Rock Hall 2020

A couple of weeks ago the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted its Class of 2020. T. Rex, The Doobie Brothers, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Whitney Houston and the Notorious B.I.G. Wow. Let’s sample some of that breadth.

Marc Bolan and T. Rex were credited with launching glam rock, and this video of their biggest hit “Bang a Gong” shows off some satin and glitter in a sea of other 1971 styles. And who’s that sitting in on keyboards? Someone who would set new standards for glam himself, Elton John!

Joan Jett covered T. Rex’s “Jeepster” for the tribute album AngelHeaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan and T. Rex. The album was released this past September, in time for the band’s Rock Hall induction, and Joan did a pandemic performance on The Late Late Show to show it off.

Depeche Mode got off the ground with their first U.K. top ten hit “Just Can’t Get Enough” in 1981. In 1984 they achieved their greatest single hit, “People Are People”, and 1989’s Violator was their masterpiece and top charting album. Here’s a video of “People Are People” and Johnny Cash’s cover of Violator’s “Personal Jesus”.

Whitney Houston scored three #1 singles from her eponymous 1984 debut album, including “How Will I Know” with a synth intro worthy of a Depeche Mode track.

One of the best selling singles of all time was Whitney’s “I Will Always Love You” recorded for the movie The Bodyguard. The song was written and recorded by Dolly Parton nearly 20 years earlier. Since Whitney’s soaring chorus is burned into your memory, here’s Dolly’s original.

Tainted Love

A friend and reader turned me on to a great musical arc that is right in Music Now & Then’s wheelhouse. Thanks, David!

In 1964, Motown singer Gloria Jones recorded “Tainted Love”. The song was a B-side and didn’t get much attention (nor did the A-side), but in the early 1970’s it started to turn up in British “Northern Soul” dance clubs.

Marc Almond, half of the synthpop duo Soft Cell, heard the song in such a club and made it part of Soft Cell’s live sets after the group formed in 1977. When Soft Cell released the song as a single in 1981, it catapulted the band to fame. It was a No. 1 hit in 17 countries (No. 8 in the U.S.), and spent a then record 43 weeks in the top 100.

The song was later covered by an unlikely collection of musical acts ranging from Marilyn Manson to Pussycat Dolls. Check out this article for a sampling. The Soft Cell version was also the driving sample for Rihanna’s first #1 single in the U.S., “SOS”, released in 2006. Believe it or not, this video has been viewed 115 million times.

If you have another five minutes, hear the story of “Tainted Love” as told by Gloria Jones herself, and learn about her relationship with one of last week’s 2020 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees.

Unpacking Jack White’s Set on SNL

Jack White was the musical guest on last night’s Saturday Night Live, and in a possessed six-minute performance he threaded together a full century of music history of mixed genres, as only this musicologist can. The performance starts with lines from the “Don’t Hurt Yourself” collaboration he did with Beyoncé for her Lemonade album, shifted into “Ball and Biscuit” from the White Stripe’s Elephant album, and quoted lyrics from Blind Willie Johnson’s “Jesus is Coming Soon”, a 1928 gospel song about the Spanish Flu epidemic.

So, here you go with the SNL performance, followed by Beyoncé’s “Don’t Hurt Yourself”, a live performance of “Ball and Biscuit”, and the original “Jesus is Coming”. The full lyrics to Johnson’s song are straight out of today’s headlines.

White’s second performance last night included a nod to Eddie Van Halen, who passed away on Tuesday. White played his own tune “Lazaretto” on an EVH brand guitar, and did some “tapping” at 2:40 – the stylistic touch Van Halen perfected if not invented.

50 Years On – Jimi and Yusuf

It was 50 years ago Friday that Jimi Hendrix died in London, a bit shy of his 28th birthday.  Jimi’s rapid rise from obscurity to stardom spanned little more than a year.  He had moved to New York in 1966 where Chas Chandler, bass player for The Animals looking for new artists to produce, saw Hendrix playing in a club with his band Jimmy James and the Blue Flames.  Chandler brought Hendrix to London in September of that year. Chas was especially taken with Hendrix’s cover of “Hey Joe”, and in December 1966 the song was released as the first single by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, reaching #6 on the UK charts.  While Jimi’s fame in Europe was exploding in early 1967, his reputation had not reached the States, that is until he played the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967.  Here is a clip of The Jimi Hendrix Experience playing “Hey Joe” at Monterey.

The Experience’s set at Monterey is one of the most mesmerizing rock and roll performances ever given. I highly recommend tracking down the documentary by D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hedges that includes the entire set. Here’s the trailer to whet your musical appetite.

A couple of months after Jimi’s death, Yusuf Islam, then known as Cat Stevens, released his breakthrough album Tea for the Tillerman. This past Friday Yusuf released Tea for the Tillerman 2, on which he gives some of the original tracks fresh treatments for their 50th anniversaries. Thanks for the tip, Helga!

One of the most interesting updates is “On the Road to Find Out”. It is not one of his better known songs, so the arrangement and video allow you to approach it as a brand new piece of music. Check out the Tillerman 2 version and a live performance of the original from 1971.

Anacostia Delta: The Legacy of DC’s TeleMasters

The documentary Anacostia Delta: The Legacy of DC’s TeleMasters will be released this coming Friday.   If you love the electric guitar, get this movie.  If you want to see electric guitar played as good as it can be played, get this movie.

Anacostia Delta will clue you in to the careers of the late Danny Gatton, one of his major influences, the late Roy Buchanan, and DC’s rich guitar scene that extends to this very day.

Read my 2013 post on Gatton to see some of his virtuosity.   The best there ever was.  And enjoy this solo jam pulled from the 1971 documentary Introducing Roy Buchanan, a movie that helped take his career to the next level.

In addition to historical clips, Anacostia Delta is anchored in footage from a 2015 concert at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia (I was there).   Here’s a bootleg of a full line up of DC guitar legends playing the jazz standard, “How High the Moon.

If you want to kick back for awhile and hear more incredible guitar playing, check out this 1993 show featuring Gatton, Albert Lee and Vince Gill.   Lee and Gill are two more of the best guitarists ever to walk the planet.