Monday, November 24, 2008

FROM THE VAULT -- 1972 Stones footage

Careful there might catch a fly!
Yes, the Stones renaissance at the Music Project continues.

This time we're featuring footage from the 1972 Stones Traveling Party tour, which was off the heels of their most acclaimed studio album, Exile on Main St.

Featured songs in this 9 minute clip are "Bitch" and "Gimme Shelter."

The footage seen here was part of a live movie release in 1974,
Ladies and Gentlemen the Rolling Stones, in which speaker systems were set up in movie houses to what was referred to as "quadrophonic sound" (the precursor to 5.1 surround sound).

Unfortunately this movie has never been released on DVD...and I'm not even sure it ever came out on VHS either. Interesting, considering it's the band seemingly at it's all-time peak during the Mick Taylor era. Richards plays lead guitar on "Bitch" while Taylor takes the lead on "Gimme Shelter." Flapping lips and countless gestures of innuendo are abound from Mr. Jagger, in the silly delivery as only he knows how.

Friday, November 21, 2008

FROM THE VAULT -- "She's So Cold" is vintage Jagger

Since we're on a roll with the Stones, who's stopping us now?

If you've never seen the vid for "She's So Cold," IMO the strongest track from 1980's Emotional Rescue, it's essential viewing. This is Mick Jagger at his absolute peak as an entertainer bathing in over-the-top silliness. All those funny faces and bizarre gotta love this guy's shtick.

I believe the video first appeared on Video Rewind in the early 80s (back when all you had were cassettes and video tape, which you had to "rewind"...get it?). Nearly 30 years (and repeated viewings) later, I still get a kick out of this.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Exploring 60s Stones

It was inevitable, even though it took a very, very long time. I'm making a swing back towards the Stones, and it's their early stuff I'm finally taking interest in.

With the exception of their hits from the 60s (specifically 1963-67), I've never fully explored this early period of the band. I do know, however, everything from Beggars Banquet (1968) heart, pretty much.

I recall telling myself years ago, or thinking to myself, that there would be a time and place in the future to noodle through the early Stones.

There were a couple of reasons
for this.

  1. Many of their albums had cover songs. I seem to gravitate toward original work.
  2. I wasn't that taken by the raw bluesy sound of their music from the tastes needed to evolve a bit.
  3. They needed to remaster their 60s catalog.
They finally remastered their catalog from that period in 2002 on hybrid CD/SACD I've begun with the 3-CD compilation The Singles Collection * The London Years. It digs very deep through their period on ABKO, and plugs all the holes that their other 60s albums can't since there were several singles out there that never made it to album such as their very first recorded single "Come On," along with more well known tunes like "19th Nervous Breakdown" and "Jumping Jack Flash."

From what I understand, the lineup of CDs to canvass the pre-Beggars Banquet period goes as follows:

  • England's Newest Hitmakers (first album)
  • The Rolling Stones NOW!
  • Out of Our Heads
  • 12x5
  • Aftermath (UK reissue)
  • Between the Buttons
  • Their Satanic Majesties Request
That looks like quite a bit of work, but I look forward to it. It would be cool to shuffle the Stones on the iPod, and get "She's So Cold" from 1980's Emotional Rescue playing after "Out of Time," for example.

For those of you who are curious to read more about the Stones, I've thrown an overview of their career in here...I've marked it up with some headings to navigate through, as it's a bit exhaustive.

THE ROLLING STONES: An Interesting and Comprehensive Overview

By the time the Rolling Stones began calling themselves the World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the late '60s, they had already staked out an impressive claim on the title.

A Condensed Overview

As the self-consciously dangerous alternative to the bouncy Merseybeat of the Beatles in the British Invasion, the Stones had pioneered the gritty, hard-driving blues-based rock & roll that came to define hard rock. With his preening machismo and latent maliciousness, Mick Jagger became the prototypical rock frontman, tempering his macho showmanship with a detached, campy irony while Keith Richards and Brian Jones wrote the blueprint for sinewy, interlocking rhythm guitars. Backed by the strong yet subtly swinging rhythm section of bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts, the Stones became the breakout band of the British blues scene, eclipsing such contemporaries as the Animals and Them.

