June 3 – The Turntable Talk, Round 3 – So Did We Need Our MTV…Or Just Want It?

Today we wrap up our third instalment of Turntable Talk, where we’re happy to have some fellow music fans and writers weigh in on music subjects. Hopefully you were able to take a look at our first couple of topics, Why we’re still talking about the Beatles, and then the Pros and Cons of Live Albums. Today, we start asking “Did Video Kill the Radio Star?” The Beatles began making music videos as early as about 1966, and Britain had a few TV shows featuring videos weekly in the ’70s but in the ’80s, the form took flight with the appearance of MTV and all-day videos in the U.S. Love ’em or hate ’em, they undeniably altered the music world as we knew it. So what are the thoughts on the music video? 

Thanks to the five guests who gave us different takes on the “Video Revolution” of the ’80s…it was great to get different points of view. I have a few closing comments.

First, no one can doubt how much music videos shaped our listening, and viewing habits in the ’80s and ’90s, and with the biggest market, MTV was the main driver of that. Of course, as people like Christian and Deke pointed out, not everyone had MTV. In fact, I don’t think it was available anywhere outside of the U.S., at least in its heyday. But its success and the power of the music companies ensured similar stations would spring up in Canada, Australia and any number of other lands.

Lisa pointed out that the idea behind “videos” wasn’t new to MTV or the ’80s. The Big Bopper made one in the ’50s and there were video jukeboxes to play them in the mid-’60s. But they really hit the mainstream when MTV signed on. Oddly, Nielsen didn’t measure cable TV viewership in the early years of the station, so we don’t know how many people were actually tuning in at any given time because they found themselves saying “I Want My MTV…”, but it was well into the millions … mostly people in their teens or twenties, aka the main music-buying market. So it’s little wonder that what was popular on MTV was usually quickly popular in record stores and, because of that and Billboard‘s sales reports, on radio coast to coast as well. This likely contributed to the homogenization of radio in North America that Max pointed out (and which most of us, I think dislike) – the end of the free-wheelin’ local station playing new acts unknown in other cities and actually paying attention to listener requests. Instead we now have syndicated DJs in L.A. playing the same Lynyrd Skynyrd or Eagles track in 200 cities simultaneously and no room for innovation or offbeat music by and large. Hard to see that as an improvement, but also I think, part of an inevitable trend created by fewer and fewer large corporations buying up independent radio stations by the score and looking to maximize profit by reducing costs (such as program managers or round-the-clock disc jockeys.) How much MTV accelerated the trend is anybody’s guess.

As to how it shaped the sound of the ’80s, again it’s a debatable point since we have no control group of society without any videos, obviously! There’s no real dispute that music videos greatly helped some existing artists take their career to the next level (Peter Gabriel, Dire Straits, Michael Jackson…) and perhaps was the springboard needed to launch some big careers (Madonna, Duran Duran, A-ha…) but again, we have no way of knowing if they would have taken off on their own or not without the MTV bump. What is clear to me is that ironically, short-term gain resulted in long-term pain for some of those “video stars”. Duran Duran, Cyndi Lauper, Culture Club, even yes, A Flock of Seagulls, put out some very good records back then. And they were multi-million sellers, helped along by the oh-so-popular videos… “Hungry Like A Wolf”, “Girls on Film,” “Karma Chameleon,” “I Ran”, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” and so on. It made them household names quickly. But, it seems to me because they got noticed for their visual gimmick – the hair, the outfits, the makeup – people failed to take them seriously and in the long run, this may well have hurt their careers. I will boldly say songs like “Save A Prayer,” “Time (Clock of the Heart)”, “”She Bop,” “Wishing” , and others by those bands were songs which hold up very well and added a breath of fresh air to the old, slightly-fusty acts that had for so long dominated the airwaves. It even helped some of those like Queen and Styx go out on limbs and try something a little bit new. But many people still look down their noses and write off those acts automatically because they think “stupid-looking hair” or “just pretty boys in scenic locales” when they hear their names. That’s a bit of a shame. At their worst, they were unimaginative, offensively sexist or ridiculously over-the-top and drawn out. But, at their best they were creative, ground-breaking works of art on their own – think of how extraordinary “Sledgehammer” or “Take On Me” seemed when we first saw them. It’s not a huge stretch to understand why Godley & Creme went from making impeccable, boundary-pushing music with 10CC in the ’70s to primarily creating music videos for others in the ’80s – a lot of artists think visually as well as aurally.

In short, I think it was a fun part of the decade, and one that fit it well. Maybe it’s my age – in the ’80s I went from finishing high school to being a young, single guy out on his own. A fun time of change in life. And the ’80s really were a time of fun, experimental music, of breaking new ground. Not all of it was great, by any means, but at its best it meant some of the best music around. And videos were fun as well. I’m not disputing what some others have said – for instance, it robbed us of our own imagination when it came to what a song should “look” like (probably more of a problem when dealing with a Springsteen or Dylan song than Madonna’s “Borderline” or ZZ Top’s “Legs”) , it boosted some careers into the stratosphere that didn’t deserve it and it added to the problem of the unification of music being played continent wide. But now that we don’t have round the clock music videos on TV, we still have artists putting out flat out bad records who are stars, and we hear the same songs on every Oldies station from St. John’s, Newfoundland to San Jose, California. Honestly, I think the biggest surprise I have is how little music videos have really changed the world of music in the past 40 years.

I enjoyed watching Canada’s equivalent Much Music a lot in that decade, though I still spent more time listening to still-great radio stations and playing CDs and records. I saw some great , creative videos, saw some interesting interviews with musicians I loved and found out about some superb acts that seemed to even get passed over by radio. I heard “Pretty Persuasion” by REM once or twice on radio, but didn’t really become aware of them until Much Music decided the video for “Fall on Me” should be seen every hour on the hour for awhile. Others had the same experience later when “Losing My Religion” became MTV’s go-to in the early-’90s. How long would it have taken me to notice them if I had to rely on hearing their stuff that often on local radio stations?

Rubik’s Cubes, collarless neon-colored shirts, impossible hairdos, narrow leather ties, something new to hear every week…and music videos. The ’80s weren’t bad at all.

June 2 – The Turntable Talk, Round 3 – MTV’s ‘Weird’ Star

Today we continue our third instalment of Turntable Talk, where we’re happy to have some fellow music fans and writers weigh in on music subjects. Hopefully you were able to take a look at our first couple of topics, Why we’re still talking about the Beatles, and then the Pros and Cons of Live Albums. Today, we start asking “Did Video Kill the Radio Star?” The Beatles began making music videos as early as about 1966, and Britain had a few TV shows featuring videos weekly in the ’70s but in the ’80s, the form took flight with the appearance of MTV and all-day videos in the U.S. Love ’em or hate ’em, they undeniably altered the music world as we knew it. So what are the thoughts on the music video? Today we have Keith from Nostalgic Italian, presenting one star he appreciated MTV helping along:

Kudo’s to Dave for picking some fantastic topics, and at the same time letting us participants “run” with it. The following are the instructions we were given:

We were told we ” …don’t have to write literally about the question, but we’re looking for your thoughts on all things music video – how much did MTV change the music of the ’80s? Since there were already British acts making videos regularly in the 70s, do you think it would have taken off in a big way even without the American MTV influence?  Did it kill careers… or make careers that shouldn’t have happened? Do you have favorite ones you still like to watch?  Do you miss the days when MTV (or Much Music in Canada, or European equivalents) ran music videos instead of reality TV and old reruns?   Really, approach it how you like, but I’m curious to get thoughts on the Video Revolution.

