Saturday, August 20, 2011

"I CAN'T EXPLAIN": The Who> Bowie> The Clash> Fatboy Slim> The Hives



Creativity is each putting their own spin on an idea, advancing new directions. Here's another relay using one song.


THE WHO were tearing it up in their early days as a Mod band doing blasting R'n'B and Blues covers. But PETE TOWNSHEND found his feet composing his first song and their first Top 10 hit, "I Can't Explain".



The song was inspired in its punching chords riff by THE KINKS' "All Day And All Of The Night" (which was inspired by "Louie Louie", which was inspired by a Chuck Berry song, which was inspired by a Calypso song, which connects on to songs from the Old World, and the short of it is that I'm your Great Grandfather from the future. But back to the story.)

THE KINKS -"All Day And All Of The Night" (1965)




That's the hand-off. Now here's our young punks creating the future in two minutes flat. (Check for bruises and your wallet before going to the next song.)

Note that from the very start, the band finds its identity in insular lyrics with anthemic power chords.

THE WHO -"I Can't Explain" (1965)




In the early 70's, as THE WHO turned its Mod beginnings into the rock opera "Quadrophenia", others began to look back also.

From the 50's revival in films ("American Graffiti", "That'll Be The Day") and Glam Rock (T-Rex, Suzi Quatro, Gary Glitter), to the seminal "Nuggets" double-album anthology, to DAVID BOWIE's covers album, "Pin Ups"...

DAVID BOWIE -"I Can't Explain" (1973)




Fresh off her success as Mary Magdalene in the screen version of "Jesus Christ Superstar", here's Hawaiian (by way of Ireland, Japan, and China) YVONNE ELLIMAN with one of the best, unheralded versions ever recorded.

This becomes important again later.

YVONNE ELLIMAN -"I Can't Explain" (1973)




THE CLASH loved this riff and used it a few times: in "Clash City Rockers" (1977), "Capitol Radio" (1977), and "Guns on the Roof" (1978); as well as a sample at the end of BIG AUDIO DYNAMITE's "Contact" (1989, at 2:53).

THE CLASH -"Clash City Rockers" (1977)



Keeping it Punk, here's Jimmy Lydon -the younger brother of JOHN LYDON- with a Post-Punk dub take. Who else thought to use a Jaw Harp then?

4" Be 2" -"I Can't Explain" (1980)



Not far off from that spirit in a Big Beat dance style, here's FATBOY SLIM sampling the overlooked Yvonne Elliman version over the drums from LED ZEPPELIN's "The Crunge".

FATBOY SLIM -"Going Out OF My Head" (1997)



Like THE CLASH, here's more young punks putting new kick in the strut: the premiere neo-Garage Rock band THE HIVES from Sweden.

THE HIVES -"Walk Idiot Walk" (2004)



And here it is in a rewrite by Brazilian band ULTRAJE A RIGOR done acoustically...

ULTRAJE A RIGOR -"Eu Nao Sei (I Don't Know)" (2005)





Wednesday, August 17, 2011

'MOONLIGHT SONATA': Beethoven> The Beatles> Piero Umiliani> En Vogue



Creativity is a cultural relay race. Here's another great baton.


"The Moonlight Sonata" by LUDWIG van BEETHOVEN is one of the most haunting and romantic Classical ballads of all time. It's actual title is "Piano Sonata No. 14 in C♯ minor, "Quasi una fantasia", Op. 27, No. 2"; the Latin phrase translates as "Almost a fantasy".

Sit back and be transported into mood indigo.

LUDWIG van BEETHOVEN -"Piano Sonata No. 14 in C♯ minor, "Quasi una fantasia", Op. 27, No. 2" (composed 1801)



A classic Pop song that incorporates Beethoven's melody is "Past Present Future" by THE SHANGRI-LAS. Producer Shadow Morton, firmly in the Phil Spector aural tradition, smartly puts the spotlight on Mary Weiss and her ever-haunting monologues.

The line "but don't try to touch me" is especially chilling, and the song was a natural for a new remake by Marianne Faithfull.

THE SHANGRI-LAS -"Past Present Future" (1966)



Yoko Ono is a classically trained pianist. While she was playing "Moonlight Sonata" once, JOHN LENNON lit up and asked her to play the chords backwards. This inspired the framework for his song "Because" on the ABBEY ROAD album. George Harrison plays a Moog synthesizer in various parts.

"Because" is loved for its melody, its cheeky puns ("because the wind is high, it blows my mind"), and for the lovely chorus sung by John, Paul, and George. Bringing the relay full circle, the song is often covered by symphonic orchestras. But it is also as popular in a capella versions, like this one by the late great Elliott Smith.

THE BEATLES -"Because" (1969)




By coincidence that same year, Italian film composer PIERO UMILIANI used "Moonlight Sonata" as the framework for this spectral piece for the film "Angeli Bianchi...Angeli Neri/ White Angel, Black Angel".

The piano is most certainly Umiliani, with vocals by I Cantori Moderni (The Modern Singers), who sang on all the classic 60's and 70's Italian soundtracks.

