Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May 31 - Rock'n'roll Är Död

So today's song might not be my favorite version of it, as that is found on Imperiet's final album: Studio/Live, with a live version from their goodbye tour that blisters with energy. Imperiet was born out of the ashes of Ebba Grön, with lead singer and guitarist Thåström as the natural front man. Over the course of five years, from 1983-1988, they were the driving force in Swedish rock, at least the alternative side of it.

The song Rock'n'roll Är Död was originally the B-side on the 19hundra80sju single and not included on any regular studio album. It was released in 1987 (the year of the title of the A side), and it is a great song. When Thåström took it with him on tour in 2012, 25 years later, it was reworked, but it is still a really powerful song.

Monday, May 30, 2016

May 30 - Romeo & Juliet

I spent the first half of last week reading a book. It was a really, really good book - at least it was to me - and today's song is featured heavily in the book as a way to establish a connection between two of the main characters in the book. The book was The Fireman, and the author is Joe Hill. I first found Joe Hill when I found the graphic novel Locke & Key, and I knew nothing else about him. I had no idea who he was - even less who his parents were. The bottom line is none of that matters, because Joe Hill is a mighty fine author, and in The Fireman he created an apocalyptic world that is as believable as it is scary - and the real horror is found in what we as humans can do to one another.

Music is in the very fabric of the novel. It is a conduit for connection and for emotion - but most of all, the way he writes about the songs is great for someone like me. He will refer to songs by lines or topic more than he will use titles, which really makes my inner music geek shine with joy. The song I chose for today is Romeo & Juliet by Dire Straits. I've always loved the guitar intro, but the song is also pretty darn good. While it isn't my favorite Dire Straits song, it is most certainly a great song for today!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

May 29 - Addicted

Today's song had a visceral impact on me. I know I watched a performance of it on tv - maybe around the time the band called it quits in 1991 - although I am not sure. It was a full sensory attack. The hypnotic bass riff, the swirling noise from the keyboards, the manic vocals, and the way the singer was lit on stage - from the ground up, creating an amplified version of the old flashlight in the dark trick. Munch as a band was performance art, and it worked. It really worked on me. It worked so well that even today, 25 years later (it's been about 20 years since I last heard the song), I still know when it comes and get goosebumps in anticipation. "Full moon illuminate your soul." You'll know it when you hear it. You will be Addicted.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

May 28 - Gimme Gimme Gimme

The first time I heard a cover version of an ABBA song that turned it a little bit on its head, it was a Swedish punk rock band called The Leather Nun who was responsible. The song was Gimme Gimme Gimme, and their very detached vocals over distorted guitars really piqued my interest. Earlier this year, I was browsing the used CD section at Vertigo Music, Grand Rapids' best kept musical secret, and I found a CD by The Leather Nun. It was called Force Of Habit, and track 7 was Gimme Gimme Gimme. It was a song I hadn't listened to since the late 80s (it was released in 1986), so I picked it up and was reunited with this gem of a song.

Friday, May 27, 2016

May 27 - SOS

When it comes to ABBA, I have to confess that there are a lot of songs that I prefer when they are covered by other bands, and today's song is no exception. On their third album, ABBA, which we also heard from yesterday, one of the biggest hits was the song SOS. It is really a beautiful song - but I like it a little better in the metal treatment of the Trondheim band Israelvis. On their second album We Only Live Twice, which really was an EP but that in its cd format included their second proper album, Half Past Heaven, they included this cover version of SOS. Other highlights for me includes the songs Bitter Lennon and Sadie - but the spotlight shines brightest on SOS for me.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

May 26 - Intermezzo #1

ABBA time! Aside from acknowledging that they were a great pop band, I am really no ABBA fan. I was - my parents played a lot of ABBA for me growing up, and I was very exited when I got ABBA The Album - and later when I got an LP shaped gum in the Super Trouper cover in a bag of mixed candy sometime in the late 70s - or maybe even early 80s. However, there is one exception to my slight indifference towards ABBA , and that is their instrumentals. I remember two off the top of my head - Arrival, which later also was covered by Mike Oldfield, and my favorite instrumentsl, Intermezzo No. 1 from their third album, which simply was called ABBA and released in 1976. This really shows the songwriting skills of Ulvaeus and Andreson - skills that really shone years later when they wrote the musical Chess.