My Conundrum

There have been many people who truly believe that video killed the radio star. As a child of the ’70’s and ’80’s, I lived through the beginnings of MTV. When I think about music videos, there are so many that I will forever associate with the songs. For example:

  • Take On Me” – a-ha
  • Sledgehammer” – Peter Gabriel
  • Rhythm Nation” – Janet Jackson
  • Bad”, “Billie Jean”, “Beat It”, “Black or White”, and of course, “Thriller” – Michael Jackson
  • Vogue” – Madonna
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana
  • Buddy Holly” – Weezer
  • Weapon of Choice” – Fatboy Slim
  • Money For Nothing” – Dire Straits
  • Legs” – ZZ Top
  • Land of Confusion” – Genesis
  • Hot For Teacher” – Van Halen
  • Simply Irresistible” – Robert Palmer
  • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” – Cyndi Lauper
  • Walk this Way” – Run DMC and Aerosmith
  • California Girls” – David Lee Roth
  • Got My Mind Set on You” – George Harrison
  • Stuck With You” – Huey Lewis and the News
  • Faith” – George Michael
  • White Wedding” – Billy Idol
  • Opposites Attract” – Paula Abdul

The list could go on and on! Those are just the ones that I pulled off the top of my head (and I am probably forgetting some big ones)!

The more I thought about it, I kept coming back to “Video killed the radio star.” Perhaps that is the case (as some proclaim), but I can think of one artist who made videos and it got him mainstream attention.

MTV Welcomes Weird Al Yankovic

According to Wikipedia, the discography of Mr. Yankovic consists of fourteen studio albums, nine compilation albums, eleven videos albums, two extended plays, two box sets, forty-six singles and fifty-four music videos. 

Those fifty-four music videos helped to take Weird Al Yankovic to the mainstream world. Let’s face it, the only place you could hear him on the radio was on the Dr. Demento Show, which was often aired in the worst possible time slot because of the crazy content. When Al ventured into the video realm, more and more viewers wanted to see – and hear – more of him!

Parody songs have been around forever, and very rarely ever got radio play. Novelty records were big in the ’50’s and ’60’s, and there were a few here and there in the ’70’s. When Al came on the scene in 1983, he took it to a whole new level, using videos.

1983’s “Ricky” is credited as being his first video. It was a parody of Toni Basil’s “Mickey.” It was a parody base on the TV show I Love Lucy. The video was shot in black and white and still looks great today.

From there, Al continued to use video to gain exposure on MTV. His next single was “I Love Rocky Road” which parodies Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll.” Instead of a greaser bar, it is set in … an ice cream parlor.

Al’s next video is really the one that really stands out as the one that moved him to a whole new level. Yes, he is a parody singer, but with the video for “Eat It” (a parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”), not only is the song parodied, but so is the video. Al’s video is literally a shot for shot remake of Jackson’s. Throughout the video, instead of switchblades there are rubber chickens and kitchen utensils, and gags for almost everything in the “Beat It “ video.

I can’t say whether or not the video is responsible for this, but the song won Al a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording in 1984. The video won for Best Male Performance at the 1984 American Video Awards!

From that point on, Al continued to make music videos for his singles. Art Fleming appeared in the “I Lost on Jeopardy” video, non-stop visual gags were plentiful in the “Like a Surgeon” video, and the James Brown “screams and shrieks” in “Living With a Hernia” were all more painful than soulful.

In 1988, Al once again parodied Michael Jackson. If I had to pick a “perfect” Weird Al parody video, it this would be one of two. Al won another Grammy Award for Best Concept Music Video for “Fat.” He even got permission from MJ to use the same set as the original video. Al’s makeup took three hours to apply every day and his fat suit weighed 40 pounds. Every time I hear the line, “Ding Dong, Yo!” I still crack up.

I mentioned that “Fat” is one of two “perfect” videos. The other would have to be the fantastic video for “Smells Like Nirvana” (a parody of Smells Like Teen Spirit). Al famously got permission for this parody from Kurt Cobain himself when he was performing on Saturday Night Live. In this Grammy-nominated video, Al satirizes Nirvana and the grunge movement, shooting on the same set as the original video and using the same actor who played the janitor (Rudy Larosa). Dick Van Patten has a cameo, which for whatever reason is extremely funny to me. Why Dick Van Patten??!! Someone said that Tony Hawk makes an appearance in the video, too. I’m not sure I know where.

Weird Al has certainly used music videos to his advantage. It takes a lot of creativity to write a good parody (I mean, come on, there are a lot of crap ones out there – just look on YouTube), but to take an already funny song and create a video that brings about even more humor, just enhances the song. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, Weird Al is a musical genius.

There have been many other great videos that have followed. To name a few: “Amish Paradise” (featuring Florence Henderson), “Headline News” (featuring The People’s Court’s Doug Llewelyn), “Gump” (featuring Ruth Buzzi and Pat Boone), “The Saga Begins” (the fantastic Star Wars tribute), “White and Nerdy” (featuring Donny Osmond and Seth Green), and so many more.

Yes, video may have killed the radio star, but it certainly helped boost the career of Weird Al Yankovic.

June 1 – The Turntable Talk, Round 3 – Growing Up MTV-less

Today we continue our third instalment of Turntable Talk, where we’re happy to have some fellow music fans and writers weigh in on music subjects. Hopefully you were able to take a look at our first couple of topics, Why we’re still talking about the Beatles, and then the Pros and Cons of Live Albums. Today, we are asking “Did Video Kill the Radio Star?” The Beatles began making music videos as early as about 1966, and Britain had a few TV shows featuring videos weekly in the ’70s but in the ’80s, the form took flight with the appearance of MTV and all-day videos in the U.S. Love ’em or hate ’em, they undeniably altered the music world as we knew it. So what are the thoughts on the music video? Today we welcome Christian, from Christian’s Music Musings, who grew up apart from MTV. He tells us:

Did Video Kill the Radio Star?

Thanks for inviting me back to “Turntable Talk”, Dave. I enjoy your series, and I’m happy to share more of my thoughts!

At first, I wasn’t quite sure how to approach the topic of ‘80s music videos and MTV. While the name MTV had been hammered into my brain since 1985 when Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing was all over German radio, my first exposure to music videos didn’t happen until early 1993 when I came to the U.S. At my parents’ house back in Germany, we didn’t have cable until the early ‘90s, so essentially missed the ‘80s MTV era.

When I finally had the opportunity to watch music videos on TV in the U.S., I ended up embracing VH1, not MTV. And for the most part, it wasn’t for music videos but for their Behind the Music documentary series, which I loved.

When to comes to music, to me, it’s always been first and foremost about melody, sound and musicianship. Lyrics tend to be secondary. Videos rank a distant third. I’m speaking in broad strokes now.

There’s no doubt in my mind that MTV and music videos have had a huge impact on the music industry. And as you’d expect, it’s a mixed bag. Initial criticism of the channel for largely ignoring artists of color was justified, though fortunately by the mid-’80s things started to change.

MTV kickstarted the breakthroughs of artists like Cindy Lauper and Whitney Houston; and of course, The Buggles whose Video Killed the Radio Star was the very first video played on the channel. MTV also boosted the careers of already-established artists like Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince.

