Women Who Rock

I’m not strict when it comes to genres. You can rock any form, including classical music.  There are plenty of women playing & conducting Mozart, the greatest rock-star ever.  These are the women I (mostly) respect in the various popular music forms which have evolved from the 1920’s (birth of audio recording), up through the year 2000 or so. This review hits the highlights, and is by no means exhaustive.

Bessie Smith (1894 – 1937) was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s & 1930s, and a major influence on jazz singers:

bessie_smith-empress_of_the_blues

The Carter Family were traditional folk music, the first vocal group to become country music stars. They originally recorded from 1927 to 1956, and still exert a profound impact on bluegrass, country, gospel, pop & rock:

carter-family

Mahalia Jackson (1911 – 1972) was the ‘Queen of Gospel.’  She explained, “I sing God’s music because it makes me feel free. It gives me hope. With the blues, when you finish, you still have the blues.”

mahalia-jackson

Ella Fitzgerald (1917 – 1996) is still the ‘First Lady of Song’ & the ‘Queen of Jazz.’  No one sings the Gershwins’ or Cole Porter’s songbooks better:

ella-fitzgerald

Billie Holiday (1915 – 1959) had a profound influence on jazz music, as no one sang with more feeling:

Patsy Cline (1932 – 1963) was country music’s biggest star. Her hits began in 1957, and continued until her tragic death. She was killed in a multiple-fatality crash of the private plane of her manager, under murky circumstances:

patsy-cline_walking-after-midnight

Shirley Scott (1934 – 2002) was a hard bop & soul-jazz organist.  Known as ‘Queen of the Organ.’

shirley-scott

Early-’60s New York girl groups totally rock:

chiffons-1963

So do mid-’60s New York girl groups:

shangri-las

As did the Phil Spector girl groups:

spector-the-ronettes

Joan Baez was the original female folk-rock artist:

joan-baez-bob-dylan

The folk genre eventually became ‘singer/songwriter’ with artists like Joni Mitchell:

joni-mitchell

Nina Simone (1933 – 2003) was a true artist. She was a first-rate singer, songwriter, pianist & arranger who was able to work with (and earn the respect of) elite jazz artists such as Miles Davis. Simone was a civil rights activist when it mattered, and could work in virtually any musical style from R&B to classical:

nina-simone

Motown was the hit machine record label of the mid-late 1960’s, and the Supremes were label owner Berry Gordy’s top act:

supremes3

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas recorded some of the most gritty & danceable R&B of the Motown hit-making era:

marthav_motown

Tammi Terrell (1945-1970) & Marvin Gaye (1939-1984) is my selection for top duet couple. Terrell was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1967, and had eight surgeries before succumbing to her illness at age 24:

tammi-terrell-marvin-gaye

Maureen Tucker was the drummer for the Velvet Underground.  Nico was the original bad girl, who became an artist no one understood.  This is where they fit in chronologically, but really they’re ~20 years ahead of their time:

andy-maureen-lou

nico7

Shocking Blue was a late 1960’s Dutch psychedelic rock band, which has famously been covered by Bananarama & Nirvana:

shocking-blue

Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane were okay, I guess:

Janis Joplin (1943 – 1970) was a raw & uninhibited blues singer. Excess led to her accidental drug overdose, after only four albums including the posthumous Pearl (1970):

janis

In 1968, singer/songwriter/dancer Gal Costa became a part of the Tropicalismo movement, which was a Brazilian artistic movement whose anti-authoritarian & revolutionary expressions made them a target of censorship & repression by the military junta that ruled Brazil from 1964-1985:

gal-costa

Cuban singer Celia Cruz (1925 – 2003) was the ‘Queen of Salsa’, the most popular Latin artist of the 20th century:

celia-cruz

Googoosh is an Iranian singer/actress of Azerbaijani origin, and the most iconic pop diva in the Middle East. She is famously known for remaining in Tehran following the Iranian Revolution in 1979, and not performing again until 2000 due to the ban on female singers:

googoosh_iranian-diva

Country music traditionally paired its upcoming female stars with moldy oldie males, in order to give them the boost they often needed.  Dolly Parton was no exception:

porter-dolly

Aretha Franklin is the Queen of R&B/Gospel, with the perfect blend of attitude and vocal power:

lady-soul

Tina Turner’s version of CCR’s “Proud Mary” is possibly the most-covered karaoke song in pop-cultural history:

tina-turner

As for Hollywood, Bob Fosse’s Cabaret (1972) is the likely greatest musical ever filmed, and Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles was a performance of a lifetime:

cabaret-1972

Same with the unstoppable & incomparable Barbra Streisand in Peter Bogdanovich’s What’s Up, Doc? (1972):

babs

Bette Midler was a Broadway performer who made her film debut in 1979 with The Rose, a hard-hitting fictionalized account of the life & death of Janis Joplin– one of the most stunning debut performances in Hollywood history:

bette-midler-1979

It’s a mystery why so many people hate on Yoko Ono, she was good enough for John Lennon (1940-1980), who always considered her an artist:

john-lennon-yoko-ono-1971

Jessi Colter was one of the few female country artists to emerge from the mid-1970s “outlaw” movement, which also featured Waylon Jennings whom she married:

jessi-waylon

The Swedish act ABBA helped bring disco to America, for better or worse:

abba_gold-records

Disco (1974-80) began as a street vibe, with DJ’s as artists & genre leaders. Disco was influenced by soul, funk, glam, reggae/dub & punk. It spawned new-wave, rap & electronica:

disco-box_4cds

Disco was a genre dominated by women, and Donna Summer & Gloria Gaynor became its greatest artists:

queen-of-disco

Disco was an explosion of minority street culture, gay pride, and feminism.  Acts like Sister Sledge, Chic & a host of one-hit wonders including: Shirley (& Company), Vicki Sue Robinson, Rose Royce, Lipps Inc, Anita Ward, (and too many others to list here) made some of the most enduring dance music ever created.

