June 20, 2007

The Roots Of British Psychedelia

British Psychedelia: By Richie Unterberger

Taken From AMG

Did psychedelic rock start in the United States or Great Britain? It's very much a chicken-and-the-egg question. Like folk rock, punk, and blues rock, the form was developing simultaneously, along very similar paths, on both sides of the Atlantic. It's also apparent that although there were a great many similarities between American and British psychedelia, British psychedelic music evolved along somewhat different lines, with striking and distinctive characteristics of its own. While both branches tapped heavily into Indian and eastern music, jazz/improvisational/experimental elements, and drug-inspired imagery, the British brand was usually perkier, more playful, and sunnier in disposition, although just as freaked-out and forceful.

It couldn't really be said that there were any out-and-out British psychedelic records before 1966. But in the previous year, there were quite a few recordings by the best British groups that helped point the way for the style—more so than there were in the United States. The Who, the Kinks, and the Yardbirds all pioneered guitar distortion and feedback that year via such experimental (and hit!) singles such as "My Generation" and "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere." The Kinks and the Yardbirds didn't just fuzz up their riffs, but added middle eastern motifs on "See My Friends" (by the Kinks) and "Heart Full of Soul," a Yardbirds hit with a sitarish riff by Jeff Beck that was originally recorded with an actual sitar. On Rubber Soul, the Beatles introduced a genuine sitar on "Norwegian Wood," and on the same album's "The Word," they voiced the drug-influenced peace-and-love sentiments that would color many psychedelic lyrics.

The honor of the first psychedelic British single—and indeed, probably the first psychedelic single of all time—might go to the Yardbirds' "Shapes of Things," with its wild intertwining of feedback and snaky middle eastern melodic lines during its blistering guitar solo (delivered by Jeff Beck), its abrupt tempo changes from verse to chorus, and lyrics that ruminated over the future of mankind itself. The group had already employed unnerving guitar "rave-ups" on its 1965 studio recordings, and haunting Gregorian chants on the hit single (in Britain only) "Still I'm Sad." Their 1966 album Roger The Engineer, anchored by another single that featured a meltdown eastern guitar riff ("Over Under Sideways Down"), was an inconsistent but oft-thrilling effort that did much to pioneer psychedelic territory, shifting from blues-rock raveups to doom-laden dirge waltzes to piercing jazzy guitar solos to pensive piano ballads, sometimes within the course of the same tune. The late '66 single "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" (their only one to feature both Beck and Jimmy Page) was their psychedelic summit, with air-raid siren guitar duels, spooky harmonies, lyrics about reincarnation, and inscrutable, half-buried spoken word fragments. A relative commercial failure, it also signaled the end of the band as a creative force, Beck departing soon afterwards, and the group struggling with second-rate material and production during much of their final phase (with Page taking over lead guitar).

With hindsight, the Yardbirds' 1966 recordings are considered psychedelic landmarks. But at the time, far more listeners gained their first exposure to psychedelic music via the Beatles' 1966 releases. The "Paperback Writer"/"Rain" single served notice that the Beatles had assimilated all the guitar, lyrical, and production innovations of the previous year, especially on the B-side, with its hazy, droning guitars and backwards vocals on the fade. The album that followed in the summer, Revolver, owed much to mod pop and the sort of orchestral production Brian Wilson had recently devised for the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album (which itself had some psychedelic elements). But it was also, in many respects, one of the very first psychedelic LPs—not only in its numerous shifts in mood and production texture, but in its innovative manipulation of amplification and electronics to produce new sounds on guitars and other instruments. Specific, widely heralded examples would include the backwards riffs of "I'm Only Sleeping," the sound effects of "Yellow Submarine," the sitar of "Love You To," the blurry guitars of "She Said, She Said," and above all the seagull chanting, buzzing drones, megaphone vocals, free-assocation philosophizing, and varispeed tape effects of "Tomorrow Never Knows."

One other truly psychedelic album emerged from the United Kingdom in 1966 which, while not viewed with as much respect by subsequent critics, was nearly as influential and popular in its own time as Revolver. The record, Donovan's Sunshine Superman, was also a much more unlikely leap than the efforts by the Beatles and the Yardbirds, who had done much to lay a bedrock for their innovations with their work in 1965. In that same year, Donovan was not even using electric instruments on his records, but making a bid to become the British Bob Dylan, with troubadour musings (very well done, it should be added) much closer to the spirit of Bert Jansch than Lennon- McCartney. It's hard to say what made Donovan quick to embrace cosmic mythology and sitars—drug-inspired revelation, humiliation at being outclassed by Dylan himself during a head-to-head hootenanny in the documentary Don't Look Back, or, more mundanely, a correct realization that he'd need to electrify and complicate his sound to compete in the intensively competitive British pop scene.

Sunshine Superman, along with the lighter psychedelia of Revolver and the elegant but powerful mod commentary of the Who and the Kinks, helped introduce some of the whimsical traits which most distinguished British psychedelic rockers from their American counterparts. The arrangements on Sunshine Superman were exquisitely symphonic. They may have used exotic (for the time) blends of sitars, harpsichords, hard rock guitar, bongos, and mellotron, but at heart the songs were very much pop-rock, with hummable, cheery melodies. The lyrics were acidic visions of the benign sort, heavy on Olde English touches and fairytale imagery. Those who value angst and earth in their rock'n'roll have chastised Donovan for being too florid, even fruity, criticisms that are somewhat justified, but overriden by the charm and beauty of his best recordings. Ironically, the man responsible for much of Sunshine Superman's cosmic aura was not Donovan himself, but producer Mickie Most, who would—oddly, in retrospect—do much to ensure the demise of the Yardbirds after taking over their production in 1967, saddling them with bubblegumish songs and sugary arrangements. In a further irony, Sunshine Superman made much of its initial impact not in the U.K., but in the U.S. Donovan was embroiled in a complicated label dispute that found him unable to release material in his homeland for a time, and his early electric recordings appeared quite a few months earlier in the States.

While there were not many out-and-out full-length British psychedelic albums in 1966, the psychedelic influence was felt in key singles and album tracks by some of the best groups. The Rolling Stones were quick to appropriate the sitar for "Paint It Black"; John Lennon would later charge the Stones from having nicked the idea from "Norwegian Wood," but the consensus is that "Paint It Black" is the best use of sitar in a rock'n'roll song. Another 1966 single, "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?," may not have been designed as an explicit stab at psychedelia, but it certainly could have passed for one, with its dense web of guitar rumbles, horn crescendos, and make-what-you-will-of-these! lyrics. The Kinks were not one to follow trends, but "Fancy," from their 1966 LP Face To Face, made effective use of sitarish note bends. Face To Face was one of the first full-length statements that could be labeled (however vaguely) a concept album, and the Who made their first serious effort along this direction in late '66 with the lengthy "A Quick One While He's Away," a suite-like mini-opera.

1966 also saw the first psychedelic rumblings from bands who had not only not previously established themselves as commercially viable outfits, but had not even previously recorded. Much of what made this possible was the blossoming of a full-blown psychedelic underground in London, which found a home in the UFO club, and a voice through the countercultural journal International Times (often abbreviated to IT). In the UFO's early days, the Pink Floyd (and they were always called The Pink Floyd back then) were the house band of sorts. The best and most prominent of the first-generation British psychedelic bands without roots in the British Invasion, they took psychedelic music to further, freakier extremes. Song structures became looser, lengthier, more adventurous; steel balls were run up and down guitar strings to produce eerie electronic sounds; ghostly, spectral organ hovered over electronically distorted guitar. Many of the Floyd's early sets were dominated by instrumental freakouts, but their best achievements were actually grounded in the inspired melodies and wordplay of their eccentric original leader/singer/songwriter/guitarist, Syd Barrett, who had as much of an ear for fairytale whimsy and pop hooks as electronic experimentation.

