On this day in 1984, arguably the greatest concert film ever made, Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense, premiered. The film was directed by Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, a trio of Neil Young documentaries) and shot during three concerts at Hollywood's Pantages Theater in December of 2003. Along with being a compelling piece of art in itself, the movie was also groundbreaking in that it was the first made with all digital audio.
The film was also noteworthy due to Demme and the band's avoidance of concert movie cliches. The audience was barely shown; no color lighting was used onstage; there were no fast edits, behind the scenes footage, interviews or close ups of intense guitar soloing; and crew members are shown shuffling set props and equipment on and off the stage (instead of the usual "It's all magic!" approach).
Here's a song from the flick, "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)," from the Speaking in Tongues album (which was the record the band was touring when the film was shot).
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 24 birthday include: Jazz tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson (1937); singer/actress Barbra Streisand (1942); legendary producer (Bowie, T. Rex, Sparks, Thin Lizzy) Tony Visconti (1944); drummer for classic rockers CCR, Doug Clifford (1945); bassist for New Wave/Pop group Blondie, Nigel Harrison (1951); Punk trailblazer with The Damned, Raymond Burns, better known to the world as Captain Sensible (1954); singer/bassist for ’80s rockers Knight Ranger, Jack Blades (1954); drummer for The Cure (1984-1993), Boris Williams (1957); singer for underrated "really AltCountry" band Tarnation, Paula Frazer (1963); bassist for eclectic rockers Faith No More, Billy Gould (1963); Pop superstar (and American Idol's primary "success story" testimonial) Kelly Clarkson (1982); singer for Pop/Rock band All American Rejects, Tyson Ritter (1984) and Alt music pioneer with Bauhaus, Tones on Tail and Love and Rockets, David J (1957).
Born David John Haskins (his younger brother, Kevin Haskins, was also drummer in Bauhaus, Tones and L&R), J — like Peter Hook of New Order/Joy Division — had a very distinctive sound, which is rare for a bassist. Never one to rest on his laurels, J seems to be in a consistent state of creativity, releasing records and recording with numerous collaborators outside of the Bauhaus/L&R realm. Late last year, J released his latest solo album (the first for him in eight years), Not Long for This World, and staged the premiere of his avant-garde play, The Chanteuse and the Devil's Muse, based on The Black Dahlia murders.
J — who also wrote and sang several Love and Rockets songs (including the hit "No New Tale to Tell") — has benefited greatly from Kickstarter, the website that helps artists find funding for projects via fan contributions. Both the play and his latest solo album were funded with Kickstarter. (As if that wasn't plenty on his plate, around the same time, J also staged the one-woman show he wrote and directed, Silver for Gold: The Odyssey of Edie Sedgwick. Check out J's site for a look at/listen to more of his recent projects.)
Here's J's Kickstarter video for Not Long, as well as the track, "Spalding Gray Can’t Swim."
On this day in 1981, The Survivors Live, an album featuring Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, was recorded in West Germany. The story goes that the three artists — who all started out together on the trailblazing Sun Records — were touring Europe at the same time and Lewis and Perkins joined Cash at a concert on their day off. The trio reportedly played the concert without rehearsing, performing several of each others well known tunes and covers like the finale, "I Saw the Light," a Hank Williams standard (listen below). The threesome were 3/4 of the "Million Dollar Quartet," named for a legendary recording session in 1956 that featured Perkins, Lewis, Cash and some fella named Elvis Presley (The Survivors name, obviously, a reference to Presley's absence; he died four years earlier).
The trio would get together one last time for a recording. The 1986 album Class of ’55 also featured Roy Orbison (who, coincidentally, would have turned 76 today).
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 23 birthday include early Boogie Woogie piano pioneer "Cow Cow" Davenport (1894); Rock legend Roy Orbison (1936); violinist for the ’70s version of Prog aces King Crimson, David Cross (1949); musician/writer/producer (Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin) Narada Michael Walden (1952); late, longtime Def Leppard guitarist Steve Clark (1960); stylish former bassist for Interpol, Carlos "D." Dengler (1974); and singer and guitarist for Icelandic Post Rock group Sigur Ros, Jónsi (1975).
Jónsi provides the bowed guitar and falsetto vocals for Sigur Ros (among other things), which has been an internationally acclaimed band for the past decade or so with their enrapturing, cinemascopic sound. The band's new album, Valtari, is due May 28 and, this July, Sigur Ros is embarking on a very brief North American tour.
