Greatness in a Snapshot – Prince steals the show at George Harrison tribute

With the the passing of Prince last week, we have been reminded of the sheer genre smashing, style defining brilliance of the man with a monumental catalogue of music behind him with 39 studio albums. We know all about some of his historic albums such as 1999, Sign O’ The Times etc. Also of some iconic moments such as his Superbowl show in which he was in his element. For me, I wanted to show just how effortlessly skillful Prince could be and nothing shows this more than his part in the tribute performance to George Harrison. As no less than Tom Petty, Jeff Lyne and Dhani Harrison played the bulk of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, Prince waited patiently away from the lights and to the side of the stage, but that was until the songs conclusion. From there he basically made some of the legendary performers he shared the stage with look decidedly pedestrian as he injected bolts of electricity into the track. With every cool motion of the guitar he reinvigorated the song whilst keeping it familiar. It was the ultimate tribute the great George Harrison could have had and hopefully Prince will be afforded such a powerful send off.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – David Bowie – Blackstar

 

David Bowie has finally released the full ten minute version of his new track ‘Blackstar’; a new single from his upcoming 25th studio album of the same name which arrives on Bowie’s birthday on January 8th. The marathon single features eccentric and soft instrumentals and whirring vocals. The song then shifts towards a neo-soul direction with nudging bass-lines and shimmering production and this sound eventually merges back into the initial sound by the songs end. It is certainly more dynamic and intriguing then his most recent effort, but the jury remains out on this one.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Sunday Suggestion – The Killers – Just Another Girl

The Killers really drew out the promotion and the process of releasing their greatest hits album Direct Hits in 2013. It may seem a bit excessive on their part but they’ve been pretty successful for the last decade in various guises of the pop and 21st Century Indie sound with some electronic tinges. They’ve enjoyed worldwide success in the charts and have largely survived the rise of Plastic Pop and are one of the worlds biggest bands as a result. You can’t really knock them down on that. They’ve never really gave in to the focus on the fast food equivalent to music of recent years but they have always been in an odd place where they can make these subtle changes of direction and a wide enough fan base to stay up there. One single for the greatest hits album was called ‘Just Another Girl’. It is almost a culmination of the last decade of their sound into one song. Rather apt it seems. It has the typical strikes of the acoustic guitar, The light and feathery synths and the staccato trickling of the lead guitar. When this is paired with Brandon Flower’s higher toned vocal and the crashing and churning percussion; it is another great pop tune. The Killers can do that with their eyes closed. It’s something you’ll have to savour as the bands extended break goes on.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Sunday Suggestion – Blur – She’s So High

With the news of the first Blur album since 2003 with The Magic Whip; why not have a taste of their very first with their debut album Leisure. One of the main singles from this album was ‘She’s So High’. Recorded and released in 1990 it was a sign of the decade to come with the slack, distorted riffs and the bouncing bass lines with hints of the decade it had left behind with the echoed percussion and faithful early shoegaze tinged vocal. Unlike elements of the genre today, each part of the instrumentals are easily distinguished from one another whilst the spacious quality is still created chiefly through Damon Albarn’s strung out and daydreaming vocal with Coxon’s harmonies extending it. The ‘Madchester’ elements from this song are undeniable too, yet it’s clear with this track that Blur had a slightly more broadened outlook at the time and it would serve them well throughout the decade.

Sunday Suggestion – John & Yoko – Sunday Bloody Sunday

john-lennon-red-mole2

John Lennon was a man who always left a trail or controversy and debate in his wake on a personal and public level. One particular track depicting the events of Bloody Sunday in 1972 appears on his Sometime In New York City album of the same year. Though there had been many angry and vented statements of his previous two albums, this one makes a particular feature of Lennon’s frustrations and grievances of which the event of Bloody Sunday were one. Between plunging saxophone cries fits the blunt and low riding bass line and a cacophony of percussion from which John’s razor sharp guitar solos slice through. John’s vocals also do the same with the same aggressive yet tuneful snarl he’d developed over the last two albums, delivering his sharp message of the “Anglo Pigs and Scots sent to colonise the North” and “Leave Ireland to the Irish not for London or for Rome” amongst a song full of accusations and cries for anyone feeling British to live in Britain as he recounts the events of that fateful day. His support for the IRA fell off as they began to commit their own atrocities and as he believed that neither side was worth supporting above peace. Nevertheless this song is a great source for future generations at capturing the mood of the time and people’s opinions of the atrocities that day. Something rarely done these days.

