Thursday, May 21, 2009

Classic Rock Videos

Bad Company- Rock & Roll Fantasy (live 1999)

'Rain' Songs- part two

written by Robert Benson

Let’s continue with our short four-part series about ‘rain’ songs in popular music history.

“Fire and Rain,” a #3 Billboard hit in 1970 for James Taylor, helped to define his creative songwriting skills and became, not only part of his signature sound, but was a profound influence for many other songwriters and performers.

The sparse arrangement, including Taylor on the acoustic guitar, was written into three parts. The first part refers to a friend Suzanne, who had died while Taylor was in London working on his first album (he never got to say goodbye- friends thought that it would be a distraction and kept the tragic news from him). The second part of the song details Taylor’s struggles to overcome his own drug addictions and depression. Finally, the third part of the song deals with facing the perils of fame and fortune, and in retrospect, exploring the road he traveled to get there.

The song includes a reference to James Taylor and the Flying Machine, a band he had worked with before he signed on with Apple Records. In fact, the lyric, “sweet dream and flying machines in pieces on the ground,” is a direct reference to the dissolved group and not a fatal airplane crash which the phrase was long rumored to be about.

As we all know, James Taylor has gone on to a stellar music career, his genre-defining sounds have long been recognized and admired. The song, “Fire and Rain” is in the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is named as Rolling Stones’ 227th greatest songs of all time (out of 500). The song has also been covered by numerous musicians including Willie Nelson (1975- #30 on the Billboard chart), Richie Havens, Herb Alpert, the Isley Brothers and many more.

Another ‘rain’ song that has a unique story is the cut “It’s Raining Men,” by the aptly named duo the Weather Girls (who were originally the back up singers for Sylvester in the late 1970s). The disco duo (Martha Wash and Izora Redman) took the song to #46 on the Billboard charts in 1983.

What’s interesting is that this one-hit-wonder had been offered to a virtual who’s who of female singing stars including the queen of disco, Donna Summer, diva Diana Ross, Cher, Grace Jones, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, among many others. Why even Barbra Streisand turned the song down. However, the Weather Girls made the song an international hit, selling over six million copies worldwide. The cut went to #1 on the US Disco chart, #34 on the US R&B charts, #2 in the UK and Australia and #1 on the Euro Hot 100.

The song was redone in April of 2001 by Geri Halliwell as a single on her second solo effort and was also on the soundtrack for the film “Bridget Jones Diary.” “It’s Raining Men” also became the second best selling single of 2001 (with over 3 million copies sold), not bad for a song nobody wanted to record in the early 1980s!

John Cougar Mellencamp’s ode to the plight of Midwestern farmers, “Rain On The Scarecrow,” hit #21 on the Billboard charts in 1986 (from the LP "Scarecrow" released in 1985 on Mercury Records). Although Mellencamp is widely accepted as the writer of the song, it was actually co-written by George M. Green. Mellencamp has a unique touch and passion in his songwriting that appeals to everyman.

But, this was more than just a song; it laments the sad financial difficulties that American farmers have endured and it shows that Mellencamp can be a serious social commentator. However, Mellencamp does more than just sing about the struggle, in fact, shortly after Scarecrow was finished, Mellencamp helped organize the first Farm Aid benefit concert with Willie Nelson and Neil Young in Champaign, Illinois on September 22, 1985. The Farm Aid concerts remain an annual event and have raised over $33 million for struggling family farmers through 2009. Interestingly, this album was also the first that Mellencamp recorded at his own recording studio, located in Belmont, Indiana (which was built in 1984). All of his subsequent albums after Scarecrow have also been recorded there.

“The Rain Song,” is a love ballad of over 7 minutes in length by Led Zeppelin (from the band’s fifth album Houses of the Holy, released in 1973). George Harrison was reportedly the inspiration for "The Rain Song" when he commented to Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham that the group never wrote any ballads. So as a tribute to Harrison the opening two notes are recognizably borrowed from his ballad "Something.”

During Led Zeppelin concerts from late 1972 until 1975, the band played the song immediately following "The Song Remains the Same," and by doing so they presented the songs in the same order as they appeared on the album. However, there was another reason for this; the group organized the set list in this manner because Page used a Gibson EDS-1275 double-necked guitar for both songs: the top, 12-string portion for "The Song Remains the Same" and then switching to the bottom, 6-string portion for "The Rain Song".

"The Rain Song" has appeared in two films: Almost Famous, directed by Cameron Crowe (who, as a teen reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, covered Led Zeppelin), and Led Zeppelin's own 1976 concert film, The Song Remains the Same (and accompanying soundtrack), as part of lead singer Robert Plant's fantasy sequence.

