No matter how much you think you know about the Beatles, Mark Lewisohn probably knows more.
Hundreds of books have been written about the band, but none with such care and authority as those by the 58-year-old British author. His resume includes comprehensive releases on their concert performances (“The Beatles Live!”) and studio work (“The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions”), for which he was given a Beatle obsessive’s dream job, getting paid by EMI Records to enter the inner sanctum of the Abbey Road studio and listen to the band’s recordings.
“I was a researcher and realized that the books (on the Beatles) were not quite as well-researched or written as I had expected them to have been,” he told The Associated Press during a recent interview, explaining how he evolved from fan to author. “One project led to the next and suddenly I found myself with a career as a writer, which I hadn’t actually intended.”
The Beatles themselves welcomed him to their special world. He assisted on the band’s multimedia retrospective “Anthology” that came out in the 1990s and served as the editor and writer of Club Sandwich, a magazine run by Paul and Linda McCartney.
Lewisohn is in the midst of a three-volume biography of the Beatles and most recently contributed text for a coffee-table book about their landmark 1964 film, “A Hard Day’s Night.”
During a recent interview with The Associated Press, he talked about “A Hard Day’s Night,” the Beatles’ lasting appeal and the joys of Beatles scholarship.
WHY “A HARD DAY’S NIGHT’ WAS SO MUCH BETTER THAN MOVIES STARRING ELVIS PRESLEY AND OTHER EARLY ROCK STARS:
As consumers, The Beatles knew those films were rubbish. They hated them. They recognized them for what they were, which was transparently flimsy and knew that should the occasion ever arise when they would be offered a film that they had to be very careful about saying yes.
It’s not exactly known how many there were but four or five offers to appear in films and they had said no to those. Now, very few artists ever said no because usually the management wouldn’t allow them to say no and they themselves think I want to be in a film. The Beatles had the bravery to accept that in saying no to the films they were being offered they might never get to make one but they agreed among themselves. They would rather not be in a film at all than be in one of those rubbish films.
ON HOW “A HARD DAY’S NIGHT” ESTABLISHED THE BEATLES AS FOUR DISTINCT PERSONALITIES BENEATH THEIR MATCHING HAIRCUTS( Witty John, amiable Paul, droll George and down-to-earth Ringo):
“If you just see them on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ you’re not getting to meet the people. You’re just seeing them perform. So ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ served the function in separating the four of them out from one another. It did it pretty realistically. John Lennon later, after he’d been through therapy, expressed anger at the stereotyped way in which they had been portrayed but (screenplay writer) Alan Owen really did a very good job. There are only slight exaggerations of the four people that he hung around with for a few days. That’s how he wrote the film. He observed them as people.”
ON RESEARCHING THE BEATLES:
“The Beatles is an extraordinary subject to research because the trail of material is so deep and so rich and so strong all the way down. … No matter how deep you dig with this subject you continually find gold. There is something extraordinary. It’s all part of what made them so special is that everything around them was special, everything they touch was interesting, everybody who had an association with them is a fascinating character and it all weaves together in the most extraordinary way.”
ON HIS PLANNED THREE-VOLUME BIOGRAPHY (The first book, “Tune In,” came out in 2013):
“For as long as there are humans on this planet and we haven’t bombed or gassed ourselves out of existence or whatever it might be, we will be listening to The Beatles and appreciating them and wanting to know who they were and how they did it. If this trilogy isn’t done it’ll never be as well-understood or appreciated in its many levels as it actually occurred. I think it’s an important book to write. I think it’s important that it’s done now whilst the paperwork is still around and whilst the witnesses to the history are still alive to tell it.
President Barack Obama said he’s sad that one of his and the first lady’s favorite traditions, musical night at the White House, ended on Friday.
Obama and his wife, Michelle, have reserved certain evenings over the past eight years to celebrate music that has helped shape America. They held big blowout concerts spotlighting classic, country, blues, Broadway, gospel, Motown, Latin and jazz either inside the White House or out on the lawn.
The tradition ended Friday as Obama kicked off his final musical night, BET’s “Love and Happiness” event in a tent on the South Lawn.
He joked that he wouldn’t be singing any Al Green — despite the concert title. When Obama sang the opening lines of Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” at a fundraiser at Harlem’s Apollo Theater in January 2012, the video went viral.
“We’ve had Bob Dylan and we’ve had Jennifer Hudson. Gloria Estefan and Los Lobos. Aretha, Patti, Smokey,” Obama said to open the show. “I’ve had Paul McCartney singing ‘Michelle’ to Michelle and Stevie singing ‘Happy Birthday.’”
“We’ve had Buddy Guy and Mick Jagger getting me to sing ‘Sweet Home Chicago,’” he continued. “So this has been one of our favorite traditions, and it’s with a little bit of bittersweetness that this is our final musical evening as president and first lady.”
Jill Scott opened with a booming version of her hit “Run Run Run.” The show was also featuring performances by Usher, The Roots, Bell Biv DeVoe, Janelle Monae, De La Soul, Yolanda Adams, Michelle Williams and Kiki Sheard.
Actors Samuel L. Jackson, Jesse Williams of “Grey’s Anatomy” and Angela Bassett were also appearing.
Terrence J, the former host of BET’s “106 & Park,” and actress-comedian Regina Hall were the presenters.
Obama described the ability to summon celebrities as “one of the perks of the job that we’ll miss most, along with Air Force One, and Marine One,” the presidential helicopter. “You know, if you can just call up Usher and say, ‘Hey, come on over …’”
Before taking a seat in the front row alongside Mrs. Obama, the president reviewed White House musical history and said live performances have always been a part of life there, dating to 1801 when the U.S. Marine Band played at the first reception hosted by President John and Abigail Adams.
President Chester Arthur invited an all-black singing group to perform, and Teddy Roosevelt welcomed ragtime composer Scott Joplin because Roosevelt’s daughter wanted to hear that “new jazz,” Obama said.
Guests of President John F. Kennedy even did the “twist” in the East Room, “which may not sound like a big deal to you, but that was sort of the twerking of their time,” Obama told the star-studded audience of several hundred people, seated in an elaborate tent that was used earlier in the week for the Obamas’ final state dinner. “There will be no twerking tonight. At least not by me. I don’t know about Usher.”
Obama said the White House is the “People’s House,” so it makes sense that it reflect the diversity, imagination and ingenuity of the American people.
He said that, although much of the music being performed at Friday’s taping “is rooted in the African-American experience, it’s not just black music. It’s an essential part of the American experience.”
“It’s a mirror to who we are, and a reminder of who we can be,” Obama added. “That’s what American music’s all about.”
The rock outfit from Milwaukee known as Soul Low includes Jake Balistreri (vocals, guitar), Sam Gehrke (vocals, bass), Charlie Celenza (drums) and Sean Hirthe (keyboard, saxophone). They are a restless bunch. You’d be hard pressed to find a local band who works harder than Soul Low.
In between their debut record, Uneasy (2013), and the official follow-up, Nosebleeds (last week), they released two EPs (Kind Spirit and Sweet Pea), a few demos, a couple b-sides, a single, and an Unplugged live recording. They just can’t help themselves.
Over the past month or so the boys played Appleton’s Mile of Music (twice), 88Nine Radio Milwaukee’s “414 Live,” a benefit for Planned Parenthood, Chill on the Hill, River Rhythms, Summer Soulstice, a boat cruise, and UW-Madison’s terrace. In between proper tours of the East Coast and Southwest the band started doing weekend runs around the Midwest.
One of the reasons Soul Low has been so restless over the past year is that their highly-anticipated sophomore release was delayed due to a vinyl pressing backlog, an unfortunate side effect of vinyl’s return to popularity. They recorded Nosebleeds in November 2015 over a weekend in Chicago. Nine months later the albumhas finally seen the light of day.
Nosebleeds is far more complex than the rambunctious, garage rock jams on their latest EP, but their dark pop sensibility is still there. Songs like “Frenemies” and “The Adulterer” unravel slowly, more deliberately. Album closer “Hard to Gage” is a sweet ballad about romantic uncertainty. The growth between Uneasy and Nosebleeds reflects their maturity as songwriters, performers, and young men, though they remain a goofy band of brothers.