PIERO UMILIANI -"Magical Moonlight" (1969)



In the tradition of The Shangri-Las and The Beatles, here's EN VOGUE with a midnight serenade.

EN VOGUE -"Sad But True" (2000)


The Beethoven melody has also inspired songs by Alicia Keys, Atmosphere, and Down Low.





At some point someone is bound to do a mash-up mix of "Moonlight Sonata" and "Because"!



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Waiting For Spider-Man





"...YOUR FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN!"


There's a new SPIDER-MAN in town, and it's a wonderful thing.

'Not a dream! Not a hoax! Not an emo reboot or a bad musical!'

Marvel Comics built their empire on the character of Spider-Man, as important to their survival as Superman is to their rival, DC Comics. It would be easy for them to play it safe with their breadwinner, but they have a second option to get bold with.

Marvel publishes a regular line of comic titles with all their classic heroes, but they also publish a separate line of Ultimate Comics. In this alternate universe, the characters have been re-imagined as their ultimate best selves for a modern era. The regular comic Spider-Man, that ever wisecracking Peter Parker, is alive and well. But over in the Ultimate Spider-Man comic, Peter Parker has just passed away and a young teen kid named Miles Morales will replace him in September. >


Your friendly neighbor's hood.



There seems to be some kind of flustered fuss about this.

Having an African-American and Hispanic kid as the new Spider-Man is a great thing in multiple ways. Most smart people understand why and said so. But a few fringe voices from the old hate had problems with it, which only reveals their sad flaws.



"HEY, WAY TO MAKE A GUY FEEL WELCOME!" -Peter Parker
a.k.a., 'Who says only Stan The Man can have a soapbox?', dept.





Well, let's get it out of the way, and point out the elephant irrelevant in the room.

ITEM: Here's the straight-up, pilgrims: there are no such things as races. There is only one race, the Human Race. This isn't idealism, it's simply a scientific fact. > >

When people speak of different races, they are mistaken. The flat scientific reality is...there is only one race, the Human Race, Homo sapiens ("wise man", "knowing man"). You can't divide people by minor physical quibbles, by religion, by map borders, or by cultural traditions and call them races. > It's ignorant and no better than superstition. So terms like 'bi-racial' are just (brace yourself) compounded dumbness. > > >

This may sound like idealism, but it is also a smack-exact scientific fact, Jack.

(Let's cut to the quick: a single African tribe seeded every person on Earth, we are family, stop hitting your cousin and grow up or I'll turn this car around right now.) > > >

Races don't exist, but racism does. Racism is the belief in races, and justifying acting badly to others because of it. That's very real, even if it is as stupid as we could possibly be. > I would've skipped all this as a given, effendi, but all the articles -whether pro or con- about Miles prove that the bulk of us still haven't grasped this.

Repeat. When you say 'bi-racial', you're being double-dumb. Like bubble gum.

"Hey, tigers, time to get with reality!" concurs Mary Jane, "Get wise, man; act like you know and let's go. Next."


Stan Lee's Soapbox column, 1968.




"...SPIDER SENSE IS TINGLING!"


Some folks think this is a heavy subject for such light reading. They're judging covers on mags they've never read.

But you know the score, true believers!

Comic books are as advanced in story and craft as any book, film, or series, and have been for many decades. Four generations worth of hip folks have enjoyed this, while some hack journalists and their clueless readers still have their head up their comics code authority.> >

Regardless, the generation who grew up on graphic novels now writes the best blogs, mags, books, shows, and films, which is turning the tide of public awareness; these professionals know that comics at their best have the pulse of the times, and often accelerate it. > >


Marvel Comics (alias Jack Kirby) introduced the first Black superhero,
the african king Black Panther, in 1966.
> > > > > > > >


There's ways to do a good thing right, and still ways to go wrong anyway.

When the character Batwoman was announced as a lesbian (2006), it was decried by some as a stunt.> But, in practice, the character's confident sexual identity only enhanced some of the most essential stories and art of the decade. By focusing on depth and strength of character, in strong stories with stunning art, the creators showed that quality of craft and humanity of heart are the best keys for progress.

Another good character move was the debut of an Asian Batgirl named Cassandra Cain (1999)>, but she was mishandled. The creators seemed to think the concept 'Asian' was enough and blurred her background in a hodgepodge of pan-Asian cultural cliches. In the city I live in, where everyone comes from all the radically diverse cultures grouped under Asia, this was infuriating instead of empowering.

And you know writers are clueless when they descend to the whole 'hero/now villain/now hero' ricochet. The creators seemed equally tonedeaf to the resulting backlash; "Huh?", blink, blink. Newsflash: way to ruin a great character in no time flat, ya boneheads. (What was their solution? They just replaced her with a blond. Yeh. Nuff said.)


