Stadium Jam

The Wall Street Journal (now with questionable sports bona fides!) published today, in oral-history style, a feature on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 1974 summer stadium tour. An introductory excerpt:

On July 9, 1974, a month before President Richard Nixon resigned, with albums by Elton John and John Denver at the top of the charts, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young reunited to begin an ambitious nine-week tour of the U.S., Canada and England. Produced by Bill Graham, most of the 31 concerts were performed at stadiums and speedways with lengthy sets and clear, audible sound—firsts for an outdoor rock tour. Tickets cost about $7.50 (or $36 in today’s dollars).

Although the band hadn’t had a top-10 album since 1971, CSNY performed three-hour sets before crowds averaging 50,000 per concert, paving the way for rock stadium tours that followed.

Graham Nash: The idea for the tour was Bill Graham’s. Bill called me in my room at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles in early ’74. Bill said a lot of money could be made, and we knew Bill was used to putting on large events and had just produced Bob Dylan’s 40-date tour. Bill also pointed out that something on this scale had never been tried before, which sounded pretty cool to us.

For our music-sports nexus, the article also sheds a little light on Stephen Stills’ well-photographed penchant for wearing football jerseys onstage and on album covers:

[Tour photographer Joel] Bernstein: Stephen started wearing football jerseys on stage that year. The jerseys had a practical purpose—they were big and loose and perfect for a guitarist on stage. But they also were a statement. Remember, there were no NFL stores back then. All of those jerseys were originals, given to him by NFL players. I think for Stephen, they symbolized being in a stadium on a great team. There probably was a certain amount of irony there, too—he was a big football fan.

Speaking of photographs, the article includes a slideshow, which is the real gem here. High-quality audio and video from the tour are due out next month, but HD sideburn images are just a click away.   Continue reading

Winter Birthday Jam

Stephen Stills is one of my most favorite musicians and, like with Steve Winwood, I’ve enjoyed tracing his career through different ensembles and solo ventures and musical styles and phases. Somehow lesser-recognized today than bandmates David Crosby and Graham Nash, Stills was the guitar and vocal muscle that drove and textured CSN’s harmonies. Even though it eventually left him, relatively speaking, Stills’ songwriting muse burned bright in those early days too.

I could write another essay just on Manassas, my favorite Stills band, and their two albums, the first of which has been called “a sprawling masterpiece akin to the Beatles’ White Album, the Stones’ Exile on Main St., or Wilco’s Being There in its makeup.” Stills also played a critical role in bringing to life Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield’s Super Session, which, like Sgt. Pepper’s, “ushered in several new phases in rock & roll’s concurrent transformation.” Even before all of that, he had penned one of the most lasting 1960s protest songs, “For What It’s Worth,” for Buffalo Springfield.  While Crosby and Nash were off on one of their collaborations, he got together with Neil Young for the underappreciated Long May You Run, a quiet offering that ultimately failed to hold Young’s interest, as Winwood and Blind Faith ultimately failed to hold Eric Clapton’s. Although the strength of his later solo recordings wavered over the years, I enjoy his self-titled solo debut, which coyly hides guitar offerings from Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. I also enjoyed his 2005 solo-comeback-of-sorts, Man Alive!, with its cameos from Nash, Young, and Herbie Hancock. In 2007, Stills issued one of the few truly insightful and valuable archival releases in recent memory, and if you’re still with me at this point, you’ll want to read more about Just Roll Tape.

For all this, though, there’s no better Stills winter record than 1975’s Live, a somewhat brief offering with an electric A side and an acoustic B side. (And by “winter record,” I mean a disc to which you repeatedly turn when you’re trying to use the CD player to kickstart your Blazer’s chronically dysfunctional heater core in January in Michigan.) Today is Stills’ sixty-ninth birthday. Here’s the meat of that A side:

Silent Film Series: Halloween Edition

Over the weekend, I decided it was time to start transitioning my music listening into the autumnal mode, and rather than go straight to Harvest on the vinyl, I decided to ease into things with Jerry Garcia’s second solo album, a 1974 release known as Garcia (Compliments). The version I have comes from a Garcia boxed set, which means it has a number of bonus tracks appended to those songs that comprised the original release. Like a lot of Garcia’s solo work, there are plenty of cover tunes on this album, and while I generally like the release more than the two-star rating it received from AllMusic, there’s one song in particular that’s stuck out to me since my first listen.