Over the course of their career, the Stones never really abandoned blues, but as soon as they reached popularity in the U.K., they began experimenting musically, incorporating the British pop of contemporaries like the Beatles, Kinks, and Who into their sound. After a brief dalliance with psychedelia, the Stones re-emerged in the late '60s as a jaded, blues-soaked hard rock quintet.

The Stones always flirted with the seedy side of rock & roll, but as the hippie dream began to break apart, they exposed and reveled in the new rock culture. It wasn't without difficulty, of course. Shortly after he was fired from the group, Jones was found dead in a swimming pool, while at a 1969 free concert at Altamont, a concertgoer was brutally killed during the Stones' show. But the Stones never stopped going.

For the next 30 years, they continued to record and perform, and while their records weren't always blockbusters, they were never less than the most visible band of their era -- certainly, none of their British peers continued to be as popular or productive as the Stones. And no band since has proven to have such a broad fan base or far-reaching popularity, and it is impossible to hear any of the groups that followed them without detecting some sort of influence, whether it was musical or aesthetic.
Pre-band evolution

Throughout their career, Mick Jagger (vocals) and Keith Richards (guitar, vocals) remained at the core of the Rolling Stones. The pair initially met as children at Dartford Maypole County Primary School. They drifted apart over the next ten years, eventually making each other's acquaintance again in 1960, when they met through a mutual friend, Dick Taylor, who was attending Sidcup Art School with Richards. At the time, Jagger was studying at the London School of Economics and playing with Taylor in the blues band Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys. Shortly afterward, Richards joined the band.

Within a year, they had met Brian Jones (guitar, vocals), a Cheltenham native who had dropped out of school to play saxophone and clarinet. By the time he became a fixture on the British blues scene, Jones had already had a wild life. He ran away to Scandinavia when he was 16; by that time, he had already fathered two illegitimate children. He returned to Cheltenham after a few months, where he began playing with the Ramrods. Shortly afterward, he moved to London, where he played in Alexis Korner's group, Blues Inc. Jones quickly decided he wanted to form his own group and advertised for members; among those he recruited was the heavyset blues pianist Ian Stewart.
As he played with his group, Jones also moonlighted under the name Elmo Jones at the Ealing Blues Club. At the pub, he became reacquainted with Blues, Inc., which now featured drummer Charlie Watts, and, on occasion, cameos by Jagger and Richards. Jones became friends with Jagger and Richards, and they soon began playing together with Taylor and Stewart; during this time, Mick was elevated to the status of Blues, Inc.'s lead singer. With the assistance of drummer Tony Chapman, the fledgling band recorded a demo tape. After the tape was rejected by EMI, Taylor left the band to attend the Royal College of Art; he would later form the Pretty Things. Before Taylor's departure, the group named itself the Rolling Stones, borrowing the moniker from a Muddy Waters song.
1962 - First live performance

The Rolling Stones gave their first performance at the Marquee Club in London on July 12, 1962. At the time, the group consisted of Jagger, Richards, Jones, pianist Ian Stewart, drummer Mick Avory, and Dick Taylor, who had briefly returned to the fold. Weeks after the concert, Taylor left again and was replaced by Bill Wyman, formerly of the Cliftons. Avory also left the group -- he would later join the Kinks -- and the Stones hired Tony Chapman, who proved to be unsatisfactory. After a few months of persuasion, the band recruited Charlie Watts, who had quit Blues, Inc. to work at an advertising agency once the group's schedule became too hectic.

