Today in Music History July 25

1958 So You Say Its Your Birthday: Thurston Moore, American singer and guitarist with  the noise rock band Sonic Youth.  Moore is known for his innovative guitar techniques, including unorthodox guitar tunings and guitar preparing techniques.

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1960 ‘Only the Lonely,’ Roy Orbison’s first hit, reachs No.2 on the US singles chart.  The song had been offered to both The Everly Brothers and Elvis Presley, who both turned it down, so Orbison recorded it himself. The clip below is from the classic A Black and White Night concert – see if you can spot all the music legends in Roy’s backing band.

 

1965 Bob Dylan headlines the The Newport Folk Festival and plays a plugged in set with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band that includes his new song ‘Like a Rolling Stone.’  Reaction was mixed with some folk music fans outraged while others in the audience cheered.  One writer noted that he had  “electrified one half of his audience, and electrocuted the other”. The moment signifies Dylan’s movement away from folk and toward more rock influences.

 

1980 AC/DC release Back In Blacktheir tribute Bon Scott, their former lead singer who had died in February of 1980.  Brian Johnson stepped into the lead vocalist role, and the album went on to become the second highest selling album of all time.

 

Sources: This Day in Music.com, Wikipedia, HistoryPod.com

Frank Turner – Be More Kind

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Frank Turner is an English singer whose songs have been described as folk punk.  A former member of the punk band Million Dead, his songs as a solo artist are folk songs with a punk asthetic – fast paced, aggressive, fist pumping and easy to sing loud to.  What we really love about his songs though is the message inherent in his lyrics: to be true to yourself, experience life to the fullest, and be authentic.  Very inspirational and life affirming at any age, whether your adult life is just starting or you’re facing midlife and questioning what comes next.

Turner has never shied away from the political, but it hasn’t been as much of a focus as earlier in his career.

Early in his solo career he wrote  songs bursting with youthful indignation and righteous anger. They were sometimes political, sometimes blasphemous and occasionally profane.

The last two albums, 2013‘s Tape Deck Heart and 2015‘s Positive Songs for Negative People found Frank focusing more inwardly; somewhat pessimistically, on TDH and then with a somewhat  sunnier outlook on Positive Songs. Those albums chronicle a personal emotional journey from a darker emotional place to new promising relationships. 

2018 has Frank turning his gaze back outward to the rest of the world.

His latest album, Be More Kind returns to  earlier themes.  The election of Donald Trump in the US, and Brexit in his home UK, have made him contemplate the meaning of these events in our time, and how to continue to be authentic when the world is “slipping over the brink,” as he states in the punk tinged ‘1933‘, an allusion to the years before WWII and the start of the rise of Hitler in Germany.  The song is a direct slap in the listener’s face to wake up and pay attention to what’s going on, a pretty terrifying take on the current state of world affairs.

While 1933 (along with the one off song ‘Sand in the Gears‘ that he premiered right after Trump’s election in Jan. 2017) are directly confrontational, Turner’s larger question on his current album is how to move forward to a better place given the situation we find ourselves in.  His answer, as you may have guessed by now, is answered in the title track ‘Be More Kind‘.  Starting quietly with just acoustic guitar, the song slowly builds to a full  yet restrained melody as Turner implores us to show more kindness towards each other, try to better understand each other and find common ground, regardless of our political views or beliefs.

We’ve stopped talking to each other
And there’s something wrong with that
So before you go out searching
Don’t decide what you will find
Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind

 

In other songs, Turner explores this theme of connection by focusing on finding individual connection with another within a futuristic nightmare landscape where the world is already over the brink (‘20th Century Survival Blues‘)  or when faced with a literal and figurative ‘Blackout‘:

Meet me in the middle
Meet me in the middle
Bring a burning candle with you
Meet me in the middle
Meet me in the middle
I will be there waiting for you

Musically, this is Turner’s most expansive album to date, incorporating not just his trademark punk folk as well as rock style, but also the most pop influenced songs of his career.  While ‘There She Is‘ is a lovely slice of acoustic pop balladry, ‘Little Changes‘ uses an upbeat and bouncy melody to impart the message that “the big things stay the same until we make Little changes” – change, whether in your personal relationships or in society as a whole, cannot happen all at once but needs to start one step at a time, always moving forward.

