(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘popular music

“Take a sad song and make it better”*…

 

A rehearsal of the musical <i>Hair</i> at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, September 1968

A rehearsal of Hair.  Premiered in late 1967; photo taken, 1968

 

Certain years acquire an almost numinous quality in collective memory—1789, 1861, 1914. One of the more recent additions to the list is 1968. Its fiftieth anniversary has brought a flood of attempts to recapture it—local, national, and transnational histories, anthologies, memoirs, even performance art and musical theater. Immersion in this literature soon produces a feeling of déjà vu, particularly if one was politically conscious at the time (as I was).

Up to a point, repetition is inevitable. Certain public figures and events are inescapable: the tormented Lyndon Johnson, enmeshed in an unpopular, unwinnable war and choosing to withdraw from the presidential stage; the antiwar candidacies of Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy; the intensifying moral challenges posed by Martin Luther King; the assassinations of King and Kennedy; the racially charged violence in most major cities; the police riot against antiwar protesters (and anyone else who got in their way) at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago; the emergence of right-wing candidates—George Wallace, Richard Nixon—appealing to a “silent majority” whose silence was somehow construed as civic virtue. And the anticlimactic election: the narrow defeat of Hubert Humphrey by Nixon, who promised to “bring us together” without specifying how.

What togetherness turned out to mean was an excruciating prolongation of the war in Vietnam, accompanied by an accelerating animosity toward dissent. The effort to satisfy the silent majority by exorcising the demons of 1968 would eventually lead to the resurgence of an interventionist military policy, the dismantling of what passed for a welfare state, and the prosecution of a “war on drugs” that would imprison more Americans than had ever been behind bars before.

Revisiting this story is important and necessary. But difficulties arise when one tries to identify who those demons actually were…

Rutgers professor Jackson Lear considers several attempts to distill the lessons of the late 60s: “Aquarius Rising.”

Special bonus: film critic J. Hoberman on why, in 1968, an especially rich year for cinema, Night of the Living Dead was his pick for best movie.

* The Beatles, “Hey Jude”

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As we Let The Sunshine In, we might recall that on this date in 1968, our post’s title source, “Hey Jude,” sat at #2 on the pop chart– just ahead of “1,2,3, Redlight” by the 1910 Fruitgum Co. at #3 and The Rascals’ “People Got To Be Free” at #4… and just behind that week’s #1, “Harper Valley P.T.A.” by Jeannie C. Riley.

jeannie-c-riley-harper-valley-pta-1968-a source

 

Written by LW

September 14, 2018 at 1:01 am

“In many ways, classic rock became bigger than mainstream rock”*…

 

Led Zeppelin is classic rock. So are Mötley Crüe and Ozzy Osbourne. But what about U2 or Nirvana? As a child of the 1990s, I never doubted that any of these bands were classic rock, even though it may be shocking for many to hear. And then I heard Green Day’s “American Idiot” on a classic rock station a few weeks ago, and I was shocked.

It was my first time hearing a band I grew up with referred to as “classic rock.” Almost anyone who listens to music over a long enough period of time probably experiences this moment — my colleagues related some of their own, like hearing R.E.M. or Guns N’ Roses on a classic rock station — but it made me wonder, what precisely is classic rock?…

Follow FiveThirtyEight’s deep– and diverting– dive into the data at “Why Classic Rock Isn’t What It Used To Be.”

 

* Chuck D

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As we roll around in our roots, we might spare a thought for another variety of classic:  it was on this date in 1930 that Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington recorded his first big hit, “Mood Indigo.”  Ellington was fond of saying, “Well, I wrote that in 15 minutes while I was waiting for my mother to finish cooking dinner.”  With lyrics added by Mitchell Parish in 1931 (but credited to Ellington’s manager Irving Mills), “Mood Indigo” became a vocal as well as an instrumental standard, recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Nina Simone among many, many others.

email readers click here for video

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Written by LW

October 15, 2014 at 1:01 am

Mission Statement for (Roughly) Daily…

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My work explores the relationship between new class identities and midlife subcultures.