Moreover, the channel had a role in popularizing genres beyond pop. For example, their heavy rotation of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit brought grunge to a broader audience. It also isn’t surprising that the compelling combination of audio and video helped music become part of Hollywood. It boosted the popularity of big ‘80s soundtracks like Flashdance (1983), Footloose (1984) and Top Gun (1986). I leave it up to you to decide whether that’s a net positive or negative.

During my reading that inspired some of the content of this post, I came across a series of interviews the PBS program Frontline conducted for a May 2004 documentary titled The Way the Music Died. I haven’t watched it (though it sounds interesting) but read some of the interviews. The following excerpts offer some additional perspectives I thought were worthwhile sharing:

Music journalist Touré Neblett: “I mean, Duran Duran — were they a great group? I don’t think so. I mean they had some great songs. I love “Rio,” I love “Girls On Film,” but this is not a great group. But they were one of the first big video groups that really thrived in the MTV era because they looked good.”

HITS Magazine co-founder and editor-in-chief Leonard J. Beer: “MTV is the most powerful force that’s probably ever happened in the music business. You can make a star overnight if they make the right video, and if the right magic happens. It also burns them out quicker. You know, you saw somebody like Pearl Jam who had the biggest videos on MTV for years and then all of a sudden they decided they didn’t want to be on MTV anymore because they felt it was hurting their long-term career.”

Entertainment Attorney Michael Guido: “I think MTV was the beginning of the end for the recorded music business, in that it solidified a mindset that exalted marketing over substance… It became only about a three-minute single and a visual image, and if you didn’t have the three minutes you were over…Once that corner was turned, we started on the path that has led us to this moment here, where kids are treating music as disposable.”

Music industry executive Danny Goldberg: “I think that the emergence of the music video has just expanded the palette of tools available to artists to connect with an audience. I know when I worked with Nirvana, Kurt Cobain cared as much about the videos as he did about the records. He wrote the scripts for them, he was in the editing room, and they were part of his art. And I think they stand up as part of his art, and I think that’s true of the great artists today. Not every artist is a great artist and not every video is a good video, but in general having it available as a tool, to me, adds to the business.”

Finally, I’d like to provide some thoughts about my favorite ‘80s music video. As I was thinking about it, the first videos that came to mind were Michael Jackson’s Thriller for its over-the-top mini horror movie production, Genesis’ Land of Confusion because of the amazing puppets of band members and various politicians; and a-ha’s Take On Me with its artistically compelling integration of cartoons and animations.

But, as I said before, when it comes to music, to me, it’s first and foremost about melody, sound and musicianship. With that priority keeping in mind as well, my favorite ‘80s music video is Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, a song I dig to this day. Yes, it’s definitely a pretty busy clip that at times can even make you dizzy. Still, I love the way how it’s done.

According to this article from April 2016, the filming required Gabriel to lay under a glass sheet for over 16 hours! But he’s convinced it was all worth it, and that without the video the song wouldn’t have become a hit. Numbers don’t lie. “Sledgehammer” reached no. 1 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100, knocking “Invisible Touch” by his former bandmates from Genesis off the top spot. The single also topped the Canadian charts. Elsewhere, among others, it climbed to no. 3 in Australia, Ireland and New Zealand, and no. 4 in the UK. Oh, and it also became MTV’s most played video of all time!

May 31 – The Turntable Talk, Found 3 – Video’s History Longer Than Rock’s

Today we continue our third instalment of Turntable Talk, where we’re happy to have some fellow music fans and writers weigh in on music subjects. Hopefully you were able to take a look at our first couple of topics, Why we’re still talking about the Beatles, and then the Pros and Cons of Live Albums. Today, we start askingDid Video Kill the Radio Star?” The Beatles began making music videos as early as about 1966, and Britain had a few TV shows featuring videos weekly in the ’70s but in the ’80s, the form took flight with the appearance of MTV and all-day videos in the U.S. Love ’em or hate ’em, they undeniably altered the music world as we knew it. So what are the thoughts on the music video? Today, we turn the table over to Lisa from Tao Talk, who gives a surprising overview of the long history of the format. She writes:

Turntable Talk 3 – Did Video Kill the Radio Star?

While growing up, listening to music was all about sound in our home and in my grandparent’s home. We had an AM radio and a small record player. My mom was the radio captain; we shared the helm for the platter choices, even if mom was the one who decided which platters were brought in to choose from. My grandparents had one of those long rectangular cabinet types of systems with a turntable inside. The cabinet served as a resonant speaker from what I remember. I remember lots of choices, including some 78s.

The visual aspects of music in the 1960’s were minimal for me. Yes, there were album covers to pore over, but these frozen images were only snapshots that did not do much to enhance the musical experience. Then came watching television music programs like The Lawrence Welk Show and Ed Sullivan, where the musicians performing and camera shots of the audiences appreciating them brought the music into two dimensions of sound and moving images. Television turned music into a shared experience for me. It wasn’t just me or just my family members who loved the music; the whole world was as excited about it as I was!

The television special musical appearances continued for a long while. I remember how staged the lip synching felt and how often the performers seemed uncomfortable yet excited to be given a chance to be seen by millions. Being heard, seen, and known meant there was a better chance their records would sell. Knowing that the powerful television producers decided who got a chance and what the musicians were allowed to perform made them feel like trick ponies that were making someone else very wealthy.

Music videos of taped musical performances began elevating them to the next level through creatively incorporating the concepts presented in the lyrics. Sometimes the band showed up almost as an afterthought, where the lyrics were the stars via imagery that might be costumes, props, animation, or forms of theater. Our ears, eyes, and minds became fully engaged in the experience.

Dave’s assignment for us this time is to write about music videos. I am not very knowledgeable on their chronology once MTV started – or what came before MTV. I went out to cyberia and discovered some interesting little tidbits about music videos from the distant past. What follows is a very brief history, where the source material is history.com at https://www.history.com/news/the-music-video-before-music-television.

In 1894, “illustrated songs consisted of photographic images painted in color and projected from glass slides, sometimes interspersed with silent moving picture clips” during Nickelodeon movie intermissions. In 1895, the first “music video” was filmed in Thomas Edison’s studio and was known as the “Dickson Experimental Sound Film.” In 1923, the first motion pictures with sound on film were presented. Many of them were “musical shorts,” “clips played before feature films.” In 1925, the Fleischer Brothers released a cartoon with “a bouncing ball that hopped over lyrics to encourage in-theater sing-alongs.” From 1940-46, “soundies,” “3-minute films featuring dance performances, designed to be played on machines in bars, restaurants,” etc. were popular. In the late 1950’s the French Scopitone was another “visual jukebox” that emerged. In 1959, The Big Bopper coined the term “music video” and made one for the song, “Chantilly Lace.” In the 1960’s The Beatles combined cinema with music in their two films, Help! and  A Hard Day’s Night. In 1974, Australian shows, Countdown and Sounds, prominently featured music videos; in 1978, the U.S. Video Concert Hall, played hours of unhosted music videos. In 1981, MTV premiered.

Looking at the above history, it seems strange to think that music videos have been around for over a hundred years already. I’ve always thought of them as a more recent phenomena that I was there at the beginning for. Not quite.

