Welcome to Rock of Agers

Welcome to Rock of Agers

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Talking with Stevie Van Zandt

Steven Van Zandt is a Renaissance man. 

This term is particularly appropriate because, as he states, “I don’t have much interest in the modern world, and I don’t pretend to.” 

Nonetheless, he remains an active contributor to contemporary American culture as the host of SiriusXM’s “Little Steven’s Underground Garage,” the co-writer and star of the Lilyhammer television series (following his extended run in The Sopranos) and his longtime post in the E Street Band, as well as his work with other artists (most recently The Rascals’ Eddie Brigati). He also just completed the new studio album Soulfire and will return to the road with his own 15-piece band, Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul, following the record’s release. 

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Led Zeppelin Breaks Through with 'Whole Lotta Love'

As far as we’re concerned, any Jimmy Page sighting is a good sighting. And though we’d prefer it to be onstage or in a recording studio, we’ll take what we can get. Like this photo, for instance, of Page grinning broadly recently with a fellow whom you might not recognize. It’s the guitar legend pictured with his friend of nearly five decades, Jerry Greenberg. Who, you ask? Greenberg was named the President of Atlantic Records in 1974, at 32, the youngest president of a major U.S. record label.

Greenberg oversaw Atlantic’s day-to-day operations during what many will define as the bullseye of what we now call the classic rock era… the 1970s period that spearheaded the development of superstar rock bands like Led Zeppelin on FM radio and, er, led to huge album sales and arena and stadium tours.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Steppenwolf, Born to Be Wild, and Easy Rider

It’s truly one of the most defining moments in 1960s cinema, and the music makes it so. Peter Fonda (Wyatt, a.k.a. “Captain America”) and Dennis Hopper (Billy) are riding gleaming handcrafted choppers, somewhere in the desert. They come to a complete stop on the side of the road and we see them from behind. Captain America—stars-and-stripes flag on the back of his jacket, on his fuel tank, on his helmet—lifts his left arm to look at his watch. Billy, shades and cowboy hat, is to his right.
They say nothing. We see Wyatt remove the watch and then we see it on the desert floor. He won’t be needing it anymore. He is free from the constraints of time.
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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Classic Rock's Most Dysfunctional Bands

Music groups are a lot like families and, as the above gallery of Rock’s Most Dysfunctional Bands illustrates, they have many of the same issues as your average family.

Oh sure, it’s all fun and games at first: Musicians come together, unified by a shared love of performance. Outsized dreams put a rosy tint on any early disagreements that may crop up inside their still-developing personal relationships. (They do call it “playing” music, after all.) Once that initial rush of excitement subsides, however, underlying issues tend to bubble up.

It’s not a matter of if so much as how dysfunctional a band will become as they deal with the fame (or lack thereof) that inevitably surrounds rock and roll. What’s amazing is how the same internal issues that derail so many groups actually fuel a precious, special few. For the lucky ones, emotional tension between members actually sparks their creativity, to the point that their career actually thrives from all this drama.

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Friday, June 30, 2017

A Minute-by-Minute Breakdown of 'All You Need Is Love' Historic TV Broadcast

On June 1st, 1967, the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, boosting the sales of vintage military uniforms and further cementing their status as the biggest rock group in the world. Two weeks later, they started work on their next omnipresent musical event: participating in the Our World TV show on June 25th, employing Earth's newly constructed satellite technology to deliver a live global broadcast from locales as far-flung as "Takamatsu and Tunis."

The Beatles agreed to perform a new song as the representatives of the United Kingdom. "It was the first worldwide satellite broadcast ever," Ringo Starr said years later. "It's a standard thing that people do now, but then, when we did it, it was a first. That was exciting – we were doing a lot of firsts."

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Marvel Comics Plans Tribute to Classic Rock Album Covers

Classic album covers reimagined in the comic universe: Rocket Raccoon on Nirvana's 'Nevermind' and others.

According to their brief statement, “This September, Marvel will start the celebration of the close connection between music fans and comic readers with five Marvel Rock variant covers, straight from some of Marvel’s most acclaimed artists!”. So let’s have a glimpse on their take on arguably the most famous rock albums of past decades.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cheap Trick's Rick Neilsen's 10 Favorite Beatles' Songs

Like so many fellow musicians of a certain vintage, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick first saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.
“They completely changed music, especially in America,” says the guitarist. “They changed me, too. Until that point I was a drummer. But I became a massive fan; I had the single of Please Please Me a year before anyone else in the States had even heard of the Beatles.”
And as for picking his Top Ten by the band?
“Holy cow! That’s next to impossible; they have close to four hundred songs!”
So Rick stretched the rules a little, and we indulged him.
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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Why the Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper' Hasn't Shown Signs of Aging

The Beatles’ illustrious eighth album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” lends itself to anniversary celebrations. 