With influences as diverse as Kierkegaard and Francis Bacon, new combinations are generated from both explicit and implicit layers.

Ever since I was a student I have been fascinated by the theoretical limits of relationships. What starts out as triumph soon becomes corroded into a hegemony of power, leaving only a sense of nihilism and the chance of a new beginning.

As temporal phenomena become clarified through emergent and personal practice, the reader is left with a statement of the edges of our era.

Readers can create their own statements– for use in funding applications, exhibitions, curriculum vitae, websites, and the like– at Arty Bollocks Generator (an entry on the 10K Apart Challenge— in which developers built apps like this one in less than 10 kilobytes).

As we plan our next retreats, we might recall that it was on this date in 1978 that UNICEF named the rock group Kansas “Deputy Ambassadors of Goodwill.”  (Music historians have mused that, had the band operated with the benefit of a compelling artistic mission statement, they might well have joined the likes of Summer Sanders and Tami Erin as full Ambassadors.)

“Carry On Wayward Son” (source)

 

 

The Culture of Commerce, Advertising and Marketing Edition…

In an infographic!

click the image above, or here, to enlarge

More of creator George Ellis’ work on his website, The George Report. [TotH to Mediabistro]

As we insist that the bartender reach for the top shelf, we might recall that it was on this date in 1964 that the Beatles’ stranglehold on the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 was broken.  From the leap of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to #1 in early February, the Fab Four held the pinnacle for three and a half solid months– longer than any popular artist before or since.  Over the course of those months, the they scored three consecutive #1 singles (also a record); held all five spots in the top five in early April (another record); and had a total of 14 songs in the Hot 100 in mid-April (yet another record).   But on this date in 1964, they were pushed off the peak by an unlikely challenger: 63-year-old Louis Armstrong and “Hello, Dolly!”

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Just let me hear some of that rock and roll music…

… and not just any old way you choose it, but selected and explicated by that master of American music– both classical and popular– Leonard Bernstein:

Inside Pop – The Rock Revolution is a CBS News special, broadcast in April 1967. The show was hosted by Leonard Bernstein and is probably one of the first examples of pop music being examined as a “serious” art form. The film features many scenes shot in Los Angeles in late 1966, including interviews with Frank Zappa and Graham Nash, as well as the now-legendary Brian Wilson solo performance of “Surf’s Up.”

As we tap our toes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1859 that Paul Morphy, an American chess prodigy who became the world’s leading  grandmaster, just returned from a competitive tour of Europe, gave up the game.  Morphy was so dominant that he’d taken to spotting his opponents– other masters and grand masters– a pawn and a move, or playing blindfolded… or both.  After reviewing his games, Bobby Fischer considered Morphy so talented as to be “able to beat any player of any era if given time to study modern theory and ideas.”  And Marcel Duchamp, who abandoned art to become a chess expert, found inspiration in Morphy’s open style and opportunistic strategy in crafting his theory of the endgame…  which means that Morphy was indirectly a contributor to Duchamp’s friends and collaborators Samuel Beckett (whose Endgame is rooted in Duchamp’s thinking) and John Cage (with whom, in 1968, Duchamp played at a concert entitled “Reunion;” music was produced by a series of photoelectric cells underneath the chessboard).

Morphy’s retirement from chess (an amateur’s game in those days) came the day after he was hailed by Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes as “the World Chess Champion” at a banquet in Morphy’s honor attended by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Louis Agassiz, Boston mayor Frederic W. Lincoln, Jr., Harvard president James Walker, and other luminaries.  Morphy attempted then to start a law practice, but was side-tracked by the outbreak of the Civil War.  Still, with the resources of a family fortune, he lived comfortably in New Orleans until his death in 1884 in the ancestral mansion– the site today of Brennan’s Restaurant (at which, your correspondent suspects, several readers have breakfasted).