You might not be surprised to learn that amid their heavy workload the boys occasionally blow off steam and sometimes that involves classic American beer. Knowing Soul Low’s penchant for Blatz beer–they wrote a song called “Blatz Beat” and made this awesome video for it–I figured it might be fun to put their palates to the test with a blind taste test of five domestic beers with century-old recipes while I conducted an interview with the band.
The night I visited Soul Low was Charlie’s 25th birthday. As their oldest member, lone Tool enthusiast and Chicago sports fan, he is sort of the black sheep of the band. Jake is the frontman. He combines boyish good looks with a quivering falsetto and painfully honest lyrics. Sam is the de facto manager of the band, running one of the tightest ships in town.
Sean was away at college for the bulk of their post-Uneasy period, but has been in the band since the beginning. It’s worth mentioning that when they made Uneasy, arguably the best debut record from a Milwaukee band in my lifetime, the boys were still in high school.
After moving back to Milwaukee Sean took up residence in the Riverwest neighborhood in a corner house on Humboldt Boulevard. The basement was previously a Sat. Nite Duets practice space, which is where I met with Soul Low.
When I arrive they are wrapping rehearsal. I go upstairs to the kitchen/living room area to set up the domestic beer challenge. I do not reveal the names of the beers, but they are Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR), Old Milwaukee, Blatz, Miller High Life, and Schlitz. I would’ve included Hamm’s but Old Milwaukee six-packs were more readily available. I tell them that Hamm’s may or may not be in the lineup. The challenge requires you to guess the beer and give it a rating from zero to five.
I pass out the initial beer and Jake speaks first. He thinks it’s a High Life. Sam agrees. Jake gives it a three. What follows is a transcript of our conversation, with a few omissions for legal purposes.
Topics of discussion include their new album, building their fan base, a weird house show in Albuquerque, the best venue in Milwaukee, Souls of Mischief, their boat cruise, “Lejames Brown,” The Mosleys, scoring dresses at thrift stores, and the video for “Be Like You,” which comes out August 16.
(The first beer is PBR.)
CHARLIE: “I’m thinking that’s PBR.”
SAM: “No f****** way.”
CHARLIE: “Honestly, I think it’s PBR.”
SAM: “I’m trying to envision myself being blacked out having that last beer of the day…”
SEAN: “Well, it’s kind of bitter.”
SAM: “…reaching for that tall boy.”
SEAN: “Just for the sake of mixing it up I’m going to go with Hamm’s.”
SAM: “You think it’s Hamm’s? No f****** way.”
JAKE: “No way.”
SEAN: “I would say two.”
JAKE: “This could be Miller Lite. Are there light beers?”
WiG: “No light beers.”
JAKE: “Right. I’m going to give it a six.”
SAM: “Out of five?”
JAKE: “Oh my bad. Same answer. Write down a six please.”
CHARLIE: “I’ll go with three. I think it’s PBR. Actually, wait, wait…no it’s not.”
JAKE: “PBR doesn’t have any taste.”
CHARLIE: “You’re right. I revoke that. I’m sipping and I’m thinking about it. This might actually be Hamm’s. I’m going to side with Sean on this one.”
SEAN: “Who’s picking sides here? I was just trying to be the odd man out. I didn’t really think that was it. I was kind of joking.”
WiG: “First question, what was the difference between the recording process for this record versus the last one?”
CHARLIE: “It was very, very different.”
SEAN: “They were both in basements.”
SAM: “Well, technically. Uneasy was done in more of a studio setting at Bobby Peru.”
SEAN: “That’s the only similarity I can think of.”
JAKE: “Uneasy was done with high end equipment, state-of-the-art stuff.”
CHARLIE: “The pressure was on because it was by the hour.”
SAM: “It was a little more expensive.”
WiG: “Where was Uneasy recorded?”
SAM: “Shane (Olivio) was at the time in a basement by Wilson Park on Howell. It was his dad’s house, but it was still set up really well. It was pretty isolated.”
CHARLIE: “The recording process for the new record was very laid back. We recorded it at this guy Chris Lee’s house. We got it done in a weekend.”
JAKE: “And like bare minimum equipment.”
CHARLIE: “We basically lived in his house for those days.”
JAKE: “Yeah it was done like the epitome of DIY, not much equipment, actually lofi. There were no condenser mics at all, no isolation, no headphones. It was all done on live 57, 58 mics, the post-production was minimal.
SAM: “The reason for the change in aesthetic and style is that after Uneasy we wanted to make a record that sounded more like our live show. Something more raw or visceral. We did some tracking with Shane at Bobby Peru. But we wanted to take that route of something that was a little more gritty, so he reached out to Chris in Chicago.”
(I pass out the second beer, which is Old Milwaukee.)
CHARLIE: “This is harder than I thought. I thought for sure I would recognize the beers right away.”
JAKE: “I’m certain it’s not High Life. I think this one might be PBR.”
SEAN: “Yep, that’s PBR.”
SAM: “I don’t know. It might be a Blatz.”
CHARLIE: “This is PBR. I’m pretty sure.”
SEAN: “This isn’t that fizzy.”
CHARLIE: “It’s been sitting in that cup for a few minutes.”
SEAN: “I feel like I can’t just say what everyone else says.”
SAM: “I think it’s a Blatz or PBR.”
JAKE: “I think it’s a PBR.”
SAM: “I’ll say Pabst.”
JAKE: “PBR and two.”
SAM: “It’s flat enough where it feels like a Pabst.”
SEAN: “Alright, if we’re wrong, we’re wrong together. PBR.”
CHARLIE: “I mean, that’s easily the most recognizable. I drink this s*** so much.”
WiG: “I know there’s no light beer, but this one almost seems light to me.”
SAM: “It seems super light, which is why I think it’s a Pabst. I’m going to have to agree with you on that.”
WiG: “And how would you rate it?”
CHARLIE: “Five! Give it a five!”
SEAN: “Did you just say five? I’ll say two again.”
SAM: “Sean is harsh on the domestics.”
CHARLIE: “You’re judging domestics. You shouldn’t compare it to f****** Riverwest Stein.”
WiG: “Alright, next question. You guys tour more than probably any other Milwaukee band.”
SAM: “Yeah we do, number one.”
WiG: “How do you keep it fresh? How do you keep it lively on tour?”
SAM: “That’s a good question.”
CHARLIE: “Tour is just a whole different mindset. You got to get into that headspace on tour. You’re living in a car, going to a city you may have never been to, meeting people that you may have never met.”
SEAN: “The thing we did this fall that we haven’t done in the past is the weekend runs. Like every other weekend pretty much we were out on the road, hitting a couple of cities in the Midwest. It’s good because it keeps you always in tour mode. Even when you’re still in the Midwest, if it’s a city you’ve only played a couple times you’re still trying to build on it. That way you never really get settled.”
SAM: “I think when you tour more often you get the mindset that you have to bring the same intensity if you’re playing to a crowd the size of Summer Soulstice or some small bar in a new city. You get into that routine and you stop thinking, “S*** well, nobody’s really here, I guess I’ll just get through it and go home.””
JAKE: “Yeah when we first started doing the weekend runs we had a nice little following in most Wisconsin cities, plus Minneapolis and Chicago. But then we started going to Ohio and Indiana, and that kicked our asses. Holy s***. F*** Indiana. I’ll still say that.”
CHARLIE: “F*** that whole state.”
SAM: “We have two shows coming up there guys.”
SEAN: “Columbus and Cleveland have been pretty good to us though.”
SAM: “But that’s the thing. I think it’s because we played with the same energy that we like to play our music in those cities when we are playing a basement with ten people. That was enough to sway people to our camp. So the next time we come around they tell their friends and the crowds get bigger.”
CHARLIE: “I will say that when you do show up to a new city and we killed the show, all these strangers love us, the high that you get from that is amazing.”
JAKE: “Yeah that’s the best. It means a lot more to impress strangers than to impress anyone you know.”
CHARLIE: “It’s so rewarding.”
CHARLIE: “Not only playing to a new audience, but also trying new songs and seeing how people react to them.”
WiG: “That kind of answers my follow-up question: do you feel pressure to go back to the same cities to build the audience, or is it more exciting to try a new town?”