As heralded by the grouchy guitars and geriatric tempo of its title track, the central conceit of the album is that of a twentieth-anniversary concert by a once famous musical group that has returned from the oblivion of pop history to “raise a smile” on the faces of its aging, nostalgic fans. 

At the time John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote that opening number, twenty years must have seemed like an eternity to them: more than enough time for a pop sensation like the Beatles, say, to fade from living memory.

As the recent media blitz of tributes surrounding the fiftieth anniversary of “Sgt. Pepper” illustrates, the Beatles and their alter egos in the Pepper Band are still very much with us––not least because “Sgt. Pepper,” more than any other single work, was responsible for generating the aura of artistic legitimacy that would institutionalize the presence of rock music in the mainstream of modern culture. 

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Bob Seeger Songs Finally Hit Streaming Services

Bob Seger has made it through a week of streaming, and the results are in.
Songs by the Detroit artist were streamed more than 3 million times in the U.S. during his inaugural week at Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon and elsewhere, according to data from the music tracking service BuzzAngle.
"Night Moves" was his most-streamed track, followed by "Against the Wind," "Old Time Rock and Roll," "Hollywood Nights" and "Still the Same," as listeners zeroed in on vintage '70s and '80s material by Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. A top 25 chart is below.
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Monterey Pop Changed The Face of Music Forever

While there’s no denying the Woodstock festival’s epochal place in the narrative of rock ‘n’ roll, the Monterey Pop Festival is the one that really altered the way pop culture worked from then on out. In 1967, Monterey Pop represented a beginning for the hippie dream, and two years later, Woodstock ended up being more of a glorious elegy for the waning Aquarian era.

The first real rock festival, the Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival in Marin County, actually occurred a week before Monterey on June 10-11, 1967, with an equally impressive lineup. But it was the three-day Monterey fest — which kicked off on June 16 — that really caught the public’s imagination and became a catalyst for the rise of “underground” youth culture even as it definitively established rock as a medium worthy of adult treatment. At the same time, it served notice that the counterculture constituted a mass audience that could spell big money for the music biz on an unprecedented level. The 1968 documentary of the festival had more than a little to do with the mainstreaming of that notion.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Monterey Pop Proved Hippie Culture Could Be Big Business

Its organizers promised "three days of music, love and flowers," but the Monterey International Pop Festival turned out to be much more. 

Over one weekend in June 1967, Jimi Hendrix and the Who broke through to American audiences, Janis Joplin went from underground sensation to superstar, and Otis Redding won over what he called "the love crowd." 

The event set the template for all rock festivals to follow, from Woodstock to Bonnaroo. "Monterey was one of the gestation points, where it all started to creep together and become itself," says David Crosby, who played the festival with the Byrds and as a guest with Buffalo Springfield. Adds his Byrds bandmate Chris Hillman, "I don't care what people say about Woodstock – Woodstock was a nightmare. Monterey was the best rock festival ever put on."

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Can Festival 50 Years Later Recapture the Feeling of Monterey Pop?

When Norah Jones considers why she wanted to participate in the 50th anniversary revival of the Monterey International Pop Festival ­– the prototype for everything from Woodstock to Coachella – she gives an answer that sounds like something a hippie would have said a half-century ago: "It just sounded like a really good energy."

The original Monterey Pop festival – which featured Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, the Who and Jones' father, Ravi Shankar, among countless others – took place from June 16th through 18th, 1967, at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, on a stage that bore the words "Music, Love and Flowers." It drew approximately 50,000 fans each day yet there were no arrests. 

The sequel is taking place this weekend on the exact same dates and in the same place but with a lineup that features both Monterey newcomers – Jones, Jack Johnson, Leon Bridges – and some returning performers, including the Grateful Dead's Phil LeshBooker T. Jones (who backed up Redding with his group, the M.G.'s) and Eric Burdon.

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Look Back at Monterey Pop 50 Years Later

In the 21st century, destination music festivals seem like a dime a dozen. But just 50 years ago, there was only one: the Monterey International Pop Festival, which featured more than 30 artists and bands playing over the course of three days in the summer of 1967.

