John McLaughlin “Now Here This” Interview Part 2 [Listen 28:44] – Sitting in the control room with Teo Macero and John McLaughlin S03 Ep04 (Part 2 of 2)
Special Guest: John McLaughlin: McLaughlin started his career off as a 19 year old trailblazing guitar master, blowing away audiences just as the British blues was exploding on the scene. Bands like Cream and the Yardbirds were just starting to take shape, and guitarists like Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Jimi Hendrix were just starting out and hoping to cut their teeth. My next guest had a different calling, going on a different tangent and taking his sound away from the blues-rock world of guitar hooks and classic rock solos and instead schooling himself on some of the most beautiful but also technically challenging music styles known in music. He delved into playing styles like flamenco guitar with Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucia; world music with people like Carlos Santana and Trilok Gurtu, and straight ahead jazz with too many jazz legends to mention. John McLaughlin was a major player in helping take jazz on one of most extreme and interesting rides ever with the sub-genre 'jazz fusion.' He is so highly respected that Miles Davis immortalized him in two songs, one of them on his landmark album, Bitches Brew, with the honorarily titled "John McLaughlin." Currently, McLaughlin and his band, The 4th Dimension, have a brand new album out called “Now Here This” an album about which McLaughlin has been quoted as saying “It’s the best thing I ever did, from the beginning until today.” In this podcast we talk about the elder blues statesman Alexis Korner and his effect on the British Blues world, John McLaughlin's days with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce previous to the formation of their band Cream, we also get into anecdotes with Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, the album Emergency!, Tony Williams, Larry Young, Joey DeFrancesco, Elvin Jones, John Mayall and finish off with the story of how Miles Davis came to write the song titled "John McLaughlin."
Going Thru a Miles Davis collection
Getting into Miles Davis' music for the first time can be a daunting undertaking. First off, he released many records, and many of them groundbreaking. He also changed his style quite dramatically at different time periods in his career, so where to start, and what to look for can be a little overwhelming. Of course, there are the albums that must be in the collection which are well known and loved by everyone and need to be there to say that they're into Miles Davis, according to aficionados. Then there are albums that are not necessarily must-haves but come down to being just as good, or very close to just as good, and ones that the neophyte would do better to try after they've gained some familiarity into his music. Of course, it can all come down to a matter of opinion, but take the advice from those who have gone through it and are willing to impart what they've found.
For those who get it in their blood, rich appreciation takes hold, it gets to be a hunger, and later, after having spent hours upon hours savouring every nuance and note, the albums get to be second nature and fans couldn't imagine being without the albums in their collection. For the music fan, it truly becomes a thing of beauty. But for the beginner, all these different albums and musical periods can be hard to sort through. The good news is, that for those starting out, Davis may be the most accessible jazz artist – easier to get into than later period John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy or say Ornette Coleman.
For myself, I have never come across a Miles Davis record that I didn’t like.
Here is a small sample of Davis albums. Though most fans categorize Davis’ collection according to time periods; I personally separate Davis’ playing into tempos to put on according to my mood. I have sorted this list with both categorizations in mind. If you're new to it, try it out; I hope it broadens your horizon.
Generally Davis’ playing during this period tends to be of a quick and agile straight ahead jazz. All of it is pretty accessible and sound like “Jazz” in a traditional sense.
Birth of Cool (Released in 1957) (Tempo : Mid-slow)
This is Miles Davis in a big band setting and is notable for among other things, one being the first time he worked with arranger Gil Evans. Though released in 1957, the recordings themselves actually date from 1949 and 1950. This pivotal album was Miles Davis’ first big change to the jazz world – ushering in the switch from Bebop Jazz, playing with Charlie Parker in these years, to what became to be known as “cool jazz" (in no small part because of this monumental album.) In short, a great album that goes well with any occasion.
'Round About Midnight (Released in 1957) (Tempo: mixed - Slow and Quick tracks)
A phenomenal record. After recording for smaller labels like Prestige, Davis decided to move to Columbia Records to record ‘Round About Midnight (his first album in a long career with the label). Considered his first great quintet, the album has John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. They really clicked on this album.