SAM: “We’ve been touring for three years now and we’ve done extensive tours of the Southwest and the East Coast. We played places like Albuquerque, New Mexico and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. These places we’ve never thought to play. We’ve also done a lot of return shows. It’s a different excitement. It’s exciting to be in a new place and to take it in as almost like a tourist. But then when you’re playing cities that you’re familiar with it has its own excitement in that you can see the growth of the fan base.”
JAKE: “The fans that really stick are the ones in the return cities. Those are the ones that have seen you, they had a great time and they bring their friends. That’s how you get real fans. Whereas the people who come to shows in those initial stops or one-offs can be a bit more fleeting. Maybe they had a great time but they didn’t connect with you on the Internet.”
SAM: “Yeah if you don’t return then you risk losing them.”
SEAN: “That’s why we’re going back to the East Coast for the new album tour. We’re going to hit most of the cities that we played before. We’ve been talking about this album for so long that hopefully we will be able to sell it to a lot of those people.”
WiG: “You were saying, “F*** Indiana.” I was just driving through there yesterday.”
SAM: “It’s a hard state to drive through.”
JAKE: “I’m not going to pretend that that state is okay.”
SEAN: “Beautiful windmills though.”
CHARLIE: “It is not okay, even with those windmills.”
WiG: “I’m not a big fan of Indiana. What is the weirdest place you’ve been to?”
JAKE: “What was that place in Ohio?”
CHARLIE: “Columbus?”JAKE: “No.”
JAKE: “No. What are the other towns in Ohio?”
JAKE: “Dayton! I thought Dayton was pretty strange.”
SAM: “Dayton was kind of weird. The bartender kept giving us shots and Back to the Future was on.”
CHARLIE: “Oh yeah!”
SAM: “It was almost like a biker bar. Felt kind of tough rock. I mean we could see people digging our set and it was cool, but it was weird because the downtown felt old timey.”
SEAN: “And the strangest thing was that we asked the bartender, “Do we get drinks or anything?” And he was like, “Nah, just half off food. But I’ll buy you a drink.” After he bought me one drink I was like, “Okay, maybe do we get drinks?” Then it was anything we wanted.”
SAM: “Whenever my beer was empty or my shot glass was empty he came to the rescue.”
CHARLIE: “For all of us, that was a great night.”
SEAN: “And Back to the Future was on.”
CHARLIE: “We weren’t even on tour.”
SAM: “That was just a one-off. I would say the weirdest for me was Albuquerque.”
SEAN: “Yeah that was strange.”
JAKE: “I f****** loved Albuquerque.”
CHARLIE: “It was weird but awesome.”
SAM: “It was a weird day because we got up at like 5 a.m. in Austin to drive. I took the first shift and we’re on the open road in Texas and all this s*** happened. Sean’s sleeping bag fell off, we were super low on gas and it was like 60 miles to the next station, we hit black ice in New Mexico.”
SEAN: “Cars were flipped over everywhere.”
SAM: “But it ended up being like the best show of that to tour.”
JAKE: “One of the best.”
SAM: “Yeah it was a house show. It wasn’t crazy packed but we ended up running into one of the guys from Filter Free Radio, one of the guys who does Tasty Tapes here in Milwaukee. We also ran into someone’s relative…”
CHARLIE: “That was super weird. Some like cousin of mine. I don’t even want to explain that. Some friend of the family I didn’t even know lived at Albuquerque who I’d never even met before showed up like, “Hey Charlie!” He got the address from my mom who didn’t even tell me he was going to show up, it was a whole weird thing.”
SEAN: “People were dancing hard it was cool.”
(I pass out the third beer, which is Blatz.)
ALL: “Third beer, cheers to Albuquerque.”
CHARLIE: “Oh, that’s Blatz.”
SAM: “That’s a Blatz.”
SEAN: “Thaaat’s a Blatz. I was waiting for it.”
WiG: “I think I forgot the order now.”
JAKE: “Well, we’ll tell you, it’s a Blatz. God damn that’s a Blatz.”
SAM: “It’s got that sweetness.”
SEAN: “I’ve been drinking it pretty much every week for the past year or so.”
CHARLIE: “It’s such a sugary beer, just so sweet.”
SEAN: “Five out of five.”
JAKE: “It’s got that heaviness, but not the bite.”
CHARLIE: “Five all across the board.”
SAM: “I’ll say four.”
CHARLIE: “Oh damn you Sam.”
SAM: “I’m a hard son of a b****.”
SEAN: “We wrote a song about it and you can’t even stand with us Sam?”
SAM: “The video got me black out. I won’t condone that.”
CHARLIE: “Ah, I take it back. I’ll give it a one.”
CHARLIE: “Because I actually f****** hate Blatz.”
SAM: “You’re killing our personal brand.”
JAKE: “Turn the recording off for that one, that’s off the record.”
(Sam picks up the voice recorder.)
SAM: “This is off the record.”
CHARLIE: “These guys do genuinely drink Blatz. I don’t. I don’t buy the seven dollar 15-pack.”
JAKE: “Five out of five. It sustains me.”
SAM: “Keeps me living.”
WiG: “Favorite place to play in Milwaukee?”
JAKE: “For me it’d be Cactus.”
CHARLIE: “Cactus Club is always awesome.”
SEAN: “Best sound.”
JAKE: “Best sound in the city.”
CHARLIE: “I love that they have the stage separated from the bar.”
SAM: “Yeah that separation is beautiful.”
CHARLIE: “Best move ever.”
SAM: “Because you can really see who came out to actually see you. And if you just want to get a drink there you can isolate yourself for a little bit.”
SEAN: “I love that they added those patio seats.”
SAM: “Yeah that’s awesome.”
SEAN: “And a food truck is sometimes there too.”
CHARLIE: “If you drag your friend to the show and he doesn’t want to see the band you can pay for your ticket and he can hang at the bar. Just nice having that option.”
JAKE: “And the sound is so good. It’s amazing.”
CHARLIE: “What’s that guy’s name?”
CHARLIE: “Alex what though?” SAM: “Alex Pekka Hall.”
CHARLIE: “Best sound guy in Milwaukee, hands down.”
WiG: “He’s got an interesting backstory. He’s from New York City, grew up in Greenwich Village. His dad worked on the Internet before it was the Internet, essentially. The New York Times tried out sending articles through cable lines to people’s TVs, and you could hook up your keyboard to the TV and write a comment on the article.”
SAM: “I’ve heard some weird stories. We opened for Sun Club in May and he was talking about as a teenager he used to do flyering in New York City. Random people would pay you $100 cash, give you posters and you had to put them up otherwise they would find you and f*** you up. If the cops showed up while you were putting up flyers you’d have to cover your ass.”
(At this point Charlie goes over to one of Sean’s roommates who is enjoying a frozen pizza and an episode of Rick and Morty, an animated TV show from Milwaukee-native Dan Harmon, in the living room.)
CHARLIE: “I hate to drop this bomb on you but it’s my birthday.”
SAM: “Look at this entitled motherf*****.”
WiG: “Is it really his birthday?”
(Charlie is granted a slice of pizza.)
CHARLIE: “Thank you man. I consider it the greatest birthday gift I’ve ever got.”
WiG: “Favorite place to play anywhere?”
SAM: “We’ve had good shows in Columbus, Ohio.“
SEAN: “Yeah Minneapolis.”
JAKE: “We’ve had like two shows in Columbus.”
SAM: “Yeah but they were good shows.”
SEAN: “Every time we played Minneapolis it’s been crazy. Except for the one recently, but that was at a new venue.”
JAKE: “I would say both of our best shows were in Minneapolis.”
SAM: “Alright, I’ll second that.”
JAKE: “They were both house shows. One was at Green Greens, which is no longer a venue. And the other was at the Party Garage, which is also no longer a venue. But Minneapolis as a whole. That place is so respectful to bands. They care about music so much.”
SAM: “And they like to party with the bands.”
WiG: “Yeah I love the Twin Cities. By the way, happy birthday Charlie. How old are you now?”
CHARLIE: “I’m 25,” he says with a mouthful of pizza.
WiG: “You’re the elder statesman?”
JAKE: “Yeah he is.”
CHARLIE: “I’m like a year older than all of them.”
SAM & SEAN: “Two years older.”
JAKE: “We’re all 23.”
CHARLIE: “Okay, well I’m like a year-and-a-half older.”
JAKE: “I turn 24 in a few months.”
CHARLIE: “Okay, so I guess I’m two years older than Sam and Sean.”
