of the top 1000 albums of all time according to Dave’s Music Database. It is one of only two albums a year old or less to achieve such a lofty status; the other is Adele’s 21.

Even as they chalked up critical acclaim, they found found commercial success. The Suburbs went to #1 on the Billboard album chart without sacrificing its indie sound – even if purists immediately jettison any indie band who achieves a modicum of success. (Check out my column for PopMatters delving into this topic in more detail).

The album speaks to “anyone who remembers excitedly jumping into a friend’s car on a sleepy Friday night armed with heartache, hope, and no agenda.” JM Frontman Win Butler said the album “is neither a love letter to, nor an indictment of, the suburbs – it’s a letter from the suburbs.” WK Andrea Warner from Exclaim! calls the album “a perfect actualization of the suburbs as metaphor for the classic North American dream.” WK

It is “serious without being preachy, cynical without dissolving into apathy, and whimsical enough to keep both sentiments in line.” JM Pitchfork.com’s Ian Cohen says the band proves that they can “make grand statements without sounding like they’re carrying the weight of the world.” WK NME’s Emily Mackay said it is “an album that combines mass accessibility with much greater ambition. Pretty much perfect.” WK




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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Eminem and Rihanna Hit #1 with “Love the Way You Lie”: July 31, 2010

Originally posted July 31, 2011.



In 2010, singer Rihanna was a tabloid fixation thanks to a very public domestic violence incident with R&B singer Chris Brown. In the aftermath, rapper Eminem tapped her as the guest vocalist on a song about – of all things – abusive relationships. As Rihanna said, though, it was something that she and Eminem “both experienced…on different sides…It was believable for us to do a record like that…He pretty much just broke down the cycle of domestic violence.” SF

As BBC Radio 1 said, Eminem “understands the psychology well, and can express the feelings with enormous clarity.” WK Billboard’s Michael Menachem added that, “Rihanna’s chorus is exquisitely melodic and surprisingly hopeful, complementing the turmoil of Eminem’s dark, introspective rant.” WK

Em’s rant and Rihanna’s chorus went all the way to #1, the fourth time for him and seventh for her. Since then, she’s graced the top of the Billboard Hot 100 three more times, making her the youngest artist (23) in the chart’s history to land ten songs in the peak position.

The video featured actors Dominic Monaghan and Megan Fox in a love-hate relationship. It broke YouTube’s record for most hits in 24 hours with 6.6 million logged 18 million views in five days. Within a year, it had been seen 360 million times. WK



The song was named Song of the Year by Dave’s Music Database and is in the DMDB list of the top 100 songs of the 21st century. It is also one of the top 100 best-selling songs in the world. Among other honors and awards – it was the United Kingdom’s best-selling single of 2010 and won awards as Billboard’s Top Rap Song, Soul Train’s Best Hip-Hop Song of the Year, and People’s Choice awards for Favorite Song and Favorite Music Video. The song was also nominated for Grammys for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Rap Song.


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Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Top 100 Bassists of All Time

This list was created by averaging 21 lists (see sources at bottom of page). Groups or performers most associated with the bassist are listed in parentheses.

1. Geddy Lee (Rush)
2. Paul McCartney (Beatles/Wings)
3. Michael “Flea” Balzary (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
4. John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)
5. Jack Bruce (Cream)
6. John Entwistle (The Who)
7. Les Claypool (Primus)
8. James Jamerson (Funk Brothers)
9. Larry Graham (Sly & the Family Stone/Graham Central Station)
10. Jaco Pastorius

11. Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath)
12. Chris Squire (Yes)
13. Tony Levin (King Crimson)
14. Bootsy Collins (Funkadelic)
15. Cliff Lee Burton (Metallica)
16. Louis Johnson (Brothers Johnson)
17. Steve Harris (Iron Maiden)
18. Stanley Clarke
19. Sting (The Police)
20. Donald “Duck” Dunn (Booker T & the MGs)

