Sunday, July 31, 2022

We Will Not See Their Likes Again

And we might hope that this be only due to lack of necessity. To lose both Nichelle Nichols and Bill Russell in the same weekend is too poetic. And far, far too painful.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

A Month On The Road And I'll Be Eating From Your Hand

A Month On The Road And I'll Be 'Eating From' Your Hand

Saw this via a Slash post this morning, Aerosmith have put out a video of their concert at the Summit in 1977, basically a Toys In The Attic/Rocks tour with a Draw The Line preview.

The audio here is pretty good for the Summit; we saw them 20-something years later on the Nine Lives Tour (I was a little young for the 1977 tour, and mom couldn't stand the Toxic Twins anyway) and the Summit echoed like mad. We all walked out of there with headaches from the bass return off the back wall.

Toys In The Attic is probably my favorite Aerosmith album, Nine Lives is a favorite of the later albums.

If you've ever wondered how Steven Tyler still has a voice, you'll want to watch this one. Notice that after Back In The Saddle, Steven mostly stays away from the vocal theatrics, except for a few flourishes, until a stretch of Draw The Line in the home stretch. Otherwise, he's pretty clean vocally; they all sound and look great here.

There's a couple of continuity glitches, wardrobe shenanigans (I don't think Tom changed from a white silk shirt in one song, to a t-shirt in the next, then back to the same white silk shirt for the final, for ex) indicating they spliced in a couple of other performances.

I'm curious about Joe's Les Paul set up... but that's his '59, now that I dig around for comparisons online.

On Toys In The Attic, watch for the chorus parts at the end, when Steven walks over and shares his mic with Joe. Joe comes in off the key and doesn't hear it, watch how Steven manages this, first singing into the mic, then singing directly into Joe's ear.

Yes, there's a bottle on the drum stand. Steven grabs a pull just after Back To The Saddle (I think, 1st couple of songs, anyway). Not that I can blame him, no matter how well prepped you are the set intro here is rough on the chords. Otherwise the band's just grooving for an hour, I don't even see cups of beer or other wet supplies out where the gang can grab a quick sip. For a contrast to show why it sticks out to me, see if you can find video from Queen's live set at Montreal, 1981, and you'll see how many cups of both beer and water/soda are laid out. I wonder how Aerosmith were tackling their troubles (which were going to get much worse not long after this) at this point.

Let's see, for me of this performance it's Mamma Kin and Draw The Line for the highlights here, and Sweet Emotion is interesting for some of the ways Steven's playing with rhythm. The whole set is good and tight, and only a little of the "right up to the edge" showing, otherwise everyone's all just right there for each other and sounding good.

Well worth taking an hour to listen to if you're interested in Aerosmith. I think it says somewhere that they'll pull the video in a week, so if you are interested you'd best catch it soon.


Yeah, ok, so the official line is "eating from your hand", and I'm sure Steven sings it that way more often than not.

But (ahem spelling deliberately chosen given the realities of search engines) "coming in your hand" is a lot harder to get out of your head if you've ever heard him sing it that way...

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

A Fun Way To Spend An Evening

Last night, Rick Beato popped up with an interview, here of Derek Trucks, which I found to be a very fine way to spend an hour.

A couple of highlights for me. First was Derek's discussion of why he and Susan are releasing their albums currently: One a month, basically, and with a few other twists, I'm not sure so I'll need to check out but I think that there's at least a small window where the album is streamed live, whole, and free? Either way, what I found fascinating was that Derek's reasoning here is entirely artist. There's no "strategy" here, other than the only one that ever matters, i.e. how do I reach the audience.

The other part I found fascinating was Derek's discussion of how he developed his "ear", his listening and vocabulary. Good stuff.

Rick's got some other very, very good interviews as well. One I'd recommend is one that Rick mentions in the Derek Trucks video, it's an interview of Ron Carter, bassist.

But the interview by Rick that I keep thinking about, and fair warning this one runs close to 2 hours, is of Pat Metheny. There's just so much here, I think a lot about what Pat says about the work involved in building an audience. But I also picked up on something about how Pat talks about his music, and also it's something that I then noticed about Ron and Derek's talks: you'll listen a lot and never hear any of them describe what they play in terms of "genre".