Another important band held in high regard by UFO crowd were the Soft Machine. Although they would later branch out into avant-rock and jazz-rock, in their first incarnation they blended flower-power pop with genre-stretching instrumental chops and surreal songs. In the Pink Floyd biography A Saucerful Of Secrets, one UFO regular recalls that the Floyd and the Softs "were like the Beatles and the Stones of alternative music." The third notable early underground psychedelic band, and by far the least well-remembered, were Tomorrow, who adhered to conventional song structures more than their rivals, but also indulged in archetypically English character sketches and frequent experimentation; today, they are most famous for featuring guitarist Steve Howe in his pre- Yes days. The Pretty Things, though not as aligned with the UFO scene, made a few singles in '67-'68 that hold up well with Syd Barrett's Floyd efforts as examples of druggy psychedelia with equal footing in pop character sketches and experimentation.

Much more obscure, but on the same level, were the Misunderstood, actually a Californian group that moved to England at the urging of expatriate DJ John Ravenscroft (who would move back to his homeland and become the nation's top on-air rock personality as John Peel). Together for only a short time, the small batch of recordings they produced at their peak—some of which made it onto flop singles, some of which were only released many years later—have been belatedly recognized as some of the greatest early psychedelic music. These took the Yardbirds prototype to greater extremes with searing-but-gliding guitar electronics and heavily eastern-influenced original material of an overtly cosmic nature, but exhilarating quality.

The mod movement, with its emphasis upon autodestruct guitar riffs, outrage, and smart pop hooks, was also evolving in psychedelic directions. Long after the fact—a good 20 years later—some collectors dubbed this school of sound "freakbeat." Freakbeat was mod pop in psychedelic clothes, with some garage ethos thrown in. Young bands saw their musical heroes and social climate changing, and determined to keep up with a reckless enthusiasm that was often naive, but often made for some impressive records with their strainings against unwritten rules of pop and songwriting. Mod groups like the Smoke and John's Children made some great psychedelic records by adding adventurous songwriting and wild guitar flights to their pop base.

In the manner of American garage bands of the same era, quite a few British bands managed to record only a few singles or demos in a rush to tap into the zeitgeist of a special moment in musical evolution. There weren't nearly as many British freakbeat/psychedelic singles of this kind as their were in the American garage movement: Britain's a much smaller country, and at that time was dominated by four major labels, leaving little room for indie/regional/local releases. Just as there were many generic American garage singles, there were many generic British psychedelic singles, distinguished chiefly by ridiculous names like Ipsissimus, Edwick Rumbold, Aquarian Age, and the Penny Peeps (and that's just off one compilation).

But just as there were many great American garage singles, there were many great unknown British psychedelic singles, only fully appreciated long after the fact when they were assembled for collectors on anthologies like Chocolate Soup For Diabetics and The Perfumed Garden. Groups like Dantalian's Chariot, One In A Million, Tintern Abbey, Wimple Winch, and Syn recorded one or two psychedelic classics without ever managing to make a full album, let alone a hit song. It would be a mistake, though, to think of these British acts in the same way as U.S.U.S. psychedelic garage bands. This British sound was more refined, more carefully arranged, and benefited from more elaborate production values (being that many of them were actually recorded for major labels). They also frequently used keyboards (and occasionally mellotrons), and were far more apt to deal with prim, arty pop than adolescent angst. garage bands, or even

In doing so, these groups were following the lead of the biggest band of all, the Beatles. Their early '67 single, "Penny Lane"/"Strawberry Fields Forever," was not just, in all likelihood, the strongest double-A-sided release of all time, but the prototype of British pop-psychedelia. As much as the lyrics and musical settings may have inspired by lysergic substances, they were equally concerned with evoking states of child-like innocence (and, in this specific example, the very specific, real neighborhoods of John Lennon's and Paul McCartney's Liverpool childhoods). The Beatles' other 1967 releases largely followed this course, on the Sgt. Pepper album, the 1967 singles "All You Need Is Love" (psychedelia at its most anthemic and utopian) and "I Am The Walrus" (the cacophonous bad trip in the Beatles' 1967 catalog), and the Magical Mystery Tour songs (an EP in Britain, released with '67 singles as an LP elsewhere). On these productions, hard guitar rock (though not totally ignored) took a back seat to ornate, baroque instrumentation and arrangements, often using keyboards, mellotrons, and a barrage of unusual instruments, sound effects, and electronic manipulation (the use of which was greatly facilitated by producer George Martin). The early rock and R&B influences that had inspired the Beatles in the first place were, for the time being, deeply submerged in their work.

The Beatles' influence was such at the time that where they led, many followed. The Rolling Stones' Their Satanic Majesties Request (not to mention their "We Love You"/"Dandelion" single, which included some actual Beatle harmonies) is still seen by many as their Sgt. Pepper imitation/ripoff. The imperfections of the album (recorded at a time of great stress and conflict within the band, and between the Stones and their management) have worn very badly. But in fact the Stones pursued some interesting and, indeed, highly successful experiments with electronics, strings, and African rhythms on tracks like "She's A Rainbow," "2000 Light Years From Home," and "In Another Land," and one wishes that the avalanche of criticism with which the album was greeted hadn't discouraged them from exploring these avenues further. Among other top British groups, the Small Faces embraced the good-time vibes of psychedelia the most heartily, on singles like "Itchycoo Park" and the full-length story-concept album Ogden's Gone Nut Flake. The Who couldn't be said to have been heavily influenced by Sgt. Pepper, but their 1967 album, The Who Sell Out, expanded their lyrical and sonic ambition without comprimising their power, as well as offering a concept LP of sorts (with having the tracks linked by fake and real British radio jingles, and offering another mini-opera in "Rael," which would be recycled in Tommy).

Most British bands didn't have the resources to offer full-length albums of psychedelic adventurism. Some, such as the Hollies, the Move, and Manfred Mann, incorporated mild psychedelic influences into specific tracks to add a slightly hip dimension to their essentially pop material. Others took on the task whole-hog, and largely embarrassed themselves ( Eric Burdon and his New Animals). More difficult to classify is the Zombies' final LP, Odessey And Oracle; if it didn't exactly offer incense and sugarcubes, it certainly had plenty of imagination and rarefied atmosphere, and used the mellotron more than just about any other previous rock album. And there were obscure bands that managed to produce entire psychedelic albums that remain little known to this day. The Blossom Toes, whose debut conjured up visions of the Kinks on acid, were probably the best of these, and indeed offered some of the finest meldings of symphonic pop and psychedelic British whimsy (though they went in far more progressive and somber directions on their second and final album).

Lest the impression be given that British rock was dominated by clever trickery, there were a couple of British hard rock superstar outfits that made major contributions to the psychedelic era. Although Jimi Hendrix was not British, his backing musicians in the Experience were, and it was Britain where he first became a star, not America. Debates have raged about whether Hendrix should be considered a blues-rock guitarist, a jazz-rock guitarist, or an entity unto himself. But the fact remains that his work with the Experience—as captured on their three studio albums, Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold As Love, and Electric Ladyland—could hardly be considered anything but psychedelic. Along somewhat similar lines were Cream, which started out as a stone-cold blues-rock outfit, but quickly evolved into a hard rock group with strong psychedelic overtones, particularly on their second and best album, Disraeli Gears. Traffic, featuring Stevie Winwood, were the best at blending hard rock drive with more idiosyncratically British eclecticism, especially on their first two albums, Dear Mr. Fantasy and Traffic. If you're looking for the best British hard rock/psychedelic one-shot, go no further than The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. The fire-helmeted, overtly theatrical weirdo topped charts on both sides of the Atlantic with "Fire," and his sole album was an excessively demented but demonic slab of acid rock, with some of the best and loopiest organ to be found on any rock record.

