Most radio stations were just as puzzled by the Nevilles' style, which didn't fit easily into any programming format. In My Tribe — a feast of acoustic rockers centered around singer Natalie Merchant's alluring vocals and a jangly guitar sound — vaulted 10, Maniacs from underground status into the Top Forty.
And not a moment too soon, either: The third album from the upstate-New York cult band was literally a make-or-break affair. In My Tribe is more than a successful record — it is a poetic, heartfelt message about social concerns such as alcoholism, child abuse and illiteracy. The Maniacs didn't always have such a passionate sense of purpose.
Merchant joined after wandering into the radio station armed with a pile of LPs she wanted heard on the air. Also recruited were guitarist Rob Buck and John Lombardo, a seasoned composer-guitarist who served as the group's major creative force. Drummer Jerome Augustyniak came on board inand the group — after changing its name — released an independent EP and album before moving to Elektra Records. The Maniacs' major-label debut, The Wishing Chair, won fine reviews but met with indifference outside alternative-music circles.
Lombardo quit under stormy circumstances, and the anxiety proved to be contagious. After rejecting demos for the band's next album, Elektra insisted the group work with producer Peter Asher, best known for his work with Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor.
The shotgun marriage worked out in the end, but it was a shaky trip to the altar. The band felt uncomfortable recording in Los Angeles, Asher's home turf. The Maniacs were also unhappy with many of Asher's additions to their sound, including computerized drums. Asher insists he was merely "cajoling" the band into doing its best work. Elektra suggested doing a familiar song as the lead single, resulting in a cover of Cat Stevens's "Peace Train.
The Maniacs ultimately scored with their sadly lilting second single, "Like the Weather. We fucking buckled up, tightened our belt and did it. Screaming electric guitar punctuates the raucous melodies and street-smart lyrics on Vivid, an album that not only marked the auspicious debut of the hard-rocking band Living Colour but was also credited with breaking down racial barriers in pop music.
The band proved to be the first black rock group to attract a large mainstream audience since Sly and the Family Stone in the early Seventies, and the album's ascent was accompanied by as much hubbub over the band's ethnic makeup as its compelling style.
It's a shame more people didn't focus on the music itself, because that's what we wanted. The music itself is an intoxicating brew of hard, grinding rock with splashes of funk, jazz, reggae, rap, punk and even country rhythms. Darting from the hip-hop twang of "Broken Hearts" to the philosophical metal assault of "Middle Man," the band refuses to stay stuck in any single groove. Vivid 's opening track, "Cult of Personality," is the real kicker, a bursting riff-rock anthem on the harmful effects of idolatry and blind faith Album) ironically helped catapult Living Colour to the status of pop icon.
The group's seeming overnight success was actually years in the making. Born in England and raised in Brooklyn, Reid earned his musical chops during the early Eighties playing guitar in electric jazz outfits like Defunkt and Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society. He formed Living Colour as a trio ingoing through various configurations for two years before hooking up with singer Corey Glover, drummer William Calhoun and bassist Muzz Skillings. Jagger got so worked up over the set that he took a week off from mixing his own album to produce two demos — "Glamour Boys" and "Which Way to America?
After the Jagger tapes made the rounds and snagged Living Colour a record deal, the band called in Primitive Cool coproducer Ed Stasium to oversee the rest of the album.
Jagger, whose demos appear in their original form on Vivid, came back later to blow harmonica on "Broken Hearts," while other studio guests included Public Enemy's Chuck D. Reid points to "Memories" and other tracks on the album as evidence that the songs are meant to portray the personal feelings of band members rather than pursue any specific social agenda.
Social issues provided the basis for several numbers, such as the scathing attack on gentrification, "Open Letter to a Landlord. According to Reid, the Heads cover was one of the band's particular favorites and had been in its live repertoire for some time. That thing about messages — well, really, the record was about the way we feel. The band's propulsive funk riffs ran headlong into jarring stops and starts; singer Jon King's harangues battled against Andy Gill's noisy guitar lines; bassist Dave Allen's heavy bottom laid down the law as Burnham pounded out tricky tattoos.
