Mumford and Sons are barely 5 years old and it wasn’t that long ago they were still a pub band in the UK. Fast forward to now however, and they are headlining every major music festival, selling out arenas all over the world, have performed on the Grammy’s with Bob Dylan, and just performed the State Dinner at the White House. Not too shabby right? As you know, I am a big fan of this band, I dig the music, but what is truly incredible is how fast their star has risen. They are all relatively young dudes in their early twenties who have accomplished more than most bands have after 15 years in the business, and all on the strength of 1 album! I’ll talk about the ups and downs of that quick fame with Mumford & Sons: In Sixty, Thursday March 29th, 9pm ET.
Picture being in a folk/rock band and in your early 20’s; things have been going extremely well and in a short amount of time you have become so successful that you are nominated for a couple Grammy awards, and find out you have been invited to perform on the big show. In all that excitement, the only thing you have been told is that you will be performing with a “music legend” and are left to simmer on that for a little while. Then a week before the show you, and your folk/rock band, are told the music legend you are performing with is one of your musical heroes. This is the life of Mumford and Sons, this is the music legend they performed with. Listen to Mumford & Sons relive their Bob Dylan Grammy moment when I chat with them In Sixty, March 29th, 9pm ET.
Over their 25 year career, The Roots have released 14 albums, have always been critically acclaimed, musicians love them, and from the beginning were considered by most as a great live act. But Questlove says it took getting the gig as house band for Jimmy Fallon in 2009 for them to really start functioning like a band. Up until getting that gig, The Roots NEVER rehearsed, and the Fallon job forced them to practice together everyday. Questlove says at first, the 8 members were stuck in a tiny room and forced to practice, he said it was completely awkward and almost felt like they didn’t know how to be a band. Imagine what they could’ve accomplished if only they had practiced…..
In 1977 the landscape of R&B was defined by some of the biggest names in music: Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, The Commodores, Barry White, Stevie Wonder. But one of the biggest R&B hits from that year came from a group you may not have heard of called the Floaters. The tune Float On spent 6 weeks at #1 in the US and it also hit # 1 in the UK. For all the Fresh Prince of Bell Air geeks out there (or am I the only one?) in the episode when Jazz gets married to Jewel, this is the song that played them down the aisle. Remember??? Anyone?
Most successful bands eventually find themselves wanting to get back to the feeling of what it was like to make music as a new band, when the only thing that mattered was making music. Ironically, it’s the fame and success that musicians seek that often times becomes their musical crutch. Some of the best music out there, is by those bands who are new, and are not so far away from their beginnings to remember why they started making music in the first place. That being said let me please introduce you to: Poor Young Things. This is a great tune.
From Dec 26 until Jan 6 (weekdays 9pm ET) our Holiday gift to you is our list of “The Top 100 Big Tunes of the 90’s”. It’s a pretty badass list of songs but you can imagine how many great ones didn’t make the cut. So I’m cheating a little bit and suggesting tunes that didn’t quite make it but are still songs from the 90’s you should hear. Says me.
One of the most underrated bands over the past 30 years is Quicksand and if you haven’t heard their 1993 album “Slip” consider it your homework over the holidays. It’s essential rock and roll listening.
If the 80’s was a period of musical searching for Bob Dylan then the 90’s was the time he found whatever it was he was looking for. His 1997 album “Time out of Mind” is the album many call his comeback in that decade and aside from Dylan himself a lot of the credit has to be given to Daniel Lanois who worked as a co-producer and helped shape this amazing album.
Weldon Irvine was a poet, composer, and musician who experimented through many styles of music from jazz, blues and funk to hip hop and gospel. He is perhaps best known as being the band leader for Nina Simone and for his influence on artists like Mos Def and Q-Tip. Speaking of Q-Tip- In 1993 A Tribe Called Quest sampled a Weldon Irvine song called ‘We Gettin down” on their tune “Award” Tour”
This one is kind of a guilty pleasure for me.The song and band went away pretty quick but you know you loved it, especially when you saw this viral YouTube clip revive it.
Fiona Apple is only 34 years old but it seems like it has been FOREVER since she was one of the biggest names in music and that’s because it happened in 1998 when she was just 19 years old and won a Grammy for the track Criminal. Criminal along with her cover of The Beatles’ Across the Universe” are definitely the songs she is best known for, but all of the tunes she has released on her 3 albums are great…including this one.