I know that MTV has fallen by the wayside as far as the source to watch music videos. I know when I want to see them, I go to YouTube or Vimeo or directly to a band’s website to see them. What would we do without the internet!

To conclude, I will list some of my favorite music videos, with links on some of the newer ones. You can find the rest out on your favorite music video platform.

All Peter Gabriel

Dire Straits MTV

Chris Isaac “Wicked Game” 

Dwight Yoakam ” Fast as You” 

Pearl Jam “Love Boat Captain” 

Fran Company 

Mitski “Washing Machine Heart” 

George Harrison and Friends from Concert for Bangladesh Beware of Darkness

Roy Orbison and Friends Black and White Nights

May 30 – The Turntable Talk, Round 3 – The Book On MTV

Today we have our second guest writer in our third instalment of Turntable Talk. That’s where we’re happy to have some fellow music fans and writers weigh in on music subjects. Hopefully you were able to take a look at our first couple of topics, Why we’re still talking about the Beatles, and then the Pros and Cons of Live Albums. Today, we’re askingDid Video Kill the Radio Star?” The Beatles began making music videos as early as about 1966, and Britain had a few TV shows featuring videos weekly in the ’70s but in the ’80s, the form took flight with the appearance of MTV and all-day videos in the U.S. Love ’em or hate ’em, they undeniably altered the music world as we knew it. So what are the thoughts on the music video? Today we turn the floor over to Deke from Thunder Bay Rocks, who grew up in Canada where there was no MTV…but music videos still were king. Deke writes:

Growing up in Canada we didn’t get MTV in the ’80s. (What we got was our own video station called MuchMusic). MTV was a big business when I was in high school as they played way more hard rock videos than what MM offered here in Canada.

A guy in high school had a huge satellite dish in the mid-’80s and various times during the year we would go over to his place to watch the debut showing of the latest Van Halen or Def Leppard videos. I still recall watching “KISS- Animalize Live and Uncensored” at his place the very first time MTV showed it. (early 1985) We were blown away by Canada’s MuchMusic even though it was good it would not show that kind of stuff. 

“Now look at them yo-yo’s, that’s the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV
That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Money for nothin’ and chicks for free”

I Want My MTV is the book put brilliantly together by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum who did over 400 interviews with directors, executives, producers, artists, VJs, and anyone else associated with the industry of MTV from its beginnings in ‘81 to the end of the music video era in ’92. 

The pic below sums it up perfectly…mtvbookpic1deke_InPixio

It’s crazy to think that MTV when it began its run on Cable TV( and even though it was based in New York) none of the NY cable companies would touch it. 

It was places like Tulsa Oklahoma and secondary markets that broke MTV, not the big U.S cities where all the main cable providers said that MTV would be done in a year.


It’s full of tons of great chapters as one chapter focuses on David Bowie calling out VJ Mark Goodman out on why MTV for not playing Black artists in 1983. Check it out  – Bowie tunes Goodman up. 

Michael Jackson basically changed that with the release of Thriller and “Beat It”..  MTV took the stance of playing only ‘Rock’ videos so they had said Jackson wasn’t rock… until all of sudden Eddie Van Halen was playing the solo on “Beat It.” Then MTV  basically said, ‘Yep that’s Rock, so add it to the rotation” Plus the time when umm, well read the excerpt below!mtvbookpic2dk_InPixio

Rap had the same problem as well getting onto MTV until the Run-DMC and “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith mashup broke down those barriers.

DMC tells the cool story of how they had Aerosmith’s Toys in The Attic in a crate with other records as they dug that drum intro which goes into the guitar riff. He says that when they would talk about the song they would only know it by Toys In The Attic Track 4 which was “Walk This  Way”. They had no idea that the band was called Aerosmith or for that matter, they had no idea who Steven Tyler and Joe Perry were.  They had no idea the title of the song. Run-DMC only knew the song as track 4!

The book tells how a contestant who won a Lost Weekend in Detroit with Van Halen was just that! Or, any guesses on what video Chapter 21 – “Whopping, Steaming Turd – the worst video ever made” – is about?

This is such a great read as it goes year by year. The MTV Awards became a yearly staple at MTV.  Funny how to read stories about how Madonna basically stole the performance that year (1984) and made her a household name. You can read about how MTV execs convinced Mick Jagger to say “I want my MTV” for $1. Or that the car on the cover of a ZZ Top album cost $250,000, so they put it in their videos to get the tax deduction! How video directors would all bid for the same jobs and at times it would get ugly between them. Better yet how about when Guns N Roses were the biggest band in the late ’80s to early ’90s. Axl had one of his friends hired at MTV to host Headbangers Ball. As Axl told his pal (Riki Rachtman) “You want the job at MTV? I’ll make the call!”

WOW!

 Just read below as it pretty much sums up an 80s boardroom meeting at MTV:mtvboopic3dk_InPixio

Gene Simmons! LOL

This book is full of stories about rock stars, dwarves, models, and drugs. How MTV almost did not make it into a second season or for that matter the second-ever video as after The Buggles ” Video Killed The Radio Star” Was Played the screen went black.(in case you’re wondering Pat Benatar’s “You Better Run” was the second video played) The perseverance of the original creators of MTV (Bob Pittman, John Sykes-not the Whitesnake fella, and John Lack) was very instrumental in getting MTV into all the homes in the U.S.A.

I Want My MTV – amazing Read!

May 29 – The Turntable Talk, Round 3 – Not Everyone Wanted Their MTV

Today we begin our third instalment of “Turntable Talk”, where we’re happy to have some fellow music fans and writers weigh in on music subjects. Hopefully you were able to take a look at our first couple of topics, Why we’re still talking about the Beatles, and then the Pros and Cons of Live Albums. Today, we start askingDid Video Kill the Radio Star?” The Beatles began making music videos as early as about 1966, and Britain had a few TV shows featuring videos weekly in the ’70s but in the ’80s, the form took flight with the appearance of MTV and all-day videos in the U.S. Love ’em or hate ’em, they undeniably altered the music world as we knew it. So what are the thoughts on the music video? Today we have Max from Power Pop Blog giving his opinions:

For Dave’s question… how much did MTV change the music of the ’80s?

Video Killed the Radio Star… That was the first song played on MTV and it was pretty much dead accurate.

MTV changed music’s landscape. I was there when it launched, and I would stay up till 4 in the morning at a relative’s house because we didn’t have cable. Personally, I think it was a huge mixed blessing. When I listen to a song, I like to draw my own conclusions about what it’s about. You now had music videos that you couldn’t help but think of when you heard the songs on radio.

Some artists didn’t want to do videos for that reason. Bruce Springsteen was one of them. His first video was off the Nebraska album, and it didn’t even feature Bruce! When he did do videos, it usually was a live clip of him. He did make one for “Glory Days” that followed along with the song. The Replacements refused to do a regular music video and their career went down, but other artists gave in because they had to. Many were fun and they enjoyed it, so it worked for some artists.

I think it helped some artists greatly like Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Prince. Without MTV I don’t know if they would have been as big as they were. I have no doubt they would have been big but not as mega-huge. MTV helped push them over that line as well as others.

There are other artists like Duran Duran, Twisted Sister, Janet Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Whitesnake, and others that I think owed a lot of their success to MTV.

Hair metal flourished during this time. They made videos that guys liked to watch…even if I didn’t like a particular song, I was going to watch the new Whitesnake video.

