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Popular Culture Popular Music Rock and Roll

Bob Dylan’s only #1 Billboard hit, and Armageddon

In my series on Crappy Album Covers, Bob Dylan has appeared at least twice. I had also written about his singing skills or lack thereof at least once before. Needless to say, I have established my not-very-high opinion of Dylan’s singing and album covers on this blog.

However, I had always complimented him on his songwriting and poetry skill. His skill was good enough to win him the Nobel Prize for literature in 2017. However, the songs Dylan wrote were always best sung by other people.

Among the most frequent cover artists were Joan Baez; Judy Collins; The Band; The Byrds; Glen Campbell; Johnny Cash; Cher; Eric Clapton; Joe Cocker; Fairport Convention; Bryan Ferry; Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs; The Grateful Dead; George Harrisson; Jimi Hendrix; The Hollies; Peter, Paul and Mary; Tom Petty (with and without The Heartbreakers); Elvis Presley; Pete Seeger; Yes; Steve Howe; and Neil Young.

More modern artists cover him less frequently. They include: XTC; The White Stripes; The Red Hot Chili Peppers; Sinead O’Connor; My Morning Jacket; Jason Mraz; Ministry; Maroon 5; Dave Matthews Band; Diana Krall; Alicia Keys; Kesha; Norah Jones; Indigo Girls; Robyn Hitchcock (with and without The Egyptians); Green Day; Dream Syndicate; Miley Cyrus; Nick Cave and The Badseeds; and The Black Crowes.

And what I didn’t know until earlier today, is that at age 79, Dylan’s hit song, “Murder Most Foul”, has reached #1 on the Billboard chart for “US Digital Song Sales”, which is the first time he had a #1 hit singing in his own voice on any of the Billboard charts. This song will be part of his up-coming album “Rough and Rowdy Ways”, to be released at the end of next week.

The 17-minute hit beats Don Maclean’s “American Pie” by 7 minutes, and The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” by 10 minutes.

“Murder Most Foul” is a montage of artist titles, singer names, and cultural references that keep going back to the Kennedy assassination. At first listen, it is difficult to understand why all of the name-dropping and song title mentions are there. It feels kind of chaotic, and you feel like there is no structure. It requires another listen. And when you listen again, try not to make sense of anything. Then the song works perfectly, in that it begins to make its own sense. It objectively refers to Kennedy, and a multitude of artists and songs contemporary to the early sixties, with the odd mention of artists from later and earlier decades. Like a painting, you can’t examine the painting by examining each brushstroke. You need to listen to this song by allowing your mind to “step back” so to speak, and admire the song as a whole piece as you would a painting.

To say it is a sad song is an understatement. It seems more like a funeral march. It is a eulogy to a dying culture, and the end of an era. It reveals to us all what we already know: it’s not the sixties anymore. American culture is wounded, and the prospects appear grim.

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Rock Rock and Roll teetotaling

Famous teetotalers 09: Musicians too

prince_nodrugs
Living proof that you can go on a trip, not leave the room, and not do drugs.

Rumor has it that Prince, otherwise known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, is teetotal, although maybe it is hard to believe. All Google searches for Prince in association with drugs led to Saudi sheikhs, cocaine and beheadings (not kidding), so I can only believe what the rumors say. Actually, it is a little above rumor, since many sources say that his father, John Nelson, was also teetotal, and he looked up to him, growing up. It is likely that he had never drank, and is vegan besides. For Prince to be this creative for so long (complete with his current project, called Third Eye Girl), it would not be believeable to hear he was doing drugs for the past three pet health insurance buy now tramadol decades.

elton_coat_of_arms
The perks of knighthood, Elton’s own coat of arms.

Elton John’s biggest demon was never really booze, most of his demons seem internal. He was given to depressive episodes where others would find him hard to cope with, but later he would come to his senses and make it up to his colleagues, often producers, engineers and fellow studio musicians. About 40 years ago, he suffered a drug overdose and later suffered from bulimia. He also had to battle feelings of suicide on many occasions. In 2015 he celebrated his 25th year of sobriety and freedom from drugs. At age 68, 20 years after being inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame, he has been awarded most of his Grammy Awards and Tony Awards only since the 1990s, long after he reached rock superstardom in the mid-1970s.

