My friend, Art Fein, is a well-known chronicler of music and pop culture and has asked me to contribute to his ever-growing website http://www.sofein.com/ The following is on his current homepage (Dec '04)
FIRST RECORD / FIRST CONCERT
Disney records just don't count, right? You can't be talkin' 'bout no Peter Pan or 101 Dalmatians no matter how good the songs actually were..for what they were. SO...the first rock'n'roll record I got was Rick Nelson's Decca album, "For You" with Fool's Rush In on it. It's amazing that it was an LP as opposed to a single..but I asked my mom for that song and she obliged. Fools Rush in was the track Ricky and band mimed to at the end of the Ozzie and Harriet show and it definitely tripped my young monkey nerve. When I listen to that album now (and I think it was divine providence when it got re-issued on cd), the cool phrasing and smooth vibe against the really jumping tracks still work for me. The balance he hit between the early rockabilly/country feel and the glossy pop/LA rock is masterful in it's execution while still being as innocent as all rock 'n' roll was at the time. It was only a month or two later that my mom brought me the 45 of The Beatles first Capitol single that changed the whole world.. But Ricky was first. As for the first concert.. I was ridiculously young when I was allowed to go to a concert at the college arena with my neighbor Don and his older sister.. I was only in the third grade. Laurie, who was only a few years older than we were, was supposed to be looking after us but, as I remember, we ran all over the auditorium and only occasionally actually sat and listened to the music. That kind of loose parenting just isn't commonplace these days but that was a different time. Back to the show..it was a Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars. I've tried, over the years, to find a list of the whole lineup because the memory starts to go.. But the acts I distinctly remember making an impression on my young mind were The Supremes and The Crystals. I'm thinking that Lou Christie was on the bill as well too but, the acts just kept a'comin' and I was REALLY young. The Supremes closed the show with Baby Love which caused near-pandemonium. The girls were all screaming like it was a Beatles concert which puzzled my young mind because, as I understood it, the girls usually screamed at the boys. Real life is full of grey areas and figuring out that the screaming for a hit song was just that and not a sexual preference matter was a mind-expanding occurrence! Seeing The Supremes in those shiny dresses singing a song that everyone knew from the radio was over-the-top excitement for me..and my first concert "moment". Two or three years later, Paul Revere and the Raiders came through town on another Dick Clark package show and I remember SO many more details about that show.. I was older and a dedicated music fan by sixth grade! But seeing The Supremes was the first time I felt swept up in that kind of feeling. Thanks for asking, Art! Bill
The Stones and The Who Get A Makeover (Sept '02)
Since the advent of compact discs in the mid-80's, nearly every “significant” artist in the classic rock genre has had their career painstakingly chronicled and recycled on cd. Boxed sets and career retrospectives have spewed forth for years now accompanied by rare out-takes, mono and stereo mixes, surround-sound 5.1 mixes, tons of photos and session notes. Anthology upon anthology.
Conspicuously absent from this kind of scrutiny and celebration has been the early Rolling Stones catalog (everything up until 1971’s Sticky Fingers ) and the very first Who album, The Who Sing My Generation. In one big gulp, the wait is over!
The story of The Who's debut is worth a good ten minutes in an episode of “Behind the Music”. Producer Shel Talmy (who also recorded the early Kinks records) held onto the master tapes for years, keeping both The Who and their label from remixing their 1966 debut for stereo. Now with a deal finally struck, they did it right. This means that when you plunk down the cash for the new Deluxe Edition My Generation, you’re getting the complete UK and US albums in true stereo for the first time as well as a load of bonus tracks that came from singles and EP’s of that era. The packaging is also “deluxe” with all the extras music fans have come to expect once a long-awaited treasure like this is finally made available. The sad and surprising passing of John Entwhistle a couple of months ago adds a lump to the throat while listening.