Who didn’t pass the looks test? We probably will never know. Would Janis Joplin have ever made it in the MTV generation? I seriously doubt it.

I’ve talked about image but…to be fair…image has always been important in pre-MTV rock… but now music videos put a group’s appearance under the microscope like never before. In some cases, the music alone was no longer enough. While it used to be that you needed the talent to back up the looks, in the MTV era it was often the other way around.

Chrissie Hynde had this to say about MTV: I grew up in the late sixties… You know, AM radio then went into FM radio. AM radio was coast to coast and it was very regional. Every city had its own radio station and its own playlist! When MTV came along it all got filtered into one thing. It had to go first through a video – often a soft-porn video, because some of the artists knew that sold – and that became sorta dance music, I guess.

It wasn’t rock n’ roll any more. If you look at videos that were made back then, they look silly now. The pomposity of it. You can smell the money that went into it.”

There is some truth in what she is saying. They did end up with homogenization of the music…especially guitar-driven rock and roll as it went along. Heavy metal, new wave, and dance-pop did well on MTV. Regular rock and roll? Not as much.

I think of the Dead Kennedys song Get MTV Off The Air

How far will you go, how low will you stoop
To tranquilize our minds with your sugar-coated swill
You’ve turned rock and roll rebellion into Pat Boone sedation
Making sure nothing’s left to the imagination”

Lead singer Jello Biafra: “The way they were laying it down then was, ‘This is the way music is going to go. From now on, there is no point in even writing a song unless you know what it’s going to look like on TV.’”

As I said at the start. I have mixed feelings about MTV. Did I enjoy it? Oh yes, I did enjoy it. I was exposed to some music that I wouldn’t have otherwise. “Mexican Radio”, “Electric Avenue” , and so many more.  I’m sure of one thing. If MTV would not have existed, music would have been completely different in the ’80s. It was and is a cultural landmark that will always be there.

MTV took a lot of power away from radio stations. Artists now went to MTV to play their video. One stop shopping to get their music to a mass audience. This was when radio stations were mostly local and knew the city, they were in. From Toronto, Thunder Bay, Nashville, Austin, and Grand Rapids… they knew their audience.

This is where radio learned from MTV. Today radio is big monopolies with pre-made playlists for everyone. Always happy to play the same songs over and over. We have lost a lot of the local flavor in radio and MTV wasn’t the only reason but it played it’s part.

I think they had good intentions going in but like a lot of organizations with good intentions…they may have attained too much power and that leads to…in this case The Real World and MTVWNM….(Music TeleVision with NO Music) .

Video Killed The Radio Star…indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 7 – The Turntable Talk, Round 2 – Live Albums Encore

Today we finish our second instalment of Turntable Talk. We hope you liked the first one we ran last month which dealt with why the Beatles were still relevant. This time around, we’ve had six guest writers discuss The Live Album. Some people love ’em, some hate ’em. Some musicians put out some of their best work in live, concert recordings, others seem to use them as a stopgap to fulfill contractual obligations and little else. So we’ve asked our panelists to discuss live albums, however they see fit. Do they enjoy them? Do the records live up to the experience of seeing an act play live? What are their favorites? So far we’ve had rave reviews of live records by the likes of the J.Geils Band, Who and Aerosmith.

Today, we wrap it up with a few thoughts about the concept from me here at A Sound Day:

 

I want to thank our six guest contributors this week who’ve looked at the Live Album, and shared some of their favorites. It shows that some bands can indeed put out great records straight from the stage with a minimum of studio enhancement, and at their best they can really give listeners a sense of the excitement of being there as well as great music to listen to for its own enjoyment.

For the most part, I share the sentiment a few of our other contributors had – I’m not usually a big fan of live albums. I’ve bought quite a few in my day, and had a big percentage of them gather dust more than most LPs or CDs in my collection. I think there are several reasons for this.

One is that most are merely live sets of songs we already knew. If they play the song like it was on the original record, it rarely sounds as good … it always sounds just a bit “off” compared to what we “know” it should sound like. The vocals are off a little or the drums are too prominent, or they add in a few extra bars of the bridge that jar my ears. But then, if they reimagine the song and make it something entirely different-sounding than the song we “know”, usually it seems wrong too. And then there’s the whole fact that while being at the concert is probably fun, hearing it later doesn’t match up. We might be happy and love hearing the singer scream out “hey Winnipeg, how ya doin’? Who wants to rock” if we’re in Winnipeg in the crowd and want to rock, but after hearing it a hundred times on the record later, it tends to get a bit tedious. And all the more the singers who break in the middle of a song to tell some story. Fun in person, annoying to listen to repeatedly, yes, Gord Downie notwithstanding. Funny, unexpected, adlibs or side stories are great when you’re there…but get tiresome when you hear the same adlib every single time you hear the song. Even the crowd noises often come across as distracting and superfluous.

All that said, there have been a few live ones I’ve listened to a lot and liked. Early on, two of the ’70s biggest come to mind – Cheap Trick at Budokan and Peter Frampton‘s Frampton Comes Alive. Both were huge sellers and I loved both. One reason for that is to me, they were new artists. I hadn’t heard the originals of the songs so the live ones sounded right. To this day Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me” should be the Budokan one, not the rather sleepy studio original from a couple of years earlier. Same goes for Frampton and songs like “Show Me The Way”. Plus, his talkbox feature on the guitar (best heard towards the end of that track) was undeniably cool…it would get tired fast if every guitarist decided to use it, but it was a novelty that worked.

Earlier this week, Christian wrote about a live J. Geils Band album, Full House. In the early-’80s, I became a big fan of them through their (overdue) commercial breakthrough hit albums, 1980’s Love Stinks and especially ’81’s Freeze Frame. So I quickly grabbed a copy of Live Showtime, their 1982 live album (the third of their career). It had been recorded on the Freeze Frame tour earlier in that year, and it turns out probably was a mere place-holder. Like many live albums, its primary purpose might have been to buy the band some time between releases and fulfill a contractual obligation to EMI Records. Singer, frontman extraordinaire Peter Wolf had quit the band after that and they were scrambling to come up with a new direction and new album, so they put out another live recording. But to me, it was a rather cool, energetic effort. While the versions of the singles “Love Stinks” and “Centerfold” both suffered compared to the studio originals I knew, most of the other songs were new to me – even though old, and showcased how good a live act Geils had always been. I especially took to the new single off it, “I Do”, an old ’50s R&B song, and “Land of A Thousand Dances”, a song popularized by Wilson Pickett two decades prior. To me, the band seemed almost dual-personalitied… smoothly produced, fun pop singles (like “Centerfold”, “Come Back”) in studio and high-energy, party rockers and on stage. If not for this album, I might have missed out entirely on that other part of their presence.

Close to the same time in the ’80s a couple more live albums caught my attention and hold up well to me. One was Roxy Music‘s The High Road, which was really an EP more than an album…a four-song release. It appealed to me because I was really getting into Roxy Music at that time and had seen them on the same tour (for Avalon) which was the first real concert I went to. So there was a sentimental component for me but it was a good record and it had the advantage of having a couple of “new” songs on it, their cover of Neil Young’s “Like A Hurricane” and the John Lennon cover “Jealous Guy.” They played both all through the tour. Now, before you British readers shout at me, let me point out that they had a #1 single there with the studio cut of “Jealous Guy”. But it wasn’t on an album of theirs and unfortunately flopped in North America, so it was pretty much a new song to us over here. Another was U2‘s Live Under A Blood Red Sky. U2 is a bit of a rarity among “new wave” bands or those labeled as such by being one who had a reputation for putting on exceptional live shows – high energy, interesting commentary from Bono. This one showcased them at their best, at least for the early part of their career, and at least one track, the singalong  “40” their traditional closer in that time period, seems to be a lot stronger and more emotional than in its studio version.