In our mind, the highlight of the album and the song that brings it all together is ‘Make America Great Again‘, where Turner brilliantly turns the Trump slogan on its head, using the conceit of an Englishman using the US/England “special relationship” to give advice to his country’s former colony.  After suggesting in the chorus that we make America great again by “By making racists ashamed again, Let’s make compassion in fashion again” Turner ends the song by saying:

Let’s be a friend to our oldest friends
And call them out when they’re faltering
Remind them of their best selves and then
We’ll make America great again

Be More Kind provides a compelling reminder for finding our best selves again, for showing kindness, love and tolerance of others, as the only way to make it through these challenging times.

 

Today in Music History July 24

1957: So You Say Its Your Birthday: Robbie Grey, lead singer and songwriter for the English  new wave band Modern English, most famous for their early 80’s hit, “I Melt With You”.

Image result for robbie grey, english rocker (modern english)

 

1965 The Byrds launch folk rock with their cover of the Bob Dylan song ‘Mr. Tamborine Man’, which hits #1 on the UK charts.

 

1976, ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’, a Elton John/Kiki Dee duet, goes to #1 on the UK charts.  Dee had been a backup singer for John.

 

1993 Zooropa by U2 starts a two-week run at No.1 on the US album chart. The album continues the band’s move towards incorporating more electronic dance and alternative rock effects and themes of technology and media oversaturation that they had begun on 1991’s Achtung Baby.

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The Free Wanderin’ Bob Dylan (a special Today in Music History installment)

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On this day in 2009, Bob Dylan was picked up by a local Long Branch police officer  responding to calls of a suspicious person wondering the area.  I’ll let the local paper, the Star-Ledger pick it up from there:

Rock legend Bob Dylan was treated like a complete unknown by police in a New Jersey shore community when a resident called to report someone wandering around the neighborhood.

Dylan was in Long Branch, about a two-hour drive south of New York City, on July 23 as part of a tour with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp that was to play at a baseball stadium in nearby Lakewood.

A 24-year-old police officer apparently was unaware of who Dylan is and asked him for identification, Long Branch business administrator Howard Woolley said Friday.

“I don’t think she was familiar with his entire body of work,” Woolley said.

The incident began at 5 p.m. when a resident said a man was wandering around a low-income, predominantly minority neighborhood several blocks from the oceanfront looking at houses.

The police officer drove up to Dylan, who was wearing a blue jacket, and asked him his name. According to Woolley, the following exchange ensued:

“What is your name, sir?” the officer asked.

“Bob Dylan,” Dylan said.

“OK, what are you doing here?” the officer asked.

“I’m on tour,” the singer replied.

A second officer, also in his 20s, responded to assist the first officer. He, too, apparently was unfamiliar with Dylan, Woolley said.

The officers asked Dylan for identification. The singer of such classics as “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Blowin’ in the Wind” said that he didn’t have any ID with him, that he was just walking around looking at houses to pass some time before that night’s show.

The officers asked Dylan, 68, to accompany them back to the Ocean Place Resort and Spa, where the performers were staying. Once there, tour staff vouched for Dylan.

The officers thanked him for his cooperation.

“He couldn’t have been any nicer to them,” Woolley added.

How did it feel? A Dylan publicist did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Friday.

So what was going on? From checking other accounts, it seems that although the officers had heard of Bob Dylan before, they didn’t recognize him in person, and may have been suspicious that it was actually him (and who can blame them – who would expect that the Bob Dylan would be wandering the neighborhood, in the rain, peering into empty houses, 45 minutes from the concert site.) Imagine the officer’s surprise when they pulled up to the hotel!

There has been some speculation that Dylan was checking out the local haunts of another legend, Bruce Springsteen, who lived in the area back in the day and had played in Long Branch.  Apparently Dylan had done something similar when he played in Toronto some years earlier, wandering around Neil Young’s old haunts.

So what was he up to?  Channeling inspiration from other rock legends?  Being the ultimate fan stalker?  We will never know.

Here is a link to the Star-Ledger excerpt above.

And here is a fun interview with the police officer, Kristie Buble, who picked Dylan up, who explains more what happened.

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