The relentless, churning thrust of tracks like "Damaged Goods" and "I Found That Essence Rare" built up unbearable tension, then released it in transcendent explosions. Heeding funkmeister George Clinton's slogan "Free your ass and your mind will follow," Reticent Boy of Four was intent on shattering both musical and lyric conventions — that their driving, dissonant music prove danceable was not only necessary, it was also inevitable.
And Gang of Four's revolutionary pop rhetoric not only infiltrated the dance floor — it also invaded the corporate world, as the band was one of the few early postpunk outfits to sign to a major label. It was a situation some found hypocritical, but as Burnham says, "If you've got something to say, and you want people to hear it, what's the best thing to do? Make as many people hear it as possible. The radical musical approach is epitomized by the way Gill's atonal, arrhythmic guitar ricochets all over "At Home He's a Tourist" or by his post-Hendrix feedback on "Anthrax.
The title of the album neatly reflects its own paradox — that of commenting on entertainment and being it. The title comes from the song "," in which a man watching the evening news comes to the realization that "guerrilla war struggle is a new entertainment! Recording took place in four weeks, from April to May The mood at the studio was hardly convivial — Gill and King helped produce the record, and there was as much jockeying over production credits as good seats at the mixing console.
One can spot a clear Gang of Four influence in R. Unfortunately, Gang of Four never quite matched Entertainment! The album took a year to record and had to sell 1 million copies just to break even. But Def Leppard 's chart torcher Pyromania was worth the time and expense: It sold more than 9 million copies and, with its radio-ready blend of melodic savvy and stadium wallop, defined the mainstream metal sound of the Eighties, for better and worse. For better because the Leppards and their producer, hard-rock auteur Robert John "Mutt" Lange, set precedents for commercially astute songwriting and sheer studio ambition the massive yet airy vocal harmonies, philharmonic layers of guitar without compromising the basic thump.
He sat down with us as a sixth member of the band and participated in the whole thing. Lange and the Leppards worked for months on riffs and choruses, trying different combinations and then sewing them up when they made melodic and commercial sense.
But the writing wasn't all so academic. It sounded great, so we got up and ran over to see what was going on. Steve sat there beaming, saying, 'I fixed it. Pyromania was a hard-rock temple built brick by brick. To get a sound that combined metal muscle with studio precision, Lange recorded each member of the band individually, starting with bassist Rick Savage.
A single guitar riff overdubbed with clean harmonies, funky distortion and screaming feedback might take up to three weeks to record, often one string at a time. When the band members later went to do background vocals, they discovered all of the guitars were slightly out of tune.
It was too late to re-record them, so the guitars were put through an electronic harmonizer to cover up the bum notes. Lange's obsessiveness with the smallest sonic details had a big downside: It was hard to tell, from day to day, whether any progress at all was being made on the record.
After an all-night session, Lange would often play work tapes for Leppard comanager Peter Mensch, who lived a short drive from Battery Studios. There were personal complications, too. Founding rhythm guitarist Pete Willis was fired midway through the sessions because of a debilitating alcohol problem; within forty-eight hours, his replacement, Phil Collen of the London glam-rock band Girl, had cut the solo for "Stagefright.
That was nothing compared to the calamity of recording the next LP, Hysteria. That album took three years to record; drummer Rick Allen also lost his left arm in an auto accident. Fortunately, it takes more than a little trauma to keep a good Leppard down, as Pyromania so ably proved. Captain Beefheart once said of his music, "I'm just throwing up — in tie-dye. Poised on the cusp of a new decade, Beefheart a.
Don Van Vliet poured out his innards in technicolor for Doc at the Radar Station, serving up his most colorful and caustic verse in years on a sprawling, distinctively Beefheartian platter of corrosive avant-rock, jungle-blues squawk, alien-guitar romanticism and willful, yet often playful, atonality. He added a Mellotron to his aural palette as well, attacking it on "Sue Egypt" and "Ashtray Heart" with the vigor of the Phantom of the Opera.
