The Byrds, Turn, Turn, Turn

Posted in The Byrds, Youtube Favs on October 22nd, 2011 by Willie

It’s one of those famous songs where nobody can remember the full title.  Officially its, “Turn, Turn, Turn (to Everything There is a Season.)”  Written by Pete Seeger in the 50s, and cribbed  almost entirely from a Bible verse, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” was one of the Byrds earlier hits coming out in 1965 along with their electric version of “Mr. Tamborine Man.”  What made the Byrds so cool was that up until they hit the scene, aspiring rock bands did covers of 50s rock and other professional standards.  The Byrds were busy covering the likes of Seeger and Dylan, acoustic based folk, but electrified it to help launch the budding psychedelic revolution.  Musically, the Byrds were heavily influenced by the Beatles, and vice versa, especially when the Beatles came to LA to drop acid with them and swap guitar tones.  The best thing about “Turn, Turn, Turn” besides its nostolgic feel and beautiful haromoies, is that subtle and lilting opening guitar line, which just taps into a spirit of peaceful energy that is at once completly memorable and iconic of the 60s.  I don’t know, this song is very cliched and overplayed, but sometimes even the most repeated songs come back to you and startle you at moments, reminding you of their power and beauty.  Enjoy.

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Harry Belafonte, Jump in the Line

Posted in Harry Belafonte, Youtube Favs on October 20th, 2011 by Willie

And we’re back!  I’m now halfway around the world coming to you live from Seoul, South Korea, and I’d thought to celebrate the occausion by posting one of my all time favorite movie music sequences ever!  Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice was one of the most bizarre movies of the 1980s, and all one has to do to get a taste of it is to watch the very end when he unleashes a ghost filled calypso dance party with Harry Belafotne’s immortal classic, “Jump in the Line,” blaring in all corners of the spirtual universe.  Belafonte, the legendary singer and civil rights activist, was co-musical director of the film alongside equally legendary Danny Elfman (Batman, The Simpsons, Oingo Boingo fame) and together they created a fantastically classic music landscape to one of the most insane movies ever.  Enjoy.

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John Lennon, Imagine (Live)

Posted in John Lennon, Youtube Favs on October 13th, 2011 by Willie

“Imagine” is the sort of song played by rock stars young and old to honor the memory of dearly departed John Lennon.  It’s kind of sad in a way that its turned into a memorial dirge of sorts, obscuring it’s utopian message of peace and harmony due its tragic association with the author’s horrible death.  It’s because of that negative energy that I prefer to hear to “Imagine” sung by John in live settings.  It’s in moments like the one presented in the video below, that we get to see a vital and hopeful Johnny croon out his most popular solo song without grim specters of his his murder or world apocalypse hanging over everybody.  It’s a thoroughly enjoyable and low-key performance that highlights John’s love for baseball jerseys and his wife’s bongo playing.  Give it a spin.

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Ella Fitzgerald, Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)

Posted in Cole Porter, Ella Fitzgerald, Youtube Favs on October 11th, 2011 by Willie

You may be wondering why I’m putting up an old Cole Porter pop tune from 1928 up my website.  If you’ve seen Woody Allen’s glorious flick, “Midnight in Paris,” you know why, but if you haven’t, then a bit of explanation is needed.  In the film, a time traveling novelist played by Owen Wilson stumbles back in time somehow, ends up at a hot 20s jazz party in Paris, and finds Cole Porter himself performing the song in an intimate setting.  Not “intimate” like an orgy, though maybe one broke out later after Owen left, it’s hard to tell.  Anyway, it’s hilarious, but more importantly, the song is simply one of the best ever.  This version from Ella Fitzgerald is my favorite, which says something because this song was performed by everyone from Frank Sinatra and Louie Armstrong to Diana Ross and Joan Jett.  I’ve taken it upon myself to learn this song on guitar this past week, and its damn hard because of all the jazz chords that require real finger gymnastics.  However, with some real determination, and some real creative chord interpretation, I managed to plunk it down pretty well after a few days.  Here is the link I used to learn, and if you want to play along with Ella, put a capo on the 3rd fret.  Trust me, you’ll like this one guitar players….and uh…lovers of music.

