Traffic was formed in 1967 by musicians Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Dave Mason. All had been professionally performing already; Winwood in particular had just abruptly departed the highly successful Spencer Davis Group.
Right from the word “go,” Traffic was on the US and UK charts. Although of the three popular singles they first released (Mr Fantasy), their biggest hit wasn’t really anything like what you would think of by them. Most of the band members thought it was “silly” and not like the sound they envisioned at all. They loathed the tune, refusing to ever perform the song live; Dave Mason, who wrote it and was getting intense criticism over it, quit the band in January of 1968.
1. “Hole in my Shoe” (1967)
The adjective “iconic” is criminally overused, particularly by enthusiastic but historically illiterate youngsters.
However, for many old fogeys, the photograph above actually deserves that designation.
Just check out that badass Rasta, striding fearlessly, even casually, toward a line of (probably) white London cops.
He’s alone, but this is his neighborhood, not theirs, so why should he cower, despite the menace hovering in the air?
Surely something has exploded, gone horribly, fatally wrong — or is just about to — beyond the frozen boundaries of this picture, which seems to be holding its breath, like an enjambed line of poetry.
Although this photo was taken in 1976, it seems weirdly timeless, yet timely, especially in the wake of Ferguson.
And it is, except not for the reason one might expect.
Big Country rocketed up the charts on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1980s with a very big sound. They were nominated for two Grammy Awards in 1984 (Best Rock Group, Best New Group). They joined other monster acts in playing Live Aid in 1985. “In a Big Country” and other songs still receive regular rotation on multiple SiriusXM channels and the band is considered one of Scotland’s best live acts. The sound of Big Country matches the name – soaring, enduring, expansive.
PJ Lifestyle had the opportunity to interview Bruce Watson, the group’s guitarist and one of the founding members.
PJ: You are starting a tour this fall that commemorates the 30th anniversary of Steeltown. You have dates all over the UK — Manchester October 31, London November 28, along with Squeeze at Weyfest this coming weekend. What can people expect on this tour?
Watson: It’s the 30th anniversary of the release of Steeltown back in 1984. So we are doing gigs all over this coming fall. We will play most of the songs off Steeltown, then take an intermission and then come back out and do a lot of the older catalog. We are mostly doing weekend festivals. We just travel up and down the country.
PJ: In preparing for this interview, I talked to friend Jim DiSpirito who did the drumming for Rusted Root. I learned about a quote regarding touring — “the road is a very hard place for an active mind.” Did the band, or particularly Stuart Adamson, experience that?
Watson: We’re the kind of band that never really writes on the road. There’s a lot of down time and we do tend to read a lot. It’s not like you can sit in the bus and write songs. Every day, your day is mapped out. You have to be at the venue for sound check. Then the show, back to the hotel, get as much sleep as you can and then do the same thing the next day. It’s Groundhog Day. It’s very hard to write songs.
1. Be proud of your body. Just the way it is.
Don’t try changing for anyone; you are beautiful no matter what culture says. Be authentic.
In the 36 hours since Beyonce’s muzzled, splayed, headless, and otherwise sexually submissive VMA performance, we’ve seen a comedy sketch at the Emmys that somehow is a setback for feminism because it objectifies women’s bodies. Mollie Hemingway heaped plenty of scorn upon that little inconsistency. But I’m still left wondering how any feminist loved Beyonce’s performance.
Yesterday afternoon, Jessica Valenti went up at the Guardian with this gem of an observation about Beyonce’s performance. After expressing her excitement about Beyonce putting “feminist” “literally in bright lights,” she talked about celebrity popular pressure:
I’m glad that [Taylor Swift] another celebrity with mass appeal – to young women, especially – is touting a movement necessary for gender justice. But the singer-songwriter calling herself a feminist for the first time in the same week that she released a video in which she twerks and crawls through the disembodied legs of women of color shows that it takes more than identifying as a feminist to understand feminism. (Perhaps as Swift browses the feminist section of bookstores she could pick up something on racism and cultural appropriation. Maybe she could read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as Beyoncé clearly has?)