A hit for the band Blind Melon in 1993, their signature single “No Rain” topped off at #20 on the Billboard chart for 23 weeks in 1993 and hit #1 on both the Modern Rock Tracks and Mainstream Rock Tracks charts. "No Rain" was originally released in 1992, but was later re-released the following year and the cut subsequently helped propel Blind Melon to a multi-platinum level.

Led by singer Shannon Hoon (who died in 1995), the song was a hit not only because of the great music but is also well-known for its accompanying music video, which featured the "Bee Girl" character. The music video, directed by Samuel Bayer, received heavy airplay on MTV at the time of its release; helping to fuel sales.

It is a song that Blind Melon bass player Brad Smith had written about a former girlfriend. In the November, 1993 issue of Details magazine, he explained: "She had a hard time with depression. I was telling myself that I was writing it about her: how f--ked up she could be, but how intelligent she was and why she was so unhappy and how much she needed me to be happy. And I realized I was writing it about myself at the same time. I needed her just as much. She would sleep even when it was sunny outside and she'd complain that there wouldn't be any rain, because that would give her an excuse to stay in."

VH1 ranked the "No Rain" video 83rd on its "100 Greatest Videos of All Time" list and the cut is also #99 on the video channel's "100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders" list.

Look for part three of popular ‘rain’ songs in music history coming soon!

Blind Melon - No Rain (Live Acoustic)

Music News & Notes

Warbringer Debut New “Severed Reality” Video, Releases Album

The much anticipated new WARBRINGER album, Waking Into Nightmares, is set for a May 19th release, and the group recently completed a new video for the track, “Severed Reality,” which was shot by the acclaimed David Brodsky (Black Dahlia Murder, GWAR). This is a frenetic, performance based clip that perfectly captures the band’s live, unrelenting stage show. This video can now be viewed exclusively at the link below.

John Kevill (vocals) further comments: “The video for ‘Severed Reality’ got done in the middle of a tour, and it was done mostly live at the venue we were playing at that night in Milwaukee. We did a couple shots on the stage before anyone showed up, and then just shot the whole show for the video. As it turns out the show was fucking insane, we couldn't even fit all the stage divers in the video! David Brodsky went to put the whole thing together and it came out great, I think it is the strongest video we have had so far.”

Waking Into Nightmares is set to be released in just under a month and have now launched a pre-order for the album online at the new CM Distro. There are packages available for both the CD and LP versions of the album and each contain an exclusive T-Shirt and a bonus disc featuring rough mixes from the record.



Megadeath LP Coming Soon

Megadeth front-man, Dave Mustaine, has issued a statement to that the recording of Megadeth's forth coming album is done.

Recorded in Megadeth's studio coined "Vic's Garage," the still untitled album will be the twelfth studio release for the band.

Mustaine indicated that he's more excited about this album than any of his releases since the 1980's.


And even more coverage of the controversial album cover art from the Manic Street Preachers

Asda defends album cover ban

by James McCarthy, South Wales Echo

ASDA has become the latest supermarket to defend its decision to ban the cover of the Manic Street Preachers’ new album from their shelves.

The retail giant, along with Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, have been criticised for hiding the sleeve of the Blackwood band’s Journal for Plague Lovers behind a plain cover on the grounds it was “inappropriate”.

It features a painting by artist Jenny Saville of a girl with a large birthmark on the left side of her face.

Cardiff and Vale Coalition for the Disabled and Wales Liberal Democrat health spokesman, Peter Black, expressed concern the four retail giants had banned the image of a disfigured child.

But an Asda spokeswoman said: “It’s not really about that. If you first look at that picture it looks like a child that has been beaten up. Jenny Saville, her art, it’s deliberately designed to shock.”

“It’s a very shocking image and it may upset some of our customers.

“It’s not saying that we’re not (going) to look at people with facial disfigurements.

“People are not coming to Asda to look at art. They are coming to shop.”



Ian Hunter Signs To New West Records

Legendary Mott the Hoople front man and renowned solo artist, Ian Hunter, has signed to New West Records. Man Overboard, due July 21.

With Mott the Hoople, Hunter quickly established himself as an incredibly inventive songwriter with his gritty and thought provoking songs which paved the way for the original wave of punk rock.

The 1972 David Bowie produced breakthrough album All The Young Dudes catapulted the band into the British Top 10 and the American Top 40. Additionally, the band was the first act to ever sell out a week of Broadway concerts in New York City. Ian Hunter's autobiography, Diary Of A Rock and Roll Star, waswritten during the band's 1972 US Tour and published in 1974. The original Mott The Hoople lineup of Hunter, Mick Ralphs, Verden Allen, Dale Griffin, and Overend Watts have announced five 40th anniversary reunion shows at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo in London on October 1-6.

