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Women’s History Month – Women Who Rock: Sirens of the 60s & 70s

8 Mar

This month is Women’s History Month, and today, specifically, is International Women’s Day. In honor of that fact, I’m putting a Rock is a Verb spin on it by kicking off a Women Who Rock series, starting with a few of the fairer sexed powerhouses from the 1960s and 70s who unarguably started the Women Who Rock movement.

patti smith

Click to watch Patti Smith perform “Gloria” on SNL

Patti Smith – Patti Smith was a poet who fused her prose and music to become the reigning “Godmother of Punk.” An amazing talent with the written word, “Horses” has found its way onto many a greatest albums list, and her memoir “Just Kids” is not only a great read, but is a New York Times Bestseller list maker, as well.

grace slick

Click to watch Jefferson Airplane perform “White Rabbit” live at Woodstock

Grace Slick – Slick was and is one of the most prominent rock females, fronting Jefferson Airplane and several of its various incarnations. When the band rocketed to stardom after converting from folk to psychedelia, Slick lived the rock n’ roll stereotype loaded with sex, drugs and controversy. Among other things, she was one of the first people to drop the f-bomb on live television, on the Dick Cavett Show in  1969.

stevie

Click to see Fleetwood Mac perform “Gold Dust Woman” live

Stevie Nicks – Standing just over five feet tall, Stevie Nicks defines small but mighty. She found success with Fleetwood Mac in 1970s and as a solo artist in the 80s, 90s and even now, lending her signature deep rasp to countless hits and collaborations. 

early heart

Click to watch Heart perform “Barracuda”

Ann & Nancy Wilson – Ever hear the old adage “your not famous until the gay rumors start?” Well, even the Wilson sisters weren’t immune to that one. The preposterous notion that not only were they gay but they were sisters and gay lovers couldn’t stop these two from rising above the ridiculous rumor and rocking to stardom well into the 80s.

debbie harry

Click to watch the music video for “Call Me” featuring Richard Gere in American Gigolo

Debbie Harry – Punk, New Wave, Disco…Debbie Harry was all of these things wrapped in sexy, sultry, streetwise package. Her signature two-toned hair contributed to the confusion that she, not her band, was Blondie, sparking a “Blondie is a Band” button campaign. No matter, the band’s early presence and heavy rotation on MTV solidified Debbie Harry as a rock icon.  

the runaways

Click to watch a live performance of “Queens of Noise”

The Runaway – These Queens of Noise may have been one of the first all-female rock bands to come out of the United States, but they hardly found any love here. Popular overseas, most notably in Japan, the Runaways released four albums and went out on one headlining tour. Their influence perhaps transcended their popularity and can be heard all over the likes of the Go-Go’s, L7, the Donnas and Hole. The Runaways are like a good bad movie, but notable rock frontierswomen, nonetheless. Speaking of good bad movies, the Runaways biopic featuring Michael Shannon, Dakota Fanning and KStew, much as I hate to admit it, is worth checking out. 

janis

Click to hear “All is Loneliness” by Big Brother and the Holding Company

Janis Joplin – Joplin passed away of a heroin overdose in 1970, making her a woman who rocked in the 1960s, but there can’t really be a list like this without giving Joplin a shout-out. Although she repeatedly sang about loneliness, sonically, Joplin had it all – vulnerability, strength and a voice that rose up and was heard.

And going back one more decade, I need to make mention of the Queen of Rock(abilly), Wanda Jackson. One of the first crossover artists, Jackson noticed the changing tide in her genre early on in her career and fused country music with rockabilly to find commercial success in the 1950s and 60s. Jackson is still rocking to this day, most recently with the King of Collaborations, Jack White.

Sound City Players Rock NYC

14 Feb

sound city

“This is my rock and roll fantasy camp,” Taylor Hawkins said as he switched seats with Dave Grohl who delighted on drums and allowed Hawkins to take the lead on Cheap Trick hits like “I Want You to Want Me” and “Surrender.” Standing to Hawkins’ right was Cheap Trick’s own Rick Nielsen. On the other? Krist Novoselic. The “house” band for the evening was Hawkins, Chris Shiflett, Rami Jaffe, Pat Smear, Nate Mendel and Dave Grohl…ya know, that little known rock act, the Foo Fighters. On this night at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom, however, they were the Sound City Players, Grohl’s latest and greatest brainchild.