Monterey Pop set the template for all the huge rock festivals that would follow — Woodstock, Coachella, Bonnaroo and all the rest — and its influence would spread even further via a documentary, Monterey Pop, that was helmed by D.A. Pennebaker and would set a gold standard for concert films.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Eric Burdon's Love Song to the Monterey Pop Festival

When Eric Burdon and the Animals took the stage at the Monterey International Pop Festival on the evening of June 16, 1967—following Johnny Rivers and preceding Simon and Garfunkel—they were a vastly different group than most in the audience remembered.
The Animals had come to American listeners via the British Invasion of 1964, climbing to #1 that summer with their intense, blues-informed rendition of “The House of the Rising Sun,” a song with roots at least a century old and a subject that didn’t often find its way to the top of the pop charts: the ruin of a “poor boy” via drinking, gambling and spending too much time around the “house” of the title, generally understood to be a brothel. 
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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Bruce Springsteen Plans Intimate Broadway Residency

Bruce Springsteen will reportedly stage an intimate Broadway residency this fall as the rocker will perform eight weeks of solo concerts at New York's Walter Kerr Theatre.

"[Springsteen] wants to play a smaller house. He wants to try something more intimate, and he likes the idea of being on Broadway," a source told the New York Post of Springsteen's plans, which include five shows a week for eight weeks starting in November.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Female Artists Covering Dylan

Bob Dylan needs women. 
Not necessarily in the personal sense, although like most prominent male artists he relied on female companions' creative input and connections as he cut out his path to greatness. 
Certainly women have inspired his writing, too; his lyricism has always been most humane within his explorations of actual relationships, from his marriage to Sara Lownds to the mysterious bombshell who inspired his 1998 masterpiece about heartbreak in life's evening hours, Time Out Of Mind.
But more than in the usual heterosexual ways, Bob Dylan needs women to carry his music beyond the confines of his peerless yet technically limited voice. Sure, The Band, Jimi Hendrix and The Byrds gained commercial success and canonical status covering rock's Bard. 
But Joan Baez and Odetta gave us the most revealing dives into his songbook; Nico and Sheryl Crow delivered the finest version sanctioned by the writer himself; and right now, Joan Osborne is keeping the flame vividly alive right now with a tour that refreshes a whole program of his classics.
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Monday, June 12, 2017

'Ziggy Stardust': How David Bowie Created the Alter-Ego That Changed Rock

"What I did with my Ziggy Stardust was package a totally credible, plastic rock & roll singer – much better than the Monkees could ever fabricate," David Bowie later said of his definitive alter ego. "I mean, my plastic rock & roller was much more plastic than anybody's. And that was what was needed at the time."

In fact, what Bowie concocted on 1972's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars was more than just a fresh, clever concept. 

Ziggy was a tight and cohesive song cycle that laid out a visionary direction for pop music, setting a new standard for rock & roll theatricality while delivering his synthetic ideal with campy sex appeal and raw power.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

All 213 Beatles' Songs Ranked. Do You Agree?

At Beatles anniversary time, the stories write themselves. “It was 25/30/40 years ago today!” “The act you’ve known for all these years!” “A splendid time was guaranteed for all!” 
Last week’s 50th anniversary of the U.S. release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the most acclaimed rock album ever and the apogee of the Beatles’ cultural influence in the 1960s, is a time for all those chestnuts and more. 
But Pepper’s doesn’t make sense if it’s not put in context. And the only way to do that, given the weight of the Beatles’ presence, is to take a look at everything the band put on record over its eight-year recording career.
It turns out that ranking the songs recorded by the Beatles in the 1960s is easy; you put the worst one at the top, and the best one at the bottom.
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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Gregg Allman's Son Devon Speaks of His Dad's Musical Legacy

Devon Allman, 44, is the second oldest of the late Gregg Allman's four children, from his first marriage to Shelley Kay Jefts (who died last year). The younger Allman, who didn't get to know his father until he was a teenager, is also the most musically prolific of the five kids, leading bands such as Honeytribe and Royal Southern Brotherhood and releasing three solo efforts, including last year's Ride or Die.
Allman and his father developed a tight relationship as both family and peers over the years, and he spoke about it to Billboard as he prepares for his father's funeral this weekend.
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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Greg Allman's Southern Rock Odyssey Spanned Worlds Within Worlds

If America really is a melting pot, music is what melts first. 

Gregg Allman lived to prove that. Not long after the Allman Brothers Band first started liquefying rock, blues, country and soul into a sticky new elixir, people started calling it Southern rock.