Sunday Suggestion – Simon and Garfunkel – A Hazy Shade of Winter

Bookends was the fourth studio album released by one of the worlds most talented duo’s; Simon & Garfunkel in 1968, yet it’s origins lie in Paul Simon being approached to write the soundtrack to ‘The Graduate’ film in 1967 and it makes up a sizable amount of the album. It saw them both propel themselves onto a new level musically and commercially and beyond the limits of the folk-rock tag that they reinforced with Parsley,Sage Rosemary and Thyme. ‘A Hazy Shade of Winter’ is a track reflective of this important and fluid change in their sound. Using much the same tools, they carve out a rapid, punchy and urgent track with all the melody and harmony of any good Simon & Garfunkel track. The driving acoustic chords fall into a meander and are backed up with a snappy beat with the faint organs tying the song’s instrumentals up nicely. An efficient and quick-fire track with a relevant lyrical undertones for this time of year.

It’s A Cover Up! The Beatles & Flaming Lips feat. Miley Cyrus and Moby – Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

          
As a self confessed Beatles fanatic I usually have reservations about the covering of their tracks. Songs that are some of the most pivotal and important to music and cultural development of the last forty years and for the next forty no doubt. Like it or not but The Beatles will have a legacy akin to Vivaldi, Mozart and Stravinsky and so it’s becoming of more importance that The Beatles legacy is continued and though their music has already spanned the generations, it won’t forever. The general public aren’t listening to Mozart and Bach and that is partly due to it’s exclusivity and tradition. The inclusivity and lack of tradition of The Beatles music has opened it up to adaptation and reorientation that will continue to aspire new sounds, while still preserving their legacy amongst the masses for decades, perhaps centuries to come. More than just a page in a history book. For their legacy to be as dynamic and fluid as their music, it requires their work to be displayed through different sounds and methods and this has been conducted by the Flaming Lips along with a host of assisting artists from Miley Cyrus, Tegan & Sara and Moby to My Morning Jacket and Foxygen as they cover Sgt Pepper track by track on the album A Little Help from my Fwends which is released on October 28th. One of the initial tracks to be released from the album is the psychedelic anthem that is ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’.
On the 1st of March 1967, The Beatles recorded the track that was released on June 1st during the ‘Summer of Love’. A track that depicted Lennon’s “lavish daydream” as Rolling Stone put it at the time and features imagery inspired by the works of Lewis Carroll with LSD fuelled visions and imagery. McCartney’s Lowery Organ counter melody set’s the tone alongside Harrison’s washed out and fading guitar, while the bass line creeps along beneath the tracks soaring and glistening whirls and warps. These are accentuated by Lennon’s pioneering vocal sung through a Leslie speaker for a warping and rotating vocal that was also double tracked with the second track set at a slightly delayed speed to enhance and distort the vocals further. The peak in the potential of analogue production, taking it to places that digitalism has only just about grasped.
This year, Flaming Lips along with Miley Cyrus and Moby formed a eccentric trio of rather differing musicians to offer up a 2014 take on the track, replacing the analogue method and production with digital and automated programmes and systems. The result? A track that is more darker and murkier as opposed to eerie and creeping. A subtle difference, yet a noticeable one. Cyrus’ vocals are softer and lost in their presentation as opposed to Lennon’s wiry and rotating vocal. Her vocals warps and fades out with precision; offset by Moby’s very deep and rooted vocal sound. The gentle sweeping of the verses are smashed by the huge and open trap drops that blast the song in an explosion of light and sound. What can be appreciated here is that they didn’t just copy the song, nor  make it unrecognisable, but made it their own with different and innovative sounds, scopes and atmospheres. A worthy tribute.

