I have never travelled too deeply into the Mountain Goats catalogue, but that wasn’t necessary to understand and appreciate what this show was really about. Fundamentally, it was about John Darnielle’s love of performing and an audience that loved him for his unique artistic vision. It was a young crowd filled with hipsters and nerds and perhaps people that fall comfortably into both categories
Posts By: Steve Crawford
“Cleaning Windows,” Van Morrison. “Cleaning Windows” is a utopian vision of a perfectly fulfilled life, where the pursuit of money is less important than the physical and soul nourishing activities such as reading Kerouac, listening to Muddy Waters, and eating Paris buns. Van was a working man in his prime when he developed this beautiful vision.
I was never a risk taker. While other kids were smoking dope, popping pills, discovering the pleasure points of the human body, sniffing gas, and skipping school, I was doing homework assignments and making sure the living room furniture didn’t feel neglected.
The following excerpts from Steve Crawford’s book “1000 Essential Songs from the 1970s focuses on Texas born or Texas based artists with entries from Waylon, Willie, Ray Price, ZZ Top, Billy Joe Shaver, the late, great Townes Van Zandt, and many other musicians who were completely comfortable wearing cowboy hats.
The current version of Styx does a much better job of replicating the band’s recorded output than DeYoung’s group, which had a decidedly Vegas sound. Both the guitarists had extended solo turns throughout the night, displaying every cliché in the 1970’s I’m-a-shredding-hot-poop-guitar-hero arsenal. This is a show that someone could enjoy for pure camp for about half an hour, but that’s only 25% of the evening.
What was the most important and influential U.S. city in terms of 1970’s music? A strong argument could be made for Philadelphia. Producers Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Thom Bell created a silky soul sound that resulted in a string of hit records early in the decade and the disco beat was popularized by MFSB drummer Earl Young. Listed below are 18 tracks that were Philly creations, then several more inspired by the same sound and production techniques
After the British Invasion took America by storm in 1964, U.S. radio listeners long remained fascinated with U.K. musicians, who often were simply updating the Delta and Chicago blues traditions with a better sense of style. The U.K. bands represented below range from the traditional hard rock and metal of The Who and Led Zeppelin to the more progressive rock styles of The Moody Blues and Pink Floyd
Their organ/percussion heavy version of “Apache” wasn’t a hit, but was latter dubbed “the national anthem of hip hop” and has been sampled by Missy Elliot, LL Cool J, Moby, Nas, and Grandmaster Flash. Drummer Jim Gordon, who had played with Derek and the Dominoes, was responsible for what would become one of rap music’s most famous beats.
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I would have loved to have said a few words to Butch Hancock after the show – about how much his music has meant to me and it was an honor to see him perform, but I felt like I needed to leave quickly to avoid another manufactured confrontation. So, Danny Boy, don’t worry about profiling me in your club again, because I’ll never be back. And, if you don’t like this pic of Butch Hancock that I took during his soundcheck, sue me.
If your ears were glued to pop radio stations in 1981, you would have been enjoying “Endless Love” by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie, “Lady” by Kenny Rogers, and “Theme from ‘Greatest American Hero’ (Believe It or Not)” by the handsome and multi-talented Joey Scarbury. Scarbury also recorded “Flashbeagle” for the 1984 Peanuts special It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown, an animated tale about a rogue pooch who was repeatedly arrested for indecent exposure.
His specialty is country music heartbreak and folk ballads, but he’s not a one dimensional artist. When he sings about losing his love on “Tonight I Think I’m Gonna Go Downtown,” his emotional loss is so heavy that he not only feels disconnected from his former lover, but from the world is a whole. Such is the man’s gravitas.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe had a complicated relationship with religion – she was born into the business of religion and when she performed secular music, it was always at the risk of alienating her core audience. Late in her life she stated that she wasn’t a “fanatical believer,” although that may have been more of a casual comment than a reflection of her core convictions.
“Crawford, you are a first rate goldbricker. When will you start earning your keep, you lousy bum?” “Um…hello…is this my mom?” “Funny. Do you know what it means to be a contributing writer to Rock NYC?” “Limited street cred with aging punk rock strippers?” “It means you actually write for us. Alyson Camus sends in more articles in a week than you do in six months.”
Simply put, he still sings very well. His guitar playing is sharp, concise, never unnecessarily flashy. Every note serves the song. And the writing? If he’s ever penned a bad tune, you couldn’t prove it by this performance. There were no low spots.