If you are unable to make it to one of the nine North American dates announced thus far, this Friday you will be able to experience an artsy, quality approximation of the Sigur Ros live show right here in Cincy. Earlier this month, as part of the auxiliary programming related to its current Spectacle music video exhibition, downtown’s Contemporary Arts Center welcomed in award-winning singer/songwriter Feist and music video director Martin de Thurah for a special screening and talk. This Friday, the CAC welcomes another music video auteur, Vincent Morisset, who will present a screen of the widely acclaimed black-and-white Sigur Rós concert film titled Inni (Morisset also made the Sigur Rós flick Heima.)
The movie screens at 6:30 p.m., followed by a discussion with Morisset about the Sigur Rós projects, as well as his stunning music video work, including Arcade Fire’s riveting “interactive” video, “Sprawl II.” The screening and chat are free to attend with regular gallery admission ($7.50; free for members). Click here for more details.
Below, you can check out the trailer for Inni and also register to win a signed Inni poster (the drawing for the winner will be done at the screening). Just enter your email address below.
On this day in 1939, Adolf Hitler's 50th birthday was a national holiday in Germany. It was also the day Billie Holiday recorded her version of the stirring "Strange Fruit," which some consider the first Civil Rights protest song/anthem. Originally a poem written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish high school teacher in New York (who later adopted the children of convicted spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg), about the lynching of black people. Some believe he was inspired to action after seeing a photo of a 1930 lynching in Marion, Ind. The poem was published in a teacher's union magazine in 1936 and Meeropol later set it to music (despite claims that it was actually Holiday and some other musicians who made it a song).
Holiday recorded the tune, despite fears of being targeted by racists, and it became the dramatic finale in her set during which Holiday performed the song with the room totally dark, save a single spotlight on her face. Holiday's label, Columbia, wouldn't release the song due to its "controversial" nature, so the company allowed Holiday to record it for the Commodore label. Time magazine dubbed in the "Song of the Century" in 1999.
"Strange Fruit" has been covered by Nina Simone, Sting, Diana Ross, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Lou Rawls, Jeff Buckley, Cocteau Twins, Tori Amos and UB40, to name a few. It has also been recorded by a pair of bands with local ties — The Twilight Singers (the post Afghan Whigs band of Hamilton native Greg Dulli) and The Sundresses.
At 7, the young prodigy was given her first guitar by her uncle, Bill Owens, and by the time she was 11, she was a regular on a pair of Tennessee radio programs. Dolly's other uncle, Henry Owens, was acquainted with the owner of Goldband, leading to her first single being released.
It was an early example of Parton's underrated talents as a songwriter (she co-wrote the tune with her uncle Bill), though she would mature lyrically from such lines as, "Pullin' my pig tails makes me mad/When you kiss me, makes me glad/You turn to leave and make me sad/Still you're the sweetest sweetheart I've ever had." (Note: A more popular song called "Puppy Love," was a hit a year later for its writer, Paul Anka, and over a decade later again for a version by Donny Osmond. Dolly's version was included on the Dolly boxset in 2009.)
Here's Ms. Parton's adorable debut (where she's already showing off her impressive pipes):
On this day in 1943, chemist Albert Hofmann embarked on the first LSD "trip." As a Swiss chemist working in the lab of Sandoz pharmaceutical company in Switzerland five years earlier, Hofmann was the first to create the psychedelic drug. But the psychedelic aspect of wasn't discovered until April 19, 1943.
On that day 69 years ago, Hofmann took .25 milligrams of lysergic acid diethylamide and not long after asked a coworker to take him home. He did, on a bike, and Hofmann kind of freaked out before he was able to reel in the anxiety and enjoy the "colors and plays of shapes that persisted … Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me," as he later wrote.
Today is known as "Bicycle Day" because of the historic trip. Fans of psychoactive drugs have celebrated today by indulging in the chemical. (I sprinkled eight microdots into my morning coffee today, for example.) Tomorrow, of course, is 4/20, the pot-smokers celebration of … an established excuse to smoke pot all day. Saturday (April 21) is Record Store Day. That's quite a three-day holiday for the counterculture!
LSD has inspired a lot of music. It famously influenced The Beatles' mid-’60s musical expansion; their song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is widely considered an acid tribute, though John Lennon said it wasn't, the "L," "S" and "D" in the title merely a coincidence. The songs "She Said She Said" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" from Revolver were confirmed to be about the drug, though. The Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" was another huge LSD song, and bands like Pink Floyd and The Grateful Dead became forever associated with the drug thanks to their trippy sounds.