His singing, too, was more animated — going from stratospheric screech to subterranean Howlin' Wolf in a heartbeat — and laced with an unmistakable menace. In short, Doc at the Radar Station is the true emotional and musical heir to Beefheart's epic masterpiece Trout Mask Replica, capturing his remarkable art with power and unprecedented cohesion.
Beefheart recognized his own achievement at the time; one Doc rocker is proudly titled "Best Batch Yet. As always, Beefheart dictated the content of his twelve songs for Doc at the Radar Station to the Magic Band in obsessive detail, presenting tapes of himself playing the piano, or sometimes just whistling a phrase, and telling the band to interpret it, exactly.
For "Sue Egypt," Tepper says, there were sections on Beefheart's demo "where he was literally screaming bloody murder into a tape recorder. And then going, 'Here, play this. Guitarist-drummer John "Drumbo" French, who had played on Trout Mask Replica and was already familiar with Beefheart's idiosyncrasies, recalls the rather odd way the band did backing vocals on "Run Paint Run Run. I think the reason he did that was to get that anger, that kind of screaming out of us.
He wanted us to sound really desperate. And it came out real well. Beefheart's own desperation is evident on the record. Doc at the Radar Station was, in a sense, Beefheart's last hurrah. After Ice Cream for Crow, ina weary and frustrated Beefheart retired from music to concentrate on painting he did the cover art for Doc at the Radar Station.
But when contacted recently at his northern-California retreat, Beefheart said that he still listens to Doc a lot, often while painting. The paintbrush is my pen now. Lou Reed 's album The Blue Mask was "the end of something," as Reed put it in a Rolling Stone interview, "the absolute end of everything from the Velvet Underground on.
The Blue Mask was the final ending and Legendary Hearts [the follow-up] like a coda. The Blue Mask certainly marked a crossroads in Reed's life and art. In stark contrast to his well-publicized personal and musical indulgences of the Seventies, Reed was now married and enjoying the new-found domestic calm documented in "My House" and "Heavenly Arms," the ballads that bookend the album. The Blue Mask harks back to the twin-guitar violence of the Velvets and Reed's earliest literary conceits "My House" is dedicated to his mentor at Syracuse University, the poet Delmore Schwartz.
At the same time, the album casts a hopeful eye toward the future while effectively closing the book on Reed's extended narrative odyssey through the dark side of human experience — violence "The Gun"alcoholism "Underneath the Bottle" and spiritual isolation the howling "Waves of Fear".
Reed, who had already written definitive songs about drug addiction and sexual perversion, managed to top himself with the title track, which was packed with graphic images of sexual torture, Album) desire and, finally, castration. Initially, Reed gave each member of the band a bare-bones demo of the songs for The Blue Mask, with Reed singing and strumming an electric guitar.
There were no rehearsals as such before the band went into the studio in October According to Robert Quine, "We'd just go in every day and do at least one, maybe two songs. We'd start to play and the arrangement would take shape.
To preserve the spontaneity and bare-knuckles sound of the band, each track was recorded live Reed redid his vocals later and usually nailed down in two or three takes. That's a great moment when [Reed] takes that guitar solo at the end.
It's every bit as brutal and energized as his stuff with the Velvet Underground. With a cosmic giggle, Clinton co-opted the new technology — sequencers, samples, remixing, looping and scratching. In addition to reestablishing Clinton early in the new decade, Computer Games netted him a comeback hit in "Atomic Dog," a funky ode to man's best friend filled with canine woofing and all sorts of rhythmic trickery that has since been sampled on numerous rap and hip-hop records.
Throughout his four decades in music, Clinton's sales figures have never been a true measure of his influence. In the Seventies he forged a white-rock-black-funk synthesis with the bands Parliament and Funkadelic, much as Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix had done in the Sixties. Parliament featured horns and was closer to soul, while Funkadelic emphasized guitars and was closer to rock.
