Clore Chronicles: Books, Questions & 2010

“It’s important to keep going back, and not lose track of the pioneers.”   – Paul Shaffer

That quote encapsulates the sentiment behind this blog, Clore Chronicles. At the urging of a good friend and trusted colleague, I started this labor of love back in March of this year (2009), and I’m so glad I did.

As we wind down 2009, I thought it a good time to refresh/refocus a bit, and I wanted to seek some input from those of you who stop by.

BOOKS: Below*, I list out books I’ve recently read, am reading, and am about to read. By sharing this list, I hope to encourage you to check out some of the same material. But moreso, I hope to hear from you with books you’ve been reading that you think would fit with the type of material covered here.

QUESTIONS: Clore Chronicles is me talking (a lot), but I would genuinely love to hear from you. By the way, a HUGE thank you to those who do read, and to those who leave comments. Here are a few questions I would love to hear from you on:

  • What era of music history are you most interested in?
  • What specific aspects of music history/sociology intrigue you most? (examples: personal impact of being famous, or how drugs play a role in the creation of music)
  • How does your knowledge of history impact the decisions you make in your day to day work decisions?

2010: In the new year, I plan to do a lot more interviews with interesting figures in the music world. Also, look for more “series” types of posts, with multi parts, or more continuous threads, running throughout multiple posts. I also plan to begin studying more about popular music history prior to the 1960s.

*BOOK LIST

Books I’ve read in the last year or so:

Appetite For Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age – Steve Knopper

It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll: My On the Road Adventures with The Rolling Stones – Chet Flippo

Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock & Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood – Michael Walker

The Mammoth Book of Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘N’ Roll – Edited by Jim Driver

Billy Joel – Mark Bego

Billy Joel: The Life & Times of An Angry Young Man – Hank Bordowitz

The Man Called Cash: The Life, Love & Faith of an American Legend – Steve Turner

Book I’m currently reading:

The Road To Woodstock – Michael Lang

Books in the queue:

The Great American Symphony: Music, Depression & The War – Nicholas Tawa

Air Castle of the South: WSM And The Making of Music City – Craig Havighurst

The Year the Music Died: 1964-1972; A commentary on the best era of pop music, and an irreverent look at the musicians and social movements of the time – Dwight Rounds

The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker & Elvis Presley – Alanna Nash

Canyon of Dreams: The Magic & The Music of Laurel Canyon – Harvey Kubernik

Totally Awesome 80s – Matthew Rettenmund

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Key Moments of 1969

A few key moments of culture-shifting 1969, the simultaneous beginning, and end, of an era.

January

-The Soviet Union has all kinds of space activity going on

-Richard Nixon inaugurated as 37th President of the United States

-Led Zeppelin releases debut album, Led Zeppelin I

-The Beatles give their final live performance, from a rooftop

February

-Front de Liberation de Quebec terrorists (FLQ) attacks the Montreal Stock Exchange multiple times

-Three of four Beatles (save Paul McCartney) hire manager Allen Klein, against Paul’s wishes

-Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan record together in Nashville

March

-Sirhan Sirhan admits he killed Robert Kennedy

-Operation Breakfast (part of Operation Menu) begins, secretly expanding the U.S.’s involvement in Vietnam to Cambodia

-Paul McCartney marries Linda Eastman

-John Lennon marries Yoko Ono

-James Earl Ray admits to killing Martin Luther King Jr., later retracts admission

-United States launches Apollo 9

-John Lennon and Yoko Ono hold first bed-in

April

-The L.A. Free Festival ends early after a riot in Venice, California

-The Smothers Brothers Comedy hour is cancelled

-Massive antiwar demonstrations being held around the U.S. in places like New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles

May

-Jimi Hendrix arrested at Toronto International Airport for possession of narcotics

-The Zip to Zap riot occurs in North Dakota

-United States launches Apollo 10

-Hamburger Hill begins in Vietnam

-John and Yoko’s second bed-in

June

-Elton John releases Empty Sky (UK)

-Noel Redding announces he has quit The Jimi Hendrix Experience

-Stonewall riots in New York City

-Hee Haw debuts on CBS

July

-Ted Kennedy drives off a bridge (Chappaquiddick)

-Neil Armstrong takes first steps on moon (Apollo 11)

-Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones found dead in his home swimming pool

-First U.S. troop withdrawals made from Vietnam

August

-The Manson Family murders

-Woodstock

September

-The Brady Bunch premieres on ABC

-The Beatles release Abbey Road

October

-Ho Chi Minh dies (former president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam)

-First broadcast of Monty Python’s Flying Circus

-Race riot in Springfield, Massachusetts

November

-Richard Oakes leads a group of students and Bay Area Native Americans that seize Alcatraz for 19 months

-Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” reaches number one at radio (his last number one during his lifetime)

-Rolling Stones release Let It Bleed

-Simon & Garfunkel perform live for the first time with a band at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois

December

-Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet makes its debut

-Draft Lottery held for Vietnam. First time in U.S. since WWII

-Two Black Panther Party members shot dead in their sleep during a raid by Chicago Police

-Altamont Speedway Free Festival takes place at the Altamont Speedway in Northern California. Meredith Hunter murdered by a Hells Angel as the Rolling Stones perform on stage. Often viewed as the “end of the sixties

Walk This Way

An important race relations moment occurred in 1986. It was a newly-recorded version of a song called “Walk This Way,” written by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, originally recorded by Aerosmith (1975; Toys In the Attic), but in 1986 released as a record from Aerosmith and Run-DMC. The song appeared on Run-DMC’s multi-platinum album, Raising Hell.

It’s easy to see some segment of the racial divide being brought together through this song and its subsequent music video (below), but let’s consider how disproportionately-slanted the mainstream music market of 1986 was towards the white population, and who needed who more in this pairing.

Rick Rubin, co-producer of Raising Hell and co-founder of Def Jam Records, along with Jam Master Jay, DJ of Run-DMC, conjured up and sold the idea of Run-DMC remaking the song for the Raising Hell project.

The “DMC” in Run-DMC, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, initially responded to the idea as such:

“Motherf*^ker, this is hillbilly gibberish, this is f*^king bulls*^t.” (quote from Andy Greene’s 10/15/09 Rolling Stone article on “Walk This Way”)

Prior to Rubin introducing Run-DMC to the music of Aerosmith, they didn’t know who the band was.

Rubin, trying to genuinely aid the creation of progressive art, and simultaneously bring it profitably to the masses, shared the following in the above-mentioned Rolling Stone article:

“The album needed one more element. I thought there had to be a way to present this to rock fans so people would think, ‘this really isn’t that different than the kind of music I like’.”

But who was really more in need of who? The all-white rock band, or the all-black hip hop group?

From the book Are We Not Men?: Masculine Anxiety and the Problem of African-American Identity, by Phillip Brian Harper:

“…Rolling Stone critic Mark Coleman suggested that, rather than benefiting from the ‘innovative’ quality of Aerosmith’s 1970s composition, Run-DMC’s cut actually modernized the rock band, ‘dragging guest stars Steven Tyler and Joe Perry into the Eighties, kicking and screaming’….Barry Walters (1986) has made a useful point by way of explicating Rick Rubin’s claim that his black classmates were more musically ‘progressive’ than their white counterparts: ‘The music industry treats white music as an ongoing history, and black music as just the latest thing. Many record companies will keep in print the entire catalog of white acts that don’t sell big numbers and delete product by all but the biggest-selling black acts…In other words, black kids are “progressive” because they’ve got no choice. (p. 23)’.”

Was the teaming of Run DMC and Aerosmith in the mid-80s “progressive”? There’s little question that it was. But it wasn’t all roses, and is still far from it.

This combination of musical styles, forms and audiences was a big step forward to truly bringing black and white together to appreciate, respect and enjoy their diversity, while also helping all to see that the melding of the collective creativity could be enjoyable to all.

The Scapegoat

Oh, record label.

It seems to be all your fault. All your fault that we are where we are. You royally screwed it up for us, way back, and now we are left to deal with your ruin. Our industry is hurting, reeling actually, and if only you had made some different moves back in the day. If only you hadn’t invested that money, that time, those resources. If only you hadn’t done such things, we all would be way better off now.

Why were you trying to make a profit? Why were you trying to run a business? Couldn’t you see that the day would come when we wouldn’t need you anymore? When your money and services would lose their value? It would have been so much better if you had just stopped while you were ahead.

But you kept going. Artists kept coming to you. The rest of the industry continued to put their eggs in your basket, often paralyzed if you weren’t at the party.

And what was it all for? Did you really think your popularity would survive?

Did you think we would really need you in 2009?

Yes, I work at a record label. Yes, I am being extremely sarcastic. Yes, I may have somewhat of a slanted view. Yes, you may think I am crazy, old-fashioned, leaving out lots of dirty details and altogether misrepresenting history.

But, especially if you work in the industry, look me in the eyes and tell me the record labels have not played a huge role in building any sort of industry out of this crazy mess. Tell me your job is nary a result of one, or many, record labels that were in-motion far before you ever came around. Tell me about your superstar that never had label-backing.

Yeah, I know things are pretty f’d up right now, but so goes the world. Yes, I know record labels do things wrong. Keep in mind though, you don’t.

Remember, all of your decisions have been made with the purest of intent; never for money, never for career advancement, never for personal gain or fame.

