Robert Johnson's Real Voice, Love in Vain

Posted in Robert Johnson on August 27th, 2012 by Willie

I’m convinced.  Slow down his voice, and you hear the real man.  Someone on the internet put it much more eloquently than I, that it’s like meeting Robert Johnson again for the first time, and what better thing could there be?  I suppose I should explain myself, so I’ll do it as succinctly as possible.  Robert Johnson, godfather of confessional guitar oriented blues, which is essentially the underpinning of all modern pop music, has been misrepresented.  His precious 30 or so recordings, which represents the majority of the scant evidence of his very existence, was recorded at a speed 15% faster than the reality of the performance.  The main consequence  being that his guitar playing was cartoonishly sped up, and his voice given the Alvin and the Chipmunk treatment.  Why was it done?  Probably to fit more songs on the record.  I doubt it was done for any artistic reason on part of Robert or the producer.  It wouldn’t so much of a crime if there existed more than what we have, but we don’t have anymore, so all we are left with are crazy people like me who hear slowed down versions and state baseless certitudes with reckless abandon on the ole fashioned internet.  Alright, enough of my craziness.  Time to listen for yourself.  I present below “Love in Vain,” his most beautiful and haunting broken love ballad, in both its original form (tampered form,) and in the ‘fixed’ form.  You be the judge.

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"Man on the Moon" Walter Cronkite's Broadcast

Posted in NASA, Youtube Favs on August 25th, 2012 by Willie

UPDATE: Neil Armstrong passed away today at the age of 82. I posted this last August 13th, 2011, and as a tribute to his extraordinary life, I’m reposting it today in tribute to one of mankind’s greatest ambassadors for wisdom and peace.

I’m a huge fan of John F. Kennedy, the 34th President of the United States.  JFK was a brilliant man who had a vision to send Americans to the moon before the Soviet Union did it.  He correctly surmised that even though we were behind in the space race, if Americans could send a man to the moon first, the historic achievement would be so vast that it would place us light years ahead of the Soviets in the race to explore space.  Here is a highlight of his most famous speech about going to the moon delivered at Rice University in 1962.

The full speech is extraordinary, and you can watch it by clicking anywhere on this sentence.

On July 20th, 1969, Kennedy’s vision came to fruition as the Apollo 11’s lunar module spacecraft, Eagle, touched down on the moon’s surface in the “Sea of Tranquility.”  Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent 21 hours on the moon’s surface while Command Module Pilot Michael Collins orbited in the Columbia before he picked them up.  They returned to Earth on July 24th, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.  It was one of human history’s greatest achievements ever.  I was born in 1984, and consequently missed this historic occasion.  Luckily, the kind users of youtube have uploaded a special documentary of the original CBS broadcast, expertly hosted by Walter Cronkite, which I will display below.  It is a thrilling document of history, and makes you kind of sad that very little in today’s news and course of human events can rival the majestic profundity of this moment.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I have.





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The Beach Boys, Good Vibrations

Posted in The Beach Boys on August 24th, 2012 by Willie

“Good Vibrations” was never my favorite Beach Boys song.  Its taken me years of casual indifference before I really warmed up to it, and it was only when I found the song’s proverbial sunny side.  For years I was turned off by the songs aggressive psychedelic atmosphere.  I was always slightly afraid of the dark and foreboding atmosphere going on, but one day I caught the song somewhere, and it just hit me.  This is just a gentle song about falling in love, like practically every Beach Boys song.  Brian Wilson’s innocent teenage heart, his best songwriting weapon, is in full effect here through a myriad of electro-theremins.  “Good Vibrations” was set to be the dynamic first single of Smile, Brian Wilson’s answer to Sgt. Pepper.  Unfortunately it would take Brian 40 years or so to finish Smile, a reflection of the intense pressure Brian subjected himself to in the 60s.  Luckily Brian successfully over came his demons, came out of his shell, and received all the love he was deserved when his legacy got resurrected in the late 90s.  Anyway, I think this is a good point to cap my two week odyssey into the sounds of Southern California, and begin the slow sad goodbye to the summer of love.

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The Beach Boys, God Only Knows

Posted in The Beach Boys on August 21st, 2012 by Willie

After accidentally realizing that he was a musical genius, Brian Wilson stepped up his efforts by the mid 60s.  Looking for a more serious direction, he began collaborating with lyricist Tony Asher, who helped interpret Brian’s musical ideas into focused lyrical concepts.  The increased level of lyrical and musical sophistication also stretched the limits of what was acceptable in pop music in 1966.  There weren’t practically any pop songs from that era with “God” in the title, and putting that word in the title was the source of great anguish to Brian as he was convinced it would ruin the chances of the song being a hit.  It was a hit in Europe, but only a minor success in America.  The song was an even bigger hit with Wilson’s contemporaries.  Paul McCartney has consistently rated “God Only Knows” as his favorite song ever, and it clearly influenced him to keep ramping up his sophisticated brand of mid 60s pop.  The song’s success with McCartney might have actually ended up being a negative for Brian’s psyche.  McCartney was already busy with Revolver, a masterpiece that would equal, if not surpass Pet Sounds, and nary a year later Paul and the Fabs came out with Sgt. Pepper.  There was no way Brian could compete with that level of production, and the pressure to match the Beatles led to his famous nervous breakdown.  It’s really too bad because when Brian wasn’t losing his mind, he was one of the greatest songwriters in American history.  One last fun fact, its actually Carl Wilson singing the lead vocal on the track.  Brian gave his brother the vocal because he liked Carl’s natural delivery on the song.  Nice guy that Brian Wilson.