There were many offshoot projects as well, with Clinton juggling roles as master conceptualist. Inhowever, an overworked Clinton put P-Funk on hold and took time off to straighten out personal and legal business. Almost two years later, Computer Games announced his return. Clinton worked especially hard on the album to prove that "I still had my brain together," he says. I just had to find that out for myself, and I think I was all right,". In truth, Clinton was often brilliant, giving an Eighties face lift to funk on "Atomic Dog" and looping up a storm on the wild collage of old and new soul songs titled "Loopzilla.
In fact, says Clinton, "'Atomic Dog' wouldn't get out of the way for any other single off that album. With fleas and ticks. Out of the bleak and dusty streets of Soweto, South Africa's largest black township, springs music that's joyous and proud — and you can dance to it.
Trevor Herman, Reticent Boy, an expatriate white South African "I left for the obvious reasons"compiled these twelve tracks, which were recorded in the early Eighties, when a resurgence in township music, known as mbaqanga, and consciousness about apartheid propelled the music out of South Africa and won it international acclaim. Mbaqanga takes its name from a doughy cake sold on township streets — it's very workaday music that deals with everything from drunken husbands to gossips to hard-working miners.
Everything is celebrated in song, in the rhythm of living. An alloy of several tribal styles as well as jazz and reggae, mbaqanga shares a number of similarities with the blues, and not just because it is a music born of oppression. Like modern blues, mbaqanga came about when workers flooded into major cities, bringing their local music with them.
And like the blues, mbaqanga got electrified when it came to the city. One strand of mbaqanga music comes from hymns learned from missionaries, very evident in Ladysmith Black Mambazo's stirring "Nansi Imali" "Here Is the Money". With a steady beat adorned by droning acoustic guitars, tinkling electrics and rich vocal harmonies that are joyous, gritty and real, mbaqanga became party music played in shebeens illegal bars ignored by the governmentat workers' parties, on the street and in the recording studio, where groups often united for one-shot recordings.
Herman theorizes that the strong beat came from American groups such as the Supremes. Since many mbaqanga bands are ethnically mixed, their music brings together different black ethnic groups; if South Africa's black majority hasn't prevailed because it is a house divided, it's not the fault of mbaqanga. In the final analysis, it's inspirational music. On Empty Glasshis second solo album, Pete Townshend chronicled the personal tumult he was experiencing and initiated an adult style of songwriting that helped reenergize the singer-songwriter tradition in the Eighties.
Eight of the ten songs were written following Who drummer Keith Moon's death late in In December ofduring the band's American tour, eleven fans died in a preconcert crush outside Riverfront Coliseum, in Cincinnati. Meanwhile, the members of the Who were repeatedly dismissed as worn-out ancients by Britain's scornful punks.
Amid the turmoil, Townshend resolved to make a solo album. It allowed me to be myself. It dignified me, in a way, to be cast to one side. I felt uneasy with the way the Who were inevitably on the road to mega-stardom. On Empty Glass, Townshend's ambivalent obsession with punk dominates both the lyrics and the music. Produced by Chris Thomas, who'd recently worked with the Pretenders and the Sex Pistols, the album was raw, muscular and focused in a way the Who never would be again.
Although he'd begun a spiral of booze and drugs that would lead to a bout with alcoholism and a temporary split with his wife, Karen, Townshend pledged in "A Little Is Enough" to make the best of their fitful marriage. Of course, a literal reading of a songwriter as complex as Townshend can be deceptive, as in "Rough Boys" and "And I Moved" written for Bette Midlertaken by some as confessions of homosexual lust.
Townshend said, "A lot of gays and a lot of bisexuals wrote to me congratulating me on this so-called coming out. I think in both cases the images are very angry, aren't they? I can frighten you! I can hurt all you macho individuals simply by coming up and pretending to be gay! Later, he admitted that the Who seemed much less viable as a result: "I think the only thing that really went wrong was that I realized, as soon as Empty Glass was finished, 'Hey, this is it.