There were also a few major efforts from the psychedelic era that are equally apt to be characterized as early progressive rock because of their heavy classical, symphonic influences and the generally overarching seriousness of their ambitions. Certainly the debut albums by Procol Harum, the Nice, and the Moody Blues (who took the Mellotron to greater heights of excess) could fall into this category. The early progressive bands gave the first indication of the fissure that would split the psychedelic bands into differing camps by the end of the 1960s: ones that returned to rootsier, earthier sounds, and ones that entertained progressively more grandoise ambitions.

It's been postulated that Bob Dylan's rustic John Wesley Harding was the signpost that motivated other rock kings to re-embrace their roots. Whether that's true or not, the first 1968 singles by the biggest British groups, the Beatles ("Lady Madonna") and the Rolling Stones ("Jumpin' Jack Flash"), found them deliberately scaling back to a more basic approach. By and large they would retain this throughout the rest of the '60s, refocusing on guitar rock and more concise songs, though the Beatles in particular never eschewed experimentation on their final recordings.

On the other hand, some of the major early psychedelic bands, such as Pink Floyd (after Syd Barrett departed due to mental instability), would grow increasingly more serious, symphonic, and electronic in their approach. The Soft Machine, as previously noted, headed into jazz-rock and experimental rock after some personnel changes; they and various spinoff bands ( Caravan, Kevin Ayers, Gong) would head the wing of humorous and whimsical progressive rock that became known as the Canterbury sound. A veteran of Tomorrow, guitarist Steve Howe, would become instrumental to the success of one of the biggest art-rock groups, Yes. The Pretty Things went very progressive with 1968's S.F. Sorrow, arguably rock's first true concept album, which helped inspire the Who's Tommy.

But some of the major psychedelic pioneers didn't so much choose sides as fizzle out. By the end of '68, Jimi Hendrix had made his final recording with the Experience, and Cream had broken up, as had Traffic (for an extended hiatus, anyway), the Zombies, and the Yardbirds (from whose ashes Led Zeppelin would arise). Donovan was still offering flower-power homilies, but he'd never truly expanded upon the achievements of Sunshine Superman, offering increasingly tired variations of the same theme.

Although many of the musicians that were integral to British psychedelia would have long careers—continuing in some cases right up to the present—it's fair to say that almost all of them have never created better and more imaginative work than they did at the height of the psychedelic era. Sometimes viewed by critics (and the musicians themselves) as embarrassingly naive and trendy, the best of the music endures as some of the most ambitious and euphoric produced in the whole of rock—which should be a source of pride, not shame.

22 Essential British Psychedelic Rock Records

The Beatles, Revolver (Capitol)

The Yardbirds, Roger The Engineer (Edsel)

Donovan, Sunshine Superman (Epic)

The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Capitol)

The Beatles, Magical Mystery Tour (Capitol)

Pink Floyd, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (Capitol)

The Soft Machine, Jet-Propelled Photograph (Charly)

Tomorrow, Tomorrow (Decal)

The Misunderstood, Before The Dream Faded (Cherry Red)

The Blossom Toes, Collection (Decal)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced? (MCA)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Axis: Bold As Love (MCA)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Electric Ladyland (MCA)

The Rolling Stones, Their Satanic Majesties Request (ABKCO)

Cream, Disraeli Gears (Polydor)

Traffic, Dear Mr. Fantasy (Island)

Traffic, Traffic (Island)

The Small Faces, Ogden's Gone Nut Flake (Sony)

The Zombies, Odessey And Oracle (Rhino)

The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown (Polydor)

Various Artists, Chocolate Soup For Diabetics Vol. 1-3 (Relics)

Various Artists, Perfumed Garden Vol. 1-3 (Reverberation)

June 14, 2007

Jazz For You : Joshua Redman

”JoshuaJoshua Redman, one of the most consistently creative musicians of his generation, a fiend on whatever saxophone he chooses to pick up, and a thoughtful, imaginative person, is at it again.

He’s not re-inventing the wheel, he says with a chuckle when discussing Back East (Nonesuch, 2007). But this exploring musician has gone back to an acoustic format. Specifically, a piano-less trio, the type of thing Sonny Rollins wowed critics with in the 1950s. Others have done it too. It’s not even new to Redman, but it’s a change after playing for the last couple of years in a larger band —the SFJazz Collective—and his more groove-based Elastic Band that features guitar, keyboards and other electronics.

Back East is at once an examination of the trio format, a dabbling into Eastern music elements that have intrigued Redman over the years, a tribute to some of his great influences of the past—Rollins, Stan Getz, John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter— and a re-acquaintance with some present day saxmen that have been an inspiration to him. It also, even if inadvertently, presents some poignant musical moments with his father, Dewey Redman, the saxophonist extraordinaire who died months after the recording. The Back East is the last time the pair played together. It was the last time Joshua saw his dad except for just prior to his death when the extent of the illness beckoned the son from his California home to New York.

Redman isn’t new to this trio format. He played it a lot jamming around the Boston scene while going to school at Harvard University. After graduating summa cum laude, then deciding to turn down his acceptance to Yale Law School and move to New York to pursue music, he experienced the trio setting there as well. “But it’s never been a format that I’ve chosen to tour extensively with or to record with. I think part of the reason is I never really felt ready. I’m not entirely sure that I’m ready now,” he says with a disarming chuckle.

Redman, always one who likes a musical challenge, was looking for another project. He said his work in the last couple of years in aggregations that were thick with sound, by the sheer number of players and by context, led him to seek out something more stripped-down.

As simple as it may seem, the piano-less trio is not an area where players should tread lightly. Redman approaches it with respect. In his playing and writing there’s introspection that leads to invention. There’s experimentation that leads to discovery. There are thoughtfully written schemes over which to improvise. And there is a good fit with the three rhythm sections he chose to help carry out his ideas. This is done by the teams of Christian McBride on bass with Brian Blades on drums; Larry Grenadier on bass and Ali Jackson on drums; and the bass of Reuben Rogers with drummer Eric Harland. They are not musical strangers to Redman, and so there is a cohesiveness achieved. The guest artists, saxophonists Joe Lovano, Chris Cheek and Dewey Redman, are all people who Redman respects a great deal.

As Back East implies in the title, it’s an album that has Eastern musical influences on many of the tunes, whether it’s Coltrane’s “India” or Redman’s own “Zarafah.” But that’s not the whole disk. He said he heard Rollins’ classic Way Out West (Contemporary, 1957) for the first time in years and it inspired him to investigate some of that music (“I’m An Old Cowhand” and “Wagon Wheels”). There are also nods to Trane, Shorter and Getz. But through it all, Redman remains himself. His facility on the horn, as always remarkable, enables him to spread his sound across the arrangements with power, when need be, but also with of and interesting phrasing befitting some of the music he heard growing up.

“I guess I craved the intimacy and the openness of trio,” says Redman. “I felt like maybe I had gotten to a place, musically, where I felt ready to take on a project like this. That’s kind of how it started.”

The music makes a strong statement and further entrenches Redman as one of the most captivating artists on the scene, always worthy of one’s attention. His reworking of songs done by Rollins is superb, because it is re-working, and Redman carries his own sound and attitude. His playful lines with Lovano show two saxophonists who love to see what is going on in the moment. And his work with his father shows a simpatico between the two, and yet shows two distinct artists in their own right. The support by all three rhythm sections is excellent.

