Whilst Jerry Leiber, who died on the 22nd August, may not be a figure that springs immediately to mind in the pantheon of preening, strutting decadents that have shaped popular music, his contribution , alongside Mike Stoller. altered the course of musical history in a way that it has never quite managed to escape from .
Put simply, this rakishÂ son of Polish Jews, through his love of the R and B and jazz music of the 30’s and 40’s, took the street argot from the slums of Baltimore, where he spent his early years and aligned it with Mike Stoller’s rhythmic attacking piano structures to create an array of tough,hip, vernacular lyrics that are instantly recognisable nearly 60 years after their inception.
In creating a lexicon of terms and phrases that still pop up regularly in all genres of music today he was no less than the Dr Johnson of rock and his images, particularly his gift for a scintillating opening line, are known pretty much everywhere by pretty much everyone.
Would you want to spend time in the company of anyone who doesn’t immediately recognise the line
“The warden threw a party at the county jail…”
I wouldn’t. They might be Boris Johnson.
Before Leiber and Stoller, most of the popular songs in the gleaming America of the early 1950’s were wounded tales of being done wrong by some uncaring femme fatale (the subtext being that blokes were basically at the mercy of those evil women creatures) rendered by ageing booze sodden crooners or enervating novelty fare of the “How Much is That Doggie in The Window?” stripe.
Such terribly, terribly sad news today that Trisha Keenan of Broadcast has died after contracting swine flu and pneumonia. Â Laura was a big Broadcast fan too, so I know she will be upset by this as well. Â I didn’t actually see Broadcast live until the ATP Festival in 2010; in fact I have to admit I was somewhat late picking up on how talented they were, retrospectively getting their first 2 albums some years after they were first released. Â They were a special band to a lot of people, and I know Trisha will be dearly missed. I will say no more, and let songs, videos and photos do the speaking.
Here is my favourite Broadcast song, Man Is Not A Bird
Here is a photo I took of Broadcast at the ATP Festival in May 2010
“If there has ever been such a thing as a genius in the history of popular music, it’s Beefheart,” “I heard echoes of his music in some of the records I listened to last week and I’ll hear more echoes in records that I listen to this week.”Â John Peel
It seems odd to feel compelled to write in tribute to someone who stopped making records when I was 11 years old, but normal rules never applied when referring to Don Van Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart. A quick check of his Wikipedia entry lists the musical genres he worked in as follows:
Experimental rock, blues, blues-rock, avant-garde, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, protopunk, surrealist, outsider
although anyone familar with his work will find even this sprawling list inadequate to describe the Captain’s work, mainly but not exclusively encapsulated on 12 studio LP’s recorded between 1966 and 1982 after which he did what so many of his 1960’s contemporaries failed to do and decided that he had said all he wanted to say and retired from music to become a respected artist.
In this sense, this is the second time that we’ve lost him and I always felt that the blow of his eventual demise would be cushioned by the fact that as a “Beefheart fan-boy” (in the immortal words of Tez Burke) I had long since resigned myself to not hearing any new music from the great man.
I’m starting to think that the Leeds Festival site is centred around some sort of wormhole in the space / time continuum, as the best part of two months seems to have dropped away from my life and I have barely noticed them. As a result it appears that I have found myself quite spectacularly behind when it comes to show updates and playlists, so I’ll endeavour to bridge the gap and bring these READMYBLOG posts up to date.
However, I don’t really think we should go any further before we mark the sad passing of Solomon Burke, who gone done went and karked it on a plane earlier this month whilst traveling to a series of gigs in Holland.
James Brown liked to refer to himself as The Godfather of Soul, but not only was Brown something of an over-rated fat face, he also operated on something of a misnomer. Brown’s huhs and hahs and the seeming continual need to repeat his name every four seconds in case we forgot it was more funk than soul, whereas Solomon Burke’s was a voice which tore at the heart as well as moved the feet. I make the comparison only because Burke’s early influences from church gospel mixed with rhythm & blues made him one of the true early godfathers of the Soul genre, though Burke himself liked to call himself The Godfather of Rock & Soul. Continue reading →
March 2010.Â The month I will forever remember as the one when both Mark Linkous and Alex Chilton died.Â I didn’t want to have to write about Mark Linkous dying a couple of weeks ago any more than I want to write about Alex Chilton dying now. However, on both occasions, it has been a pleasure to be able to just sit and write about what these people mean(t) to me.
Oh the power of a major label marketing campaign.Â Yes,Â even an indie kid like me succumbed to them in my youth.Â In 1992 Parlophone sent me a postcard suggesting I might like the debut EP by a new band of theirs called Radiohead.Â I bought it for 99p and never looked back.Â Four years later Parlophone sent me another postcard suggesting that the debut album by another new band, Sparklehorse,Â might tickle my fancy.Â As the postcard alluded to Radiohead’s admiration for this new band,Â I thought it was worth a speculative purchase (this was of course before the days of the free 24/7 listening post on the internet).Â Again,Â I never looked back.Â Sparklehorse and Radiohoead ended up collaborating on a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”,Â and I think it’s a pity no smart alec at Parlophone sent me a postcard about that.
And so, I’m afraid that’s the only gag in today’s blog entry by me.Â For it was with great sadness that I learnt that last weekend Mark Linkous, the heart of darkness that drove Sparklehorse, took his own life.Â I still can’t quite believe he’s done it, even as I write this.Â When Elliott Smith killed himself in 2003 I felt a similar sense of shock and upset.Â Yet I have to admit that in the case of Both Smith and Linkous, there was a thought that ran through my mind along the lines of “it’s not a total surprise“.Â But I do need to qualify that statement by saying that I didn’t know either man personally, and it is only based on what I knew of their music, on record and live, that makes me think that way.