Sunday Suggestion – The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Little Wings

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, London by Gered Mankowitz
Even Jimi Hendrix had to deal with the infamous second album in 1967. The two extreme approaches to deal with it, are to either leave people with the debut LP for several years, or to quickly hammer out a second and make the most of the hype and try to make it stick. Hendrix opted for the latter approach, but with one of the strongest debuts of all time with Are You  Experienced?; he could have left it at that and retired. The band were tied to a contract that demanded a second album in 1967 although a great and pioneering musician never stops trying to be just that and Axis: Bold as Love was released just a few months later at the close of 1967 after a short period of time at Olympic Studios in London. Despite the short time between albums, he was still able to make a few alterations in the sound and feel of his tracks with enhanced lyrical visualisation, more indelible R&B foundations with Hark Rock and Jazz fusions set around an early Psychedelic haze and recording method. ‘Little Wings’ is a cruelly short track that has that low slung swing and Blues progression that was given expanded dimensions and destinations from the warped, Leslie Speaker filtrations of the lead guitar and Jimi’s vocals as the group throw three or four genres together without a thought. At the end of the day it was a little something they were required to throw together and although this album doesn’t get the limelight of his other efforts, it has to be one the greatest outcomes of a contractual requirement I can think of and with it, they produced a sound that some were only catching on to in the 1990’s and despite this, it still sounds ridiculously original and completely natural. Just another notch up on the man’s stature.
 

Sunday Suggestion – The Raveonettes – Wine

Copenhagen’s finest Indie rockers and their 2009 album In and Out of Control are again the source of my Sunday Suggestion with the final track off the album; ‘Wine’. It opens and a forlorn and lost fashion as the guitar drags itself and it’s echo along in a distant and lethargic fashion. Atop of this is the light haze and mist that is the combined and thinned out vocals of Sharin and Sune. as they make the song seem like its in slow motion. Reflective of the slowing down of time when you are in such an immersive love and the dragging of time when it has gone. The song starts to become a little more close and definite as the latter lyrical content of ‘throwing our love away’ becomes apparent before fading off again into nothing. Almost a tragic song that I’m sure people connect with in those happier and more painful times.

 

Lennon. Musician or Historical Figure?

Love him or loathe him; you can’t deny that statisticaly John Lennon has been at the pinnicale of music and by matter of opinion there will never be a musician with such world-wide appeal or cultural impact ever again. Though the stats show that Paul McCartney is technically the most successful musician of all time and though McCartney can probably write a better Rock-pop tune or Ballad; Lennon for me has more of an ‘edge’ to him. This is due to the fact he was a much more controversial figure within The Beatles but even more so after that. Upon his murder the whole world stopped and thousands of people gathered outside his apartment. I wondered from the footage: how many people are mourning John Lennon the musician? Or the activist? Or the anarchist? Could he be distinguished between those roles and with it has he challenged enough or caused enough of an impact to be viewed as an historical figure as well as or beyond Lennon the “Cultural Icon” and does this steal away from his other roles as a campaigner or political activist? Or are these non-events in the life of a ‘rock-star’?

Bigger Than Jesus (1966) – This was one of the first times Lennon was challenged for a controversial comment about the Beatles being ‘More popular than Jesus’. It caused outrage in America’s deep south with Southern DJ Tommy Charles banning Beatles music. Several radio stations in Alabama and Texas promoted public burnings of Beatles albums and merchandise and The Ku Klux Klan nailed albums and images of Lennon to wooden crosses and threatened to cause distruption to the Beatles upcoming tour in the U.S. The Vatican even denounced Lennon. However the comment was not the real issue for The KKK. Lennon had made the comment in an interview with his friend Maureen Cleave in the London Evening Standard in March. In it Lennon made reference that The Beatles meant more to teenagers than Christianity did in the U.K which can’t be denied. There was no reaction at all in the U.K but when re-released in the U.S Datebook magazine in August the out-rage occured with an apparent different interpretation of his comments. It’s clear from the situation at that time and from The KKK Imperial Wizard: Robert Shelton’s comments that it was more of an oppurtunity to attack The Beatles for refusing to play in segregated audiences or their general support for civil rights. Lennon wasn’t trying to make a point in his comments as he back-tracked and apologised which he wouldnt do in the future. This was just a stunt and promotion for The Ku Klux Klan.