gloria-gaynor

These and other cultural institutions birthed in the 1970’s, were controlled by corporate machinery through record labels & radio monopolization.  This revolution in popular culture was quickly over-saturated and shamelessly exploited until its impact finally subsided.  By 1980, disco was history and newly-arrived MTV was channelling kids into new wave (Eurythmics, pictured below) and pop metal:

eurythmics

For some, punk is what really rocks and Patti Smith was the original poet:

patti-smith_-horses-1975

One of the greatest forgotten punk singers is Poly Styrene (Marion Elliot) of X-Ray Spex, accompanied by saxophonist Lora Logic (Susan Whitby):

xray-spex

The Raincoats were formed in 1977 by UK art students Gina Birch and Ane de Silva, inspired by the “anyone can do it” spirit of punk:

raincoats

Blondie was Debbie Harry (singer/songwriter), with good help from (guitarist/songwriter/lover) Chris Stein– when he behaved himself. Blondie began as NYC punk, and quickly became the biggest crossover artists of their era. “Heart of Glass” is punk/disco crossover; “Rapture” is THE original rap crossover; and “The Tide is High” is rock/reggae crossover:

blondie

Anyone who ever tried to start a band knows that good bass players are hard to find.  Punk/alternative has a long tradition of women on bass, starting with Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads):

tina-weymouth-talking-heads

Exene Cervenka was a lead singer for X, the legendary Los Angeles-based punk band:

exene-cervenka-in-x

The Slits (formed in 1976) in the words of band leader Ari Up:
“We felt naturally feminist without saying so. At the time you were expected to comb your hair perfectly neat and be glamorous, like the magazines tell you to be. You couldn’t be naturally sexy. I felt we were very sexy by nature. If we wanted to be sexy we were, but not to please men. We just did our own thing. In this way, we threatened society. The witch hunt was on. I was stabbed in the street, just for looking the way I did, by a guy who looked like John Travolta.”

slits_cut-1979

Post-punk feminism exploded with Pat Benatar, Chrissie Hynde (Pretenders), B-52’s, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joan Jett, the Go-Go’s, Cyndi Lauper, etc…

pretenders-1980

b-52s

pat_benatar

the-go-gos

The biggest MTV star, and icon of the 1980’s (and into the 1990’s) would be Madonna, who today is the indisputable ‘Queen of Pop’:

madonna

Cuban emigrant Gloria Estefan became the 1980’s biggest Latin crossover artist, sparking a global interest in Spanish dance rhythms & beats:

gloria-estefan

Country singer/songwriter Reba McEntire became the genre’s biggest female star, and eventually crossed over into Hollywood television:

reba-mcentire

Pop music always rules the charts & drives the industry. Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey became the next generation of divas that followed in the wake of Madonna:

janet-jackson

mariah

Female bassists in alternative rock included Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth, pictured below), Kim Deal (Pixies), and D’arcy Wretzky (Smashing Pumpkins):

kim-gordon_sonic-youth

The Carpenters had a pop sound all their own in the 1970’s, up until Karen’s death due to anorexia in 1983, and (believe it or not) she is still cited by alternative artists as an influence:

karencarpenter

Iceland’s Bjork debuted in 1988 with the Sugarcubes, and has since become a pioneer in electronica:

sugarcubes-1988

More conventional female singer-songwriters of this era included Suzanne Vega, 10,000 Maniacs, and the Indigo Girls.  Among this genre is Tracy Chapman, a shy but gifted storyteller who never fit into the industry mold– talkin’ about a revolution:

tracy-chapman-1988

With hip-hop exploding in the late 1980’s, Queen Latifah became the first female rapper to gain notoriety, and since has become a global icon:

queen-latifah-1989

Sinead O’Connor became a superstar when she released I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1989), which is a gorgeous album of beauty, love & pain:

sinead-oconnor

Perhaps the most enduring female artist of the alternative/underground era is PJ Harvey, a bona-fide, multi-dimensional punk diva:

polly-jean

Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville (1993) is one of the most stunning & sublime debut albums [a double!] ever released:

exile-in-guyville-1993

Belly’s Star (1993) had already been reviewed on this site: [1]

belly-1993

Babes in Toyland from Minneapolis were the hardest-rocking feminine trio ever, a total ‘no compromise– no brakes’ act:

babes-in-toyland

Bikini Kill was the quintessential riot grrrl band, led by songwriter/vocalist Kathleen Hannah, and anchored by guitarist Billy Karen:

Where Women Are Today in Music:

The point of this exercise is to illustrate that women have always had a powerful voice in popular music.  Feminists who scream that a woman’s perspective is still being suppressed, simply don’t acknowledge any of this musical history and therefore render themselves foolish in this discussion.

With that said, there are serious challenges facing women with a musical message today.  Since the liquidation of grunge in the mid-1990’s, it’s been a constant corporate & political assault on musical freedom, leading to the homogenization & commodification of popular music:

lauren-hill-1998

sheryl-crow

What began as Sheryl Crow and Lauren Hill (both above), became Brittany Spears– as banality became institutionalized:

brittany-spears

Soon after came American Idol & Hanna Montana, as the role for women in music became increasingly being channelled into cookie-cutter pop divas:

american-idol

beyonce4

taylor-swift

lady-gaga-2015

The industry model of making an album, followed by marketing & promoting it for 2-3 years is now dead in the age of the Internet & social media.  Kids today move to new artists and fresher musical trends in the time it takes a superstar act to make their next record.  A good example of this is Adele, who conquered the world with 21, but has stiffed with her recent follow-up 25.  By the time 29 (?) comes out, her fans will have grown up and moved on:

adele25

What Adele (and others like her) need to do is re-evaluate their performing schedule, and make time to get back to writing songs, but the industry they work for won’t allow them that luxury. Why this isn’t possible, no one ever explains, because everyone is so focused on making money. The best new artists (male & female) will come from outside of this milieu, and smash this ossified bureaucracy with independent music & a new delivery model.

amy_winehouse

And music fans can’t wait.