As we all attempt to figure out the future, try to have some semblance of respect for a part of the equation that is still sought after, but rarely credited.

Changes in Revenue

“In 1983, CDs made the US record industry just $17.2 million. In 1984, that figure would jump to $103.3 million – an increase of more than 500 percent.”

From the book, Appetite For Self-Destruction, by Steve Knopper.

Some ten years in to the post-Napster era, I agree that there is no obvious, fatted-cash-cow on a silver platter.

Either way, hopefully some of us are still here for the music.

The Destruction of Woodstock 1999

In a lot of ways I don’t even like to give credence to any “Woodstocks” that came after the 1969 event on Max Yasgur’s farm, but in the spirit of viewing it all through reality, I can’t help but draw attention to the antics of the 1999 version. I would argue that what happened in 1999 helped permanently bring further editions of Woodstock to an end.

Allegations of rape, vendors prepared to physically defend themselves, multiple/random fires across the grounds in Rome, New York, arrests and widespread destruction of physical property. This is the legacy of Woodstock 1999.

The aforementioned seem like the “rock and roll” so often accepted and spread through culture, and the kind of “rock and roll” I want nothing to do with.

Where’s the peace and love? 

Let’s keep in mind that the 1969 event was supposed to be ticketed, but when approximately 300,000 more people showed up than expected (a la, a stampede), all bets for financial gain were off. Granted, Woodstock 1969 was pretty tame compared to 1999, but we know it wasn’t without its lack of peace and love.

If peace and love were ever meant to be part of Woodstock 1999, then I believe what happened is symptomatic of our issues. We have issues

Woodstock(s) has helped us see that despite the best intentions of some likely unrealistic hopes for mankind (some of which I do share), that we have countless underlying issues, problems, scars and wounds to deal with.

About a week ago I had this fairy tale love affair in my mind with Woodstock. Upon further inspection, I have some rethinking to do.

Deconstructing Woodstock

We’ve reminisced over the past many weeks about the “good” times associated with Woodstock. How about the flip-side of this conversation? I’ve often looked back on the event that I wasn’t even alive for through rose colored glasses and simultaneously looked over/past/around the other consequences. The other consequences that didn’t necessarily change everything for the better, and the other consequences that weren’t as important as your baby-boomer storyteller would have you believe.

From The Detroit News on August 15, 2009, John O’Neill’s article titled “Blame Woodstock for America’s cultural rifts,”

“An irony of Woodstock, both the event and the generation, is how much it had in common with the forces it pretended to oppose. Truth be told, Woodstock was a boon to corporate America. It inspired more daring advertising and personified selfish consumers.”

And from Pete Fornatale’s NY Daily News piece “Out of the mud of Woodstock grew a huge tree of greed,”

“In economic terms, Woodstock was the end of the innocence. One of the anomalies of watching the Woodstock documentary in 2009 is that there isn’t a single moment where a performer is caught performing in front of a banner promoting a beer, a car or a soft drink. It’s no coincidence. One of the ideals proffered by the festival and its participants was anti-commercialism…So it’s a Woodstock paradox that its unprecedented success did not acheive the goal of stemming the tide of commercialism and exploitation. To the contrary, it accelerated.” 

According to The Huffington Post’s Nathan Hegedus, in his story, “Why Can’t the Boomers Just Shut Up About Woodstock?

“Enough with Woodstock. Please. Put me out of this baby boomer misery. I have lived with this generation’s self-absorbed false sense of grandeur long enough. I can not take one more day of Woodstock nostalgia, of both crass commercialism and well-crafted gooey reminiscences. I can not stand another thirty years of pats on the back, of admiration for a short lived burst of rebellion forty years ago (by a small fraction of the population) followed by a systematic destruction of most things good in America.”

While I continue to stay on the Woodstock topic, it’s no longer for unbridled music history geekdom. The hope is to now learn more about reality associated with the after-effects of that weekend 40 years ago. 

A lot changed.

All we can do now is try and not let it get any worse.

U2’s “Window In the Skies”

I started this blog because I love music. If you’re one of those, you love those moments when you are reminded why you do.

I had one of those moments the first time I saw this music video, and continue to every single time…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The song is U2’s “Window In the Skies,” from the album U218 Singles. This video is 1 of 2 versions of the video released by U2, referred to as the “Modernista Version,” named from the ad agency that created it. According to a USA Today story, Bono loved Modernista’s work on the Product Red campaign, and wanted them to create this music video. The story continues,

“Getting approvals from famous musicians was a feat. But Bono nudged reps for The Beatles, Elvis and Frank Sinatra to sign on. 

A team of Modernista workers spent more than four months on the project. But it landed images of everyone from Nat King Cole to Jimi Hendrix to Frank Zappa in a wild jam-like session.”