Sound City centers around a recording studio of the same name that played host to Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Pat Benatar, Tom Petty, Nirvana and scads more. More specifically, Sound City centers around a mixing board and that was the story Grohl intended to tell. Through the process of making Sound City, Grohl’s directorial debut, he tapped into something deeper. Not only did he tap into the human element of making music, but he also tapped into the element of speaking one’s truth. Over and over, the message of truth and authenticity is revisited, and witnessing the spectacle onstage at Hammerstein Ballroom, Grohl’s point is driven home. Every single person on that stage was there because they wanted to be, because they were doing what they loved and it showed, making it one of the most infectiously entertaining things to lay witness to. These people were in their element, they were at play. The fact that 4,000 people were watching was incidental.

Each mini-set was punctuated by clips from the documentary and served as introductions for the revolving door of musicians who agreed to come along on the ride that is Dave Grohl’s great rock crusade. There was hardly a moment during the three hour-plus set when whichever incarnation of the Foos was playing back-up to the likes of Lee Ving from Fear, Chris Goss from Masters of Reality, Alain Johannes from Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures, Rick Springfield, John Fogerty and Stevie Nicks, that they weren’t wearing an ear-to-ear grin and looking at each other as if they couldn’t believe this was really happening to them. Nevermind the fact that their day job consists of being one of the biggest bands in the world.

Springfield was an absolute highlight of the night. He was the first cinematic boy butt (and probably the first bare boy butt, period) that I’d ever seen in the lovely 80s nugget Hard to Hold. I was five. So, needless to say, the site of Rick Springfield in the flesh did elicit a little giggle. Unlike the cheese factor that comes with his acting resume, such is not the case with his music. Three notes into Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl,” the crowd erupted, prompting Grohl to say with envy, “The f*cking man wrote a song that everybody knows from three f*cking notes. Teach me, Rick, teach me. Give me your knowledge. You’re like f*cking Yoda.”

Fogerty continued the energy crescendo set up by Springfield, blazing through Creedance Clearwater Revival classics like “Born on the Bayou” and “Fortunate Son.” His was the most powerful set of the evening. The Foos (all accounted for) were on point, and Fogerty sounded as good as ever.

Stevie Nicks brought down the house, and for me, not in the usual sense of the word. Nicks talked tragically of how she lost her godson to a drug overdose a year ago. And as she does, Nicks wrote a poem about it in an effort to aid her through her grieving process. Grohl and his pet project coincided with the timing of it all, and as she explained onstage, she asked Grohl, “Knowing our history with the subject, do you wanna go there with me?” And there it was: the inevitable Kurt Cobain reference, and as Grohl so often does when the subject matter arises, he nodded subtly from the shadows, acknowledging without acknowledging. Like a shadow cast that Grohl may never be allowed to fully emerge from, the singular reference painted a sad pallor that was happily lacking from the evening.

On a base level, it’s sad because a man took his own life. It’s sad because a girl will never know her father. On an artistic level, it’s sad because that man left a large hole in the musical landscape still unfulfilled. It’s sad because, had he lived, his band that is so revered as one of the greatest bands of all time would have inevitably been reduced to some watered down caricature of itself by now. “It’s better to burn out than fade away.” It’s sad because, had he lived, last night may not have happened and all the years in between would have gone a radically different course for all parties involved. These are all things I think about and all things I don’t necessarily need to think about when I’m at one of the coolest rock shows I’ve ever seen.

Nevertheless, last night was one of the coolest rock shows I have ever seen.

Video

“Suck Young Blood”

14 Jan

Last night, a blonde Karen O stepped onstage with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to play an intimate show at the Glass House in Pomona, California, and preview material off their upcoming fourth studio album. Watch one song, entitled “Suck Young Blood” here.

The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s to-be-titled LP is slated to drop this spring.

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