“Wanna die today? Wanna die today?” The Damned’s Captain Sensible and I are standing on a secluded stretch of sidewalk in Croydon, South London, just a stone’s throw from his childhood home, and we’re being mugged.
All in the span of two, maybe three seconds, someone’s unsuccessfully attempted to yank the Canon 5D camera off my shoulder, and now we’ve both spun around and are being barked at by a man gesturing to his left pocket, where he appears to be concealing a blade. “Wanna die today? Wanna die today?” he says as his eyes scan for passersby.
It only takes Captain Sensible a half-second to realize that, actually, no, today isn’t a good day to die. And he bolts off down the road, disappearing around the corner, all six-plus-feet of him. I quickly realize I’m not going to be able to outrun this guy, so I make a beeline for my rental car parked about 100 yards away. Best I can hope for is to beat him to the car, toss the camera in the back and get the fuck out of there.
We’re told from an early age that if ...
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 ...
“Ain’t No Sunshine”
The song that set the framework for the Bill Withers sound with its sparse arrangement, direct, no-frills lyric and in-the-pocket groove.
“I was one of those kids who was smaller than all the girls. I stuttered. I had asthma. So I had some issues," recalled Bill Withers. "My grandmother was that one person who would always say that I was going to be OK. … When you're a weaker kid, whoever champions you becomes very important to you."
“Who Is He(and What is He to You?)”
Just the right undertone of menace and an unrelenting repeated funky riff drives this testament of a jealous lover home.
“Lean on Me”
Bill Withers’ first Number One hit took us to church. "It's a rural song that translates across demographic lines,” Withers recalled. “My experience was, there were people who were that way. They would help you out. Even in the rural South, there were people who would help you out even across racial lines. Somebody who would probably stand in a mob that might lynch you if you pissed them off, would help you out in another way."
“I Can’t Write ...
Released in the Spring of 1971, Marvin Gaye's What's Going On was a transformative recording for Gaye and his Motown label. The nearly operatic concept album mused deeply on such issues as Vietnam, drugs, the decline of northern cities, the economy and the environment, all over a free-flowing musical backdrop that drew on jazz, pop and classical forms. Gaye referred to the album as a “gift from God,” and the album’s spiritual dimension found overt expression in his liner notes: “We’ve got to find the Lord. Allow him to influence us. I mean, what other weapons have we to fight the forces of hatred and evil?” With his inimitable voice, he provided nuanced perspective that immediately resonated with audiences – and has so for generations.
"My phone would ring, and it’d Motown wanting me to start working and I’d say, ‘Have you seen the paper today? Have you read about these kids who were killed at Kent State?’ The murders at Kent State made me sick," explained Marvin ...
No one song ever defined or redefined a group as generously as "Stairway To Heaven" did Led Zeppelin. For Jimmy Page, "Stairway" crystallized the essence of the band: "It had everything there and showed the band at its best...as a band, as a unit" he said.
"Stairway" evolved during winter 1970-71 sessions for the group's iconographically titled fourth album (a.k.a. ZOSO). It achieved an alchemical blend of the band's metal foundation with the rootsy feel of tones that decorated Led Zeppelin III. Page came up with the chord structure at the Zep retreat in Bron-Yr-Aur, Wales. After a reality check back in London at Island studios, the band regrouped at a country estate in Hampshire called Headley Grange. "Stairway To Heaven" came together as the band lounged before a roaring fire, took out the guitars and plugged into the Rolling Stones' mobile recording studio parked outside to capture the rapid flow of inspiration.
Plant in particular seemed to be channeling an active muse. According to Page: "He must have written three quarters of the lyrics on the spot. He didn't have to go away and think about them. Amazing, really." Plant himself cited British ...
A guitarist in schoolboy knickers, a singer who must have gargled with glass shards, and a penchant for tales of non-stop debauchery made AC/DC the late 70s archetypal heavy metal band. Brothers Angus and Malcolm Young generated bulldozing guitar, with their early records produced by third sibling, George (former member of popsters the Easybeats, who had a hit in 1966 with "Friday on my Mind").
Released in the first week of August 1979, AC/DC’s Highway to Hell was a major turning point for the group. Though the group's fifth album, it was the band’s first collaboration with producer Robert “Mutt” Lange, who brought a keen focus to AC/DC’s energetic sound.
With the album's release, AC/DC crept into the U.S. mainstream on the strength of "Highway to Hell," the thunderous opening to the album of the same name. The song didn't endear them to religious right-wingers, who posited that AC/DC's name was shorthand for "anti Christ/Devil's children." Nor did it help when California's "Night Stalker" serial killer Richard Ramirez, expressed his admiration for the group.
WATCH: AC/DC Perform "Highway to Hell" live at the ...
In black music of the Seventies, Earth Wind & Fire were the Beatles to Parliament-Funkadelic's Rolling Stones. There's no better example of EW&F's positive vibration and spiritual uplift than this million-selling Number One Pop/R&B hit from 1975, written by group members Maurice White, Larry Dunn and Philip Bailey. "Shining Star" was one of a brace of EW&F songs recorded for the soundtrack of That's The Way of the World, a racially charted music biz drama starring Harvey Keitel. The film didn't do much at the box office, but the Earth Wind & Fire LP of the same name became a massive hit that topped both the Pop and R&B album charts. "Shining Star" – a flawless fusion of funk rhythms, rock guitar, and the sanctified singing of White and Bailey – won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
Recently, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson of Earth, Wind & Fire visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, and talked with the Rock Hall about what it means to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and be recognized ...
The musical odyssey of Cat Stevens is well documented, from teenage London art school songsmith (“The First Cut Is The Deepest,” the Tremeloes’ “Here Comes My Baby”) to introspective cornerstone of the 1970s singer-songwriter movement. Who can measure the courage it took him in the late 70s, after seven years of multi-platinum success in the U.S. (and over a decade in the UK) to convert to Islam, amidst the wave of turmoil and confusion that was engulfing the world? He left his touring and recording life behind and named himself Yusuf Islam. Inevitably, many longtime fans abandoned him, and he found certain international borders closed and worse yet, controversies on his doorstep despite his humanist background. It was 17 difficult years between his final LP as Cat Stevens (1978’s Back To Earth), and the first CD as Yusuf and more than a decade until his first pop album in nearly 30 years (An Other Cup in 2006). “When I accepted Islam,” he told Rolling Stone, “a lot of people couldn’t understand. To my fans it seemed that my entering Islam was the direct cause of me leaving the music business, so many people were upset. However, I ...