There are a million reasons why Pink Floyd is still a relevant band. Yes, mostly because you can still sync “Dark Side of the Moon” with the Wizard of Oz if you eat enough mushrooms (don’t do drugs kids, stay is school, crack is wack), but there are other reasons. When their contemporaries jumped on iTunes Pink Floyd fought it because they didn’t want their music listened to as just singles, they wanted the music to be experienced as full albums (yes I realize they eventually gave in but that’s not the point). They also never released a new box set of re-issues every few years like every other band jumping on the money train, instead they waited and wanted to do it right which is exactly what has happened: the entire re-mastered Pink Floyd catalogue is upon us and is so jammed with features and extras that it is being rolled out in 2 phases (mainly due to the 6 disc set devoted JUST to Dark Dide of the Moon). “Wish you Were Here” is easily my favourite Pink Floyd track.
In 2006 Bob Dylan released the excellent album Modern Times which was met with both praise and a cloud of controversy. The problem some people seemed to have (and when I say people I mean critics or those empowered with a blog) came from the fact that this album was mostly a collection of songs based on lyrics and melodies of older/traditional songs. Some reviews for this album focused on the writers opinion that Dylan shouldn’t have been credited as the sole song writer for songs based on the work of others which is totally bogus in the opinion of this person empowered with a blog because folk music (and blues) is rooted in the tradition of borrowing and interpreting; so it’s possible that some “music minds” missed that class and the point. That aside, the bigger question here is: what the hell inspired the random Alicia Keys shout out in his re-working of “Thunder on the Mountain”?
Speaking of Alicia Keys…..the first time I interviewed her is burned on my brain. It was in NYC, she had just released the album “As I Am” and as I settled in for the chat sitting on a window ledge with the city of Manhattan behind us: there was a moment. As she began to answer my first (amazing) question a button popped off her shirt (in the….ya know… awesome area) and she quickly said “man, that’s just what you do to me”. I was without speech at that moment and now every time I hear an Alicia Keys tune, especially from this album….I am at peace with the world.
I don’t want to be a boy band hater here so just hear me out. When Justin Timberlake was just “Justin from N-Sync” I kinda wanted to throw him, but then that song “Pop” came out and I thought to myself “if that guy wasn’t in that band, I wouldn’t want to throw him”. Now I’ve gone completely to the other end of the universe and I’m like “Justin, let’s hang out” .I dig his music, he doesn’t bug me as an actor, and his involvement with those SNL digital shorts have been nothing short of classic. Now even though his debut solo album did have the worst title ever “Justified” (get it?), it did give us this song.
thanks for listening,
Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show (2004)
Rarely have I found a song that I dig as much as it’s back story but” Wagon Wheel” is one of those rare examples. Filmmaker Sam Peckinpah not only made one of my favorite movies of all time (The Ballad of Cable Hogue), not only has his work influenced Martin Scorsese, John Woo and Quentin Tarantino, but his 1973 movie “Pat Garret and Billy the Kid” has a Bob Dylan connection that provided at the very least, 2 classic songs. Kris Kristofferson who played the role of Billy the Kid originally brought Dylan into the mix and initially Dylan was just hired to write the title song, but Peckinpah was so impressed that it turned into Dylan composing the entire soundtrack. The collection of music Dylan contributed to the film consisted mostly of instrumentals but it also gave birth to the song “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”, however, it was an unfinished song from those recording sessions that inspired this Matt Track.
Bob Dylan might be one of the most bootlegged artists of all time which has played a big role in the career of a band called “Old Crow Medicine Show”. The unfinished song that Dylan was toying with for Peckinpah’s film was something he called “Rock me Mama”, and even in its barley demoed state it was bootlegged and passed around musical circles for years. In the early 2000’s Ketch Secor decided he was going to add his own verses to the Dylan choruses and it turned into a breakthrough song for his band Old Crow Medicine Show which they called “Wagon Wheel”. The tune appeared on an early EP in 2001 and most famously on their self titled 2004 album, and in a very short time has already turned into a bit of a standard song that has been covered by bands like Mumford and Sons and Against Me! Before I leave you with it though I’d like to take it back even further and suggest that the noodling and jamming that Dylan did back in those early recording sessions was inspired by artists like Big Bill Broonzy and Arthur Crudup and specifically the songs “Rockin Chair Blues” and “Love me Mama” (Rock me Mama). I think it’s important to understand that while so many artists were inspired by Bob Dylan and all the beautiful music he has given us; Dylan himself is one of the many artists in the history of music who has reaped the benefits of growing up on the early blues and folk musicians of the 20’s, 30, 40’s and 50’s who’s influence is everywhere even though their names might not be.