21. John Deacon (Queen)
22. Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead)
23. Bernard Edwards (Chic)
24. Charles Mingus
25. Victor Wooten (Bela Fleck)
26. Mike Watt (The Minutemen)
27. Jack Casady (Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna)
28. Roger Waters (Pink Floyd)
29. Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy)
30. Bill Wyman (The Rolling Stones)

31. Marcus Miller (Miles Davis)
32. Aston “Family Man” Barrett (Bob Marley & the Wailers)
33. Adam Clayton (U2)
34. Mike Gordon (Phish)
35. Willie Dixon
36. John Wetton (King Crimson/Uriah Heep/Asia)
37. Rocco Prestia (Tower of Power)
38. John Myung (Dream Theater)
39. Chuck Rainey
40. Mark King (Level 42)

41. George Porter, Jr. (Meters)
42. Bob Babbitt (Funk Brothers)
43. Tim Commerford (Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave)
44. Peter Hook (New Order)
45. Tim Bogert (Beck, Bogert & Appice/Cactus/Vanilla Fudge)
46. Ryan Martinie (Mudvayne)
47. Duff McKagen (Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver)
48. Robert Truillo (Suicidal Tendencies/Metallica)
49. Tom Hamilton (Aerosmith)
50. Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big/Steve Vai)

51. Paul Simonon (The Clash)
52. Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake & Palmer)
53. Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead)
54. Oteill Burbridge (Allman Brothers Band)
55. Jason Newsted (Metallica)
56. Leon Wilkeson (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
57. Billy Cox (Band of Gypsys)
58. Jah Wobble (Public Image Ltd.)
59. Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads)
60. Pino Palladino (Eric Clapton/Jeff Beck/The Who)

61. Bill Black (Elvis Presley)
62. John McVie (Fleetwood Mac)
63. Barry Oakley (Allman Brothers Band)
64. Stuart Hamm (Joe Satriani)
65. Andy Rouke (The Smiths)
66. Matt Freeman (Rancid)
67. Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam)
68. Timothy B. Schmidt (Eagles)
69. David Ellefson (Megadeth)
70. Steve Priest (Sweet)

71. Noel Redding (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)
72. Mike “Tre Cool” Dirnt (Green Day)
73. Simon Gallup (The Cure)
74. Carol Kaye
75. Krist Novoselic (Nirvana)
76. Reggie “Fieldy” Arvizu (Korn)
77. Roger Glover (Deep Purple)
78. Chris Hillman (The Byrds/Flying Burrito Brothers)
79. Mike Rutherford (Genesis)
80. P-Nut (311)

81. Verdine White (Earth, Wind & Fire)
82. Bill Gould (Faith No More)
83. Rick James
84. Justin Chancellor (Tool)
85. Andy Fraser (Free)
86. Bruce Thomas (Elvis Costello & the Attractions)
87. Nathan East (Kenny Loggins/Fourplay/Eric Clapton)
88. Pete Wentz (Fall Out Boy)
89. Bobby Sheehan (Blues Traveler)
90. Kim Deal (Pixies)

91. Gary “Mani” Mounfield (Stone Roses)
92. John Alderete (Racer X/Mars Volta)
93. Charlie Haden (Ornette Coleman/Pat Metheny)
94. Michael Anthony (Van Halen/Chickenfoot)
95. Cliff Williams (AC/DC)
96. Phil Kingsbury
97. Ray Brown
98. Chris Wolstenholme (Muse)
99. Jerry “Fingers” Jemmott (Lionel Hampton/Herbie Hancock/George Benson)
100. Jeff Berlin


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Friday, July 16, 2010

Music Goes to the Movies

image from musiccareers.net

There is a moment in Pirate Radio (2009) – an inexplicably deleted scene relegated to DVD extras status – that nails the joy of being a music geek better than anything since High Fidelity (2000). Academy Award winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman leads his band of fellow DJs through London in the late ‘60s on a bachelor party night of depravity. They pause for reflection across the street from Abbey Road studios. Hoffman points out that the Beatles might be in there recording at that very minute. In a salute to the power of music, he states “there’ll always be poverty and pain and war and injustice in this world, but there will, thank the Lord, also always be the Beatles.”