Bags Groove (1957) (Tempo: Mid to Quick)
Although this it a lot of people’s favourite record; I personally just put this record on when I feel like changing it up and listen to a Miles Davis record I haven’t heard in a while. The players on this album are an all-star roster playing at their best.
Milestones (1958) (Tempo: Quick)
Another straight ahead jazz style record and one that I reach for more often than any other of this time period; in short one of his best.
Ascenseur Pour L’echafaud (1958) (Tempo: Very slow)
This has to be one of Davis' easiest records to listen to, and one that gets frequent play. While touring Europe, Davis decided to record a soundtrack (Ascenseur Pour L’echafaud) – it doesn’t have any star players on it apart from Davis himself, but it's a great album. It has a cool minimalist quality to it. The only problem with this record is that it’s hard to find. Get it if you see it.
Generally marked by his work with Gil Evans; these are some of his most loved and sought after records.
Kind of Blue (1959) (Tempo: Mid)
Maybe the most loved Jazz record of all time. For me what differentiates this from his other records is the inclusion of Bill Evans. Not to say that Evans was the star, but I just think that he mixed really well with Davis, John Coltrane and the rest of the band.
Sketches of Spain (1960) (Tempo: Low to Mid)
A great collaboration between Gil Evans and Miles Davis that is set to Spanish folk tunes; a much loved Miles Davis record. Although I rarely put it on myself.
At Carnegie Hall (1961) (Tempo: Quick)
Having heard Kind of Blue so often, it took me a while to get into the rendition of “So What” and the other classic tunes that Davis plays with orchestration. If you find you have the same difficulty, my advice is to not give up on it; you will most likely fall in love with it after some time.
This album rings in his second great quintet and consists of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. Each member of this band have gone on to change jazz in their own unique way.
Live at the Plugged Nickel (1965) (Tempo: Quick and Agile)
Recorded at a club called Plugged Nickel in Chicago 1965; this stuff is legendary. I play this a lot.
For some, this was where jazz stopped being jazz and turned into a free-for-all with musicians focused only onto what they were doing individually. I think less people hold this opinion in general these days; that said, this stuff isn't for everyone. Miles Davis was one of the first to plug in and has some of the most extreme examples of "Jazz-Fusion."
In a Silent Way (1969) (Tempo: Ultra slow)
Albums don`t come any better than this one. The first record that John McLaughlin played on – this record is one of the most relaxing and awe-inspiring records in my collection.
Bitches Brew (1970) (Tempo: Slow to Mid)
This is where the rubber hits the road as far as electric instruments and jazz being combined. This is a record that I didn't originally warm up to but is now one of my favorite albums of all time. If I had one complaint it would be that the `Complete Bitches Brew` needs to be easier to find and cost much less on vinyl.
Post Retirement Period
After releasing "On the Corner," Davis called it quits (for five years). After reading his autobiography, I think this wasn't the healthiest move on his part. Luckily, he released some stuff from the vaults during this time period and eventually came out of retirement. Though he didn't bring out any career changing albums, for me, he still brought out some good stuff.
Agharta (1975) (Tempo: Funky/Crazy)
Recorded February 1, 1975 in Japan, Agharta (the afternoon set) was part of a two part live release (the evening set was also released; called Pangaea). Davis has never been more crazy, wild or unapologetically funky than he was here. In fact, he was so wild that critics at the time were accusing him of not acting his age and borrowing too much from Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, and James Brown. What do critics know. On this album, the band is absolutely stellar and the music is totally moving. Although it's definitely not the album to start with. Not for a gentle immersion anyway.
Tutu (1986) (Tempo: Mellow/Smooth with an 80's flair)
Once you get past the dated 80’s drum machines and synthesizers sounds and settle into what's being played, you will realize that this is a great record. No, this is not as good as “In a Silent Way” or “Kind of Blue,” but it's still a great Miles Davis record.
