Hallowed Ground: Cobo Arena

“Hallowed Ground” will be a regular feature on Clore Chronicles, exploring important physical locations in music history.

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The live venue is arguably the most important physical location in all of music. It is where fan and star come face-to-face. It is where dreams come true and life-long fans are made.

I have always been fascinated by the history contained inside the halls where we enjoy our favorite bands perform. The “Hallowed Ground” feature is meant to bring attention to the importance of these physical locations, some of the key events that have occurred there and how it has impacted music.

Detroit’s Cobo Arena, sometimes referred to as Cobo Hall, has been the epicenter of countless important moments in music history. Situated on the banks of the Detroit River, in America’s “Motor City,” Cobo Arena has played “live” recording studio to the following projects (in part, or in whole):

The Doors – Live In Detroit – Recorded May 8, 1970

Bob Seger – Live Bullet – Recorded September 4-5, 1975

KISS – Alive! – Recorded 1975 (produced/engineered by Eddie Kramer)

Yes – Yesshows – Recorded August 17, 1976

Madonna – Live – The Virgin Tour (concert video) – Recorded May 25, 1985

Kid Rock – Live Trucker – Recorded March 26, 2004

Photo Credit: Lisa Hagopian

The 12,000-seat Cobo opened in 1960 and was home to the Detroit Pistons from 1961-1978. It is the arena portion of Detroit’s primary convention center, Cobo Center. One end of the arena is flat and contains no seats.

Jay-Z performed a free show in support of presidential nominee Barack Obama at Cobo on October 4, 2008, in an effort to get people to register to vote. After a five-year hiatus, jam band mainstays Phish opened up its tour at Cobo Arena on November 18, 2009.

Alive!, the fourth album from KISS (and recorded at Cobo), was the band’s breakthrough project. In a 2009 ABC12 interview, KISS’s Paul Stanley shared:

“Detroit for us is kind of like the holy land. It’s where it all started for us. KISS really became a headlining act in Detroit before anywhere else, before anybody else understood us. So, the cover of KISS Alive! is actually taken at Michigan Palace, and the actual back cover [below] and all of the recording, was done at Cobo Hall. So, Cobo Hall is the hall where it all started.”


The following video is an interesting look at the stage being set up inside Cobo for a 2009 KISS show.

Unrelated to music, but interesting nonetheless: Cobo Arena is where Nancy Kerrigan was attacked in 1994.

*Originally published December 31, 2009

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Power in Representation

We are only as powerful as what we represent.

Yes, our skills and knowledge (hopefully) increase and compound over time; making us more marketable as we go along. But, the older we get, the less appealing we become (in most circumstances). So, on the continuum of our finite lives, the window for success and power is pretty limited.

Consider why people want to talk with you; or why you want to talk with most others. Usually it’s for what’s on the other side, giving the temporary delusion that the person in the middle has power. Yeah, they technically do in that moment. But what happens when their representative power ends?

I started my career working with (very) independent artists. More often than not, no one cared. It’s amazing how some of those same people responded (usually for the first time) differently when I was able to attach “Sony” after my name. Those first few years of my career have, and will continue to, provide my personal motivation.

I know there are countless people out there that feel like I do, and I would love to hear your story.

And next time you think you are an invincible bad-ass, think about why people even care about you to start with.

*Originally published November 2, 2009.

Rock Royalty

Rock and Roll Royalty. Who fits?

Let’s state some obvious ones: Robert Johnson, Chuck Berry, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Led Zeppelin, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Muddy Waters, Buddy Holly, Metallica, Johnny Cash, Ozzy Osbourne, Pink Floyd, John Lee Hooker, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, The Who, The Cream.

Personal opinion at play? Certainly.

Who else? Why? And why did I pick my “obvious” list? Is it because all of those truly and fully contributed creativity that changed musical history, or history in general, or has culture told me those are some of the cornerstones?

Does the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s nominating committee decide?

Fact is – it is all opinion. Nothing proves royalty in Rock and Roll. Yes, there are certain acts I will go to my grave defending as such, but who cares?

Let the pundits do their thing. All that really matters is who matters to you.

Black History Month & Music: Part 8 of 12

*I APOLOGIZE THAT ALL OF THESE VIDEOS HAVE BEEN PULLED DOWN SINCE THIS WAS FIRST POSTED. IF I COME ACROSS A GOOD ALTERNATIVE TO VIEW THESE ONLINE, I WILL SHARE IT.

There is an amazing, four-part music documentary released in 2001 by PBS called “American Roots Music.” The coverage it contains is absolutely splendid. To further show the rich and vital music history of African-Americans, please budget in some time to watch the following clips.

Blues and Jazz

Minstrelsy

Race Records

Bukka White and Son House

Muddy Waters

Chicago Blues

Chess Records, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry

Black History Month & Music: Part 7 of 12

Can you imagine using a label such as “race records” to differentiate music? In the 1920, ’30s and part of the ’40s, that was commonplace, and really not even meant as negative in most cases.

