Happy early birthday, George Harrison.
Butch Trucks, drummer, Allman Brothers Band founding member, and uncle of modern guitar legend Derek, died this week. Even as the ABB tapered off its touring schedule and eventually concluded its historic run, Trucks continued a vibrant performance life, playing both with established musicians like his band mates and forming new bands with younger players.
One of Trucks’ lesser publicized projects was his personal blog. He started it about a month before this site went live, and it remains the most memorable thing I read online during that period. After speaking, essentially exclusively, through his drumming for decades, his unfiltered, direct, intelligent written communication revealed more of the personality behind his rhythm. And the writing was revealing. He wrote about controversial points in the band’s history, racism, Duane, Dickey, Skynyrd, the reality of his own upbringing, and more, and he even read and responded to reader comments. A rare opportunity to peer inside the active mind of one of the many pillars of rock and roll. The second half of 2011 was his busiest time on the site, which felt like it should have been shut down at any moment by a band PR rep, and he didn’t post there after 2013, but it is essential reading for any fan of the Allmans.
If you want to read something else, here’s an interview with Trucks and Jaimoe, the band’s other original drummer, in connection with the 40th anniversary tour two years ago. Otherwise, I’d recommend leaving all that behind for now and getting into these jams.
A lot of people thought 2016 was, mostly in an admittedly abstract or indirect way, a bad year. Most agree that 2017 will be another year. Before we get there, though, we must make it through today and tomorrow. In the course of doing so, many inevitably will turn their (hopefully not too lonely) eyes to the former home of Joe DiMaggio on Saturday night. This is a Jam:
The Tulsa Sound is defined in large part by the work of its two principal pillars, J.J. Cale and Leon Russell. Cale passed three years ago, and, on Sunday, Russell too returned to the eternal dust bowl:
Russell, known as “The Master of Space and Time,” was a master of the blues, country, rock, gospel — whatever styles of music were put in front of him and whatever he could pull from his creative mind. With dozens of albums, hundreds of songs recorded by musicians at the top of their game and thousands of contributions to recordings from The Beach Boys to J.J. Cale, Russell’s influence on music in the last 50 years has been profound.
In 1969, Russell performed in the Delaney & Bonnie and Friends band, with several members of the band coming on with Joe Cocker for the Mad Dogs and Englishmen recordings and iconic tour. That tour put a spotlight on fellow Tulsa musicians, with Jim Keltner and Blackwell on drums and Carl Radle on bass performing on the tour and on the album.
Russell launched his solo career with the release of his self-titled album in 1970, an album that included one of his best-known songs, “A Song for You.”
Russell moved back to Tulsa in the early 1970s to establish Shelter Records and build recording studios in Tulsa and near Grand Lake. A memorial to Russell grew throughout the day Sunday on the steps of his old Tulsa studio, The Church Studio on Third Street, which the city renamed Leon Russell Road in 2010.
His solo career produced multiple hit albums and songs, including “A Song for You,” “Tight Rope,” “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “Lady Blue.” His work spanned genres from the rock sounds of his self-titled 1970 album to the honky-tonk of “Hank Wilson’s Back,” incorporating blues, gospel and soul across his albums.
“He played and recorded with the heavyweights of country music — George Jones and Willie Nelson — and of course rock ‘n’ roll royalty — George Harrison and Eric Clapton,” said Jeff Moore, director of the forthcoming Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture, to which Russell donated a large part of his work for future display.
Relix adds this note from Russell’s appearance at the 2015 Lockn’ Festival:
But when it came down to brass tacks, he was straight business—playing and singing with all his might, giving tips to the musicians, beaming with joy as Derek [Trucks] ripped a solo or Susan [Tedeschi] wailed on the mic, and even leading the troupe through some surreal improvised jams. He was fully engaged with everyone in that rehearsal room, even though it must’ve been an overwhelming experience for him (he was working with dozens of people he hadn’t seen in over 45 years). He was like the elder statesman of the experience and treated everyone with love, respect and humility, which ultimately guided that massive collective to deliver one of the finest and most memorable shows any of us had ever seen or any of the musicians had been a part of.
