When Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force's "Planet Rock" dropped in 1982, it was nothing short of a revelation. In its cool grooves, the Bronx and Manhattan collided with a message for the citizens of One World. The lyrics were upbeat and utopian: "Party people, can y'all get funky!" The music – based around the rhythms of Kraftwerk's 1977 Krautrock hit "Trans-Europe Express" – was electronic and, in fact, funky. Hip-hop's first self-conscious art record suggested just how far this new musical sound could go. This was the Star Trek take on science fiction: harmonious, multicultural, with technology connecting people rather than alienating or threatening them.
And its rhythmic core? The Roland TR-808 drum machine, a hugely flawed, relatively inexpensive piece of early 80s technology that forever transformed the modern musical landscape of many styles – hip-hop, electro, dance, techno, pop, rock and industrial, among others.
808 The Movie tells the story of this unlikely musical hero, and I caught up with producer Alex Noyer to get the inside story on why he and his crew were inspired to make the film and the surprising stories they heard from the likes of Bambaataa, Phil Collins, Fat Boy Slim, the Beastie ...
Chris Squire changed the way rock musicians thought about the bass guitar – taking the melodic style established by the Who's John Entwistle and pushing into an entirely new level. His bass had a clean sustained tone that frequently moved back and forth between the high and low registers of the instrument. And all the time Squire was singing beautiful vocal harmony with the rest of the band (and with a completely different melody from the bass).
I'm the Rock Hall's senior director of education, and I'm also a longtime fan of Yes. I can tell you with ultimate clarity the first time I heard the music of Yes on the radio while I was in high school. I imagine it was the same way that many fans of my age did, through the sound of “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” in 1983. That song has always sounded so modern to me (due in part to the stellar production of Trevor Horn), and a key feature of what hooks you in is the foundational bassline played by Squire: it’s simple, memorable and slides right into the groove. When it finally changes up at the two-minute mark ...
Over the course of two decades – from 1945 to 1965 – 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee the "5" Royales created a remarkable body of work that laid the foundation for a host of music that followed in its wake. With pivotal recordings and performing techniques that helped define a variety of styles under the rock and roll umbrella, the group is responsible for some of rock's first true standards. Here are my picks for essential listening.
“Bedside of a Neighbor” (1952)
The very first record by the “5” Royales was a variation of the Thomas Dorsey tune “(Standing By the) Bedside of a Neighbor.” It was recorded in August of 1951 and released on Apollo Records in January of 1952 under the name The Royal Sons Quintet. They put in a great vocal performance with the lead sung by John Tanner, but don’t miss the gospel piano played by the group’s friend Royal Abbit.
“Baby Don’t Do It” (1952)
While their contract with Apollo was to record gospel music, the group quickly began recording secular music as well; at first under the name the Royals, and then by the time of this hit song ...
The studio and live LPs released during the last seven years of 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Stevie Ray Vaughan's life ensured his place in Stratocaster immortality and influenced the next generation of blues guitarists. With Double Trouble bandmates Tommy Shannon on bass, Chris Layton on drums and Reese Wynans on keyboards, the Texas-born blues-rock powerhouse forged a sound that influenced and inspired countless players around the globe.
“Love Struck Baby”
The first song on the debut album from Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Texas Flood, released on June 13, 1983 – it was also the first single from the album. But don’t be fooled if it sounds too good to be a new band; Stevie Ray formed the band in 1978, and the final lineup had come together in 1980 consisting of SRV, Tommy Shannon (bass), and Chris Layton (drums).
“Pride and Joy”
This song is a great example of a Texas Shuffle (in which the guitar plays a triplet pattern over the quadruple meter of the band). Listen to how in the opening Stevie Ray plays all the off beats with an upstroke on the guitar to emphasize them. It makes for a great ...
As both a member of The Velvet Underground and a solo artist, 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Lou Reed transformed music forever with his uncompromised and daring artistic vision that has influenced artists for decades, from David Bowie to U2 to Arcade Fire. Here are my picks for Lou Reed essential tracks.
“Walk on the Wild Side”
Off 1972's Transformer (produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson), “Walk on the Wild Side” was Reed’s first hit after the Velvet Underground broke up and remains his most well know tune till this day. The lyrics of the song told the story of people Reed knew from the Andy Warhol/Factory days, while the iconic bass line has been sampled numerous times in everything from hip-hop to electronica.
“Satellite of Love”
This song was originally demoed by the Velvet Underground in 1970 as a possible track for the Loaded album but was eventually rejected. The lyrics are sung from the point of view of a man who is watching a space launch on TV and simultaneously reflecting on his unfaithful girlfriend. The end of the song features a fantastic vocal arrangement performed by Reed and David Bowie ...
2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee The Paul Butterfield Blues Band took the world by storm at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, expertly combining American rock and roll and the blues with Butterfield’s inspired harmonica and Mike Bloomfield’s explosive lead guitar. Their self-titled album released in 1965 and its follow-up, East-West in 1966, kicked open a door that brought a defining new edge to rock and roll. Here are my picks for essential Paul Butterfield Blues Band listening.
“Born in Chicago”
This is the opening song on their first album and immediately establishes the group as a part of long history of electric Chicago blues (in the tracks of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf). The song was written by friend and collaborator Nick Gravenites who would go on to pen many classic psychedelic blues tunes in the years to come.
“Our Love is Drifting”
A slow blues burner written by the band’s two guitarists Bloomfield and Bishop. While the solos are enough to knock your socks off don’t ignore the great melodic call and response between the vocal and the guitar in the verses.
While “Work Song” was originally written and recorded ...
In 1970, Lou Reed quit the Velvet Underground at the end of a nine-week performance residency at the famous rock club Max’s Kansas City (in New York City), leaving the VU album Loaded recorded but unmixed; and leaving the VU to continue on with none of its original members.
Two years later, Reed released his self-titled, first solo album on RCA records. The album was mostly made up of songs he had written for – and in some cases even performed live with – the Velvet Underground. While the release generated a lot of buzz, it turned out to be a critical and commercial flop. There are some strong songs, but even listening to it today it feels… well, lost. It doesn’t have the bite of the early VU songs like “Heroin,” nor the pop sensibilities of songs like “Sweet Jane.” So with the album as disappointment to everyone including Reed, what to do next?
Reed, for his part, was enamored with ...
In the pantheon of rock and roll's greatest guitarists, there is a cadre of fabled axemen who consistently bubble to the top, including such Hall of Fame Inductees as Jeff Beck, Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Johnson, BB King and Jimmy Page – all artists represented at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. And no discussion of six-string masters would be complete without Eddie Van Halen, the innovative firebrand that turned the world of guitar playing on its ear in the late 70s and early 1980s. "I was so used to doing old blues licks with the first three fingers," Van Halen once explained to a reporter. "When I started using my pinky and finding more spread things, that's when I started getting my own style." That style went on to influence millions of budding shredders. Here are five tracks that contributed to that influence:
Guitar Solo, from Live Without a Net (1986)
Van Halen went out with something to prove during the live tour for the 5150 album. With new singer Sammy Hagar, the band had to show fans and critics alike that it could keep rocking without Diamond Dave ...