Not many people are making albums like this. But Redman is one who puts his passion for the music first and not business considerations. He realizes that to be a successful artist, music has to be done for the love of it. He has always looked for ways to be creative, to step forward. He’s succeeded here.

Just prior to going out on tour in support of the new music with a trio—a journey that will take him to places like the Montreal Jazz Festival, as well as several dates in Europe—Redman spoke with All About Jazz about the music on his eleventh recording as a leader.

All About Jazz: The new CD is not only a return to acoustic, but a piano-less trio. How did it come about for you? How did it get in your mind that you wanted to do it?

Joshua Redman: It’s always been an exciting context for me to work in because of all the freedom there is. Without piano or guitar, or a dedicated harmonic instrument, there’s a tremendous amount of freedom that’s available to all of us, the saxophone player in particular. There’s a lot of harmonic freedom and along with that comes a great deal of melodic freedom. It’s a very open context, but it’s also kind of raw, naked and intimate context as well. But it’s really challenging, because when you don’t have a dedicated harmonic instrument, all the harmonic responsibility essentially falls upon the saxophonist and the bassist. It can be intimidating. It took me a while before I thought I was ready to do a whole project devoted to that sound and that approach.

The time just felt right. The two main bands I had been working with before this, the Elastic Band and the SF Jazz Collective, were very thick bands. In the case of the Jazz Collective, it’s an eight-piece ensemble with a four-horn front line, vibes and piano. You’ve got a lot of harmony. In the Elastic Band, even though it was only three or four musicians, once again there was a lot of sound. Lots of keyboards, guitars, effects.

Originally, I thought I just wanted to do a trio record. I had some material and I’d get deeper into that and craft some songs for that format. Then these other concepts started to take shape. This idea of doing these arrangements of these tunes Sonny Rollins had done on Way Out West. Then it took on all these other concepts that started to emerge.

AAJ: I was listening to Sonny’s Way Out West to see the contrast. It was interesting.

JR: Yeah. [laughs]. When I was working on this music, I kind of heard that (Way Out West) again for the first time in maybe ten years. I was really inspired to immediately try my own takes on some of that music. But I don’t really like to listen to myself next to Sonny Rollins. [chuckles] It’s a pretty humbling experience. I try not to play the music back to back. I don’t play my record at all so that makes it easy.

AAJ: It sounds good, and you didn’t give the exact same feel to it.

JR: That was really important. That would have been musical suicide if I tried to do the same arrangement and approach of Sonny Rollins. Obviously his influence is huge on me. He’s probably my biggest influence as a saxophonist and as an improviser. But the way I tried to approach the music was with different grooves, different tempos, different arrangements. In the case of “Wagon Wheels,” a completely different coloration. Sonny Rollins did it slow, loping, kind of cowboy-ish song. My approach has more of a Middle Eastern flavor to it. It has a different time signature, a different key.

AAJ:You have a lot of Eastern feel and influence in some of the tunes you use on the recording.

JR: It’s there. It’s something that is part of my musical upbringing and musical roots. But not in a studied way at all. My mom [Renee Shedroff] exposed me to all kinds of music at a very early age. Not just Western music, like jazz and classical and rock and funk—which I was exposed a lot to. She was a dancer and she loved Indian dance and music and Indonesian dance and music. She took me to a lot of concerts. In the Bay area [Oakland area, where Redman grew up] in the early ‘70s, there was a lot of opportunity to experience those non-Western art forms.

“Without piano or guitar, or a dedicated harmonic instrument, there’s a tremendous amount of freedom that’s available to all of us, the saxophone player in particular”

I feel like those sounds are there. They’ve always been there, kind of a part of my musical perspective; the way my ears are tuned to harmony and to melody. But I never really studied that music. To the extent that those sounds come out in my music—and in this record they come out in a lot more explicit way than in previous projects—it’s not through a deep knowledge or analysis of those forms. It’s not in a formal way. I don’t know different ragas, I don’t play with different beats cycles that come in a structural way from these musics. It’s more just a feel and a flavoring that in a certain sense have to do more with these musical sounds that have been in my ears for a long time, since I was very young.

I should stress that there are a lot of jazz musicians out there that have immersed themselves in these musics and really know them. I’m not one of those musicians. I haven’t studied the form.

AAJ:Some of the other tunes taken from Wayne Shorter, Coltrane. That’s obviously from their influence on you as a saxophone player.

JR:Yeah. Originally when I started working on the material, I was focusing mostly on original compositions. Then I had this burst of inspiration to arrange those Sonny Rollins Songs from Way Out West. After I was done I felt … not satisfied, but like: Wow. I can do this now. I can take these songs that were recorded and played by these iconic saxophone players and do them in a way that wasn’t just repetition, re-creation. I could do them in a way where I felt I could really have my own sound and identity through them.

Once I did the Sonny Rollins songs, it opened the door to involving myself musically with some of my other saxophone influences, so I decided to do a Coltrane [“India”] song and the Wayne Shorter song [“Indian Song”]. “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” even though Stan Getz didn’t write it, it’s a song I associate with him. I know it from a record he did called West Coast Jazz (Universal, 1955), which also fell into this east-west concept.

This idea of influences, saxophone influences in particular, became a part of the project. Through that I was inspired to ask some great saxophonists who I knew, who were influences—my father and Chris Speed and Joe Lovano—to play with me.

It started because I just wanted to do a trio record. Little by little these other concepts started to emerge to the point where there are so many different layers. It’s nice. I’ve always shunned the idea of a concept record, in the sense that I never want the concepts to dictate the music, I want the concepts to flow from the music. In this sense I kind of felt like they did. But in the end, the only value, if there is value, is the music itself.

AAJ:How much time do you spend writing? Is it difficult? Is it something that you do just when you feel it? Or can you sit down and write when you have to on a deadline?

JR:Yes. [laughs]. I don’t have a method. When I started working on the music for this project, some of the music was already written. But there were a few months when I kind of created all of the music, whether it was original or arranged. It came in that burst. With writing it comes in waves for me sometimes. I’ll go through long periods when I don’t write anything, and then I might have a burst of creativity, or I feel inspired or focused to do that.

I’m starting to realize that writing doesn’t necessarily have to be this mystical creative process that I used to think it was. I used to think, “I can’t write anything until I’m inspired.” And I can’t summon inspiration. So it just kind of has to happen when it happens. Part of me still feels like that, but a part of me also feels like part of it is just making the commitment to write. If I say I’m going to just sit down and write, that doesn’t really mean I’m going to sit down and immediately write this incredible tune, but… Part of it is just the process, committing yourself to the process, and through the process you’ll find something. I might start writing a tune that may get jettisoned, but there’s some kernel that comes out of it; it becomes the seed for something else.

If I want to be more prolific as a writer, it’s kind of simple. I just have to write more. [laughs].

AAJ:Which isn’t always easy.

JR:: Which isn’t. Especially when you have a kid.

AAJ:I know that…The rhythm sections you picked, you know them and have played with them. Was it a certain feel you wanted from them? Why did you pick them?

JR:I picked each rhythm section first of all because individually, these guys are among my favorite musicians. But also because I had played with each rhythm section a fair amount in different contexts. I’d also played with of them in trio. They’re all great and they’re all very different. I like the idea of a variety of sounds and approaches for this record. I still wanted it to be very focused, and hopefully it is. But because it’s such a simple format from an instrumental standpoint, one of the challenges is having variety, having different tunes sound and feel different. Because when you don’t have the chords, you sometimes run the risk of everything sounding the same. I like the idea of having these different flavors and this variety. I thought having different rhythm sections would help. I knew each one would have a unique approach and hopefully bring something exciting to it.

