Tag Archives: George Harrison

Born Under a Bad Sign – Albert King

23 Jan
Albert King

Albert King

When the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame announced 2013’s inductees, one name stuck out to me as well deserving of the honor. That’s not to say that I am not happy for Rush, Heart, and the other bands and artists who are being inducted, but The Velvet Bulldozer stands out. Albert King (one of the 4 kings of blues guitar) will be posthumously inducted into the Hall, and, if he was still alive today, I’m sure he would accept it with amicable poise.

Before we talk a little bit about Albert King’s impact on music, it is important to know that King was a true musician. He was a wonderfully kind individual and when he hit the stage he put all things aside and just played music. He loved music. He loved the guitar. His passion for melody and harmony was apparent in his playing, and his infectious, friendly personality made him beloved on and off the stage.

King’s career traversed the 1960s. He first played professionally with The Groove Boys from Arkansas and then moved around the midwest during the 1950s hooking up with various musicians and labels. What remained consistent was his Flying V guitar (as you see above) which, like George Harrison, he named Lucy.

In 1961, King landed his first major hit, “Don’t Throw Your Love on Me So Strong,” which reached number 14 on the Billboard R&B chart. He released his first album The Big Blues in 1962. Ike Turner played piano on the studio version of “Don’t Throw Your Love on Me So Strong,” which is track seven on the album. Listen to it below:

Classic electric blues. King’s voice is velvety with excellent vibrato. His guitar skill is evident. The man knew how to get feeling out of his Lucy, and his clean, bright and whiny playing style has been imitated by those he has inspired (Derek Trucks, Joe Walsh, etc.).

After the release of The Big Blues, King’s popularity continued rising in the Midwest and, in 1966, he rode that popularity to Stax records where he signed in 1966. There, with the widely influential Booker T & the MGs, he recorded premier blues tracks, including his most famous track, “Born Under a Bad Sign.” The track, also the name of his first album with Stax, helped propel him to all of America and other countries.

“Born Under a Band Sign” is a unique song because of King’s unique guitar, which bathes ears with an authentic twang. The looping bass line carries the song, and the horns further accentuate the song’s comfortable bluesy power.

Old School Pop

31 Oct

The pop music played on the radio years ago wasn’t as bad as today.  Turn on your average, everyday pop station and you’ll hear Lady Gaga, Lil Wayne and Bruno Mars multiple times per hour.  Like K$sha?  Me neither.  But she’s still played 42 times a day like she has some sort of deal with the devil and I’m not talking about the good kind, like a Robert Johnson or Led Zeppelin type deal, but one that someone talentless would make, say Vanilla Ice, to stay relevant.  Well, maybe I just have an over romanticized vision of the whole thing but at one point real musicians ruled the airwaves.  Sure, not all pop acts were great (cough Barry Manilow, cough), but enough to make me reminisce of days long before I was alive  where driving in a car didn’t require satellites or an iPod cable to get cool tunes.

The Beatles were the ultimate pop band and while their later albums added to this sound, they never really lost their pop sensibilities upon breaking up.  Paul McCartney went on to form Paul McCartney and Wings famous for such songs as “Maybe I’m Amazed” and my personal favorite, “Band on the Run”.  George Harrison development as a songwriter continued with the sound he developed in the later Beatles albums (compare “Here Comes the Sun” and “My Sweet Lord”).  You can’t forget John Lennon who came out with almost a prayer for peace with his seminal work, “Imagine”.  I really feel bad about being like everyone else and leaving out Ringo but then again, I can’t really pick any of his music out by name.

I didn’t realize how long this article would become so stay tuned for some non-Bealtes pop music from back in the day in a future post.

The Greatest Post Ever for the Greatest Band Ever

25 Oct

For the most part, I’m out of bands so I’m going to give my ode to the greatest band of all time: The Beatles.  The thing about The Beatles is that they are in an almost exclusive club of bands that weren’t reactionaries to the times in which they lived in. They defined the times.  I used to think (incorrectly) that The Beatles were overrated.  I mean, songs like “Love Me Do” and “Help” and “Please Mr.  Postman” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” are just simple pop songs, yet they formed the mold for future rock groups to follow.  In addition to setting the paradigm of 2 guitars, bass and drums, The Beatles also added elements of  music of black musicians like Little Richard and Chuck Berry with white musicians like Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley that would influence rock n roll music for decades.

So let’s put The Beatles impact on music on the backburner for now and just look at the music itself.  The Beatles first phase was the “Love Me” phase characterized by simple song structures, simple I love you, love me lyrics (like the song above).  It’s what first captivated America on the Ed Sullivan show performance and really sparked Beatlemania.  Fast forward to the time they played Shea Stadium and decided to stop touring. So born the social commentary Beatles, who started growing beards and doing drugs.  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is their seminal work from this period, almost a rock opera that is considered one of the greatest (according to Rolling Stone the greatest album of all time) that introduced innovative techniques for recording that included adding musicians in addition to just the fab four and experimenting with innovative recording techniques.  Just check out the sound below that builds upon the original Beatles sound.

Last but not least of the Beatles phases results in their last album while together and my absolute favorite: Abbey Road.  It shows a mature group who’s ability to combine their music together in the face of falling apart absolutely amazes me.  Listen to the White Album and you will hear a band at war with itself.  Each individual song sounds like it was done by an individual member and in fact that’s the case.  In fact, all members except for Ringo refused to record when another member was in the studio.  There were George songs, John songs and Paul songs.  Abbey Road sees the Beatles come together for one last hurrah and tolerate each other.  Their individual tastes and song writing abilities combine to create a concept album like Sgt Peppers of epic proportions.  Just listen to the whole album.  It’s a piece of absolute genius.

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.

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.

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