Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Every once in a while a treasure trove of priceless, previously unknown work by a master artist is discovered seemingly out of nowhere. It's happened in recent years with work by Beethoven, Woody Guthrie, Ansel Adams, Bob Dylan and now Pablo Picasso.
A whopping 271 works by Picasso were kept in a box in a garage by his electrician, who said the Pab-meister gave him the box as a gift not long before the the artist died in the early 70s. Picasso's heirs are disputing that story (shocker), but no one is disputing that the works come from the touched-by-the-hand-of-God master.
Something else no one disputes: Pablo Picasso was never called an a$$hole.
Just ask Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, who paid tribute to Picasso's omnipotent magnetism in song on their 1976 debut LP (which featured David Robinson and Jerry Harrison, who would go on to join The Cars and Talking Heads, respectively):
Well the girls would turn the color of an avocado
When he would drive down their street in his Eldorado
He could walk down your street and girls could not resist his stare
Pablo Picasso never got called an a$$hole
"Pablo Picasso" gained wider exposure when featured in the bitchin' 1984 film Repo Man, where the tune was covered by the L.A. band Burning Sensations and included on the epochal Repo Man soundtrack.
"Pablo Picasso" was covered yet again in 2003, this time by David Bowie, who did a clever, Scary Monsters-ish version for his record Reality.
Get your "Pablo Picasso" trilogy on Amazon.com:
Friday, November 26, 2010
To insane shopaholics, Black Friday — the first day of the holiday shopping season — is probably a more anticipated and more American holiday than Thanksgiving.
Steely Dan kicked off their great 1975 LP Katy Lied with a rocking, guitar-heavy tune called "Black Friday". I'm not sure what the song is about, but I don't think it was lining up outside WalMart at 2:45am.
For that reason, Rock Turtleneck presents "Black Friday 2010," sung to the tune of Steely Dan's rocking classic.
When Black Friday comes
I'm going to drive right down to Kohl's
And save ten bucks on some Martha Stewart mixing bowls
When Black Friday comes
I'm going to leave at 3am
The kids won't know that the dog is watching them
When Black Friday comes
It's like getting it free
Just pay with dignity
When Black Friday comes
I'm gonna run right to aisle three
And get my hands on a fifty-eight inch TV
When Black Friday comes
I'm going to save like you've never seen
Then take that cash and have lunch at Applebee's
When Black Friday comes
The deals are sweet
On sh*t that you don't need
Black Friday Bonus: Live version of "Black Friday" from Two Against Nature tour
Buy Steely Dan's Katy Lied on iTunes here.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Now that The Beatles have been on iTunes for a week, it's time to do some digging into the fascinating far reaches of their unrivaled catalog. The Beatles banged out over 200 classics in about seven years. Here are five gems you don’t hear every day – some for good reason — all worth $1.29 or more.
“Things We Said Today”
This minor-key McCartney masterpiece was buried near the end of the soundtrack to A Hard Day’s Night. It nevertheless paved the way for every sensitive, shoegazing alternative band from R.E.M. and The Smiths onward. Michael Stipe once said that the Beatles were “elevator music” to him growing up and Patti Smilth and the Banana Splits were more profound influences. I guess he spent a lot of time on elevators.
With its tone-deaf harmonies and nausea-inducing organ solo, Beatles for Sale track is generally agreed upon by Beatlemaniacs to be the worst song the band ever recorded – even more wretched than “Revolution #9,” which could at least be dismissed as “experimental.” The band used to play this Dr. Feelgood cover for crates of ale in the seedy bars of Hamburg, Germany, where it was embraced by the same discerning musical ears that would later launch David Hasselhoff to musical glory.
This 1966 B-side to “Paperback Writer” was the first song to use backwards music, and almost singlehandedly invented psychedelic rock and the use of the bass as a lead instrument. It was also one of the first rock videos. For most bands, "Rain" alone would be enough to merit induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But for these lads, it was just another day at the office. "Rain" is the Beatles at their absolute coolest, perfectly poised between Mop Top and Sgt. Pepper. Apparently the Gallagher brothers of Oasis agreed, as they used the "Rain" clip as a template for their entire look and sound. You can find it on the Past Masters collection on iTunes.
“Baby, You’re a Rich Man”
John Lennon, Mr. Imagine himself, ends this 1967 B-side to “All You Need is Love” (both can be found on Magical Mystery Tour) by screaming “Baby you’re a rich fag Jew” in tribute to their soon-to-be-dead manager Brian Epstein. Somehow that was left out of Yoko's peace-and-love 70th birthday celebrations last month. Great tune though.
George Harrison wrote this White Album tune about his buddy Eric Clapton’s insatiable sweet tooth for Good News chocolates, a Whitman’s Sampler type of bon bons with flavors like Crème Tangerine, Montelimar, Ginger Sling and Pineapple Heart. Another delicious bon bon Slowhand couldn’t keep his hands off was Patti Boyd, George’s beautiful wife, who left him for Eric in the 1970s. George forgave him.
