Tag Archives: Beatles

The Music Court’s March Madness Is Back!

17 Feb

Last year, The Music Court celebrated the College Basketball March Madness tournament by forming its own unique March Madness-themed poll that had nothing to do with college basketball. Instead, we set 16 albums against each other (all released in 1967) in a battle of superiority. How did it work?

I did my research and (in completely and obviously biased fashion) picked what I thought were the top 16 albums of 1967. Feel free to search March Madness in the search bar for a glimpse at how last year’s competition progressed. It worked like a region in the March Madness poll. The 1-seed faced the 16-seed and so on. Readers (you) voted on your favorite album each round and the match-ups naturally became more difficult as the competition progressed. At the end of the competition, expectedly, the #1 seed, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band took home the top Music Court prize and the title of “Best Album of 1967.”

The poll idea was mainly an experiment. In order for something like this to work, I need help from all of you. The response was good enough to keep this March Madness poll annual. And, as you can see by the picture above, we are traveling back in time one year (from 1967) and reproducing the idea. The Beatles may have taken the title of best album of 1967, but what artist released the best album in 1966. Was it still the Beatles with Revolver?

Starting a little under a month from now, I will post up the initial match-ups and urge you to vote. I hope that we can produce an equally awesome performance and I am looking forward to getting the show on the road. I compiled the list today, and, although we are not starting with the first match-up right now, I do have something related to share with you all. Oh, if you are confused about all of this March Madness mumbo-jumbo and need a good description, do not worry, I will provide one in the first poll post soon.

When I was compiling the list of albums earlier today, I initially listed 19 albums. I needed to get the number down to an even 16, and after some inner deliberation, trimmed the fat, so to speak. The 17-19 best albums of 1966 may have just missed our list, but they are still excellent albums that deserve recognition. If you have been reading the Obscure Classic Rock section, you can appreciate how difficult it was to succeed in music during the mid-60s because of the high level of talent and competition. Sitting at #17 are The Fugs and their self-titled second release.

This folk/psychedelic act named after Norman Mailer’s euphemism for a certain four-letter word that begins with F in “The Naked and the Dead”, featured Beat/Hippie crossovers Ed Sanders and Ken Weaver, and Beat poet Tuli Kupferberg. The songs certainly reflected the burgeoning 60s hippie counterculture, and their satirical protest songs are humorous, poignant and original. This particular album has my favorite Fugs song, “Kill for Peace,” a clear contradiction and Kupferberg composition. It is a ditty that inspired future artists like Country Joe.

Blackbird with Blue Eyes

13 Sep

Can you guess the two songs that are going to be featured in this version of “Six Degrees of Your iPod?” For those new to the Music Court, “Six Degrees of Your iPod” is a little iPod-related game we play at the blog. It’s not iPod specific, actually. Any randomized music generator will do. Here are the rules. Take out your music device and put it on shuffle. Then skip through six songs and write them all down. Can you connect the first song to the sixth song? That’s the purpose of the game. Random music connections! I’d love to read any of your own attempts at the game, so if you happen to be shuffling through your portable music device and you play, please comment with your results. Here is what I came up with today. The first song to appear was:

1.) “Blackbird” by The Beatles

Can you get any better than this simple McCartney classic? Seriously, McCartney and Lennon were masters of short and sweet pieces. Well, they were masters of all types of songs. I’m sure if you asked them to lay down some salsa beats they would have obliged. But that is completely irrelevant.

McCartney wrote “Blackbird” as a symbolic piece dedicated to the civil rights struggle of African Americans in the United States. The peaceful guitar riff was inspired by Bach’s “Bourree in E Minor, which was a lute piece that, as children, George Harrison and him tried to learn to show off. And, humorously, “Blackbird” is now a beginner guitar necessity. Just like “Smoke on the Water” anyone who picks up a guitar must try his/her hand at playing “Blackbird,” in some parts to show off to the room.

The song appeared on the White Album.