Christgau bludgeons the reader with endless dives into various intellectual rabbit holes (his “theory of pop,” Dostoyevsky, Theodore Drieser, etc.) and recalls then discredits every slight he has ever received. If you are purchasing this book for his writing on music, forget it.
I miss Chavo Guerrero and I miss being fed justice (fabricated or anticipated) on a weekly basis. Yet, as the song concludes, “It’s real sweet to grow old.” Might as well enjoy the ride, there’s no good alternative
I don’t know what a happily married Jason Isbell will mean in terms of his future art, but I know I’ll be first in line to check out the results. To borrow a phrase from Van Morrison, Isbell is a working man in his prime right now. It’s nice to see one of the good guys win.
On one level you can admire the schoolyard punk hubris of Earle titling his record with a Robert Johnson reference, but his blues pastiches are so comparatively pale that it makes him seem completely blinded by his own arrogance. I’m left wondering if anyone in Earle’s camp ever tells him that he has a bad idea
rock nyc writer Steve Crawford has spent much of the year working on a book of the greatest songs in the 1980s, but still followed the latest releases close enough to include Old 97’s encapsulated history of life in a rock band, Lydia’s ode to being told to give oral stimulation and long time faves DBT. A mix of Americana and the occasional curve ball for 2014.
This isn’t a perfect record, but does display all the qualities we want from singer/songwriters – honesty, wisdom, insight, maturity. It’s not a world of happy endings and resolved conflicts. Really, is anyone’s?
This was a night of summation, of triumph, of lessons perfected after endless years of road testing. In 2014, it appears that the Old 97’s are commercially and artistically exactly where they want to be. I hope to see their four decade victory lap in 2034
The majority of Ketchum’s material exists in a bell curve where everything sounds good, it’s well crafted folk influenced country music and Ketchum still has a strong voice, but there’s no emotional glue to his work. The music wafts by you, very little sticks
When it came to the trio of hits at the end of the set, the crowd in front sang every line with “Space Age Love Song” and “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)” building to the triumphant “I Ran (So Far Away.”
Buckwheat dressed sharply, nice crease in those pants for being on the road, smiled incessantly and almost uncomfortably, like a funeral director trying to make you feel better, and reminded the crowd about 3,000 times that we were in Texas, which I think most of us already knew
“The Bottle,” a look at the personal destruction caused by alcoholism, became one of his most famous songs; a sad irony for a man who would later experience significant substance abuse issues that derailed his career.
There are people that get ahead in this world due to planning and calculation and those that rely on wit and charm. Jerry Jeff Walker is clearly in the latter category, someone that believes in the poetry of music and has spent decades working in the music business on his own terms, following his instincts
“Across 100th Street” was the title track for a soundtrack to a 1972 blaxploitation film about solving murder crimes in Harlem. While there is no subtlety in the high schlock arrangement, Womack’s gritty, been there, done that voice gives the lyrics about dope, pimps, and street prostitutes a sense of tragic urban reality.
After Steve Marriott left the Small Faces in 1969, he formed Humble Pie with guitarist Peter Frampton and scored a #4 U.K. hit with “Natural Born Bugie.” Frampton had left by 1972’s Smokin’ album, which went to #6 on the U.S. charts. “30 Days in the Hole,” a plaint about drug related jail time, has elements of gospel and blues, with a hard rock sound similar to Free/Bad Company. Sadly, Marriott’s career with sidetracked with chemical dependency issues and he passed away at the age of 44, from a fire he most likely caused by accident.
In the early 1970s, it was a custom for African-American men to sport large Afros, wear polyester suits, and sing in falsettos that made wine glasses tremble. Here are 15 groovy soft songs of love and heartbreak from 1970 to 1972. The line below lists the songwriters and the peak position on the pop charts. I know you can dig it, baby
Sometimes you come to bitter conclusions with lost loves. The 2014 version of the Drive-By Truckers can no longer compete with their own past either in the studio or on stage. They are almost trapped by their former greatness, because they can neither effectively replicate the band they were on Southern Rock Opera and Decoration Day.
For better or worse, I’ve started on a book about 1970s popular music. I plan is to write about 10 entries a day, which means I should have the first draft done sometime in December. I’ve divided each year into pop, rock, soul, and country. Here’s my first 12 rock entries from 1970.
