Today’s Music: Joe Cocker. See below.
Days Til Spring: 58 (and it’s snowing like mad here, so I can’t wait for the warm!)
Soul, R & B. Rock and Roll. All those styles are alive and well. There are great new bands putting out incredible music, and it’s possible to step right in and enjoy it no primer needed.
But there are acts that came before that pushed the envelop. They broadened horizons and brought music no one knew right into our ears.
Joe Cocker is one of those acts.
So when he was paying the Beacon Theater, maybe 15 years ago, and Big Mike asked if I wanted to go, there was only one possible answer: Hell yes!
It was a typical concert night – meet in the city, grab a beer and some food, then head into the Beacon. Grab another beer or a soda, and head in to find our seats. The Beacon theater is a grand old room. Floor, Mezzanine, Balcony. Sculptured roof with gold gilding. Wide stage that extends almost the width of the hall. Semi comfortable seats, with almost enough legroom for someone six feet tall.
So we’re settled in our seats (floor level, towards the back), and the lights go down. No opening act, so this was for Joe. The crowd surged to its feet as the PA announced Joe Cocker!!! Out strode the band, taking their positions, and Joe followed right behind.
The band kicked in…
Joe grabbed the microphone..
He played, note for note, the entire Best Of Joe Cocker album.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a good show. And seeing Joe Cocker moving around onstage (he’d toned down the twitchiness a lot) was a sight to see. I mean, here was an important voice from the earlier days of rock and roll, who’s soulfulness bridged a gap from Black music to bring it, via England, to everyone in America. And once he did it, his influence was profound. Bands making that same sound popped up across the landscape.
To this day, when Joe comes on the radio, my head nods back and forth, my fingers tap, and there’s a little extra bounce in my step.
I think he’s a great singer, even as an older man because it added an extra gravelly-ness to a voice he still controlled well.
I’m glad I saw him, just to be in the same room and feel the music.
But overall, it was an average show, devoid of spontaneity and surprise. He still did a really good job with the songs, it’s just that he performed them exactly as expected.
One bright spot of the show – he did play my favorite Joe Cocker song:
It was bound to happen. At some point, I was guaranteed to put my foot into it.
You’d have thought I knew better by now.
You’d have thought wrong.
Todays rebuttal comes from Running On Sober. When she isn’t running or compiling the brilliant Words for the Weekend, she’s also putting together some of the worlds greatest playlists.
Which gives her excellent credibility to rebut me for what I said in a post about 80s music.
So please enjoy Running on Sober’s skewering of me as much as I did.
(And then check out her site and say hi!)
(Just don’t look for me. I’ll be gagging. With a spoon.)
A Defense of 80s Music
Today’s Music: Jam On It by Newcleus
*Note on today’s music: Guap confessed to once knowing every single word to this 1984 song in a comment I knew would eventually come back to haunt him. For fun, listen to the song and every time they say “Jam on it, jam on it, ja-ja-ja-ja-ja-jam on it,” instead change it to, “Guapola, guapola, guap-guap-guap-guap-guap-guapola…”
Cinderellaeven taught us to appreciate what we have before it’s gone
Some messages I heeded (white lines — never did them), some messages I didn’t (patience — yeah, not my strong suit), and some I may have taken too literally before sobering up (I wanna be sedated), but when I look back at the 80’s, I can’t help but smile. That was my decade, I’m from the 80’s!, so when Guap asked me if I’d like to come to its defense after his recent post, “Oh Joy. The 80s Live On,” I was like totally frothing at the mouth.
Wait, what was I saying? I forgot. Let’s just sing 80′s music instead.
Everyone has an opinion on 80’s music. Seems we either love it or hate it; like Taco Bell, there’s not much middle ground. And when we think of 80’s music, usually the first images that come to mind are big hair, moonwalking, blue eye shadow, skinny ties, and Madonna writhing around stage in a wedding dress.
I really think MTV changed the face of music, at least for the 80’s. (Does MTV even play videos anymore?) MTV turned us into visual beasts, it desensitized us and took our imaginations away; each new video had to be a little more over-the-top than the last just to stand out. Who could be the most provocative? Who could show the most skin? Who could push the taboo-envelope? Who could have the biggest hair? Who could wear their underwear on the outside first?
Mötley Crüe or Madonna: Who showed their underwear first?
Madonna was one of the best at working the MTV angle, and like most girls my age, I grew up worshipping her. She was liberated, yet sexy, and she was oh-so-unapologetically in your face. I remember falling in love with Madonna in her iconic Borderline video. Not only was she sassy and beautiful, but she also flaunted an interracial relationship, and I wanted to be just like her. I had the hair bows, the black tanks, the jelly bracelets, the long cross necklaces. If she was brunette, so was I. If she went blonde, I went blonde. If she channeled Marilyn Monroe, so did I. I spent my 80’s desperately seeking Susan.
Channeling Madonna at my Canadian boyfriend’s prom. (I wouldn’t have been caught dead at my own.) Totally love that his hair is bigger than mine!