Now, I promise you that does not mean they don't know or care that they're playing a jazz standard, or a rock tune, or samba or whatever. I just suspect that genre just isn't something they put any real time or worry thinking about any more: just whether the tune they're writing or playing or recording works. Just the tune, that's all.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

So Very Few Survive

So very few survive.

This story by Lisa Whittington-Hill is a very good read. It's a history of the female side of grunge, and how the bands like L7 and Babes In Toyland, among others, fit in to the story that's so rarely told.

Remembering back... I was in the age group of very young musicians that got hit by the Seattle rumors starting in about 1985. Something was happening there. Bam Bam was part of that rumor mill, but none of us ever caught anything other than the name; we did catch The Melvins, though, at least via cassette trades and someone "with family in Seattle sent me this t-shirt and a tape".

L7 cassettes came down at about the same time that Soundgarden's UltramegaOK bootlegs did. And that particular pairing was significant for some of us far from the Emerald City: my best friend at the time, a bass player, asked me if I thought he and I should go up to Seattle and try to break in up there. Just for a summer, throw your guitar in and let's see if we can, you know? (why we didn't came down to a simple problem, two years into high school and he'd already been through rehab once. Given that the other thing we knew of Seattle was heroin, that's what stopped us. That, and I ended up getting marching orders from my mother to move again just a couple weeks later.)

So L7 was right there from the beginning, to our ears. Babes In Toyland came a little later, late enough that Nirvana and Alice In Chains had now entered the picture.

Here's the way it used to work. When noise got around of a "new sound", and the major labels started showing up, then what they were really looking for was, as it became, "The Next Nirvana". It's a manufacturing line, they wanted the closest sonic and visual equivalent to knock off of their own studio line, no more no less. If you fit the bill, and were early enough in line, great.

If you didn't, hey tough luck kid, try maybe Chicago, I hear there's a scene coming up there?

If you tried for the brass ring, you knew damned well what you were signing up for. The labels always fucked you, and good. Sure, yeah, Slash could ride around L.A. for two years working a good deal for Guns N' Roses, but could you?

But the labels never defined what the sound actually was. Mainstream success, that they could more or less offer, at least for a short time. Artistic credit? Naw, wrong door kid, try that with the longhair professors down the street.

Which is why Lisa's article is important, of course. Otherwise meaningful stories would be forgotten.

And that takes us up to circa 1995, at least in terms of the immediate swirl following Nirvana blowing up the world. Really, it was that quick, three years and grunge had already morphed fairly away from whatever it had been in the popular imagination.

In my own personal timeline, in that year I suddenly realized that teenagers, especially female teenagers who had an interest in performing music, dj'ing, or a certain type of clubbing, had discovered No Doubt.

And then, a year later, The Craft, and it's fantastic soundtrack, came out. With Letters To Cleo, Juliana Hatfield, Jewel, Heather Nova, and Elastica.

And yes, in between, just like with No Doubt, Garbage came along.

Now, you being a keen scholar of music, will note that these bands are not "grunge" in the sense of L7 and Babes In Toyland. They used what they learned from those who went before, yes, but they had found their own sound, their own niche. And, somewhat uniquely for the time, they'd been encouraged by their labels to do so, rather than being shoved into the pre-made box that the studios had shaped to convenience for the grunge bands.

And, from my observation, these bands and others of their time tapped into what their audiences were after. Here we have that most elusive of popular music goals: the zeitgeist.

So, let's say I and my best friend had done what Dave Grohl did, drop out of school and head off to join the circus in Seattle circa 1988? Where would we have been?

Either desparate to hope to be in the second wave of signing after Soundgarden and Nirvana. Or, after a couple years, maybe still hungry enough to step away and dream our way to a new sound. This is the major label cycle: three years was time enough for the Beatles to record Sgt. Pepper's, The White Album, and Abbey Road. So why are you still playing that same old shit, give me something new?

And look, we've gotten this far into it and you let me get away without even mentioning Hole? I adored Courtney Love and Hole, as musicians. No, I have no comment on her relationship. But as grunge musicians, Courtney and her bandmates have their own place in this story too.