As a solo artist, Mr. Hunter has been responsible for instantly recognizable classics as "Once Bitten, Twice Shy," "Cleveland Rocks" (which went on to be the theme song for ABC's hit series The Drew Carey Show), and many, many more. Hunter and Mott the Hoople have been cited as inspirations for numerous artists including The Clash, Kiss, R.E.M., Oasis, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Motley Crue, Blur and Primal Scream among others. Hunter's influence on modern rock and roll music has been immeasurable, with over 150 different cover versions of his songs.

Man Overboard is Ian Hunter's 13th solo album since his eponymous debut in 1975. Recorded in late 2008 in Pawling, NY. It was produced by Andy York (veteran guitarist for John Mellencamp) and Ian Hunter and features a backing band of superstar talent comprised of Steve Holley on drums and percussion (Wings, Joe Cocker), Paul Page on bass (Dion), Jack Petruzzelli on electric guitar (Rufus Wainwright, Joan Osbourne), James Mastro on electric guitar (Patti Smith, John Cale), Andy Burton on piano and organ (The Db's) and Producer Andy York on guitar and backing vocals. Many of the band members are returning from the Shrunken Heads sessions. Regarding Man Overboard, Ian Hunter stated, "When we did Shrunken Heads, I felt like we had a good thing going so I wanted to revisit the experience before anything changed, and that's what we did."


Blur Compiles New Greatest Hits Collection

Now that they’ve got some serious headlining slots lined up—major festivals like T in the Park, Glastonbury and Oxegen—Blur have prepared a two-disc primer to their back catalogue. Dubbed Midlife: A Beginner’s Guide to Blur and due out June 15 in the UK, it features 25 tracks from throughout the band’s career, including some selections from their last LP, Think Tank.


Iggy Pop & the Stooges

Iggy Pop talked to The Australian about plans to reunite the Stooges' Raw Power lineup without the recently passed Ron Asheton.

“There is always Iggy and the Stooges, the second growth of the band. I had a meeting in LA last week with James (Williamson). It was the first time we had seen each other in 30 years. So we talked about doing something together. Raw Power would be the repertoire.”


Wolfmother News

Wolfmother are currently in the studio West Hollywood, Los Angeles working on their second album. They've been at it recording the album, entitled "Cosmic Egg," with renowned English producer Alan Moulder for a shade over six weeks now, according to the blog at Modular People.

"Back Round," the first piece from the new record to be revealed, was showcased at the MTV Australia Awards in March, and has been available from for free ever since, encouraging fans to donate money to the Red Cross Bushfire appeal in lieu of payment for the new track. "Back Round" will be available from iTunes worldwide on June 2nd. It has also now been revealed that the Australian four piece will hit the road on what's set to be the biggest tour in Australia of 2010, that is the return of AC/DC. In February and March of next year Wolfmother will be on the road with the legends as part of the Black Ice World Tour.


CCR Reissues

Fantasy Records continues its massive Creedence Clearwater Revival reissue program with the May 26, 2009, release of Creedence Covers the Classics, a compilation of the band's best cover tracks, plus a fully remastered version of The Concert, the band's 1970 live album. Last year, marking Creedence's 40th anniversary, Fantasy re-released the Rock ‘n' Roll Hall of Fame-inducted band's first six studio albums including rare never-before-released bonus tracks.

Creedence Clearwater Revival had developed a vast arsenal of covers during a lengthy apprenticeship in the local Bay Area music scene (as Tommy Fogerty & the Blue Velvets and later as the Golliwogs) by the time they emerged on the national stage in 1968. As fans of the 1950s "Golden Age of Rock ‘n' Roll," CCR hardly missed an opportunity to salute their musical heroes while making the songs their own. The Creedence Covers the Classics collection brings together for the first time these classic cover recordings.

Included are renditions of Dale Hawkins' "Susie Q" (CCR's very first hit single), Little Richard's "Good Golly Miss Molly," Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," Ricky Nelson's "Hello Mary Lou," Leadbelly's "The Midnight Special" and "Cotton Fields," Roy Orbison's "Ooby Dooby," Ray Charles' "The Night Time Is the Right Time," Wilson Pickett's "Ninety-Nine and a Half," Bo Diddley's "Before You Accuse Me," Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup's "My Baby Left Me" (made a hit by Elvis Presley) and Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell On You."