Similarly, there will always be movies about poverty and pain and war and injustice, but there will also be those about the Beatles. And Elvis. And the Rolling Stones and the Who and Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash and Ray Charles and…Anvil.

Anvil? In the mid ‘80s, these metal-also-rans seemed poised to take over the world alongside contemporaries like the Scorpions, Whitesnake, and Bon Jovi. The where-are-they-now documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil (2008) is a real-life This Is Spinal Tap (1984) that doubles as a heartwarming tearjerker about a group that should have hung it up years ago, but just can’t abandon the dream that they still might make it big. Singer Steve “Lips” Kudlow says that jumping off a cliff would be the easy way out to which drummer Robb Reiner replies, “You won’t jump off the cliff ‘cause I’ll stop you.”

Of course, music-oriented movies aren’t just about rock ‘n’ roll. The relationship between the two mediums dates to roughly the births of both art forms. The first couple of decades of the 20th century saw the simultaneous rise of recorded music and the addition of sound to film, the latter most notably in 1927’s The Jazz Singer. As soon as Hollywood saw dollar signs and discovered the power of pilfering instead of creating something new, they raided Broadway. If it was big on stage, it could be big on screen (1933’s 42nd Street, 1936’s Show Boat, 1949’s South Pacific, 1956’s The King and I).

Disney spawned its own version, complete with animated princesses, woodland creatures, and puppets (1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1940’s Pinocchio, 1940’s Fantasia, 1941’s Dumbo, 1942’s Bambi, 1950’s Cinderella).

When Elvis started swiveling his hips the musical gasped for breath. The rock ‘n’ roll era saw the arrival of vanity projects from the genre’s biggest stars. The King of Rock and Roll churned out Jailhouse Rock (1957) and a slew of other B-grade movies while the Beatles made A Hard Day’s Night (1964), which some call the greatest music movie ever made.

The traditional movie musical sounded a few last hurrahs (1961’s West Side Story, 1965’s The Sound of Music) before going largely mute until the new millennium (2001’s Moulin Rouge!, 2002’s Chicago). In the meantime, though, Hollywood figured out how to marry the musical to rock ‘n’ roll (1973’s Jesus Christ Superstar, 1979’s Hair) and churn out celluloid treatments of classic rock albums (The Who’s 1975 Tommy, Pink Floyd’s 1982 The Wall). The Wall and Heavy Metal (1981) also de-Disneyed the cartoon world with decidedly non-kid-oriented animated fare.

Shooting a dose of electric guitar into the film community didn’t just banish the musical to has-been status, but also birthed new genres. The tradition of seeing rock legends on stage and off kicked into high gear with 1967’s Don’t Look Back, 1970’s Woodstock, and 1970’s Gimme Shelter and has continued to the present with the aforementioned Anvil movie, Michael Jackson’s This Is It (2009), and It Might Get Loud (2008). How can you not be awed into rock star worship by the scene in the latter movie of Jack White crafting an electric guitar out of scrap material?

Of course, reality isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be so the film industry also embraced the biopic. This allowed film makers to more liberally edit which details of real-life personalities to embellish and which to forget. While telling the story of a musical legend was nothing new – the story of composer George M. Cohan in 1942’s Yankee Doodle Dandy comes to mind – the zest and decadence of rock star lives (1986’s Sid & Nancy, 1987’s La Bamba, 1989’s Great Balls of Fire) gave the format a new twist, for better or worse. On the plus side, the past decade has rewarded us with Academy-Award-winning performances in the depictions of musical icons Ray Charles (2004’s Ray!) and Johnny Cash (2005’s Walk the Line).

On the negative side, the rock-and-roll lifestyle is little more than a cliché in other movies. The Runaways (2010) had its moments, including Kristen Stewart’s spot-on Joan Jett look, but what should have been deeper commentary on the exploitation of girls in a predominantly male-driven business was yet another look-how-drugs-destroyed-them cautionary tale.