HONORABLE MENTION
Sarah Vaughan
Linda Ronstadt
Carole King
Fleetwood Mac
Dionne Warwick
Loretta Lynn
Tammy Wynette
Emmylou Harris
Bonnie Raitt
The Roches
Heart
Gillian Gilbert (New Order)
kd Lang
The Vaselines
The Primitives,
Cowboy Junkies
Hole
Kate Bush
Alanis Morrisette
Sarah McLachlan
ETC…

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The Guitar Handbook (1982)

This is the most complete & essential textbook for any guitar player:

the-holy-bible

Within its contents is everything one needs to know about this instrument to get started.  For instance, here is every guitar chord (below the 12th fret) in the key of D:

guitar-chords-in-d

The Guitar Handbook begins harmlessly enough with a biography & photo section of many of the most innovative players across the various genres from Django Reinhardt (jazz) to Jimi Hendrix (electric rock) to Stanley Clarke (jazz bass) to Robert Fripp (experimental).

Next is a section on the construction of acoustic, electric, & bass guitars which is helpful for all players to know, or at least be familiar. Finding the right guitar for your style & ability is a combination of ‘feel,’ along with a basic understanding of what a well-built instrument looks like.

electric-acoustic-electric

My overall preference is for electric-acoustic, which is defined as an acoustic guitar with a built-in pickup and 1/4″ pin jack. The pickup is typically powered by a 9-volt battery, and considerations of the electronics comes down to: 1) the usefulness & reliability of the rudimentary controls, and 2) the ease of battery replacement.

acoustic-electric_pickup_controls

An acoustic-electric allows the player to be ready for any venue at all times, with a compact rig. Well made acoustic-electrics play louder than most Gibson & Fender electrics. The acoustical resonance inside the guitar body tends to overdrive the crude pickup, so the sound output will typically be much hotter than any solid-body electric guitar. It helps to be aware of this, when using the 2 or 3 primitive level controls. Experienced musicians don’t ‘leave it up to the sound guy,’ because they are often not skilled (or sober) enough to help. Listen and use your best judgment for getting a strong signal output, without overdriving & obliterating everything in distortion.

yamaha-acoustic-electric-guitar

The next (and most intense) section of The Guitar Handbook concerns playing the guitar. This contains everything you need to know to become a guitar Jedi, and it comes with the understanding that if you don’t know all this– you’re nothing.  It starts with reading musical notation & guitar tabulature, then continues into right & left-handed technique, followed by open chords, three-chord theory, barre chords, transposing, tempo, rhythm, time signatures, pitch, scales (major & minor), keys, modes, harmonics, intervals, triads, minor sevenths, added ninths, suspended sixths & polychords.  Harmony & melody are also important, and are briefly discussed, as are alternate & open tunings.

rhythm-guitar-handbook

Then we get into improvisation and lead guitar techniques such as bends, hammer-ons & pull-offs, trills, tapping, slides & vibrato.

Note:  As a guitar player, you always need a bag-of-tricks you can go to for padding out the jams as the ‘tip jar’ is passing around. These are your blues & rock licks, ascending & descending runs, double-note licks, arpeggios & octaves, etc… which you must have. Otherwise you stink.

Robert Fripp definitively sums up harmonics here:

fripp

After first reading Fripp’s words as a young boy, I admit that I was afraid to touch a guitar string for awhile, due to all these heretofore unknown consequences, of which I had just been made aware– but still didn’t really understand. Today, I’m grateful that I was able to get past all this at some point.

fripp_let-the-power-fall

Note that it is impossible to play any early U2 songs without a complete understanding of the Mixolydian mode, and its intimate relationship to the Dorian & Ionian modes.

modal-music-theory

Don’t even try to play anything by Rush (or Jane’s Addiction’s “Been Caught Stealing”), without dedicated study into the construction of polychords, as this is considered very disrespectful by purists.

theguitarhandbook_fretboard

The rest of The Guitar Handbook is guitar maintenance, amplification, electronics and sound processing– which are critical subjects for any serious musician. Many don’t have a clue, and most use too many effects with too much amplification and/or other processing. Reverb, equalization & compression are the most basic & helpful sound processing tools– both in-the-studio & live.  Knowledge in speaker placement, sound reinforcement, public address (PA) systems, monitoring, recording, miking up and avoiding feedback are critical skills– each rooted in science & experience.

biamp-f1

If you are the guitar player that doesn’t know this stuff (because you so artistic) then it’s time to check your head, because you’re a joke and are nowhere near ready to perform.