Instrumentally, I don't know too many piano players who make the grand piano sound grander than Björn Ulvaeus - at least not in pop and rock (Steve Nieve from The Attractions used Ulvaeus' piano sound as a template for the sound on Oliver's Army, according to Elvis Costello's autobiography - I was very excited to read that my suspicion was confirmed). Benny Anderson also showcases his more rocking tendencies - and the blend between very traditional rock and roll and more classicaly inspired melody lines is applied with perfection.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

May 25 - Mesmerized

Today's song is another one I can thank Jan Are for. I am not sure when he discovered Swiss metal band Celtic Frost, but he was on top of them when they released their avant garde metal masterpiece Into The Pandemonium in 1987. OK, so maybe One In Their Pride from the album is far from a good song (it made Paul Hardcastle's 19 seem varied), and maybe it has more ups and downs than I'd like to remember, but the highs are really high, and they were really trying to create new music here.

Celtic Frost were led by Thomas Gabriel Warrior on guitar and vocals, and on Into The Pandemonium, he was joined by long-time collaborator Martin Eric Ain on bass and Reed St. Mark on drums. Their origin was in one of the first extreme metal bands, Hellhammer, which Jan Are also had found one recording of with the EP Apocalyptic Raids, which was their only official release. Where Hellhammer had been more chaotic, Celtic Frost started getting disciplined and clearly focusing more on the music, although they kept it very experimental.

Into The Pandemonium was an important album for me, because Celtic Frost really started erasing the boundaries between music I always had seen there. Using classically trained singers and strings beyond just traditional enhancement of the chords/riffs was really new to me - and the use of the instruments went way beyond the chugging along with power chords that metal was filled with. Just listen to Mesmerized and hear the picking of strings that go on during the verses and you may be able to hear what I am talking about.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

May 24 - Tribal Convictions

Canadian Voivod came into my life through Jan Are. He had their first two albums - War and Pain from 1984 and Rrröööaaarrr from 1986. He played them for me on a couple of occasions, and I was amused by their song titles, such as Korgull The Exterminator and Fuck Off and Die but not so much by their music. When he played the Killing Technology album for me, which he had on cassette, I believe, I was a little more positive, but my real Voivod awakening came with their album Dimension Hatröss from 1988. Jan Are brought the tape over to Arve's dad's place, where we were playing a role playing game (I believe this was one of our attempts at playing Warhammer Fantasy Role Play). He was really excited and told us we had to listen to this. The song was Tribal Convictions, and finally I could hear what he had heard in them for a long time.

The song opens with a very tribal drum pattern, then the guitar comes in with a slow riff that maintains the groove from the drums before the drums come back again. When the drum patterns gives way for the song, the groove is still there if you listen for it, and the guitar riff from the beginning appears again towards the end of the song, helping it come full circle.

Tribal Convictions is not going to be music that appeals to everyone - and that was never Voivod's intention. However, if you are willing to spend almost 5 minutes with them, I am hoping you can hear what I hear in them - and remember, it took me years to find it...

Monday, May 23, 2016

May 23 - Wake Up Dead Man

The first song I remember downloading was Discotheque by U2. The year was 1997, and I actually believe it was a legal download in low quality mp3 from u2.com. I might be wrong about where I got it from, but I am positive it was legal - and I remember sitting at the computer lab at NTNU at Dragvoll in Trondheim downloading it onto two or three floppy disks with 1.44 MB capacity using a file splitting program that allowed me to take huge files of over 3 MB home with me.

U2s album Pop was released about a month later, and I remember going with Jon Inge to the midnight launch. We were in line to be among the first to buy the album. Of course, a pit stop at Burger King at their original location was also necessary - but we each got the cd and a promo single of Discotheque with the song Holy Joe, not otherwise too easy to get a hold of. We were excited - and while some tracks took a little longer to get used to than others, we both really liked it.

It's become very popular to hate U2 and to see Bono as a self-indulgent superstar too busy playing Jesus to do anything worthwhile musically. I am proud to say that I haven't fallen into any of those traps. I love their music. My relationship to their albums following Pop has been shaky, but after seeing the HBO special Innocence & Experience in Paris, which is out on BluRay on June 10, I have to admit that it doesn't matter. Their show - and the way they perform their music live - is second to none. I was lucky enough to see them twice - and I had the perfect companion in Jon Inge both times. The Zooropa tour was probably still my favorite, but watching them get stuck in the disco ball during the Popmart concert at Valle Hovin in Oslo is still my absolute favorite Spinal Tap moment.

