Posts Tagged ‘Pink Floyd’

Long Live the Long Song

November 29, 2012

Really like Noel Murray’s piece this week for AVClub that discussed the virtues of the long song.  While a lot of pop music strains its credibility if it goes past the 4 minute mark, there are the songs that blow past that and continue to be enjoyable.  As a lot of the commenters to Murray’s piece, I have a bunch of my own favorite long songs.  Here’s a list of ten songs over 7 minutes long that keep me entertained for their entire duration:

  1. Primal Scream, Loaded from Screamadelica (7.03)
  2. Stevie Wonder, As from Songs in the Key of Life (7.08)
  3. Led Zeppelin, When the Levee Breaks from Led Zeppelin IV (7.10)
  4. Outkast, Git Up, Git Out from Southernplayisticaddilacmuzik (7.27)
  5. Bob Dylan, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) from Bringing It All Back Home (7.33)
  6. James Brown, The Payback from The Payback (7.39)
  7. LCD Soundsystem, Losing My Edge from LCD Soundsystem (7.53)
  8. Ministry, So What from The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste (8.12)
  9. Rolling Stone, Midnight Rambler from Let It Bleed (9.12)
  10. Stone Roses, Fools Gold from The Stone Roses (9.54)

And I’ll leave you with a video from another great long song (very long) since I couldn’t have a post about great long songs without a Pink Floyd entry:

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Who Knew The Nile Rocked So Hard

April 11, 2012

Pink Floyd – The Nile Song from More

This song came up for me twice in the past week while shuffling on the iPod and it reminded me of how fascinated I was by this song when I first discovered it.  Not regarded as one of their better albums, this was a soundtrack album the Floyd did for an obscure French hippie movie in 1969.  Given their psychedelic pedigree from their first two albums, this doesn’t seem like an odd choice.

The songs, though, are a hodge-podge of acoustic ballads, a few spacy numbers, and a few straight out blues-based rockers.  You’d think that a song entitled the The Nile Song would possibly be the first or second type, but instead it’s the latter.  It’s not the only surprise about the song.  The vocals are by lead guitarist David Gilmour (who actually sang all the songs on this album), the last time he would get those duties until Roger Waters left the band.  The song also contains no contributions from keyboardist Rick Wright, who was a key element of the psychedelia of their first two albums.

That’s because this song has no time for whiny organs or plinky keyboards.  This is straight-up heavy rock, all riff-erific and pounding drums.  It’s rather jarring if you’re a fan of the majority of their music; once you get over the shock you can just enjoy it for what it is.  The lyrics (by Waters) are about meeting a woman, who then is flying to the sun, as the protagonist watches her shackled in his earthly abode and, oh crap, the lyrics are pretty nonsensical, but Gilmour belts them out with gusto, throwing in impassioned wooos, yeahs, shrieks that would make David Lee Roth or Robert Plant proud.  The more I listen to this song, the more I think it’s something that could have found its way onto an early Zeppelin album or at least a Cream disc if they had decided to invent heavy metal.

Floyd would never really repeat this straight up rock again.  Given this was their first effort entirely without any contribution from Syd Barrett, maybe they decided to try some numbers they had given up when Syd took them from bar band to outer space.  While the direction the band went in the 70s can’t be argued with from a monetary and legacy view, it’s interesting to think what would have happened if they took this heavy blues sound up against some of the other 70s monsters of rock.

Versus – Cash Rules

February 3, 2012

Money – Pink Floyd v. Money – Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

On the surface, beyond sharing a common title and being the fifth track on the album they come from (at least on the CD version of Dark Side), there wouldn’t appear to be much in common between a Pink Floyd and SJ&TDK song.  Dark Side of the Moon is one of the highest selling albums while I Learned the Hard Way has achieved modest success since its 2010 release (it hit number 15 on the Billboard 200).  Pink Floyd is known as one of the preeminent purveyors of psychedelic rock and the “concept” album.  Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings are modern throwbacks to funk/soul bands of the late 60s and 70s known for their infectious live shows.

But when you get down to it, these songs are definitely in orbit around the same planet for me.  Both are essentially blues songs, dealing with a topic near and dear to many a blues song, wealth or the lack thereof.  And it’s really not too surprising.  Remember, Pink Floyd had roots as a bar band playing American blues until Syd Barrett took them off into outer space.  Check out some of the soundtrack work they did on More and Obscured by Clouds for examples of that background.  And for SJ&TDK, funk and soul often can blend into the blues genre, so it wouldn’t be surprising they would delve into blues, though it’s not something they do often.