Then there was Crazy Heart (2009). While seemingly about a fictional character, it played like a biopic about Kris Kristofferson in an alternative world where he:

a) passes out nightly in a drunken or drugged stupor
b) is relegated to performing in small-town seedy bars and bowling alleys
c) has an inevitable meltdown on stage as “a” clashes headlong into “b”
d) still commands more than his share of sexual conquests no matter how old, fat, or drug-addled he becomes

Don’t get me wrong – Jeff Bridges earned his long overdue Best Actor Oscar – but did we need another musical journey through the life of a damaged soul who beds much younger women on his hopeful road to redemption?

Movies don’t always take music so seriously. The Blues Brothers (1980) reminded us just how fun music is. This Is Spinal Tap delighted in its absurdities. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) gave us the full-on participation of live performance in all its camp and bad movie-making glory.

Speaking of camp, the ‘80s saw the MTV-inspired era of “is this a film or one big soundtrack promo?” with Flashdance (1983), Footloose (1984), and Dirty Dancing (1987). Not that light, adolescent-oriented fare was new – Elvis’ movies weren’t exactly competing for Oscars and the Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon music-fueled Beach Party romps of the ‘60s weren’t focusing energy on commentary about the political relationships of the world’s super powers.

Of course, the very birth of rock ‘n’ roll, and subsequently its introduction in film, is tied to marketing to teens. Bill Haley & the Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” provided the soundtrack for the opening of 1955’s Blackboard Jungle. While the movie aimed for anti-social commentary, it incited its audience to riot more than ponder the consequences of delinquent behavior.

Okay, so what’s the point of this music-goes-to-the-movies history lesson? Well, the first point is a music-goes-to-the-movies history lesson. Second, though, is this: at its worst, music-meets-film can evoke eye-rolls with over-the-top portrayals of people inspired to delinquency or decadence. At its best, however, a cherished musical film moment serves up a metaphor for pondering the human condition.

It doesn’t have to be that deep, though. Sometimes a movie simply prompts people to dance in the aisles or be transported beyond their surroundings for the moment. One afternoon, my sons and I were walking home from school during a light drizzle. We were all equipped with umbrellas but I soon noticed my boys twirling theirs on the ground and dancing around them instead of holding them aloft. Sure enough, their impromptu rain-soaked musical number was inspired by – what else? Singin’ in the Rain.


Friday, July 9, 2010

The Birth of the Rock Era (July 9, 1955)

Note: this blog entry has been modified since its original post on July 9, 2010. To see the original, check out the DMDB blog archives on Facebook.



Happy birthday, rock and roll! On July 9, 1955, Bill Haley & the Comets hit #1 on the Billboard singles chart with “Rock Around the Clock”. In honor of that occasion, this blog entry is an excerpt from the Dave’s Music Database book The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era 1954-1999.

While multiple songs claim they birthed rock-n-roll, “Clock” is generally regarded as the place keeper that separates the pre-rock era from the rock era. As the best selling rock record of all time, KL it makes for a more than suitable launching pad.



The song focused more on the bass and drums than the melody, KL making for a song with youth appeal in an era dominated by adult contemporary fare. Initially, the record company didn’t know what to do with it, calling the single a “novelty foxtrot.” SF

Although he started as a yodeler (!), Haley converted to rock when he saw its effect on audiences. RS500 In 1953, Freedman, a 63-year-old Tin Pan Alley writer, and Myers, Haley’s agent, reworked the blues number “My Daddy Rocks Me with a Steady Roll” for Haley. SJ Dave Miller, who signed Haley to Holiday Records, wouldn’t let him record it because he disliked Myers. BR1 Sonny Dae & His Nights tackled it in October 1953, SF but it flopped. Haley got another shot when he jumped to Decca and “Clock” landed on the B-side of novelty song “Thirteen Women.” SF



“Rock Around the Clock” as featured in ‘The Blackboard Jungle’


When featured in the movie The Blackboard Jungle, its rioting teen audience trumpeted it as their theme for alienation and hostility. SJ Billboard’s Top 40 chart was only a few months old SF when this went #1, making it a signpost for the birth of rock-n-roll and top 40.

