On this date in 2011, Sylvia Robinson died at the age of 76. Robinson's career spanned several decades, being part of a #1 R&B hit in 1957 and repeating that accomplishment as a solo artist in 1973. In 1979, she co-founded Sugar Hill Records ... she was later dubbed "Hip-Hop's First Godmother".
That first hit in 1957 was "Love Is Strange" by Mickey & Sylvia:
In 1972, Sylvia sent a song she had co-written to Al Green. Al declined to record it (due, some say, to his religious beliefs), Sylvia hit the studios and, 16 years after "Love Is Strange", she had a hit with "Pillow Talk":
In 1974, another song written by Sylvia hit the top of the charts. This time, we're talking disco:
In 1979, Sugar Hill Records released its first record, featuring the best-ever use of Kaopectate in a lyric:
In 2022, Sylvia Robinson was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
On this date, 19 years ago in 2004, we saw Willie Nelson and Lucinda Williams. I wrote a lengthy post you can read here. At the time, Lucinda was 51, but didn't really seem it ... she came to people's attention later than with most star musicians (she was 35 when her self-titled album that made us love her came out). Of course, now she's 70 (just like my wife and I) and still at it, releasing an album a few months ago, just after publishing her memoirs. Meanwhile, Willie is 20 years old than all of us, making him 71 when we saw him. He's now 90, and still at it ... the sucker has released two albums this year! Here are a few songs from Willie, Lucinda, and friends.
Here's Lucinda at Farm Aid 2004:
Willie at the same concert:
Here they are together in 2004, singing Lucinda's "Over Time":
Finally, taking us back ... I think to 1962, despite what the title of the video says:
Spotify is at it again. They are offering a new, personalized playlist they call a "daylist":
Say hello to daylist, your day in a playlist. This new, one-of-a-kind playlist on Spotify ebbs and flows with unique vibes, bringing together the niche music and microgenres you usually listen to during particular moments in the day or on specific days of the week. It updates frequently between sunup and sundown with a series of highly specific playlists made for every version of you. It’s hyper-personalized, dynamic, and playful as it reflects what you want to be listening to right now.
I checked in on daylist yesterday morning, and got "50s rock n roll rockabilly early morning". Here are a few highlights.
"For Your Love" was the first hit single from The Yardbirds. Eric Clapton, the first of the three famous guitarists from the band, quit sooner after, supposedly because he didn't like their turn towards a more commercial sound. He was replaced by Jeff Beck. On "For Your Love", Clapton appeared only in the middle of the song, which was primarily lead singer Keith Relf, drummer Jim McCarty, and session men. The key sound was provided by Brian Auger, sitting in on harpsichord. On this promotional video, the Yardbirds who didn't appear on the recording (Chris Dreja and Paul Samwell-Smith) turn up singing and playing (Dreja mimes Auger), while Jeff Beck fills in for the departed Clapton. Needless to say, this isn't actually "50s rock n roll rockabilly":
"Time Has Come Today" was a popular psychedelic soul tune from The Chambers Brothers (again, not 50s rockabilly). The Brothers recorded several versions of this ... a single version in 1966 that ran 2:37 and went nowhere, the first real breakout version in 1967 that ran 11:07 and appeared on the band's debut album The Time Has Come, and two shorter "hit" versions released in 1968. It's one of the hit versions that made the daylist:
The Ramones did a good cover in 1983. This was another case where the video features different musicians from the recording. Marky Ramone is listed on the album credits, but he wasn't on "Time Has Come Today" and was kicked out of the band due to his drinking problem. Billy Rogers drums on the record, and Richie Ramone is the drummer in the video. Regardless, it's a good one (and the video is a real favorite of mine):
Finally, one more song that has nothing to do with rockabilly, but Spotify knows I love the song (the problem with Spotify's ability to identify what we want to hear is that more often than not, that means playing us things we already know, despite the claims that this somehow expands our horizons). (This autobiographical song even has a webpage devoted to deciphering all the references.)
Astral Weeks is on my very short list of the greatest albums ever made, and a key component is the bass playing of Richard Davis. Davis was a jazz player who essentially led the musical support for Morrison during the recording of the album. Over his career he played with everyone from Eric Dolphy to Frank Sinatra.
