I'm having way too much fun putting old Retroactive playlists on my website.
If I've done anything worthwhile in almost sixteen years of hosting the show, it is keeping things fresh. There are certain artists that are going to get played a lot--especially when they have a new album. But when it comes to the older music by an artist, I'm proud to say that I don't stick to just a few favorite songs, or one album, or even one era.
More about the history of the radio show another time. Right now, I'm just listing a
few fun or inspirational song titles that have surfaced in the process of getting these goodies online:
Betty Bryant--I Can't Walk Like Tina Turner
Ethan Daniel Davidson--Support the War on Nashville
The Crabs--She Is a Titan
The Clean--In the Dreamlife You Need a Rubber Soul
The Monolators--Santa Claus vs. Dave Matthews
Percy Sledge--True Love Travels on a Gravel Road
Jona Lewie--God Bless Whoever Made You
"Back in the day, Jimmy Reed, Howlin' Wolf, Little Richard, Joe Turner--they were all considered Rock'n'Roll. Nowadays, people just think of it as Blues, but back then, it
was the equivalent of the Ramones or Metallica."
--Nick Curran, interviewed by Matt Collar in the All Music Guide
It's that attitude that helps to make Nick Curran & the Lowlifes' Reform School Girl (Eclectogroove Records), the hottest, best album I've heard in this young year. To tell you the truth, today's Blues recordings move me less and less, but this one somehow combines an ancient sound (Curran plays a Kramer guitar on several tracks) with a blistering, modern approach, and I'm waiting to see who has the guts to put Reform School Girl on the air. Maybe the AC/DC cover version will get him some airplay, but this record can't be pinned down by any one track. My first choice on my radio show was "Baby You Crazy."
I've been following Curran's stuff for a few years now (he's 32 years old) and it was a great article. He talks about getting past tongue cancer (which he says was just a matter of changing his diet, although it had to be a good deal more traumatic than the quiet manner in which he disclosed the info), playing with the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and recording his latest album.
Somehow, I don't envision the rip roaring Reform School Girl getting on those rather staid NPR Blues shows, but I hope I'm dead wrong about that.
It was really good to hear my pal Dave Amara on WCSX/Detroit's online "Deep Trax" (HD2) this week, talking about the band he loves, Badfinger. Dave did an hour with the station's veteran host John O'Leary, where they played the British group's hits and misses and gave us a little lesson about what's thrilling and humbling about the music biz (and where the "finger" part comes in).
Just about every fan of old Rock'n'Roll can sum up Badfinger's history in two sections:
1. Commercially successful music that brightened the U.S. airwaves from 1970-72
and 2. Utter despair, resulting in the tragic deaths of Pete Ham and Tom Evans. Dave gave a lot of details and put the songs in a time frame that was easy to follow. Badfinger's smashes still sound terrific, and if you haven't played the individual albums lately, many of those tracks are better than we remember.
Now I'm the first one to put down bands that have re-recorded some of their hits for labels like K-Tel or Madacy; Dave and John actually put one of those tracks on the air. It was fascinating in an absurd sort of way, because Dave explained why the remaining group members would take this step backward: It was part of the deal with a company that would allow them to return to a recording studio and cut new material. I hadn't thought of that before, and came away with a better understanding of how artists, just like anybody struggling, do what they have to do sometimes.
The hour of Badfinger music has been repeated and will probably will be on again, so check out 'CSX, how "Deep Trax" is set up, and you'll be ready when it runs once more. It's one really gear presentation.
An Olympics (or NBC) related comment on the radio...
This one comes from a Canadian nighttime jock: "Since Bob Costas is basically the main host (of NBC's Winter Olympics coverage), I can only assume that Jay Leno wants
On the Winter Olympics, being held in Vancouver, B.C.:
Hey, didn't Canada's national anthem used to be "O Canada"? I think it was changed to
Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" when I wasn't paying attention.
"Young kids always ask me what my style is derirved from and how it evolved and all that. But if you find a tune and it's got something to do with you, you don't have to evolve anything. You just feel it, and when you sing it, other people can feel something, too."
*Lady Day was talking to Rosemary Clooney, and this quote is taken from Clooney's
autobiography Girl Singer, written with Joan Barthel (Doubleday, 1999).
Although I wish Pete Seeger would have been there, the Thursday night PBS program
"In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights
Movement" was a soul stirring reminder of how music can help change the world. And that we need new anthems and new energy because of the endless conflict the U.S. is
immersed in, both internally and around the globe.
The best moments were truly transcendent, and even the hasty editing (the concert was taped the night before) couldn't botch that. Why only sixty minutes alloted to something this important? There were a lot more music and performers who were left out of the Thursday night broadcast (Seal, Queen Latifah).
But what a show it was. Thankfully, one of the speakers (it might have been Bernice Johnson Reagon, before her song) reminded the audience--and President Obama--that Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke tirelessly against the Vietnam war, not only on race relations strife in the U.S. Smokey Robinson, who turns 70 in a few days, sang a sobering "Abraham, Martin and John." Joan Baez brought everyone together with "We Shall Overcome." John Mellencamp remembered his early band with a black vocalist ("they loved him--when he was onstage, that is") and did a rocking version of "Eyes On the Prize."