-- Jason Hoffer
Next week: Steve Albini
Plus a bonus interview with Brett Anderson (of the Stripminers and the Donnas)
Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers Interview – Holding onto the bass for dear life with Ernie Isley (Part 2 of 3) [Listen 34:30 min] S02 Ep15
Interview Date: August 13, 2012 @10 am EDT
Special Guest: Ernie Isley (of the Isley Brothers) - is a key member in one of the most famous soul/funk/R&R bands of all time. Ernie Isley was a crucial component in the band at a historic and transitional time in music; they changed the sound of the band's early music with songs like “This Old Heart of Mine” and “Shout” and advanced into their later funk driven sound with songs like "Fight the Power Pts. 1 & 2," "Harvest for the World," "Voyage to Atlantis," and “That Lady.” Ernie Isley helped make the Isley brothers one of the few groups that have charted in five consecutive decades. In this podcast we talk about why Jimi Hendrix had difficulty catching in America, the first time Ernie was in the studio to record "It's your thing," the 3 + 3 recording sessions, and the Beatles inspiration and introduction in America.
Attention Everyone: This is a Snobbery!
In these days of music snobs and jokes like “I'm into bands that haven't even formed yet.” As great as some artists are lauded now and pasted on the front cover of magazines and whose image sell millions of t-shirts, some never got the popularity nor the due respect simply because they were too advanced for the population or market to accept. All this despite skill, mettle, integrity, or whatever you wish to say that separates a band from the crowd but also separates them so far for them to fail to realize success. Ironically, while recognition is the measure and aim (often) of budding artists pushing their craft to new levels hoping to make it big, the market and larger population tends to be pretty conservative.
But this is the market. And there's more than one side. The Delfonics probably wouldn't have such a cult following if it weren't so cool to be into the band before they broke, or never broke but should have. If every band that finally made it had a nickel from everyone who said they were into them before they got popular, well, let's just say that there would be a lot more money to go around to feed the starving artists, perhaps to the ends of time.
This is the priceless and intangible commodity; the je nes sais quoi of music appreciation. Lest not we forget Hammond's Folley: Bob Dylan. Hammond's Folley was the moniker given to Dylan because Columbia Records' A&R man John Hammond signed Dylan, and produced his album which sold poorly at first and Hammond's bosses found such disfavour with Dylan they dubbed him “Hammond's Folley.” In fact, the Columbia Record execs didn't authorize his signing. It was Hammond's persistence and rebellious nature to go ahead and sign him despite his superiors objections. Obviously, he had an ear more advanced than the execs; Dylan's success and Hammond's reputation more than show for it.
There are scores of bands that influenced others and helped launch them into stardom but never got to reap the same degree of success. Jimi Hendrix credited the Isley Brothers because reporters fascinated by his sound wanted to know how he developed and would ask him directly what bands he was into and influenced by. Often, Hendrix would only mention the Isley Brothers.
Also, unfortunately, as time wears on influences get forgotten and stories get simplified. As Ernie Isley describes in the interview, finding McCartney in his audience, they happened to have a great meeting, and the two gushed on each other great respect. And while the same three names of Elvis, Carl Perkins, and Chuck Berry get mentioned as the influences of the Beatles, McCartney told Isley that the Beatles would never have gotten out of Liverpool had it not been for the Isley Brothers, and he got up on stage and said so to give them homage.
It's a mercurial nature of where a sound takes hold. Place and time are never consistent. Hendrix said that he really learned to play while he was in Memphis because the audiences were so hard and everybody there played guitar, but Memphis got to be limiting pretty quickly in terms of sound; that plus the race issue made it difficult to gain success there. In the U.S. in '63 only the major metropolitan areas were where mixed race bands were accepted; elsewhere, they were often shut down or forced out. Countless stories could be told. During this time, and the influx of the British Invasion, Hendrix was told that he just wouldn't sell in America. This is how Jimi was spirited away to the U.K.
But I'm not talking about the race issue here, it's the general acceptance issue-if their music was appreciated. The same goes for fine art and literature. Artists sometimes never get the recognition they deserve until they're dead.
And still, musicians get passed over because they were too advanced. All this considering the valuable commodity and bragging rights of being into the band that hasn't broke yet, but on the verge. Unfortunately, some remain on the verge and only make it to a revered cult following; such has been said of Sun Ra and Frank Zappa.