Today I am revisiting Pop, because I think it is their most maligned and underrated album. The closer from Pop is another frail song, much in the vein of Love Is Blindness from Achtung Baby. Wake Up Dead Man is as haunting as it is dark, and truly a beautiful song.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

May 22 - Vortex Surfer

You didn't really think I could do this quest for the perfect song without including Motorpsycho, did you? The closest I think they ever came to perfection in the studio happened in 1998, when they released the sprawling masterpiece Trust Us, which really served as a summary of Motorpsycho in the 90s - although I didn't know that at the time, when I was roaming around with a tape with most of the songs from the double CD (I had to cut a couple of short ones to make it fit on the cassette I had available - I seem to remember it was a 90 minute one, but given that the playing time is just over 80 minutes, that cannot be the case).

Anyway, Trust Us was the last album Motorpsycho released in the 90s, and when they returned in 2000 with Let Them Eat Cake, there was a jazzy west coast pop feel to them. It was still a good album, but something seemed to be missing. The Trust Us tour and the following Roadwork tour were also the last two tours I saw them on, and I think I can say that I got to see them at the top of their early game on those two tours. Today's song, Vortex Surfer, was one of the highlights of both tours - it is a cathartic song that truly taps into my emotions, and it also shows a band that really knew how to play with dynamics. It was voted the song of the millennium in Norwegian radio and was played continuously for 24 hours on December 31, 1999 as the new millennium was approaching.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

May 21 - Tyven Tyven

Today's song is simply the most perfect song about loss and grief I can remember having heard. That does mean that there might be other songs that I am not remembering at the moment, but the simple imagery of death as a magpie stealing the apple of one's eye is so poignant in this song. It was written shortly after the singer, Prepple, lost his daughter, after she was admitted to the hospital with meningitis. Prepple and guitarist Kjartan Kristiansen were frequently sitting together in sessions fuelled by grief, loss, and alcohol, and out of this immeasurable tragedy came this incredibly beautiful and moving song. My feeble translation is just that - a translation of the imagery used throughout. Kjartan Kristiansen is a very visual lyricist - he prefers to write in images and evoke emotions that way, and I am nowhere near him, but I find it important for English speaking readers to get a glimpse into what this song is all about.

Asks no one, not a soul
Swishing steely scythe
Tears open clear blue skies
Nobody's safe in the fields

Cuts autumn without sleep
Without rest, blind and dumb
Soon there then here as lightning
Stealing the apple of your eye

Thief, thief

Does a string exist
That mends hearts torn apart
No pardon, mercy for non
Slicing down all for one

Thief, thief

We are all the same
For the scythe
If it had a soul, it'd be a magpie's
Stealing those who shine the most

Thief, thief

Thief, thief
robbed the apple of my eye
Sneaks in the shadows
Only us two remain

Thief thief
Took what he found
All we have hidden
Will never be forgotten

Friday, May 20, 2016

May 20 - Stargazer

Technically some can argue this song is a repost, as I did post this one back in the infancy of the blog - but this is the first time I am posting it for the song a day project - and it needs to be included. After Ritchie Blackmore teamed up with Ronnie James Dio - and after they got rid of the last of Dio's bandmates from Elf - Rainbow recorded the album Rising. As far as 70s hard rock goes, it's hard to find anything better - and the song of the day has been a favorite of mine ever since I purchased Rainbow Rising in the bargain cassette bin at a record store around age 12 or so. I think I paid 25 kroner for it, and I also think I wore that tape out. But the song that became the song was one of the longest of the album.

Rainbow Rising was released 40 years ago, and it really should be celebrated. A deluxe edition was released in 2011, but with two additional mixes, which really isn't that interesting to me. There are also live recordings from the ensuing tour, and some of them are phenomenal. On Rising, Blackmore and Dio had Jimmy Bain on bass (he would go on to play with Dio back and forth throughout his career), Cozy Powell on drums (a legend of 70s, 80s, and 90s hard rock until his untimely death in 1998), and Tony Carey on keyboards. The band was spectacular, and Rainbow Rising is the perfect song not just because it captures the essence of Rainbow Rising, but really the essence of all 70 hard rock. If I could pick just one song that would represent a decade, I would pick this for the 70s.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

May 19 - Mercy Street

Peter Gabriel's album So has already been visited twice this year, and in the quest for perfection in a song, I find that in yet another gem from So. It's interesting to me that the two biggest hits from the album, Sledgehammer and Big Time, are the two least interesting songs - at least to me. I've already played In Your Eyes and Don't Give Up, so what can be left?

