30 June 2012

EURO 2012: Football And Music

The swelling chorus of voices from soccer football supporters, the songs from the terraces (uplifting, degrading, hilarious, amazing), the pop songs that become football anthems. The connection between football and music has always been strong.

I noted in a previous post how fascinating it was to see a Rodgers and Hammerstein song turn into an anthem for Liverpool Football Club, so much so, that even Pink Floyd used a sample of the crowd in their highly underrated song "Fearless."

As the 2012 European Football Championships come to a close, many have noted the popularity of "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes in the stadiums around Poland and Ukraine.

NME.com credits the Italians (who play Spain in the final) for popularizing the song in football stadia in Europe.

Sports blog Deadspin.com examines in a bit more detail how the song grew in popularity in spite of reservations about the song from the White Stripe camp itself.

Jack White has weighed in on the recent popularity as well:
"I am honored that the Italians have adopted this song as their own," White said. "Nothing is more beautiful than when people embrace a melody and allow it to enter the pantheon of folk music. As a songwriter it is something impossible to plan. Especially in modern times. I love that most people who are chanting it have no idea where it came from. That's folk music."
Chris Salmon writes in The Guardian Music Blog that "[F]ootball and (credible) music were mutually exclusive. If you liked one, you really didn't like the other, and if you liked both you kept it to yourself."

The Beatles were encouraged by manager Brian Epstein to hide their football allegiances (McCartney was allegedly an Everton supporter while Lennon supported Liverpool FC).

Salmon goes on to write about the economics of the music and football industry and about how music is now inextricably linked to football especially because of the money available in the sport.

The link between football and music has always been strong with Pink Floyd using "You'll Never Walk Alone," through New Order's surprisingly good football song "World In Motion" in 1990 and even bands like Embrace writing the official 2006 World Cup song for England. Glasvegas is led by James Allen, a former professional footballer in the Scottish Premier League. Though most may not think it (or find it stereotypically odd) Elton John is big investor and supporter of Watford Football Club since 1976. The Gallagher brothers of Oasis have never made any secrets about their support for Manchester City. Joy Division's Ian Curtis, also a huge Manchester City supporter.

The headline in the Guardian blog article says, "Once musicians were too cool for the terraces - not now" but I think that's a bit misleading. Musicians (Ones from the UK, anyway) have always been able to combine their love for football and music.

Musicians were never "too cool" for the terraces but nowadays it's just paying off.

This goes into the discussion of bands "selling out" or not or "branding" issues for bands these days. I have embryos of thoughts on this subject and planning on a fully-formed post on it in the future. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, enjoy the football. Enjoy the music. Cheers!

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27 June 2012

BOWIE: Don't Ever Stop

This comes from one of my favorite blogs in the whole wide world (wide web): Letters Of Note.
You know it is your letters and cards and applause after each show which makes me able to carry on and devise new ideas and schemes to entertain you and make me happy. DON'T EVER STOP.

Love on ya!

(Signed, 'Bowie')
(Click here for the full transcript).

According to Letters Of Note, this form letter was written back in April of 1974. David Bowie was about 27 years old back then, had just released "Rebel Rebel" in February of that year and was on the cusp of going on an incredible run of albums: Young Americans (1975), Station To Station (1976), Low (1977), "Heroes" (1977), Lodger (1979).


| David Bowie - "Rebel Rebel" |

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25 June 2012

PET BEAR SOUNDS NEWS: Send Me Your Albums Of The Year

As loyal Pet Bear Sounds readers have already noticed, I have done a bit of tidying around the place. The right-hand column is less cumbersome (hopefully the site should load a bit faster) and there are some more useful/interesting links at the top of the page.

I hope you like these little changes. (And you may have also noticed that I've been attempting to post more often).

One section I wanted to highlight is the Albums Of The Year page. This will be a place where I collect a list of albums that I've been listening to this year and enjoying. Ultimately, this reference page should help make the creation of my end of year Top Albums list much easier.

Now, let's be honest here. I'm not going to be able to listen to every single album that is released this year and, frankly, I don't have the patience to wade through all the pants albums so I'm going to need your help.

"Holler at me" and let me know the albums (released this year) that you have been enjoying so far in 2012 and that I should consider for my end of the year list.