Haley’s music was more country-oriented and he was plump, balding, and over thirty, so his teen idol appeal was limited, but Haley has said “‘I started it all. They can’t take that away from me.’” HL The song was revived in 1974 as TV series Happy Days’ opening theme.



“Rock Around the Clock” as featured in ‘Happy Days’



Resources and Related Links:
  • the Dave’s Music Database book The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era 1954-1999
  • DMDB music maker encyclopedia entry for Bill Haley & the Comets
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2007). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (4th edition). New York, NY; Billboard Books. Page 1.
  • HL Michael Heatley/Spencer Leigh (1998). Behind the Song: The Stories of 100 Great Pop & Rock Classics. Page 186.
  • KL Jon Kutner/Spencer Leigh. (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits. Page 35.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (2004). ”The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
  • SF Songfacts.com
  • SH Arnold Shaw (1974). The Rockin’ ’50s. Page 138.
  • SJ Bob Shannon/John Javna (1986). Behind the Hits: Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll. Page 171.




Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Styx Defense


Check out these books by Dave Whitaker available through DavesMusicDatabase.com or Amazon.


Also check the Dave’s Music Database Facebook page for daily music-related posts.





Sparked by a Facebook post, I gloriously came to the defense of my first favorite band – Styx. In the world of musical journalism, professing a love of Styx is somewhat akin to telling the science world that evolutionism is bogus.

To be fair, in his original post on his Todays Song Is ... fan page, Michael Crawley acknowledges the dichotomy of fan love vs. critical drubbing. In picking Styx’s “Suite Madame Blue” as the song of the day, he says it “is steeped in the Yes/Zeppelin fusion that was attractive early on but got old right about the time ‘Blue Collar Man’ hit the airwaves. I do love this song, but it’s sorta like an old girlfriend who later went around the block a few too many times.”



My response: “Critics be damned. Styx was my first favorite band and I’ll always like them.” I’d posted a similar sentiment as far back as September 5, 2009: “Styx may get mocked for being at the forefront of the late-‘70s/early ‘80s stadium rock movement, but they were my first favorite band and Paradise Theater was my first favorite album. You never get that out of your system!”


Click photo for more about ‘Paradise Theater’.


Michael was one of my first fans when I started my Dave’s Music Database Facebook page. Between our comments on each other’s pages, I’ve probably shared more musical dialogue with Michael than anyone in the last six months. We share a mutual respect for passion over music and, so far, have not come to cyberspace blows over musical opinions.

Having said all that, I still felt like a dagger had been plunged into my soul (okay, in reality I only winced slightly) with his comment that “from Pieces of Eight on they kinda sucked IMHO.” I declined retaliating that “Babe”, off the follow-up 1979 Cornerstone album, was my first “official” favorite song. Such an admission would have required 1) confessing that I liked such an unabashedly saccharine song and, 2) acknowledging that oh-so-many-years-ago I launched my own weekly music chart and that “Babe” was the maiden chart topper.



Iinstead I boldly and loudly proclaimed that Paradise Theater was one of my top 5 favorite albums. Okay, truth be told, I followed my declaration with “bows head in shame.”

I didn’t advocate that “The Best of Times”, “Too Much Time on My Hands”, and “Rockin’ the Paradise” have become deserved album rock classics since airplay doesn’t equal critical acclaim. I didn’t respond that this was a #1 album (their solitary chart-topper, in fact) and fourth consecutive triple-platinum album. That might win an argument over the album’s commercial success, but it doesn’t go far in proving its critical worth.

Since great artwork doesn’t equal great music, I also didn’t gush about the album packaging with a front picture of Chicago’s Paradise Theater in its prime paired with a back cover of it long past its glory days. Similarly, while I was originally intrigued by the album’s theme – a lament about abandoning the old in favor of the new – I realize now how loose and unoriginal the concept was.

