Sunday, May 29, 2011
In honor of Memorial Day weekend, the most American of trilogies by the most American of singers: Elvis Presley's "An American Trilogy."
Elvis arranged the American Trilogy, which weaves three American hymns of different pedigree - the minstrel song "Dixie," the folk standard "All My Trials" and a crecendo of "The Battle Hymn of the Repubic" - into a glorious American tapestry with the distinctive scent of bacon.
The Trilogy was Elvis's favorite song to perform in the jumpsuit years, and was the unquestionable highlight of his 1971 Aloha from Hawaii global satellite broadcast. The Trilogy is also a favorite of Elvis impersonators, — excuse me, I mean "Elvis tribute artists" - it's practically impossible to see one without hearing it.
The operatic climax at the end, starting at about 3:25, when The King steps forward and belts out "Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!" one last time, it sends shivers down the spine.
Is it just me or did Elvis sing "Nixonland" at 1:01? Anyway, if you aren't moved by "An American Trilogy," I want to see your birth certificate.
Elvis Presley is surely singing "American Trilogy" at the great BBQ in the sky. Happy Memorial Day and TCB.
Buy Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite on iTunes here
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Miles Davis, had he not passed away in 1991, would have turned 85 today. Miles, like Bob Dylan, blazed musical trails at the rates most people mow their lawns, and by the time people caught on to what he was doing, he had moved onto something else. I love all of his stuff, and he is most famous for his 1958 masterwork Kind of Blue, but I really dig the far-out stuff he was doing in the late 60s and early 70s.
Miles took inspiration from all types of art and he was really hip to what Jimi Hendrix and Sly and the Family Stone were doing. It manifested itself in the jazz-fusion of albums such as In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew and A Tribute to Jack Johnson. All are must owns.
In an effort to soak up those vibes and spread the gospel, Miles played many rock festivals during the period, and even opened for Neil Young & Crazy Horse at the Filmore East. Here's Miles taking care of business on aa tune called "Call it Anything" at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. Dig it baby.
Get your Miles Davis on iTunes here
Monday, May 23, 2011
A happy and healthy 70th to our musical standard-bearer, sage and beacon Bob Dylan.
Rock Turtleneck has written multitudes about the man over the years (which you can read here), so for once we've decided to let the Bard of Hibbing do the talking, in a song and performance that say everything that needs to be said about the passing of time and how essential it is to keep on keepin' on like a bird that flewwwww:
So now I’m goin’ back again
I got to get to her somehow
All the people we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenters’ wives
Don’t know how it all got started
I don’t know what they’re doin’ with their lives
But me, I’m still on the road
Headin’ for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point of view
Tangled up in blue
HB & TCB BD. Get yer Dylan on iTunes here
Friday, May 20, 2011
Since the world is ending tomorrow, I'd like to give a shout-out to my 171,000 or so readers. It’s been a great five years of doing Rock Turtleneck and I hope I made our pre-Judgment Days together on earth a little more enjoyable.
To celebrate Armageddon, the RT staff has put together an end-of-days playlist. But really, get outside and give a hug and a kiss to the ones you love - surely you have better ways to spend your last moments on earth than watching thematically related music vids on YouTube.
This 1980 tune was the first hit to feature rapping. There are worse ways to spend one's final day on earth than cruising Debbie Harry and Fab Five Freddy.
When The Purple One laid-down this funk-pop classic, 1999 was 17 years away and the end of the world was coming in 2000, not 2011. Now when you say you are going to “party like it’s 1999,” you could be talking about a simpler time, a time before 9/11 when the economy was growing and it all seemed a little less complicated.
Prince - 1999 by djarnaldo
R.E.M., “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I feel Fine)”
This Document party classic has it all, earthquakes, birds, snakes, aeroplanes, hurricanes. It also recounts a dream Michael Stipe had where he was at a party surrounded by famous people with the initials L.B. — Leonard Bernstein, Leonid Breznev,, Lenny Bruce, Lester Bangs — making it the only party in the last 25 years that Stipe has attended without Patti Smith.