Just sayin’

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Dischord: How to Run a Record Label

Ian MacKaye is a musical artist and founder of the punk bands Minor Threat and Fugazi.

ian-mackaye_fugazi

Both bands were formed in the 1980’s, and both are today considered legendary & seminal by hardcore punks.

minor-threat-1

Their music is still available, because Dischord Records owner Ian MacKaye retained control of his music. [1]

fugazi-demo

Instead of selling his catalogue to a major label for big money, MacKaye decided (a long time ago), to put artistic community and free expression ahead of a pile of cash. [2]

fugazi_3

The correctness of this approach is in the fact that his tiny independent record label which was formed in 1981, still exists and is thriving. [3]

fugazi

Dischord Records has an impressive roster of punk bands (current & past), with pressing, distribution & promotion deals for the artists on their label. [4]

minorthreat-outofstep

It takes brains, guts, and a ton of hard work to succeed the way Dischord Records has.

fugazi_2

Now in their 35th year, this is a model for how an artist should manage their career; make great original music, control the copyrights & publishing, record everything when active– then retire on time and build a killer website for promotion & online commerce of the back catalogue.

first-2-7-singles

Discord Records lives on because people always care about great music.

minor-threat-2

I’m taking a walk on the yellow brick road
I only walk where the bricks are made of gold
My mind & body they’re the only things that I’ve sold
I needed the money cause I’m getting old

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Carlos Montoya: Best Guitar Ever

Flamenco is classical & gypsy folk music from Andalusia, Spain. The genre’s acknowledged master & most creative innovator was Carlos Montoya (1903-1993). Montoya had parents who came from gypsy parents, making him “gypsy on all four sides” as the saying goes. He always insisted that was required in order to play in true flamenco style.

carlos-montoya

The goal of life is to create yourself a soul.   –Alejandro Jodorowsky

Carlos Montoya was a prodigy from the start, then was disowned by purists who claimed he broke too many rules. Montoya mesmerizes in his speed, precision & dexterity. He did it with ease, and lasted forever. He played a sold-out Carnegie Hall on his 80th birthday, and his last public performance was at age 85. Here’s a final brief interview, describing himself & his life:

Eddie Van Halen is rock music’s hailed guitar master, and he acknowledges Carlos Montoya as “an inspiration & genius.” [1]

Photo by Larry Marano/Getty Images

Photo by Larry Marano/Getty Images

Montoya was unpopular among aficionados because he abandoned the compás (strict time signatures) which had evolved within flamenco over hundreds of years. Montoya typically does not keep perfect tempo, but speeds up & slows down on feel. The speed & precision of his picados is breathtaking & hypnotic, and his pace & stamina are superhuman. This is All-Universe on guitar:

For non-musicians information, it’s much harder to perform acoustically. Electronic amplification, sound processing & effects are all modern advents, which have made recording & live performance much easier for musicians. That’s why everyone uses it. Carlos Montoya plays under the strictest restrictions, performing with an unplugged acoustic guitar.

He creates the sound of at least two guitarists at most times and will often accent that with rhythmic tapping of his fingers, palms & heel stomps. That’s three musicians in one. No one else has ever approached that level of guitar mastery.

carlos-montoya_flamenco-fire

The first Carlos Montoya album to discover is Flamenco Fire (1958), probably the greatest post-war record of the genre. This is flamenco in its pure gypsy essence, with half of the eight songs played solo, and the other four accompanied by Tere Maya on vocals, heels, hand-claps & castanets.

No photos are to be found on the Internet of this gypsy woman, who was an artistic equal to the flamenco guitar master.

carlos-montoya_malaguena

Malaguena (1961) is a concert recorded in NYC. Listeners are flabbergasted during every performance, only to erupt into uncontrolled applause immediately after. Wait in vain for the flubbed note or missed string during every difficult run, strum or transition– IT NEVER HAPPENS.

from-st-louis-to-seville

From St. Louis to Seville (1959) is an amusing record, in that it is a really bad idea to have any other guitar player with Carlos Montoya. As discussed above, Montoya sounds like a band all by himself, and there is simply no need for another (clearly inferior) guitar player cluttering up space which Montoya can use more creatively & effectively.

bad-idea

Whomever the ‘other guitarist’ is, he gets schooled early and after about two minutes of trying (hopelessly) to keep up, resigns himself to the background for most of the rest. In the middle of side two, Montoya starts a song and the drummer starts in with a bass beat, which quickly is cut-off, as Montoya starts with his percussive tapping & footwork. This automatically keeps the bass & ‘other guitar’ out, and it becomes the most amazing song on the album.

carlos-montoya-his-flamenco-guitar

Hypothetical Situation
Hey Ric Size, wanna perform with Carlos Montoya?
NO! I just wanna watch & listen.

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Use & Abuse of Personas

Artists create personas to protect themselves, it’s not a new concept. Assuming an alter ego allows freer expression of culturally inexpressible ideas.

Captain_Beefheart_And_His_Magic_Band_-_Mirror_Man

A persona adds a layer of personal protection, as the public needs to work through an image to confront & understand an artist on a personal level.

Dylan Shades

This allows the art & ideas to speak for themselves (at least for awhile), instead of succumbing to the cult of celebrity. Fame brings money and excess, which are dangerous & corrupting influences to anyone.

Double Nickles on the Dime

With the rise of the Internet, anybody with a computer or mobile device can create their own online persona.  Andy Warhol’s vision of everybody being famous for 15 minutes is now manifesting itself in all kinds of awful, weird, and simultaneously wonderful ways.

Andy Warhol 6

Online, people can be whatever they want without much repercussion, due to the layers of screening & anonymity. The cyber-world is sleazy & creepy, but also filled with revolutionary potential. Communication of ideas has never been faster, and people are starved for real information & discussion on anything & everything.

Flair

The downside of social media is that it allows a vehicle for evil & hate to spread its poison, especially when left unchecked, therefore it must be combated effectively & diligently. [1]

Trump on 9-11

Innovative network television programming is virtually dead. Most of the best current films are documentaries created by independent filmmakers, as YouTube & Netflix are rich sources of engaging & serious independent film content. Hollywood needs to be largely understood as a waste of talent at this point.

Star Wars: Episodes 1-3

No thinking kid (or adult that has survived with his/her brains intact) believes any corporate-sponsored news, which is 100% lies & half-truths.  One thing I’ve noticed while researching and engaging in social media, is when reading an article on MLB.com, ESPN or NASCAR.com… I often find the comments just as helpful (if not more so) in terms of facts & ideas as compared to the article.  Fifteen seconds of fame for the poster.

