Sunday, May 31, 2015

Billy Joel, and Cream, take me to the bridge

Billy Joel and the badge bridge  

Generally speaking, I am not a fan of the bridge in a rock song.  Maybe I should back up, since you don’t know what a bridge is.  It’s ok, you aren’t dumb,  most non-musicians don’t know the term.

Here is the proper definition if a bridge.  Here, more importantly, is my understand and perception of a song bridge.  It’s a weird piece of forced music that always happens 2/3rds of the way through the song. That is exactly where every bridge is, and I don’t known why.  It’s after the second verse, second chorus, and after the guitar solo.

Again, there is very possibly a unique and pertinent reason for songs to have bridge sections.  In rock, though, no one knows the reasons, so they always feel forced to me.  Before we go any further, a funny story about the bridge.  When Eric Clapton was working with George Harrison (my god, how much fun was that sentence to read?) they made that great, great, great song –Badge.  It’s a Cream song, technically… but it was Clapton and Harrison.  Harrison had written the song out, and even made a special note where the bridge of the song was.  He even wrote ‘bridge’ for his pal.  His pal mis-read the note, and thought it said ‘badge’.  That is how the song got the name, just a silly in joke between two of the greatest people in rock.

Side note, that song may have the best bridge ever written.  Fuck, it’s good.  We used to play this in my band, just because playing this bridge got me off.  In this studio version, the bridge comes in at exactly 1:05 into the song.  To me, that is very not Clapton.  I’ll bet your wife George Harrison wrote that, and I’ll also bet it’s all he wrote of the song.  One last distraction, I promise.  If you love Cream, like you pretend you do, dig this song.  I fucking LOVE it.  You will never hear it on the radio, and I don’t know why.  It seems super radio friendly to me.  Maybe I love the song because it is so stupid. I’ll bet you it is an inside joke between the band members.  Going to google it now, but just assume it is.

We are here to talk about Billy Joel, great bridges, and the song ‘Big Shot’.  This came on the radio the other day and I just LOVE the bridge.  That is super rare.  Believe it or not, I have been thinking about writing a piece on song bridges, and how much they vex me as a musician.  Big Shot’ comes out in 1978.  The song is straight out 4/4 rock.  Classic Billy Joel.  Then, the bridge comes it and it has nothing to do with the song, at all.  Not even a little.  It becomes a weird rag time throwback to ‘Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”

I love it because it Billy seems to get the fact that the bridge is unnecessary.  So, he stops the song and takes a hard left turn to New Orleans.  Tell me what you think.  The bridge hits at 2:07 pm.  At least, I think that’s a bridge.  It could be a weird ass solo thingy.  Tough to tell!

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Scott Weiland's Karmic debt paid!

A ha ha ha ha ha ha ahaaha hahahahah

Scott Weiland is a dick, and karma is a bitch.

Today, a video emerged of Weiland singing ‘Vasoline’ with his new band.  This is a great fucking song. Hear it here,proper. However, in this footage, he is out of it.  Stoned.  Gone.  That is not what makes me happy, though.  In fact, it makes me very sad.  He is a very serious drug addict, and he is going to kill himself.

What makes me happy is what I see in the clip.  Look at the ‘venue’.  This is a bar, best case scenario.  There isn’t even a stage.  They are on the ground, and had a little portable drum riser.  I know this set up well, I am in a bar band.  This is where the manager says ‘oh, I guess you can set up over there.  Just moved the tables and chairs out of the way’.  That is your 'stage'.

I wrote about this here, but a couple of years ago, STP was ready to tour.  The band was riding a resurgence since Weiland re-joined.  Weiland didn’t want to tour, though. * editor, link reference here

** Editor – editor?  There is no editor, asshole.  There is you, and I.  I am you, you are me.  Ergo, if you want a goddamn reference link, do it your goddamn self.

Weiland said he didn’t want to water down the brand, and saturate the market with STP.  Let it built, and make them beg for us back.  This is very sound business.  Problem is, what Weiland was actually doing… touring on STP material at that very second.  He had his band ‘Scott Weiland and the RoustaboutsDrugabouts Wildabouts?  (aw... who cares at this point) touring right then, and they were doing ONLY STP material.  I can only assume he didn’t want to share the money.  This also is quite common, and explains why Jimmy Page and Robert Plant didn’t take Jonesy out on that tour.  The rest of STP then promptly, and wisely, fired his ass , replaced him, and then sued his ass!  You have NO idea how often this happens.  Ask Crue, Foreigner, Journey, Maiden, Ratt, Van Halen... etc etc.

We can assume STP would make about $300,00 a night to play, by conservative estimates.  Weiland’s take, then, would have been about $25,000 a night (after costs are covered)… assuming they just split things 4 ways.  In the above clip, though, he is playing a bar with shitty sound.  This means the band was pulling down probably about $5,000 a night.  After covering costs and paying his band… maybe he makes $1,000.
You sure showed them, Scotty!

footnote - I kid because I care.  I love this band.  I was just a casual fan for a long time, and i got to see them live.  The ticket was free, so I figured why not.  The show was amazing.  Absolutely one of the best rock shows I have seen.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Joni Mitchell still alive - another look at her influence

Brian Eno said about the poor selling Velvet Underground debut “They may have only sold 30,000 copies, but every person who bought that record started a band”.

The same need be said about Joni Mitchell and her paramours.  She may have had only 10 lovers, but every one of them went on to form a super successful band that came to define the sound of California” – you may, and should, quote me on that.