I'm not able to achieve with the band what I've achieved here. Metal machine rhythms and twisted, tortured guitars echo Ian Curtis's anguished vocals, while synthesizers add a feeling of steely, high-tech alienation. Peter Hook's bass often carries the melody, an innovation much copied since — there's not a doom rocker around who doesn't owe something to Joy Division, but they're just gray imitations of a deep, dark band.
Joy Division's powerful first album, Unknown Pleasures, had topped the British independent charts inyet the members of the band weren't fully satisfied with the sound of it. Less than a year later they recorded Closer. Curtis acted as musical director; as Sumner says, "The madder the music sounded, the more pleased he would be with it. The members of the band would sleep all day and work through the night, undisturbed, until dawn, when twittering birds would sometimes find their way onto the studio tapes.
Sumner says that while they were recording a room sound, they picked up a phantom whistling the tune of "Decades" — odd, since the building was otherwise deserted. Figuring it was a bad omen, they left it off the record. Ironically, Curtis dropped hints about his fate, yet no one could decipher them. He once told Sumner, "I feel like I'm caught in a whirlpool and I'm being dragged down and there's nothing I can do about it.
John Fogerty began recording Centerfieldthe album that revived his long-dormant career, right after he attended the major-league-baseball All-Star Game at San Francisco's Candlestick Park in the summer of Fogerty's seats were, he notes, in center field.
Fogerty's hopes were, of course, rewarded. Creatively, the album found Fogerty at the top of his form, and it contains songs that rival his best work from CCR's glory days.
Centerfield shows Fogerty to be a mature record maker. It is a concept album that can be taken as simply a great collection of songs, a kind of "Whitman's sampler of what John Fogerty is about," as he puts it. While some of the songs on Centerfield, like "Rock and Roll Girls" and "Big Train From Memphis ," evoke lost innocence, others cynically portray Fogerty's experiences in the music business.
But the story Fogerty tells on Centerfield has a happy ending. The title track, of course, is the centerpiece of the album, a song about getting another chance at the big time, and "I Can't Help Myself" expresses the excitement John Fogerty felt at once again being a player on the rock scene.
Fogerty had been trying to write songs for an album for years, but he says they just didn't come together. Toward the end of he finally regained his muse. Because Fogerty worked from detailed demos and notes, recording was straightforward and painless.
Here's a case where the guy who wrote the songs literally put all the sprockets on the drums. It wasn't shipped off to have a bunch of roadies to do — each thing was actually hand-done by me.
For Fogerty, everything was riding on the fate of the album. I had to do more than just finish the sucker — it had to be good enough to be a hit.
There was a lot of stuff to be proven. It was more than the act of just finishing the race — I had to win the race. We were in danger of being categorized as a kind of quirky, gloomy bunch of weirdos. The band's playful side indeed shines through on the album's nine songs, which include such tracks as the wobbly Talkative Girl - The Clicks (4) - Come To Vivid Girls Room!
(CD Flippy Floppy," the animated "Girlfriend Is Better" and the cheery "This Must Be the Place Naive Melody. And years of touring had given the Heads a sense of how to craft songs that would appeal to their audience. It's not like everything is premeditated, but we had this feeling that it's not just about art. It's also about entertainment. When we went out on tour after that, it was the first time that the kids would go nuts for the songs off the current album.
Byrne sang nonsense lyrics, which he later refined. I'd done that a little bit before, but it was the first time I'd done it for a whole record. We didn't want to lose them, because they were so free and they fit right in.
The chorus in the opening song, "Burning Down the House," was inspired by a Parliament-Funkadelic show. Hey, it was a classic title. But what we really wanted to do was rock the house. John Hiatt made his best album, the brilliant and skillful Bring the Family, in record time — four days in Februaryto be exact. On it, Hiatt was accompanied by a small, simpatico ensemble of all-star musicians: guitarist Ry Cooder, bassist Nick Lowe and drummer Jim Keltner.