Today I bring you Mercy Street. This is such a beautiful song, with outstanding lyrics again. I knew there was a literary angle to them, but I have only recently discovered this little article, exploring that a little closer: Anne Sexton’s Original Poem “45 Mercy Street”: The Genesis of Peter Gabriel’s “Mercy Street” The song is for the poet Anne Sexton, who committed suicide in 1974 - please read the linked article for additional information.

Peter Gabriel builds a very minimalistic accompaniment to the song, using swirling percussion, soft synths, and the subtle bass tones of Tony Levin to create an atmosphere more than a full on musical foundation.  This is perfection in subtlety. This is Peter Gabriel at his best. This is Mercy Street.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

May 18 - The City Sleeps

I have to confess that today's song isn't so much about distilling one album into one song, but how music and lyrics work together to create a very, very chilling effect. I was never very deeply into rap and hip hop. There are some bands and artists that I liked for their creativity and some for crossover appeal (after all, using Kerry King for a guitar solo was a great ploy by Beastie Boys to get metal heads to listen to them - and then it turns out they were good even without distorted guitars). I liked Eminem for the way he created a world around himself lyrically - even though it wasn't a world I wanted to be a part of. But before Eminem, there was MC 900 Ft. Jesus.

Studentradioen had received a nifty little compilation called Rare On Air Vol. II, a collection of songs performed at the LA radio station KCRW at their Morning Becomes Eclectic show. KCRW is a public radio station, and I like the first line in their About KCRW description: "KCRW creates and curates a unique mix of content centered around music discovery, NPR news, cultural exploration and informed public affairs." I am completely sold when it later says that, "KCRW DJs are given one directive: 'play what you love.'" This is the kind of music station I believe everyone should be listening to (and you can at kcrw.com).

Anyway, Rare On Air Vol II is nothing short of a great compilation. Featuring songs like Sweet Ride by Tanya Donelly, Lloyd Cole covering Leonard Cohen's Famous Blue Raincoat, and JJ Cale singing his Cajun Moon it is indeed an eclectic collection - and the highlight is this spectacular story. It sucks me in when I don't know what he's up to - and then when I realize it... I get chills - and not from joy... This is really storytelling at its best - rapidly approaching perfection - a great way to use rap to tell a story that otherwise easily could drown in music. So kick back and enjoy MC 900 Ft Jesus tell you what he likes to do while The City Sleeps.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

May 17 - The National Anthem

I really had a hard time deciding today. For those of you not Norwegian, May 17th is Norway's National Holiday. I have always seen it somewhat paradoxical, because although we are celebrating May 17, 1814, which is the birthday of the Norwegian Constitution, we were still not independent as a nation. No... We went straight from a union with Denmark to a union with Sweden, which lasted until 1905. So we did have a constitution, but not independence.

May 17th is a day of parades. In just about every community there is a children's parade in the morning. Every elementary school in the country participates, as far as I know. In bigger cities, like my hometown, that means that the parades get fairly long. Following the children's parades, we also typically have a citizen's parade - and then we have a parade of the russ, the graduating high schoolers. Very often this last parade is filled with more or less awake - and more or less sober - apathetic youth in what in theory is a display of hope for the future, but if we're honest, that really happens in the children's parade...

And I used to be in marching band. That meant that for me, I would get up early and walk to my elementary school (about 1 kilometer) in uniform. I think we had to be there at 5:30 or 6, but I might be wrong about that. Then we'd march around the neighborhoods of my school, about a mile and a half to two before gathering back at the elementary school for breakfast. Then we marched with the elementary school to line up for the parade downtown, and that was another two miles or so - before we did the parade itself, which I think was another half mile. After time for lunch with our families, we met up again and marched one last time to gather business for the fair-like activities that were held at the elementary school, which really serve as a center for the community. I think that adds another mile or so to the marching. And yes, I always slept soundly those nights...

So back to the debate for today's song. I could look for a Norwegian song with somewhat nationalistic content, beaming with national pride, but that isn't quite me. I could also look for a more subdued song celebrating some aspects of Norway - and there are some good contenders there. But I ended up at Radiohead's The National Anthem from Kid A, an album so radically different from OK Computer that it completely changed their trajectory. I mean, there are watershed moments, and then there are watershed moments, and Kid A is a watershed album. It is a great album, but they also went completely away from the guitar based music of previous albums into way more experimental territories, and on Kid A, it really paid off. It is my favorite post-OK Computer Radiohead album - by far (although their new album, A Moon Shaped Pool is really, really, really good). And to me, Kid A can be distilled down to the song The National Anthem (which is at least a fitting title for a national holiday).