Richard Davis died Wednesday at the age of 93. Here are few highlights of a long and varied career:
"Come Sunday" is a Duke Ellington song recorded by Eric Dolphy with Davis in 1963:
"Sweet Thing" is from Astral Weeks, recorded in 1968:
"Meeting Across the River" is from Bruce Springsteen's album 1975 Born to Run. Davis plays bass on this track.
"On the Trail" comes from the Davis album Way Out West, recorded in 1977 and released in 1980. It's a movement from Ferde Grofé's "Grand Canyon Suite".
Near the tail end of the Summer of Love, on September 1, 1967, Bill Graham put on one of his typically diverse concerts at the Fillmore Auditorium. It was the fourth night of a six-night series for the following bands.
Opening act Gary Burton was a jazz vibraphonist. Earlier in 1967 he had released his first album with his new Quartet, which featured Larry Coryell, Steve Swallow, and Roy Haynes. It is considered one of the first jazz fusion records.
The Electric Flag felt like a local band, although most of the members were from Chicago. Legendary guitarist Mike Bloomfield formed the band with Buddy Miles and Barry Goldberg, joined by people like Nick Gravenites and Harvey Brooks. The first album was the soundtrack to a Roger Corman movie, The Trip. Their live debut was at the Monterey Pop Festival. Their first "real" album (and their best, maybe their only good, album), A Long Time Comin', came out in 1968. Here they are at Monterey:
And here is one of the quintessential songs of that era:
Cream was the headliner. At the time, they had only released one album, Fresh Cream, although Disraeli Gears had been recorded. They made their name for their live performances, many of which were captured on albums. Each of their last two albums released during their brief career as a group were half live recordings, half studio, and the albums released after their breakup were 1970's Live Cream and 1972's Live Cream Volume II. Here they are with one of their best, Robert Johnson's "Crossroads":
Willie Dixon's "Spoonful" appeared on their first album, but it was left off of the U.S. release. It nonetheless got plenty of play on the new FM "Underground" Radio, and it was later re-inserted into the American version. It was one of the many songs they used to stretch out ... the version on Wheels of Fire runs almost 17 minutes. Here's a briefer version:
Last weekend we attended an afternoon, outdoor concert featuring Patti Smith and Bob Mould. It was my first time seeing Mould as a solo act (literally ... it was just him and his electric guitar), but I saw Hüsker Dü a few times in the 80s. Here he is on Tiny Desk some years ago ... he opened and closed with the same songs as he did for us ("The War" and "Makes No Sense at All").
I've lost track of how many times we've seen Patti Smith ... I think this was our sixth, going back to 1976. Here is the audio from that 1976 show:
Here she is from the last time we saw her before this weekend, at the Royal Albert Hall in 2021:
And here she is last Sunday:
It amazes me not only that we've seen her over a period of 47 years, but that her guitar player (Lenny Kaye) and drummer (Jay Dee Daugherty) have been with Patti since the beginning.
Inspired by Eric Weisbard's excellent new book, Hound Dog. [All quotes from Weisbard's book.]
"Thornton originated 'Hound Dog' at the beginning of an era that would insist that the best songs were not novelties or standards passed around between entertainers but the recorded work of a single artist in a single moment, putting something of who they were into the grooves."
"Presley found something in the Freddie Bell Las Vegas cover version he could work with, unlike Thornton’s, starting with making a song about a no-good woman-chasing man into a song about a no-good rabbit-chasing canine."
"With the gender battle and in-concert sex play deleted, the song becomes a class battle: 'They said you was high-classed / Well, that was just a'—line? Lie? On a record we can’t see the hips move ... We compensate, hear the swivel in how he just slightly pauses to signify on his own vocal rhythm about thirty-five seconds in, on what’s already his fourth sung 'You ain’t …' Nothing is comic here, à la the Freddie Bell version.
"R.E.M. covered the song alongside Patti Smith and her guitarist Lenny Kaye in the year they were all inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, making 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' the look-back-with-a-smile equivalent of what in earlier ceremonies might have been a Chuck Berry or Beatles song, a 'Summertime Blues.'"
The Band was Bruce Springsteen at our house before we connected with Bruce. My wife and I had some disagreements about what music we liked, but we both loved The Band. Saw them twice in 1974. The next year we saw Bruce for the first time. We didn't go to The Last Waltz because $25 seemed like a lot of money then (they even included Thanksgiving dinner). Amazing that Garth Hudson, the oldest member of the group, is the only one still with us.