Fakebook Screenshot

Dialectics in politics applies when long-term difficulties & seemingly hopeless situations are suddenly wide-open playing fields for opportunity & victory. Personas, when used correctly, allow elusiveness in being focal points for online influence & clout, which is necessary to revolutionarily transform & socialize our planet.

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Jug Stomping Music (1926-34)

Jug music got its name from the bass sound created by blowing into a whiskey jug.  It started as a bunch of poor southern blacks who could really play, getting liquored up on moonshine and letting it rip.  This was long before modern (post-WWII) amplification.

Memphis Jug Band

American blacks of this time were (of course) segregated and their best performers were generally not allowed a white audience.

Great Jug Bands

Very little survives, as there were few recording sessions, no biographers, and only rare photos to record actual events. This happened during the Great Depression, and most performers didn’t consider a long career in jug music. It was simply good-time music of the moment.

Whiskey Jugs

What came out of all this influenced jazz, pop, western swing & country, rhythm & blues, and finally spawned rock & roll.

Great Jug Bands: lp credits

The Memphis Jug Band was the ‘rockin-est’ jug band of their era, and “Memphis Shakedown” is the genre’s quintessential song.  Recorded in 1934, a listener can still sense the fumes kicking in about halfway through, when it gets really crazy.  Play it boy… blow dat jug… what’s the matter with you over dere?   If you click on only one of the linked videos, make it this one:

Gus Cannon, AKA ‘Banjo Joe’ is the best known jug music artist [1].

This link seems to be all anyone knows about Jed Davenport & his Beale Street Jug Band [2].

Jug music still lives & breathes, everywhere.

Clifford Hayes & Earl Macdonald's Louisvelle Jug-Band

Find it

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Belly ‘Star’ (1993)

Belly’s Star is a gorgeous album from start to finish, which remains largely unappreciated. Belly was led by ex-Throwing Muses singer-songwriter Tanya Donelly, with Fred Abong (bass) and brothers Chris (drums) & Tom Gorman (guitars).

Belly- On the cover of the Rolling-Stone

Note: vinyl had been deleted by 1990, and compact disc was the only format this (or any other) music was commercially available in–  therefore the original format of this album is CD.

Belly 'Star'

Belly followed up with King in 1995, then broke up the next year.  By this time they had been largely written off anyways, by the Rolling Stone crowd in favor of mediocrities such as the Counting Crows, Gin Blossoms, Oasis & Matchbox 20– whose CDs now over-populate resale music bins everywhere.

Bikini-Kill-Girl-Soldier

Belly along with Sinead O’Connor, P.J. Harvey, the Breeders (who also included Donelly), Babes in Toyland, Liz Phair and Bikini Kill (pictured above), were female artists who truly made the most riveting rock music of that tumultuous era.  Kurt Cobain was a fan of all of the above.

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana

The collapse of the USSR, and it’s fall-back from communal property relations (controlled by a Stalinist bureaucracy) into capitalist Russia (controlled by mafia ‘businessmen’) shook the world.  Borders changed, nearly instantly– but not bloodlessly.  U.S. led wars-of-aggression (from Yugoslavia to Iraq to Syria) have continued in that part of the world ever since.

Berlin Wall Falls

The heart of global capitalism is Wall Street & Washington, led by the White House which uses NATO & the UN (diplomatically), the Pentagon (overtly) and the CIA (covertly) to project the interests of the ruling class into the sphere of the former Soviet Union.  Wall Street is defined as their stock exchanges (multi-national corporations) & its federal reserve banking system.

wall street

These are the richest people in the world and are (not coincidentally) responsible as war criminals. They are the true criminals who must be ruthlessly exposed and brought to justice by the working people of the world.

George Soros

FYI: It’s mostly about oil, which has been the most precious natural resource under modern capitalism.  Washington & Wall Street can no longer control the world’s oil supply economically, so they resort to their greatest strength– militarism.  The US has (by far) the largest military budget in the world.  Washington’s unholy alliance with Saudi Arabia (world’s leading oil producer) has led to the 9/11 terror attacks and sponsored the phony ‘war on terror’ in its aftermath.

Saudi Arabia & Osama bin Laden

These imperialist crimes have created an environmental & human survival crisis of global proportions, which only-too-recently (to most) seemed laughable, but today is all-too-real.  The threat to human existence has never been greater.  Capitalist leaders and their ‘intelligentsia’ have no answers, and (honestly) not much of a clue.  They can best be described as philistines when it comes to art.

These were the issues artists such as Tanya Donelly (and her fans) intuitively understood back in the early 1990’s.  Unfortunately their music was given its moment in the sun, then suppressed and largely forgotten– because no one in political leadership cared about art.   Al Gore was VP to U.S. President Bill Clinton, and Gore’s wife Tipper led the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), whose goal was to blacklist and censor music.

Al & Tipper Gore

Their primary target was rap & hip-hop, but any artistic expression was ultimately put in their cross-hairs.  The PMRC was partially successful, as this warning label is now ubiquitous to popular music.

Parents Music Resource Center

Now, to be carried in any box superstore (Walmart, Best Buy), albums with ‘obscene’ lyrics must be censored– otherwise the CD isn’t on their racks.  ‘Obscene’ is defined by a self-appointed body of religious & political fundamentalists.

Tipper Gore, Susan Baker

Corporate & political agendas dovetail, and when the reaction set in (Republican impeachment of Bill Clinton and their theft of the 2000 election), artists were forced underground.  After 9/11, it was strictly American Idol culturally speaking, as virtually nothing artistic (in music or film) was allowed on the airwaves or in theaters.

american-idol-original-judges

Thus the (dialectical) concurrent rise of the Internet which revolutionized music & film with file-sharing (Napster) and powerful home computers, which now allow artists to produce their own music & film– on a budget without corporate interference.  Today, nearly anyone can share their video to the world on YouTube & Facebook.