Instead, I quoted from Steve Almond’s Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, a book from a self-proclaimed “Drooling Fanatic” and an inspiration for a previous DMDB blog entry (“The Musical Hierarchy Ladder”). Among his humorous essays is a defense of Paradise Theater in which he admits “I loved Styx and...still love Styx and not ironically either.” He says that even though “Styx has become the mullet of bands”, he still feels good when he listens to Paradise Theater.


Buy the book.


So do I. That’s the thing about loving a band – you love them regardless of their critical status or commercial clout. You love them because – well, just because you love them. Almond suggests that critics would do well to be more open-minded, stating that “if the human ear is given a chance, not cowed into snobbery, it can find rewards in almost any form of music.”

The discussion Michael and I started on his Facebook page carried over to mine when I professed my love of Tears for Fears’ Songs from the Big Chair. In defending the album, I said I’d use “the Styx defense”, my earlier declaration that one likes what one likes, critics be damned. On Michael’s page, I originally quoted another Almond line, which should be the mantra for all people ever faced with defending music that they love: “you can’t tell someone his or her ears are wrong.”

To Michael’s credit, this was his response on his page to my defense of Styx: “I close this with a tidbit from Cole or Dylan Sprouse when they played Julian on the movie Big Daddy – Styx is the greatest band in the world and they only got a bad rep because most critics are cynical A$$holes!”

That’s good enough for me. I’ll close with that, too.

This essay, “The Musical Hierarchy Ladder”, and more are included in the book ‘No One Needs 21 Versions of ‘Purple Haze’…And Other Essays from a Musical Obsessive’. Click for more info..




Resources and Related Links:



Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Musical Hierarchy Ladder


Check out these books by Dave Whitaker available through DavesMusicDatabase.com or Amazon.


Also check the Dave’s Music Database Facebook page for daily music-related posts.



Thanks to Steve Almond’s book Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, I’ve pondered my status as what Almond calls a “Drooling Fanatic.” Almond describes them as people “who walk around with songs ringing in our ears at all hours, who acquire albums compulsively, …and cannot resist telling other people – people frankly not that interested – what they should be listening to and why.”

This got me pondering. “Drooling Fanatics” or music geeks, have heads full of knowledge that no one else wants. They obsess about albums that no one else owns and blabber about bands no one has heard of. They may even play an instrument – although poorly enough that no one has ever paid money to hear them. However, this person may have made money as – horror of horrors, a music critic.

Even with all those strikes against them, the music geek is NOT the bottom of the barrel. But before railing on those who don’t even deserve the DF’s respect, let’s “oooh” and “aaah” at those on top of the musical hierarchy ladder. This ladder falls into four basic categories, which, in my true music geek nature, I will then subcategorize.


Those Who Create Music

The Star. Has had actual success making a living as a musician – and we’re not talking the weekly 7:00 Friday slot at some local pub while making one’s true living at a print shop. No, no. This is someone who can actually feed, clothe, and house him or herself based entirely on money made from playing music.

The Performer. Okay, these are the guys who still work at the print shop while moonlighting at that local pub. They’ve never made it big and probably never will, but they can boast to having done paying gigs, even if it all got blown on beer before the night was through (or the payment actually was beer).

The Instrumentalist. Whether by piano lessons that Mom insisted would build character or by noodling around on a guitar for hours while other high schoolers were going to football games and proms and generally pursuing some semblance of a social life, this person can play some kind of instrument in such a manner that another human being can actually identify what is being played.

The Singer. This isn’t as simple as the person who warbled in the shower or performed concerts to an audience comprised only of oneself in the bathroom mirror. No, this person pretty much has to be credentialed in some manner – they’ve had formal training, they can boast of getting a 1 at state, they were in a choir, something. Building up alcohol-inspired courage to get on stage at karaoke night on a bet does NOT qualify one as a singer.


Those Who Possess the Ability to Pass on Music

The Teacher. You know those piano lessons you took for three years from about age 8 to 11? This was your torturer, the person who made you do scales while you dreamed of being the next Elton John or Billy Joel. This was also that choir teacher in 10th grade who coached your way to state while you were forced to approximate Celine Dion with your vocal gymnastics.