“Anything, Anything (I’ll Give You),” Dramarama. While there are plenty of songs about romantic infatuation, singer John Easdale conveys almost a life or death need for validation on “Anything, Anything.” Hormonal angst rock at its finest.
wW here at rock nyc know the 1970s were the greatest decade in rock and roll history topped by punk and disco at the end but if you don’t believe us check out Steve Crawford’s 997 best songs of the decade. Though we will pass on “The Cover Of The Rolling Stone”,
To cut to the chase, The Bottle Rockets in 2014 are as superb as they’ve ever been. Perhaps they are even better now than they were in the ‘90s, they are more disciplined and have four members that really understand how to play as a unit.
As much as the ‘80s are maligned musically, ’84 was an outstanding year for pop music. Check out my lengthy list of Honorable Mentions below #20, many of which are as good/even better than the twenty annotated below in alphabetical order.
On a personal level, my goal is to always extend that comfort zone. It’s hard to learn much in life if you are only willing to dog paddle within the same peer group. It’s a big, messy world out there. Go out and explore it with open ears and an open mind. You might discover that both Glenn Miller and Kanye West are pretty hep cats.
Thematically Isaak is all about hummable heartbreak. Women love the guy. He’s witty and charming enough to be a stand up comic, but also knows how to play the seduction card. When the band hit the opening chords of “Wicked Game,” it felt like the room was hit by an estrogen thunderstorm.
“Age of Consent,” New Order. Three years after permanent mope Ian Curtis offed himself, New Order effectively established a new post punk sound, sounding a bit like a less attention needy version of the The Cure. An unexpected entry on your “Songs About Jailbait” playlist.
Gray sang and rambled like an alcoholic with two plugs of Skoal in his cheeks; James Henderson’s flute lead intro on “Heard It in a Love Song” was tentative and halting, percussionist B.B. Borden lacked the finesse for the material, and the group’s attempt at funk were laughably bad
Outside of Amarillo is a weird roadside attraction known as Cadillac Ranch – a line of ten Cadillacs buried nose first into the ground. Visitors are encouraged to spray paint graffiti on the Detroit relics. Noting one of the cars already was tagged with “Steve,” no work was required on my behalf.
I’ve never seen a bad Asleep at the Wheel show and this one was solid at times and sometimes moved from professionalism to true inspiration. One telling difference between Bob Wills and Benson is that Wills always had an edge of inspired chaos in his work. There was an improvisational sense of never knowing what was coming next.
Mrs. Lorene Burns, an Alabama woman that had the famous seven digits for her telephone number was not a fan. “When we’d first get calls at 2 or 3 in the morning, my husband would answer the phone. He can’t hear too well. They’d ask for Jenny, and he’d say ‘Jimmy doesn’t live here anymore.’ Tommy Tutone was the one who had the record. I’d like to get hold of his neck and choke him.”
Where Have All The Good Times Gone,” 1965. At the ripe old age of 21, poor rock star Ray is already wondering what’s happened to the worry free lifestyle of his youth. This sounds like a major hit, but was a B-side in 1965, then bombed as a single in 1973 (released after Bowie did his cover on Pin Ups). Is it just me or does the mother figure sound like a cougar?
The picture is Waterloo Station in the mid 1800 but by the time young ray wrote about it, it was an industrial quagmire, Number One? Crawford had this to say: “Waterloo Sunset,” 1967. The most beautiful song I will ever hear.
It’s all about irreverent fun, although the shirtless Smith does bring a layer of sweat and sexuality. The 90 minute set ran a bit too long, this band can say everything it needs to in an hour, and I would have loved to have heard their spleen crushing version of “Brontosaurus” again.
My first draft list had 25 entries, but with feedback from experts like Bill Holdship, John Kordosh, Iman Lababedi, Michael Bennett, A.C. Rhodes, and others, the list expanded to 40 and I could have easily included many others (“Powerman,” “Two Sisters,” “God’s Children,” and “Celluloid Heroes” are among the missing)
At the # 1 spot, American artist: “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,” Willie Nelson. One of Willie’s best – a beautiful lyric of self-less love matched with equally inspiring guitar work. A #1 country hit.
Lemmy and the boys formed in 1975, but struggled in their native U.K. until the Overkilland Bomber albums dented the album charts in 1979. The band released their signature punk meets metal anthem “Ace of Spades” in 1980 and it even went to #15 on the U.K. pop charts. Kilmister’s work as a rock ‘n’ roll icon and independent lawn killer is a never ending mission.
The Ramones provided a psychological safety zone for a generation of misfits who intrinsically knew that conformity was neither a valid goal nor a viable option. They provided a haven not just as a gathering place for outcasts, but a beautiful celebration of the power of eccentricity.