The Clash, “Armagideon Time”
Armagideon, armageddon, what’s the difference - don’t you know the world is going to end? The Clash are thought of as punks, but they were even better when they got their reggae on.
The Rapture, “Pieces of the People We Love.”
There is a band called the Rapture and they play danceable altnera-rock. If they aren’t booked for a midnight show tonight, they should fire their manager.
Bob Dylan, “All Along the Watchtower”
Dylan’s catalog is full of apocalyptic visions, but this enigmatic ditty may be the most apocalypty of them all. “Outside in the distance/A wildcat did growl/Two riders were approaching/The wind began to howl.” See you in the fallout shelter.
The Doors, “The End”
This song opened up the film Apocalypse Now and helped kick-start the Doors resurgence in the late 70s. Apparenetly when The End comes Mr. Mojo Risin' was planning to shack up with his mama. Probably just as well he didn't live to see the day.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
"Dear Rock Turtleneck," read the typewritten letter, " I’m not trying to be a brown-noser, but your blog is seriously one of my all-time fav --"
Stop, Sam - you had me at “brown.”
In addition to being a world-class compliment payer, Sam Friend is also a fantastic singer and songwriter.
From the second I started listening to his record Lady Madly, I was enchanted in by the shimmering, slightly whimsical music and melodies and by Sam’s singing, which recalls many Titans of Rock Turtleneck, including Neil Young, The Band, R.E.M., Violent Femmes and World Party.
His homespun magic with his band Drawlings shimmers like his turquoise Tele on this clip of his tune "Magic in.a Package!"
Sam hails from Miami, but he’s coming to NYC this Saturday at 11pm for a show at Joe’s Pub . Then he will be doing a June residency at the LIving Room, playing there every Monday at 8pm. I plan to be there and you should too.
For a very limited time you can download Lady Madly and the groovily titled Secured and Fastened for Daisy Buchanan by visiting Sam's site at http://samfriend.bandcamp.com/
You can also get his music on iTunes here
Sam and I chatted via email not long ago - here is the juicy parts of the conversation betwixt two of music's shining lights.
RT: Sam, I hear many influences in your music - many of the titans like Dylan, The Band, Neil Young, Beatles. But another influence that sounds really strong is World Party, who was a great band but doesn’t have the same stature as the others. Are they an influence or is it a coincidence?
SF: Mostly coincidence. Although, I had a run playing guitar in a college production of Rocky Horror Picture Show and I heard Karl Wallinger also has ties to the play. Plus I’ve lived in London, and that could have something to do with the sound. I do like World Party’s music. They have an R.E.M. thing at times, especially in the guitars. So I’d say there’s a thread.
RT: One of the striking things in your sound on Lady Madly is the use of the electric violin. How did that come about - was it something you were striving for or was there a moment of serendipity involved?
SF: Those recordings involved people I was hanging out with around Seattle. One such guy was Antonio Marin, who’s an accomplished classical violinist from Spain. When I was recording and wanted to add textures, I naturally thought of him. We had an ideal musical way of communicating where I’d have an idea or concept and he’d find a way to fine tune it to his instrument. I didn’t have to write charts for him and he didn’t have to listen to me dictate notes. It wasn’t electric violin though. It was recorded acoustically and tweaked into what it is.
RT: One of my favorite songs of yours is “Magic in.a Package!” - what exactly is in said package, and what makes it magical?
SF: Kombucha. Ha not exactly. Think of it like the ship in a bottle. Or fish in an ocean. It’s two fold. So the magic and then the package. A lot of times you’ll have one of the two. This song’s about getting them both to meet. And connect. Which is easier said than done. Another two fold! Saying something and doing said something. Magic is hard to describe but easy to talk about.
RT: Since you have the wonderful last name Friend, I would like to know, if you could be friends with anyone who would it be?
SF: Alive it be Ray Kurzweil (an American author, inventor and futurist). Not alive, Jack Kerouac. Nice question.