http://youtu.be/rN3wvY4a1DU / http://youtu.be/kZ6NL3iNNMs

John Lennon and Peace (1968-1970) – Lennon had grew more vocal about peace in this period with songs such as Revolution as he grew more angry about President L.B.Johnson’s decision to increase U.S presence in Vietnam but was also critical of Mao in China. The ‘Bed-in’ for peace was Lennon’s and Ono’s idea to utilise the publicity they would get to promote peace. The ‘Bed-ins’ took place in Amsterdam and Montreal with the latter venue being where he performed ‘Give Peace a Chance’ and where he tried to prevent anymore deaths in the Berkely Anti-war Riots by talking to protesters by phone and pleading with them to not react to police violence. Give Peace a Chance was sung by over 500,000 anti-war protesters marching in Washington to call for an end to the war in Vietnam. Furthermore Lennon had famously handed back his MBE to The Queen in protest of Britians support of the conflict. He claimed that others who got the honour were all war-veterans at that time apart from The Beatles and that it was hypocritical of him to have it. Many Royalists were upset by the gesture.

http://youtu.be/wBP3nq0OtZE / http://youtu.be/Zda7abQCmPs / http://youtu.be/nF9BOqGbjPc

John Lennon and Civil Rights – The Beatles had already made their views on Civil Rights very clear during their time in America but Lennon took it a step further at the close of The 60’s with his support for The Black Panther Party and their ten-point programme. The points that called for an end to police brutality and murder of black people and the points called for freedom for black people to determine their own destiny will have particularly appealed to Lennon at this time. This is mainly due to the police brutality many of his fellow peace protestors suffered at the time. He also supported it’s allied group: The White Panthers. Lennon held a benefit concert for The Panthers and for the release of The White Panther leader John Sinclair form prison. Within days of him performing his song ‘John Sinclair’; the Michigan Supreme Court ordered his release. He was also an enthusiastic supporter of The Black Liberation Army and their leader Michael X. Lennon and Yoko cut off all their hair in a symbol of support of Michael X and Lennon had paid his bail several times when he had been arrested as a result of his protest actions. John labelled The U.S and several European nations as the perpertrators of the genocide of Native Americans in North and South America and often talked of how The U.S government were exploiting them. Lennon would also wade into the debate of womens rights with his 1972 single ‘Woman is the nigger of the world’ This sparked confusion and controversy with the context of the offensive word with the song being banned by a large amount of radio stations. In many interviews as a result; Lennon clarified that he used the word to describe an “opressed person” which in this song was women and that this particular song was seperate to the black civil rights issue. In spite of the media frenzy the National Organisation for Women awarded John and Yoko with a ‘Positive image of women’ citation for the “strong pro-femminist statement” in the song.

http://youtu.be/sRq1mp4VArA / http://youtu.be/fZJLInCgem8 / http://youtu.be/iYjEz441I4M

John Lennon and Ireland

This was one of Lennon’s interests that for some reason is often overlooked. Perhaps it was because it had the potential to take Lennon up a gear and throw him into the deep-end and into a warzone but it never came to fruition. The events of Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972 had inspired Lennon’s song ‘Sunday, Bloody Sunday’ Lennon who is of Irish descent was enraged by the killings and agreed to meet with an IRA representative in New York. That man was Gerry O’Hare. Lennon’s songs ‘Sunday, Bloody Sunday’ and ‘Luck of the Irish’ had all it’s profits donated to the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) but the intention of his meeting with O’Hare was to organise donations to the IRA its self but also the organisation of two concerts. One in Dublin and another in Belfast. The latter gig was to be a show of defiance against the British Parachute regiments presence in Northern Ireland. He also wished to play a gig for Protestants in Belfast in what can only be seen as an attempt of granting some form of peace between the citizens of the divided city. What the reaction of the British military presence would have been had the concert went ahead is something that will only ever be speculative as Lennon made clear to O’Hare that his priority was in America with the civil rights, anti-Vietnam movements and his battle against Nixon’s desired deportation of Lennon in mind. He felt that he couldn’t leave the U.S while Nixon was still President and until he was granted the freedom to stay in America. If he had left Nixon would make sure he never got back in. Therefore his contributions to the NICRA and IRA were strictly financial but it was enough to unsettle the British govt. under Prime Minister Edward Heath who ensured that the FBI would expand their operations on Lennon to include files on his activity in relation to Ireland that would be fed back to MI5 in London.