You can contact me any number of ways: Twitter, Facebook, the PetBearSounds.com comment sections (at the bottom of most if not all posts), my Spotify inbox, text message (xxx-xxx-xxxx), email (petbearsounds at gmail dot com), snail mail, carrier pigeon, messenger, etc. (You could tell me in person but I'd probably forget. Short-term memory issues and all.).

Thanks and thanks for reading!

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21 June 2012

EXCERPT: "Young and old alike were entranced."

An excerpt from the fantastic Beatles book Revolution in the Head by Ian McDonald.
With Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band finished, the group left Abbey Road at dawn bearing an acetate and drove to 'Mama' Cass Elliott's flat off the King's Road where, at six in the morning, they threw open the windows, put speakers on the ledge, and played the album full blast over the rooftops of Chelsea.

According to Derek Taylor, 'all the windows around us opened and people leaned out, wondering. It was obvious who it was on the record. Nobody complained. A lovely spring morning. People were smiling and giving us the thumbs up.'

When Sgt. Pepper was released in June, it was a major cultural event. Young and old alike were entranced. Attending a party with a group of rich older women, EMI boss Sir Joseph Lockwood found them so 'thrilled' by the album that they sat on the floor after dinner singing extracts from it.

In America normal radio-play was virtually suspended for several days, only tracks from Sgt. Pepper being played. An almost religious awe surrounded the LP.

Paul Kantner of the San Francisco acid rock band Jefferson Airplane remembers how The Byrds' David Crosby brough a tape of Sgt. Pepper to their Seattle hotel and played it all night in the lobby with a hundred young fans listening quietly on the stairs, as if rapt by a spiritual experienced. 'Something,' says Kantner, 'enveloped the whole world at that time and it just exploded into a renaissance.'

Pg. 248-9
Nobody seems to listen to records anymore. When was the last time you just sat down with your friends in the living room, around the hi-fi and just listened to an album? The last time you just laid down in bed, no phone, no laptop, no book, no television and just listened to an album all the way through? When was the last time you were 'entranced?'

That's the problem, I suppose. A lot of bands these days don't create proper albums anymore. And people don't really listen to albums anymore.

I want to start an album club where each week a person will bring an album to the group and everyone will just sit for an hour and just listen.

Now, take 40 minutes out of your day and listen to this one:

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18 June 2012

FYF Fest 2012

Really love that a local music festival like FYF Fest is expanding to two days.

You spend $77.00 for both days, pop down to Downtown Los Angeles and go see: M83, Beirut, Yeasayer, Simian Mobile Disco, Dinosaur Jr., Warpaint, Wildflag, Paul Banks (from Interpol), Liars, Health, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, AA Bondy, Softpack, etc. etc. etc.

Support Los Angeles.

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WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN: The Smiths In Electronic

A brief journey through the 1980s here, bear with me.

The Smiths were likely the best alternative-rock band to come out of the 1980s while on the other side of the spectrum, New Order were the best synthpop band to come out of the '80s.

The magnitude of their musical and cultural influence may have been forgotten by modern bands but the fingerprints of these two Manchester bands are everywhere in music.

The career of The Smiths was painfully short with just four albums between 1984 and 1987. By the time their last album - Strangeways, Here We Come - was released in September of 1987, The Smiths were finished. The drama between Morrissey and Johnny Marr rivaled and echoed the he-said/he-said drama of John Lennon and Paul McCartney in 1970.

From the ashes* of Joy Division emerged New Order and the dawn of innovative sythpop, thundering club beats, combined with simple and heartfelt - if not cryptic - lyrics. After the release of Republic in 1993, New Order also parted ways (for a while) and after a brief reformation New Order split again in the midst of this all-too-often drama between its principle members Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook.

While New Order has had the luxury of reuniting and being flattered with dozens of sounds-like-New-Order sort of bands (and the general upswing of electro-pop in recent years), The Smiths died in 1987 with little chance of Morrissey and Marr reconciling (not even for the reunion-friendly Coachella music festival).

Morrissey embarked on a successful solo career while Marr became an indie-rock Eric Clapton working with Bernard Sumner (more on this later), The Pretenders, The The, Talking Heads, Pet Shop Boys, Beck, Oasis, Modest Mouse, The Cribs, and releasing his own solo record in 2003.