1963 - First singles emerge

By 1963, the band's lineup had been set, and the Stones began an eight-month residency at the Crawdaddy Club, which proved to substantially increase their fan base. It also attracted the attention of Andrew Loog Oldham, who became the Stones' manager, signing them from underneath Crawdaddy's Giorgio Gomelsky. Although Oldham didn't know much about music, he was gifted at promotion, and he latched upon the idea of fashioning the Stones as the bad-boy opposition to the clean-cut Beatles. At his insistence, the large yet meek Stewart was forced out of the group, since his appearance contrasted with the rest of the group. Stewart didn't disappear from the Stones; he became one of their key roadies and played on their albums and tours until his death in 1985.
With Oldham's help, the Rolling Stones signed with Decca Records, and that June, they released their debut single, a cover of Chuck Berry's "Come On." The single became a minor hit, reaching number 21, and the group supported it with appearances on festivals and package tours. At the end of the year, they released a version of Lennon-McCartney's "I Wanna Be Your Man" that soared into the Top 15. Early in 1964, they released a cover of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away," which shot to number three. "Not Fade Away" became their first American hit, reaching number 48 that spring. By that time, the Stones were notorious in their homeland.

Considerably rougher and sexier than the Beatles, the Stones were the subject of numerous sensationalistic articles in the British press, culminating in a story about the band urinating in public. All of these stories cemented the Stones as a dangerous, rebellious band in the minds of the public, and had the effect of beginning a manufactured rivalry between them and the Beatles, which helped the group rocket to popularity in the U.S.

1964 - First album

In the spring of 1964, the Stones released their eponymous debut album, which was followed by "It's All Over Now," their first U.K. number one. That summer, they toured America to riotous crowds, recording the Five by Five EP at Chess Records in Chicago in the midst of the tour. By the time it was over, they had another number one U.K. single with Howlin' Wolf's "Little Red Rooster." Although the Stones had achieved massive popularity, Oldham decided to push Jagger and Richards into composing their own songs, since they -- and his publishing company -- would receive more money that away.

In June of 1964, the group released their first original single, "Tell Me (You're Coming Back)," which became their first American Top 40 hit. Shortly afterward, a version of Irma Thomas' "Time Is on My Side" became their first U.S. Top Ten. It was followed by "The Last Time" in early 1965, a number one U.K. and Top Ten U.S. hit that began a virtually uninterrupted string of Jagger-Richards hit singles. Still, it wasn't until the group released "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" in the summer of 1965 that they were elevated to superstars.

1965 - "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

Driven by a fuzz-guitar riff designed to replicate the sound of a horn section, "Satisfaction" signaled that Jagger and Richards had come into their own as songwriters, breaking away from their blues roots and developing a signature style of big, bluesy riffs and wry, sardonic lyrics. It stayed at number one for four weeks and began a string of Top Ten singles that ran for the next two years, including such classics as "Get off My Cloud," "19th Nervous Breakdown," "As Tears Go By," and "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?"
1966 - First all-original album

By 1966, the Stones had decided to respond to the Beatles' increasingly complex albums with their first album of all-original material, Aftermath. Due to Brian Jones' increasingly exotic musical tastes, the record boasted a wide range of influences, from the sitar-drenched "Paint It, Black" to the Eastern drones of "I'm Going Home." These eclectic influences continued to blossom on Between the Buttons (1967), the most pop-oriented album the group ever made. Ironically, the album's release was bookended by two of the most notorious incidents in the band's history.

1967 - Psychadelic period

Before the record was released, the Stones performed the suggestive "Let's Spend the Night Together," the B-side to the medieval ballad "Ruby Tuesday," on The Ed Sullivan Show, which forced Jagger to alter the song's title to an incomprehensible mumble, or else face being banned. In February of 1967, Jagger and Richards were arrested for drug possession, and within three months, Jones was arrested on the same charge. All three were given suspended jail sentences, and the group backed away from the spotlight as the summer of love kicked into gear in 1967. Jagger, along with his then-girlfriend Marianne Faithfull, went with the Beatles to meet the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; they were also prominent in the international broadcast of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love." Appropriately, the Stones' next single, "Dandelion"/"We Love You," was a psychedelic pop effort, and it was followed by their response to Sgt. Pepper, Their Satanic Majesties Request, which was greeted with lukewarm reviews.
1968 - Redefining the band