It was inevitable that something had to give as the 80’s were coming to a close; music was changing. And in Seattle there was something special happening that of course became a musical and cultural phenomenon that was given the silly title: Grunge. This music, this scene and this time changed the course of music history which is usually attributed to the same 4 bands in the same order of importance: Nirvana, Pear Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. This is all very true, these bands had everything to do with the emergence of a new sound and a new era of music but none of them, not even Nirvana, were as important as Mother Love Bone. Yes, Nirvana is the band that blew the doors wide open but it was all because of the noise Mother Love Bone made; let me also say that I understand the argument could be made that every influential band in the history of music would not have existed in the same way without the bands who came before them, but on the topic of the Seattle scene, the scene that has become so important and talked about in the history of music, it is ridiculous to not recognize the contribution of this band.
In the mid 80’s future Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard and bass player Jeff Ament were in a band called Green River who were included on a compilation of the biggest Seattle bands at the time, the compilation was called Deep Six and also included a very young Soundgarden and a band called Malfunkshun. Nirvana had not yet formed, nor had Sub-Pop records. Eventually Green River did get signed to the newly established Sub-Pop label which started bringing early attention to Seattle. So that’s the back story and here’s what happed next: Green River breaks up, one of the members goes on to start Mudhoney and then Stone and Jeff start a new band with Andrew Wood, the singer of Malfunkshun….that band is called Mother Love Bone and they start to take off. By 1988 Soundgarden was the first Seattle band to sign with a major label but Mother Love Bone soon followed releasing an EP called “Shine” on Polygram Records and that seemed like the beginning of what was about to be the breakthrough for the band that everyone in the music world was talking about. The band heads into the studio to make their debut full length album “Apple” and instead of its pending release becoming the moment that could have blown the doors off this bubbling Seattle scene, it becomes the Mother Love Bone obituary because singer Andrew Wood dies of a heroine overdose just months before the album is released.
His death literally sucked the life out of the music scene and Nirvana was as much the band that brought Seattle out of its Mother Love Bone depression as it was the band destined to change music eventually bringing grunge to the masses and defining its sound….ironically also ending in a heroine overdose.
I could go on and on about the importance of Mother Love Bone but let me leave it at this: “Temple of the Dog” (early Soundgarden/Pearl Jam collaboration) was an album and band that existed purely as a tribute to Andrew Wood and that project helped launch Pearl Jam; Alice in Chains had a breakthrough hit with a song called “Would?” that was about MLB singer Andrew Wood; Candlebox had a breakthrough song called “Far Behind” that was written about the death of Andrew Wood. More than just what Mother Love Bone did as a band when Andrew Wood was still alive, it was the impact their singers death had on the writing of the bands in that scene who would ultimately help define it.
Tom Anderson is not going to like this but here it goes: Remember when Myspace was the social networking king for about a minute until it was turned into ColecoVision by Facebook and Twitter (seriously though, when’s the last time you logged into your Myspace account?) Well, there was a time when Myspace was responsible for connecting a lot of people and breaking a lot of bands like in 2007 (just before it turned into a fossil) when it had everything to do with the emergence of the Jacksonville, FL band Black Kids. After the band posted 4 songs on their Myspace page, music fans, bloggers and critics began to salivate and it culminated into some big time hype at a CMJ showcase in NYC in which literally hundreds of people were tuned away. A little bit of a bidding war went down and the band perhaps became one of the last Myspace success stories when after signing to Columbia Records their 2008 debut album (Partie Traumatic) landed in the top 10 UK charts and # 1 on Billboards Top Heatseekers charts. To be honest with you, this type of band is usually not my style but there is something about this song I like a lot, and I also like how it kinda gives Myspace old school vinyl style cred.