With Morrissey and Marr keeping busy and staying relevant and successful, there was little motivation for Morrissey and Marr to reunite. (Much to the chagrin of Smiths drummer Mike Joyce and bass player Andy Rourke, I'm sure).

These days a Smith reunion seems near impossible but that hasn't detered the calls for a Smiths reformation. Every once in a while a rumor will spill out, off-hand remarks from Morrissey or Marr throwing the English music press into a frenzy, but nothing has materialized.

So, of course, one tends to speculate: How would The Smiths career have evolved?

The brit-pop revolution of the early- to mid-90s owed a lot to the influence of The Smiths but what would be the sound of The Smiths? What could have been?

The answer is in the Johnny Marr/Bernard Sumner super-group Electronic and their single "Vivid."

| Electronic - "Vivid" |

Twisted Tenderness was released in April 1999 and seems to be the most guitar-oriented album of the three Electronic records. "Vivid" floats in with a dreamy swirl of synths interrupted by a bone-crushing crash of drums and a furious (Smiths-esque?) harmonica solo.

While the unmistakeable vocals of Sumner gives "Vivid" a distinctly New Order-y feel, one can easily imagine another strikingly unique vocalist in this song.

The fact that "Vivid" sounds like a Smiths song isn't surprising, obviously, considering the Marr influence (the two previous Electronic albums definitely had more of the Sumner/New Order fingerprints on it) but it's the slow intro, the structure of the song, the tempo, the melody, the harmonica, the hallmarks of a Smiths song.

While lyrically Sumner isn't (or refuses to be?) as grandiose as Morrissey, the epic scope of this song - while retaining the lyrical themes - could stand to use the lyrical wit and vocal punch of Morrissey.

But such is the classic downfall of a super-group. The elements and the talent are clearly there, the quality in the production is there, but the group lacks that extra something. You ultimately become disappointed at the collection of watered down sounds of the bands the super-group represents.

It's the thin-line between success and mediocrity. It's the "It" factor that is so hard to define.

"Vivid" is a bit of a frustrating song. Standing on its own, the quality of this song is undeniable. But the unfulfilled potential of this song is also undeniable. But, really, it's another example of a collection of watered down sounds.

I don't think that Sumner or Marr started this side project to best the efforts of their respective bands but the Electronic super-group is frustrating because you almost want to hear more New Order or more Smiths.

In the case of "Vivid," this song is a look into what could have been for The Smiths in the '90s.

Now, if only Morrissey wasn't such a prat.

* I grimaced when using this word. I promised myself I wouldn't use 'ashes' when speaking of Joy Division/New Order story, a word that has been overused by any who writes about Joy Division and New Order. But the phoenix-like ascension of New Order after the suicide of their enegmatic and charismatic frontman Ian Curtis really makes a word like 'ashes' fitting.

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17 June 2012

Dad Rock

Let's say you're somewhere between the ages of about 20 to 40. Let's say you have a dad. Let's suppose that dear old dad is a huge fan of western popular music. Then you know about DAD ROCK.

It's like some United States supreme court justice once said about pornography, you can't define it but you know it when you see it.

Same with Dad Rock. Every dad listens to some different genres, some dads are a bit older, some dads are a bit younger, but ultimately, there's a lot of overlap in the Dad Rock genre. You can't really define Dad Rock but you know it when you hear it.

I have to thank my dad for making sure that music was always around. The piano, the guitars, the oldies radio station blaring in the garage, the stacks of tapes that always accompanied us on those idyllic family road trips, the tower of CDs, the hi-fi.

And, of course, quintessential Dad Rock pumping from the speakers:
  • Eagles
  • Peter, Paul and Mary
  • John Denver (Dad loves John Denver)
  • Simon & Garfunkel
  • Neil Diamond
  • Kenny Rogers
  • The Beach Boys
  • The Beatles
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Hall & Oates
  • Michael Jackson ("Before he got... strange." ~ Dad)
  • Eric Clapton (especially that MTV Unplugged album)
  • Mid-1960s Motown
Do you find yourself thinking about your own dad and nodding your head? Yep. Dad Rock. Some of it might seem cringe-worthy now but you secretly (or not-so-secretly) listen to it and love it because it's good damn good music and it's comforting. And, well, because it's just so Dad. Happy Father's Day!
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