The Stones' infatuation with psychedelia was brief. By early 1968, they had fired Andrew Loog Oldham and hired Allen Klein as their manager. The move coincided with their return to driving rock & roll, which happened to coincide with Richards' discovery of open tunings, a move that gave the Stones their distinctively fat, powerful sound. The revitalized Stones were showcased on the malevolent single "Jumpin' Jack Flash," which climbed to number three in May 1968. Their next album, Beggar's Banquet, was finally released in the fall, after being delayed for five months due its controversial cover art of a dirty, graffiti-laden restroom. An edgy record filled with detours into straight blues and campy country, Beggar's Banquet was hailed as a masterpiece among the fledgling rock press. Although it was seen as a return to form, few realized that while it opened a new chapter of the Stones' history, it also was the closing of their time with Brian Jones.

1969 - Mick Taylor emerges, followed by Jones' tragedy

Throughout the recording of Beggar's Banquet, Jones was on the sidelines due to his deepening drug addiction and his resentment of the dominance of Jagger and Richards. Jones left the band on June 9, 1969, claiming to be suffering from artistic differences between himself and the rest of the band. On July 3, 1969 -- less than a month after his departure -- Jones was found dead in his swimming pool. The coroner ruled that it was "death by misadventure," yet his passing was the subject of countless rumors over the next two years.
By the time of his death, the Stones had already replaced Brian Jones with Mick Taylor, a former guitarist for John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. He wasn't featured on "Honky Tonk Women," a number one single released days after Jones' funeral, and he contributed only a handful of leads on their next album, Let It Bleed. Released in the fall of 1969, Let It Bleed was comprised of sessions with Jones and Taylor, yet it continued the direction of Beggar's Banquet, signaling that a new era in the Stones' career had begun, one marked by ragged music and an increasingly wasted sensibility. Following Jagger's filming of Ned Kelly in Australia during the first part of 1969, the group launched its first American tour in three years. Throughout the tour -- the first where they were billed as the World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band -- the group broke attendance records, but it was given a sour note when the group staged a free concert at Altamont Speedway.

On the advice of the Grateful Dead, the Stones hired Hell's Angels as security, but that plan backfired tragically. The entire show was unorganized and in shambles, yet it turned tragic when the Angels killed a young black man, Meredith Hunter, during the Stones' performance. In the wake of the public outcry, the Stones again retreated from the spotlight and dropped "Sympathy for the Devil," which some critics ignorantly claimed incited the violence, from their set.
1970-72 - The Stones at their peak

As the group entered hiatus, they released the live Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! in the fall of 1970. It was their last album for Decca/London, and they formed Rolling Stones Records, which became a subsidiary of Atlantic Records. During 1970, Jagger starred in Nicolas Roeg's cult film Performance and married Nicaraguan model Bianca Perez Morena de Macias, and the couple quickly entered high society. As Jagger was jet-setting, Richards was slumming, hanging out with country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons. Keith wound up having more musical influence on 1971's Sticky Fingers, the first album the Stones released though their new label. Following its release, the band retreated to France on tax exile, where they shared a house and recorded a double album, Exile on Main St. Upon its May 1972 release, Exile on Main St. was widely panned, but over time it came to be considered one of the group's defining moments.
1973-77 - Ronnie Wood emerges

Following Exile, the Stones began to splinter in two, as Jagger concentrated on being a celebrity and Richards sank into drug addiction. The band remained popular throughout the '70s, but their critical support waned. Goats Head Soup, released in 1973, reached number one, as did 1974's It's Only Rock 'n' Roll, but neither record was particularly well received. Taylor left the band after It's Only Rock 'n' Roll, and the group recorded their next album as they auditioned new lead guitarists, including Jeff Beck. They finally settled on Ron Wood, former lead guitarist for the Faces and Rod Stewart, in 1976, the same year they released Black n' Blue, which only featured Wood on a handful of cuts. During the mid- and late '70s, all the Stones pursued side projects, with both Wyman and Wood releasing solo albums with regularity. Richards was arrested in Canada in 1977 with his common-law wife Anita Pallenberg for heroin possession. After his arrest, he cleaned up and was given a suspended sentence the following year.