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The Beach Boys, Surfer Girl

Posted in The Beach Boys on August 13th, 2012 by Willie

It’s hard to imagine that summer is almost over.  I’m actually on my third summer in a row.  Just when summer ended in 2011, I jetted for Sydney, and spent 5 months there just as Australia’s summer dawned, fully missing America’s cold months.  I returned home in March 2012, just in time for Spring, hence my endless summer.  I can’t think of a better way to mourn the loss of summer then with one of the saddest and my most beautiful Beach Boys songs ever, “Surfer Girl.”  It’s almost hard to believe that “Surfer Girl” was the first song Brian Wilson wrote.  He was 19 years old and the song drifted into his brain on a summer breeze as he drove his car around southern California.  “Surfer Girl,” a romantic pop masterpiece, is no slouchy way to begin a career of legendary pop music.  The song features all the greatest Beach Boy trademarks; a stunningly nostalgic melody, perfectly constructed harmonies, and wonderful lyrics mixing surfing and love.  One last note.  I love the emerging trend in these live performances of the shy Brian taking the lead vocal in a band where the hammy Mike Love, who has nothing to do but sing, is sidelined for his much more talented cousin.  It’s a fantastic live performance all around, so before you head to the beach, give “Surfer Girl” a spin to remember why you are alive and doing such activities in the first place.

 

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The Beach Boys, In My Room

Posted in The Beach Boys on August 9th, 2012 by Willie

Followers of this site know I have about one billion tributes, breakdowns, and videos of my favorite group ever, the Beatles.  If you didn’t know any better, you’d think I am some sort of pasty, Union Jack waving, North Englander filled with way too much national pride.  The reality is, that while I am pasty, I’m actually an American from Brooklyn, New York, and you couldn’t get more Brooklyn then honoring the Beach Boys, local lads direct from Coney Island!  Just kidding, they are from sunny Hawthorne California, a suburb of Los Angeles.  The Beach Boys crested into the hearts of America on harmonies that no one thought possible from 5 young men with rock and roll addictions.  Songs like “In My Room,” seem as wholesome as songs can get. The Beach Boys look and sound like a gang of elitist preppy choir boys, which to me, makes the band, and their leader, Brian Wilson, all the more subversive.  The Beach Boys projected an image of friendly prettiness, but the beauty of Brian Wilson’s songwriting, which in reality was painstakingly tortured, hinted at something darker and more intimate.  Much like his contemporaries John and Paul, Brian accidentally began to realize that just because you write pop music, you can’t really hide your artistic pain behind the veneer of a two minute song written for teenagers.  Brian’s discovery allowed him to tap further depths of soul that would inform his later masterpieces.  Those masterpieces will be explored later this week as we delve deeper into the wonderful world of Beach Boys music.  Stay tuned.

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The Beatles, Help! The Entire Film, in HD!

Posted in The Beatles on August 2nd, 2012 by Willie

One of the coolest evolutions in YouTube history was the removal of the oppressive 10 minute time limit for video clips.  Such advancements have led to the wonder of allowing the Beatles movie “Help!” to be seen and shared in its entirety, for free!  Now “Help!” is probably the least essential Beatle movie, even more so then “Magical Mystery Tour,” (also available for complete viewing on this site.)  Why?  Probably because it was their least creative, and most commercial effort.  “Help!” came out in 1965 at the tail end of the original Beatlemania ultra craze.  In this era, the Beatles were already evolving from happy go lucky rock stars into more introspective individuals, but “Help!” still captures them as inseparable best friends who all dress the same and do everything together.  During the filming, the Beatles were incredibly uninterested in its production, and were notorious for sneaking marijuana before takes constantly.  The effect is noticeable in their tired and bleary eyes and giggly unfocused performances.  Their stoned indifference really does nothing to film, already a slight and silly story about a magical ring that Ringo can’t seem to get off his finger.  Like all Beatle movies, the music, and the musical interludes are timeless.  The title song is one of John Lennon’s greatest singles, and the rest of the soundtrack hints at the creative explosion of psychedelic folk music the Beatles would explore later that year on “Rubber Soul.”  Some of my favorites include “Another Girl,” and “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl.”  Its also worth noting that George Harrison’s burgeoning obsession with the sitar began on the set of “Help!” when he started fiddling around with one played by the Indian musicians in the restaurant scene.  The video encoded below is fully remastered in beautiful HD, and it really is worth watching, especially for Beatles fans that have never seen it.  If you don’t have a lot of time, I’d recommend just skipping to any random point in the film and watching for ten minutes.  Its impossible for the film to make less sense then it already does, and you’ll likely land on a beautiful and priceless Beatle performance.  Enjoy.

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