Saturday, February 22, 2014

Neil Young and Devo - "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)" (forgotten song)

 Bob Casale, or "Bob 2", of Devo died this week.  Devo unfairly gets labeled a one hit wonder because of the success of 1980's "Whip It", but they actually had a surprising number of minor hits on MTV and even radio, including: their cover of "Satisfaction", "Freedom of Choice", "Through Being Cool", "Love Without Anger", "Girl U Want", and "Peek-A-Boo".  The fact that they were popular at all is nothing short of amazing, since the band itself is a mix of a long-running joke (see also: "Church of the SubGenius"), discordant anti-music, and biting social commentary

But arguably their weirdest video is one that you probably haven't seen...  "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)" is a Neil Young song from his classic 1979 LP "Rust Never Sleeps", and one you still here on classic rock radio.  What you probably don't know is that the first version was recorded in 1978, with Devo, for Neil Young's movie "Human Highway", that wasn't released until 1982.  Mark Mothersbaugh, in his Booji Boy persona, sings the lead vocals.  Bob 2 is one of the guitarists (I'm not sure which one) behind Neil in the picture above.

To the best of my knowledge, this version is not available outside of the movie itself.  There's so much that can be said about Devo, but I'll mark the passing of Bob 2 by acknowledging their role in reinvigorating Neil Young in the late 70s.

Devo & Neil Young: "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)"

Edit:  Apologies for missing the passing of drummer Alan Myers in 2013.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Stevie Wonder - "Higher Ground" (forgotten song)

The Super Bowl was last weekend, and the half time show was Bruno Mars with The Red Hot Chili Peppers guesting.  Bruno Mars did a fine job, but...  he's not really my thing.  I doubt Bruno is losing any sleep over this since, being old enough to rent a car,  I'm not his target demographic.  I also suppose that's why the Chili Peppers were brought in for a guest spot.

Sadly, they only did one song, "Give It Away", and while that is certainly their most popular song, I was hoping that Stevie Wonder would be a surprise guest...

When I recently said that "Singles -- 45s and Under" was standard issue in college, well the Chili Pepper's 1989 LP "Mother's Milk" might have been #2 on the list.  The first single from that LP, and the song that really made them popular, was a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground", which first appeared on his 1973 LP "Innervisions". 

And even if Stevie couldn't make the Super Bowl (note that he's been at the recent Grammys and the Beatle's Tribute concert), including Stevie Wonder via a cover would have better united Bruno Mars and the Chili Peppers.  In summary, not a bad half time show (although ending on a ballad was anti-climatic) but omitting "Higher Ground" felt like a missed opportunity. 

Stevie Wonder - "Higher Ground", live 1974
Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Higher Ground"

P.S.  Flea has admitted that, like the Broncos, they didn't really play.

The Beatles - "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" (spotlight)

Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of The Beatles appearing on The Ed Sullivan show, which basically introduced the band to the US, with approximately 1/3 of the US population watching, a cultural hegemony probably not even possible in today's fractured media market.  Tomorrow, CBS will air a tribute concert in honor of The Ed Sullivan appearance. 

I've mostly ignored The Beatles on this blog, mostly because what could I possibly say that hasn't been said before?  They assimilated the various influences that preceded them, greatly expanded them, and their results have so defined popular music that their music sounds effectively timeless. 

So I thought I had an original thought about The Beatles, but a quick google search suggests otherwise.  Regardless, I'll state it here and you'll have to take my word that I came up with this independently...

I've written about shoegazing many times on this blog, including bands like Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, whose 1991 LP "Loveless" I consider one of the best LPs of all time.   My claim is that the entire genre of shoegazing is in pursuit of the last 3 minutes of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", from The Beatles 1969 LP "Abbey Road".  As far as I know, the sound for this song (or more accurately, the last 3 minutes) is totally unique within The Beatles' canon.  That's cultural impact: the last 3 minutes of one, of over 200 songs you've recorded, spawns an entire musical genre.  Listen to "Some Velvet Morning" or "Come In Alone" and tell me I'm wrong. 

"I Want You (She's So Heavy)", (shortcut to the last 3 minutes)

Edit: After reading this, Danette reminded me (although I had not forgotten) that she doesn't like "I Want You (She's So Heavy)".  Needless to say, she doesn't like shoegazing either. 

The Everly Brothers - "Cathy's Clown" (spotlight)

I'm just over a month late, but I wanted to acknowledge the passing of Phil Everly, one-half of The Everly Brothers.  If you're tracing the history of rock and roll, the line between Elvis Presley (the rockabilly sound) and The Beatles (and their early vocal harmonies) passes through The Everly Brothers.  Since their distinctive vocals yielded 26 Top 40 singles in their career, you can't really claim that they were overlooked, but they are certainly overshadowed now by Elvis and The Beatles. 

During their career they made famous songs written by others (e.g., "Wake Up Little Susie") as well as writing songs that others would successfully cover (e.g., "When Will I Be Loved"), but my favorite is probably their 1960 hit "Cathy's Clown", which: they wrote themselves, was never popularized by others, and had a direct influence on The Beatles

"Cathy's Clown":  TV July 9th, 1960, UK TV 1961 (backed by The Crickets)
In both videos Phil is on the left; also Don sings the lead and Phil sings on the harmonies / chorus.