So, there is definitely a blueprint (blues song about money) shared by both songs.  How they execute is fun to compare.  Starting with the intro, Pink Floyd’s sound effects of cash register, tinkling coins and tearing paper is iconic and leaves no doubt what this song is about.  Roger Waters was never one for subtlety, see Wall, The.  On the other hand, SJ waxes philosophic talking about our need for money and the state of the economy in 2010 before the song kicks off in earnest.  One strange connection I noticed is that the guitar in the opening bar of SJ’s Money sounded a lot like the opening bar of Fearless from Pink Floyd’s Meddle.  I’m positive this is unintentional, but something I never noticed until writing this.

Musically, Pink Floyd’s version is anchored by Roger Waters’ bass line and Rick Wright’s keyboards that pace along at a blues-appropriate gait, though Wright’s keys strike me as downright funky at times.  The Dap Kings are bluesy to the core during Jone’s monologue, but then they kick in a little more funk themselves as they bust into the core of the song.  One definite similarity between the songs is that saxophone is front and center.  The heart of Pink Floyd’s Money is really the extended saxophone and guitar solos by Dick Parry and David Gilmour, which accounts for the three extra minutes in Pink Floyd’s version.  While not giving them the same solo treatment, the Dap Kings have saxophones popping out throughout the track, as well as some killer trumpet.

And while I’m not always interested in lyrics, it is definitely interesting how the two lyricists approach their subject matter.  Roger Waters, in addition to a lack of subtlety, makes Morrissey seem optimistic.  Sharon Jones, on the other hand, seems, based on seeing her live a few times, a lady with a love for life and a sharp wit to boot.

So, Rogers, predictably, in an arc beginning with this album and continuing on through his departure with the band, views money and greed associated with money in condescending and mocking terms (“grab that cash with both hands and make a stash” and “think I’ll buy me a football team”).  In a way, he’s flipping the script on a traditional blues view of the subject, which would be to lament the singer’s lack of the green stuff.

Sharon Jones takes the traditional blues view, but puts a clever twist on it.  She is wondering why she doesn’t have any money, but money is personified.  Rather than moaning about “i got no dough”, instead she sings “money/where have you gone to/where are you hiding” and “money, why don’t you like me/was it something that i said/was is something that i done/i always loved you plenty/but you never liked me none.”  Money is no different than a person who’s ignored our advances.

Both also cover the “money is the root of all evil” maxim.  Waters sums up his mockery of greed and says “money so they say/is the root of all evil today/but if you ask for a rise it’s no surprise/they’re giving none away.”  Jones says “we say money is the root of all evil/but nothing evil about money/because we need that money/to pay the bills/ to pay the rent.”  In a way it’s an agreement with Waters in that she agrees that money itself is not evil, but instead of being envious of those who won’t “giv[e] none away”, Jones is just concerned with getting money so she can keep a roof over her head.  It’s an interesting dichotomy, Waters is able to philosophize about the evils of the rich (not their money)  since he himself is in a place of comfort; Jones doesn’t have the luxury of Waters’ ivory tower, she’s “scrimping” to get that money so she won’t be hungry and homeless.  The difference in view reminds me of the recent rant by Adam Carolla on Occupy Wall Street.

So, in the end, you have two songs that I really like musically, but it’s Jones’ witty take on the traditional blues formula that wins out over Waters’ envy and sarcasm.

Here’s the SJ&TDK version (since everyone has probably heard the Floyd version at some point in their life):

Coming Soon: LCD Soundsystem Concert Film!

January 11, 2012

Noticed on Pitchfork today that they were running a trailer (see below) for a new concert film documenting James Murphy and gang’s last performance in NYC in 2011.  I’m a sucker for music documentaries and I’m a fan of LCD, so this will be something I’ll be writing about.  Since I won’t be attending Sundance this year (ok, I’ve never attended Sundance), I’ll have to wait until it makes its way to theaters.  Having witnessed the power of their live show once, I’m thinking this will be pretty entertaining and James Murphy seems like he would be a fun person to follow around with a camera.