But what makes the long hours of research so rewarding is honing that appreciation to be able to flesh out the bands that had that sound, or skill, or philosophy, or audacity to push music in another direction but just weren't pushed, promoted, discovered, or simply just weren't accepted in their time and passed over. It's not just collecting, it's honing an appreciation and relishing the reward. It brings a higher level of integrity to music snob.
We thought we'd pay a little respect to some of the artists who didn't get their due in their day.
Considered by most as only a joke at first. I bet you own a t-shirt with their name on it.
P.S. Dylan releases his new album, "Tempest" around the second week of September
John McNally of the Searchers interview (part 2 of 2) [Listen 25:41] – Nearly giving in to John McNally (S02 Ep15)
Interview Date: July 20, 2012 @ 2 pm
Special Guest: John McNally of the Searchers - Known for hits like "Sweets for my Sweet," "Needles and Pins," and "Love Potion Number 9," the Searchers were one of the leading bands to come out of the Merseybeat scene out of Liverpool in the early 60's. Known for playing at the Star Club in Hamburg, the Cavern, and the Iron Door in Liverpool, the Searchers went on to become part of the first wave of the "British Invasion" with a TV appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and a major US tour. The Searchers have continued to entertain and tour 50 years on. In this podcast we talk about some of their hit songs, John Lennon and Brian Epstein, going on tour with the Rolling Stones and much more.
The Truncated History of the Birth of the Loud Guitar
A little research into the background of the electric guitar reveals some fascinating history. Similar to the birth of Radio, (on which Ken Burns has a great documentary “Empire of the Air”), the players and path of making the guitar louder has some fascinating and colourful characters. All of which, had they not been present, would have shaped the progression of the guitar very differently. Perhaps, most profoundly for the Rickenbacker electric guitar.
We'll start the story at where the desire to make the guitar louder launched the impetus to create in George Beauchamp, (pronounced Beechum) a vaudeville violinist and steel guitar player who wanted to be heard more clearly above the band. He sought John Dopyera to create a prototype of his design using a phonograph horn similar to what was used on phonographs of the time. Other inventors were trying to produce an amplified guitar using similar methods at the time. Apparently, this first attempt was nothing but a failure, but their next design involved using three aluminum resonators proved to fulfil everything that Beauchamp had hoped. It proved to impress him so much that he proposed that Dopyera go into business with him to market them. They founded the National String Instrument Corporation and thus the first National resonator guitar was born - the tricone.
Searching for investors, Beauchamp took the tricone prototype to a party his 20's millionaire playboy, cousin-in-law, Ted Kleinmeyer, was hosting, and where hawaiian guitar virtuoso Sol Ho'opi'i and his trio were playing for Ho'opi'i to play. Apparently, having heard Ho'opi'i playing the new guitar, Kleinmeyer gave Beauchamp a $12,000 cheque that same night. Kleinmeyer's investment was great fortune for the company, but perhaps not so difficult to come by as one would think, as Kleinmeyer was trying to burn through his inheritance before he would get his next million dollars of inheritance at 30. However, the events that evening were the pivotal point which changed the lives and careers of countless people, and it's effects are still resounding. For the initial players, Sol Ho'opi'i continued to play the tricone and helped to make the guitar quite popular. It's general popularity lasted until the electric guitar came into use, but steel instruments still are mainstays in Hawaiian music, and familiar in blues, western swing, bluegrass, and country.
From their nascent factory, Beauchamp and Dopyera went to a nearby metal stamping plant owned by a Swiss born man by the name of Adolph Rickenbacher (who anglicized his name to Rickenbacker, partly because of famous relative and top WWI ace, race car driver, and automobile manufacturer, Eddie Rickenbacker) to make the metal bodies of the instruments they were making. Successful production began almost overnight.
Unfortunately, the partnership would not last, internal struggles, hardship, and disagreements with the direction of the company caused the bond of the members to fracture. John Dopyera quit to form the his own company - the Dobro Corporation. Beauchamp himself was fired. Kleinmeyer, nearly broke by then, sold out his shares to Louis Dopyera, one of the Dopyera brothers who remained involved in National. Rickenbacker himself seemed to be the only level headed one, and continued to do business with the splinter groups.