These vehicles now allow artists to directly distribute their music to fans– old & new. This empowers artists again, allowing what’s best to rise to the top based on merit– which is how it should always be.

Tanya_Donelly_(2006)

One of the best, little-known songs on Star is “Slow Dog”– a cryptic & beautiful Donelly story, about a woman who loves a really stupid dog. The pay-off is this ‘slow dog’ manages to save her life too.  They save each other’s life, which is the deepest kind of love.  When you’re a really great band and you learn how to survive in the business, your major label partner (© 2005 WMG) pays for new videos– years later.

Note: the video is not trying to convey the song’s message, it’s simply the band with stop-cut editing, which is a popular ‘alternative’ video style.  The official video also has a different song ending, versus the classic album version.

The college radio ‘hit’ from Star was “Feed the Tree,” a paean to childhood & environmentalism, with Donelly’s signature mastery of melody & hookiness.

“Feed the Tree” was featured regularly on MTV’s 120 Minutes, their exclusive early-1990’s ‘alternative’ programming.  120 Minutes aired late-night, when no one was watching, in an era when MTV was rapidly shifting towards reality TV.  MTV’s The Real World was the original reality show, becoming an overnight sensation.  By the end of the decade, MTV had mostly stopped playing videos. In 2000, CBS’s Survivor established reality-TV as a force on primetime television, and it’s been with us ever since.

MTV: The Real World

If civilization is allowed to exist & survive, then eventually art will win out over this crassly commercial, philistine banality.  For that to happen, people must care enough to fight for it.  The dialects of all this is: art is what inspires people to act.

In early 2016, Tanya Donelly and Belly announced that they were working on new material and a limited tour.  Catch them if you can.  [1]

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Rock & Roll HoF Corruption

“The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honors the legendary performers, producers, songwriters, disc jockeys and others who have made rock and roll  [as defined by Rolling Stone magazine– RS] the force that it is in our culture.”    [1]

This discussion will focus on the performer section of the Hall, because it’s supposed to be about the music.  It’s the artists (and those left out) that define this institution. The rule of eligibility is straight-forward: once an artist has gone 25 years after the release of their first record, they become eligible.

Anyone who knows anything about punk & rap, knows that 2016 inductees Cheap Trick and NWA are first-rate artists– who should have been in years ago, if this institution took the music seriously.

Cheap Trick

For heavy metal and classic rock buffs, Deep Purple and Steve Miller can be viewed as worthy, as long as it’s recognized that this is around where the line for entry should be. Grand Funk, BTO, etc… are well-below that standard– otherwise the concept of a ‘Hall of Fame’ becomes diluted & meaningless.

The fifth & final 2016 inductee was Chicago, who were (and still are) industry product with very little artistic aesthetic.  Their songs suffer from similarity, even their album covers all look the same, unimaginatively titled Chicago I (1969)… Now: Chicago XXXVI (2014).  The only reason bands like Chicago lasted & ‘succeeded’ was because they were backed by big-label (Columbia Records here) payola.  Chicago had a hard time putting together a decent retrospective (Greatest Hits: Chicago IX [1975]) when it was time, proving after all those years they weren’t even much of a singles band:

Chicago: Greatest Hits

The following is a list of important musical artists (arranged by genre), who are NOT in the R&R HoF.  I don’t consider this list exhaustive, but every one of them is more worthy of recognition, than Chicago and the rest of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40.

This is essential modern music which any enthusiastic & fair-minded listener needs to know about. The hidden purpose of the R&R HoF (and its Rolling Stone magazine founders), is to keep this vital music away from people– at least until these artists can be coerced into acquiesce to the machinery. Only then will these rock renegades be allowed in from the cold.

My hope is that none of these artists even care about getting into this thoroughly bloated & corrupt institution.  They are all too good for this, and their legions of fans know it.

Early Sonic Youth

Alt/Punk: Roxy Music, New Order/Joy Division, Big Star, Pixies, King Crimson, Sonic Youth, Captain Beefheart, Husker Du, Minutemen, Soundgarden, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Replacements, Pavement, Smashing Pumpkins, B-52’s, X, X-Ray Spex, Jane’s Addiction, NY Dolls, Buzzcocks, Black Flag, Runaways, Devo, XTC, PJ Harvey, Babes in Toyland, Bikini Kill, Helmet, Rage Against the Machine, Phish, Mott the Hoople, Television, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, Echo & the Bunnymen, English Beat, Gang of Four, Wire, Violent Femmes, Gary Numan, Bauhaus, Soft Machine, Minor Threat/Fugazi, Fall, Dinosaur Jr, Primus, Hole, Bad Brains, Pere Ubu, Nico, Mission of Burma, Breeders, Throwing Muses, Mekons, Fugs, Feelies, Meat Puppets, Slits, Big Black, Smiths, Midnight Oil, Rodriguez…

Iron Maiden

Heavy Metal: Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Queensryche…

Willie Nelson

Country Influence: Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings…

John Coltrane

Blues/Jazz Influence: Slim Harpo, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus…

Hip Hop

Rap/Hip-Hop: Afrika Bambaataa, Tribe Called Quest, LL Cool J, Eric B & Rakim, De La Soul, Boogie Down Productions/KRS, Queen Latifah, Gang Starr…

Warren Zevon

Classic Rock: Warren Zevon, Graham Parker, Love, Free, Bad Company, Shangri-Las, Boston, REO Speedwagon, Joe Walsh, Them, Joe Jackson, Steve Earle, Richard & Linda Thompson, Fairport Convention, Robin Trower, Guess Who, George Thorogood, Jim Croce…