There are, of course, as many songs about doing acid as their our Country tunes about lovin' America and drinking beer. More than anyone could ever listen to, in fact — from Syd Barrett's entire solo discography to some of today's top Dance music makers.
WHOA! Does everyone else see that? Please tell me everyone else sees that.
Here's a short film documenting (allegedly) Syd Barrett's first acid experience (NSFW, I suppose, but only for druggy silliness).
Happy birthday, tripping balls!
Today in 1996, one of the greatest, most influential bassists ever, Bernard Edwards of Disco/Funk group Chic, passed away after contracting pneumonia while on tour in Japan.
My personal favorite bass line is Sly Stone's lick on "If You Want Me to Stay," but it's hard to deny the power of Chic's "Good Times," a Disco-era hit that helped lay the groundwork for Hip Hop. Edwards' bass line from the song is considered one of the most sampled pieces of music ever and it has been mimicked almost as often. Songs that wouldn't exist with Edwards' riff include Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," Hip Hop trailblazers Sugarhill Gang's breakthrough "Rapper's Delight," Blondie's "Rapture," Daft Punk's "Around the World" and Wham!'s "Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)" (hey, they can't all be winners).
R.I.P Bernard Edwards. And thanks for the groove.
Click on for Born This Day featuring Bez, Skip Spence, Grandmaster Caz and Robert Christgau.
On this day in 1960, Rockabilly idol and Rock & Roll trailblazer Eddie Cochran died while on tour in the U.K. at the age of 21. On the night of April 16, Cochran was in a taxi when it blew a tire and crashed into a lamppost. Cochran was reportedly thrown from the vehicle when he dove on his girlfriend, songwriter Sharon Sheeley, to shield her and went out the car door that had been flung open. He died in the hospital the next afternoon. Also in the car was fellow rocker Gene Vincent, who survived the crash but suffered serious injuries.
It's hard to overstate how influential Cochran was in the development and increasing popularity of Rock & Roll. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Rockabilly Hall of Fame, Cochran is responsible for such indispensable Rock staples as "Summertime Blues" and "C'mon Everybody," and influenced and/or was covered by artists like The Who, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, T. Rex, Hendrix, Rush, The Sex Pistols … pretty much the entire first decade of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees. Legend has it that Paul McCartney elbowed his way into John Lennon's The Quarrymen because his future bandmates were dazzled that he knew the chords and lyrics to Cochran's"Twenty Flight Rock."
It's rather stunning that someone who didn't live to see 22 could have such a profound effect on music. Here's a bit of Cochran featured in the 1956 film The Girl Can't Help It.
Click on for Born This Day featuring Redman, Maynard James Keenan, Liz Phair and Don Kirshner.
On this day in 1973, Paul McCartney and Wings had their very own network TV special, James Paul McCartney. The variety/musical show was a bit cheeky and a bit sappy — in other words, pretty funny to watch now. Paul and Co. do a bunch a Beatles tunes and a bunch of Wings stuff, including the just released "Live and Let Die." Worth watching (or at least skipping through) if you were a fan of Sir Paul's kick-ass mullet, always wanted to hear a drunk Paul sing drinking songs in a crowded pub or wondered how "The Cute One" looks in a pink tuxedo and mustache.
Paul's most recent adventures in visual entertainment contains a bit more star power:
Click on for Born This Day with Dusty Springfield, Akon and Ian MacKaye.
On this day in 2004, Frank Black, Kim Deal, Joey Santiago and David Lovering put their differences aside to honor their legacy and make a shit-ton of cash, reuniting for a Pixies reunion tour that recently completed its seventh year. The first show back was at Minneapolis' Fine Line Cafe, where they opened with "Bone Machine," the first song on the group's first full-length, Surfer Rosa. The band has mixed things up on their global tour by performing albums in full and, uh, mixing up the setlist (maybe?), but one thing they haven't done is record more than a smidgen of new music. On the other hand, it seems only fair that the group members reap some rewards from their influential work. It would just be interesting to hear what the four of them could come up with if they attempted a new album.
Here's "Bone Machine" performed live on a TV show in the Netherlands, "back in the day." Scrappy!
On this day in 1975, pioneering singer/actress/dancer/civil rights activist/spy Josephine Baker passed away at the age of 68. She died just a few days after a retrospective performance at the Bobino in Paris celebrating her 50 years in show biz. Jackie O, Princess Grace and Prince Rainier funded the show and opening night featured a celebrity-studded audience that included everyone from Mick Jagger to Sophia Loren. Baker's body was discovered four days later, reportedly surrounded by newspapers featuring glowing reviews of her performance.