So many memorable artists packed into 60 minutes--the Blind Boys of Alabama,
Jennifer Hudson, Bob Dylan (a rough but beautiful trio version of "The Times They
Are A-Changin' "), and yes, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" made its appearance. I questioned why "How Great Thou Art" was performed (a fabulous hymn nevertheless) but my wife Gina reminded me, "Where do you think the strength of the movement comes from?"
Here's the weird editing part: Before Yolanda Adams' "A Change Is Gonna Come,"
Obama told the audience that the first verse was inspired by Dylan's "Blowin' In the Wind" while the third verse was based on the hatred author Sam Cooke felt when he attempted to check into a hotel in the U.S. South. But no third verse was shown on TV,
the powerful "I go to the movie/and I go downtown/somebody keep telling me,
'don't hang around' "--a really serious omission, courtesy of the editors.
Reminds me a little of a former KAOS broadcaster who would occasionally air various tracks from a live album by Roger McGuinn, who spoke about the songs after he performed them, meaning that the listener would be hearing McGuinn reminisce about tunes that weren't even getting airplay on that show.
Well, that's minor and this flub is substantially bigger; they'd better get it right (and include all the other goodies we missed) if a DVD of "A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement" becomes available.
Perhaps we shouldn't give a rip about some of the indulgent, naughty interviews that
John Mayer has been giving to Rolling Stone and Playboy lately, but it's been widely reported that he had to apologize for a racial slur this week.
Dangerous stuff, those slurs, and I hope he apologizes for the non-important, tacky details he's been throwing out there as well. I'm not interested in reading that "I'm so significant--let me tell you about my sex life" drivel. Sadly, this type of disease has
infiltrated American culture lately.
This only matters because Mayer is a talented songwriter and guitarist (and a sort of acquired taste as a vocalist--some find his style annoying) who managed to sneak "Waiting On the World to Change" to the top of the charts a few years back. Mayer was vague enough about his criticism of world leaders, including Bush II, that it eluded all the radio censors, who seem to think that socio-political pop is obscene. Modeling "Waiting On the World to Change" after Curtis Mayfield's '60s work with the Impressions (think "People Get Ready" and "I'm So Proud") was a masterstroke, insuring that Mayer wasn't merely ranting.
So why does this guy's intelligence vanish during interviews?
Who's to say which sounds the dumbest on the radio, outright poor English, or using a word you don't know to pronounce (these are actual examples):
Overnight DJ: "That's about the fakest applause you could ever have."
Or, a doctor on an infomercial using the word "panoply." I knew this word from the context in which it was used, but looked up the definition: "any complete or magnificent covering or array."
As you probably know, panoply is a three syllable word, with the accent on the first syllable. But this "doctor" used four syllables--he made it sound like "monopoly."
Half of the Who, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, turned in a spirited performance at Sunday's Super Bowl halftime show, and I'm sure that there will be some youngtimers griping that Rock is now officially dead, since Townshend is 64 years old and Daltrey 65. Meanwhile, corporate writers/bloggers are busy making snotty comments and tapping their keg of cliches to belch out "the Rock'n'Roll Nursing Home that comes to the Super Bowl every year" and all that.
The show was a better than decent presentation because I wasn't looking for them to breathe fire--were you? Not only did the camera work effortlessly shift back and forth between Townshend and Daltrey, giving viewers more than one focal point, but having their superb, young looking drummer (I read later that it was Zak Starkey, Ringo's son)
in many of the shots was a smart move. The songs still rank as some of the best ever, and still inspire generations other than mine. Young people dig classic rock, too.
Besides, I'm happy if this means that Steve Miller is seething, ready to motivate his lobbyists to garner the halftime show for him in 2011. I've read or heard Miller putting down the Who about their days of smashing their instruments on more than one occasion, as if it never dawned on him that they stopped destroying their equipment long ago. Oh yeah, and then going on to create The Who Sell Out, Who's Next and Quadrophenia, not to mention some impressive solo material.
In fact, that brief folk-rock fade over Keith Moon's rolling drums at the end of "Pinball Wizard" is more creative than all of Steve Miller's records put together. Nice job, Pete and Roger. Their next series of shows will include performing Quadrophenia
in its entirety to benefit the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Addendum: There are some nasty bloggers out there ripping the Who about this show. Of course they're not going to sound as if this were the '60s and '70s--none of the songs done on Sunday were slowed down or lowered in key, by the way. This was hardly "an embarrassment"--it sounded like passionate, quality Rock'n'Roll, warts and all.
If the NFL continues this trend of mega star, white male acts doing halftime at the Super Bowl, we're likely to get Corporation Eagles or Bon Jovi's lowest common denominator, sing-a-long swill next year. Or Steve Miller. That would be embarrassing.