All artistic movements have their histories, and rightly so. I'm very glad that folks like Lisa are tackling this stuff.

I'll add one little oddity that I turn over in my head whenever I think about that era: what was it like to be a teenaged musician who caught onto Iggy and the Stooges, or the New York Dolls, long before even the Ramones were formed.

And then find out about "This New PuNk RoK Craze From Jolly Olde England!"

The reason that comes up for me in this context is that, not long after Kurt Cobain's death, a friend of mine from the day life, some years older and originally from England, told me that their response to grunge was something like "Americans finally have their own punk movement".

I'm still scratching my head over that one. If nothing else, it's a reminder that artistic movements, outside of Arlo Guthrie's classic description, are strange beasts only ever roughly described. And probably for the better, at least in terms of leaving the next one, hopefully, far out of reach of manufacture, rather than discovery.

Friday, July 1, 2022

And No,

And no, I don't actually, or even facetiously, blame Rick for my bout of tinnitus. Well, other than that it makes for a closing bit on that last post.

I had my first temporary tinnitus run when I was about 17, our school jazz band went to a Chick Corea concert in conjunction with our state competition. This was Corea's Elektric Band, with John Patitucci, Frank Gambale, Eric Marienthal, and Dave Weckl, and they were epically loud in the setting we took them in. I noticed the ringing after, but a couple days later it was gone. Even with me being in two different school bands and an outside gig band we didn't admit to because of high school competition rules ;)

My next go round came on when I'd had my run-in with bad grades and a worse relationship in college; as part of getting my life back together, I'd started playing again, working with a local college jazz band three nights a week, an occasional studio gig doing commercials, and going to and sitting in with all my friends in their gigs. It was a lot of fun, and honestly, I didn't even notice how I was damaging my ears again.

Not until I landed a research gig that I needed to graduate, once I'd gone back to school, i.e. the day gig, full time. One by one I had to let go of the music work I'd picked up. And what do you know, when it's quiet more often, you notice that the ringing has now become persistent.

Since then, what usually happens is that the tinnitus fades to a level I can pretty much ignore completely, in terms of volume. Until it flares up, usually due to something like a sinus infection.

Well, I had a sinus infection in late May, brought on by traveling between too many climate zones in a short time frame. No flareup of my ears, though.

Not until now, when I'm dealing with Covid and (thankfully) an otherwise good recovery. That really what did it. Rick's video just happened to coincide, entirely coincidentally, with the point when I noticed it creeping up again.

In the past, patience has usually brought it to a more tolerable level, whether that's my mind adjusting or a true fade I'm not completely able to say. But that's gonna take a while this time, I haven't had it this loud in years.

Such is life, I guess. Take care of yourselves and those around you, space cadets, in the little ways and the big ones.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Protect Your Ears

On the one hand, thank you Rick Beato for discussing this the way you do in this video.

I grew up hearing from my stepfather and grandfather, pro musicians, that I needed to protect my hearing, otherwise I'd end up like them, half deaf, ringing, the whole bit. Of course, they were also both duck hunters who shot without hearing protection, and all the other things they did without keeping their ears safe...

From what I could tell, for many, the dividing line is whether you played live gigs after about the age of 18. Sure, people who played earlier than that, especially those of us who played both school gigs and club gigs early, started having ear trouble earlier, but from what I've seen, for those folks who keep playing, some form of hearing damage is damned near universal. Even among classical musicians, hearing protection just isn't as prevalent as you'd think.

And believe me, an orchestra at full grunt is louder than you'd ever believe, especially sitting the middle of it.

So yeah, for Rick, and the commenters (yes, this is one of the rare posts where you should read the comments), to discuss this is important. Really, yes, just about every musician you know has some level of hearing damage. Just about every soldier, especially if they've served during wartime. Most construction workers, or plant operators, also have some form of damage, usually in those cases a loss of certain frequency regions rather than tinnitus, but the concerns are the same: protect your ears!

Yep, thank you Rick. And also, I hate you for this. I typically go months at a time being able to ignore my own tinnitus. And then some nitwit with a video camera goes on and has a serious and important discussion of their own hearing issues, and here I am listening to the buzz and the ring at 10k, and wondering how long I'll have to go this time before I learn how to tune it out again...