One more recent live album that I, maybe to my own surprise, like a lot and have listened to frequently is The Stranglers Friday the Thirteenth, a ’97 release. It was the ninth live album put out by “The Men In Black” which gives an indication that their fans really like their live sets. I saw them twice in concert, once in the ’80s and once in the early-’00s. Both times they were fantastic live players and a fun show. But as I’ve pointed out, that doesn’t always translate onto live records. But with The Stranglers, it often does. I think that is primarily because of the nature of the band. Unlike most rock (or punk if you prefer) acts, they’ve always been dominated by bass and keyboards rather than guitars and drums. J.J. Burnel plays the bass like a lead instrument and is wildly entertaining to watch as was the late Dave Greenfield in his jet-cockpit like bay of keyboards he spun around to play simultaneously. Often though, their contributions were muted a little in the studio mixes, but on their better live recordings they really come through front and center. This album also had a string section behind them, which added another layer to a few of their songs that worked nicely. Any fan of the band needs at least one record with their live version of “Down in the Sewer” (a possibly tongue-in-cheek “punk” anthem which has always been a standout in their concerts), for me this was mine.

That all said, there have been a number of other acts that I absolutely love, and in some cases enjoyed seeing live whose live albums really… well did very, very little for me (except at times curse myself for spending money on them.) I won’t bother to badmouth any of them, because as I said, they’re acts who do a lot of things right. Just putting out live albums isn’t one of them. So for me, my final take is, live records can be good and on rare occasions can outshine the studio originals. But it takes a certain flair and energy on stage, good recordings and perhaps a set list that isn’t merely one old hit single after enough to make them memorable or worthwhile. That’s my take, I’d love to hear yours, dear readers.

May 6 – The Turntable Talk, Round 2 – Jammin’ A Lot Of Pearls Into One Set

Today we continue our second instalment of Turntable Talk. We hope you liked the first one we ran last month which dealt with why the Beatles were still relevant. This time around, we’re pleased to have six guest writers discuss The Live Album. Some people love ’em, some hate ’em. Some musicians put out some of their best work in live, concert recordings, others seem to use them as a stopgap to fulfill contractual obligations and little else. So we’ve asked our panelists to discuss live albums, however they see fit. Do they enjoy them? Do the records live up to the experience of seeing an act play live? What are their favorites? So far we’ve had rave reviews of live records by the likes of the J.Geils Band, The Who and Aerosmith.

Today, we jump forward a couple of decades from those and have Lisa, from Tao Talk, talking about Pearl Jam. Lisa a poet who writes about quite a range of topics ranging from foreign movies to current affairs to examples of her poetry at her site, which we encourage you to check out! Here’s what she’s got to say about Eddie Vedder and the boys-

The moment Dave named the topic of live albums, I knew that I wanted it to be one of Pearl Jam‘s, but I wasn’t sure which one to choose. Probably my most favorite one is Live at the Gorge, a “seven CD box set that documents the band’s three performances at the Gorge amphitheater in George, WA in September, 2005 and July, 2006,” but that one seemed a little too ambitious to write up, so instead today’s essay will be about the two-disk, Live at Benaroya Hall. The benefit concert was done on October 22, 2003, to raise funds for youthcare, an organization to end youth homelessness in Seattle, Washington. What makes me love PJ’s live albums are Eddy’s comments between songs. He’s a preacher in his own way and his flock are adoring of his pronouncements.

I decided to put this essay in a format where I will listen to the disks and while doing so write whatever bubbles up during the listen. Notes will be made on Eddy’s comments between songs, as I will also do for audience response. The plan also developed into including what album, if any, each of the songs are on and any orienting tidbits for each of them.

Disc 1 of 2

Of the Girl”

Gossard wrote this one and describes it (elsewhere) as “pretty somber.” And the crowd goes wild. The Jamily is feeling blessed that they are there with the band.

Low Light”

On the Yield album, this is bass player Jeff Ament’s first lyrics contribution. Listening to a live Pearl Jam album is like going to church. Every member is “on” and tweaking it with the vibe of the audience. I love the sound of the wood resonating in the rhythm guitar. Now here comes McCready with his soul-driven flourishes. Eddy’s singing like the benevolent God that he is. There truly is nothing other than the now of the music.

Thumbing My Way”

From Riot Act. “I love you, Eddy!” someone shouts from the audience. Too many hoots and cheers to count. This song is an anthem for every traveler going through this world.

Thin Air”

On the Binaural album. There is something about “Thin Air” that is deceptively simple yet deep and profound. The wordplay and the delicate manifestation of the melody brings tears to my eyes every time. One of the most magical things about live music is that you’ve got thousands of listeners communing with the band at the same time. “taken on on on on” crooned by Eddy urges an almost orgasmic experience. Multiply that by so many supercharged people in the audience and the energy of resonance has got to be off the charts. For those of us listening to a recording at home, we are aural voyeurs that feel it less intensely but are still satisfied. Where’s my cigarette?

Eddy comments about hearing beforehand about the good acoustics of the venue (Benaroya Hall) and talks about his mistake on the “Thin Air”. He introduces a new song, “Fatal,” that is coming out soon on, Lost Dogs, which is a collection of b-sides.

Fatal”

Written by Gossard. From the Lost Dogs album. Previously unreleased and was an out-take from the Binaural album. Lost Dogs is an often-overlooked album, and it shouldn’t be. It’s one I’ve listened to just as much as any of the others. There is more of a potpourri aspect to it than any conceptual thread, but that’s ok. It’s like walking around an amusement park.

Some loudmouth in the crowd is screaming unintelligibly. There is one in every crowd.

Nothing as it Seems”

Written by Ament, from the Binaural album. Rocking sweet McCready solos. Those long, lonely notes. Many audience members are howling and screaming.

Eddy says that Tim Burton sent “Big Fish” to PJ and asked them to write an ending song for it. They had just recorded it a few days before; they asked Tim if it was OK if they performed it at the show and he was ok with it. The song? “Man of the Hour.”

It appears on the “Man of the Hour” CD single. The chord progression in “Man of the Hour” is another one of those songs that seems to squeeze the tears out of my eyes.

Immortality”

On Vitalogy. Rhythm guitar jamming out. Bass prominent. Eddy waffles on whether or not this song was about Kurt Cobain (but not at this concert.)

Off He Goes”

From No Code. One of my most favorite of the favorite of their songs. How many of us have known someone like him? How many of us are him? McCready wails on his guitar to show support for our sorrow and for his lonely way of being.

Around the Bend”

From No Code. Such a sweet serenade! Written by former drummer, Jack Irons, as a lullaby for his son.

Eddy says that one of ushers notified him that someone wanted to talk with him. The person verified he was Eddy and then the man tried to serve Eddy legal papers. Eddy comments that it was, “the most punk ass mother fuckin’ move I ever heard of.”

I Believe in Miracles” (This is a Ramones cover.)