The 80’s weren’t just Madonna and Mötley Crüe or Michael and Janet Jackson though. There were some major music breakthroughs, including the emergence of rap and hip-hop, thrash metal, new romantic/synth pop, post-punk, new wave, SKA, goth, house music and more. Many of the 80’s artists include U2, NWA, Billy Idol, Peter Gabriel, Talking Heads, David Bowie, The Clash, The Police, XTC, Run D.M.C, Joe Jackson, Simple Minds, Blondie, Public Enemy, Tracy Chapman, REM, Jane’s Addiction, Violent Femmes, Beastie Boys, Butthole Surfers, Howard Jones, The Smithereens, Squeeze, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, and my favorite artist, Sade. Some 80’s albums include Prince’s Purple Rain, U2’s The Joshua Tree, Paul Simon’s Graceland, The Police’s Synchronicity, AC/DC’s Back in Black, Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms, and Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs.
Love the 80’s, or love to hate them, you gotta admit they had their fair share of good tunes and good memories. Was some of it cheesy? Fer sure, dude. Even I throw up in my mouth a little whenever I hear “Eternal Flame” or “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” but every decade has its fair share of cheese. For some reason, we just remember more of it from the 80’s–I blame MTV–video killed the radio star.
Up on the Concert Log/Music link at the top, you can see the quick mini review of Fitz and the Tantrums at Irving Plaza Sunday night.
They were fantastic.
But that’s not what I want to talk about today.
There were two opening acts. The first was Ivy Levan, who, I’m sorry to say, we missed. She only did a twenty minute set, and dinner was too good to rush (duck breast! braised short ribs! warm lava cake!).
My hair is richer than silly old lava cake.
We got there in time for the second act, and that’s the lead in to today’s post.
THE 80’s ARE OVER!!!
I’ve seen Duran Duran. They weren’t bad, and Rio has surprising legs this far down the road.
I’ve seen Depeche Mode, and while they aren’t my cup of tea (industrial angst? Really?), they did put on a good show.
I’ve seen Kiss, Psychedelic Furs, hell, I’ve even seen Heart and Huey Lewis and the News, and enjoyed them.
All in the last decade.
And a lot of 80s music is fun. In small doses, even the syrupy stuff is nice.
But I’ve never seen one band encompass everything wrong with 80s music in one shot.
Until last night.
Their name is Hearts. I haven’t been able to find out anything about them online at all.
And while some may think I’ve been letting this one fester under my skin until I could write this down, fortunately I have “of the moment” proof, courtesy of twitter.
I’m not sure what burned me about this band. I think it was the fact that there was nothing original. Every riff, every trope, every move was taken from bands that did it earlier, smoother, better.
I felt like I was watching a cheap imitation of something that had earned its place in our culture, and doing a poor job of it.
So here now, are the as-it-happened tweets of myself and TMWGITU under her twitter handle @FredWallaby:
I hope this suitably expresses how god-awfully 80s this band was.
If not, I’ll see if I can’t get Phil Collins to lay down a track to describe it.
As soon as Marty McFly brings his synthesizer sustain pedal back in the DeLorean.
Hey, Lay off Dude! I owe my career to the 80s. And feathered hair.
Today’s Music: Oh, all sorts! See below… Note: I just needed to get this off my chest. It was annoying the hell out of me.
Driving back from a really good noodle place (I had the broad rice noodle soup with beef brisket stew. TMWGITU had the mei fun noodle soup with duck. Delicious!), wfuv (stream here) played a live version of Leonard Cohen singing Tower of Song.
Let’s listen, shall we? (It’s a bit long, but this is the same version that set me off tonight.)
No, not really. The lyrics are pretty good. The sentiment of the song, also pretty good.
Leonard writes a great song, but his performance ain’t worth a damn.
So how can you tell it’s a great song?
Toms live version gives the song depth. He wakes up the sadness, the experience, the pathos,and gives it voice. Leonard? Well. he sounds like he’s performing on buffet night at the I-66 Hilton.
(Even more poignant is this video version by time, which is even stronger. I used this as a “Today’s Music” shortly after I heard it.)
Still think I’m slandering a genius? Try this on – one of his most popular (and best) songs.
This time, we’ll start with the cover.
If you’re familiar with the song, you know it’s very poignant and moving. So moving, even Bon Jovi can’t screw it up. It’s a bit hammy, but still…
Here’s Leonard’s original.
Did you know if you show your ticket stub at the check-in desk, they give you a free continental breakfast?
None of this is meant to knock Leonard’s skill or talent. There’s a story I heard, perhaps apocryphal, that Leonard couldn’t get any traction as a poet, so he began setting his poems to music to get a wider audience. And it worked. Google “Leonard Cohen”,and you get a wealth of information – the artists he’s influenced, the impact his songs have had, the lives he’s touched.
And god bless him for that.
But I doubt it was his singing that did it.
I expect many of you will disagree vociferously in the comments.