Buy The Beatles on iTunes here.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
After years of rumors, negotiations, counter-suits, false starts and blood-curdling shrieks (Yoko only), The Beatles’ music, the greatest catalog of popular tuneage ever recorded, is now available on iTunes.
While any excuse to discover or rediscover The Beatles is welcome, it's not a particularly significant event. All of their records have always been readily available. In fact, despite not being available digitally — and despite having been broken up for over 30 years — The Beatles were the second-best selling musical act of the 2000s, bested only by Eminem. The Beatles coming to iTunes in 2010 is sort of like Picasso finally having a Twitter feed.
The announcement was made using the above photo, which is also the same photo Rolling Stone has used twice in the past two years.
Given the literally millions of pictures of the Fab Four out there, and given their image for being "all together now," it’s interesting that so many gravitate toward this picture of them looking so divided. I am guessing it’s the aesthetic composition and clean white background — and strict image control by the Beatles organization — that draws art directors to the photo. But if they wanted a cool picture of The Beatles, why not use this?
Steve Jobs is a well-known Beatlemaniac. He named his start-up computer company after the Beatles' start-up record label, and had to pay something like $28 million in trademark violations to the Beatles a couple years ago — one of the reasons for their delay in coming to iTunes.
Judging by this four-minute Beatles/iTunes primer, Jobs’ favorite Beatles record is definitely Revolver.
As part of their Beatles fete, iTunes is streaming a complete film of the Beatles’ first US concert. It took place on February 11, 1964 at the Washington Coliseum in DC, a mere two days after their world-changing appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. The show is performed “in the round,” and amazingly Ringo even rotates his drumset himself, as jellybeans and other objects ping his cymbals.
Their sound, especially Ringo’s drumming, is surprisingly muscular. And the concert, filmed at the absolute height of Beatlemania, must be seen to be believed. You can watch it here:
Buy The Beatles on iTunes here.
Friday, November 12, 2010
I spent much of last week holed up in bed with a nasty fever: the chills, sweats, aches and pains and ribcage-rattling coughs. At one particularly dire point, when I was staring directly into the abyss, I remember wondering, Is this is what Neil Young felt like when he wrote “Cinnamon Girl?”
In the liner notes to his 1977, 3-LP retrospective Decade, Neil noted that he wrote “Cinnamon Girl,” “Down by the River” and “Cowgirl in the Sand” in a single day in 1969 “lying in bed with a 103 degree fever in Topanga Canyon.”
As an act of bed-based songwriting serendipity, it is right up there with Paul McCartney dreaming of “Yesterday” in its entirety and Keith Richards waking up in the middle of the night, singing the riff to “Satisfaction” into his bedside tape recorder, going back to sleep, and discovering it the next day at the beginning of the tape.
“Cinnamon Girl,” “Down by the River” and “Cowgirl” formed the backbone of Everybody Knows this is Nowhere, the 1969 LP that made Neil a top-shelf rock & roll superstar. They also laid out much of the darkly fascinating creative terrain he would explore through his incredible run of records in the 1970s and beyond. It's right up there with After the Gold Rush, On the Beach and Rust Never Sleeps as one of his very best albums.
“Cinnamon Girl” is Neil’s ultimate proto-grunge anthem, loud, passionate and to the point with the greatest less-is-more guitar solo in history. A strong case could be made for it being his single best song.
“Down by the River” is a Lead Belly-style murder ballad in a jazz framework, with verses of jealous rage interrupted with long solos. It was the first of Neil’s many Epic Guitar Tunes, a genre Neil does better than anyone. Here’s a terrific version with CSN from the little-seen film Concert at Big Sur, featuring local resident Joan Baez shaking her folkie moneymaker.
“Cowgirl in the Sand” is jazz-like and improvisatory like "Down by the River" but seems to be more of Dylanesque ode to a mysterious lady. This version from the Archives release Live at the Fillmore is ferocious, and at 14 minutes, too short.
Alas, my fever dream was not nearly as fruitful as Neil's. To my knowledge, I did not write a single rock & roll classic. But maybe someday, years from now, an aspiring rock blogger might see this post and say "I heard Rock Turtleneck had a horrible fever when he wrote this."
Catch Neil Young fever on iTunes:
Everybody Knows this is Nowhere
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Scrolling through the commie news blog Huffington Post today, I came across the following headline:
WATCH: Japanese HOLOGRAM Plays Sold Out Concerts
Clicking on the link, I learned about Hatsune Miku, a three-dimensional fabrication of light that fills arenas and works Japanese teens into a glowstick-shaking lather. To watch it is truly eerie. As the story said, "Science Fiction comes to life."
After taking a few minutes to absorb what I'd just seen, I started to think: how long till Virtual Elvis goes on tour?
In 2001, some friends and I had front-row seats at Madison Square Garden to see Elvis Presley in Concert, a larger-than-life spectacle wherein E's original TCB Band played live to Aloha from Hawaii-era video footage. It was an incredible show. But it would be nothing compared to a ten-foot tall, 3D, Phoenix-jumpsuited Elvis hologram strutting on stage and belting out "See See Rider."