Based on a list created by TheInspirationRoom.com, the following attempts to list, in order, those who appear in the video.

1. Frank Zappa

2. Billie Holiday

3. Simon and Garfunkel

4. Roy Orbison

5. PJ Harvey

6. Ella Fitzgerald

7. Bob Marley

8. Louis Armstrong

9. David Bowie

10. Lou Reed

11. Frank Sinatra

12. Wilco

13. Kanye West

14. Mick Jones 

15. Nat King Cole

16. Keith Moon

17. Rolling Stones

18. Nina Simone

19. Marvin Gaye

20. Janis Joplin

21. Temptations

22. Elvis Costello

23. The Ramones

24. Jimi Hendrix

25. Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl and Kurt Cobain 

26. Joe Strummer

27. Johnny Cash

28. Iggy Pop

29. Thom Yorke

30. Mary J. Blige

31. Jane’s Addiction

32. Elvis Presley

33. Al Green

34. Morrisey

35. Beck

36. Beyonce

37. Elton John

38. The Police

39. Wu Tang Klan

40. Jack White

41. Meg White

42. Keith Richards

43. Chrissie Hynde

44. Alicia Keys

45. Ray Charles

46. Little Richard

47. Clash

48. John Bonham

49. Smokey Robinson

50. Robert Plant

51. Ronnie Spector

52. Queen

53. Chuck D

54. Flava Flav

55. Jerry Lee Lewis

56. Jay-Z

57. Patti Smith

Woodstock

Woodstock was a moment in time. A moment that can not, and will not, be recreated. It is the granddaddy of all music festivals because it represented something WAY bigger than just the music, or the “experience” of a music festival.

It was the true culmination of a generation. There, on acres of upstate New York, every possible symbol and behavior, both metaphorically and literally, had conjoined to say farewell (likely unknown to most present) to a care-free way of life and one of the most pivotal decades in US history.

I watched a number of Woodstock 1999 performances online last night. I’m proud to say that’s my generation, but that wasn’t Woodstock.

Woodstock was attempted in 1979, 1989, 1994 and 1999. I am not here to say that there weren’t some killer moments/performances during these post-Woodstock festivals, but magical moments can’t be recreated.

I hope the fortieth anniversary comes and goes in peace, but if someone tries to push it through, I will do my best to be there (because it would be a lot of fun).

Instead, may I suggest Bonnaroo…

Townes Van Zandt

I figured there was heaven, purgatory, hell and the blues. I’m trying to crawl up from the blues. Purgatory would be home, sweet home.

                                                       -Townes Van Zandt

The intent of this forum was not to be depressing, but the more I dig into the topics I intended to cover, I’m realizing more and more that for every great song(s), there’s a sad story about a life that ended too soon, or one that saw too many near-fatal/suffering moments. There are a lot of martyrs in the history of music. You may not think they died for noble causes, but their stories matter.

I just finished watching a great film about Townes Van Zandt’s life called Be Here To Love Me. As the story progressed, it become more apparent that the guy never really got “his due.” He never got “his due” in terms of fame and fortune, as if those are the only things that matter. I think he liked not having them. But his story and his songs are more deserving of (at least) fame than most of the “famous” material out there.

Townes Van Zandt was one of the most obscure and under-appreciated songwriters in modern time. He has influenced (and continues to) artists from Willie Nelson to Sonic Youth to Robert Plant to Norah Jones. Townes died 44 years to the day after Hank Williams Sr. had. Hank was one of his biggest songwriting influences. Alcohol and drugs were a recurrent and major issue throughout Townes’ life. His death was labeled “natural” cardiac arrhythmia.

In 2004’s The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, Paul Evans writes,

“Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard scored a country hit [#1 in 1983 on the Billboard Country Music chart] with his “Poncho and Lefty,” a song with pervasive, dark nostalgia that encapsulates Van Zandt’s approach. A deft finger-picking guitarist and a careful lyricist, he delivered work that stands the test of time.”

Townes Van Zandt spent some time in a mental hospital during his college years. He received insulin shock treatments to help deal with what the doctors deemed manic depression. 

In the film Be Here To Love Me, Van Zandt’s sister, Donna Spence, shares about the treatments.

“Imagine just having huge blocks of who you are, wiped out…I told you my mom had a real gift for taking things the way they were. But the year she died, she told me if she could change one thing in her life, she would not have given permission for Townes to have those treatments. And I know they regretted it, and I know it cost Townes a lot of who he was.”

From Townes’ song, “Waitin’ Around To Die”:

Sometimes I don’t know where this dirty road is taking me

Sometimes I can’t even see the reason why

I guess I keep on gamblin’, lots of booze and lots of ramblin’

It’s easier than just a-waitin’ ’round to die

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