According to the Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World: Media Industry and Society,

“The introduction of the term ‘Race music’ for blues and related African-American musical forms is usually credited to Harry H. Pace of OKeh. An isue of the Chicago Defender published in March 1922 carried an invitation to its readers to ‘ask your neighborhood dealer for a complete list of OKeh race records.’ Such segregated lists were to be known as ‘Race catalogs,’ and some of these became much sought after. They included the Paramount catalog of 1924 and the Victor catalog of 1930; the former was illustrated with line drawings, and the latter (which listed ‘Vocal Blues, Religious, Spirituals, Red Hot Dance Tunes, Sermons, Novelties’) had vignette photographs of singers and preachers. Portrait photographs were used on the art deco-style covers of the 1938 and 1940 Decca Race records catalogs….After World War II, the segregated ‘Race’ or ‘sepia’ catalog all but disappeared – for example, the newly formed Capitol Records had a single roster containing both black and white acts.”

The following are examples of images, mostly from OKeh and Paramount, that show “Race” being used as a selling point for music.

Black History Month & Music: Part 6 of 12

The recently begun “Hallowed Ground” feature on Clore Chronicles continues within the Black History Month & Music series by highlighting a few, key locations in Black Music history.

Faubourg Treme, New Orleans. The oldest Black neighborhood in America. It’s the home of Jazz and where the Civil Rights Movement started. Check out this trailer for a 2007-documentary entitled Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans.

Harlem, New York City. The Apollo.

Detroit. Hitsville U.S.A, Motown’s original headquarters.

Memphis. Beale Street.

Clarksdale, Mississippi. Where Robert Johnson allegedly made a deal with the Devil.

Steps of The Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C. Among other events, in 1939, Marian Anderson performed an Easter day concert here (photo below) after being denied access to Constitution Hall due to her race.

Black History Month & Music: Part 5 of 12

The founding of higher education institutions for African-Americans played a significant role in the development and advancement of the Black population. Founded mostly in the 1800s, some pre-Civil War, most post, what is now referred to as an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) has produced a number of individuals that have had a significant impact on culture. For example: Oprah Winfrey (Tennessee State), Reverend Jesse Jackson (North Carolina A&T), Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. (Morehouse), Justice Thurgood Marshall (Lincoln University), Toni Morrison (Howard University), Ed Bradley (Cheyney University), Spike Lee (Morehouse), and Andrew Young (Howard University).

As of today (February 2010), 105 HBCUs are in operation. Their current perceptions are mixed, at best, and the state of America’s universities is not necessarily the point herein.

Either way, HBCUs are important, and filled a large and important education gap at their foundings.

From a book entitled Historically Black Colleges and Universities, 1976-1994, here’s a brief history:

“The story of HBCUs began prior to the Civil War. The earliest of these colleges was formed during the 1830s (Cheyney University of Pennsylvania) to counter the prevailing practice of limiting or prohibiting altogether the education of blacks, most of whom were still slaves. Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and Wilberforce College in Ohio were the only two black schools established in the 1850s by blacks in their effort toward self-education. However, it was not until after the Civil War that the federal government (through the Freedmen’s Bureau), the black community, and various philanthropic organizations began intensive, organized efforts to educate the former slaves. Many of the schools founded during this period were primarily religious schools such as Edward Waters College in Florida, Fisk University in Tennessee, and Talladega College in Alabama.”

Which brings us to arguably one of the most important schools (not only from HBCUs, but all colleges and universities) to the progression of music: Fisk University.

Founded in 1866 in Nashville, Fisk University (still) gives us the world-renowned Fisk Jubilee Singers. According to Fisk’s website,

“Fisk’s world-famous Jubilee Singers originated as a group of traveling students who set out from Nashville in 1871, taking the entire contents of the University treasury with them for travel expenses, praying that through their music they could somehow raise enough money to keep open the doors of their debt-ridden school. The singers struggled at first, but before long, their performances so electrified audiences that they traveled throughout the United States and Europe, moving to tears audiences that included William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillip, Ulysses S. Grant, William Gladstone, Mark Twain, Johann Strauss, and Queen Victoria. The Jubilee Singers introduced much of the world to the spiritual as a musical genre – and in the process raised funds that preserved their University…The contemporary Jubilee Singers perform in a University convocation – and conclude the day’s ceremonies with a pilgrimage to the grave sites of the original singers, where once again, the old songs are sung at the burial places of their first performers.”

Listen to the early-1900s version of The Fisk Jubilee Singers (and Quartette) on Document Records’ The Earliest Negro Vocal Groups Vol. 5 (1911-1926) on www.lala.com. According to Arwulf Arwulf on AllMusic.com, the first  five tracks were “recorded onto Edison blue Ambersol phonograph cylinders on December 27, 1911 by the Fisk University Jubilee Quartette.”

Black History Month & Music: Part 4 of 12

When you’re digging deeper into Rock ‘N’ Roll, you’re on a freight train headed straight for The Blues.

-Jack White, from the documentary It Might Get Loud

Don’t ever stop digging. Just when you think you’re getting close, I assure you there’s more. The stories are endless, and endlessly fascinating. If you want to fully begin to understand where we are today, you must spend copious amounts of time absorbing everything about The Blues.

