American Pie is undoubtedly Don McLean’s most recognized song. The epic 1970’s tale of the demise of an era that charts the ideals of the optimistic 1950s through into the darker 1960s resonated with the Baby Boomer audience and ensured the song reached #1 or #2 in nearly every country around the world. In Britain the American Pie album remained amongst the top charting albums for an astounding 54 weeks.
Last month I shared the first single release from Wairunga, the (as then) unreleased album from Fat Freddy’s Drop. The full album was released a few weeks ago and I have had it playing in the background for the last few days. Why in the background?, because I find it the perfect ambient music to work to (although I admit to having blasted the album at a healthy volume a good few times).
I have sometimes wondered how the Violent Femmes career would have panned out if they hadn’t decided to busk where they did on the 23rd August 1981. The spot they had chosen just happened to be where Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders were going to be performing later that day. Pretenders guitarist, James Honeyman-Scott, heard the band and was impressed, as was Chrissie Hynde who invited the them to play an acoustic set after the opening act that night.
I watched a documentary over the weekend about that controversial musical invention; the Auto-Tune®. My knee-jerk reaction to songs that have been auto-tuned has always been negative, but that was challenged when some of the facts behind the invention and its use emerged. This morning I was inspired to find out more info about this contentious software and spent a couple of productive research hours putting my highly tuned ducks in a row before embarking on this article.
Harry Raab (or Harry ‘The Hipster’) was rocking and rolling decades before Elvis. He was a genius at the piano, master of boogie woogie, Dixieland, bop, blues, classical, ragtime, stride, Bach, and styles of his own. He composed songs that got his records banned from radio stations…drugs, adultery, drinking, murder, and frantic freaks, they were all included. What a man!
It is unsurprising that there have been so many covers of the Blind Faith classic ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’ over the years. It is such a good song. The SecondHandSongs.com site alone lists 70 versions and I am I ascertained that there are even more out there. Why today’s fascination for a 51-year-old song that I’ve already featured three versions of over the years? The answer is Rachel Price, that beautiful Aussie/USA Jazz Blues singer from Lake Street Dive (whom I featured recently)
Today I am featuring three South African musicians of varying styles and all of exceptional talent. Two of them are from the same era and have been a part of the local music scene for decades. The third is a much younger, lovely man who hails from the South Coast of Kwa Zulu Natal. The three songs all hit my suggested clips over the past week so I thought it a good time to go local.
I often wake up with a song on my mind and have no idea what sparked the memory. Today I woke up with a whole selection of songs, all from an album that I have not heard in years, Donovan’s debut LP ‘What’s Been Did and What’s Been Hid’. It was released in 1965 and featured his first huge hit (and song that any guitar newbie learned at the time) Catch the Wind, and became a pretty special record in my life.
I received the heads-up about St Vincent’s 7th studio album, Daddy’s Home, in May and have been meaning to take a listen for the last few weeks. Today I did, and I reached the same conclusion as I did with her albums St Vincent and Masseduction, so much cleverness needs more than a cursory play.
I don’t avidly follow the Got Talent franchise but when something interesting pops up on my YouTube suggestions I put reservations aside and take a listen. A group I never expected to see in the AGT line-up recently was Gangstagrass. I’ll tell you why…
While YouTubing a few nights ago I came across a clip of one of my musical heroes that I hadn’t seen before at a series of events that was immediately added to my bucket list. The Jamm Jam events are a part of the Jamcard network. Jamcard is a social network for music professionals to let the music fraternity know availability and the movements of virtually any full-time music professional. Their website is pretty interesting for those interested.
We received the sad news of the passing of Colin Shamley this week. Although Colin’s wasn’t a well known name to many, he was a leading voice during the apartheid years of South African music and well known, particularly on the folk music scene of the 70s.
It has been one of those weeks that left me feeling emotionally, creatively and spiritually drained and I think some serious cheering up is in order. The stand-out laugh of the week came when my long-suffering housemate shared a surprising version of William Shatner (yep, Captain Kirk himself) ‘singing’ Pulp’s huge hit ‘Common People’.
My brother sent me a heads-up about an album a few days ago. The musicians recorded it under the name Equador, and I was happy to uncover that Equador is the brainchild of the uber-talented Henry Binns (of Zero 7 fame) and his lovely wife, the Lady Catherine Anna Brudenell-Bruce (daughter of the Earl of Cardigan), otherwise known as Bo Bruce.
A South African band that truly deserve the recognition they received is Henry Ate, the hitmaking outfit founded and headed by vocalist Karma-Ann Swannepoel and Julian Sun. From the duo’s first live appearance at Wings Beat Bar in Johannesburg in 1995, they went on to become one of the country’s biggest hit machines, holding their own on the charts against the slew of international acts over the years.
I’m glad I am late to the party regarding some musicians. It gives a better sense of perspective of the artist when you have a collection of work to draw from, and the amount of work that Imogen Heap has put out since she started writing songs as a 13-year-old is nothing short of phenomenal. Not only in the world of album releases, but in everything from theatre, film and TV compositions, music production and engineering, talks and lectures, and some groundbreaking inventions and innovations to boot.
Today, i’m featuring three songs from the 1970s that cover the same theme – gender bending. I was a young gay man when these songs hit the charts, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The gay community of the time lapped them up, which is understandable, but the popularity wasn’t restricted to the underground minority and went on to become international hits.
Hip-Hop can be a polarizing topic amongst older music-lovers. I always found that British Hip-Hop tends to be more melodic and easier on the ear than its American counterpart. Although pure Hip Hop and RAP are not be my favourite genre, their impact is undeniable. The genre outlived trend status and has been incorporated into numerous musical styles.