The band reconvened in 1978 to record Some Girls, an energetic response to punk, new wave, and disco. The record and its first single, the thumping disco-rocker "Miss You," both reached number one, and the album restored the group's image. However, the group squandered that goodwill with the follow-up, Emotional Rescue, a number one record that nevertheless received lukewarm reviews upon its 1980 release. Tattoo You, released the following year, fared better both critically and commercially, as the singles "Start Me Up" and "Waiting on a Friend" helped the album spend nine weeks at number one. The Stones supported Tattoo You with an extensive stadium tour captured in Hal Ashby's movie Let's Spend the Night Together and the 1982 live album Still Life.

Tattoo You proved to be the last time the Stones completely dominated the charts and the stadiums. Although the group continued to sell out concerts in the '80s and '90s, their records didn't sell as well as previous efforts, partially because the albums suffered due to Jagger and Richards' notorious mid-'80s feud. Starting with 1983's Undercover, the duo conflicted about which way the band should go, with Jagger wanting the Stones to follow contemporary trends and Richards wanting them to stay true to their rock roots. As a result, Undercover was a mean-spirited, unfocused record that received relatively weak sales and mixed reviews.

Released in 1986, Dirty Work suffered a worse fate, since Jagger was preoccupied with his fledgling solo career. Once Jagger decided that the Stones would not support Dirty Work with a tour, Richards decided to make his own solo record with 1988's Talk Is Cheap. Appearing a year after Jagger's failed second solo album, Talk Is Cheap received good reviews and went gold, prompting Jagger and Richards to reunite late in 1988. The following year, the Stones released Steel Wheels, which was received with good reviews, but the record was overshadowed by its supporting tour, which grossed over 140 million dollars and broke many box office records. In 1991, the live album Flashpoint, which was culled from the Steel Wheels shows, was released.

Following the release of Flashpoint, Bill Wyman left the band; he published a memoir, Stone Alone, within a few years of leaving. The Stones didn't immediately replace Wyman, since they were all working on solo projects; this time, there was none of the animosity surrounding their mid-'80s projects. The group reconvened in 1994 with bassist Darryl Jones, who had previously played with Miles Davis and Sting, to record and release the Don Was-produced Voodoo Lounge. The album received the band's strongest reviews in years, and its accompanying tour was even more successful than the Steel Wheels tour. On top of being more successful than its predecessor, Voodoo Lounge also won the Stones their first Grammy for Best Rock Album.

Upon the completion of the Voodoo Lounge tour, the Stones released the live, "unplugged" album Stripped in the fall of 1995. Similarly, after wrapping up their tour in support of 1997's Bridges to Babylon, the group issued yet another live set, No Security, the following year. A high-profile greatest-hits tour in 2002 was launched despite the lack of a studio album to support, and its album document Live Licks appeared in 2004. A year later, the group issued A Bigger Bang, their third effort with producer Don Was. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

Saturday, November 15, 2008

FROM THE VAULT -- The lost Pink Floyd track "Embryo"...performed live!

"Embryo" is a classic Pink Floyd tune that never appeared on any of their original albums, although it did show up later on the mini-compilation Works.

It was part of their live set from 1968 to 1972. I want to say it was last performed on the DSOTM tour and then permanently dropped thereafter.

What an awesome find...the band performs it live here. This is the belly of the beast; Pink Floyd in all their awe-inspiring mystery and creativity...long before there was MTV.