Russell also played a featured role in Ravi Shankar and George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh, and this spotlight medley is a highlight of the night:
I’m not sure what’s going to happen now to the Tulsa Sound and scene without these two, and I’m hardly in a position to say, but I know that they made something special, authentic, and perfectly delivered. We don’t deserve more, and we probably don’t even deserve that.
Frank Zappa is one of the greatest and most interesting musicians America has produced. From 1966 until he died in 1993, he released dozens of albums bending various musical genres around his acerbic wit. FZ’s M.O., as I understand it, basically was to trick people into consuming high art by dressing it up as low art. His bands were one part orchestra, one part Foley studio, and one part rock & roll outfit. Creating the appearance of radical spontaneity on stage or in the recording studio merely was a crowning achievement of what undoubtedly was a very organized process. Zappa may have held extreme political views, but he was no anarchist. In light of the complexity of the music and the number of people it took to make it, everything– even kazoo honks and beach ball bounces– had to be carefully composed, or the project wouldn’t work. Was radical spontaneity involved in the initial generation of the ideas the songs would convey? Surely, and that’s what made these songs exciting and (attractively) dangerous to fans: even though the execution of these concepts necessarily was an orderly process, it still was Frank at the helm, and the audience didn’t know how far he would push the limits or if he’d steer them entirely off the rails.
All of that is what makes it a little bit difficult to digest what Dweezil Zappa is up to. Continue reading
Americans awoke this morning to news that the United Kingdom’s membership in the European Union is over, which makes today not unlike Wednesday, when Americans awoke to news that Iggy and The Stooges were “over.” Guitarist James Williamson explained: “Basically, everybody’s dead except for Iggy and I, so it would be sort of ludicrous to try to tour as Iggy And The Stooges.” There’s some logic there, which rarely is the case when it comes to Iggy Pop, who continues to tour the world with his solo band: the Asheton brothers and Dave Alexander, the founding members of The Stooges, indeed have been dead for at least a few years. In fact, many casual fans may have been surprised to learn that The Stooges still were a thing in 2016.
Steve Miller (not that one) has an oral history of the Detroit rock scene beginning in the 1960s, when Iggy and The Stooges were coming up along with other Ann Arbor/Flint/Detroit acts such as Ted Nugent, Bob Seger, Mitch Ryder, the MC5, and many, many others who never made it out, chronicled, in the early 70s, by noted critic Lester Bangs and Creem magazine. Miller’s book paints a fairly dark, violent, angry, and desperate picture of the music scene in Southeast Michigan, including the blend of hard rock and punk that developed there. Iggy’s picture adorns the cover of that book.
Interestingly, Pop also developed a working partnership with David Bowie, who undoubtedly was drawn to and encouraged elements of Pop’s stage performances. Decades later, a new generation would discover the music of both when an Iggy and The Stooges song, “Search and Destroy,” appeared on the Bowie-heavy soundtrack to the Wes Anderson movie The Life Aquatic. Among his most popular songs, “Lust for Life,” a solo effort, is the most upbeat, but for this space, “Search and Destroy,” from The Stooges’ 1973 Raw Power album, is the selection:
It’s basically a violation of international taxation conventions that I had not featured these guys in this space (of my own initiation) before today.
Sadness is the defining element of Southern rock in 2014. Checking in on its leading modern purveyors in one of their main clubhouses reveals a melancholy running deeper than the double-deep cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon that liquidate the room. Theirs is a blues without the form, which sometimes seems to be all that’s left of the aging blues. This is palpable, consistent emotion driven through late rock conventions. The bluesmen say they’re glad or proud about their affliction. While the Southern rock folks don’t despair, they are resolved: this is the situation, and the stories must be told. Listen for yourself.
That Saturday was my first visit to Athens’ famous 40 Watt Club, the third night of Drive-By Truckers’ “Homecoming” stand at the downtown venue. I saw the Truckers for the first time last summer, in Atlanta, and I was struck then by the degree to which a) they weren’t what I expected and b) their performance reoriented me to what they were doing. By the end of their short festival set I understood why people like them so much, and I jumped at the chance to hear them again last month in Athens when Magalan suggested the idea. Continue reading