The Who were a band in transition during their first studio sessions. Having made a name for themselves as a club attraction playing “Maximum R’n’B” in London’s Marquee Club, the album is full of soul and blues covers by James Brown, Muddy Waters and Motown acts. Pete Townshend’s original material, however, was already developing the style that made them Who they are.. that combination of raw power with strong melody and hooks. He did, after all, coin the phrase “power pop”. My first listen to the newly released full length version of “The Good’s Gone” in stereo literally caused my jaw to drop. More familiar, titles on the disc include “My Generation”, “I Can’t Explain” and “Anyhow, Anywhere, Anyway”. Who fans take note.. go get it .. now.
The remastering of the early Stones albums was also a long time coming. While their albums have long been available in a cd format, both the sound and packaging left much to be desired.. especially considering their stature. The wait seems to be worth it. These new editions have been remastered with obvious care and attention. The discs themselves are dual layered for both regular cd players and the new Super Audio CDs at no extra cost to the consumer.
This new Rolling Stones reissue program re-releases a staggering twenty-two albums dating back as far as 1964’s England’s Newest
For hardcore Stones fans, several albums are made available in both their US and UK counterparts (Aftermath , Out of Our Heads and Between the Buttons ) where track selection is different. The more casual fan will probably want to check out the Hot Rocks and More Hot Rocks compilations that gather more hits in one place. For collectors, both
The early Stones albums show off their blues, soul and country influences. Those influences are apparent in Mick and Keith’s songs, but especially in the many covers they recorded. Early albums featured just as many songs by folks like Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke and Willie Dixon as they did Jagger/Richard compositions. It wasn’t until 1966’s Aftermath that The Rolling Stones had an album of nothing but original material. While the latter albums from the late 60’s hinted at what became the classic Stones sound of the 70’s through now, the early records show an impressive variety of style. Their ‘66-’67 era pop material like “Ruby Tuesday” and “Paint It Black” sound fabulous as well.
Consumer notice : the older cds that predate this series have writing at the bottom of the cd front covers saying “Digitally Remastered From Original Sound Recordings”. While this was stretching the truth in 1987 (they didn’t use the original source tapes ), don’t be misled. You’ll spot the difference once you see the packages... and certainly if you play them next to the new ones!
It’s not hard to say good things about either The Rolling Stones or The Who that hasn’t been proven a hundred times over by their impact on pop culture or their many levels of success. It’s harder to convince music fans that they should go buy all those records a second (or third) time. I have to report that, in all honesty, the improvements made in sound and in packaging make me want to “save up” like I did as a young teen and buy ‘em all... all over again. I can’t give any higher praise than that.
A Hard Days Night (Movie Review Dec. '01)
The Beatles are everywhere this holiday season. Their “Anthology” book is a best seller and their “One” cd is at the top of the charts. Can’t get enough? “A Hard Days Night”, their 1964 film debut, is now making its way to your multiplex for the first time since.. Multiplexes. Seeing the lads thirty feet high in this amazingly sharp restored print will bring it all back for longtime fans. Novices can discover the humor, the joyful irreverence and a dozen of those timeless songs that, simply, changed everything.
The Beatles, themselves, insisted on making a “proper” film instead of the typical Elvis / beach party fare of the time. That decision raised the standard for every rock movie since. When director, Richard Lester, was given an award twenty years later by MTV as the “father of the music video”, he flippantly demanded a blood test. Few pop star vehicles work this kind of magic. Lester helped popularize techniques like hand-held camera, non-linear cuts and quick edits. Mixed with The Beatles’ natural personalities and music, the film broke preconceptions and proved there was more going on than haircuts. It’s been called the “Citizen Kane of jukebox movies”. Maybe so.. but it’s still unpretentious fun.
The improved print returns to the original mono soundtrack heard in theaters in the ‘60’s as opposed to the mid-’80’s video release in stereo. The truly hardcore fans can hear song mixes not found on any records. Catching the nuances can be a treat.
Despite the obvious marketing blitz (new book, new cd, and a couple of dubious, made for tv, movies..), “A Hard Days Night” is a must-see because it captures The Beatles’ wise-ass charm so perfectly and helps explain why they are still at the “toppermost of the poppermost” for several generations.