But instead of treating it like a style, the band cultivated it like an atmosphere — with Allman, who died Saturday at 69, positioning himself as the ballast. After all of those sweltering vamps and pathfinding guitar solos, his voice was the thing that any Allman Brothers song could return home to.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Former Fellow Allman Brothers Keyboardist Chuck Leavell Praises His Departed 'Inspiration' Brother

Gregg Allman was not only a friend and brother, but he was a strong inspiration to me very early on in my career.

I used to go see the Allman Joys at the Fort Brandon Armory in Tuscaloosa, Alabama when I was a young aspiring musician of 13 and 14 years old. He mesmerized me with his talent…that incredible voice, his understated yet strong stage presence. As he developed as an artist and songwriter, I continued to follow his career…and when the Allman Brothers Band was formed, I thought…”Now they have figured it out…” That first record was ground-breaking and a new style of music, Southern Rock, was born. 

Little did I think at the time that I would be so fortunate to eventually be a part of it. I was just a fan and admirer of what he, Duane and the rest of the band had done. Opening up for the ABB in 1970 and ‘71 when I was with Alex Taylor and later with Dr. John, I would hang around after our performance and listen to them. Sometimes, when the piano I used on our set was pulled back to the back part of the stage, I would sit there at it and play along with what the ABB was doing. It was just for my own enjoyment and to try and learn…but it gave me a chance to get a feel for the incredible music they were producing.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

How Jimi Hendrix Set Black Music Artists Stone Free

“I get a kick out of playing. It’s the best part of this whole thing, and recording too. I wrote a song called ‘I Don’t Live Today,’ and we got the music together in the studio. It’s a freak-out tune. I might as well say that, ’cause everyone else is going to anyway…” – Jimi Hendrix
“Freak out” is an apt way to describe how the world reacted to Jimi Hendrix. In 1966, the rock legend arrived in London an unknown guitarist from New York City looking to establish himself as a star. 
In September, former Animals bassist-turned-music manager Chas Chandler began taking Hendrix around The Smoke, and actively recruited a band to support him, nabbing drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding. That same month, at a Cream show at Regent Street Polytechnic, Hendrix took the stage alongside that power trio to play a kinetic version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor.” After a short tour of France, The Jimi Hendrix Experience were signed to Track Records by Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert, managers of The Who.
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Saturday, May 13, 2017

50 Years Ago: We First Get to Experience Jimi Hendrix

Released in May 1967 in the U.K. and three months later in the U.S., the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Are You Experienced was a game changer. After hearing the album for the first time, what guitarist doesn’t think, “Oh s—, what do I do now?”

There’s more than just standard Chuck Berry riffing going on here and more than Dave Davies-style power chords. Hendrix developed a whole new language for the electric guitar, a language that, all these years later, is still being translated by generation after generation of hopeful guitar heroes.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

It Was 40 Years Ago Today: Recording 'Exile on Main Street'

"You don't get a take till Keith starts looking at Charlie and moving nearer to him, and then Bill gets up out of his chair and stands up. Then it transforms into the Rolling Stones," says Andy Johns, the engineer who recorded much of the Stones' Exile on Main Street almost four decades ago. 

"The rest of the time, it's just rubbish. But if Bill gets out of his chair, and Keith's looking at Charlie, you know you're getting pretty close. And it goes from 'What the hell is this?' to 'Fucking hell!' It's an off-planet experience." 

Though Johns' résumé as engineer and producer includes more than 200 projects, with Number One albums stretching all the way from Led Zeppelin IV to Godsmack's IV, he has never quite escaped that sweltering basement in the South of France, with Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Mick Taylor, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts — still young and lithe, shirtless and sweating — grinding out limping, out-of-tune versions of songs in progress over and over and over again, until the Rolling Stones suddenly materialized. 

Then again, the Stones have never quite escaped it either.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Led Zeppelin Albums Ranked

Led Zeppelin, the original hammer-swinging band of rock gods, is back—and all it took was Chris Hemsworth to pull it off. (Or is that Liam?) The English supergroup of the 1970s is now the supergroup for the 21st-century superhero set, with its stomping 1970 classic “Immigrant Song” powering the Thor: Ragnarok trailer to record downloads and entering the Billboard charts for the first time since its release. (There’s also a rumor swirling that Zeppelin may reunite for this summer’s Desert Trip Festival.)
Before it soundtracked a Marvel movie trailer, of course, “Immigrant Song” was the opening track from Led Zeppelin’s 1970 monument, Led Zeppelin III, with Robert Plant’s banshee wail heralding a new era of hard rock and metal. 
For all its innovation and impact, though, few fans rank Led Zeppelin III as the band’s finest hour. But now that it’s back on the air and seducing a new generation of listeners, perhaps it’s the perfect time to revisit the group’s catalogue and sort it out for an audience eager to explore Zeppelin’s legendary 11-year recording career.
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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sgt. Pepper to Be Celebrated

PBS will join the 50th anniversary celebration surrounding the Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band next month by airing a BBC documentary offering a look behind the scenes of the album’s creation and cultural legacy.