Eurythmics

Pop & Divas: Nina Simone, Carpenters, Pat Benatar, Go-Go’s, Eurythmics, Sinead O’Connor…

Reggae

Reggae: Toots & Maytals, Peter Tosh, Augustus Pablo, Desmond Dekker, I-Roy, Burning Spear, Big Youth, Lee “Scratch” Perry…

Ravi Shankar

World Influence: Fela Kuti, Antônio Carlos Jobim, King Sunny Ade, Ali Farke Toure, Ravi Shankar, Youssou N’Dour, Baaba Maal, Tito Puentes, Ruben Blades, Fania All-Stars…

Moby

Electronic: Tangerine Dream, Can, Faust, Massive Attack, Moby, Prodigy, Underworld, Bjork…

I’m a small-hall guy so I (unfairly?) excluded artists like Jethro Tull, Procol Harum Kraftwerk, Nine Inch Nails, Cars, Dire Straits, Journey, April Wine, Cyndi Lauper, Billy Squire, Living Color, Ministry, Pantera… who all rocked harder (and with WAY more content), than Chicago.

Good Stuff

Here’s this artist’s overview of other recent inductee classes:

2015 Worthy Inductees: Green Day, Joan Jett, Stevie Ray Vaughn
2014 Worthy Inductees: Nirvana, Peter Gabriel
2013 Worthy Inductees: Albert King, Randy Newman, Donna Summer, Rush, Public Enemy
2012 Worthy Inductees: Beastie Boys, Guns ‘N’ Roses

Too much fluff has been allowed in, while too much of what is essential rock music has been left out.  The R&R HoF is a gross distortion & marginalization of valuable popular culture.  Music lovers & kids can remedy this situation by ignoring this political nonsense, and opening their minds– so they can hear music in a new way.

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Where Were You When…?

  1.   …you learned that Kurt Cobain was dead– apparently of a suicide.  Answer: I was in my last days of dental school at Marquette, waiting for a presentation in the lab (Room 305) on how we could refinance and save $$ on our student-loan payments.  Someone said Kurt Cobain was dead, and I whipped around exclaiming “What?!” in disbelief as the news leaked out- shotgun blast to the head, heroin syringes, suicide note, etc…    After that, I only remember a bit of our mathematics-savant classmate busting the speaker as a scam artist.  I was numb at first, which then gave way to resentment over Cobain’s cowardice & betrayal.  It’s always been hard to listen to Nirvana since his death.  Listener’s interpret them differently with the suicide ending.
  2. …you learned that Kurt Cobain was murdered!  Answer:  I Netflixed Soaked in Bleach (2015) in my living room last night.  Others found out much earlier by reading Love & Death: The Murder of Kurt Cobain (2004) by Max Wallace & Ian Halperin. [1]

Kurt Cobain dead

A brief review of the facts, background & suspects:  Kurt Cobain was divorcing Courtney Love at the time of his death.  Below is Cobain’s handwritten note found in his wallet at the death scene, which has finally been released to the public by the Seattle Police Department (SPD).  In it, Kurt Cobain scorns Courtney Love as a “money siphoning whore.”

Kurt Cobain Scorns Courtney Love

Tom Grant, a private investigator contacted & hired by Courtney Love on April 3, 1994 (less than a week before Cobain’s body was found), spoke to their attorney Rosemary Carroll at her office on April 13, 1994.  Grant claims Carroll pressed him to investigate Cobain’s death, and that Cobain was not suicidal. Carroll also claims that Cobain had asked her to draw up a will excluding Love, because he was planning to file for divorce. Cobain & Love had a prenuptial agreement, which would have cut her out of the big money from Nirvana’s royalties.

Rosemary Carroll also provided Tom Grant (in a breach of client confidentially) with this handwriting practice note, which she found in Courtney Love’s backpack left at her home:

Courtney Love imitating Kurt Cobain's handwriting

This is now widely interpreted as Love practicing the forgery of Cobain’s handwriting used in the final four lines of his ‘suicide note’:

Last 4 lines of Kurt Cobain's 'suicide note'

Rosemary Carroll has not commented publicly on any of this.

Rosemary Carroll

Rosemary Carroll, attorney for Love & Cobain

Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain had a newborn at the time, Francis Bean Cobain; who was cared for by their heroin-supplying ‘nanny’ Michael ‘Cali’ Dewitt:

Michael 'Cali' Dewitt

Dewitt remains the murkiest figure in this sordid affair.  He’s likely the one who overdosed Cobain at Love’s behest, then staged the fake suicide.  Michael Dewitt was never interviewed by the SPD, except for this statement taken over the phone:

calidewittphoneinterview

Kurt Cobain’s best ‘friend’ at the time of his death was Dylan Carlson, a fellow heroin junkie and hanger-on:

Dylan Carlson

Dylan Carlson it seems, was also used by Courtney Love to conceal the murder, particularly by keeping Tom Grant’s investigations away from the greenhouse room above the garage, where Cobain’s body laid for days before being discovered.  Here is Dylan Carlson’s police interview:

dylancarlsonspdinterview

Both Carlson’s & Dewitt’s interviews were done by Sgt. Don Cameron, who was at Cobain’s death scene and ran the SPD investigation:

Sgt. Don Cameron at Kurt Cobain's death scene

Don Cameron’s corruption as a police officer is documented in this clip from Soaked in Bleach:

Courtney Love most-likely paid Sgt. Cameron to derail any attempts to classify Kurt Cobain’s death as suspicious.  Also implicated is Nikolas Hartshore (long-time friend of Love), the medical examiner who did the initial exam of Cobain’s body.  Autopsy findings were never publicly released, as they would likely prove that Cobain died of a heroin overdose, not of a shotgun blast to the head. [2]

Nikolas Hartshore, ME

Nikolas Hartshore died in 2002, in a base-jumping accident.