SAM: “Ninety-three. That’s how we chill from ‘93 til.”
CHARLIE: “Love that song.”
WiG: “Did you guys see the documentary about Souls of Mischief that was at the Milwaukee Film Festival a couple years ago?”
SAM: “No. Was it good?”
CHARLIE: “Oh man, all the rappers in that group, their solo careers are awesome. That whole crew.”
WiG: “The guy who made it was meant to produce that film. I got to interview him. He was just one of the homies from the neighborhood who wanted to be a filmmaker and eventually went into TV. He recorded them since they were in high school and followed their careers. It was his first film, which he did as a side project while working in the TV industry in the Bay Area.”
CHARLIE: “That’s one of my favorite hip-hop albums, 93 ‘til Infinity by Souls of Mischief.”
(Jake takes a sip of the fourth beer, which is High Life.)
JAKE: “I think it’s Schlitz, just saying.”
(The rest of us pick up our beers.)
SAM: “Cheers to Minneapolis.”
SEAN: “Yeah, Schlitz, I think so too. Has like kind of a sour thing.”
JAKE: “Could be Hamm’s though.”
SAM: “I feel like Hamm’s is more bitter than sour.”
SEAN: “That’s why I thought Hamm’s was the first one.”
SAM: “I thought the first one was pretty easy. I swear it was High Life.”
SEAN: “I think the aftertaste gives it away.”
SAM: “Schlitz and Hamm’s are super close to me.”
JAKE: “I’m going to go Hamm’s.”
SEAN: “I’m gonna go Schlitz.”
SAM: “How many more do we have to go?”
WiG: “One more after this.”
JAKE: “I’m gonna go Hamm’s. Schlitz always jumps out at me because I don’t have it much.”
CHARLIE: “It’s hard to tell because it’s pretty flat now. But I think this one is Schlitz.”
SAM: “I’ll go Schlitz. I don’t think it’s as bitter as Hamm’s. I’m going to give it a light 2.7.”
SEAN: “Solid three.”
CHARLIE: “2.786. Just kidding. Solid five. Schlitz is my favorite domestic. I don’t always pay the extra two bucks for the 12 pack, but sometimes.”
JAKE: “I’m going to say Hamm’s and 2.5. And I mean that .5.”
WiG: “Do you have any tour rituals?”
SEAN: “Grocery shopping should be more of a ritual.”
JAKE: “Eating fast food.”
SAM: “Yeah eating fast food is an unfortunate one.”
SAM: “We’re a pretty straight ahead band. “
CHARLIE: “We’re just a couple of dudes.”
SAM: “We kind of just do our work and get drunk.”
SEAN: “Disposable cameras.”
JAKE: “It’s not a ritual.”
SEAN: “I mean we always get them for tours.”
CHARLIE: “That counts.”
JAKE: “Doing great PR, if that’s a ritual.”
SAM: “Promoting the personal brand.”
SEAN: “Yeah we do a lot of Instagram stuff, like fun things.”
CHARLIE: “We often argue about music choices, music politics are a thing.”
JAKE: “Oftentimes after a show we bring people back to what we call “Car Bar.” It’s kind of like if we had a cool trailer to bring people back to, but it’s just our van.”
(The final beer is handed out, which is Schlitz. We cheers to “Car Bar.”)
SAM: “I take it back. The last one was something else, this is Schlitz.”
CHARLIE: “F*** you, you’re right.”
SEAN: “This is even more sour than the other one.”
SAM: “I was waiting for this one.”
CHARLIE: “Then what was that last one?”
CHARLIE: “No the first one was Hamm’s.”
JAKE: “First one was High Life. Because the first one was good and High Life is good.”
SAM: “High Life is just so straight ahead. I’m going to say this one is Schlitz and the last one was Hamm’s and I’ll give this a one. I don’t like this so much.”
SEAN: “I know I’m wrong, but I gotta play the game. I’ll say this one is Hamm’s and I’ll give it a two.”
CHARLIE: “You are so full of s*** Sean.”
SEAN: “No I’m trying to play the game. If we all have the same answer then who’s going to win?”
CHARLIE: “Okay, wait, wait, wait. Blatz, Hamm’s, Schlitz, PBR, and High Life.”
SEAN: “Are we missing one?”
WiG: “There may be a wild card.”
SEAN: “Old Milwaukee maybe.”
CHARLIE: “A Busch?”
SAM: “Oh, that could be an Old Milwaukee.”
WiG: “No Anheuser-Busch products.”
JAKE: “Oh s***, Old Mil.”
SEAN: “I’m gonna say Old Milwaukee for this one.”
CHARLIE: “That first one was Old Milwaukee! F***!”
JAKE: “No way Old Milwaukee is more bitter than that and it’s not that smooth.”
WiG: “It’s totally cool to change your guesses.”
SEAN: “I’m going to say that this one is Old Milwaukee.”
SAM: “The last one was Old Milwaukee. This is still Schlitz cuz it wasn’t bitter enough to be a Hamm’s, but it still has some bitterness to it.”
SEAN: “I’m so confused.”
JAKE: “I don’t know anymore. I’m going to say this is Old Mil and see what happens.”
CHARLIE: “Okay so my final verdict is the first one was Old Milwaukee. High Life is in there somewhere, it has to be.”
JAKE: “Unless MGD is in there.”
WiG: “No, no.”
JAKE: “Oh yeah. It’s not old enough. It came out in the ‘70s I think.”
CHARLIE: “I didn’t guess High Life for any of them, did I?
WiG: “No you didn’t.”
CHARLIE: “It has to be there somewhere, f***.”
SEAN: “There could be a freaky omission.”
(They all zone out on a scene in Rick and Morty. Charlie is pumped for the third season.)
CHARLIE: “I’m definitely going to say that this one is Schlitz. The question is what do I switch the last one to? Schlitz, five. Give Old Milwaukee a five too.”
SEAN: “You know they say not to change your answers on multiple choice tests.”
WiG: “One thing we’ve learned so far is that you guys definitely know Blatz.”
SEAN: “Yeah, I’ll take that.”
SAM: “I was sipping one before you got here.”
CHARLIE: “Leinenkugel’s could be in there too, f***!”
WiG: “No Leinie’s. Alright, I’ll reveal the beers now. Not in this order, but we had Schlitz, Blatz, High Life, PBR and Old Milwaukee. So we don’t have a clear winner. But if Charlie had went with his gut, he would’ve won. The first one was…PBR.”
(The guys gasp and shout. Charlie makes a strange guttural sound.)
CHARLIE: “I knew, I knew, I knew right away from my first sip!”
JAKE: “I am shocked.”
SAM: “That is shocking.”
CHARLIE: “F***! I knew it was PBR!”
SEAN: “That’s sweet, sweet justice.”
CHARLIE: “PBR. Man, you come back. Every time you think you hate PBR, you come crawling back to PBR. Every time dude. They cornered the f****** market on domestics.”
SAM: “What was that second one?”
WiG: “The second was Old Milwaukee.”
CHARLIE: “Oh God!”
WiG: “Third one was Blatz, obviously. Fourth was High Life. And the fifth was Schlitz.”
SAM: “Okay, I got two right. I feel good about that.”
JAKE: “I don’t think I got any right.”
WiG: “So I think Sam and Charlie tied, both got two.”
JAKE: “I might fall into a deep depression.”
CHARLIE: “That was fun.”
SEAN: “We definitely know our Blatz, whether we like it or not.”
WiG: “So I was just on a road trip for ten days and we missed a lot of shows that happened here in Milwaukee. The bulk of Summerfest. But I’d say one of the shows me and Kristina were most sad about missing was the second annual Soul Surf.”
JAKE: “Oh man that went stupid well.”
CHARLIE: “We topped last year, which was awesome.”
SAM: “More people this year and the covers were on point. We had “Dancing Queen.” We did some Weezer.”
SEAN: ““Twist and Shout.””
CHARLIE: “We did “Here Comes Your Man,” by the Pixies.”
SEAN: “Did we end up playing the Violent Femmes?”
CHARLIE: “No we didn’t do any Femmes.”
SAM: “That was a great show.”
CHARLIE: “We covered this old classic called “Sleepwalk.””
SAM: “Surf tune.”
CHARLIE: “I wouldn’t call it a surf tune.”