Radiohead fans, take note...these are the Jedi Masters of art rock that gave Yorke and Greenwood some of their ideas for what you get from them these days.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

This decade's biggest musical event: the 2005 Pink Floyd reunion

It happened on only one night in 2005...but, in my opinion, it was the single most significant musical event of this decade.

It was Pink Floyd's reunion for Live 8, which occurred in London.

I point to the significance of this event on several levels.

  1. It was the first time since 1981's tour of The Wall that Roger Waters appeared onstage with the other 3 members.
  2. A cause "worthy" of a reunion brought the band together...and I realize I'm sounding as if a rock band is more important than a cause to help the ailing and sick continent of Africa...IT ISN'T.
  3. In a passionate call out onstage from Roger Waters, Syd Barrett was recognized through an embrace of brotherly love, and was alive to hear it. Those who know the band understand the significance of Syd and the unimaginable weight of Roger's words (see the video here).
  4. The event almost never happened to begin with due to constant feuding between Gilmour and Waters over the years...I'm convinced we caught them in a rare moment when the waters were calm (pun intended)...but considering how often they are ridden with disagreements, for one moment the stars and (dark side) of the moon lined up and they came together.
  5. They actually appeared happy to be together onstage...they "all were Pink" that night. Roger Waters looked elated to be there, like a kid in a candystore. I think they were all realizing the importance of what they were doing at the time, and that it meant everything to them.
  6. The fans were finally served what they'd been so richly deserving for so many years...their band together again, even if it was for only one night.
  7. And, for the foursome that hadn't performed together in nearly 25 years, they sounded pretty damn sharp. Amazingly sharp, actually.
The significance of the reunion event has since been further elevated with the passing of songwriter /guitarist Syd Barrett (the band's founding member) a year later in July 2006...and then more recently Rick Wright in September 2008 (their man on the keys).

With Wright now gone -- a co-founder of the band who played in every single live performance the band ever put on -- it's safe to say that the band is finished, and that their 2005 reunion was the final curtain call.

Again, the fact that these four men were onstage together for even one night, opposed to a prolonged tour, only adds to the enigma of the band and its legendary status...and it makes the Live 8 event that much bigger of a deal.

This, of course, is being stated with less than 12 months of this decade left to tick off the clock...but I'll take my chances.

Feel free to share any thoughts on this.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

THE REVIEW CORNER -- The Refreshments: Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy (1996 issue, Polygram)

There are some albums out there that pass under the radar amongst the general population, but serve as hidden gems to epitomize a certain time and place.

Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy by The Refreshments - one of a handful of bands that came out of Tempe, Arizona in the late 80s and 1990s - defined what a Tempe bar band sounded like in that time period, and define the culture and landscapes of Arizona...and the life of an Arizonan passing across the border to a town such as Rocky Point, Mexico.

This is a bit of a rambly and scattered post, so bear with...hopefully it should give off a feel much like the album in question...scattered and wistful tequila brains.

Lots of memories lie in the Sonoran Desert and the highways between Tempe, Tucson and Rocky when all of ASU and UofA would head down there for the Labor Day weekend to let loose.

So then I guess it only makes sense to set a tone and paint the picture by the lyrics from one of the album's premier tracks, "Mexico":
Well the good guys and the bad guys,
they never work past noon around here.

They sit side by side in the cantina,

talk to senoritas,
and drink more beer.

You get the idea...

This album also screams Tucson on was first introduced to me by a friend who came to visit me from Phoenix after I'd first moved there at the end of 1995 for a job. The band took hold, and I saw them live later that year at what was called the courtyard in front of the America West building (now defunct airline) in Tempe, in the heart of several bars whose names I've long forgotten.

I'd throw on the disc occasionally for a couple years thereafter, but it really reared its head back on New Year's Eve 2000...for some reason it was the fitting selection for that time...and my good friend Mr. Mop was introduced to the band on that night as well.