The National Anthem hit me unsuspectingly while watching SNL on October 14, 2000. Kate Hudson was the host, but I had to look it up to remember, because all I remember is the power of The National Anthem. It completely blew me away. Completely. This was a band firing on all cylinders, and I don't think they ever had one song more completely distill the essence of who they were. There are songs that are prettier, and there are songs that are grittier, but none is more perfect than The National Anthem. Hurra for 17. mai!

It does help when I remember to include the video...

Monday, May 16, 2016

May 16 - Common People

This week I am going searching... I am searching for the perfect recording. I know I won't find it, but I have several songs in mind that really goes very far in that general direction.

The first song I am picking is by britpop band Pulp. In the 90s, the britpop scene was divided between Blur and Oasis with ridiculously high rivalries that were parallel to the good old Stones-Beatles rivalries of the 60s. I think both bands are pretty solid - but I am not so sure either one of them was my favorite britpop band. To me, that was Pulp.

I have this memory of driving in to downtown Trondheim, passing the Ni Muser building (Nine Muses), home of one of the artsier cafes in Trondheim in the 90s, and having Common People come through on the radio, and the visual of studying at St. Martin's College for me took place in Ni Muser rather than the more prestigious London Institution.

The recording of Common People is from Pulp's 1995 album Different Class, which is master class in pop/rock music. It's got everything: great arrangements, great music, great lyrics, just great stuff. And it is all distilled into one song: Common People. And that is really what I see when I see perfection in a recording. It is a song that somehow distills the essence of everything it is trying to convey. Does that make what I am looking for clearer? I hope so. Here is Pulp with Common People.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

May 15 - American Idiot

I'll be brief again (this week has been brief due to illness, I hope to be back stronger shortly). My favorite modern punk rock band has become Green Day following their fantastic 2004 album American Idiot. That was when they really showed political teeth, something I at least hadn't noticed in earlier songs like Longview and Basket Case, which to me only seemed snotty and bratty. Fun? Heck yes. And great pop tunes as well. Just not quite enough for me to really like them. But then American Idiot came about, and I heard a finely crafted story with great lyrics and actual meaning. I wish the title track wasn't as relevant as it is, but it's even more relevant today than it was when released.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

May 14 - Holiday in Cambodia

So far I've stayed in Europe, as I've really got my heart set on European punk rock, but today and tomorrow will be devoted to my two favorite American punk rock bands; today's band is a classical punk rock band while tomorrow's is representing modern punk. Today is all about Dead Kennedys, which really represents classic Bay Area punk. Their lyrics, courtesy of Jello Biafra, were highly political, and today's song is no exception. I think this is the only time anyone would hear me chanting Pol Pot along with music, but Jello Biafra did turn it into quite the chant. It's a Holiday In Cambodia, it's rough kid, but it's life...

Friday, May 13, 2016

May 13 - Staten Och Kapitalet

 While punk rock was arriving in Norway, it was also present in Sweden. The Swedish band that I personally know from this period of time was the band Ebba Grön.  They were led by the singer and songwriter extraordinaire named Joachim Thåström,  and they reigned Swedish punk rock from 1978 until 1982 when they decided to change their style and form the band Imperiet.  In many ways there are parallels between their story and the story of Norwegian Wannskrækk.

I can guarantee you that I'll be back with more music from Imperiet, but today's song is by Ebba Grön. With the songwriter like Thåström it is almost strange that the song I have selected is one of the very few cover versions, but this is quite the gem. This is Staten Och Kapitalet.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

May 12 - AG3

Trondheim had an active punk rock scene. Like I said a couple of days ago, Sex Pistols visited, and there was no shortages of multicolored mohawks and creative uses for safety pins. The music scene was also thriving, but no band became as big as Wannskrækk, which later changed their name to Dumdum Boys. They started in 1978, right on the heels of the big Sex Pistols revolution, and their final transitional recordings were in 1985, although their final concert was in 1984. That meant that I was a little too young to see them live, but I made up for that later with seeing Dumdum Boys quite a few times.

Wannskrækk was simply a great band. The live recording of their farewell show (still not available on CD, unfortunately) shows that it was the case both live and on their two studio recordings, 12" from 1982 and the single Faen Kuler Treffer Aldri Riktig from 1981. The song of the day is from the latter, AG3.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

May 11 - Alternative Ulster

Like I said yesterday, I think one of the first punk rock bands I got exposed to was Stiff Little Fingers. I had a great friend in Stig Erik when I was growing up. We used to play with our Star Wars action figures, our wooden, homemade light sabers, and our bikes were the best x-wing fighter this side of the galaxy. But we also listened to a lot of music. His brother was building quite the record collection, and I am assuming that is where the tape of a compilation by SLF called All The Best came from. About 30 years later I still remembered some of the songs - 78 RPM, Suspect Device, and the song of the day, Alternative Ulster.