AAJ:Joe Lovano, Chris Speed and your father, how was that planned? Especially with your father. Did you say, “Yeah. I want him to be on this record,” or did it evolve differently?

JR:At a certain point I thought about having some special guests and in particular having some saxophonists who had been big influences on me at different times in my musical development. It fit with the concept of playing the music of these great master saxophonists like Coltrane and Rollins and Shorter and Getz, who I had never met or interacted with, but were big influences. I liked the idea of bringing in some saxophonists who were huge influences, but in a more direct way. Musicians I had played with, saxophonists I had listened to and played with. I naturally thought of each of these guys. Each them is from a different generation. Each has been a big influence on me in different ways at different times.

As far as my Dad, I asked him to play a tune on my next record. I wasn’t sure what he was going to say. Every time we played together before this, it was always, as it should have been, in one of his projects, in his band or on his record. I didn’t know what he was going to say, but he said yes. At that point I asked Joe and Chris and they both said yes.

AAJ:That has to be one of the last recordings your father made.

JR:Yeah. I don’t know that he did another recording after that. He recorded that in the middle of May [2006] and passed away very early in September.

AAJ:I know he was still out playing.

JR:Yeah, he did some gigs. I don’t know that he went into the studio after that. It was the last time that we played together. It was the first time we recorded together for over ten years and the first time we played together for, I think, five. It was the last time we recorded together and played together and actually the last time I saw him until right before he passed away.

”JoshuaAAJ:Those two songs must have a special feel for you.

JR:Yeah. “India,” that was the tune we were supposed to do. I came up with an idea for a simple arrangement that I thought would be nice for us to play together. I was really happy with the way it turned out. We both had a lot of fun. It was nice to play a Coltrane tune, which was appropriate. I really liked the interaction that happened between us.

That’s true with all the saxophone players. I really tried to structure the tune so it wasn’t really just about two tenor players playing a bunch of tenor player stuff. I really wanted each song in a different way, in its own way, to feel like a conversation. That worked out really well with my Dad.

“GJ” was kind of a surprise. He asked to record something without me. He did it one take. I wasn’t even there. I stepped out of the studio. It’s a dedication to his grandson, to my son, who was born in February (2006). He had met time one time, in April. So that song, originally, I didn’t know what we were going to do with it. I didn’t know if I was necessarily going to put it on the album. But after he passed away, it has a lot of significance and I thought it would be a nice coda.

AAJ:The disk sounds great. You have gigs with that format?

JR:I’ve got a gig in Boston coming up with Christian and Brian. Right after that I go to D.C. and play four nights with Larry and Ali, then in June I start touring with Reuben and Eric, so I’m actually gigging at different times with all three rhythm sections.

AAJ:Any idea about future projects?

JR: I haven’t toured that much over the last year and a half. Mostly with the Jazz Collective and that’s only been about a month and a half out of the year. So I want to focus on getting back out there with the trio and playing the music, and hopefully writing some new music.

I have a lot of ideas about future projects, but I kind of don’t like talking about them until I start to do them. I try not to get too far ahead of myself. I try to be in the moment as much as possible.

Selected Discography

Joshua Redman, Back East (Nonesuch, 2007)
SFJazz Collective, SFJazz Collective 2 (Nonesuch, 2006)
Joshua Redman, Momentum (Nonesuch, 2005)
SFJazz Collective, SFJazz Collective (Nonesuch, 2005)
Kurt Rosenwinkel, Deep Song (Verve, 2005)
Roy Haynes, Love Letters (Columbia, 2003)
Joshua Redman, Elastic (Warner Bros., 2002)
Yaya3, Yaya3 (Loma, 2002)
Joshua Redman, Beyond (Warner Bros., 2000)
Joshua Redman, Passage of Time (Warner Bros., 2001)
Joshua Redman, Timeless Tales (For Changing Times) (Warner Bros., 1998)
Chick Corea, Remembering Bud Powell (Stretch, 1997)
Joshua Redman, Spirit of the Moment: Live at the Village Vanguard (Warner Bros., 1995)
Joshua Redman, Moodswing (Warner Bros., 1994)
McCoy Tyner, Prelude and Sonata (Milestone, 1994)
Joshua Redman, Wish (Warner Bros., 1993)
Paul Motian and the Electric Bebop Band, Paul Motian and the Electric Bebop Band (Winter&Winter, 1992)

Taken from All About Jazz Website

Jazz For You : John McLaughlin

Few tasks are more daunting than picking just ten of a great jazz artist's albums for a library collection. Each record adds in its own way to the appreciation of any artist. But in the case of guitarist John McLaughlin , choosing representative albums is made an even more difficult chore because so many of his records run at odd angles to each other. He seems to change styles so often that just keeping track can be a daunting task.This set of records spans thirty years and a huge variety of approaches. It's a fine place to start if you're curious about McLaughlin's many angles on improvised music.

1969 John McLaughlin, Extrapolation (Polydor 841598)

The guitarist's first efforts as a leader led to a classic recording which showcased the musician's European jazz roots in a modern jazz vein.

1970 Miles Davis, A Tribute To Jack Johnson (Columbia CK-47036)

McLaughlin exploded onto the jazz scene with his ferocious playing on Miles Davis' 1970 record. The Jazz-blues-funk power chords McLaughlin unleashes on this recording still deserve attention.

1970 John McLaughlin, My Goal's Beyond (Knitting Factory 3010)

It's hard to believe the same man that blew the fuses on Davis' album quieted down and produced the truly remarkable acoustic My Goal's Beyond.

1971 Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Inner Mounting Flame (Columbia/Legacy 65523)

The Mahavishnu Orchestra came next with its debut album, The Inner Mounting Flame, which rocked both the jazz and popular music worlds. This was McLaughlin's true coming out party.

1976 Shakti with John McLaughlin, Shakti (Sony International 9178)

Shakti introduced yet another John McLaughlin, a musician who had immersed himself into Indian music. This record presented a hybrid of jazz and far eastern modes that literally helped introduce the world music movement.

1978 John McLaughlin, Electric Guitarist (Columbia 46110)

This record is noteworthy for the disparate styles and guest stars it featured.

1981 John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola, Paco DeLucia, Friday Night in San Francisco (Sony 65168)

The guitar trio's debut record was a live performance which revolutionized the way the acoustic guitar is viewed in the pop world. Its influence is still felt today.

1994 John McLaughlin, After the Rain (Verve 527467)

This organ trio with Joey DeFrancesco and Elvin Jones offered a significant showcase for McLaughlin to perform in a more straightahead jazz format. Many of these tunes are Coltrane compositions.

2000 John McLaughlin and The Heart of Things, Live In Paris (Verve 314 543 536-2)

The Heart of Things showed the world that fusion music could still be exciting, and that Mr. McLaughlin was still its King.

2001 Remember Shakti, Saturday Night in Bombay (Verve 014164)

Coming almost full circle, this Remember Shakti album references the excitement of the Guitar Trio from 20 years earlier, as well as McLaughlin's approach to world music and jazz. It exemplifies how the guitarist continues to strive to incorporate all of his musical knowledge into a fresh outlook.

Taken From All About Jazz : Building Your Jazz Library

Jazz For You : Pat Metheny

If Pat Metheny never plays another single note, he would have already lived a “bright size life.”