The open desert sky and 90s college lifestyle of Arizona, through a drunken tequila-tinged long-range looking glass, are all over this album. It opens with the rager "Blue Collar Suicide," seemingly a love/hate bitch session about a girlfriend.

Another highlight is "Mekong," with some of the album's most classic lines:

We need to go around again

One for me and what's his name

My new best friend

Deal me in and I'll
pick my cards up off the floor
I'll see a lucky coin

And raise a pack of lies

Smile to the girl at the door

Another 4 dollar whore

But don't look her in the eyes

She'll break your heart

We came all the way

From Tempe today

Still Bangkok's pissin' rain
and we're going blind again
And I haven't seen my girl
in fifteen thousand miles

Well is it true

It's always happy hour here

And if it is I'd
like to stay a while
Well as cliche as it may sound

I'd like to raise another round

And if your bottle's empty

Help yourself to mine

Thank you for your time

And here's to life

Much of the album seems to psychologically moan and ache into the absurd...almost boasting, in a strange way, an overblown wistful element.

It might seem far-fetched, but it actually echoes the fate of many who pass through the transient desertscape of Arizona, and speaks to the ever elusive Rosetta Stone that resolves each person's trials and tribulations lying somewhere in the timeline of the enigmatic and beautiful Sonoran Desert.

I know. I lived it...the good, the bad, and the ugly., to that effect, there's also the life-gone-into-the-trash tune "Interstate":

Well you should have known better
Dead thoughts and lost horizons

And to take it further

It don't get any better

Well out here on the border

Ain't nobody asking questions

No I don't need a miracle

But I could use a push in the right direction

Handgun and a bottle of Boone's

and a "69" Ford
and a new pair of shoes

Left from Boise Idaho '95

When they crossed the state line

They were just in time to fall
Asleep at the wheel

Last fact of the matter

Never was no facts involved

And to take it further

It never really matters

Well out here on the border

Ants drag bones across the hot dry ground

and over there at the trailer park

They got a million souls at the lost and found

While it may seem a bit like a eulogy of a soul now camped out in the desolate corner of the junkyard on a hot Phoenix day pushing 120 degrees, the poetry and imagery of this band was never stronger in any of its work...I would imagine...not that I really know what I'm talking about here.

Oddly enough, I've never actually heard another album by The Refreshments, and I'm not convinced that I ever need to. The statement that is this lost 90s classic,
Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy, says everything to me that I need to know from this corner of the tequila bar, just over the Arizona border in that little Mexican town known as Rocky Point.

Here's more of an official report on The Refreshments:

While the Gin Blossoms were Tempe, AZ's most recognizable band in the post-grunge era, the Refreshments were perhaps the town's hometown favorite. Their brand of alternative pop/rock owed much to the band's Southwestern environs, whose influence increased with their sophomore effort The Bottle & Fresh Horses (and later came to fruition with the spin-off Americana outfit Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers).

Oddly enough, the very elements that endeared the Refreshments to their Arizona audiences -- the quartet's localized sound, mariachi-styled detours, and Tempe-centric lyrics -- prevented their music from finding true national appeal apart from the modern rock hit "Banditos." The fledgling Mercury Records sacked the group after their second album failed to provide a follow-up hit to "Banditos," and the Refreshments called it quits the following year (Mercury would also fold in 1998, having been absorbed into the Island Def Jam Music Group). Nevertheless, the Refreshments' legacy lives on in the Southwest, where the aforementioned Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers have since emerged as one of the area's biggest draws.
The Refreshments' roots date back to 1993, when Arizona State grads Roger Clyne (vocals, guitar), Brian David Blush (guitar), and Arthur "Buddy" Edwards (bass) first convened for a night of drinking and card-playing. A musical partnership formed and was soon completed by P.H. Naffah (drummer), whose association with Clyne would later extend into the Peacemakers. The band issued a self-released full-length debut, Wheelie, in 1994, with an EP titled Lo, Our Much Praised Yet Not Altogether Satisfactory Lady following shortly thereafter.