John Dopyera, sought to make a resonator that would be less costly to produce and therefore priced more appropriately for a larger scope of players, one that implemented a single cone instead of three. Something he tried to produce at National, but wasn't able, contributing to his frustration with the company. With his new company, he set to building his plan, but despite being one of the creators of the resonator, National owned the patent for the single cone and he had to come up with another design to work around the patent. This brought him to found the Dobro company with four of his brothers. He designed plans to invert the aluminum cone and have the strings transmit their sound through an eight-way branching cast aluminum frame called a spider. While the name Dobro is used to refer to many resonators, the inverted cone spider type is the true dobro. Gibson guitars purchased the rights to the Dobro name now.
The single cone resonator proving, as Dopyera figured, to be cheaper, and producing more volume, became popular and took sales. National didn't want to be left behind and had to come out with their own single cone using what they call a biscuit to transmit the sound to the cone -known as the National biscuit, or simply the National.
Beauchamp, still investing his time in experimentation, decided to pursue the concept of amplifying the guitar by use of electronics, and educated himself by enrolling in night school. After night school and through several months of experimentation, finally he had developed a way of concentrating the magnetic field under each string. Beauchamp went back to Rickenbacker to found a new company to produce the instrument. They began making the electric guitar, “the Rickenbacker” a.k.a. “the frying pan.”
To show what great products blossomed out of that seminal moment when Beauchamp had Ho'opi'i play his prototype that night, one need only pick a few more examples; the effects really seem to be endless the more one looks into it. All events concerning electric guitars can trace their way back to that night. Rickenbacker, producing amplifiers for their guitars had many of them making their way into Leo Fender's radio repair shop sparking his interest in electric instruments (who later formed Fender with Clayton Orr "Doc" Kauffman, another former worker for Rickenbacker). And further events brought the National String Instrument Company, and Dobro to merge for a time, forming the National Dobro Company which, in turn led three former owners of that company to spin-off and form another company,Valco. Victor Smith, Al Frost, and Louis Dopyera, founded the short lived company, but produced a highly sought after guitar. Simply, the history of the electric guitar goes back to that evening at Kleinmeyer's party.
Rickenbacker continues to develop guitars, and the basis of their electromagnetic pickups are still the standard for amplifying the sound from the strings. Rickenbackers, although a different company than from the formative years, still are known by their distinct, clear sound and original style. Paul McCartney and George Harrison were known to use them, plus Tom Petty and many more, but to list them would only serve an example of leaving notable names out, plus make this a much longer article, and that's not the point. What was meant to show and that the history of the loud guitar isn't so hard to trace back to that one evening, and to Beauchamp, who had a little ingenuity, and the wish to play loud, so to end this history here with a quote from Bob Dylan; “Play fucking loud!”
A Message from Leafcutter John
I’m making a piece of music for BBC radio 3′s the Verb show and I’d like to assemble a large chorus of people speaking in morse code. I need your help – All you have to do is record yourself speaking the letter ‘Q’ followed by the words:
if you like you can then follow that with your favourite word beginning with the letter Q.
Or you can email me the recording & tell me how you’d like to be credited.
I think the show goes out on 24th October.
The Kinks - Have a cool contest for people wanting to re-interpret one of their songs. You can find out more here: http://www.talenthouse.com/collaborate-with-the-kinks
Tom Waits News:
Interview Date: July 20, 2012 @ 2 pm
Special Guest: John McNally of the Searchers - Known for hits like "Sweets for my Sweet", "Needles and Pins" and "Love Potion Number 9" the Searchers were one of the leading bands to come out of the Merseybeat scene out of Liverpool in the early 60's. Known for playing at the Star Club in Hamburg, the Cavern, and the Iron Door in Liverpool, the Searchers went on to become part of the first wave of the "British Invasion" with a TV appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and a major US tour. The Searchers have continued to entertain and tour 50 years on. In this podcast we talk about what the Mersey sound is, Skiffle, The Beatles, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Fats Domino, the Cavern, The Star Club and more.