2.) “In The Pockets” by The Tallest Man on Earth

3.) “Genesis 3:23” by The Mountain Goats

4.) “Why Can’t We Be Friends” by War

5.) Generator ^ First Floor” by Freelance Whales

6.) “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” by CSN(Y)

Crosby Stills Nash and Sometimes Young. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” arguably this super groups most famous song, sparked the formation of CSN in the first place. The song, written by Stephen Stills, works with a crafty, somewhat deceptive title. Suite, in the classic sense, means an ordered set of musical pieces, usually four in number like the song. And then the possible  Sweet refers to the song’s subject, Stills’ ex-girlfriend, singer-songwriter Judy Collins, who apparently has some pretty sweet blue eyes. It really is one hell of a break-up song.

Connection: There are some interesting connections between both the Beatles and CSNY and there is an independent connection between the songs. After forming, prior to Neil Young joining the group, the group failed an audition at the Beatles’ Apple Records. That wasn’t a very wise move for the label. The band became pretty succesful. But there were no hard feelings. The band’s first live gig was at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago in August of 1969 and the band opened with “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” before launching into a cover of…”Blackbird” by the Beatles. Cool, right? The show was on August 17. Hmm…that date sounds familiar. They mentioned that they would be performing the next day at something called Woodstock, wherever that was. Well, after the show they went to Woodstock, where they went on stage at 3 a.m., August 18, and performed “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” followed by “Blackbird” again.

The Beatles did not perform at Woodstock for a variety of potential reasons. Lennon may have requested there be a spot of Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band which was denied. I doubt that, though. I could’ve performed there. I mean, Sha Na Na did. Another potential reason was that Lennon wanted to play but his entrance into the U.S. from Canada was blocked by Nixon. Also, seems a bit farfetched. Most likely it was a combination of the Beatles’ being on the verge of collapse and the fact that they had not performed an official concert since 1966.

Tangled Up in Blue: The Bands

8 Sep

The Beatles were the most popular rock band throughout the 60s, and many believed their reign of supreme rock band could not be challenged. Well, I’m going to give you two bands that definitely could put up a legitimate fight.

Led Zeppelin wasn’t just a band of musicians, but a conduit to the dark side.  They didn’t have to tune down to ungodly low notes or play loud or fast for their music to be bad ass because they weren’t mere mortals.  Jimmy Page wasn’t a guitar god, Robert Plant didn’t sing like an angel, John Bonham didn’t play drums like a sissy and John Paul Jones’ bass lines weren’t stairways to heaven.  Page was a demon, Plant howled like a Viking warrior, Bonham played like he was at war with his drum set and Jones’ bass lines were chutes to hell.  Check out How the West Was Won for 10 minute drum and guitar solos from some of the most talented musicians who ever lived!

The Rolling Stones are one of the few bands that could compete with Zeppelin and the Beatles for popularity.  In fact, the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll band was formed as an anti-Beatles (despite singing Lennon/McCartney songs on their first few albums). They contrasted the Beatles’ finely tailored suits and mop-tops with rugged and dirty looks.  Their image, however, wasn’t just a front.  Their music was the blues with attitude and I don’t mean Tony Robbins keep a positive outlook on life attitude.  It was at times mean (check out “Bitch” on Sticky Fingers) and at times tender (check out “Angie” on Goat’s Head Soup) but they always played with Attitude with a capital A.  The Stones are recognized for their sustained popularity, but I want to bring up a band that was just as good.

Faces played a similar Honky Tonk blues style and they played it exceptionally well, albeit for lesser years.  Check out pre-pop Rod Stewart on vocals and Ronnie Wood (future member of the Stones) on guitar as they play a no-nonsense song about a one night stand.