At her funeral, she became the first American woman to garner full French military honors, one of many "firsts" involving Baker. She was the first black woman to star in a major film, the first to demand (and get) integrated audiences at her concerts and the first to become a global superstar. She fought for civil rights in America (offered a chance to lead it after MLK's assassination, she declined for fear of also being killed) and, before that, helped France (her adopted homeland) in World War II, for which she received numerous honors. Baker was also reportedly a bi-sexual who had serious relationships with both men and women in her lifetime, adding some spicy mystique to her life story.
She got her start as a vaudeville dancer at 15 and eventually became one of the highest paid chorus girls on the planet. In the mid ’20s she did burlesque shows in Paris and around Europe, well-known for her trademark banana-skirt and, later, her pet cheetah Chiquita, who would join her on stage (and, reportedly, terrorize the orchestra). Baker was considered a "muse" for artists from Pablo Picasso and Christian Dior to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, who once said she was "the most sensational woman anyone ever saw."
Baker's life has been the source of several films, musicals, plays and books. On screen and stage, she's been portrayed by the likes of Lynn Whitfield, Diana Ross, Keri Hilson and Beyonce, who sported Baker's banana costume during a 2006 performance (see below) and, in her "Naughty Girl" video, she again paid tribute by dancing in a giant champagne glass.
Baker released several albums in the early ’50s for Columbia and Mercury. Here she is performing her biggest hit (in France), "J'ai Deux Amours."
Click on for Born This Day featuring Hound Dog Taylor, Tiny Tim, Nick Hexum and Vince Gill.
Thirty five years ago today, the original Apple Computer — now called Apple I — was introduced. This week it was revealed that Apple's market value hit $600 billion. Only one other company — Microsoft — has ever reached that value level (it's now back down to a paltry $255 billion, according to the Associated Press).
Not even its creator could have known that the little box designed and hand-built by Steve Wozniak (with entrepreneurial spiritual guidance by Steve Jobs) would lead to multiple revolutions, including in the worlds of technology, telecommunications, media, music and likely hundreds of other fields.
Who knows where those fields would be today were it not for Apple. One thing that certainly would not exist today is the following song tribute to Jobs by New York City-based progressive House DJ/producer AzR featuring only sounds and tones from an Apple computer (aside from some Jobs quotes). Every time I hear that "chirp," I think my iPod connector cable is going haywire.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 11 birthday include early Jazz musician Nick LaRocca (1889); Pop and Jazz music's first African-American personal manager (and also a noted Jazz bassist) John Levy (1912); composer of Rock classic "Louie Louie," Richard Berry (1935); original member of The Specials (and singer in Special Beat with The English Beat's Ranking Roger) Neville Staple (1955); late singer/guitarist for one hit wonders Big Country ("In a Big Country") Stuart Adamson (1958); co-founder of Gin Blossoms (who later committed suicide after leaving the band) Doug Hopkins (1961); British Soul/Pop vocalist Joss Stone (1987); and singular actor/musician Vincent Gallo (1962).
Gallo is best known as an indie film actor with a public persona so over the top, many find him obnoxious. Though he's never had a mainstream breakthrough (in part thanks to his refusal to go the Nic Cage route and make shitty, big-budget craptaculars just for the paycheck), he remains one of America's great underrated actors. And his stellar feature Buffalo ’66 (in which he starred and directed and wrote) is one of the best twisted RomComs of all time, second perhaps only to Billy Wilder's The Apartment. Hopefully he'll make another masterpiece at some point. But his experimental streak seems pretty domineering.
Gallo has been as adventurous in his musical work as he has in celluloid. When Gallo moved to NYC in the ’70s, he played in a band with art legend Jean Michel Basquiat and later performed in other groups and as a solo artist. He continued to write music for his films (notably Brown Bunny and Buffalo) and has put out a few releases on U.K. electronic/experimental label, Warp Records.
Gallo has directed music videos (including John Frusciante's "Going Inside") and appeared in several clips as well, the most famous being Jay-Z's "99 Problems."
In 2005, Gallo curated a weekend of show at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in the U.K., booking Yoko Ono, Frusciante (Gallo, coincidentally, toured in 2001 with a band that included Frusciante's Chili Peppers replacement, Josh Klinghoffer) and Yoko Ono (Gallo and Ono's son Sean Lennon also made an album around that time that has yet to be released).
Here's the first song on his 2001 solo album When, "I Wrote This Song For the Girl Paris Hilton" (for no clear reason).