Pat Metheny was born in Kansas City in 1954 and first picked up his guitar at the age of twelve. By age fifteen, he was already playing with the top jazz musicians in town. In 1974, he became a part of the international jazz scene and joined a band led by vibraphonist Gary Burton. During this three year stint, he not only made some remarkable albums with Burton, like Passengers and Dreams So Real, but also produced his own debut album as a leader for ECM Records in 1976.

If there is one thing that Metheny cares for as much as playing and composing, it is education. He was the youngest teacher ever at the University of Miami at age eighteen. He achieved the same accolade at the age of nineteen at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. In 1996, he received an honorary doctorate from Berklee. Metheny has also taught various musical workshops and clinics all around the world in locations such as the Dutch Royal Conservatory, the Thelonious Monk Institute for Jazz, and parts of South America and Asia.

Metheny is also quite an engineer when it comes to the guitar. He has pioneered different kinds of guitars for different sounds and purposes, stretching the ever-versatile instrument to new horizons. At the time of this article (2006), he has already performed on the soprano acoustic guitar, the 42-string Pikasso guitar, the Ibanez 1-S PM-100 jazz guitar as well as many other custom made instruments.

The name Pat Metheny is known worldwide and he has an almost religious following that would follow him to the ends of the earth. He has deep and profound respect for jazz music, the tradition, and the ever-evolving process of improvisation. He has won more Grammy awards than Elizabeth Taylor has had husbands. When Metheny is not recording, writing, engineering a new type of guitar, winning another award to add to his dozens, or giving clinics, he usually performs around 120-240 shows a year and has done so since 1974.

Some dig Pat Metheny's music and others simply do not. Some people love the Pat Metheny Group projects, but can't stand his other output. One must look at the entire scope of this artist to fully understand the depth of his genius. In interviews about the process of jazz improvisation, his logistics echo that of Bill Evans. As far as early immersion in tradition, he was born in Kansas City, the birthplace of many jazz greats. He is also reminiscent of Miles Davis' ever-changing, ever-evolving persona, always in search of the next creative horizon. You can hear one line from his guitar, and know that you are listening to Pat Metheny.

In chronological order, the high points of Pat Metheny on record:

Pat Metheny: Bright Size Life (ECM, 1976)
Metheny's recording debut as a leader, in a trio with bassisst Jaco Pastorius and drummer Bob Moses. Essential from start to finish, offering such classics as “Bright Size Life,” “Midwestern Nights Dream,” “Sirabhorn,” and “Unity Village,” all composed by Metheny, as well as “Round Trip / Broadway Blues,” written by Ornette Coleman. Given Metheny’s lyricism, Pastorius' insatiable lines, and Moses' delicate, empathetic dynamics, people will still be talking about this record in 2076.
Pat Metheny: Pat Metheny Group (ECM, 1978)
The debut of the Pat Metheny Group on record. The original lineup of Metheny, Lyle Mays, Mark Egan and Dan Gottlieb made history and a set of new, contemporary standards with this album. Not long after the release of Bright Size Life, Metheny cast six new originals that have become anthems to his dedicated following. You need only a few strains of “San Lorenzo,” “Phase Dance,” “Jaco,” “April Wind,” “April Joy” or “Lone Jack,” laced with optimism and the joy of discovery, for a smile to creep across your face from ear to ear. This is where the PMG madness all started, and for good reason.
Pat Metheny: New Chautauqua (ECM, 1979)
Metheny's first solo record. On this project, Metheny chose to use overdubs in many different ways. Although it is labeled a “jazz” record due to its improvisational nature, it features many and various influences: Americana and Spanish flamenco stylings alongside folk, Indian music, and tinges of bluegrass, all intertwined into a musical cornucopia.
Pat Metheny & Lyle Mays: As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls (ECM, 1981)
Mainly focused on the Metheny and Lyle Mays writing duo, which has been compared to Lennon & McCartney as well as Ellington & Strayhorn, plus help from multi-percussionist Nana Vasconcelos. This album showcases the writing genius of the two in a musical twist of African, Latin, and Americana rhythms and melodies. It also feautures a somber, wistfully beautiful tribute to pianist Bill Evans (”September Fifteenth”—the date Evans passed away). A classic that will stand the test of time.
Pat Metheny Group: Travels (ECM, 1982)
This two-disc set catches the Pat Metheny Group on the road, live in concert, featuring fresh renditions of familiar favorites plus some new favorites for the listeners' musical palette to savor—Compositions like “Farmer’s Trust,” and “Travels” became instantaneous favorites among listeners and musicians alike. Absolutely nothing compares to the music and collective spirit of discovery delivered by a live show given by the Pat Metheny Group.
Pat Metheny: Question and Answer (Geffen, 1990)
Another trio, with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Roy Haynes. In his liner notes, Metheny claims that he actually wanted Holland on bass for Bright Size Life, but felt that he was not musically “ready” for Holland in that he rarely plays roots. (Holland figures that everyone should know the music well enough that he doesn’t need to anchor the piece.) Here, Metheny proves more than ready for Holland. The three players sail through the tunes (half standards, half originals) effortlessly, putting unique twists on “All the Things You Are,” “Solar” and “Old Folks,” as well as originals like ”Question and Answer,” “Three Flights Up,” and “H&H,” which are sure to become standards in the near future. A totally different trio record from Bright Size Life, more focused on a traditional jazz setting, and showing how easily Metheny excels in this arena, too.
Pat Metheny: Zero Tolerance for Silence (Geffen, 1994)
The album no one seems to understand: Some have called this Metheny’s version of a musical joke; some have hailed it as an avant-garde textural masterpiece; others just call it noise. Whatever his reasons for recording it, the main thing to remember is that this is a far cry, stylistically, from any of Metheny's other projects. Pat Metheny is an artist who is always changing and doesn't have to answer to anyone.
Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny: Beyond the Missouri Sky (Verve, 1997)
“Pure beauty” are the best two words to sum up this duo album. It features plenty of versatility, but beauty is the recurring element. Numerous Haden originals are all laced with infectious simplicity and breathtaking qualities. “Waltz for Ruth” opens it up (with Metheny quickly quoting his composition “Minuano” in the beginning strains of his solo), followed by other Haden originals, “Our Spanish Love Song” and “First Song (for Ruth),” and ending with “Spiritual” written by Josh Haden, Charlie’s son. The amazing duo also puts their spin on Morricone’s “Cinema Paradiso,” Mancini’s “Two For the Road,” Jim Webb’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,” and Roy Acuff’s “The Precious Jewel.” Want to know “pure beauty”? It’s as easy as looking Beyond the Missouri Sky.
Pat Metheny Group: Imaginary Day (Warner Bros., 1997)
This album challenges and appeals to listeners across many broad categories. The tracks and title of the album must be decoded using the symbol key on the inner lining of the CD case. No matter: The challenged listener quickly comes to favor such wonderful compositions like the Eastern-flavored “Heat of the Day” and “The Roots of Coincidence,” with its industrial and rock tinges, all conjured from the dynamic and masterful minds of Metheny and Mays. Metheny again struck Grammy gold again, claiming the Best Rock Instrumental Performance for “The Roots of Coincidence,” as well as Best Contemorary Jazz Album.
Pat Metheny : Trio 99-00 (Warner Bros., 2000)
The ever-evolving artist includes some young lions on this recording, surrounding himself with arguably the best drummer and bassist from this period: Bill Stewart (Charlie Haden, Larry Goldings) and Larry Grenadier (Brad Mehldau Trio). Not as traditional as Question and Answer, nor as ethereal as Bright Size Life. This trio conjures up musical images of a Sonny Rollins trio setting as Metheny soars through ”Giant Steps,” “Capricorn,” and “A Lot of Livin’ to Do,” plus exquisite flights through his originals “Lone Jack,” “Travels,” “What Do You Want?,” “Soul Cowboy” and “(Go) Get It.” Proof that even in 1999-2000, Metheny was still ahead of the rest... full throttle.
Jim Hall & Pat Metheny: Jim Hall & Pat Metheny (Telarc, 1999)
The classic pairing of two jazz guitar giants, Metheny as the young lion standing steadfast with the wise elder Hall, and a dream come true for Metheny to play with one of his guitar idols. Democratically divided into four tunes from Metheny, four from Hall, four standards, and five “free” improvisational pieces. After all, Hall was among the first to help start the “free” movement with Chico Hamilton in 1955, so Metheny swims the empathetic waters between the two. No matter which brand of jazz you prefer, there is something on this duo performance you will absolutely love.
Pat Metheny: One Quiet Night (Warner Bros., 2003)
Metheny’s most recent solo guitar album and a primal display of the speed and brilliance of his genius. After purchasing a new baritone guitar and finding a rare free evening at home with his multi-track recorder, he freely created this solo outing (with no overdubs), a Grammy-winner and a beautiful soundscape for all of us to enjoy. He takes on tunes such as “Don’t Know Why,” made popular by Norah Jones, Keith Jarrett’s “My Song,” “Ferry Cross the Mersey,” and old and new originals. Hailed as Metheny's most contemplative record to date.
Pat Metheny & Ornette Coleman: Song X (Nonesuch, 2005)
Mastermind Charlie Haden brought Metheny and Ornette Coleman into the studio for this masterpiece. This 1985 recording was a far cry from his usual Pat Metheny Group projects of the time; it featured Ornette on sax and violin, Haden on bass, Jack DeJohnette on drums and Denardo Coleman on percussion. It raised a lot of eyebrows back in 1985; Nonesuch released a 20th Anniversary edition of Song X in 2006 with six new bonus tracks. This release still raises eyebrows with its fresh and inventive improvisation, twenty years later. Only truly gifted improvisers such as Coleman and Metheny could make such an album.
Pat Metheny Group: The Way Up (Nonesuch, 2005)
The latest release as of this writing (2006) from the genius minds of Metheny and Mays. Hailed as their most ambitious work by far, this magnum opus is only three movements long (four if you count the intro) and clocks in at more than 68 minutes. Its ever-blasting sonic rhythms, key shifts, tightly knit time and tempo changes make it for the ages. Features the dynamic duo on guitar and keyboards plus Cuong Vu on trumpet and voice, Gregoire Maret on harmonica, Antonio Sanchez on drums, and Steve Rodby on acoustic and electric bass, plus cello. From Bright Size Life to The Way Up, there is only one single word to describe the music of Pat Metheny: quantum.

