Category Archives: rock and roll

Stooges: Look out honey cuz I’m usin’ technology!

Let this be a warning to you: you will turn your back on the Stooges three times before you realize your mistake!

I was a young punk and I didn’t like anything that wasn’t what I was currently playing on my cassette deck. The stooges just didn’t fit. They clanged out with punk that sounded too rock and roll to my purist ears. And the well-published Stooges story was all about punk as destructive front-man, a trope that I felt should be retired. At the time I valued music that was political, organized, focused and sober – pretty much the opposite of the Stooges.

My second invitation to listen to the stooges came when I taught for a summer at the Michigan Debate camp. The faculty (gathered from around the nation) were all housed in a recently renovated apartment building that was rumored to have been Iggy Pop’s. It was claimed that our apartment was Iggy’s and that I was staying where his old room had been. Payday at the end of a month-long gig was an incredible moment of consumerist joy and I remember weighing an Iggy and the Stooges CD, but putting it back in lieu of the 4xCD Stax/Volt box set (which changed my life).

Reading Gillian McCain & Leg’s McNeil’s book Please Kill me was my third chance to dive into the Stooges catalog. So many terrible stories of Iggy’s destruction and the aspirations of a generation trying to tell new stories with new sounds. Recording an album in Berlin with David Bowie that dabbles in gender play (a song called penetrate on a 70s rock album isn’t that unusual, but that tune is about Iggy being penetrated. )

Having been a music fiend my whole life, and with an origin as a frugal yankee, I look for the cheapest media with the coolest music when I’m buying second hand. I started buying a lot of records 20 years ago because you could get Stevie Wonder’s best songs for pennies at yard sales. In the last 5 years CDs have become useless to most people and they started selling a buck a pop or even less.

I spent a lot of my life desperately saving enough money to buy an $11 CD in a record store. To see an album I’d always wondered about for so cheap . . . sucks teeth. Which is how I found myself in a pandemic with a couple hundred CDs that I’d stacked up in a cupboard. I drew Raw Power from under a stack of abandoned albums because it was the right time and started really listening to the record.

The album is transformative – great guitars, excellent song-writing and some of the most 2020 tunes to be recorded at any moment. I was hunting for the making-of documentary that came out in 2010 when I came across a nice video of Iggy and the Stooges doing Search and Destroy in 2017.

Let’s skip all the body-shaming crap and ageist foolishness. It is great to hear a passionate song sung with passion by passionate people. I love Iggy’s plea for the crowd to save his soul that comes with the wild arm gestures. There is a clear juxtaposition between the naked and the clothed – Iggy of course is shirtless and glowing. But there is also a shirtless security guard who is moving around behind the amps. And there is a guy in the band shirtless playing a pair of claves. But every other member of the band looks like an 8th grade science teacher with tucked in dress shirts. There is the tiny club-sized set that Iggy has compressed into the center space of this festival stage. And the great contrast of how much space both sonically and physically the Stooges take up.

It is never too late to learn or investigate and discover the world. There is music out there that has not been heard and the day is just beginning.

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Filed under art, drugs, gender, juxtaposition, music, punk, rock and roll

Electric Wizard early recording footage

. . . the wizard . . .

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Filed under communication, do-it-yourself, documentary, drugs, forbidden fruit, music, rock and roll

Nostalgic Rock N’ Roll: the Hellacopters

I associate the Hellacopters with Pittsburgh. It was the second year that I lived there when a friendly record store clerk and they suggested “Grande Rock,” the third Hellacopters LP after noting my purchasing patterns.

At the time I was heavily into hardcore and punk and had a fairly purist view of DIY ethics (necessary) and corporate record labels (evil). But I will acknowledge a healthy love of classic rock. Part of the reason that I started collecting vinyl LPs was to buy second-hand records and bypass the guilt associated with supporting a multinational death company that might have purchased the soul of some poor talented musician.

It wasn’t uncommon for me to buy an brand new copy of the New Bomb Turks CD and also a thrashed J Geils band LP on Atlantic from the dollar used bin. Which honestly is a pretty good description of the Hellacopters.