This began as a follow up piece to my ‘muse’ series.  I had talked about how she and Patti Hansen/Boyd/Harrison/Clapton basically were the inspiration of all songs.  ALL of them.  I had wondered where was our new great muse.  I found her. Scary times, indeed.

I did some more digging and found Joni Mitchell literally was the inspiration for every single song every written in America.  Patti covered England, of course.

It might get loud in here, I am about to drop some very heavy names.

I just read that Joni Mitchell passed away STILL ALIVE – but reports vary greatly on her health.  She is anywhere from ‘fine and responding well’ to ‘in a coma and unable to care for herself’. (as of late April 2015).  This makes me very sad, and it should make you sad.  Perhaps you say “weird chick, who everyone reveres for some reason… but no one actually listens to?”  No, that would Patti Smith.  Joni gave us ‘Big Yellow Taxi’, ‘Both Sides Now’, and ‘Coyote’, which we’ll talk about below.  I am not here to celebrate Joni’s music as much as I am here to celebrate her impact on music.  She is, one would argue, the most significant muse of all rock history. 

I wrote about this here, but here is a short cut.  Many, or perhaps all, of Graham Nash’s songs are about her.  Same with James Taylor.  Even Led Zeppelin’s masterpiece ‘Going to California’ is about Joni Mitchell.  In fact, she was also a paramour of David Crosby.  Perhaps his songs are all about her, too.  If you are a 70’s music fan, you have heard of the ‘Laurel Canyon scene’.  That is fancy speak for ‘It’s where Joni Mitchell lived, and artists and singers just filled in the rest of the canyon.  Let’s not forget Jackson Browne, who was also Joni’s boyfriend for a period.  Keith Richards, too.  Oh, and Leonard Cohen.  Cohen wrote one of the most beautiful and haunting songs ever.  It is called ‘Suzanne’, and it is such an amazing and perfect and unique song… we should simply assume it’s about Joni.

The Eagles, they sure captured the California sound.  I mean, that wasn’t Joni, too, right?  UH… yup.  She is in the mix.  She dated both Jackson Browne and JD Souther… both Eagles songwriters.

Basically, every soft rocker dated Joni Mitchell in the 70s.  I think it was a law.  Perhaps you are thinking ‘man, is there anyone in music who wasn’t her boyfriend at one time in the 70s?  It appears she somehow was not the inspiration for ‘California Dreamin’ by the Mamas and the Papa’s.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out she was.
Side note, holy shit I think it was.  Guess who was Joni’s neighbor during that era?  Mama Cass AND John Phillips.  Not sharing zipcode and grocery store neighbors… but more like ‘your dog shit up on my lawn again… and ‘do you have some sugar’ neighbors.  Laurel Canyon is where everything, and every song, came from in the late 60s and early 70s.  Let’s see who lived up there:  Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa, the Eagles,  Crosby Still & Nash (thanks to Joni), Mama’s and the Papas, the Eagles, and Linda Ronstadt (who birthed the Eagles, did you know that?)
We don’t need to cover that here, again.  I talked about her glowingly right here in these pages.. almost ten years ago. Most recently, though, I had written about what a mean jerk she had become.  Consider she was the direct inspiration for ‘Our House’, ‘Something in the way she Moves’, and ‘Going to California’, I expected more grace, I guess.  I mean, this is the gal who literally wrote the book on Woodstock.  Since she has passed, I should feel bad about that angry last piece.  However, I did it while she was alive.  Btw, I was right about that.  David Crosby just said about Joni… again… this was while she was alive

We can agree she always lived on her own terms, and I totally respect that.  I can’t think of anyone else who always lived 100% on their own terms, at every turn, except Neil Young.  I just gave you the high, and the low, of Joni.   Oooh, wait!  Before we move on, I have to share this gem.  Joni was due a ‘greatest hits’ compilation to her record company.  She said ok, but she will only consent to that if she could release a companion album of her favorite songs that didn’t take off… called misses.  The cover art for both is subversive fun. Hits… and misses. That is funny, and wicked courageous.  All of these stories you can find on our own, and have been told a 100 times.  

I want to tell a new story about Joni, and my attachment to her.  My love for her and her music comes from a song called ‘Coyote’.  It’s a fun and silly and strange and perfect piece.  I met the song on the soundtrack to ‘the Last Waltz’.  Let’s just stop and enjoy the song, then I will explain more

Here is what I love about that song.  Joni explained through her lyrics the greatest question every man has had about women.  Women say they want a guy who is sensitive, and funny, and appreciative.  Every guy on Earth knows this to be a crazy and mean lie.  Women say these things, but the sweet guy gets pushed the side every time.  What women seem to actually want is confident jerks.  The nice guy will forever be stuck in the ‘friend zone’.  I can assure you, on behalf of nice guys, this drives us all to rage and confusion. 

Joni, though, managed to explain the discrepancy.   In a few short perfect, and eloquent words, she managed to unlock the great female mind.Keep in mind, this comes from the gal who was single-handedly in charge of, and responsible for… all sensitivity throughout the 70s.  In the song, she gives us the skeleton key of why women want nice guys, but always choose the jerks.

The last two lines say it all.  That is word choice, and touches about something no other gal has every managed to articulate.  Maybe that is how she got to be the influence of every great soft rock song of the 70s.  Maybe that gift for words is how she literally wrote the book on Woodstock, even though she wasn’t there.

May God speed you to your happy place, Joni.  You made all the difference in the world of music.  I know a lot more about Joni’s condition and symptoms than I have put here.  However, unlike the rest of Earth, I am going to respect her privacy and her HIPPA rights.
Fun tangent here on how I accidentally killed Joni Mitchell on the internet.