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Ben Stiller and Bruce Springsteen, SNL and the Ben Stiller Show

Posted in Bruce Springsteen, Fun and Crazy, SNL, Youtube Favs on October 10th, 2011 by Willie

Saturday Night Live is really hit or miss this days, mostly miss, but sometimes, when they get a guy in there who knows sketch comedy, like Ben Stiller, they can hit a few home runs.  That was case the other night when Ben revived his classic impression of Bruce Springsteen from his cult hit “The Ben Stiller Show.”  The bit was a clever, almost throwback comedy parody that reminded me of the golden age of sketch comedy found in the 90s.  In the sketch, Ben is Bruce selling you nothing but the stories he tells in between songs, and it’s pretty damned funny.  It was nothing revolutionary, but it really evoked that spirit of classic grunge era sketch comedy.  The next clip is a collection of all the Ben as Bruce bits from the “Ben Stiller Show.”  You get to see Bruce teaching kids how to count, delivering a baby, fighting in a bar, and warding off aliens.  You even get to see Bruce travel through time and help out old Abe Lincoln, (awesomely played by Stiller Show alum Bob Odenkirk.)  Speaking of Bob, if you catch a hint of Mr. Show whilst watching the Springsteen compilation, you’re not smellings things because both Bob and David were head writers there, and went on to make their own masterpiece of sketch comedy shortly following the Stiller Show’s brief run.  So get ready to laugh in UHN, TWO, HEE, HOOR!

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John Lennon, #9 Dream

Posted in John Lennon, The Beatles, Youtube Favs on October 9th, 2011 by Willie

I was sneaking under a bus parked over a snowy muddy pit.  I jostled a hinge holding the front of the truck to the freight, and it began to collapse on me.  As it caved in on me, I genuinely thought I was going to die.  This was the phrase that went through my mind, “This is the end of Willie Simpson…”  (lame I know.)  The truck hadn’t completely caved, so I dashed away from the pit and jumped just as the freight tipped over and crushed the bottom of my legs.  I couldn’t feel a thing and I assumed I was in extreme shock.  I was wrong, I had just woken up from an intense dream.  Naturally shaken by such a thing, I went right to my website, which I forgot to update yesterday, and found “#9 Dream,” the John Lennon single from Walls and Bridges that peaked on the Billboard Charts at #9.  Nine was John’s lucky number as he was born on the 9th day of October, and accorded it special status in his life, already borrowing it for “Revolution #9.”  He wrote the song when he was broken up with Yoko Ono, and living with May Pang in Los Angeles, in fact she’s in the backing vocals.  Other famous “Beatle friend” luminaries include the presence of bassist Klaus Voorman, (the German who discovered the Beatles in Hamburg), Nicky Hopkins, (famous British piano player who jammed frequently with the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Kinks), and Jim Keltner on drums, (a famous session man who appeared on all the solo Beatle records and a zillion other super famous mega acts albums.)  Lastly, that mysterious phrase Lennon chants throughout the song, “Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé” has no meaning whatsoever and is exclusively from the dream that inspired the song.  Enjoy the tune, as its one of John’s best solo efforts, and be careful in your dreams, or you might wake up thinking your dead.

EDIT:  When I posted this at 7 am this morning, I had no idea, that today, would have been John Lennon’s 71’st Birthday.  How’s that for Instant Karma!?

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Greatest Rock Vocalists #1, Little Richard, Good Golly Miss Molly

Posted in Greatest Rock Vocalists, Little Richard, Youtube Favs on October 7th, 2011 by Willie

Little Richard is the greatest vocalist in rock and roll history.  He is the man that was James Brown’s #1 influence, the man Paul McCartney copied, the man who first employed Jimi Hendrix, and the man that arguably started rock and roll with the second he let out his primal rock and roll roar for the first time.  Little Richard had the voice of a super-being out of a comic book.  His vocal chords were just blessed with the most perfect construction necessary to start a world wide revolution, and they did.  Oh yea, he also played a mean piano as you can see in the glorious video below.  Yea, this was an odd early 90s promo video for the John Goodman movie King Ralph, but God bless that movie for giving Little Richard another spotlight to elevate his classic hit “Good Golly Miss Molly,” to an absurd level of perfection.  He just tears the roof off, proving that even at an advanced age, he hadn’t lost a lick of talent.  Richard’s voice really was one of the most remarkable miracles in the history of music, and there is no one that can take away from him.  Watch the hell out of this video below and just try to find someone with a better voice.  It’s impossible.