Both releases proved to be incredibly popular locally, with the original 2,000 pressings of Wheelie selling out quickly. Mercury Records took note and signed the band in 1995, later issuing their major-label debut, Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy, in 1996. Propelled by the hit single "Banditos," whose irreverent lyrics spun the tale of a Mexican crime caper, the album enjoyed moderate success. The Refreshments' good luck continued into 1997, when an instrumental composition (which the band had previously performed during soundchecks) was chosen as the iconic TV theme song for King of the Hill.

The band's mature follow-up, The Bottle & Fresh Horses, was also released in 1997, but it failed to gain much traction outside of local Arizona radio. The Refreshments subsequently lost their contract with Mercury, and the group disbanded in 1998. Buddy Edwards refashioned himself as a fiction writer, and Blush found work as a guitarist for several local bands. Clyne and Naffah would continue to explore the intersection of traditional Southwestern music and rock & roll with Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, an Arizona supergroup whose lineup has featured members of the Gin Blossoms, Dead Hot Workshop, and Gloritone. ~ Andrew Leahey, All Music Guide

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

THE STAGE HECKLER: Cecil Taylor = Freeform Genius

When I glanced at the calendar to see who was passing through town for the Earshot Jazz Festival some time back, the one performer that caught my eye as a must-see was the legendary free jazz pianist Cecil Taylor.

Last week presented a rare opportunity to see him perform as a solo pianist at Seattle's Town Hall, and perform the free jazz magic ball of yarn he's spun throughout a career spanning over 50 years...that's right, 50.

I arrived about a half hour prior to show time, and caught myself a second row seat at stage right, so I'd be able to see what he was doing with his hands.
Not long after 8PM, the director of the Earshot Jazz Festival gave his introduction.

To thunderous applause, a shorter man then shuffled onto the stage with a folder of papers, sporting a black button down dress shirt, blue pajama pants, and rainbow colored foot stockings.
He gave a short nod of acknowledgment to the audience as he shuffled through some paperwork, standing over the side of the Steinway grand piano onstage.

He then proceeded to read...and my brain cells started to fry like sausage on a griddle.

Cecil Taylor started shouting what sounded like various numbers, and at first came across as someone with Teret's. He then morphed into a diatribe for about ten minutes about mathematical definitions, Western metaphysics, and other theories that were barely understandable through his machine gun rate of speech...somewhere in there he also spoke of the definition of velocity. This went on for about 10 minutes.

I soon figured out that he was framing the tone for the show, especially for those who weren't familiar with his work...he was explaining to the audience that his theory on the piano involved partly that of mathematics; a concept first brought out by jazz pianist Thelonius Monk in the 1940s, and furthered by Taylor and some of his peers in the avant garde free jazz movement of the 1960s.

One might say he brought all that magic out of the top hat last night.

For more than an hour and a half, Taylor led the audience through the most dynamic and dramatic free form piano improvisation that anyone could ever serve witness to.

It's hard to describe the piano work of this man...but the one concept that keeps coming back to me is this: unadultered freedom.

He did not speak to the audience, nor announce the titles to any of the songs; perhaps because they had no real titles. His work on the keys is all about improvisation; it spanned from blinding fast movements across the piano keyboard to light delicate textures emphasizing the space between notes...then back to dramatic pounding.

Taylor's style features an ebb and flow quality...he binds mayhem together with tonal passages and patterns. One can pick up on the different movements tying it all together...

...but it requires your undivided attention.

In all, Taylor put together a 40 minute passage, flanked with two passages of about 15 minutes apiece. He then came out for two encores spanning about 10 minutes apiece. At the end of the regular set and both encores, he bowed to the audience as they showed him the great appreciation this legend deserved.

Needless to say, my brain felt like mush by the end of all of this. It was -- hands down -- the most exhausting musical exercise on my senses that I've ever experienced.