I agree with Valenti that it takes more than identifying as a feminist to understand feminism. I am on record claiming that women rallying around a term about which they know little is the major problem of the movement. But Valenti’s position is that the problem with Taylor Swift’s understanding of feminism isn’t the objectifying nature of twerking, but that Swift is stealing the dance moves of women of color. Women of color are the ones who twerk. That is the essential assumption of the cultural appropriation argument. Maybe Swift isn’t the one in need of a book on racism.
At their very beginning, the Yardbirds were first the Metropolitan Blues Quartet, then briefly the Blue Sounds, finally settling on Yardbirds in the fall of 1963. This one band was responsible for starting the careers of three of the top 100 guitarists (Clapton #2, Page #3, Beck #5). Their original sound was all “classic” blues. Regrettably, there are no recordings of them from this time, so here’s a piece by the original artist that they played frequently, in smoky, ill-lit UK clubs.
1. The Eric Clapton Era: Howlin’ Wolf – “Smokestack Lightning” (1959)
In October of ’63, the original lead guitarist, Tony “Top” Topham resigned. You see, he was all of 16 years old, and his parents objected to him hanging around in clubs at his age (the newly named “Yardbirds” having succeeded as the house band for the Crawdaddy Club, replacing the Rolling Stones); also, he was scheduled to attend art school, so away he went. Once Topham had departed, a preciously young Clapton took over as lead guitar. Clapton was also enamored of the blues, although he took the ‘Birds in a somewhat different direction than the original “pure” sound.
Also check out Leslie Loftis’ analysis of Beyonce’s performance at last night’s MTV Video Music Awards here.
10. “Bow Down/I Been On”
The Church of Bey has clearly gone to the pop goddess’s head. A critic at New Wave Feminism writes:
Aside from repeatedly yelling “bow down bitches”, the song also contains lyrics such as “I know when you were little girls / You dreamt of being in my world / Don’t forget it , don’t forget it / Respect that, bow down bitches”. Apparently, Beyoncé thought the appropriate response for young women who admired her and looked up to her was to call them misogynistic slurs and demand they genuflect in her presence.
This Bey Anthem doubles as the death knell of the sisterhood.
My first notice of last night’s VMA performances came from my “Camille Paglia” Google alert. Someone wanted a Paglia analysis STAT. Curious, I checked my feminist feeds for some reaction context. They were either glowing about Beyonce’s Divine Feminism, asking as MTV did, “What more could we have asked for?” or silent. Then I watched and I […]
Here’s another request from Allston:
Hi, Chris – per the request of another user, I have decided that my musical requests will also include some background on the artist. I hope that will generate some discussions, as well as an appreciation of the music.
From Wikipedia -
Jazz pianist Bill Cunliffe, whose music was influenced by Bud Powell, said in an interview with All About Jazz:
“Bud Powell is the most important pianist in jazz and one of the most underrated because he spent over a third of his life in mental and medical hospitals. He was beaten by the police when he was twenty and he never fully recovered from that beating and as a result, he suffered pain and had to take drugs to alleviate the pain. So he never fully recovered from that and in spite of that, he created a whole lot of wonderful music.
He was really the first guy, before Bud Powell, pianists were playing boom, chuck in the left hand and a lot of melodic figures in the right hand that tended to be arpeggios. But with Bud Powell,
Bud Powell was imitating Charlie Parker. So Bud was the first pianist to take Charlie Parker’s language and adapt it successfully to the piano. That’s why he is the most important pianist in music today because everybody plays like that now.”
Enjoy “How High The Moon.”
The original, ska-influenced track is the best, but this unplugged live take on “I Shall Sing” by the great Van Morrison is wonderful. I hope you like is as much as I do.
I suppose I’m on a Maria McKee kick lately. Here’s one more – her cover of Van Morrison‘s “The Way Young Lovers Do.” Enjoy!
Horace Silver was born Horace Ward Martin Tavares Silva on September 2, 1928, in Norwalk Connecticut. Shortly afterwards, his father changed the family last name to Silver.
As a child, his father taught him the folk music of his native Cape Verde and his mother sang in a local church choir. In his recordings these can be heard, along with Gospel, African and Latin-American rhythms. Originally, he played Tenor Saxophone (influenced by Lester Young), but then switched to piano (influenced by Bud Powell).