And as the actual Elvis showed, once the King kicks down the door, all bets are off. How long till fans can have the Beatles' 1969 rooftop concert projected onto their own rooftops?
Or have the cyber-cops bust break up a virtual Doors show when the Lizard King pulls out his holo-weenie while singing "Back Door Man"?
And just think of all the money Courtney Love could blow through by bringing Kurt Cobain and Nirvana back from the dead for some virtual grunge?
The possibilities are endless, and are surely coming our way in the next few years. Come on RT readers, let's hear from you: Are hologramed concerts genius or sacrilege? And if you're cool with it, what is your dream hologram show? Hendrix at the Marquee? The Stones in the Garden? The Grateful Dead at the Filmore? Bon Jovi at the Izod Center?
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Election Week, while important and referendummy and all, felt more to me like Keith Week. For while I spent about seven minutes voting, I've spent several hours reading Keith Richards' randy new memoir Life.
So why not mix voting and Keith like them like a heroin-speed highball? Thus Rock Turtlenck is bringing back the popular RT Poll. And we kindly ask you to vote for your favorite Keith song by the Rolling Stones.
The first tune Keith sang on was “Connection” from 1967's Between the Buttons (a duet w/Mick, but we'll take it), and he has been good for a lead vocal every couple of albums since. (We’re leaving out his solo work with the X-Pensive Winos for now — more on them in coming days.) Check out these clips and then vote at the top of the page.
“Connection” (Between the Buttons, 1967)
“Salt of the Earth” (Beggar’s Banquet, 1968)
Rolling Stones - Salt of the earth
Uploaded by Salut-les-copains. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.
“You Got the Silver” (Let it Bleed, 1969)
“Happy” (Exile on Main St., 1972)
“Coming Down Again” (Goat’s Head Soup, 1973)
“Before They Make Me Run” (Some Girls, 1978)
“Little T&A” (Tattoo You, 1981)
“Sleep Tonight” (Dirty Work, 1985)
“Slipping Away” (Steel Wheels)
“The Worst” (Voodoo Lounge)
(Great version here with Earths' two biggest duet whores: Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow)
Vote early and often.
Monday, November 01, 2010
As a website that thrives in the vortex of comedy, music and political thought-leadership, Rock Turtleneck dispatched friend, music lover and onetime Daily Show guest Jeremy Sussman to DC for his musical take on the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert-hosted Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear this past weekend. Take it away, Jeremy.
By now you've undoubtedly read the many accounts of the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear from a politico-punditry-comedic-number-crunching standpoint, but I was sent down by RT to cover the RTRSA/OF from a musical angle.
Wanting to fit in, I garbed myself in urban-hipster mufti, created a pseudo-sarcastic anti-political sign and had my photographer and support staff disguised as my "family." The natives bought it.
At exactly High Noon, the rally -- and the music -- kicked off. Uber-cool hip-hop band The Roots started it off, confusing all the older people in the crowd who never realized that hip hop could include real instruments other than a turntable. They were joined by John Legend, playing a set that included "Hard Times" and their cover of Monsters of Folk’s “Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)”
After a brief non-musical interlude where Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman (of Mythbusters fame) create a human wave and a people-induced earthquake, the real rally started -- and the musical component took a quantum leap forward.
Jon brought Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) out on the stage to sing his lite-FM folk classic "Peace Train," causing about 250,000 (or if you ask Colbert, six billion) post-hippie middle age bleeding-hearts to throb and sing backup for him.
Yusuf was rudely cut off by Stephen Colbert (has anyone ever been politely cut off by Colbert?), pulling the emergency brake on that Peace Train to pull a train more to his liking. It took about two strokes of the guitar for the musicerati to recognize the ultimate head-banging train song of all time: Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train."
Yusuf and Ozzy went back and forth, surely the oddest pairing ever seen since Sonny and Cher. Since there was no way to get them to harmonize, Stewart and Colbert settled on a compromise. Without a Coors Light snowstorm anywhere in sight, out came the O'Jays to start the greatest train of all: The Love Train.
The mood was set, the crowd was rocking, all was good. I think there may have been some talking-head blah blah blah after that, but I was still taking in the insanity of that three-train combination punch when the next musical act was introduced: Mavis Staples and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, whose new collaboration, You Are Not Alone, is easily one of the year's best records. They rocked out Mavis' signature tune, "I'll Take You There."
The music was meant to have a point, though. And that point was brought home surprisingly effectively by Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow, and a virtual TI, backed by The Roots, singing the au courant "Care."
Not all the music was quite that top-notch. A duet between the two hosts on their hilarious Americana ditty “Greatest Strongest Country” (w/Tweedy on guitar), had Colbert making a fine showing but Stewart had some ... ahem ... high-note issues.
All in all, a fine day - musically, comedically, politically and spiritually.
Thank you Jeremy for your fabulous report. Like any good rally, the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear one had a theme song, a funky groove by The Roots, who have established themselves as comedy's house band, called "The Seed."