Monday, November 23, 2009

The Beatles and musical history: "That'll Be the Day"

As it is likely known to any good Beatles fan (that is, anyone who has bought Anthology 1), The Beatles, still known as The Quarrymen but now including Paul and George, recorded in a studio for the first time in 1958. "That'll Be the Day" is one of two songs they recorded.

"That'll Be the Day" wasn't Buddy Holly's first professional recording by far, nor was it the first released, but it was his first hit, and it made him a huge star on both sides of the Atlantic. Buddy Holly's earliest recordings are pure country, moving on to pure rockabilly, but 1957 seems to be when he found his own unique voice and style, which I personally describe as a crossover from rockabilly to straightforward rock 'n' roll. Buddy Holly's creativity and incredibly diverse use of little more than three chords in the key of A made him an innovator, and likely the first singer-songwriter of rock 'n' roll.
Buddy Holly's music had a tremendous influence on The Beatles, and they would perform and record several more of his songs throughout their careers. John emulated his style in his early days, often wearing glasses like his, and an early version of his song "Hello Little Girl" clearly shows his influence. Heck, Paul even bought his song catalogue not too long ago!

The Quarrymen version of "That'll Be the Day" is pretty much a straight copy of the original, showing that they could learn songs better than they used to. I read once that they once thought that all of his songs were in the key of C, rather than A, and played them like that for a while- but that doesn't seem to be the case here.

Anyway, if "Baby, Let's Play House" wasn't rock 'n' roll enough for you, perhaps this song is. Even so, there are some that are even more rock 'n' roll than this...
So now we've got skiffle, rockabilly, and rock 'n' roll. Obviously, it'll diversify later.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Toon Music: Little Red Riding Hood "Special"!

Three songs from two Red cartoons today. From Little Red Riding Rabbit (1944), we have "The Five O'Clock Whistle" written by Josef Myrow, Gene Irwin & Kim Gannon:

...And "Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet", written in 1909 by Percy Wenrich (music) and Stanley Murphy (lyrics):

And here's an old, old sound cartoon from '29 featuring the song:

What a happy ending! :D

Finally, in 1943's Red Hot Riding Hood is the song "Daddy", written by Bobby Troup in 1941:

Obligatory lyric links:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Toon Music: "Blues in the Night"

My mama done told me, when I was in knee-pants...

Featured prominently in 1942's My Favorite Duck and Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid, the song was written for that year's film of the same name by Johnny Mercer (lyrics) and Harold Arlen (music).

Here's a great version by Cab Calloway:

Lyrics (Sinatra version):

Toon Music: "Freddy the Freshman, The Freshest Kid in Town"

If you ever see a Warner Bros. toon playing football, this is the song that will be playing.

Written by Cliff Friend and Dave Oppenheim in (I think) 1931, it was first used by WB in the '32 Merrie Melodie Freddy the Freshman:

I can't find a non-animated vintage recording, so this will have to do for now.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A country music grey area

Am I the only person in the world who neither hates nor worships country music? Surely there are others like me, who like country music as a form of folk music, but isn't obsessed with it. Frankly, I don't believe that the average country music fan is obsessive- which is an insulting thing to say to any sort of fan. My guess is that the people who hate country music see those who actually like it as being foreign and strange, and therefore extremist and scary.

You know how different and dangerous go together.

Anyway... myself, I prefer country music from the '30s to the '50s- and then I go on to the country rock of Buffalo Springfield and The Eagles, and to a certain extent, Creedence Clearwater Revival. I don't think country music with syrupy production, poppy sentimental melodies and chord structures, and an overall lack of rough edges is truly pure country music. Most modern "country" music is pop music with the same old dark tenor vocal with a Texan accent and maybe a Telecaster lead guitar. To me, that's country-inspired music... country pop, you could say. To me, it's only country music if you keep the chords simple.

That said, I'm also interested in alternative country- if most alternative country bands sounded like Danny Hamilton and the Mudslingers, that is.

A lot of my admiration for country music comes from the fact that my maternal grandfather comes from Arkansas, I suspect. That, and my maternal grandparents live out in a small city near So-Cal's mountains, which is locally famous for its cherries, and they not only regularly visit a nearby town famous for its apples (Oak Glen), they have their own garden, which includes fruits, nuts, and vegetables. I visit them several times a year, so I've often been surrounded by a world rooted in the Old West and the Deep South.
My profound interest in music also compels me to understand one of the many roots of rock 'n' roll, so I've done a fair bit of research into older country music. Hank Williams and other country blues yodelers is probably my favorite, while I'm astounded that more of today's guitarists aren't aware of the incredible electric virtuosos of the '50s. I mean, these guys were like the first shredders, a lot of 'em. I can't imagine why no guitar instrumental revivalists or psychobilly nutcases seem to be picking them up...

I wonder if country music haters are only hearing bad country music. It can be awfully corny if poorly performed...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I don't get The Velvet Underground

I think there must be something wrong with me. After listening to the samples of The Velvet Underground and Nico on Amazon, I can honestly say that I think The Monkees rock harder and kick more a** than Andy Warhol's pet band could ever do.

Okay, I did notice some squeaky rhythmic noises here and there, indicating unusual instrumentation and/or effects, and some shades of garage rock... but I was surprised at how soft and folksy it sounded. After hearing people shout to the heavens about how influential it is on punk, alternative, and indie, I was expecting something a lot freakier and abrasive. Like John Lennon's "Cold Turkey" or something like that.

I can kind of see how it'd influential on some weirder artsy rock bands, but I don't see how it could've influenced punk. Let me tell you, I've listened to some pretty crazy s*** out there, like X (the Australian band) and Crass. That stuff has hard-edged guitar-playing and manic vocals, as does most early punk. I can see somebody like Blues Magoos or even The Ohio Express influencing punk, but not these guys. Even if some of the songs do sound like a garage band that was told to turn down its amps. Maybe they influenced post-punk?

I don't mean to say that I wasn't impressed- not at all! I mean, heck, there was definitely some interesting sounds in those 30-second clips, and since it's called essential listening so often, I'll grab a copy one day. I just don't think I'll be thinking about it if I want to write a song that scares people. But what do I know? I'm a soft-hearted Christian hippie.

I was expecting something more like Iggy and the Stooges, as it turns out.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Love confusion

There's a girl I met in college last semester that I really liked. We totally geeked out about Disney after class once, and she also finds that cartoon animals can be physically attractive. She's off at another college now, but we still sorta (emphasis on sorta) keep in touch over Facebook.

But recently I've come to know some of her interests: Family Guy, which I find completely disgusting and morally repulsive, and at times even frightening in its attempts to consume the entirety of pop culture, Michael Jackson, who despite his talents, is a complete freak, even if he isn't a pedophile, and the Twilight series, which I think sounds idiotic and immature, and is a major threat to the image, reputation and possibly the mythos of vampirism & lycanthropy. Heck, I bet most Twilight fans don't even know the word "lycanthropy".

So what's a guy desperate for a companion to do?