RT: I came across a dynamite clip on YouTube of you playing “For the Turnstiles” at a Neil Young tribute show. How did you choose that magnificent song?
SF: It was in Miami. And Miami is typically a DJ town and the word "turnstiles" has that ring to it, even though I think he meant it about being on tour. And so it was a subtle way of being clever. And the recording of that song is stripped down, so I thought it be interesting to play it with a band. And it’s from On the Beach. You catch my drift.
RT: What is next for Sam Friend?
SF: Finishing recording the current group of songs, bringing them together creatively and playing wherever whenever. And to keep on writing. Rinse and repeat.
Remenber, Sam's at Joe's Pub this Saturday May 28 at 11pm and at The Living Room every Monday in June at the commuter-friendly hour of 8pm. Be a friend of Sam Friend and be there!
Saturday, May 14, 2011
The CIA has been going through the treasure trove of stuff found in Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani compound after the masterful raid by the Navy SEALs. Among the journals, terror plots and porno mags was a link to bin Laden’s five year-old music blog Jihad Turtleneck.
Perhaps most fascinating of all is an unfinished post from May 1, 2011, his last day on earth, where he listed his favorite songs of the moment.
Serving Aging Tipsters Since 2006
30 April, 2011
Going into hiding (albeit in plain sight) has given me time to catch up on my favorite music. There’s nothing like sitting up on the roof of my million-dollar compound, sticking the white earbuds in my giant, hairy ears and looking out for miles and miles across the Pakistani suburbs and military bases, knowing that I am completely protected and the evil, incompetent United States government will never, ever find me.
Anyway, here are a few tracks that have been rocking my world recently. Praise be to Allah!
Mumford & Sons, “The Cave.” It’s not the first time I’ve heard someone say “Come out of the cave walking on your hands/And see the world hanging upside down.” To that I say, “I can't come out of something I was never in the first place.”
Robert Johhnson, “Hell Hound on My Trail.” This song from the King of the Delta Blues Singers is absolutely terrifying - and trust me, I know from terror. Mr. Crossroads turns 100 on May 8 - you can bet I'll be celebrating that one!
The Drifters, “Up on the Roof” - “Right smack dab in the middle of town, I found a paradise that’s trouble-proof, up on the roof.” My roof deck with a 7-foot wall around it is paradise indeed: I can get sun & fresh air but no one has any idea whatsoever that I am there.
Bob Dylan, “Blood in My Eyes” - Dylan’s late-period acoustic blues always gives me the chills. But “Blood in My Eyes?” In both eyes? That’s disgusting. Blood in one eye, well that I can see.
Chuck Berry, “You Can’t Catch Me”
I’d like to send a long-distance dedication to Barack Obama: Those Tea Partiers are right again - you are too much of a wuss to ever take me out. If that no-nonsense cowboy W couldn’t catch me, how is an effete community organizer going to?
Seal, “Kiss from a Rose,” I love Seal's sexy sounds, and I can’t wait for his next record. In fact, I just got a text message saying “SEAL Team Six coming soon,” so I’ll definitely be picking that -- hold on, someone’s at the door.
Sunday, May 08, 2011
According to Michael Stipe, R.E.M.’s “Belong” is about the non-violent demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in April of 1989. But reading the lyrics, it seems that “Belong” is more universally about a love of a mother for her child, whether they are in Beijing, Brussels or Bensonhust.
Her world collapsed early Sunday morning
She got up from the kitchen table
Folded the newspaper and silenced the radio
Those creatures jumped the barricades
And have headed for the sea, sea
Those creatures jumped the barricades
And have headed for the sea
She began to breathe
To breathe at the thought of such freedom
Stood and whispered to her child: belong
She held the child and whispered
With calm, calm: belong
“Belong” is one of the best tunes on R.E.M.’s Out of Time, the 1991 record that had them shed the “alternative” label forever (i.e., the one with “Losing My Religion”). It features beautiful harmonies, a great open-chord groove by Berry, Buck and Mills and spoken word vocals by Stipe, supposedly recorded on a Walkman in his garage. Pretentious? Perhaps. Precious? Absolutely. But R.E.M. has shown time and again that they are a band - perhaps the only band - that can go there and survive intact.