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Greatest Rock Vocalists #2, The Beatles, Twist and Shout

Posted in Greatest Rock Vocalists, The Beatles, Youtube Favs on October 6th, 2011 by Willie

There is no tonal quality more life affirming, more charging, and more powerful than the one found in John Lennon’s voice during his rendition of the Isley Brothers tune, “Twist and Shout.”  It’s the vocal performance that electrified the ears of the world; a singularity of rock and roll perfection, and simply among the greatest expressions of human joy ever performed.  There are just so many layers to the sound of John’s voice in this take; joy, beauty, pain, dominance, and thunder.  The superlatives I have for this performance are endless, and if this was the only song of the Beatles we ever had, it might have been enough.  Not only does the song present John’s best lead singing ever, it also showcases what the Beatles did best, group singing.  Paul and George’s backing vocals are authoritative and fun, and when all 3 boys come together for the “ahhhhh” bridge, it’s as if the Beatles were trying to crack the Hoover Dam with their exuberant power.  So now you’re asking what voice could possibly top the the greatest group of the recorded sound era?  Well, stay tuned tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion to the definitive list of rock’s greatest vocalists.

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Greatest Rock Vocalists #3, Elvis Presley, Heart Break Hotel, Hound Dog

Posted in Elvis Presley, Greatest Rock Vocalists, Youtube Favs on October 5th, 2011 by Willie

Elvis was simply great, like a human tornado of cool, and one of the most original Americans in history.  Was he musically original?  Not exactly, but his instinct for sexing up rock and roll was brilliant.  His originality was mainly found in his person, the archetype of the post World War II teenager; rebellious, greasy black hair, lover of rock and roll, fast cars, and women.  Not only did he look the part, he invented the part.  All the stereotypes of 50s cool that birthed endless imitators and evolved into the dominant 60s style all came from Elvis, the ground zero of cool perfection.  So here you have this utterly original and perfect looking young man, knocking down buildings with his stare, and what happens when he begins to sing?  The knocked down buildings turn to dust and get blown away to sea.  His voice was somehow even more perfect than his look, at once both growling and authoritative, yet vulnerable and honey dipped.  He had all the makings of a hypnotist, mesmerizing the world with his sight and sound.  This is why he’s called the King, because if he a little more brains, and a little more ambition, he could have conquered the world.  Instead, he just settled for rock and roll and movies, the latter being nowhere near as good as the former.  Below I have “Heart Break Hotel,” the best Elvis video available on the internet, and then I have “Hound Dog” from the Milton Berle show, where his dance moves created a scandal.  Both videos display Elvis’s timelessness and magic, proving that his act works in any time, and probably on any planet.  Enjoy.

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Greatest Rock Vocalists #4, Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody

Posted in Greatest Rock Vocalists, Queen, Youtube Favs on October 4th, 2011 by Willie

Never mind the image of the Muppets and Gonzo up there, that’s just some funny picture I found, this post is dedicated to the golden pipes of the late great Freddie Mercury, the fourth greatest vocalist in rock and roll history.  Possessing the voice of a fallen angel, rocking vociferously as he descends to the center of the Earth, Freddie was one in a billion.  “Bohemian Rhapsody” was Freddie’s unqualified masterpiece of rock.  Influenced heavily by opera and “A Day in the Life,” the lyrics were crafted out of ambiguity, and their personal meaning remained a personally guarded secret by Freddie.  The guitarist Brian May speculated that the words alluded to Freddie’s numerous personal traumas.  The song was one of the most complex and expensive recordings in rock and roll history.  Another interesting note is that the opening harmonies, though shown to be sung by the whole group, was actually all Freddie.  Like many, I love the way the song vamps along between balladry, operatic chamber rock, and hard rock nirvana, before giving way to a sweet surrender, highlighted by Brian May’s double tracked guitar line, one of the most bittersweet guitar melodies of all time.  The song became a massive hit again in the early 90s thanks to “Wayne’s World,” and because of its humongous double exposure, it became a bit rote in recent years.  However, I was at a Korean Karaoke last Spring, queued this song up, and reveled in the unlimited fun this song provides, remembering fully why it’s so powerful and great.  The thing about the top 5 rock vocalists is anyone of them could be #1, and Freddie is no exception.  He was a talented genius if there ever was one, and this is his shining monument of glory.  Stay tuned tomorrow as I continue to amp up intensity with an even greater rocker….Who could it be?

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