Appears on the 2003 Annual Vinyl Single. How this bridge starts and goes sends me into orbit: I close my eyes and think how it might be. I can’t tell you the number of times this one has done an earworm on me.

Sleight of Hand”

From Binaural. Existentialism is best not dwelled upon too long. McCready uses his wah wah pedal. The acoustics in Benaroya Hall are excellent.

All or None”

From Riot Act. It’s open to interpretation. Extremes are to be avoided in my experience.

Lukin”

From No Code. Stone Gossard introduces the song. The song is short, sweet, and damned intense. It’s about when a woman was stalking Eddy to the point that he was avoiding his own home. Also it is reported that it’s short and sweet because someone criticized PJ’s songs as being too long. Funk dat!

Disc 2 of 2

Parting Ways”

From Binaural. Looking through some comments on websites about this one, there are interesting theories but the consensus seems to be this was about the imminent breakup between Eddy and Beth.

Eddy gives a Public Service Announcement (PSA): 60,000 young adults have been helped through Youthcare. Eddy asks for a round of applause for the staff and the kids involved with the organization, and then to the audience for supporting them.

Down”

On the Lost Dogs album, written by Gossard, McCready, and Vedder. Originally on the, “I Am Mine single”. An up-tempo song with a line that is also the title of a Howard Zinn book, You can’t be neutral on a moving train.

Encore Break 1

Can’t Keep”

From Riot Act. Eddie on ukelele, singing about going to “the other side,” and the refrain is, “you can’t keep me here.” There is a definitely mystical aspect to this song.

Dead Man”

Included on the Lost Dogs album. Originally from the “Off He Goes” single. Originally intended for the Dead Man Walking soundtrack, but passed over in favor of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dead Man Walkin.” (Wrong choice, in my opinion.)

Masters of War”

Written by Bob Dylan, I wish I could say this song is obsolete. It feels ever-fresh with new blood being spilled. Why young people continue to choose to die to serve their world chess playing masters is one of the great mysteries of our species.

Black”

This may the best known Pearl Jam tune. It’s unquestioningly one of their signature tunes. The poetry of the lyrics, the way Eddy sings it, and knowing he poured his all into it, trying to get over the one love of his life. Many times he sings with every drop of raw emotion. This time he sings as if the sting of anguish has subsided and it’s more in retrospect. Eddy invites the audience to sing along and it gives me the goosebumps to hear it sung in unison with Mike’s accompanying soulful guitar.

Crazy Mary”

One of my personal favorites. Surprisingly not written by PJ but by Victoria Williams. If you can listen to this song and not feel at least a little compassion for Crazy Mary, you have no heart. I also like the mystical aspect to this one. I wrote a poem in honor of Crazy Mary a few years ago. You can read it here.

25 Minutes to Go”

Johnny Cash wrote this one. It’s about a guy facing capital punishment by hanging. Eddy does it up right with some real nice flourishes by McCready on guitar.

Daughter” A quote from Eddy about it:

“The child in that song obviously has a learning difficulty, and it’s only in the last few years that they’ve actually been able to diagnose these learning disabilities, that before were looked at as misbehavior; as just outright rebelliousness, but no one knew what it was. These kids, because they seemed unable or reluctant to learn, they’d end up getting the shit beaten outta them. The song ends, you know, with this idea of the shades going down—so that the neighbors can’t see what happens next. What hurts about shit like that is that it ends up defining people’s lives. They have to live with that abuse for the rest of their lives. Good, creative people are just f***g destroyed.” – from Jones, Allan. Pearl Jam – The Illustrated Story, A Melody Maker Book. Hal Leonard Corp, 1995.

Eddy introduces the members of the band (Gossard, Ament, Cameron, McCready, and “you know my name, look up the number…”) He sings a few bars of “You’ve got to hide your love away.” and then sings, “you don’t have to hide your love away.”

Encore Break 2

Yellow Ledbetter”

Another song of theirs that got a lot of radio play. About a guy whose brother who has gone off to fight in war and the guy hopes he doesn’t come back in a box or a body bag. The guy gets a letter saying his brother has been killed.

OK, there you have it, a template for how I grok live albums, or at least how I grok live Pearl Jam albums. The musicianship is superior, they sound just as good live as they do on their sanitary studio versions, and you just never know what Eddy is going to say.

Thank you for the prompt, Dave. I enjoyed writing this very much.

I was going to link each song separately, but I found the whole concert out on youtube. There is a track listing where you can click to each song, which is always helpful.

https://youtu.be/mpygOcZYIws

 

May 5 – The Turntable Talk, Round 2 – Who Knew Live Music Better Than Pete?

Today we continue our second instalment of Turntable Talk. We hope you liked the first one we ran last month which dealt with why the Beatles were still relevant. This time around, we’re pleased to have six guest writers discuss The Live Album. Some people love ’em, some hate ’em. Some musicians put out some of their best work in live, concert recordings, others seem to use them as a stopgap to fulfill contractual obligations and little else. So we’ve asked our panelists to discuss live albums, however they see fit. Do they enjoy them? Do the records live up to the experience of seeing an act play live? What are their favorites?

Today, we have Max, from Power Pop blog, one of our favorites. He looks at rock and pop of the ’60s through ’90s as well as some great vintage TV shows there daily, so we encourage you to have a look. Here, Max talks about one of his favorite bands:

First of all…Thank you Dave for hosting Turntable Talk and coming up with the different talking points we all appreciate it. 

Now to Dave’s question. Is there an act that actually come out better on live releases than studio ones?

First, let me say…overall I’m more of a record guy…I usually like the studio version of songs but yes there are some bands that can come off better live. I would say The Who, Allman Brothers, Cream, The Grateful Dead, Aerosmith, The Stones (1969-1972), and Bob Dylan’s “1966 tour” fit that description. However, there is one condition to this.

I think you have to take into consideration the era you are talking about with each band or artist. If we are talking about the peak years then yes. The Rolling Stones for instance…for me it would be 1969 through 1974. When they had Mick Taylor on guitar…they had a huge raw sound live they haven’t had since. With Dylan, the ’66 tour for me was the top and I could listen to those versions all day. The Who it would be 1969 through 1976 when they were untouchable live.

When The Who took Tommy on tour I think the live recordings beat the studio album by a long shot. That leads me to…my favorite live album of all time.

The Who: Live at Leeds. If you are a rock and roll fan, a rock fan, or even a heavy metal fan…everyone can find something on that album. This is guitar rock at its best. Listening to the sound of that record, it’s no telling how loud they played. They weren’t the loudest in the Guinness Book of World Records for nothing! When Pete hit a power chord you could almost feel your eardrums retract in and out like a speaker.

It’s not being loud though that makes it so great. Personally, I’ve never heard a band as tight as they were during this tour. They wanted to release a live album and soundman Bob Pridden had 38 shows taped. Pete wanted Pridden to go through all of the shows and tell him which one was best. Because of constant touring Pridden could never get through all of the shows. The day came and Pete asked him ok…which shows. He couldn’t give Pete an answer.

They had a show at Leeds and Hull coming up on the schedule. In a move he’d later label one of the stupidest decisions of my life,” Townshend told Pridden to burn the tapes so that they’d never wind up in the hands of bootleggers. So, instead of more shows from that era…we have very few.

So…now the tapes were burned and the Leeds and Hull concert was coming up. They had a lot of pressure to get it right for the live album.

