So I ended up buying the new Golden Earring box set, The Complete Studio Recordings, (at a pretty sweet deal — 28 cds for a little over $100, coming out to about $4 a cd) and I’m quite looking forward to giving it a listen.
They’re a band I’ve always wanted to hear more of, especially since their history reaches way back to the early 60s. Most of you know them from their two US hits “Radar Love” (one of the best 70s bass lines ever) and “Twilight Zone” (one of the most memorable early 80s MTV videos). I owned their Cut album for a long time and absolutely loved it as a kid. I never got around to picking up more of their albums though, as they were often hard to find and were never a big draw in the US.
Still, they’re considered the Netherlands’ biggest rock band and what I have heard of their early stuff I quite enjoy. Including their amazingly ridiculous yet fascinating seventeen-minute prog cover of The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High”.
It’s going to take me a while to sift through this collection, but I’m looking forward to it!
I’m quite enjoying how 2017 is panning out musically so far. There’s some really solid tunage being released, and even more to come in the next few months. Looking forward to it! In the meantime, here’s some more stuff that’s been getting lots of play on my PC lately, hope you enjoy!
Spoon, “Hot Thoughts” single, released 20 January (album coming 17 March).
Arcade Fire, “I Give You Power” single (feat. Mavis Staples), released 20 January
The New Pornographers, “High Ticket Attractions” single, released 27 January (album coming 7 April)
Japandroids, “Near to the Wild Heart of Life” from the album of the same name, released 27 January
Big Wreck, “One Good Piece of Me” from Grace Street, released 3 February
Porcelain Raft, “Big Sur” from Microclimate, released 3 February (I am hella obsessed over this album at the moment…)
Dutch Uncles, “Big Balloon” from the album of the same name, released 17 February
The Verve Pipe, “Cup of Tea” from Villains – Live and Acoustic, released 17 February (really, go get this or the original, it’s a phenomenal record)
I’ll be honest, I’ve kind of ignored the origins of rock music for longer than I really should have. I’m quite familiar with rock in the late 70s and 80s, having lived through it, and over the years I’ve read a lot about how the 60s shaped and influenced rock music and vice versa.
The 50s and earlier, however? I have a very thin basic knowledge at best. Of course I’m familiar with the classics everyone else knows…the early Elvis tracks on Sun Records, the handful of Jerry Lee Lewis songs, the usual Chuck Berry riffs, and thanks to the Beatles, the not-quite-hits that got a second life as covers. But that’s about it.
Ed Ward’s The History of Rock & Roll, Vol 1: 1920-1963 is a fascinating read in that it’s not a memoir of that era but a streamlined chronology of numerous events, people and performers that helped shape the music genre we all know today. There’s no concrete starting point to rock music — it evolved over a long period of time, inspired and influenced by all kinds of different regional styles of music. And thanks to radio’s own evolution from providing entertainment (such as the comedies and the dramas, and the aural productions of plays) to focusing more on shorter popular music, these regional sounds were heard nationally, informing and influencing even newer sounds.
If you’re familiar with how current styles of rock evolve within the last twenty to thirty years, this will make total sense; the Ramones begat the UK punk movement begat the moody post-punk sound begat American college radio begat 90s alternative, for instance.
The writing isn’t bland, even though Ward promotes this work as a textbook of sorts. On the contrary, he delights in amusing asides (Screaming Jay Hawkins gleefully admitting to not remembering recording his signature song “I Put a Spell on You” because he was completely drunk at the time), conservative backlashes (label owners creating a ‘good music’ subgenre of Sinatra-inspired saccharine music from the likes of Frankie Avalon), weird moments in rock history (the bizarre popularity of Alvin and the Chipmunks), producers and promoters milking a trend as far as they can (death songs like “Teen Angel”) and so on. His overall theme seems to say that no one in the music business really knew what the hell they were doing half the time, but as long as they made money and the kids loved it, then why complain?
In addition to this, Ward doesn’t completely focus on any one artist for an extended length of time; this is all about the chronology of the history. It puts things into a wider perspective, showing just how many different sounds and events unfolded at the same time. (I did not know that the careers of Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins pretty much started off within a month of each other, for instance; in fact, Elvis befriended Carl early on and helped get him an audition at Sun.) He also includes the other popular genres at the time: country, soul, folk, and jazz. While they weren’t lumped in with the emerging rock genre, they were part of its inspiration and were closely related enough to warrant further investigation.
It’s definitely a fun and very informative read, especially if you’re a music nerd like myself. It’s also inspired me to investigate this period of popular music a lot more closely than I have in the past. I’d like to check out those pop singles of yore, those jazz albums and whatnot, and hear for myself how they informed and inspired the popular music we all know and love today.
On a side note: I still find it kind of mind-bending when I compare this kind of chronology with my own experience. While reading this I was reminded of the Sha Na Na variety show that was on TV in the late 70s; they were essentially covering those old 50s pop songs that were twenty or so years old by then. In modern times: that would be me doing a cover of Oasis’ “Wonderwall”…which I still think of as relatively recent in my own personal timeline!
I love finding a new musician to latch onto. Sometimes it’ll be a track that I’ve heard on the radio station I’m listening to. Other times it’ll be a featured artist at a music blog. And yes, sometimes it’ll even be a band that randomly started following me on Twitter.
It was an article from September in the music blog The Line of Best Fit that introduced me to Cosima, a singer from the UK whose songs are haunting but lovely in that Cocteau Twins-meets-Massive Attack sort of way. I keep coming back to them, wanting to hear them again.
She’s just getting started — she’s only got a few singles and an EP out right now — but I highly recommend picking it all up, because it’s all phenomenal stuff. Her new track “To Build a House” is her best yet.
Still working through a head cold right now and I’m not running at optimal speed. I thought I’d share some Love songs instead, considering it’s Valentine’s Day. We could all use some love now and again. 🙂
NOTE: HEY KIDS! Speaking of writing, I have an e-book coming out this Friday! The Balance of Light, the third book in the Bridgetown Trilogy, will finally get released in just a few short days! Come on over to Smashwords and check it out!
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Of course, you all know that I almost always have some sort of tunage going during my writing sessions, especially when they’re back here in Spare Oom. Even as I type this, I’m listening to Elbow’s latest album, Little Fictions.
You also know that there have been certain go-to albums that I’ll play, especially if I’m working on something related to the Mendaihu Universe.
But now that that particular project is complete…now what should I listen to? Good question.
Meet the Lidwells! is about a musical family, and once I get to the bulk of the writing of this project, I’m sure I’ll be listening to a lot of 90s alternapop to fit with the band’s sound. I’ve got a lot of that stuff in my collection, thanks to my time at HMV, but I can also let SiriusXM’s Lithium station do the work as well.
Other than that, my project options are wide open. I’m thinking maybe a standalone Mendaihu Universe book or two. And for some reason, I’ve decided that I need to listen to a lot of LOUD music for those. The plot ideas I have for these involve a lot of emotional and societal tension, so something twitchy and irritable would fit quite nicely.
Something like the alt-metal of Caspian for instance:
…or something nice and crunchy from Deftones.
I’m sure I’ll temper it with some quiet moody stuff like I always do.
Either way, it’s time to change up the writing session soundtrack big time. I’m not sure what I’ll be listening to in particular, but I’m keeping my options open. Some of my favorite writing session albums come to me purely by accident — an album I haven’t heard in years that just happens to fit the mood of the scene, or a new release that clicks with me right from the first listen. I still absolutely adore Failure’s Fantastic Planet (it’s still on my gym mp3 player after all these years), but I’ve got to start listening to more than just the same things.