The tune is one of the bonus tracks, an R&B-type cover entitled “(I’m a) Road Runner,” written by the hit-making Holland-Dozier-Holland Motown songwriting team, and first recorded by Junior Walker and the All-Stars in 1965. Of the versions I’ve heard, I like Garcia’s the best– it’s the most complete, to my ear– but Bo Diddley got ahold of it too, and it’s his version that prompted this post.

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Two things you might think would happen in this space are not going to happen. First, this being the continuation of our Silent Film Series, you might expect discussion of a video clip best viewed without sound, since that’s the premise of the Series. Second, this being a post about Halloween, videos, and music, you might expect me to go with this, which, if this was a Friday, is what I would’ve done.

Instead and in light of the above, I’m appealing to the common notion that, on Halloween, things that were dead take on an impressively lifelike quality (e.g., ghosts, mummies, zombies, vampires, etc.), and applying that concept to the notion of “silent” films as I’ve conceived it here. In other words, when a “silent” film takes on lifelike qualities on Halloween, you can hear it as well as see it. In other words, I was watching the selection, below, with the sound on, quickly reached the definite conclusion were the visuals of the sort that would make the clip a good feature in this spot, and then reached the probable conclusion that everyone would like watching it better with the music playing too. In still other words, turn up your volume, and enjoy a minor spectacle of live-action sight and sound:

The DET Offensive: Everybody knows this is nowhere

It seems I spoke too soon. I didn’t say it explicitly, but I thought losing a Justin Verlander start to the Royals while treading water in second place in all the relevant standings in late August was pretty much rock bottom for a team with the preseason expectations and on-paper (both white and greenbacked) potential of the 2012 Detroit Tigers. No, I see now that getting swept by the Royals to end the month of August three games out of both the division lead and the second wild card spot is rock bottom. Although I’ve begun the process of emotionally untangling myself from this team, they aren’t dead in the water and their closing schedule allows them to control their own destiny. If that destiny is to include a playoff berth, though, they’re going to have to string together some winning streaks against critical opponents, something they largely have avoided this entire season. If there are to be no playoffs for this team, though, then I think we can all look back on the above-captured moment when Mike Moustakas grapple-tackled Prince Fielder as the Tigers’ point of know return.

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Previously
Now it’s just offensive – 8/29
Explode! – 7/23
Halfway at the Half-way – 7/9

Interleague
Play – 6/26
Call the Experts! 
 5/26
Recipe for a Slumpbuster
 – 5/2
Delmon Young Swings and Misses
 – 4/30
Brennan Boesch’s Birthday – 4/12
Tigers open 2012 season with Sawks sweep – 4/9

A Thanksgiving tradition for over 30 years

If there’s one thing upon which all of us can agree, I think it’s The Last Waltz at Thanksgivingtime. The following is from an invitation I’ve sent to friends in years past when I was living elsewhere:

On Thanksgiving, 1976, at Winterland in San Francisco, the Band gave its final concert: The Last Waltz. The group was in top form, playing all of their best songs from their multi-decade lifespan with their best friends and influences there to help them. From early mentors and collaborators like Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan to Canadians Joni Mitchell and Neil Young to bluesmen Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton to songsmiths Neil Diamond and Van Morrison and many more, this was a one-of-a-kind event, captured and beautifully preserved by Martin Scorsese.

A true landmark, both in the worlds of music and cinematography, The Last Waltz has been a part of my Thanksgiving observation for years now, and I would like you to take it in with me. 

Wherever you find yourself this year, the 35th anniversary of the event, grab a copy of the movie, give thanks, wear something nice, and above all else, remember,