The Path to Becoming Recognized as a God and Gaining Ecstatic Joy and Unfathomable Riches (Through Rebellion, Grief, and Failure)
It's a topic that's been plunged into several times over, but we're going to breech it here again: John Lennon. He had tough beginnings. An absent father, and brought up by a strict Aunt, his free-spirited mother encouraged him and probably aided to his “corruption.” Later traumatized by her early death, which left unresolved issues (somewhat revealed in his song “Mother”). Lennon was an outsider. He was troubled, and obviously didn't fit in. In school days (in the staid and restrictive British education system), he was disruptive and deemed unteachable. He failed all his O levels, but was accepted into Liverpool Art School. In those days, he put his energy into his passion - Rock & Roll. He bought a guitar before he even know how to string one and played it banjo style.1(31)
Despite his lack of knowledge, he was driven, and he was persistent and persuasive; he enticed his friends to join along with him to form a skiffle group. He emulated his rock & roll idols in style and attitude, Elvis being one of his biggest. And, apparently, he didn't temper his attitude for anyone. He had numerous fights with his Aunt. While most kids adopt a rebellious style for posturing, Lennon must have had a better understanding of the alienation and frustration and the need for creative expression and release like the original artists of the music he was identifying with, having a depth gained through sorrow and estrangement. The driving rock & roll beat must have led to both fueling and allowing him to vent his frustration and anger. But obviously, it was not enough; he was known to get into fights and beat his women. (Listen to "Jealous Guy")
Spurred on by the excitement, emotion, encouragement from his mother, plus the attention it gained from girls, Lennon kept up with playing the heavy beat rock & roll that came from the United States. Although not as musically talented, John recognized well enough to cater to it, even if it bruised his ego, and begrudgingly accepted Paul McCartney into the group and later took in George Harrison in a similar fashion. The band grew, others left for other interests, or were forced out.
But it’s not just John's leadership, recognition of talent, or even the idea about the whole of the Beatles being greater than the sum of it's parts that led to Lennon's success; more than that it's the few people that stepped in and helped immeasurably, sometimes unknowingly, like the schoolmaster who wrote a letter encouraging enough to get him into art school despite failing the O levels where he met his first bandmates, and Allan Williams, owner of the Jacaranda Club, who was the one who got them the contract to play in Hamburg, Germany where really, it all came together, and of course, Brian Epstein. Although the Beatles later became critical of Epstein's management (save for Ringo Starr), without Epstein, the Beatles most likely would never have been so widely known. He persuaded the band to clean up their image, and did so at a time when John was still hurling insults to the audience and for behaviour that nowdays leads to a quick path of getting institutionalized and medicated. John was reluctant to change, but through Epstein's insistence, John complied,although, he didn't temper his attitude and behaviour off-stage. A tough transition, though it worked. The tough, leather-clad band simply wouldn't have been marketable to such a wide audience as Epstien made them. Success made it too rewarding not to comply for appearances. And they were gaining success in torrents.
But it was John's pain, wit, attitude, intellect, collegiality and ability to collaborate which contributed most of all to his success. It was not by controlling, conforming, and pigeonholing, but more through guidance and encouragement that John was allowed to tap into his inspiration and creativity and it was this that allowed the inspiration to flow and to be received and appreciated by the greater western world. This was only the start. The God status came later, but he carried his grief and trouble with him throughout it all.
More of the story to come later.
Interview Date: April 27, 2012 @8pm EDT
Bands and Musicians Battle Royale (Part 1 - The Attack of the Classic Rock)
It’s time to play battle of the bands. Choose which band or artist you prefer from the sides given, and back up your choice with reasons why. Debate with your friends when you've run out of religion and politics. The battles are obviously more fun with more people involved. Come up with your own for the next battle (you can post battles & your results in the comments). We start off with the most classic example and build from there. Enjoy.
The Beatles versus The Stones
The classic battle. The introspective artists vs. the bad boys. Tom Wolfe is reputed to have said "The Beatles want to hold your hand, but the Stones want to burn down your town."
Beatles versus Bob Dylan
Addictive melodies vs. snarling lyrical genius.
The Stones versus Bob Dylan
Dylan challenged the bad boy throne by going electric. Et tu Judas?
The Stones versus The Kinks
Before you say "No Contest" in favour of the Stones, consider that the Kinks had a resurgence