SEAN: “It’s like a ballad. It’s very jazzy.”
CHARLIE: “Johnny and Santo were the two brothers who wrote that one back in the day. You’d recognize it if you heard it.”
WiG: “There’s nothing like the concert cruise. Last year we saw Group of the Altos on there.”
CHARLIE: “How was that?”
WiG: “It was amazing. They took up about half of the performance space. The lineup for the Vista King this year isn’t that great. You guys and Canopies were the only two shows I wanted to see and both were when I was out of town. It’s a lot of old guy bands, no offense.”
SEAN: “The Revomatics are good.”
JAKE: “It makes sense because those old guy bands bring in a lot of people willing to pay the $20 ticket.”
CHARLIE: “A great old guy band is The Mosleys.”
JAKE: “They played before us at Locust and they destroyed. Their guitar player is stupid.”
SAM: “Their bass player and their guitar player played on SNL.”
CHARLIE: “One of the craziest moments from their Locust set was that they asked for requests and some girl was like, “Play a Beatles song.””
JAKE: “And they played every Beatles song at once. It was stupid!”
CHARLIE: “They absolutely nailed the harmonies. It was perfect.”
WiG: “Is this going to be your first Chill on the Hill?”
SAM: “The first one as Soul Low. Me and Sean’s middle school/high school band Informal Blues played Chill on the Hill but I was out of town. Justin Gawkorski filled in. That was probably in 2006 or 2007.”
(Charlie is quoting Rick and Morty.)
WiG: “Couple last questions, this was submitted by Kristina. Who is your favorite member of New Age Narcissism (NAN)?”
JAKE: “Lorde Fredd33.”
SAM: “Going to have to say Lorde Fredd33. (His album) Dead Man’s View is the most impressive thing to come out of that group so far.”
CHARLIE: “Lorde Fredd33 is on fire right now.”
SAM: “He killed it and Kiran (Q the Sun) killed it with the production. Each song just flows very well.”
JAKE: “I think that’s the best record to come out of NAN for sure. But I think Lex Allen as a performer is f****** on point. And he’s got great energy. He’s got the whole attitude and alternate personality down.”
WiG: “What happened to getting Jake in NAN?”
SAM: “Dude they wouldn’t let Jake in.”
JAKE: “I’m still trying. I just don’t think they like my flow and what I have to offer. So far it’s just been a bad Photoshop job.”
WiG: “My girlfriend’s 11-year-old son Julien wants to know what upcoming album you guys are looking forward to the most this year.”
CHARLIE: “Got to say Midwest Death Rattle.”
SAM: “Frank Ocean.”
CHARLIE: “Oh, not Milwaukee music?”
JAKE: “I’m not really aware of what’s about to come out. I just kind of listen to them whenever they are out.”
SAM: “The one album I really was looking forward to coming out is by a band called Weaves out of Toronto. I’ve been obsessed with them for the past couple of months, but the album came out a month ago. Now it’s definitely Frank.”
CHARLIE: “I am going to get some s*** for this but I am very, very excited for the new Tool record. Tool has not put out a record in over ten years.”
JAKE: “Absolutely not.”
SAM: “That will not represent the Soul Low brand.”
CHARLIE: “Tool is awesome and Dan Carey is a phenomenal drummer. I really like that band. This has been entirely anticipated. They keep putting it off and putting it off. It might not even come out this year. Also the new Radiohead record is phenomenal. There’s been a ton that have already come out. David Bowie’s new record.”
SEAN: “Oh yeah. But I don’t know about what is supposed to come out.”
WiG: “Julien had a couple more questions. What’s the best thing you’ve found at a thrift store?”
JAKE: “We’ve thrifted some good stuff, a strobe light for one.”
SEAN: “We’ve found some amazing dresses.”
SAM: “Tons of dresses.”
CHARLIE: “We like to do this thing at house shows sometimes where we’ll wear dresses.”
SEAN: “We go to Goodwill like right before the show and find a bunch of dresses that like match a certain color scheme.”
CHARLIE: “Only dirty basement shows.”
JAKE: “We found all of the suits for the “OMG STD” video in a thrift store. Those four matching powder blue suits. The Value Village on North Avenue. I was looking for something like that for a while and then two days before the video I went in and found those babies.”
WiG: “Yeah I found this Movado watch at that Value Village for six bucks and multiple people have told me it’s worth over $500.”
SAM: “Can’t say the same about my Timex.”
WiG: “Joey Turbo is responsible for me finding this watch. I was waiting for Kiran outside their house and he was running late and Joey was on the patio chilling with his girl. I was telling them how I recently lost a beloved watch and he encouraged me to hit up the Value Village while I wait.”
SAM: “Nice. Love Joey.”
WiG: “I have to commend you guys on the lineup for the release show at Miramar, getting milo and The Pukes.”
JAKE: “It’s really good.”
SAM: “I don’t mean to take full credit for that.”
SEAN: “We’ve been talking about that show for a long time. It’s been in the works for a while.”
SAM: “I’ve been a big fan of milo for like three years. Just like obsessively listening to his music. And I saw The Pukes at High Dive in the spring and was just blown away.”
JAKE: “Gotta sell out the Miramar. That’s the goal. We have not played there.”
SEAN: “What’s the capacity?”
JAKE: “Such a weird place.”
CHARLIE: “I am very, very familiar with the Miramar. I’ve played the Miramar a jillion times. I know everyone who works there and everything and yes, when they had that little fire and a portion of it burned down and they remodeled it, it got better. Stage Right is like a sidebar. They brought the middle bar out better and they got an incredible sound guy. It isn’t swelteringly hot anymore. It’s gotten a lot better now compared to my freshman year of college.”
WiG: “Who did you play with when you play there?”
CHARLIE: “I play with another band called Conundrum. It’s like a psychedelic rock band and we play there all the time.”
SAM: “I was going to shoot for Turner but I like the intimacy of Miramar. I played with Kellen (Klassik) there opening up for Sidewalk Chalk and I thought, “Oh s***, this place is actually pretty good.””
WiG: “I’ve been to some Turner shows with national headliners and there are only 80 people.”
SEAN: “That’s the thing. It’s so hard to make it feel comfortable.”
SAM: “I feel like you have to make it more of a performance and an experience because it’s so big of a space.”
SEAN: “And you’re so removed from the audience being that high up.”
WiG: “To bring it all together with Julien and Kristina, one of the first times Julien saw you was that Turner show when you opened up for Lady Lamb.”
CHARLIE: “That was a great show.”
SEAN: “Yeah that was our first time at Turner.”
CHARLIE: “She is really good.”
SEAN: “Super nice too.”
WiG: “Last question courtesy of Julien. He’s really into basketball right now. Who’s your favorite NBA player and if you don’t follow the NBA, who is your favorite athlete?”
SAM: “Lejames Brown.”
CHARLIE: “Dennis Rodman.”
JAKE: “I am going to answer for everyone and say Kevin Garnett.”
SEAN: “Didn’t Durant go somewhere?”
WiG: “Yeah, he went to the Warriors.”
SAM: “I don’t follow sports.”
SEAN: “Wasn’t there talk of him going to the Bucks at some point?”
JAKE: “Steph Curry!”
WiG: “What sport do you follow the most?”
JAKE: “I don’t really follow it, but I like football.”
SEAN: “It’s hard not to be a Packers fan.”
SAM: “I played hockey for like five years and I’d be lying if I said I followed it, but I do like to watch it.”
CHARLIE: “I have a sports confession to make. Both of my parents were born and raised in Chicago, so I am totally a Bears fan.”
JAKE: “Ah God. He’s going off about Tool and the Bears. It’s his birthday so he’s expressing himself. He’s 25.”
SAM: “Quarter life crisis.”
CHARLIE: “I’m also into baseball. My mom is a huge White Sox fan. When the White Sox won the World Series that was crazy.”
SAM: “No one gives a s***.”
JAKE: “Where are the White Sox again?”
SEAN: “They’re in Chicago.”
CHARLIE: “It’s Northside and Southside. Northside is the Cubs and Southside is the Sox.”
WiG: “Did you see Chance the Rapper is an ambassador for the White Sox now.
SAM: “Yeah, I knew he repped the White Sox.”
JAKE: “Ambassador, what does that mean?”
WiG: “Like Drake is the ambassador for the Toronto Raptors. Basically helping to sell the Raptors brand.”