“Belong” also performs the important service of re-steering Out of Time after the the irritating bubblegum camp of “Shiny Happy People,” taking it into a great run of songs that finish off the record.
Among my R.E.M.-loving fans, the word “Belong” has become a sort of shorthand that both pays tribute and satirizes the mysterious beauty of R.E.M.’s music, and of life in general.
So to all you wonderful mothers out there, I have just one thing to say, with calm, calm: Belong.
Here are the boys doing a semi-precious version of "Belong" on their epic 1991 appearance on MTV’s Unplugged, a performance that deserves a deluxe CD/DVD release pronto.
Buy Out of Time on iTunes here
Thursday, May 05, 2011
In addition to being being Cinco de Mayo, and my birthday, it is also the birthday of one of the most un-Mexican rock stars who ever lived: Ian McCulloch of Echo and the Bunnymen, born on this day in 1959 in Liverpool, England.
Echo & the Bunnymen are quite possibly the biggest band to come out of Liverpool besides The Beatles. Despite loving their sound, I never really made it beyond the greatest hits level with Echo, but their collection Songs to Learn and Sing, is one of the greatest. Ian has a great set of pipes and a lot of passion, but he doesn't really get his fair shake by the critics. (That's where Rock Turtleneck comes in.)
Their greatest track is perhaps "The Killing Moon," a sweeping epic that reached the heights of epic grandeur attained in only a handful other 80s classics, such as The Smiths' "How Soon is Now?", "Bad" by U2, The Church's "Under the Milky Way," "Blue Monday" by New Order, and of course "Wanted: Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi.
One of my other Echo favorites is "The Cutter" which, despite its title, is not about Miley Cyrus or some other troubled teen. Actually, I have no idea what it's about - and quite frankly, I don't care. It's a great tune, with the sturdiest bridge this side of the Ol' Mississip. Here they are cutting it live in 1983, perhaps the greatest-ever year for this type of alternative rock.
HB & TCB, Ian. Don't spare us "The Cutter."
Buy Songs to Learn and Sing on iTunes here.
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Many questions have circulated since the world learned of the death of Osama bin Laden by the hands of President Barack Obama and his team of rivals. How long have we known he was living in his relatively lavish suburban compound? Did the Pakistani governement really have no idea he was living there? What does this mean for Al Queda? What does this mean for the US? Did we really bury him at sea? Will this delay the release of the next iPhone?
One thing most agree on: Osama is going Straight to Hell boy.
"Straight to Hell," from The Clash’s final LP Combat Rock (the final one that mattered anyway), is considered one of their very best songs by fans and band alike.
It is terrifying from start to finish, with a distinctive reggae backbeat by Topper Headon and some super spooky violin that gives the tune a feeling of fear and foreboding. Strummer chooses his words carefully and haunting phrases rise to the fore like "Speaking English in quotations" and "That ain't Coca-Cola, it's rice."
And while "Straight to Hell" doesn’t talk about terrorists or jihads or justice served per se, that feeling certainly comes across. So what does it talk about? According to Wikipedia:
“Like those of many songs by The Clash, the lyrics of ‘Straight to Hell’ decry injustice. The first verse refers to the shutting down of steel mills in Northern England and the alienation and racism suffered by immigrants despite their attempts to integrate into British society. The second verse concerns the abandonment of children in Vietnam who were fathered by American soldiers during the Vietnam War. The third verse contrasts the American Dream as seen through the eyes of an Amerasian child with a dystopian vision of American reality. The final verse considers the plight of immigrants throughout the world.” Hey, that's what I was going to say!
In a perfect bit of Beatlesque yin and yang, the Joe Strummer-penned "Straight to Hell" was released as a double-A-sided single with the more Mick Jones-ish "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" - a question bin Laden was probably asking himself not long before that Navy Seal put a bullet through his forehead.
Buy Combat Rock by The Clash on iTunes here