June 09, 2007

History Rocks # The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones

When the Beatles ceased to exist in 1970, the title of “World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band” fell with very little dispute to the Rolling Stones, who by then were in the middle of such a wondrous creative peak that they might have challenged the Fab Four for the title anyway. It’s a title the one-time “anti-Beatles” haven’t relinquished since. Not only have the Stones been the greatest rock band in the world for more than 30 years, but they have been a functioning rock ‘n’ roll unit for more than 40, the longest run in history.

Boyhood friends Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, along with guitarist Brian Jones and pianist Ian Stewart, formed the first version of the Rollin’ Stones in 1962, and with the crack rhythm section of Charlie Watts on drums and Bill Wyman on bass soon on board, were ripping it up in an eight-month residency at London’s Crawdaddy Club shortly thereafter.

A young and ambitious Andrew Loog Oldham saw them there: “I saw them April 23, 1963 and then I knew what I had been training for,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Colombia. “The main thing they had was passion, which has served them to this day,” Oldham continued. Oldham’s first act as manager was to demote the shambling Stewart from the band’s live act for not keeping with his image of a lean, mean and sexy Stones (Stewart was the band’s road manager and recorded with them until his death in 1985).

At the time the Rollin’ Stones (named for the Muddy Waters song, Oldham added the “g”) were a ragged R&B cover band, but their run at the Crawdaddy had generated much attention, and with the Beatles on their way up no one wanted to miss the next big thing. Oldham quickly got them signed to Decca Records, which was still smarting from having turned down the Beatles.
In June of '63 the Stones’ first single, a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Come On” went to No. 21 in the UK. The follow-up in November was a cover of the dreaded Beatles’ “I Wanna Be Your Man,” which rose to UK No. 12. By February of '64, they reached the UK Top 10 with Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away,” which also cracked the Top 50 in the U.S. — the bad boys were on their way.
Oldham split with the band amid the insanity and media frenzy of drug busts in 1967, but he and the band generated some amazing music during the two years between the squirmingly lascivious “Satisfaction” — considered by many the greatest rock song ever — released in May 1965, and the hit-filled “Flowers” compilation, released in July '67. Included was the incredibly self-aware narcissism of “Get Off Of My Cloud,” chamber music gentility and vulnerability of “As Tears Go By,” bemused urban modernity of “19th Nervous Breakdown”; and the Stones’ first classic album, “Aftermath,” with the simultaneously mocking and empathetic drug song “Mother’s Little Helper,” deeply groovy and misogynistic “Under My Thumb” and “Out Of Time,” lovely “Lady Jane,” and exotic, roiling “Paint It Black.”

Then came the Stones classic late-'60s/early-'70s period between “Beggar’s Banquet” and “Exile On Main Street,” possibly the most productive run in rock history, when the Stones turned an unequaled alchemy of rock ‘n’ roll, blues and country into something dark, dangerous and enduringly deep.

The 1967 busts seemed to spur Jagger and Richards to another creative level, but Brian Jones appeared beaten and sinking fast. He was absent from the devilish, riff-rocking “Jumping Jack Flash” single. He barely worked on 1968’s exceptional, bluesy “Beggar’s Banquet” (seductive, percussive and stinging “Sympathy For the Devil,” guitar-pounding “Street Fighting Man,” slashing and sinful “Stray Cat Blues”), was out of the group by June '69, and dead at the bottom of his swimming pool less than a month later.

Young Mick Taylor joined as Jones’s replacement, and his hefty bluesy leads were the perfect foil for Richards’ open-tuned rhythm work, and the sound and imagery grew darker and harder still on “Let it Bleed” (the sex and death apocalypse “Gimme Shelter,” Robert Johnson’s anguished blues “Love In Vain,” mysterious “Monkey Man,” the druggy camaraderie of the title track, powerful and murderous "Midnight Rambler,” and the oblique, uplifting coda “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”).

The band’s dance with the devil bore bitter fruit when they put on a free concert at Altamont Speedway outside San Francisco on December 6, 1969 (just three months after Woodstock) where a fan was stabbed to death in view of the stage by Hell’s Angels (all the mounting bad juju was captured for posterity in the film “Gimme Shelter”).

“Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out” (1970), one of the most satisfying live rock albums ever, focused on their '68-'69 hits, including an extended, definitive “Midnight Rambler,” and showed how integral Mick Taylor had become to the Stones’ roaring live sound.

The band’s first release on their own Rolling Stones Records was the druggy, shambling, brilliant “Sticky Fingers” (1971), with the infamous working-zipper cover by Andy Warhol. Taylor again sparkled and the Jagger/Richards songwriting continued at the highest level: swaggering “Brown Sugar,” plaintive “Wild Horses,” jazzy grooving “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” horn-rocking “Bitch,” chilling “Sister Morphine” and countrified “Dead Flowers.”