Guitars. My memory of the first listen was dominated by the guitars. Slashing, thrashing and almost indulgent levels of guitars. And then that sort of goofy piano playing that becomes so necessary after many listens. Then you sync into just how good respectful 4/4 drumming done well is. And then it’s the guitars, catchy songs and genuine respect for rock n’ roll traditions.

Saw ’em live at least once, maybe twice during these years in Pittsburgh and they were fantastic. About everything you could imagine – with a performance at a pub being particularly memorable for the energy level and amount of beer poured on my head.

From the position of socially-distancing during Covid-19, you sort of wonder what forms music and rock n’ roll will embody in the future. I find myself nostalgic for the kind of energy and excitement of the crowd in the video above in Stockholm in 2018 when the band kicked into “Gotta get some action now” . . .

But the lived nature of a band like the Hellacopters is that they should be enjoyed. The band worked because they weren’t straightforward 70s rock clones, and they weren’t afraid to lay down a lick that was melodic and Zep-worthy. They just rocked and never really looked for justification or permission.

We can trust that the spirits of rock n’ roll can’t really be destroyed and will always re-emerge in some new presentation depending on the local circumstances.

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Prince 101: Let’s Work

[I’ve tried to load a live clip from Prince in the early 80s doing “let’s work” and I’m unable to make a digital connection.  You’ll have to search for that tune yourself. I suggest the live eighties versions with Prince in a unitard. ]

“Let’s work” is an understatement from the enigmatic Prince.  His output is stunning.  I probably a dozen good Prince albums.  Prince certainly worked.

You’ve got to work.  You’ve got to work to be funky.  You’ve got to work to be real.  You have to work to be anything.

James Brown: “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”

But this is the least indulgent song imaginable.  This is emblematic of funk-a-teers going to work. Militarily precise in the application of snare and slap bass.  Dance floor mandatory!  With just enough swing to make sure you know it came from the land of 8 billion lakes or where ever Prince is from.

The real power of Prince is that if you are open and aware then you have to acknowledge his brilliance.

Also suggested is the Wax Poetics Alan Leeds article about tour managing Prince.

 

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Filed under funk & soul, memorial, music, rock and roll

Janelle Monae & 500th post

This is the 500th post on life of refinement.  I’m proud of the non-linear series of artifacts gathered here that point toward new understandings.  I use this web site to archive interesting things.  Meaningful things.  This is a curation of the rambling series of artifacts and patterns of representation I find significant enough to be marked and analyzed in a free open public space.  This is as close to learning as we’ll ever get.

Thanks to all who read the website.

***

 

I knew of Janelle Monae and appreciated her music but only had singles in my library.  Inspired by a Wax Poetics write up, I bought a copy of “The Electric Lady” last night.  With two full listens into the album (barely enough to comprehend what is going on) I’m sold.

This project is wonderful dance music and a really good concept album (or an extension of a concept album to multiple projects — Monae plays an alter ego pretty consistently).   The record is an extended riff on technology, cyborg/human interactions, civil rights and living life with dual identities.  Given that “The Electric Lady” could be a Phillip K. Dick novel, the smooth inviting production and musicianship is what carries the project.

This albums sounds VERY eighties to me.  From the sonic structure and choices of beats/samples to the rock opera lyricism of the concepts.  At points I was reminded of my nostalgic childhood filled with Styx, Heart, Bon Jovi and Run DMC.    The strings sound eighties.  The drums sound eighties.  Even the vocal harmonies remind me of eighties hits.   But the eighties were a point of technological jump off and the slight broadening of pop music.

I like the futuristic world that Monae is painting.  And the willingness to build futuristic pop music out of the sonic blocks of the past.  Astute Monae names tracks after inspiring pioneers: “Sally Ride” (astronaut) and “Dorothy Dandridge Eye’s” (first black woman to be nominated for an Academy Award).

In the context of the blog, I’ll quote the end of the “Dance Apocalyptic” when Janelle Monae says: “I really really want to thank you for dancing to the end.”   Thanks for reading and dancing ’til the end.

 

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Filed under art, communication, funk & soul, hip hop, human rights, music, representation, resistance, rock and roll, technology

Alice Cooper: Black juju live

How much fun would it be to see Alice Cooper in the day?  Daaaaaamn.  Stick around for Black Juju.  It gives me some ideas for monday’s class on semiotics.

Thanks to Dangerous Minds for the suggestion.

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