SLF came from Belfast in Northern Ireland, and they became very political very quickly. This was the time of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, when the British really made a heavy handed military approach to the Northern Irish resistance.  In the time before Al Quaida and Isis, terrorism was performed in Spain by ETA (Basque separatists), in Germany by Rote Armee Fraktion (radical left wing communist/socialist group), and in the UK by the Provisional IRA, the Irish Republican Army, which fought for a united Ireland (no, I am not trying to whitewash them here, but that was their stated goal). Ireland is still divided, with Northern Ireland (Ulster) belonging to the United Kingdom, while the majority of the island comprises the Republic of Ireland. When I was growing up, The Troubles was described as a conflict between the Catholics of the Republic of Ireland and the Protestants in Northern Ireland, but it is my belief that religion became the banners to rally behind more than the root of the conflict. I believe that still was all about power and who holds it, but even though Wikipedia agrees with me, I find it important to note that I am no scholar of The Troubles at all.

Stiff Little Fingers' debut album was called Inflammable Material and was released in 1978 following the release of the singles Suspect Device and Alternative Ulster. Listening to their lyrics, you get a very grim picture of life in Belfast - and that to me is punk rock at its best. Social commentary with a clear edge both musically and lyrically. If watch the video on YouTube, you will even get the lyrics to Alternative Ulster, one of my absolute favorite songs by Stiff Little Fingers.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

May 10 - Anarchy In The UK

Rolling Stone Magazine has had a huge celebration of The Ramones recording their debut album, marking the 40th anniversary of punk rock. I am not sure that is quite the way I see it - but I have a slightly more European take on it - and I blame the Sex Pistols. They were the first punk rock band I remember listening to, even though I had a friend who had introduced me to a much better band from the British Isles called Stiff Little Fingers before I really heard Johnny Rotten's sneer. But here in America it appears that The Ramones really are it - and to that I simply shrug my shoulders and say "meh." I have never been a huge fan of The Ramones - I owe my taste in punk rock to the British Isles altogether, so we will be spending some time there this week - as well as stopping back up in Scandinavia for two of my all time favorite punk rock bands.

But today is all about Sex Pistols. They actually played my hometown, Trondheim, and people who went to that concert still talk about it. Looking at them now, I see all image and very little substance, but I do believe John Lydon - or Johnny Rotten, as he is known when in the Sex Pistols - had artistic aspirations that really started to get harvested after the end of the Sex Pistols when he formed Public Image Limited. Anyway, it all started with manager Malcolm McLaren, who got Johnny Rotten to sing with Paul Cook on drums, Steve Jones on guitar, and Glen Matlock on bass. While Sid Vicious is the best known bass player of the Sex Pistols, Glen Matlock was the first, but Steve Jones does most of the bass work on Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols.

It is remarkable to me that a band that really only released one album, Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols, became as influential as they were. Much of that was because of Malcolm McLaren, but the personalities of Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious also helped quite a bit. While they were not the first punk rock band - neither in Britain or in the US - they were quickly the biggest - and just as quickly they were no more. They released their first single, Anarchy In The UK, in 1976, their only full studio album in 1977, and a break up was announced in January of 1978. On February 2, 1979, Sid Vicious died from a heroin overdose. The band has reformed since - for the money, according to themselves - with Glen Matlock back on bass - and there was a soundtrack and a movie with some new material released in 1979 and 1980 respectively, very appropriately titled The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle. But to me, their first single was their finest, and that's the song to play today: Anarchy In The UK.

Monday, May 09, 2016

May 9 - London Calling

I think I know how I first heard The Clash. It was through the song Should I Stay Or Should I Go, which was used in a Levi's commercial. A solid, poppy rock'n'roll song. However, I really discovered The Clash - and how antithetical the use of their music in a commercial really was - when I browsed the record collection of my friend Vegard and found the double vinyl album London Calling. He also had Combat Rock, which is where the aforementioned song was found, but I quickly blew that one off. London Calling, on the other hand, blew me away.