CHARLIE: “I would really, really like to see the Cubs win the World Series. I really want to see that happen.”
WiG: “You should watch Back to the Future 2 again.”
CHARLIE: “Yeah, yeah! And they came close last year too. They’ll do it eventually.”
SEAN: “Who’s Julien’s guy?”
WiG: “I think Steph Curry. All the kids love Steph Curry.”
SEAN: “He’s a tiny guy but he swooshes in those threes non-stop. I’ve heard that from my co-workers.”
WiG: “Anything else you’d like to add?”
SAM: “Nosebleeds is a good record. We’ve been working on it for like three years.”
SEAN: “When is the new video coming out?”
SAM: “Sometime in August.”
CHARLIE: “A new really, really funny awesome video for “Be Like You.””
SEAN: “It’s pretty weird. We’re just hoping it’s not too weird. Because it’s like Pee Wee Herman suburban insanity.”
CHARLIE: “It was a blast to shoot. It was ridiculous and I’m very excited to see it.”
WiG: “Very cool. Cheers guys.”
Nosebleeds is out now. You can stream it and buy a digital version here, vinyl/vinyl + cassette bundle here, and CD here.
Soul Low will play The Sky Bar at The Edgewater in Madison on Thursday August 11, and the Veggiehouse in Stevens Point on Friday August 12. On Saturday August 13, they play a record release show at the Miramar Theatre in Milwaukee. The “Nosebleeds Tour 2016” includes another stop in Madison (September 1 at The Frequency) and Green Bay (September 3 at Gasoline). Click here for more tour and ticket information.
The music video for “Be Like You” will debut August 16.
He’s led the bad-boy rock band Aerosmith for decades, written a book, learned to parasail and is the father of four children. But Steven Tyler had at least one more goal before hitting 70: his first solo album.
“I just thought, ‘Instead of (an) Aerosmith album, why don’t I just write something here and see what I get?’” Tyler said by phone from his new home in Nashville, Tennessee. “It was something I’ve always wanted to do.”
What he got is “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere,” a 15-song, twangy CD that features Tyler’s playful voice backed by such un-Aerosmith instruments as mandolin, Cajun accordion, fiddle and trombone.
“If I could achieve one thing,” he said, “it would be that I opened the door to country being allowed to rock a little bit more. As you know, no great story ever started off with ‘I had a salad last night.’ It is sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.”
Tyler co-wrote the majority of the radio-friendly tunes, from the boot-stomping “Sweet Louisiana” to the unabashed flag-waving “Red, White & You” to the power ballad “What Am I Doin’ Right?” (The album also has two song covers — “Piece of My Heart” and his own “Janie’s Got a Gun.”)
The 68-year-old Tyler also leaves the world of pickups and cutoff jeans to belt out the pro-immigration title song, singing: “Some white, yellow, black, or red/ We’re all somebody from somewhere.”
Might he be getting a little political in his old age?
“How do you like that?” he asked, laughing. The song, he said, is about developing empathy and understanding other people’s pain. “We’re all getting so caught up in our phones and texting. You’ve got to remember who people are. I’ve never been one to go political. It’s been more about life and spirituality.”
Jaren Johnston, singer and lead guitarist for The Cadillac Three who helped produce the album, said he found Tyler eager to work with different songwriters to create songs organically, not trying to fit a genre.
“For where he’s at in his career and what he’s done, who he is and what band he’s in, and every enormo-dome he’s played all over the world, over millions and millions of records, he still has an extreme passion for whatever it is he’s doing. He’s not scared to start a new journey,” Johnston said.
The album doesn’t mean the end of Aerosmith, Tyler insists. “I love Aerosmith more than anything. My kids and Aerosmith are the two biggest loves in my life, short of an occasional girl in the front row who exposes her breasts,” he jokes. Tyler said the band is still together and planning to tour South America this fall. “Maybe we’ll do another record before. Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t know,” he said.
He lists his accomplishments — albums, sobriety, four children and recently becoming a grandfather for the third time. “Those great joys are in this solo record, too. I’m getting great joy out of playing with a new band and the love onstage.”
There’s a tinge of frustration in Tyler’s voice when he discusses what he sacrificed for Aerosmith, writing and performing songs that range from the classic “Sweet Emotion” to the hard rock strut of “Walk This Way.”
“I think I’ve been very co-dependent with Aerosmith,” Tyler said. “I was married and had kids but I couldn’t go home to my family every night because I had to save my voice for Aerosmith. And I couldn’t go eat dinner with my kids every night because I had to finish the chorus line and write the goddamn melody.”
His relationship with Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry is clearly strained. Though Perry recently collapsed during a performance with his band The Hollywood Vampires, several days later Tyler still hadn’t yet spoken to Perry, his wife or managers despite being concerned. Even so, Tyler insisted: “He’s my brother.”
Whatever happens to Aerosmith, Tyler is excited to be on the road supporting his own album. He might be looking at turning 70 in the near future, but he’s proved old dogs can do new tricks.
“One of the things that I learned was maybe I can be an executive producer of a great television show. Maybe get a part in a movie, become a movie star,” he said. “I don’t know yet. But I can take a risk and be whatever I want. I am Peter Pan.”
The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ first album in five years, The Getaway, is a melancholy set, even when the rhythms accelerate. Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) sits in for Rick Rubin in the producer’s chair, bringing more keyboards than usual to the mix. The Peppers’ traits are still present, from mentions of California and Flea’s deft bass lines to Anthony Keidis’ percussive lyrics and staccato vocals.
The opening arpeggio on “The Longest Wave” may have you thinking John Frusciante is back, but “new” guitarist Josh Klinghoffer (he’s been in the band for nearly a decade) ably acquits himself throughout. On the sunnier side, Elton John’s piano enhances “Sick Love,” which borrows some of its melody from his “Bennie and the Jets,” while “Dark Necessities,” the album’s first single, could be late-‘80s Duran Duran and “Go Robot” is RHCP in Nile Rodgers/Daft Punk territory.
Some muscular tunes arrive toward the end — a Hendrix-like guitar riff animates “Detroit,” while gentler interludes offer a respite on the driven “This Ticonderoga.”
The Red Hot Chili Peppers take some chances and hold their own on The Getaway, but even in rock ’n’ roll, time gets away. (Pablo Gorondi/AP)
Mumford & Sons :: ‘Johannesburg’
Mumford & Sons’ new five-song EP is a tonal and rhythmic departure from the band’s past three albums. Written with Senegalese singer Baaba Maal, Malawian group The Very Best and South African band Beatenberg, Johannesburg blends Mumford’s folk sounds with African rhythms and instruments with rich results.
If it weren’t for Marcus Mumford’s recognizable voice, Johannesburg, recorded over a two-day marathon session in South Africa last year, might not even sound like the work of the Grammy-winning British quartet. But Mumford harmonizes beautifully with Maal, who sings in his native Pulaar language as well as French. The album’s closing song, “Si Tu Veux,” is a showcase for his powerful voice and multi-lingual capabilities.
Pop sensibilities are still present; a dramatic call of drums and layered harmonies open “Fool You’ve Landed.” But the incorporation of traditional instruments like the djembe and kora (a West African harp) recalls other pop ventures into the musical heritage of distant cultures, like Paul Simon’s The Rhythm of the Saints. (Sandy Cohen/AP)
Laura Mvula :: ‘The Dreaming Room’
Laura Mvula’s The Dreaming Room is an ambitious album full of rhythms and drama, with some songs suitable for recital halls and others for the dance floor.
The classically trained Mvula and drummer/producer Troy Miller get help from guitarists Nile Rodgers and John Scofield and the London Symphony Orchestra, among others, but the tunes rely most on her layers of rhythmic harmony and lyrics dwelling on life’s complexities. On her first effort, Sing to the Moon, Mvula sang about playing “my own damn tune”; her second album further expands on that idea.
“Overcome,” written with Rodgers, and “Phenomenal Woman,” inspired by a Maya Angelou poem, are the dance-pop bookends with sophisticated twists. Between them are the hymn-like “Show Me Love,” the Christmas carol-y “Angel” and “Bread.” While some bands aspire to “more cowbell,” several songs on The Dreaming Room are enhanced with “additional harp.” It’s that kind of album and that’s just fine. (Pablo Gorondi/AP)
If there is a Rock and Roll Hell, an inner circle is devoted for old fans who insist on telling you how the music was so much better back in the day.
