Revisiting Garage Rock’s Roots – An Audio Tour

linkwrayGarage rock really hit it big time over the past 10 years or so, spawning an entire new generation of a simplistic approach to the true essence of rock. It’s raw and steady. Bands like The Hives, The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Dirtbombs and Weezer continue to enjoy commercial success that has never been realized by the founders – the original garage bands.

Believe it or not, garage rock started 40, some would argue 50 years ago. The scene developed somewhere around 1958 with songs like “Rumble” by Link Wray (pictured, and featured in Pulp Fiction), but really took hold during the hippie-happy 60’s.

The early garage bands became influenced by the British Invasion of bands like The Who and The Kinks, until a distinct genre evolved, even though “garage rock” wasn’t coined until many years later. The original garage era didn’t last long though – by the late 60’s it was all but gone. But there were some great songs and bands that will forever own the title as the founders of garage rock. Here are a few favorites:

The Creation, “Making Time” Often referred to as a “freakbeat” band, The Creation gained notoriety in the movie “Rushmore” for this song. It captures the fuzzy guitar and hollow sound of many garage rock songs that followed.

The Sparkles, “No Friend of Mine” You can really hear the influence of the trippy 60’s sound in this one, but it has attitude and the steady, dominating drum beat of great garage rock.

The Sonics, “Have Love Will Travel” This song has all the elements of proper garage rock but has a bluesy feel and throws in a horn. It’s enjoyed a revival by being covered by The Black Keys.

The Del Vetts, “Last Time Around” Chicago’s entry into the scene came through The Del Vetts. This song displays a familiar 60’s beat but still hits the garage note and features a nice, heavy bass.

Richard & The Young Lions, “Open Up Your Door” A tambourine ties this early garage song to the era in which it developed, and it also has a little surfer rock mixed in – but decidedly garage.

If you want to learn more about 60’s garage bands, there are two excellent resources in GarageHangover.com and 60sGarageBands.com.

Top 10 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Exhibits

On a recent trip to Cleveland to see The Black Keys, I had a chance to stop in at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The trip was short (several hours could be spent there) but I did get to see some pretty amazing stuff. Below is my list of the best they have to offer. It probably doesn’t match yours – leave a comment and tell me, I’d love to hear some opinions. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed.

Without further ado …

slashhat210. Slash’s top hat: When Guns ‘N Roses burst on the scene in the mid 80’s the rock world was thrown for a loop. It wasn’t the hair-band style we were used to (even though Slash and Axl Rose both had some major hair) it was dirty, hard rock. And the image that stands out the most is Slash’s top hat. It may have been silly if not for his immense talent – instead it became an icon of a rock legend. It’s also surprisingly small. Must have been all that hair propping it up.

rhodes19. Randy Rhoads’ polka-dot guitar: I’ll never forget the first time I saw Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” video. It was also the first time I was introduced to Randy Rhoads and his polka-dot flying V guitar. The riffs Rhoads produced in that song started me down a path of guitar love I’ll never recover from. The exhibit is even more powerful knowing that Rhoads died an early, tragic death before the full scope of his talent could be realized.

8. Jimi Hendrix’s suede boots: Hendrix was not only a guitar god, but a fashion icon of the 60’s and 70’s. The green suede boots stand out as both a signature item and a humanizing element. Around the toes and bottom portions of the boots is dirt – turning the green into a brown/olive color. Seeing that reminds you of how real it all is, and brings you closer to a legend. I imagine Hendrix looking down at the fading brilliance of his boots and thinking it’s time to hang them up and find a new pair.

7. Jim Morrison valentine: “Mother be my Valentine,” reads a home-made card from The Doors’ Jim Morrison to his mother. Not only is it amazing to see a child incarnation of a legendary rocker, but the irony of the situation is overwhelming. Morrison regularly told tales of how miserable his childhood was and how little his parents meant to him – even claiming they were dead.