The sessions were preceded by no rehearsals or preproduction. Lowe, in fact, went straight from the airport to the studio, arriving just in time to cut "Memphis in the Meantime," a song he had never heard before. The spontaneity of it all, Hiatt believes, was largely responsible for the understated, forthright collection of songs that resulted. Producer John Chelew imposed a four-day limit on the sessions; his motivation had less to do with economics or scheduling than a desire to capture the performances with an unstudied, first-take freshness.
Hiatt himself likens it to a jazz session, where a band runs a tune down a few times, cuts it and moves on.
There were seat-of-the-pants decisions made at every turn. When the band couldn't settle on an arrangement for the moving, confessional "Have a Little Faith in Me," Hiatt banged it out alone at the piano during a break, and it wound up on the album in that form. Lowe's breathless arrival the first day gave "Memphis in the Meantime" its odd, loopy rhythms. Hiatt is especially fond of Bring the Family's love songs. Having beat his alcohol and drug problems inHiatt was a clearheaded, happily married and much less vituperative songwriter.
The emotional openness and spiritual resurgence carried through the whole album — which, amazingly enough, was made at a time when Hiatt didn't even have a record deal in America. It went against the corporate approach to record-making, which is 'It can't be any good; you didn't spend any time or money on it! To the contrary, Bring the Family is one of the most sublime and deeply felt albums of the Eighties. I'm not trying to feign humility, but it was just such a group effort.
It's a very inspirational bunch. I would like to go on record to say I sure hope it happens again. After that, they go, ' Whoa, wait a second. They step back and say, 'Okay, now we're gonna do it. Iovine's description is an apt summary of the road Dire Straits traveled to get to Making Movies, which followed the band's distinctive debut, Dire Straits, and its disappointing second album, Communique. The description also captures the nature of Knopfler's ambitions for the record.
He stunned me, as far as his songwriting talents. The songs on that album are almost classical in nature. Without him, the album's cinematic power and evocative landscapes might have been impossible to achieve. The melodicism and romantic intensity of Bittan's playing alternately underscore and serve as a foil for Knopfler's guitar — and help elevate such tracks as "Romeo and Juliet," "Tunnel of Love" and "Expresso Love" to poetic heights.
Bittan's role became especially important because Knopfler's brother David, the band's rhythm guitarist, left Dire Straits during the first week of recording. Guitarist Sid McGiniss was brought in to assist Mark, bassist John Illsley and drummer Pick Withers, but Bittan's contribution was unique in that it was the first time the band had ever fully worked a keyboardist into its lineup.
Bittan describes the sessions for Making Movies as "work sessions where we went in and really took time to capture the emotion and paint the picture…. They were not very straightforward songs. The subtleties of emotion that he was trying to capture was something real special — it reminded me of Bruce, you know?
Making Movies was recorded in six weeks, but, Iovine says, "it basically happened on the first six days of the sessions. The right people were in the room together.
It really was making a record in the pure sense of the term. The whole thing sounds like one song. But you know what that is? That's the writing, the guy who wrote it. He wrote the album like that; he wanted to make the album like that. The pioneering rap-metal fusion of the song "Rock Box" and the powerful debut album it came from, Run-D.
Run and D. Although Run thought it was a bad idea at first, the marriage of metal and rap was inevitable, as rappers had already been using rhythm tracks from songs such as Billy Squier's "Big Beat" and Aerosmith's "Walk This Way. The rap-metal fusion remained influential. In the summer ofRun-D. The group's first two singles, "It's Like That" and "Hard Times," paint bleak pictures of unemployment, inflation and war but go on to promote school, work and church as a way out.
But the positive message wasn't simply a public service. On tracks like "Sucker M. Although radio initially bridled at the minimal approach, the record's hip street sound eventually proved irresistible, giving creedence to Run's assessment of the album: "It's good to be raw. Jam Master Jay scratched in percussion effects while the two rappers took a novel tag-team approach, uncannily finishing each other's lines, phrases and even words.
Besides some heavy breathing, Smith made a unique contribution to "Wake Up. That was me! Workshops are small, containing between students, allowing for a very personalized approach. Do you feel empowered to know that images can foster conservation and societal change?
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