The Stones and Zeppelin sold millions of studio records in their rise to popularity, but it was a live album that skyrocketed the Allman Brothers Band to stardom.  Unlike the previous bands, the Allman Brothers’ blend of blues was purely Southern and helped to create a Southern Rock sound emulated by many.  That album, Live at the Fillmore East, features two of the greats in the line of talented Allman Brothers Band guitarists.  Duane Allman’s slide guitar is unmatched and the interplay with Dickey Betts defines early Allman Brothers’ sound.  Current guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks are no slouches either.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey guys, Matt here. I just wanted to give Aaron Shipper, the author of this post, a full Music Court welcome. Aaron, a blues aficionado and lover of good music, has joined the small editorial staff at the Music Court and will be bringing you music posts in his “A Different Drummer” category two days a week. So, everyone please make Aaron feel at home!

The 60s Psychedelic Experiment: “Norwegian Wood” by The Beatles – Folk 1965

3 May

Norwegian Wood” was released in the nascent years of psychedelic music, and, if not for a fortuitous sitar, this hit from Rubber Soul would not be psychedelic at all. It’s creation would still be interesting, but it wouldn’t be psychedelic. John Lennon was the primary writer for this piece despite the co-writing Lennon/McCartney label. He sites Bob Dylan as a big influence on the song. The verses are Dylan-esque, concentrating on an acoustic guitar driven melody and vocals that follow the rhythm. “Norwegian Wood” is about extramarital flings, and Lennon actually wrote it while on vacation with his wife. “Honey can you play me the new song.” Pretty dumb move on the part of Lennon, though he attempted to be subtle. The song’s creation is all well and good, but for the purpose of this post we must talk about the impact by George Harrison, who is the reason this song has a sitar and is psychedelic.

According to Harrison, he was inspired by Indian musicians on the scene of The Beatles‘ movie Help to start messing around with a sitar. This turned into a more substantial interest when he bought a Ravi Shankar record and purchased a cheap sitar in London. He had it with him during the recording of “Norwegian Wood,” and, you know what they say, the rest is history.

” It was lying around. I hadn’t really figured out what to do with it,” says Harrison in the Beatles Anthology. “When we were working on Norwegian Wood it just needed something, and it was quite spontaneous, from what I remember. I just picked up my sitar, found the notes and just played it. We miked it up and put it on and it just seemed to hit the spot.”

The sitar is very coordinated, and Harrison did not have the mastery to freestyle with the sitar, which would have made the song more experimental and psychedelic. But, it still maintains a hint of that psychedelic quality and that makes the song certainly worth the mention.

March Madness Results – Top 1967 Album: Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band

16 Apr

We have a winner! The tournament’s #1 seed Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band was not denied, and unlike my incorrect pick of #1 seed Duke in the 2011 March Madness tournament, Sgt. Peppers brought it home. Am I surprised by the results? No. Despite the list of 16 fantastic albums, Sgt. Peppers was arguably the best. It beat #3 seed Are You Experienced by Jimi Hendrix by only three votes. It was close, but so was the Duke vs. Arizona game, that ultimately led to Duke’s demise.

Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band is widely considered as not only the Beatles‘ best album, but also the greatest album of the rock n’ roll era. The album was preceded by Revolver and it demonstrates musical elements that the Beatles were exploring in Revolver, like electronic sampling and creative instrumentation. Elements of Revolver were heard more in Magical Mystery Tour (a combination LP) and the culmination of the Beatles’ psychedelic experimentation resulted in the concept album that was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

An album is obviously defined by its track listing. A concept album is also defined by its order. The album’s first song, “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band,” is an invite into the magical world of the Beatles. The song sounds like the opening of a Broadway play. It is a tremendous concoction of melody, studio sounds, brass and rock. The song also seamlessly flows into track two, “With a Little Help From My Friends,” a traditional pop/rock Beatles’ hit. While Sgt. Peppers flows as a concept album, the music pieces psychedelic elements with the Beatles’ rock sound, but the psychedelic trinkets are more defined in some songs than others. It is this pleasant combination, mixed with the band’s unique efficiency, that makes Sgt. Peppers so successful.

Best song off the album? Is there any question. “A Day in the Life” provides listeners with one of the most original psychedelic pieces ever created. The song combines drawn-out verses and strange lyrics, with a fast-paced day breakdown and two of the most intense transitions ever heard in music. It is the David of rock music. Enjoy.


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