6. 1978 Rolling Stones set list: There was plenty of Stones paraphernalia, but the set list stands out the most. It’s hand-written and gives you a glimpse into a real rock and roll show. Reading the list, you can hear the songs in your head and follow the progression of one of rock’s greatest bands perfroming to a sold-out crowd. The finale was “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”

otisplane5. Otis Redding airplane wreckage: One of the most soulful singers the world has ever heard came in the form of Otis Redding. Tragically, his private airplane crashed into Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin, on December 10, 1967 and Redding, just 26 years old, was killed. Many are unaware that “The Dock of the Bay,” his only #1 single was recorded just three days before his death. The twisted wreckage is in two parts, “Otis” on one and “Redding” on the other, from the plane’s fuselage.

billiejean14. Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” socks, glove and loafers, and “Thriller” jacket: The early years of the MTV era saw Michael Jackson performing “Billie Jean” at the Grammy’s, and the world learned of the moonwalk for the first time – complete with glittering socks and lone glove, and black penny loafers (sans pennies.) The “Thriller” jacket is torn and burned, Hollywood-style, and gets you close to one of the most influential music videos ever produced.

3. Hunter S. Thompson’s letter to Rolling Stone: It’s a scenario made famous in 1998’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – a brilliant but cavalier Hunter S. Thompson explaining himself after missing yet another deadline while out in the desert binging on a cacophony of illicit drugs. At one point in the letter he explains that he’ll need copious amounts of speed for his next story, so the editors should gather up as much as they can and send it ASAP. It’s a first-person look into the twisted mind of one of the great writers for rock’s most important publication.

2. John Lennon’s piano: The Beatles were vital to the development of Rock and Roll. But John Lennon and Yoko Ono taught us about rock’s turbulent relationships, how to break up and how artists follow their instincts no matter the cost. The piano is where Lennon wrote many songs for Double Fantasy. Candle wax from writing sessions remain on the wood and help you envision the man and his muse sitting down, changing music forever.

1. Paul Simonon’s Fender Precision bass: On September 21, 1979, The Clash’s Simonon smashed his bass on the stage of New York’s Palladium concert hall. The moment was captured in a photo and immortalized on the album cover for London Calling. Nothing embodies rock and roll better than that image and nothing makes you feel like a part of rock history than being inches away from the iconic instrument.

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The Black Keys Concert Review – Cleveland

(Video and audio after the jump) Every now and then I discover a band that reminds me why I love music so much. Not long ago, that band was The Black Keys. So when my brother called asking if I’d be interested in taking a quick trip to Cleveland to see the rock/blues duo, I jumped on it. We booked our flights and got our tickets to see them at the Agora Theater, near their hometown of Akron, Ohio. We also made a stop at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Black Keys are often likened to The White Stripes, probably because they are both two-person bands and they both rock. But The Black Keys have a much different sound – it’s dirty and unmistakably blues. Guitarist and singer Dan Auerbach’s rugged and soulful voice, combined with his mastery of rhythmic blues guitar (Robert Johnson is one of his influences) and Patrick Carney’s explosive drumming make these guys powerful and hypnotic.

patrickcarneyThey played much of their most popular music including, Same Old Thing, 10 AM Automatic, Girl is on My Mind, Your Touch, Psychotic Girl and a ripping Stack Shot Billy. Every one of their songs has a steady beat that sometimes grows frantic, sometimes lays low but always leaves people grooving. In most bands, the drummer is overlooked. Not here. Patrick Carney is every bit as important to The Black Keys as Auerbach, and simply a joy to watch. He is passionate, and pounds the skins when he needs to and gently taps them when appropriate. And instead of simply keeping a rhythm, he creates new ones throughout every song. Auerbach plays effortlessly – sometimes playing a few bars with one hand – and is one of those musicians that makes you feel music is playing him, not the other way around.

The venue, Agora Theater, is historic and a cool place to see a show. You’ll find that most great bands that pass through Cleveland will make a stop here. It was rebuilt after a fire in the 80’s and looks like it hasn’t been touched since. But, after the show, you can walk across the hall to the Agora Ballroom, where on this night The Doctor Teeeth were playing. And they were pretty good too – guitarist Rusty Boyer has some real talent. Then, on your way out you pass through a diner with late-night food and another small band playing in the corner. My only real complaint was with the sound system. They were having problems early on and never seemed to get Auerbach’s microphone right. That said, the next time I’m in Cleveland I’ll look to see who is playing there.