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album covers bad artwork humour music Popular Culture Rock and Roll

Crappy Album Covers #172 — Scary warlike thingies

Album_Cover_Crap_315_inspiredology_com Let’s get something stright here. Just because there are scary warlike thingies on your album like the Transformer dude on this Linkin Park record, doesn’t mean it’s a cool record, OK? It might impress a 10 year-old, but not many older people.
Album_Cover_Crap_298_guardian_co_uk Bodies of men with heads of birds as a warlike thingie has been overdone to the point where it has lost its power to scare people, if it ever had it at all. 

There are many scary birds: hawks, eagles, but since the name of this band is called Budgie, well… three guesses as to what species these heads belong to.

Bandolier is Budgie’s fifth album, released in 1975, and combines all the worst elements of the early Yes album covers.

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crappy album covers Pop Culture pop rock Progressive Rock Rock and Roll

Crappy Album Covers #139 — Out of their depth

Album_Cover_Crap_208_-_dio_netAllmusic.com sums Pat Boone up best. Having started his hit-making career before the “British Invasion”, Boone was the only worthy rival to Elvis Presley. Boone was the “nice guy” of the set, seeming to symbolise wholesome values at a time when Rock and Roll was considered by many to be a sign of the apocalypse. Many can say what they want about him, but nobody can deny that he’s had 38 top-40 hits, all of them in a seven-year span between 1957 and 1963.

Boone, like Presley, were experts at picking music from R&B and so-called “race music” and delivering it to white audiences at a time that many radio stations would not play music by Black artists.

Descendant of frontiersman Daniel Boone (if Allmusic says it, therefore it must be true), Boone broke away from his recent Gospel singing efforts to blaze a new path for himself in 1997 with “In A Metal Mood: No More Mr Nice Guy”, the subtitle named after the Alice Cooper hit, which he covers.

Hear Boone sing Van Halen’s “Panama”, or Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water”; Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Paradise City”; Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”. Some of this stuff I can imagine being more believable, though it is still a stretch: Nazareth’s “Love Hurts” or Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary” could remotely be imagined to be sung by Boone. There are no satisfying audio clips that I could find, so you can just preview this stuff at sites like Amazon, where they will have 30-second clips. This link is to CD Universe.

While it should be clear that this album is an abomination on many levels, I think it was intended that way. And Boone knows that big band treatments of this kind of music is best served dedpan. Few had the stomach for this album, which peaked at #125 on Billboard in 1997.

It should be added that this album was recorded when Boone was at age 60. Much of his Christian following didn’t get the joke, and the Trinity Broadcasting Network dropped him from their program “Gospel America” after he appeared at the American Music Awards dressed in black leather and covered in wash-off tattoos.


Album_Cover_Crap_216_-_vinylrecords_chCompleted in 1978, long after they had the wind taken out of their sails by punk and disco, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, and Carl Palmer released this light album, intended to complete their contractual obligations before their first breakup. Various re-releases have been issued, as late as 2008.

Light as it is, “Love Beach” still sports a 20-minute track called “Memoirs of An Officer and a Gentleman”.

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Pop Pop Culture Popular Culture Popular Music Rock Rock and Roll

[Video] George Harrison, “This Song”

The video shown below, shot in a surreal court setting, was a song called “This Song”, by former Beatle, the late George Harrison (1943-2001). If you recall, he was fighting a copyright dispute over the song “My Sweet Lord”. Bright Tunes, owner of the 1963 Chiffon’s hit “He’s So Fine”, sued Harrison due to the similarity between the two songs, and this tune was inspired by this protracted court case.

The video, which begins with Harrison escorted into a courtroom in handcuffs, was a of a song that, when I was a kid, and heard of the court case, made no connection between it and “This Song”. The video, shot in 1978, well before the days of “video” music and MTV, makes the intent of the song obvious. Even the lyric “This song/There’s nothing Bright about it” is certainly a dig at Bright Tunes.

If you never saw the video before, and never made the connection with the court case, then this song was likely perceived as just another good Harrison tune which, once you heard it, you couldn’t get it out of your head.

Here is the video:

[media id=69 width=400 height=300]

… and here are the lyrics:


This song has nothing tricky about it
This song ain't black or white and as far as I know
Don't infringe on anyone's copyright, so . . .

This song we'll let be
This song is in E
This song is for you and . . .

This tune has nothing Bright about it
This tune ain't bad or good and come ever what may
My expert tells me it's okay

As this song came to me
Quite unknowingly
This song could be you could be . . .

This riff ain't trying to win gold medals
This riff ain't hip or square
Well done or rare
May end up one more weight to bear

But this song could well be
A reason to see - that
Without you there's no point to . . . this song