From the opening title track to the last minute final song, Train In Vain, which became the biggest hit, but really wasn't supposed to be there, London Calling is a tour-de-force through punk rock, rock'n'roll, ska, and reggae - and with eminently danceable bass lines, such as in the masterful Guns Of Brixton. The music of London Calling is for the body. I can't help the fact that my extremities start moving, enticing my entire body to join in (don't worry, it rarely happens and never in public). And on this album, when the music moves my body, the lyrics engage my mind. The lyrics are highly political, clever, and thought provoking - and they helped set a standard for what I looked for in punk rock. I always looked for songs with meaningful lyrics, and The Clash, especially on their first two albums, fully delivered in that respect.

I think The Clash is a great band to kick off a punk rock week, and London Calling is the right song for it.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

May 8 - A K9 Suite

On the final day of jam bands, I am writing about the band that got me interested in the genre: Motorpsycho. I think one can argue long and hard whether they technically are a jamband or not, but if you go down the checklist, these are their qualities that make me consider them one:
  • Dedicated fans that travel from show to show
  • Unpredictable setlists that change from night to night
  • Long shows
  • Songs that evolve into long, unpredictable jams
I think that's enough. Whether they officially are a jam band or not doesn't matter - they qualify for my purposes for this week's theme. Today's song is a great example of their jamminess. I really wanted to use All Is Loneliness from Roadwork Vol. 4, but I couldn't find that on YouTube - that is a great example of a 5 minute song becoming a 18 minute monster. Today's song started as a jam - they played along to Luis Bunuel's silent movie Un Chien Andalou, or An Andalusian Dog
at Cinemateket in Oslo, Norway in 1996. When this piece was recorded for their 1997 album Angels and Daemons at Play, it was name Un Chien d'Espace - or A Space Dog. And then, as a 30 minute long trippy version of it surfaced on Roadwork Vol. 1 (with the fantastic subtitle Heavy Metall Iz A Poze, Hardt Rock Iz A Laifschteil), but now it was named A K9 Suite.

I saw them several time during this part of their career, and the first 8 notes always made my hair stand up and the goosebumps commence full force. When the main riff starts and the Moog Taurus bass pedals thunder through the speakers and shake your solar plexus, all you need to do is give in. That is the power of music. That is the power of Motorpsycho.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

May 7 - Trane/Eternity's Breath/St. Stephen Jam

The Allman Brothers Band spawned a great little power trio when guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody decided to start a little side project with drummer Matt Abts. Haynes and Woody left ABB in 1997 to focus on Mule, but Woody died in August 2000. The current lineup has Jorgen Carlsson on bass and also includes Danny Louis on keyboards (and guitar and trumpet when needed). It was this lineup that for Halloween 2008 played several Ping Floyd songs in the Phish tradition of wearing a musical costume. This was what drew me to them, and I love their versions of the Pink Floyd songs - but today, as I am focusing more on the jam band aspect of their music, I am playing one of the extended jams found in the first set. Trane segues into Eternity's Breath, which finally segues into St. Stephen, a Grateful Dead staple. All in one seamless jam. Enjoy!

Friday, May 06, 2016

May 6 - Samson & Delilah

It's time to get back to the "proper" jam bands, and why not get to one of the originals? The Grateful Dead was indeed one of the first band with hordes of fans following them from concert to concert, and many of them brought tape recorders that were allowed in - even encouraged. Tape trading led to an unprecedented documentation of their live evolution - and documented both great nights and the crappier ones. Archive.org has collected and digitized many of these shows, so what once was for tape traders is now available for just about anyone to listen to. On top of that, The Grateful Dead has been publishing a string of records even after the band disbanded.

It is also very fitting that the link between the old guard and the new guard was made 100% when The Grateful Dead had their Fare Thee Well concerts in Santa Clara and Chicago last year. Following Jerry Garcia's death in1995, several constellations of members of The Grateful Dead had been getting together, but the band decided to have one final run as The Grateful Dead and invited Trey Anastasio to sit in for Jerry Garcia.

But today I have a song from the Closing of Winterland album - a song recorded live on New Year's Eve in 1978. Please enjoy Samson & Delilah, sung by guitarist Bob Weir.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

May 5 - Buenos Tardes Amigo

OK - so I interrupt this jam band theme with a brief celebration of Cinco de Mayo. Ween was a duo I became aware of thanks to their album Chocolate and Cheese, which was a huge it at Studentradioen i Bergen when I was there in the mid 90s. Chocolate and Cheese is a very eclectic album, with pop, rock, soul, and country in one bizarre mix. Today's song, Buenos Tardes Amigo, does mention Cinco de Mayo, and I think it is quite the funny song, so I thought it would be a good fit for today!