Sitting next to us in some VIP seats, I’m convinced were Auerbach’s parents. The woman was singing along to every song, and had a head of red hair and eyes that match Dan’s. The man was fairly bald but with a bushy beard. Of course, I’m speculating, but it looked right.

Below is some video from the show – don’t forget to click the lower right of the player and select HQ for better quality. And if you really want to see them live and at their best, get Black Keys Live at the Crystal Ballroom.

Want to read more about The Black Keys and see some reviews for upcoming shows? Check out The Black Keys Fan Lounge.

Strange Times

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xg4KZn-OSQY[/youtube]

I Got Mine

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEPQVRANTFg[/youtube]

Metallica Concert Review, Night 2

trujillo

(Video after the jump) As it turns out, my lady has a friend connected to Metallica. And that afforded us a VIP pass to the second of Metallica’s concerts in Chicago, along with a pass to Club Magnetic and near-front row seats. His name is Rob Trujillo, Metallica’s bass player.

So, as the lights went down and the band walked on stage, I was fixated on Trujillo’s performance. And he can play. He plays with his bass down low, plucking fast with his right hand and shuffling frets with his left. It’s a torrid, yet measured pace, and not since the departed Cliff Burton have I felt the bass’ influence on the band.

From the beginning of the show, the set list remained largely the same as Monday. But there were variations, including an early For Whom the Bell Tolls – a song so perfectly Metallica and perfectly suited to get the crowd involved …”the march is on!”

hetfieldfire1

Again, the rocked some classics like One, Sad But True (my personal favorite) and Enter Sandman. This time, being off the floor but close to the stage, we got a better look at some of the pyrotechnics and lighting effects. As you would expect from Metallica, there were plenty of fireballs and some cool multi-colored flamethrower-like effects, especially during One (video below.) Songs played from the new album, Death Magnetic, were mostly the same from Monday, including Cyanide which turned out to be one of the weaker songs on both nights.

Both nights they closed with one of Metallica’s best and widely-known songs, Seek and Destroy, among a barrage of large, black inflatable balls coming from the rafters and thumping unsuspecting fans in the head.

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But on Tuesday, during the final song of the night, Trujillo suddenly dropped his bass on the ground – it appeared to be an equipment malfunction. As Trujillo struggled to get a grasp on the fallen instrument, a roadie quickly jumped on stage with a replacement. Suddenly another roadie ran up behind him and shoved a shaving-cream pie in his face. That was followed up by other crew members, friends and even some kids, dousing the victim with more pies and a torrent of silly string, while James Hetfield continued the song, trying desperately to suppress his laughter. Turns out the crew member was celebrating a birthday – Trujillo’s equipment malfunction was all a ruse to get him onstage for the traditional Metallica birthday bashing. Kirk Hammett got the same treatment on his birthday.

After the show, the band stayed on stage throwing guitar picks and drumsticks to the crowd, taking bows, waving and telling Chicago how much they were appreciated. We headed back to Club Magnetic for a drink before being summoned by security into the hall, where Trujillo was waiting. We spoke briefly and met his wonderful wife. They are both seem like great people. He thanked us for coming and hoped we had a good time. A couple of young fans walked up and told him they were fans, one since he was four – which made me feel very old, but happy. “Dude, that was @#*! sweet!” one of them exclaimed while walking away.

Then a father and son walked up. They thanked Trujillo, who said he saw them in the stands and was trying to throw a pick to them. At which point he started patting his pockets, searching for a pick and started to turn away so he could go find one for them. But before he got away, they said they caught one, and Trujillo was relieved. “I hear you’re playing guitar now,” said Trujillo. “Good, keep it up. You have a good teacher in your Pop there.”

Below is some video from the show. Some of it is a little shaky – because I was having a hard time staying still. Don’t forget to click the bottom right of the player after you start the video to view it in high quality.

Read the review from Monday’s Metallica concert.

Sad But True

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQOpXZt0x2g[/youtube]

One

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqsd7jbRM3Q[/youtube]

For Whom the Bell Tolls

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVcgFm2WgXI[/youtube]