Morphy at the board (source)

I Hear America Singing…

 

Even Walt Whitman might have quibbled (“what about Tom Petty for Florida?”, he might have asked…  ZZ Top for Texas?); still, it’s cool to be reminded that every corner of the Union is tuneful…

click (and again) on the image above– or here— to enlarge

(from The Houston Press, via Breakfast Links)

 

As we crank it up to 11, we might recall that it was on this date in 2006 that “The Wail from Wales” (aka “The Voice” and “Tiger”) became Sir Tom Jones.  His benefactress, Queen Elizabeth II, was a 38-year-old mother of four when Jones burst onto the scene in 1965.

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The Times They are A’Changin…

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

Bob Dylan

Rebecca Black’s “Friday” has become a runaway sensation. As Kevin Rutherford, a columnist for Billboard, explained, “Black’s video for ‘Friday’ is one of those rare occurrences where even the most seasoned critics of Internet culture don’t know where to begin. From the singing straight out of Auto-Tuned hell to lyrics such as ‘Tomorrow is Saturday / And Sunday comes afterwards / I don’t want this weekend to end’ and a hilariously bad rap about passing school buses, ‘Friday’ is something that simply must be seen and heard to be fully appreciated.”

And “seen and heard” it has been, closing in on 34 million YouTube views at this writing– not counting the scores of parodies floating across the web.

Music industry exec Jay Frank captures the impact of a performance that has been called “bizarre,” “inept,” and “hilariously dreadful” with a set of a simple comparisons that illustrate the upending of the music business:

WINNER: REBECCA BLACK
As she’s shown on her Good Morning America interview, she is making lemons out of lemonades. Make no bones about it, this song is selling (reached Top 20 on iTunes) and is going to be a valuable copyright for years to come.

LOSER: EVERY SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST BAND
At my SxSW panel on Saturday, I did the math. If you combined every view of “Friday” and its parody videos, approximately 62 Million minutes were spent on this song. That’s presuming that, on average, the viewers only watched half the video. In the meantime, if the approximately 15,000 SxSW attendees watched 12 hours of music a day for all 5 days, that would only add up to 54 Million minutes spent watching music. All hopes of fame from Austin got upstaged by a 13 year old.

WINNER: YOUTUBE
Their ability for anyone to upload anything produces overnight successes like this. This attracts even more people to their platform. Also, this firmly makes them a broadcaster, probably more than any previous video. 21 million views in a week? That’s more than nearly EVERY show on TV (cable or broadcast) receives in a week INCLUDING the DVR play. The fact that they have also successfully conquered with mobile apps and IPTV just increases their reach.

LOSER: VEVO
The music industry’s supposed white knight got upstaged in a big way. Turns out quality (of the song or HD transmission) doesn’t matter. The viewer goes to what they want to see. Also, Rebecca Black got more views in 9 days of “Friday” than Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” did in 3x the days. Lady Gaga’s a huge star. Her new video got massive blog pickup like “Friday.” It was also hugely promoted as an “exclusive” on the Vevo site. If “Friday” can beat all that, something is wrong with Vevo and there’s some explainin’ to do.

WINNER: NEW CHART METHODOLOGY
In Austin, I discussed with Eric Charland of Ultimate Chart about how high Rebecca Black will debut next week. With the numbers she’s had, it’s painfully obvious that this dominated the entire conversation. Quality of the song was irrelevant. Since it wasn’t in heavy rotation on pop radio, it likely won’t be at #1 on their chart, but it’ll properly debut high. This will give Ultimate Chart even more credibility on truly leading in identifying a song’s true popularity.

LOSER: THE ALBUM CHART
When the Soundscan Top 200 album chart is released on Wednesday, Adele will be battling a new album by Rise Against. Nothing against either artist, but this week the battle was Rebecca Black vs. everything else. If you use Google search as a gauge, there’s just no competition. The album chart has been irrelevant for quite some time. It no longer reflects our time. This should end the discussion and let’s focus on singles where the business IS rather than albums where the business WAS.

[TotH to Bob Lefsetz]

 

As we recall that unit sales of the best selling album of 2010 wouldn’t have made the Top Ten in 2000, we might recall that it was on this date in 1973 that U.S. Immigration authorities ordered John Lennon to leave the US within 60 days… thus beginning Lennon’s fight to acquire permanent residency, which he received in July of 1976.

John Lennon’s Green Card (source)

 

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