As mentioned earlier, Tom Grant is the PI whom Courtney Love retained to “find Kurt.”

Tom Grant

He immediately became suspicious of Love during their first interview, and afterwards taped every conversation with her and her cohorts.  They are damning evidence against Love, as the lead conspirator in the murder of Cobain.   [3]

Equally helpful for those interested in justice, is Grant’s time-line summary of events, including all correspondence with Love, Dylan Carlson, Michael Dewitt, Rosemary Carroll, and the SPD. [4]

Courtney Love has destroyed most of the physical evidence in this case. The greenhouse crime-scene has been torn down, the shotgun melted, and Cobain’s body was cremated only 6 days after it was discovered on 4-8-94.  Supposed ‘other suicide notes’ (always sensationally leaked to the press), have also claimed to have been burned by Courtney Love. [5]

One can only imagine the reaction from feminists if this situation was reversed.  Does anyone believe Kurt Cobain would be allowed to get away with murdering his wife under the same circumstances? He would be in jail today, with little chance for parole.  Not so for Love, who is rich with fuck-you money & clout.  Being a woman & mother protects her in this sick society, even if she is a lying  psychopath who murdered her husband (the biggest popular icon of his era), for a pile of money.

courtney-love

Knowing all this now makes me feel differently, but only somewhat.  Kurt Cobain is still dead, and much of it was his fault.  When you become a junkie, you render yourself helpless– becoming vulnerable to parasites & vipers who claim to be your friends:

Francis Bean Cobain, Courtney Love, Rosemary Carroll (& husband), Kurt Cobain

When you are a rock-star who poses for photos like this, you allow yourself to be led in a bad direction:

Kurt Cobain toy gun promo pic

Nirvana’s music sounds a bit more hopeful again, knowing the truth.

The evidence discussed here is just the tip of the iceberg. [6]  Hopefully soon there will be justice– with this murderer (pictured below) facing a jury of her peers:

Courtney Love

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Alive Inside: The Power of Music

Alive Inside (2014) is the stirring account of Dan Cohen, founder of the non-profit organization Music & Memory, struggling against a broken healthcare system. Along with independent documentary film-maker Michael Rossato-Bennett, they demonstrate music’s ability to reverse memory loss– restoring dignity & sense of self. [all pics google]

Dan Cohen

Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) is characterized by cognitive impairment. Agitation is a symptom in 70%-90% of those afflicted with advanced stage ADRDs.  This interferes with care delivery and social interaction, ultimately destroying their quality of life.  It is a huge problem facing human society, and like most other issues facing humanity, it’s growing worse daily– as illustrated by the graph below:

Growing Elderly Population

It should come as no surprise that geriatric healthcare providers suffer some of the highest rates of career burnout.  Burnout is a multi-factorial phenomenon, involving environmental, personality, and profession-related factors. Research shows risk for burnout in geriatric healthcare to be between 25-75%, depending on the study– with a likely overall average near 50%.  [1]

The problem of elderly care is fundamentally capitalist.  As explained in the film, “A doctor can write a prescription for a $1000/month anti-psychotic drug, and it’s no problem. But a patient getting reimbursed for a $40 iPod, as medical therapy, is next-to-impossible…nursing homes have become a shotgun marriage of poorhouses & hospitals.”

This is an accurate description and explains their motivation to over-medicate.  It pays-off the big pharmaceuticals, while turning those afflicted with ADRDs into vegetated zombies. These sedated ‘living dead’ are easier for staff to manage, and easier for corporations to milk for insurance profits.  Half the patients in U.S. nursing homes receive no visitors.

The WebMD tagline is “Better information. Better health.”   Their recommended therapies for ADRDs are:  anti-psychotics (major tranquilizers), benzodiazepines (psychoactive hypnotics) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (anti-depressants); all of which are highly toxic, with serious side-effects. These drugs were never meant for use on geriatric patients, and yet today they are the standard-of-care for Alzheimer’s and dementia.

WebMD covers its ass with this blurb (& qualifier) at the end of its ringing pharmaceutical endorsement, “The FDA has placed a ‘black box’ warning on these drugs describing these problems. They can be helpful for many people, though.”

Such is the cruel logic of healthcare under capitalism.

WARNING

Individualized music as an alternative therapy for agitation in ADRD, involves carefully selected music, based on the person’s lifetime preferences. The easiest way to do this with anyone is to determine their years in high-school. The popular music from that era will usually be their favorite, or at least an excellent starting point.

Watch what familiar music does to 94-year old “Henry” in this clip from Alive Inside:

For this therapy to be effective, it needs to be individualized music.  Research shows “a significant reduction in agitation during and following individualized music, compared to classical music. This study expands science by testing and supporting a theoretically based intervention for agitation in persons with ADRD.” [2]

Why does individualized music work?  Because music evokes emotions that bring back memories. Any time we remember something, we are actually recalling where we were when we learned it.  When we hear a favorite song from the past, we are instantly transported back to that time & place in our minds.  No other medium has that power, and PET scans prove it scientifically.

PET scans: Brain on Music

The musicality within all of us is innately human, as chimpanzees don’t have this primal need to connect with other chimps through music.  Our musicality remains one of the last areas of the brain affected by ADRDs.  Music is a portal to reach people who have slipped into vegetative states, who are otherwise unreachable.

Artists & songwriters understand this better than anyone.  They create music for people to enjoy, because it connects them with others.  Their music IS the culture, and it’s power to communicate & heal will remain as long as human society exists.

      1. Money Bug - Ric Size

 

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