Pete Townshend: “I played more carefully than usual and tried to avoid the careless bum notes that often occurred because I was trying to play and jump around at the same time. The next day we played a similar set in City Hall in Hull. This was another venue with good acoustics for loud rock, but it felt less intense than the previous night.”

They played most of the Tommy album and their “oldies” on this tour which at the time were songs only around five or six years old. The original Live at Leeds didn’t have any Tommy songs on it. This album was like a marker for the pre-Tommy Who coming to an end. The deluxe re-released version had the complete show full of Tommy material

The recordings had a few clicks in the tape and Townshend tried to maneuver around them.

Townshend tried slicing out the clicks with a razor blade and quickly realized it would be impossible to get all of them. But subpar-sounding bootlegs were flooding the market at this time, so the band just added a note to the label saying the clicks were intentional! The album cover was a faded stamp reading The Who: Live at Leeds on brown paper, mirroring the look of illegal vinyl bootlegs of the era. Later on, Aerosmith had a similar live “bootleg” album cover (which Deke looked at a couple of days back here!)

What impresses me is the only overdubbing on the album was the backup vocals because they were poorly recorded. John Entwistle and Pete did the backup vocals in one take in the studio to stay true to the live album. What you hear on the album is what the good people at Leeds heard that night. No massive overdubbing to tighten anything up. 

By 1970 The Who had been touring almost non-stop since 1964 and it showed on this album. After the album, the band didn’t tour as much as before. They worked in the studio on more complex albums Who’s Next and Quadrophenia. Their tours were not the marathon tours of the sixties.

This was before “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “Baba O’Riley”, and  Quadrophenia‘s complex music that required backing tapes live. This album was The Who as nature intended… a very loud tight rock band and possibly the best live rock album.

BTW…Bob Pridden worked as The Who’s soundman until 2016 when he retired. 

Here are three examples. “Young Man Blues”. Listen to Moon and Entwistle intertwine with each other. You also have “Summertime Blues” and “A Quick One, While He’s Away”.

The Who : Maximum R&B at it’s best.

 

May 4 – The Turntable Talk, Round 2 – A Stageful Of Blues

Today we continue our second instalment of Turntable Talk. We hope you liked the first one we ran last month which dealt with why the Beatles were still relevant. This time around, we’re pleased to have six guest writers discuss The Live Album. Some people love ’em, some hate ’em. Some musicians put out some of their best work in live, concert recordings, others seem to use them as a stopgap to fulfill contractual obligations and little else. So we’ve asked our panelists to discuss live albums, however they see fit. Do they enjoy them? Do the records live up to the experience of seeing an act play live? What are their favorites?

Today, we have Keith, from The Nostalgic Italian blog, a guy who says he just likes “classic stuff” – be it TV, movies or rock music. He writes about these things and more on his site, which we recommend highly. Today he looks at a band who really only did live albums –

This is my contribution to the next installment of Turntable Talk, hosted by Dave at A Sound Day. For this round, we are discussing the Live Album. “What’s your favorite? Do you even like them?” Is there an act that actually come out better on live releases than studio ones?”

This may seem a little ridiculous coming from a guy who has seen a lot of live concerts, but I have never really been a fan of live albums. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly enjoy seeing live shows, but I’d rather listen to studio albums. So when this topic was presented, I really had to think about whether there was even a live album I could pick.

I had it narrowed down to Aloha from Hawaii from Elvis, which is truly spectacular or Live Bullet from Bob Seger. However, one day on my drive in to work, the ’70’s on 7 channel played “Soul Man” by the Blues Brothers. I decided to focus on their two classic live albums – Briefcase Full of Blues and Made in America.

The Blues Brothers were made to play live music. In 1978, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi donned black suits, black hats, and sunglasses and treated the Saturday Night Live audience to Floyd Dixon’s “Hey Bartender” and Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man”. This was two years before their movie was even released. Their performance got them road gigs opening for Steve Martin and the Grateful Dead.

From Wikipedia:

With the help of pianist-arranger Paul Shaffer, Belushi and Aykroyd started assembling a collection of studio talents to form their own band. These included SNL band members saxophonist “Blue” Lou Marini and trombonist-saxophonist Tom “Bones” Malone who had previously played in the group Blood, Sweat and Tears. At Shaffer’s suggestion, guitarist Steve “The Colonel” Cropper and bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn the powerhouse combo from Booker T and the MG’s and subsequently almost every hit out of Memphis’ Stax Records during the 1960s, were signed as well.

Belushi wanted a powerful trumpet player and a hot blues guitarist, so Julliard-trained trumpeter Alan “Mr. Fabulous” Rubin was brought in, as was guitarist Matt “Guitar” Murphy who had performed with many blues legends.

For the brothers’ look, Belushi borrowed John Lee Hooker’s trademark Ray Ban Wayfarer Sunglasses and soul patch.

Their style was fresh and in many ways, different from prevailing musical trends: A very raw and “live” sound compared to the increasing use of sound synthesis and vocal-dominated music of the late 1970s and 1980s.

Briefcase Full of Blues was recorded in 1978 while the group opened for comedian Steve Martin. The album was so popular it hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 200 and went double platinum. The album consists of ten songs including Big Joe Turner’s “Flip, Flop, and Fly,’ Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man,” The Chips “Rubber Biscuit,” (which features a fantastic vocal by Aykroyd), Floyd Dixon’s “Hey Bartender,” Junior Wells’ “Messing with the Kid,” and a Belushi favorite, The Downchild Blues Band’s “I Got Everything I Need Almost.”

From the Album – “Hey Bartender”, “Soul Man” and “Rubber Biscuit” were released as singles. “Hey Bartender” didn’t chart, “Rubber Biscuit” went to #37, and “Soul Man” reached #14.

In 1980, The Blues Brothers film was released. The second album released was the soundtrack of the film, which contains a mix of live and studio cuts. With the success of the movie, Atlantic Records recorded a second live album entitled Made in America.

This album was recorded while the band was out playing a 22 date tour while supporting the movie.

The album opens with their cover of the Bar-Kays Soul Finger, which allows Elwood (Aykroyd) to introduce the band over the intro. Other soul/blues classics on album include Johnny Taylor’s “Who’s Making Love?,” a medley of The Contours “Do You Love Me,” and James Brown’s “Mother Popcorn,” Jimmy Reed’s, “I Ain’t Got You,” The Robins’ “Riot in Cell Block Number 9,” and Sonny Boy Williams’ “From the Bottom.”

The album features a Randy Newman cut entitled “Guilty.” What’s neat about this is that Elwood laments that his brother is guilty and he needs to find him a good lawyer, which allows the band to segue right into the Perry Mason theme song. It is obvious that Aykroyd is having fun scat singing along with this cut.

The highlight for me, despite all these great songs, is the fact that side two opens with “Green Onions”. The fact that Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn are playing on a song that they played on in the mid-’60’s brings it all full circle for me. It is a treat indeed.

As I look back over the many blues classics featured on these albums, I wonder what they might sound like if they had been recorded in the studio. I won’t lie, I would love to hear that! However, what we get encapsulated in these two albums are two nights of live music. The energy and electricity of the band mixed with the fun and lively vocals, all played against a background of some very happy people in the audience singing along.

John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd were far from accomplished musicians. But they surrounded themselves with the best of the best and that led to some amazing music captured for us on these two albums.