The murky, dense, jumbled double album “Exile on Main Street” closed the era of Stones invincibility in 1972. A yeasty blend of all the band’s roots influences — blues, country, soul, gospel and rock — “Exile” yields fresh revelations more than 30 years later, and “Rocks Off,” “Rip This Joint,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Sweet Virginia,” “Happy,” “All Down the Line” and “Shine a Light” are among the band’s best work.

The Stones have been a different band ever since: Mick Taylor left in 1974, replaced by the stalwart Ronnie Wood. They have released a couple great albums: “Some Girls” (1978), their rough response to the challenges of disco and punk (“Miss You,” “Some Girls,” “Respectable,” “Beast of Burden,” “Shattered”), and “Tattoo You” (1981, their top-charting album ever — nine weeks at No. 1) with standouts “Start Me Up,” “Hang Fire” and “Waiting On a Friend.” They have also released a lot of simply good albums: the '70s were better than the '80s, which were better than the '90s.

But they have soldiered on, taking breaks but focusing more and more on getting the music out to the fans live, becoming particularly reinvigorated with the “Steel Wheels” album and world tour in 1989. I caught that tour in Los Angeles and the Stones came on with an air of eager assurance. All of the elements clicked: the guitars cut and slashed, the rhythm section locked in and rode it out, the songs were a perfect blending of old and new, the band was abundantly enthusiastic.

Jagger didn’t exhibit a drop of Cool Star attitude: he worked, talked, sang with energy and attention to detail. He was obviously happy to be liked again. The collective joyous relief of the stadium buoyed Jagger to childlike vulnerability:“Do ya like the new songs?” he almost pleaded of the throng.”We love them, Mick!””We love you!””Yeahh!”

Maybe Mick was reminded of his quote from the '70s, “Sometimes I prefer being on stage, sometimes I prefer orgasm.” That night, I’m pretty sure the stage won. In the 1990s, the band took in a staggering $750 million from three tours. When I watched them live from Madison Square Garden on HBO early last year my eyes confirmed that these craggy, gaunt guys are about 60 years old, but when the cameras pulled back 30 years melted away and the magic was real and grew in intensity as the night wore on.

What a great show! The Stones are a better band live now than they were in the '70s when their lives, bodies and minds were a quagmire of sex, drugs and alcohol. Age has focused them, yet taken away very little of their maniacal energy, and Keith Richards is still the greatest rhythm guitarist who ever lived.

Long live rock ‘n’ roll — long live the Rolling Stones

History Rocks # The Beatles

The Beatles

In February 1964, (from left) Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and John Lennon brought Beatlemania to the United States, forever changing the face of music.

The Beatles are unquestionably the best and most important band in rock history, as well as the most compelling story. Almost miraculously, they embodied the apex of the form artistically, commercially, culturally and spiritually at just the right time, the tumultuous '60s, when music had the power to literally change the world (or at least to give the impression that it could, which may be the same thing). The Beatles are the archetype: there is no term in the language analogous to “Beatlemania.”

Three lads from Liverpool — John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison — came together at a time of great cultural fluidity in 1960 (with bit players Stu Sutcliffe and Pete Best), absorbed and recapitulated American rock ‘n’ roll and British pop history unto that point, hardened into a razor sharp unit playing five amphetamine-fueled sets a night in the tough port town of Hamburg, Germany, returned to Liverpool, found their ideal manager in Brian Epstein and ideal producer in George Martin, added the final piece of the puzzle when Ringo Starr replaced Best on drums, and released their first single in the U.K., “Love Me Do/P.S. I Love You,” all by October of 1962.
Their second single, “Please Please Me,” followed by British chart-toppers “From Me to You,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Can’t Buy Me Love” (all Lennon/McCartney originals), and the group’s pleasing image, wit and charm, solidified the Fab Four’s delirious grip on their homeland in 1963.

But it was when the group arrived in the U.S. in February 1964 that the full extent of Beatlemania became manifest. Their pandemonium-inducing five-song performance on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9 is one of the cornerstone mass media events of the 20th century. I was five at the time — my parents tell me I watched it with them, but I honestly don’t remember. I do remember, though, that the girls next door, four and six years older than I, flipped over that appearance and dragged me into their giddy madness soon thereafter. I loved “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” the Beatles’ first No. 1 in the U.S. (they had 19 more, still the record), more than any other song I have ever heard, or almost assuredly will ever hear, with a consuming intensity that I can only now touch as a memory.

The Beatles generated an intensity of joy that slapped tens of millions of people in the face with the awareness that happiness and exuberance were not only possible, but in their presence, inevitable. They generated an energy that was amplified a million times over and returned to them in a deafening tidal wave of grateful hysteria.
A partial result of that deafening hysteria was that the band became frustrated with their concerts and stopped performing live after a San Francisco show on August 29, 1966. Yet even this frustration bore fruit, as the four musicians, aided almost incalculably by producer Martin, turned their creative energies to the recording studio, producing ever more sophisticated and accomplished albums “Rubber Soul” (1965, “Drive My Car,” “Norwegian Wood,” “You Won’t See Me,” “Nowhere Man,” “Michelle”), “Revolver” (1966, Harrison’s “Taxman,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Here, There and Everywhere,” “Yellow Submarine,” “Good Day Sunshine,” “And Your Bird Can Sing”), the majestic and epochal “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1967, title track, “With a Little Help From My Friends,” “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “A Day In the Life”).

Though centrifugal force began to take its toll, they still managed to produce three more album masterpieces, double-album “The Beatles” (1968, a.k.a. “The White Album,” with “Back In the USSR,” “Dear Prudence,” “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da,” Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Blackbird,” “Birthday,” “Helter Skelter”), “Let It Be” (recorded in early 1969 but not released until 1970, with the title track, “Two Of Us,” “Across the Universe,” “I’ve Got a Feeling,” “The Long and Winding Road” and “Get Back”), and the fitting climax “Abbey Road” (1969, Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something,” Ringo’s “Octopus’s Garden,” “Come Together,” “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “I Want You,” “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window”).

They made an incredible promise and instead of backing down from that promise they delivered and delivered and delivered for eight years until the full implications of the promise finally hit them: they were staring into the jaws of an insatiable, ravenous beast that was no less beastly because it smiled and waved and gave them money. The Beatles finally suffered a collective inability to pretend that the beast was not a beast, and in 1970 they broke up and returned to being human.

Beatlemania redux
A small but significant slice of the Beatles’ magic came back in 1986 with release of the classic John Hughes teen flick “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” wherein Matthew Broderick’s title character lip-syncs the early Beatles classic “Twist and Shout” (ironically, a song they didn’t write) from the top of a float in a downtown Chicago parade.

John Lennon sang “Twist and Shout” as though the words were joyful corrosive poison, that his only hope of survival was to expel them with all the vehemence that his rhythm-besotted body could muster, and so does Ferris in the scene. Paul and George’s responses matched John’s zeal at the end of each stanza with their delirious “Ooohs.” They were enjoying themselves so much that this song seemed the most important thing in their lives at that moment. The Beatles knew the awesome responsibilities of pleasure.

Ferris lips lustily, the frauleins on the float shimmy and shake and bounce off of Ferris like electrons, the thousands in the crowd sing along from the pits of their pelvises. Chicago jams as one, recreating the Beatles’ amazing real-life feat of a unifying mass-madness that changed people’s lives for a time.

When they saw the movie in the theater in ‘86, people actually stood up and danced in the aisles. How could they not? The “Twist and Shout” segment was the most exciting and joyous musical moment in a movie since the Beatles own “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964), and was the perfect climax to Ferris Bueller’s film exploits.

The public was so wistful for Beatlemania that “Twist and Shout” returned to the charts for 15 weeks that year, a brief but sweet reminder of the real thing.
From Msnbc