http://youtu.be/MNwqV_HpMSE / http://youtu.be/cLZhNs7M1oE

John Lennon vs Nixon and the Establishment

This was a continued theme throughout Lennon’s activism. It tied in in with his critisism of the Vietnam war and the Cold War it’s self. He condemmed both sides and often tried to remind people that “the people are the government” and that they should take on-violent action to bring down goverments who “are insane with insane goals” This will have been in reference to the constant threat of nuclear anihilation or the threat of another world war. It was particularly his Vietnam objections that concerned Nixon who feared that Lennon was turning public support for the war to support against it and became paranoid about Lennon preventing his relection. This paranoia was unfounded as Lennon had just as little time for Democrats as he did Republicans but nevertheless Nixon made sure that the FBI had a daily track on him as there was a threat of Lennon ending his tour with a mass rally at the Republican National Convention. The FBI sureviellance of Lennon ran in conjunction with Nixon’s re-election campaign and once elected Nixon tried to ensure Lennon’s deportation back to the U.K. Lennon tried to push again for action against the U.S establishment for the events of the Attica Prison Riots in which 43 were killed. The initial protests from the prisoners were for better living conditions and political rights but the death of Black activist prisoner George Jackson at the hands of officers in a Californian jail had led to the riots at Attica. It was New York governer Nelson Rockefeller’s order to retake the prison that led to most of the deaths. This formed the basis of Lennon’s song. It was primarily about the waste of all those who had died in the riot but also the song had a wider message of rehabilitation of prisoners and the prevention of crime taking place at all if those comitting the crimes had a better and equal start in life. This was the basis of Lennon’s comments after performing the song on one of his many appearences on the David Frost Show. He had also backed trade union movements in the U.K. This was evident from the funding he provided to Jimmy Reid of the Communist Party of Great Britain in support of this Upper Clyde Shipbuilders strike in 1972. This had also left many to tag Lennon as part of the extreme left wing.

http://youtu.be/yTg4gtz_Xn4 / http://youtu.be/qFJTFALqyn4 / http://youtu.be/bLR2z4BE41o / http://youtu.be/vj3IYnpBln0

Lennon had effectively made breakthroughs with the Supreme Courts of Michigan upon granting John Sinclair’s release from prison and countering his own deportion from the U.S in New Yorks Supreme Court. Lennon too had made several monetry donations to the IRA, NICRA, the Communist Party of Great Britian and payed the bail for Black Panther leader Michael X on several occassions. His added contribution came in the form of the marches and protests he was involved in for various causes; mainly against the Vietnam war but also for peace in general. Lennon had no issue in displaying his support and backing for these various causes across all forms of the mass-media. Lennon was a useful tool and many activists or group leaders wouldn’t be granted access to the media like Lennon. He knew this and exploited it well. He’d even use the mass-media to promote his own causes such as the ‘WAR IS OVER’ campaign. But his main impact if he is to viewed as an historical figure would be in his music. Beyond everything else this is what Lennon did best and there are lists of songs he used to promote various causes. From this i’d say he is both a Cultural Icon and Historical Figure. Though he sometimes contradicted himself and never fufilled the promise he possessed to make an impact, he did change things. The best way he made an impact was through his music but it was more than that to Lennon. No one else at that time had a true regard for what was happening in the world. Everyone else were just pretenders. Can you imagine Jagger parting with his money for a cause? Or risking it all to back something? The like of Lennon will not come around in my lifetime. Today no artist can ever touch the popularity and more importantly the respect Lennon had and today people care less about others and only donate a few quid every year to satisfy their guilt. People moan about the governments of the world but people don’t do anything about it. Those who do find themselves in a worse situation than before and the world is becoming more selfish and materialistic than ever before. Even music itself is the edge of an abyss from which it will never recover but Lennon will always be there; people just need to remind themselves about what he did for Culture but what he did for the world.