Posts Tagged ‘music’
Nearly everyone interested in records will have, at some point heard the news that there is a Brazilian who owns millions of records. Fewer seem to know, however, that Zero Freitas, a São Paulo-based businessman now in his sixties, plans to turn his collection into a public archive of the world’s music, with special focus on the Americas. Having amassed over six million records, he manages a collection similar to the entire Discogs database. Given the magnitude of this enterprise, Freitas deals with serious logistical challenges and, above all, time constraints. But he strongly believes it is worth his while. After all, no less than a vinyl library of global proportions is at stake…
An interview with master collector Zero Freitas: “Inside the World’s Biggest Record Collection.”
* Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top)
As we drop the needle, we might send harmonious birthday greetings to Jean-Philippe Rameau; he was born on this date in 1683. One of the most important French composers and music theorists of the Baroque era, he replaced Jean-Baptiste Lully as the dominant composer of French opera and is also considered (with François Couperin) the leading French composer for the harpsichord of his time.
Long time readers will know of your correspondent’s fascination with Sun Records, it’s presiding spirit, Sam Phillips (c.f., “So you wanna be a rock and roll star…“), and the acts–a pantheon of early rockers– that Sun birthed (c.f., “Collecting is my passion“). Turns out, there was a very particular method to the madness…
If rock and roll is a religion, then Sun Studio is one of its holiest temples. The walls of this garage-turned-recording-studio in Memphis reverberate with the echoes of the past. This is where Elvis became king, Cash walked the line, and Perkins put on his blue suede shoes. This is where Roy Orbison, B.B. King, Ike Turner, and Jerry Lee Lewis all got their start. This is where rock and roll was born.
Behind every guitar riff, drum beat, and lyrical innuendo, there was the man in the control room who engineered it all. Sam Phillips helped turn poor boys, sharecroppers’ sons, and ex-servicemen into legends, icons, and superstars. “He was always trying to invent sound,” says Sam’s son, Jerry Phillips, “He felt the studio was his laboratory.”
The inside story: “How Sam Phillips Invented the Sound of Rock and Roll.”
As we swivel our hips, we might sing a doleful birthday ditty to Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup; he was born on this date in 1905 (though some sources give the date as August 24). A Delta blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, Crudup is probably best known today as the writer of “That’s All Right (Mama),” the A side of Elvis Presley’s first single (recorded, of course, by Sam Phillips at Sun), and for “My Baby Left Me” and “So Glad You’re Mine,” also covered by Elvis (and many others).
Southeastern Louisiana University rock historian Joseph Burns suggests that “That’s All Right (Mama)” is the world’s oldest rock and roll song, and notes that it contains (what is probably) the first ever guitar solo break.
Decode the pictures above– and experience synesthesia– at “This Is What Musical Notes Actually Look Like.”
* Leopold Stokowski
As we move to the music of the spheres, we might send tuneful birthday greetings to Louis Armstrong; he was born on this date in 1901. A trumpeter, composer, singer (and occasional actor), he was a foundational influence in jazz, shifting the focus of the music from collective improvisation to solo performance, and helping to pioneer scat singing. Nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, he has 11 records in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
The story has been repeated thousands of times, with minor variations, in magazines, books, blogs and documentaries. In some versions, the heartbroken man shoots himself; in others, he leaps to his death from a hotel window. There are occasional references to a failed romance and to the destruction of all traces of identification before the fatal act. There’s always a one-line suicide note: “I walk a lonely street.”
But there’s never a name. For 60 years, the true identity of the man whose death inspired “Heartbreak Hotel” has remained a mystery. Florida songwriters Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton always claimed the creative spark for Elvis Presley‘s first-ever Number One hit was a 1955 newspaper story about an anonymous man’s suicide and his cryptic note about that “lonely street.” (The paper cited is usually The Miami Herald.) And yet, no one has ever turned up the article, or even provided much clarifying detail.
This is surprising, considering that “Heartbreak Hotel” had a colossal impact – both on Elvis’ career and on rock & roll history. It was Elvis’ first nationwide hit after a string of regional successes, and it changed the lives of countless future stars – John Lennon, George Harrison, Keith Richards and Robert Plant have all proclaimed its transformative effect. Elton John, recalling the day he first heard the song, said, “That weekend, my mum came home with ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and that changed my life. … Elvis Presley changed everyone’s life. I mean, there would be no Beatles, there would be no Hendrix. There would be no Dylan.” Paul McCartney once declared it nothing less than the most important artistic creation of the modern era…
Finally, the full story at: “Solving the Mystery of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’.”
* From “Heartbreak Hotel,” written by Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton.
As we walk down a lonely street, we might recall that it was on this this date in 1961 that Bill Harry’s pioneering English music paper, Mersey Beat, announced that the Beat Brothers had signed a recording contract. The Beat Brothers? They had performed with another British musician, Tony Sheridan, in Hamburg for several months earlier that year; but while the partnership worked, Sheridan chose to remain in Germany when the quartet returned to Liverpool. We know the group better by the name they soon after adopted: The Beatles. Two years later, on this very day, they would go to No. 1 on the U.K. album chart for the first time.
“In a magazine, one can get – from cover to cover – 15 to 20 different ideas about life and how to live it”*…
Magazine publishing is a dark art. But the world of niche publishing—people who create magazines for necrophiliacs or donkey hobbyists, or for those of us who like to ride really small trains—features its own requirements…
See for yourself: “Brief Interviews With Very Small Publishers.”
* Maya Angelou
As we turn the pages, we might recall that it was on this date in 1981 that the first issue of The Record, Canada’s music industry magazine of record, was published. For two decades it provided the canonical sales charts for the Canadian music business both directly and as part of Billboard‘s “Hits of the World” section. It ceased print publication in 1999, surviving as a website for another three years before closing altogether in 2001.
“Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid”*…
On a theme we’ve visited before, an interactive map of the influences at play in the development of the musical genres we enjoy, from the general…
… to the specific…
… with navigational aids and background, to boot.
* Frank Zappa
As we hum along, we might recall that it was on this date in 1966 that The Shangri-Las, Johnny Tillotson, and “Many More”– including a band called “the Castiles” (which featured vocalist Bruce Springsteen) performed at the Surf ‘n See Club in Seabright, New Jersey.
“Whatever is a reality today… is going to be, like the reality of yesterday, an illusion tomorrow”*…
Artists, like neuroscientists, are masters of visual systems. Through experimentation and observation, artists have developed innovative methods for fooling the eye, enabling flat canvases to appear three-dimensional, for instance. Neuroscience—and more recently the subfield of neuroaesthetics—can help to explain the biology behind these visual tricks, many of which were first discovered by artists. “I often go to art to figure out questions to ask about science,” says Margaret Livingstone, Takeda Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. “Artists may not study the neuroscience per se, but they’re experimentalists.”
During the 1960s, Op Art—short for “Optical art”—combined the two disciplines by challenging the role of illusion in art. While earlier painters had created the illusion of depth where there was none, Op artists developed visual effects that called attention to the distortions at play. Abstract and geometric, their works relied upon the mechanics of the spectator’s eye to warp their compositions into shimmering and shifting displays of line and color. The Museum of Modern Art announced this international artistic trend in 1965 in a seminal exhibition titled “The Responsive Eye.” Since then, neuroscientists have continued to probe the mechanisms by which the human eye responds to these mind-bending works…
* Luigi Pirandello
As we cross our eyes, we might spare a thought for Leon Botha; he died on this date in 2011, at the age of 26. An important South African painter and DJ, Botha was one of the world’s oldest survivors of progeria.