You know the argument: musicians were more creative, the songs were better, etc.
David Hepworth, a veteran British music journalist in his mid-60s, has essentially written an entire book making this argument. Specifically, he says 1971 was pretty much the most innovative, explosive and awesome year of the rock era.
Yet “Never a Dull Moment” isn’t an overbearing trip to purgatory. It’s fun, mostly.
Hepworth knows how to tell a story, be it about Motown mogul Berry Gordy’s reaction to Marvin Gaye’s landmark single “What’s Going On” (“the worst piece of crap I ever heard”) or the jet-set hippie excesses of Mick and Bianca Jagger’s wedding.
And, admittedly, Hepworth has a lot of material to work with. This was the year of “Led Zeppelin IV,” the Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers,” Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells a Story” and David Bowie’s “Hunky Dory.”
This also was the year of “Who’s Next” by The Who. Hepworth argues that the lead-off track, “Baba O’Riley,” propelled by that distinctive synthesizer riff and thundering power chords, is a high-water mark of an incredible year and a precursor to what would become known as arena rock.
Hepworth occasionally veers into get-off-my-lawn territory. He blithely dismisses punk as being mostly about nostalgia, and his assertion that the Rolling Stones did little musically interesting since 1971 might make you want to whap him on the head with the album sleeve for “Some Girls.”
But he memorably writes about troubled artists like Karen Carpenter and Nick Drake. Drake was a shy upper-class kid whose particular talent was to be able to write and perform beautifully ethereal rock songs. His curse was being decades ahead of his time. His music never got much exposure until late in the century when his indie-sounding songs showed up in a Volkswagen commercial and Hollywood movie soundtracks.
By that time, he was long dead from an overdose of antidepressants.
Oh, and Elvis appears in this book, too. The King was past his prime in 1971, but Hepworth employs him as a sort of white jump-suited ghost of Rock Future. In 1971, Elvis was taking the stage to the self-important strains of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” for shows in which fans paid high ticket prices to hear the hits and “bask in a precious moment of shared proximity” with their idol.
In other words, the sort of high-priced nostalgia shows the cool kids of 1971 have put on for decades now.
In September 2014, Associated Press Global Entertainment Editor Nekesa Mumbi Moody spent a day with Prince at Paisley Park.
The following story was originally published on Sept. 29, 2014:
Nightfall is fast approaching at Paisley Park.
There are few lights on in the cavernous compound, and unseen doves (of course there would be doves) are cooing up a racket before twilight fades to darkness. But even their collective noise takes a back seat once Prince — sitting in the dimmest bit of light — goes to his Mac, cues up a track and hits play.
A melodious instrumental track floods the room, the lush orchestration compliments of the Minnesota Orchestra, whom Prince tapped to perform. Its inspiration has come from a little-heard Dionne Warwick song, “In Between the Heartaches,” which he also played moments earlier.
The track remains a work in progress; Prince has written no lyrics yet. But it’s music like this that keeps him going — to still, after all these years, take music to the next level.
“If you don’t try, how will you get another ‘Insatiable?’” he says, referencing his classic bedroom groove.
Over the next few moments at Prince’s computer, he goes to YouTube to play an array clips that get his musical heart thrumming, dipping from old James Brown clips to the relatively new U.K. singer FKA Twigs.
Prince isn’t always pleased about what he hears from today’s crop of entertainers — “The quality of the music, everyone would agree is not the gold standard,” he muses about today’s mainstream pop universe.
But when it comes to his world, what he’s hearing ranks among the best that he’s heard in ages. On Tuesday, he will release his first album in four years, “ART OFFICAL AGE,” along with music from his latest protege act, 3RDEYEGIRL, “PLECTRUMELECTRUM.”
“I’m completely surrounded by equal talent,” an energized Prince says. “To me it feels like heaven.”
It’s not just the music that’s taking his Royal Badness to new heights: For the first time, he is releasing his music with complete freedom. The man that once wrote “slave” on his face in protest of not being in control of his own music and famously battled and then departed his label, Warner Bros., is now back with the label — under his own terms.
“What’s happening now is the position that I’ve always wanted to be in,” says Prince. “I was just trying to get here.”
In the spring, Prince, 56, finally gained what he had sought for more than two decades — control of his musical masters, and, in a larger sense, his musical legacy. In the past, Warner Bros. held the rights to Prince’s music, even long after he left, as part of the contract he signed as a new artist.
But after savvy legal maneuvering, he owns the rights to all of his vast collections of hits, including archival music that Prince fans have been longing to hear for decades. Prince also gained control of the publishing rights to his compositions and has performance rights — which means he completely controls his own musical destiny.
Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, who works closely with Prince on legal, business and financial matters, calls it his “fight for justice” and an enormous game-changer for the industry.
“It’s magnificent, and what’s important for him, he wants all musicians to have (this),” she said. “This is just something that he feels incredibly passionate about.”
Long a trailblazer for artists’ rights, and for coming up with innovative approaches to break away from the label-structure that he’s viewed as unfair to artists, he sees the way the industry has unfolded as the ultimate “I told you so”: disappearing labels, a streaming system that some music acts say nets them even less profit for the music they made, and increasing challenge to make money just off of making music.
He scoffs at the image of him that had long been defined by others; a technology-phobe who resisted what was to come in the industry, like that persistent notion that he once declared the Internet dead.
“We were saying it was dead to us — dead energy,” he explains.
For Prince, the old Tribe Called Quest rhyme still rings true: “Industry rule number four thousand and eighty, record company people are shady.” He speaks passionately of his disdain for traditional record contracts and publishing agreements that he believes give most of the power — and profit — to other entities, not the creator of the music.
He considers it not only bad business, but also against God: “The Bible says you’re not supposed to sign your inheritance away.”
The entry of Apple as the major player in music hasn’t helped, in his view. When asked about U2’s much analyzed venture with Apple _ in which the company paid them for their latest album, then released it in its customers’ iTunes libraries for free _ Prince simply says. “That’s a designer deal. … Of course they got paid. But what about the others?”
Prince is hoping to show artists that there is an alternative to the standard way of doing business. Paisley Park is not just a place for Prince, but also a creative sandbox for other artists.
Liv Warfield is one: The boisterous soul singer with the big band and dynamic stage act worked under Prince’s tutelage for her latest album, and has opened for Prince on tour; “The Voice” contestant Judith Hill has come through. At one point, he plays a track by a powerful female voice that turns out to be Rita Ora. Jennifer Hudson will be making a Paisley Park pilgrimage soon, he says.
“How we make music is in a collective,” he says, with the motto: “Best idea wins.”
This spring, he launched NPG Publishing; besides administering his own music, it will do so for other acts.
But he’s quick to note that he doesn’t have artists signed to him.
“We don’t do (record) deals,” says Prince. “I don’t want anything from anybody.”
Joshua Welton, a young producer who is married to drummer Hanna Ford Welton of 3RDEYEGIRL (Donna Grantis and Ida Nielsen round out the trio), is one of the fresh new talents that Prince marvels at; he refers to him as a “Steve Jobs” and marvels not only at his musical might, but also his spiritual strength.
His faith in Welton is so strong that he shares productions with him on the album, and says for the first time, there are tracks where Prince doesn’t even play an instrument, leaving it to Welton.
“Who would have predicted that I would let a 22-, 23-year-old produce me?” says Prince (though he’s actually 24). “He’s supertalented.”
For Prince, success today is about audience impact and, as always, taking success to the next level.
He’s not looking for a repeat of 1984: “I don’t need another gold record,” he says matter of factly (though for the record, that was the year of many platinum records).
Nor does he care about charting No. 1 songs or hits. When he explains why he isn’t, he takes it back to Africa and says that’s not the community’s way of thinking: “You don’t quantify success by numbers.”
He’s working on a rerelease of the epic “Purple Rain” album for its 30th anniversary, but when asked if he’s excited about it, he flatly says no.
“Same album, just state-of-the-art sound,” he says. “It’s nice that it sounds better for the fans but I live in the now. I don’t have to go backwards to celebrate.”
He had no hesitation about working with Warner Bros again (after entering what Lamkins-Ellis called an “amazing deal”): “I don’t deal in history nor should they,” he says. “It’s not the entity that’s the problem.”