End of the World (You Dose me Up) – Tom Mcrae (2001)
Very early in his career UK singer/songwriter Tom Mcrae was getting comparisons to people like Nick Drake and Bob Dylan, he scored a Mercury Prize nomination for his self titled album and also a Brit award nomination for best British Newcomer……not too bad for his first album. But that was almost 10 years ago and after moving to California in 2005 he has continued to face the all too common struggle of a UK artist hoping for the stars to align while trying to break in North America. Unfortunately for Tom his hard work and extraordinary songwriting have faced a bunch of bumps along the way that have prevented his music from reaching more people. In 2006 his label (V2) died a quick death in mid promotions for his album “House of Cards” and while he didn’t let that get in his way of touring the hell out of the record, it didn’t help him reach a larger audience the way his music certainly deserved. Since moving to Brooklyn and eventually back to his London homeland Tom continues to tour, write and record and last year released his 5th album “The Alphabet of Hurricanes” but lets go all the way back to that debut album and listen to one of the tracks that made him almost famous.
thanks for listening,
Christmas Lights – Coldplay (2010)
Remember when Coldplay were the new cool band? Now, because they are HUGE, the cool police say they ain’t so cool anymore…but we don’t care about the cool police, do we? It’s been more than two years since Coldplay’s last studio album but there has been a lot of chatter about the new one which, seems to be nearing completion, and the band once again chose to work with the mad musical genius Brian Eno. But in the meantime they have released a Christmas tune called Christmas Lights, also produced by Brian Eno, which has just enough melancholy and bleakness with a hint of hope to sound exactly how you’d expect a Coldplay Christmas tune to sound. Happy Holidays to everyone from Coldplay….even the cool police.
Must Be Santa – Bob Dylan (2009)
I wonder what Adam Sandler thinks about Robert Zimmerman releasing a Christmas album instead of spreading Hannukah cheer? Of course we are talking about a Jewish born singer/songwriter by the name of Bob Dylan,who last year released his first Christmas album called Christmas In The Heart in which all his royalties were given to three different charities. Bob is a man of many words in song, but not so many in conversations and in a rare interview about the album he said that he recorded Christmas songs because “they were part of my life, just like folk songs”. In case you didn’t know, between 1978 and 1981, Dylan became a born-again Christian, so when asked if he believed the themes in the Christmas songs he was singing he said, “I am a true believer”. YES! Now finally it feels like I understand him (how do you indicate sarcasm in blog form?).
Whatever the case, the track Must Be Santa is a classic holiday tune, however Bob was inspired not by the original but by a Polka version he heard by a Texas band called Brave Combo. In Bob’s polka-vibed version, the difference is that he sings the names of recent US presidents instead of all the reindeer’s, because he’s Bob Dylan. But mostly because it’s fun to rhyme Nixon with Vixon and Clinton.
Frosty The Snowman - Leon Redbone and Dr John (1989)
Leon Redbone is a Canadian legend!!! Accomplished musician and comedian who has earned a cult following through the years, but lets not for one minute forget why we love him: his voice. He has become best known for his interpretations of old Tin Pan Ally tunes like his version of Hoagy Carmichael’s Lazybones, but a newer generation will probably know him as the voice of Leon The Snowman in the movie Elf and also as the OTHER voice singing “Baby, it’s Cold Outside” with Zooey Deschanel in the end credits. His inclusion on movies like Elf is because of the cult following he has earned over the years appearing on Saturday Night Live, as a regular guest of Johnny Carson and he sang the theme song from Mr. Belvedere for the love of the Lord! In 1987, when we wasn’t busy making a fortune as the Budweiser beer guy, he released an album called Christmas Island, which included a classic duet with the legendary Dr. John on Frosty the Snowman.
Christmas Day – Squeeze (1979)
Remember that song from the 80’s called Cool for Cats by the UK band Squeeze? The video had the backup singing/dancing girls with the Squeeze leather jackets? You definitely know their tune Tempted. Ya know, “Tempted by the fruit of another”…? I’m not ashamed to stand behind this song and call it one of the best of the 80’s (judge me if you want). However, even before that little North American break out gem came along, in the late 70’s they had some monster UK radio success and pretty much every single they released did well for them – except their song Christmas Day. I guess people weren’t quite ready for a new wave take on the story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
I Want To Rock you Hard This Christmas - The Dan Band (2005)
One night at a wrap party as part of the cast of Stom, Dan Finnerty got up and sang a drunk karaoke version of I Am Woman, which was the beginning of a new life for him. That drunk performance snowballed into a cult following in L.A. of his performances of classic, strictly female-fronted songs in which he added lots and lots of cursing.The Dan Band was born! The Dan Band blew up because of an appearance in the movie Old School, and the rest is Dan Band history. Cursing, drinking and music…sounds exactly like the holidays to me! And I would be lying to myself if I didn’t say that he had me at “I wanna fill your stocking with my candy can of joy”. I like Candy Canes.