I like to have music or the TV on in the background when I'm working. Today I'm working at home and there's an Eric Clapton documentary on Palladium. Right now they're doing an acoustic version of Layla. I am very happy.
Rolling Stone has a new list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of all Time, updating their 2003 list (HT: Joyner). In fact, however, updating is clearly the wrong word. As James notes:
The magazine’s 2003 list was radically different. ... What, precisely, did Eric Clapton do over the last eight years to move ahead of B.B. King and Duane Allman? More importantly, what did King and Allman do to get bumped out of the top 5 by artists whose best work was long behind them by 2003? What did Jimmy Page and Keith Richards do to move up 6 spots each? Or Jeff Beck 9 spots?
But James overlooks what seems to be the biggest change of all: Pete Townshend rises from 50th on the 2003 list to 10th on the 2011 list:
Pete Townshend doesn't play many solos, which might be why so many people don’t realize just how good he really is. But he's so important to rock – he’s a visionary musician who really lit the whole thing up. His rhythm-guitar playing is extremely exciting and aggressive – he's a savage player, in a way. He has a wonderful, fluid physicality with the guitar that you don't see often, and his playing is very much a reflection of who he is as a person – a very intense guy. He's like the original punk, the first one to destroy a guitar onstage – a breathtaking statement at that point in time. But he's also a very articulate, literate person. He listens to a lot of jazz, and he told me that's what he'd really like to be doing. On "Substitute" you can hear the influence of Miles Davis' modal approach in the way his chords move against the open D string. He was using feedback early, which I think was influenced by European avant-garde music like Stockhausen – an art-school thing. The big ringing chords he used in the Who were so musically smart when you consider how busy the drumming and bass playing were in that band – it could have gotten chaotic if not for him. He more or less invented the power chord, and you can hear a sort of pre-Zeppelin thing in the Who's Sixties work. So much of this stuff came from him.
Here at PB.com, where The Who are firmly ensconced as the Official World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band, we're pleased to see Pete getting his due.
We were also interested to note that Bruce Springsteen, PB.com's Official World's Greatest Rock and Roll Singer/Songwriter/Live Act made the list at #96. We are pleased .. but surprised. Bruce's guitar playing is often unappreciated in our experience:
Bruce Springsteen has always had a not-so-secret weapon: "I got signed in the pack of new Dylans," he told Rolling Stone, "but I could turn around, kick-start my Telecaster and burn the house down." Springsteen didn't make any technical breakthroughs on guitar, but few players are better at coaxing emotion from steel and wood: witness the surf-rock recklessness of the "Born to Run" solo, the junkyard-dog bite of "Adam Raised a Cain" and the melancholy twang of "Tougher Than the Rest."
I think it's fair to say that my three favorite albums are Who's Next, Born to Run, and Quadrophenia. Mark Judge recently posted a great article on the latter:
Quadrophenia is a work of genius. I am tempted to write that today's music is shallow compared to records like Godspell and Quadrophenia. But that falls into an argument that I disagree with -- that big, ambitious records about Life are always superior to simple pop music. To me, songs about cars and girls are not shallow; rather, the best of them deal with elemental questions of joy, love, and suffering.
Yet it can't be denied: Quadrophenia is on an entirely different level than anything out today.
After more than a year of writing and recording, Bruce Springsteen released his 18th studio album Tuesday, a concept record titled Red Dust that explores the everyday lives and struggles of immigrant workers scraping by in the 23rd-century carbonate mines on Mars. ...
"These are songs about growing up on a tough planet," said Springsteen, telling reporters that when the idea of humans and aliens working side by side in an extraterrestrial labor colony first occurred to him, he immediately knew he "had to tell their story." "The Martians aren't trying to run away from their lives or make excuses. They're proud of what they do and where they're from, even if the high-impact ion-compression carbonate mining industry isn't what it used to be." ...
Thus far, the album has earned mixed reviews. While many critics have expressed deep bemusement at Springsteen's sharp departure from realism, others, such as Rolling Stone editor David Fricke, have hailed the effort as "another well-executed and stirring tribute to working-class heroes by the Boss."