Prince isn’t stopping with the two new albums and the “Purple Rain” rerelease: His song “Funknroll” is being used by NFL network, and he’s excited about new avenues for his music.
You’ll find his new music on iTunes, and Spotify, but he doesn’t see anything contradictory in that. “It’s about the deal. Anything I’m doing now it’s equitable. I’m happy.”
Prince, the innovative music superstar whose hits included “Purple Rain” and “When Doves Cry” and whose songwriting and eccentric stage presence electrified fans around the world, died on April 21 in Minnesota, his publicist said. He was 57.
“It is with profound sadness that I am confirming that the legendary, iconic performer, Prince Rogers Nelson, has died,” said publicist Anna Meacham.
Prince was found dead at his home at Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, a Minneapolis suburb, the Carver County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter. The office said it was “investigating the circumstances of his death.”
The local medical examiner declined to comment on the cause of Prince’s death, which was first reported by celebrity website TMZ.
Shocked fans gathered with media crews outside Paisley Park Studios’ gates to mourn the award-winning singer and musician, whose genre-defying music combined jazz, funk and disco, and influenced other musicians. His hit songs also included “Raspberry Beret,” “Little Red Corvette” and “Kiss.”
Prince, who was on a U.S. tour last week, was briefly hospitalized with the flu after his plane made an emergency landing in Moline, Illinois, last week, TMZ reported. A representative told TMZ that Prince had performed in Atlanta even though he was not feeling well and felt worse after boarding the plane for a flight back to Minnesota.
Prince first found fame in the late 1970s, and over the next three decades became known as one of the most inventive and eccentric forces in American pop music.
Often making a statement with bold fashion choices, the diminutive star sometimes appeared on stage sporting ruffled shirts and tight pants or elaborate costumes, including chain mail covering his face, a shimmery orange tunic or bikini briefs.
Prince was regarded as a perfectionist who from 1993 to 2000 changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol in what was seen as a protest against his record label at the time.
For a while, he was dubbed “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.”
An intensely private person, Prince sold more than 100 million records during his career, won seven Grammy awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
His most recent album, “HITnRUN: Phase Two” was released in December 2015.
Prince became a Jehovah’s Witness about 15 years ago, and was a strict vegan. In 2009, he spoke in a PBS television interview about being born an epileptic and suffering seizures as a child.
He said he was also teased in school, and that “early in my career I tried to compensate by being as flashy as I could and as noisy as I could.”
Prince won an Oscar for best original song score for “Purple Rain,” the 1984 movie whose music was based on his album of the same name. He also starred in the movie.
In 2007, he played the Super Bowl in one of the most celebrated such performances.
While he was more accustomed to performing to arena audiences, two years ago Prince played perhaps his most intimate gig in the living room of British singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas’ London home with his band, 3rdeyegirl, Billboard said.
“We’ll work our way up, if people like us, to bigger venues,” Prince quipped at the time.
Born in Minneapolis as Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7, 1958, he is said to have written his first song at the age of 7. As well as singing and writing, he played multiple instruments, including guitar, keyboards and drums.
His music was marked by sexually charged lyrics and explosive live performances, while his private life was marked by a string of romances linking him with the likes of Madonna and actress Kim Basinger and Carmen Electra.
Prince was married twice: to his backup singer, Mayte Garcia, in 1996 and then to Manuela Testolini in 2001. Both marriages ended in divorce, and a son he had with Garcia died a week after birth in October 1996.
Music TV channel MTV said it was changing its logo to purple for the day in honor of Prince. Twitter lit up with reaction from dismayed friends and fans.
“And just like that … the world lost a lot of magic ✨ Rest in peace Prince! Thanks for giving us so much,” tweeted pop star Katy Perry.
Film director Spike Lee said on Twitter: “I Miss My Brother. Prince Was A Funny Cat. Great Sense Of Humor.”
“This is what it sounds like when doves cry.. Prince R.I.P.,” tweeted actress and TV personality Whoopi Goldberg.
Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, and Frank McGurty, Amy Tennery and Gina Cherelus in New York; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Franklin Paul and Jonathan Oatis.
The Beatles captured the hearts mynd ears of a generation with music that continues to resonate today.
Here are 10 hits by the Beatles, produced by George Martin, over the years:
“Please Please Me” (1962): After “Love Me Do,” this was the song that rocketed the Beatles to fame on both sides of the Atlantic. Lead vocals: John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
“A Hard Day’s Night” (1964): Song featured in the Beatles’ first film, with that title _ taken from drummer Ringo’s response to a comment that he looked tired: “Yea, I’ve had a hard day’s night, you know.” Lead vocals: John Lennon with Paul McCartney.
“Yesterday” (1965): Wistful love song, featuring Paul McCartney with string quartet, an innovative idea for a rock and roll band that McCartney said was Martin’s idea. It initially made him hesitate but ended as a “thrilling” experience. McCartney says the song became “one of the most recorded songs ever” with Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and many others offering their versions of it. Lead vocals: Paul McCartney.
“Michelle” (1965): Some English speakers got their first taste of the French language with this tender love tune. Lead vocals: Paul McCartney.
“Strawberry Fields Forever” (1967): An iconic if more complex Beatles with strings and horns. Lead vocals: John Lennon.
“With a Little Help From My Friends” (1967): Casually sung by drummer Ringo Starr on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Bank album.
“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (1967): Said to have been inspired by a drawing by John Lennon’s then-young son Julian of a classmate. Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1970 the images were inspired by Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Lead vocals: John Lennon.
“Hey Jude” (1968): “Take a sad song and make it better,” a universal message that struck a chord. Lead vocals: Paul McCartney.
“Here Comes The Sun” (1969): George Harrison’s song of hope. Light vocal creation that he is quoted as saying was written during a long British winter at the home of Eric Clapton. Lead vocals: George Harrison.
“Let It Be” (1970): The Beatles’ final single before breaking up, produced by Martin. The song became the title track on the Beatles’ last album, produced by Phil Spector. The lyrics’ references to “times of trouble” and “comfort” had quick universal appeal in turbulent times, including among the Beatles, becoming something of a hymn. Lead vocals: Paul McCartney.
Politicians, musicians and fans around the world — from the Vatican to the International Space Station — paid tribute to David Bowie on Monday, following his death at 69 from cancer.
Taking to Twitter or Facebook, many praised Bowie’s groundbreaking music and offered their own recollections of the singer, known for a string of hits such as “Space Oddity” and “Let’s Dance”.
Below are some of the tributes to Bowie, who released his last album “Blackstar” on Friday, also his birthday:
DUNCAN JONES, BOWIE’S SON, POSTING A PICTURE OF THE SINGER ON TWITTER:
“Very sorry and sad to say it’s true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all.”
TONY VISCONTI, MUSIC PRODUCER AND LONG-TERM BOWIE COLLABORATOR:
“He always did what he wanted to do. And he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way. His death was no different from his life – a work of Art. He made ‘Blackstar’ for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn’t, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry.”
QUEEN OFFICIAL TWITTER ACCOUNT, POSTING A VIDEO OF “UNDER PRESSURE”:
“This is our last dance…”
GARY KEMP, ACTOR AND SPANDAU BALLET MEMBER:
“Shocked to the core.”
“It feels as if the world has suddenly gone out of joint.”
DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER:
“I grew up listening to and watching the pop genius David Bowie. He was a master of re-invention, who kept getting it right. A huge loss.”
KANYE WEST, RAPPER:
“David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime.”
GIANFRANCO RAVASI, CARDINAL AND HEAD OF THE VATICAN’S CULTURE COUNCIL, QUOTING “SPACE ODDITY” LYRICS:
“Ground Control to Major Tom
Commencing countdown, engines on
Check ignition and may God’s love be with you (David Bowie)”
TIM PEAKE, BRITISH ASTRONAUT, CURRENTLY ONBOARD INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION:
“Saddened to hear David Bowie has lost his battle with cancer – his music was an inspiration to many.”
RICKY GERVAIS, COMEDIAN:
“I just lost a hero. RIP David Bowie.”
GENE SIMMONS, ROCK SINGER:
“David Bowie, you will be sorely missed. Bowie’s ‘Changes’ and the Ziggy story songs were a major influence for me.”