From Paul Oliver’s book, Blues Fell This Morning: Meaning In The Blues,

“With some speculation on the origins of the blues, which are admittedly obscure, it has been possible to trace its process of evolution and change in a sequence which becomes progressively more clear after the turn of the century [1900]. Buried deep in the fertile ground of Revival hymns, spirituals, minstrel songs, banjo and guitar rags, mountain ‘ballits’, folk ballads, work songs and field hollers, improvised by the field hands of a thousand southern plantations influenced the growth of this extempore song. They were sung by men at work but the blues evolved as a song primarily created by men at leisure, with the time and opportunity to play an instrumental accompaniment to their verses.”

The Blues were the magical next step in the musical evolution of the late 1800s to early 1900s United States. Its primary inspiration should always be kept in mind: the resultant hardships from slavery.

From Francis Davis’s The History of the Blues: The Roots, the Music, the People,

“In Elvis’s early interviews, when the subject of his influences came up, he inevitably praised black performers, admitting that he wasn’t doing anything they hadn’t been doing for years….If he hadn’t been a Southerner, he wouldn’t have been Elvis and probably wouldn’t have sung the blues with such natural feeling. And if he hadn’t sold all those records, American popular music might be quite different now. So might the patterns of contemporary American life.”

Make sure to make it to a Blues club (or twelve) in Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans or similar mecca, sometime in your lifetime.

Experiencing it is tantamount to understanding it.

The following five videos (around 7 min. each) comprise Martin Scorsese’s Nothing But The Blues. The video is a great way to begin to learn more about this most special of musical styles/genres.


Black History Month & Music: Part 3 of 12

“…As the legendary bluesman John Lee Hooker once told Down Beat magazine, ‘You take spirituals and the blues. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think I’m right – the blues come from spirituals. They are the background of all music.’

The spirituals and gospel music endure because they matter, because their appeal, their power, cut across the generations, across racial and religious lines, across the ages, across the oceans.”

-From Robert Darden’s book People Get Ready!: A New History of Black Gospel Music

A pivotal phase in not only Black History, but American History, was taking place in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The Fugitive Slave Act. Dred Scott. The Civil War. Emancipation. The founding of the Black University.

Truth was slowly getting harder to ignore; Black people were beginning to be heard.

And the church was very much the center.

“Above all, religion is, as Durkheim has made clear, a social phenomenon, a shared group experience that has shaped and influenced the cultural screens of human communication and interpretation….

…The Black Church has no challenger as the cultural womb of the black community. Not only did it give birth to new institutions such as schools, banks, insurance companies, and low income housing, it also provided an academy and an arena for political activities, and it nurtured young talent for musical, dramatic, and artistic development.”

-From Charles Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya’s The Black Church in the African-American Experience

The church is not perfect, that’s not even remotely the point here. The point is the importance of the spiritual, the unexplainable, that has tied so many together for so many years.

During the deepest, darkest days of U.S. slavery, work songs, call and responses, spirituals, were the motivator for so many that had to count on something beyond what could physically be seen.

The church didn’t (or doesn’t) necessarily always represent a building, or a higher power, or a group of people, but a common ground in the midst of a broken and weary world. During this most formulative time in American History, the church took on arguably more importance, especially among African-Americans.

The church has been the incubator for numerous, legendary talent in the American musical repertoire, from Aretha to Beyonce.

In the vast topic being studied herein, the spiritual side laid, and continues to lay, the foundation.

The Hold Steady

I could easily count on two hands, maybe one, the bands/artists I’m vehemently passionate about. I assume the same of you. Maybe three hands.

Anyway, I added one to my short-list last week.

The Hold Steady.

Since October 2008, this website called Lala.com has been invited in to every possible corner of my life. Accompanying me at work, at home, on the road, you get the idea. Following obviously implied recommendation, I could not speak higher of the service. It’s free. My entire library of music lives in the cloud, meaning it’s with me wherever I go. You can listen to anything in their library (a lot of stuff) one time through, for free. For $0.10 you can add a song to your streaming library.

That little company called Apple must be a fan too. They purchased Lala for some $85 million in December 2009.

During some non-descript day, whilst non-descript activity, Lala cued up some The Hold Steady for me to check out.

Good idea, Lala.

The initial moment was hearing the line…

And the Meat Loaf to the Billy Joel

Certain songs they get so scratched into our souls

From The Hold Steady’s “Certain Songs.”

As I listened, and listened, and am listening right now, I’m amazed by how the music and lyrics of this band get straight to my heart, mind, history, identity, et al.

Unfortunately, they have zero tour dates scheduled right now. But as soon as I can, I will be going to see them, and telling everyone I know in the process. I will likely purchase all of their albums in the coming weeks, plus a t-shirt.

Maybe not for you, but that’s not the point here. There’s really no grand point, or intellectual stimulation being conveyed. I’m just excited to have found one of those few sparks in life that I know will not go out.

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