Titled Sgt. Pepper’s Musical Revolution and scheduled for a June 3 debut, the hour-long special promises “material never before accessible outside of Abbey Road Studios, including recordings of studio chat between band members and isolated instrumental and vocal tracks” while revealing “the nuts and bolts of how the album came together” and offering “insights into the choices made by the Beatles and George Martin.”

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Monday, May 8, 2017

It's Only Rock and Roll: Ranking All 374 Stones Songs

Time doesn’t apply to the Rolling Stones quite like it does to other rock bands. Their longevity is staggering — this band has been around for 55 years. Fifty-five years! 
Founding members Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Charlie Watts have been hitched to each other for far longer than the vast majority of marriages last — longer than a lot of lives last, too.
That staying power is an incredible achievement, and it also has a distorting effect. If you’re a fan of the Stones, it’s hard not to always compare them with their glorious 1968 to 1972 peak, when they fully assimilated all their blues, rock-and-roll, R&B, and country influences and turned it into something decadent, dark, ironic, sexy, and wholly their own. 
That leaves 45 ensuing years of gradually declining cultural relevance and, if we’re being honest, more mediocre music than good, and a seemingly ceaseless parade of product — compilation albums, concert films, live albums, and, recently, the traveling “Exhibitionism” display of band memorabilia. In 2017, it seems equally reasonable to think of the Rolling Stones as rock gods or greedy dinosaurs. Either characterization, though, is inadequate.
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Friday, May 5, 2017

10 Great Power Pop Songs

Sure, classic rock fans love pop music – but they prefer it with a little extra punch. So, we’ve created the Top 10 ‘Power Pop’ Rock Songs, in honor of the 35th anniversary of a significant year in the subgenre: 1978. 

This was the year that Cheap Trick released the masterpiece ‘Heaven Tonight’ and played their legendary shows at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan (although the resulting live album wouldn’t hit the U.S. until ’79). It was the year that the Cars released their classic, self-titled debut, along with its three hit singles. And 1978 marked the founding of the Knack, who would land a power pop blockbuster the following year.

Although the phrase “power pop” had been coined in the ’60s (thank you, Pete Townshend) and the style would remain strong for decades to come (hello Fountains of Wayne and Matthew Sweet), the period between the early-’70s and early-’80s contains power pop’s strongest tunes. Here are 10 gems from that era.

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

The History Behind CSN&Y's 'Ohio'

On May 4, 1970, National Guardsmen squared off against anti-war demonstrators on the campus of Ohio’s Kent State University.

The student protest was sparked by President Richard Nixon’s announcement on April 30 that U.S. troops would invade Cambodia, escalating the already unpopular war in Vietnam.

The deadly confrontation that followed would become known as the Kent State Massacre, and was immortalized in one of rock’s greatest protest songs, “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

60s/70s Song for Sunday: 'Aqualung' by Jethro Tull

I was never a big fan of Ian Anderson or Jethro Tull.

But I loved this song, especially the guitar solo and the energy it generates. It was on heavy play rotation during my college years at Villanova University and I did see the band once live in concert.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Little Steven, Springsteen Reverse Roles

On the day Little Steven Van Zandt chose to discuss “Soulfire,” his first solo album in 18 years, longtime pal and E Street leader Bruce Springsteen released the furiously anti-Trump rocker, “That’s What Makes Us Great,” a song more scathing than any in the Boss’ catalog.
“You’re making news with me,” says Van Zandt, chuckling as he confesses to not having heard the version (the song was written by Joe Grushecky) or even that his friend was up to such harsh political rhetoric. “It’s funny and ironic considering that he and I have pretty much switched places from where we both started — him being the more moderate socially concerned one and me being the more direct, specifically political one back then. We have definitely reversed roles.”
The Boston-born, honorary New Jersey-an (as much for his time acting on HBO’s “The Sopranos” as Springsteen’s de facto bandleader and occasional co-producer) spent the 1980s making some of rock’s most furiously and politically charged music with 1982’s Men Without Women and 1984’s Voice of America, both precursors to Van Zandt’s 1985 creation of the music-industry activist group Artists United Against Apartheid (U2, Pete Townshend, and Bob Dylan were but three of its members) and the battle cry “Sun City” with the South African Sun City resort as its primary target.
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