The Scenester. This person not only knows who’s performing at every local dive in town, but they’ve been to all of them. They boast of number one status for some local band that is so local that anyone beyond a 25-mile radius has never heard of them. For that matter, most people within that radius don’t known anything of the band, either.

The DJ. This could be either a radio disc jockey or the turntable spinner at a dance club. These people probably began as scenesters and, most likely, are continuing to build that cred but now getting paid while they do it. I’m not sure the wedding DJ fits here, however. The person who thrusts “The Chicken Dance” on the world over and over has to suffer by dropping a few more notches on the musical hierarchy ladder.


Those Who Possess the Ability to Trivialize Music to Death

The Musicologist. This person may not be able to tell you the difference between a bass clef and a treble clef, but they will be able to dissect in great detail a bootleg of a 1995 Phish concert in which the band played a 15-minute rendition of “Split Open and Melt.”

The Collector. It’s all about the numbers, folks. While the musicologist may have 125 bootlegs of the Grateful Dead and little else, the Collector is more prone to boast of an album collection of at least four figures. This person has probably also made more than a few mix tapes over the years.

For sake of full disclosure, this is basically where I, your humble author, would fall. I have no musical ability or talent and can be dumbfounded by even the simplest of music theory discussions. I can, however, generally point out a CD or two in most friends’ and family members’ collections which I made for them. I also have more Marillion and Kevin Gilbert albums than most people you’ll ever meet. Who are they, you ask? Exactly.


Those Who Possess the Ability to Strip Music of All Enjoyment Whatsoever

The Critic. Likely a wannabe performer, instrumentalist, or singer. Almost definitely a scenester, musicologist and collector all rolled into one. However, the critic has destroyed any status any of these higher states might have afforded him by presuming, and pretentiously so, to have an opinion on music far greater than, well, anyone else’s. They relish in pointing out others’ poor tastes while touting the merits of their favorite indie-rock band flavor of the month. The worst kind of critic even gets paid to do this.

The music geek is generally a mix of the three elements above. Maybe this person has dabbled in teaching or even performing, thus lifting his or her status even higher. However, all credibility is gone and the music geek becomes the absolute bottom of the barrel if he or she should stoop so low as to become…

The Executive. The only person more loathed in the music world than a critic is the suit – the person paid the big bucks by some major record company to be a tastemaker. This generally means plugging into the next big thing which basically means finding what can best be marketed to a tween, teen, and/or adult market. If you are over 30, your musical dollar means nothing to the music exec, but the concert promoter will happily take your dough whenever your favorite geezer act trots its twenty-third trek across the United States in support of their eight-album discography – of which the last album was released six years ago.

Digital Haters. This is a special breed, generally a mix of the critic and the executive. This is NOT an assessment of those capable of lengthy rants about how much warmer and cleaner music sounds on LP; that’s more musicologist territory. Similarly, those independent record companies and music stores who still actually love music more than money are exempt from this category.

No, digital haters are those industry folks who continuously whine about how digital music is destroying the music industry. They rail on fans (or in the case of the RIAA, even sue them) for ruining the industry by picking and choosing only certain songs by artists (and often downloading them for free) instead of buying the long-overpriced album that the record companies shoved down people’s throats for so many years. Check your bank accounts – if your pockets are lined with money made from blockbuster albums forced on the public in the ‘90s, then hush. You “stole” a lot more money from fans than they’ve taken from you.


And on that happy note, we come to an end of this, no doubt, inspiring guide to those who pump music full of soul and those who suck it back out again. Worthy of note – I started this essay while midway through Almond’s Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life and later stumbled across his own chapter (“On the Varieites of Fanatical Experience”) which charts similar territory. Of course, you’ll have to shell out some bucks to read his opinion, while my musical brain droppings are, for now, still completely free. Someday, I too hope to reach the level of a Steve Almond where people willingly fork over their hard-earned cash for my musical opinions and observations. Beware – the world will probably come to an end shortly after.

For daily doses of my musical obsession, check out Dave's Music Database on Facebook.