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

May 4 - Don't Drink The Water

So I know today is Star Wars day (May the 4th be with you); however, I will let Star Wars rest today and rather keep going on my jam band spree - and today's song is not about the Flint water crisis, even though the title may seem that way. Dave Matthews Band initially snuck up on me, but after visiting Svein in Sioux Falls on a family vacation, I started getting slightly more hooked. I know his brother, Jarl Arne, was a huge DMB fan, but I was also exposed to more of his music on that visit and did end up purchasing all studio releases plus a few live albums.

DMB is often linked with the jam band scene, but to me it seems to be more about the long and unpredictable shows they play than heavy improvisation - but it's been a while since I listened to them now, so my memory might be gone. However, their live dynamics are indeed spectacular, and a great example of this is the song Don't Drink The Water from The Central Park Concert.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

May 3 - Whipping Post

Okay - so I have another red thread this week, and it is jam bands. I will be on the fringes a little bit with some of the selections, but I think I can justify it. And today's jam band is The Allman Brothers Band - one of the original jam bands. Their live recording At Fillmore East is one heck of an album, with very long extended jams on both In Memory of Elizabeth Reed and today's song, Whipping Post, as well as the 30+ minute long Mountain Jam.

The original Allman Brothers Band really had two brothers in it: Duane, the bandleader, on guitar, and Gregg on keyboards and vocals; however, Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in October 1971, mere months after this recording (from March 1971), and bassist Berry Oakley died in a motorcycle accidents just block away about a year later. The band's line-up at Fillmore East had two guitar players, with Dickey Betts being the second lead guitar player, and two drummers, Jaimoe and Butch Trucks, a line-up that allowed them great musical flexibility.

I discovered The Allman Brothers Band through Frank Zappa, who had a cover version of Whipping Post on his Them or Us album from 1984 - and he played it frequently live as well with Bobby Martin on vocals. Then I heard You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 2 - The Helsinki Concert - and the audience keeps asking for Whipping Post. That concert was from 1974, and knowing som of Zappa's sense of humor, I am assuming that playing it in 1984 was more of a joke to him than anything else - but it doesn't matter, because the version was great. Then Ken DeLong, one of my very esteemed faculty colleagues at MCC let me listen to Eat A Peach, their first album after Duane's death, and that's when I decided I needed to listen to At Fillmore East - and that brings us to today. Their version of Whipping Post is more than 20 glorious minutes long. Now, when I say that, there are moments in here where they seem a little off - but that is the danger and allure with a great jam, as everything is spontaneous, and when it works it really works - but when it doesn't... It's not always that great. However, despite a few moments of losing concentration, this is indeed a great version of Whipping Post.

Monday, May 02, 2016

May 2 - Stash

Today's song is from the very first Phish album I ever owned. I joined Columbia Record Club, which allowed me to get 10 cds for a very low price - with no more to buy, ever (I think - because I think I could get the regular purchases with my introductory offer). And so I was exposed to Phish through A Live One, which to my ears is a most excellent jam band. And since I like improvisations, it really fits my taste well. Today's song is highly melodic - and is not as clearly improvisational as much of their other music, but it is still there... And I am loving the guitar lines and the "maybe so, maybe not" lines that get repeated leading in to the heavier improvisation. Trey Anastasio is a guitar player with both a great tone and a melodic and fluid yet exploratory playing style, and I greatly enjoy his improvisations - but then the band goes off as well. John Fishman keeps time well with the drums, but has interesting fills; I love Page McConnell's grand piano work, and Mike Gordon's bass is very, very interesting to follow as well. Just listen to how this entire song breaks into chaos with Fishman steadily keeping time on the hi-hat, McConnell hammering one chord, emphasized by Gordon's bass, and Trey Anastasio playing short repeated patterns (ostinatos) on top - then listen to the climactic resolution starting at 11:05. It breaks down a little bit again before getting to another run at the "maybe so, maybe not" with the guitar melody joining in. Goosebumps. Stash.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

May 1 - The Ripper

After an evening with the very entertaining board game Letters From Whitechapel, there really is no other song than The Ripper that works. Letters From Whitechapel pits one player as Jack The Ripper against up to five players who cooperate to stop him controlling Scotland Yard's finest, and the song The Ripper is all about Saucy Jack. Judas Priest's second album, Sad Wings of Destiny, is an underrated gem, and The Ripper  is the second part of a one-two punch starting with the absolute highlight Victim of Changes. Please enjoy.