Silver’s big break came in 1950, while performing at the Sunset Club in Hartford Connecticut, backing up saxophonist Stan Getz, who liked the sound of Silver’s band so much that he took them on the road with him. It was with Getz that Silver made his recording debut, on the album The Stan Getz Quartet.
1. “Penny” (1951)
Later in 1951, Silver moved to New York City. On Monday nights, he would perform at the famous Birdland jazz club, where various musicians would arrive and informally jam together. During that year, while working as a sideman there, he met several executives from the Blue Note label and eventually signed with them, an association that lasted for nearly thirty years.
Shortly afterwards, Silver co-founded Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, where he remained for four years.
11. A conscious awareness of God is intrinsic to human nature.
Tara Brach recently told the story of a four year old who was excited to have alone time with his new baby sister. When he finally got to the side of her crib, he asked her, “Tell me what heaven is like. I’m starting to forget.” If we didn’t have a conscious awareness of God, we wouldn’t be striving so hard to find Him in everything from houses of worship to fictional characters on the big screen. Don’t let atheists fool you; they might not believe in a God in the sky, but they’re worshiping something, nevertheless, whether its money, power, or simply themselves.
I much prefer the mix on her Greatest Hits collection, but here’s Maria McKee‘s “Show Me Heaven.”
Here’s a semi-obscure 80′s tune that recently got stuck in my head. Check out “Let Him Go” by Animotion.
My friend Chris Thomas reminded me of this shamefully obscure New Wave band from Atlanta. I hadn’t heard this song in years! Check out “She Sheila” by The Producers.
Allston’s back with another great request – here’s BTO‘s “Looking Out For Number One.”
As noted in a song by the brilliant musical humorist Anna Russell several decades ago, some people prefer a full-time career in victimhood to happiness:
(Set at 6 minutes 18 seconds; if it doesn’t go there automatically as instructed in the link, that’s where her song “Miserable” is.)
The Mamas & The Papas noted something similar in “Glad to be Unhappy” which is one of their less well-known but rather witty songs:
As many of these full-time professional victims (with their gobs of ill-gotten cash, obscenely expensive New Age therapists on call, and multiple stormy love affairs and messy divorces and devastated offspring left in their wake) know, constant complaining about certain kinds of problems (sometimes known as “diseases of the rich”) makes you popular with a certain illegitimately powerful political crowd, and pays a pretty good salary too.
image illustration via shutterstock / Mr. Aesthetics
Women’s frustration at being used as pretty props in music videos isn’t new and isn’t limited to country music. One of Lily Allen’s recent offerings, “Hard Out Here”, makes the same point as Maddie and Tae do in their debut, “Girl in a Country Song”—women aren’t just ornamental—but Maddie and Tae do it better. By using role reversal and putting the boys in the painted-on cutoff jeans, they successfully achieve the absurd to skewer the use of women as props. Lily Allen’s raunchy choreography and slow-motion closeups didn’t provide enough contrast to typical music videos to achieve the skewering. Plus, Allen’s song was about female physical exploitation in general yet all of her backup dancers doing the crotch slapping choreography were women of color. On the whole, her video leaned more to the hypocritical than the satirical.
Here are both videos for comparison. Allen’s “Hard Out Here” is after the jump as it is NSFW.
Here’s another request from Allston. Check out Flash And The Pan with “Walking In The Rain.”
Here’s another random musical memory. Enjoy “Forever Yours” by Tony Terry.
Whether you’re seeking salvation or inner peace, a god to worship or add to your home-made altar, the pop culture pantheon is at your disposal so that you may pick and choose the gods and tools of worship to service your every emotional, spiritual, and even material need.
10. Harry Potter
When they aren’t re-reading their holy texts, Potterheads commune at MuggleNet to chat about their god, study their faith and perform the usual acts of tithing. According to the Facebook page “Being a POTTERHEAD” (which is classified as a non-profit organization),
Harry Potter has reached out to 200 countries, spoke out in 69 languages, and has touched the lives of 400 million people. It is the phenomenon that ignores race, age, gender and religion and has brought us all together despite our differences.
Also known as Potterholics, Potterites and Pottermaniacs, Potterheads should never be confused with potheads as their allegiance is strictly Wizard, not weed.