Thursday, February 25: 4:20 p.m.
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 ...
Monday, August 1: 4:52 p.m.
Photo: Lauren Onkey, Laura Greenwich Weiner, Jean Thomas, Mikie Harris, Paul Schaffer, Susan Collins, and Seymour Stein
This past weekend our friends at the Ponderosa Stomp put together an amazing tribute to the girl groups as part of the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival. The Saturday night concert featured a parade of great women singers, songwriters and producers who had taken over rock and roll in the early sixties – from Arlene Smith of the Chantels, who started it all with "Maybe," to Maxine Brown, Baby Washington, the Angels, La La Brooks, Lesley Gore and the Exciters. Also on hand to perform the backing vocals were women including Mikie Harris and Jean Thomas, who sang on countless sessions in New York in the girl group era, and Toni Wine, a great singer, songwriter, and arranger. And that's just a sample. The show closed with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Ronnie Spector delivering a thunderous performance of "Be My Baby," backed by the biggest and best army of backup singers ever assembled.
It was a soaring tribute to the era when women first broke into rock and roll. I was at Lincoln Center as part of the Rock ...
Friday, November 6: 12 p.m.
I made a vacation out of this event. Really, I mean, I could have worked, but that meant that at some point during the concerts, I would not have been watching the performances. Not a chance. Going into this I knew that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary concerts were going to be an event for the ages.
Opening with remarks from event producer Tom Hanks, the music started with the Killer himself, Jerry Lee Lewis, a 1986 inductee, pounding out “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On.” He was followed by Crosby, Stills and Nash. The trio and their band were clearly psyched up for the show and hit the stage with an energetic “Woodstock.” Each of the night’s billed acts had a slate of special guests and CSN first brought out Bonnie Raitt. Possessing one of the greatest voices in rock, Raitt sang a moving “Love Has No Pride” with Crosby and Nash adding harmonies. Stills rejoined them and Raitt pulled out the bottleneck slide for a take on Gregg Allman’s “Midnight Rider.” Next up was “The Pretender” performed with its author, Jackson Browne. James Taylor was next with versions of “Mexico,” “Love the ...