Batwoman; Batgirl


Good stories about good people are the whole point of superhero comics. They're fantasies of our inner spirit personified as its ultimate best.>>

Sadly, some bad people with their own problems slung a lot of abuse at Batwoman for having love in her life; and have so again at the casting of Perry White with a fine actor; and of course at our fledgling spider-kid, Miles for being...something they're unskilled to read anyway. So I was really impressed when the main man at Marvel Comics, Joe Quesada, responded to all the bigot blowhards by saying, "if people with racist tendencies disagree with the things we do, then I know we're doing the right thing."

Joe Quesada is hispanic, and extends the proud history of immigrant underdogs that made comics (and culture) great. Comic books were invented in the melting pot of 1930's Depression-era New York City, cranked out by idealistic young Italians, Jews, Poles, Irish, and more who yearned to empower themselves in a better world. > From the later waves of Filipino, French, and Spanish artists in the 70's, to the English and Scottish writers in the 80's, to the rise of African-American artists in the 90's>, and Asian artists in the 00's, American comics are only improved by inclusion and empowerment.

"Sayyy, aren't you forgetting something there, buddy?" interjects Mary Jane.

Woman make up the majority of the human race, but they are the most neglected and marginalized part of the comics community.> > > > So it's even better that the series is being drawn by a woman, which there can never be enough of in comics creation. Sara Pichelli has a keen eye for telling a story, particularly through the humanity imbued in clothes, expressions, and gestures. > And what an excellent job with the costume! Totally new and yet totally identifiable as Spidey.

Hey, wake up over there, I'm on a roll. Wow, tough room. Did we run out of women-in-leather pics? Cue the film, Irving!



"WITH GREAT POWER COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY." -Uncle Ben Parker


But what really put the passion in me was in seeing how much they were influenced by the documentary "Waiting For Superman".



This indie film has clearheaded prescriptions for solving the education crisis in America, using the metaphor that we can't depend on any messianic agency when we should focus on saving ourselves. > >

The cruelest and most moving part of the film is seeing all of the bright kids from poor homes pinning all their hopes on a random lottery system that might let them into a school that can save them. The horror of seeing qualified kids thrown to the wind by sheer chance is almost too heartbreaking to take.

Looking at the three pages of preview art from ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #1 >, it's clear that writer Brian Michael Bendis has adapted this exact scene from the film. At that point my empathy for Miles Morales was absolute, and I knew I was going to buy this book every month.



Waiting for hope

Click image to enlarge


"Waiting For Superman" nails what's criminally wrong about our current education system. We strobe to kids that they can do anything with an education. But we don't provide them with the education which allows them to do anything. When we reduce their chances to a lottery, we tell them that all their hard work means nothing against fickle fate, and they should just give up.

I say, tell fate to go fickle itself.



Girl reads comics, 1947. source


Comic books were first created to lift kids' dreams. Their sole purpose is to empower the hero within you.

In this new Depression, we need to believe that quality will win, that the inner spirit is stronger than evil or fate, that the dreams of our own youth weren't delusions, and that the dreams of the new youth can be given a fair chance. That we have humanity and decency in common, and that together we can make a better world.

We need a narrative of belief that we make happen ourselves. Miles Morales is the hero for our times because we are Miles Morales.



President Obama meets the kids from "Waiting For Superman".
Miles Morales was almost certainly inspired
by the two people shaking hands.





If you haven't seen the film, I can't urge it enough. Then see how you feel about our friendly new neighbor....

ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #1 goes on sale at comic shops September 14, 2011.



(This is a variant cover.)
> > >


Excelsior!







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Monday, August 8, 2011

ROCK GRRRL: Sister Rosetta Tharpe / Alabama 3, Noisettes, Plant & Krause




ROCK GRRRL='She rocks. Revise your history with her story', dept.:


SISTER ROSETTA THARPE was a rocker before there was Rock. She is a mother of us all.

She was the first Gospel star, while burning off Blues and Jazz licks on her guitar like a greasefire. She toured with The Jordanaires a decade before anyone heard of Elvis. She pulled a young kid onstage to sing with her who later changed his name to Little Richard. She was Johnny Cash's favorite singer for life.

And she may have recorded the first Rock'n'Roll song. Years before Muddy Waters' electric blues band (1948) or "Rocket 88" (1951), here is our angel with all the keys to the kingdom: boogie-woogie, blues licks, swaggering stance.

SISTER ROSETTA THARPE -"Strange Things Happening Every Day" (1944)



Though it was heresy to mix secular sounds with gospel music in the 50's, Rosetta didn't care a whit and poured on the rockin' leads regardless. In the film "AMELIE" (2001) the elfin star is entranced with wonder watching Rosetta perform this song on her TV:

SISTER ROSETTA THARPE -"Up Above My Head"



Check out her soloing during the second half. Who's your mama now?

SISTER ROSETTA THARPE -"Down By The Riverside" (live, 19__)






The influence of Sister Rosetta Tharpe never ends. Here are three recent songs about her:

ALABAMA 3 -"Sister Rosetta" (1997)


THE NOISETTES -"Sister Rosetta (Capture The Spirit)" (2007)


Originally by SAM PHILLIPS, here's the gossamer siren Ms. Krause to carry us out...

ROBERT PLANT & ALLISON KRAUSE -"Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us" (2007)