Given the incomparable definitiveness of Jimi Hendrix's version, I would think it takes an enormous amount of chutzpah for any band to tackle All Along the Watchtower, but I just came across a version by Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and the E Street Band that very nearly pulls it off:
There I was sitting in my office peacefully preparing for class and listening to Who's Next, when one of my senior colleagues wandered in and asked: "When are you going to grow up and give up that rock crap?" I was sitting there wondering the same thing when one of my junior colleagues wandered by a bit later, stopped, listened for a moment, and asked: "Boy, you really like that old shit, don't you?" And then he too wandered off. Ah, the joys of being a late Boomer in middle-age, caught between Scylla and Charybdis.
Since Daniel Drezner is Rihanna-blogging, I think it’s worth noting that “Shut Up And Drive” is both my kind of poetry and a somewhat surprising hip hop homage to New Order. The poetry front: metaphors can be confusing. But not Rihanna’s. I think I understood that when she opined about umbrellas, she was talking about a protective form of togetherness. But consider this:
“I'm a fine-tuned supersonic speed machine/With a sunroof top and a gangster lean”
“Got all the drive but a whole lot of boom in the back/You look like you can handle what’s under my hood”
I’m pretty sure that in “Shut Up and Drive,” Rihanna is comparing herself to a car, and the rest of the lyrics, I think, vindicate my claim. It has a nice consistency and I rather prefer the directness to sorting through, say, an Ode to a Nightingale.
As someone who basically opted out of the pop music scene around 1990, with a few exceptions for new Springsteen or U2 material, hip hop is a genre with which I can claim only passing familiarity. Oh sure, I liked Baby Got Back, but who didn't? Shut up and drive, however, is the first hip hop-ish song I liked well enough to down load to my iPod. Maybe because it's actually got a music track with real instruments, including a guitar solo of all things. Or maybe it's just because I'm a sucker for car songs. Indeed, my iPod Car Song playlist - Radar Love, I can't Drive 55, Mustang Sally, Brand New Cadillac, etc... - is one of my most frequently played lists. Anyway, if you're a Classic Rewind guy like me, give Shut Up and Drive a listen. And if you're a hip hop expert, answer the following question: If I like Shut Up and Drive, what else should I try?
... you just know he means the 70s Who. I want my President to take a firm stand preferring pre-"Tommy" Who to post-"Tommy" Who.
Damn straight I mean the 70s Who. At least if we define the 60s as having ended in 1968, as I believe George Melly (or some other cultural arbiter) did:
1969: Tommy, # 96 on the Rolling Stone's list of the 500 all-time greatest albums (do I detect a bit of Tommy hate, Ann?)
1970: The Concert at the Isle of Wight. The DVD is spectacular, IMHO.
1970: Live at Leeds, "considered to be one of the best live albums ever" (Wikipedia)
1971: Who's Next - 28th on Rolling Stone's all-time album list. IMHO, it ought to be competing with Born to Run for the # 1 slot. I agree with the blogger/reviewer who wrote that: "Baba O' Riley and Won't Get Fooled Again are the best songs The Who ever did. I immensely love Bargain too. The other classic is Behind Blues Eyes." Ditto.
None of which is to take anything away from the pre-Tommy period, but surely no serious Who fan would deny that the band had reached its artistic prime in the 1969-1973 period. To be sure, as Mike Bennett notes, there is "a popular contrarian viewpoint from a certain segment of fans" that, "about the time of Tommy, The Who went downhill." Bennett, however, goes on to explain why "anyone who thinks the later Who was a much lesser band is just full of it."
I wouldn't go so far as the reviewer who wrote that "if you are a big fan of early Who albums and think they were excellent and better than the bombastic era albums, then you are most likely an idiot (or a 60s music elitist) with crap taste in music ...." (Certainly not while replying to as skilled a controversialist as Ms Althouse!) I would agree, however, with that writer's assertion that the "Pre-Tommy era Who was capable of producing great singles, but not great albums."