Here’s a few other music documentaries to tide you over while you wait:

  • Dig – A fascinating look at two bands trying to “make it”.  One succeeds, the other not so much.  In addition to the music, a great character study of the two lead singers.
  • Power of Salad – A little harder to find, but a great short documentary about noise rock pioneers Lightning Bolt.  Shows off the adrenaline and racket (I saw them once and it was definitely the loudest show I’ve witnessed) of their live show, as they rock anywhere from small clubs to some dudes’ kitchen.
  • The Filth and the Fury – Telling the story of the Sex Pistols makes for good film, and Julien Temple does not disappoint with candid comments from the surviving members.
  • Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii – Of course Pink Floyd would play a live set in the ruins of an amphitheater at Pompeii.  Filmed in 1972, before Dark Side, this covers material from Saucerful of Secrets and Meddle, with some in-studio cut-aways to the making of Dark Side.

I could keep on going, but that should be a good start.  Any one else have any favorite music documentaries?

Music in Book Form

April 18, 2011

Recently I read my first two volumes in Continuum Publishing’s 33 1/3 series.  Each volume deals with an important album in popular music written by a variety of authors.  I’d given a couple books from the series to people as gifts and had gotten positive reviews.  So, I picked out two volumes that I thought I would enjoy and got to reading.

I chose books about two artists I’ve been huge fans of beginning in middle school and keep coming back to over the years.  First, I read Dan LeRoy’s take on the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique.  This was a really great read, chronicling the making of the followup to their wildly successful Licensed to Ill.  Leaving the confines of their home in NYC and the rock/rap fusion genius of producer Rick Rubin for the foreign soil of Los Angeles and an unknown production team (that would become known as the Dust Brothers) was a big gamble.  Add in the fact that they had left Def Jam for Capitol, there was a lot riding on this record for the Beasties’ career.

The book has a very personal feel, as a lot of the people on the inside of the record’s creation were interviewed, including the Beastie’s themselves.  Those interviews capture the tension that present due to the factors mentioned above.  They also show how the laid back, funky beats the Dust Brothers were creating, but didn’t have a place to put them, were just what the Beastie’s were looking for.  Through happenstance, they met, and the rest is, as they say, history.

The book’s first half chronicles that meeting, the recording process, and the release of the record to middling reviews and paltry sales (compared to Ill).  The second looks track by track at the album and some of the myriad samples used on the tracks.  The short epilogue recognizes the lasting legacy of the album and its now vaunted stature in the history of hip-hop.  Having really worn this album out, especially during college, this was a very satisfying and comprehensive history lesson to give context to a classic.  A must-read for fans of this album.

The second book I read was John Cavanagh’s look at the making of Pink Floyd’s first album, Piper At the Gates of Dawn.  This book had much more of an academic feel to it.  None of the band members were interviewed by the author, with the first-hand anecdotes coming from a mix of engineering folks involved and various hangers-on to the “scene” that evolved around Pink Floyd and psychedelic music in London.  Much of the attention in the book is focused on Syd Barrett, who was the major creative force behind the album, and his greatest musical legacy, as he faded into self-imposed obscurity soon after Piper.  While this makes sense, at times the writing seemed to fall into hero-worship, as Cavanagh makes clear that Barrett is a hero of his.

The book does explore each track in great detail, though he flips back and forth between the tracks and the more general history of the Floyd and their rise from bar blues band to the top of the psychedelic music pyramid.  I liked the more linear structure of the Beasties book.

The author’s focus on Barrett is illuminating in places.  One of the things that drew me to this album was the wide scope of the music on it.  Wide-ranging opuses about the abyss of space butt up against the whimsy of songs about gnomes.  Barrett’s fascination with space and also with the more simple earthly pleasure of nature (trees, rivers) partially explains the variety on this album.  Also, as an avid follower of folklore, mythology and likeminded literary works, those influences are readily apparent in the lyrics of Barrett.

Overall, I was a little disappointed in the Floyd book, but it was still a pleasant and quick read.  It may be more of a reflection on the fact I read it immediately after reading the Beastie’s book, which I thought was so good and structured the way I guess I prefer to read.

Anyways, if you have a favorite album or two, check out Continuum and see if they’ve written a volume about it.  I think you’ll enjoy what you read, and even gain some new insights into said album.