Now that the new site, which isn’t really in its final form yet, is up, I thought I’d try something a little different. I do spend quite a bit of time – every once in a while – surfing around youtube.com or any of the other video portals and there’s tons of fun stuff I usually discover there.
For this post, I haven’t selected any rare items that most of you probably haven’t seen yet. Actually, many of the videos below are nothing out of the ordinary, really, but they serve a special purpose here.
I thought i’d try to present a very quick and rough outline of my musical evolution, sprinkled with some autobiographical tidbits. There’s no way I can be all inclusive, and I’m not even going to try, but the videos below do offer a quick glimpse into some formative material that has shaped me and my music collection, from when I put the first LP on my dad’s record player until I left Denmark in the early 80s. I stopped there, not because I stopped listening to music, but because I think the 80s and 90s were a blur of so much music that I haven’t even started to sift through to pull a few gems from the rubble. I veered off into each and every possible direction, only to return to a fundamental appreciation of 50s and 60s jazz in the new millennium, sprinkled with a healthy dose of 60s and 70s pop and rock music. It’s along story, really, and I might choose the video route to expand on it at a later date.
Right now though, we’re going to travel from the mid- to end-60s (I was born in 1962), a time at which I consciously started listening to music, all the way up to 1982, the year in which ugly candy-colored fashion and plastic pop came into vogue. And, yes, I partook in all of it, no matter how gruesome it might look today.
Let’s have a look.
Important note: I think I’ve stated often enough on this site how much I hate Sony Music Entertainment, the one company of the hundreds that I have in my collection that I have been boycotting as much as possible. Root kits, copy protection, law suits, asinine management decisions, shoddy quality control and whatnot: If it’s bad, Sony probably invented it. I would have loved to include some important videos in this post but couldn’t because Sony Music Entertainment (via the German “Gema”) is blocking them in my country. Obviously, the Sony Music Entertainment bigwigs have no idea how the Internet works (now there’s a surprise for ya’) as it takes two seconds to get around that block, but I won’t even bother. And I’d like to encourage you not to bother either. Just ignore them, their artists and their products. Sony sucks.
“Sing, Sing, Sing” by Benny Goodman, from the film “Hollywood Hotel”, 1937.
Unfortunately, there’s no really decent version of this magnificent stomper on youtube.com, but this excerpt of a much longer piece will have to suffice. When I look back at the earliest records in my own record collection, ignoring my dad’s for now, I believe that a Benny Goodman compilation was the first (double-) LP that I had. I think it was. My dad had a wonderful ring-bound version of Benny Goodman’s renowned Carnegie Hall concert and when I spent my first pocket money on my first LP, it just had to be a Benny Goodman one. It was a gatefold, white double-LP with a black ink sketch of Goodman on the front. Because I’m quite the inquisitive and persistent fellow, I’ve tried for years to find a reference online to that first double-LP I bought, but, alas, to no avail. I have no idea whatever happened to mine, but it disappeared from my collection around 1978/79. I guess I let someone have it for a while and that person (I do have an idea who it might be) never returned it. It doesn’t really matter because today I have more Benny Goodman than anyone will probably ever need in his or her collection, but those memories of that first double-LP are extremely fond ones.
My musical life started with classical music, because my mom was a gifted pianist and there was always classical music around our house, but when I started listening on my own, it was swing music where it was at. I didn’t (yet) go for the more complex arrangements that, say, Duke Ellington had to offer; I went for Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and the many other dance bands. Swing music, usually with easily-remembered melodies, powerful and intricately arranged brass sections and a flowing, straight swing beat. Gene Krupa, who is featured on the drums in this smaller part of “Sing, Sing, Sing” became my hero and has remained so until today. I still believe that Krupa is the grandfather of all heavy metal drummers, a showman with enough panache to stand out from any crowd. He rocked, and so did Benny Goodman’s band, to boot. Really, it’s exactly here where everything started with me.
“I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo” by Glenn Miller, from the film “Orchestra Wives”, 1942.
Glenn Miller, whose entire output (minus a few Airforce band cuts) I call my own, has actually recorded quite a large number of bland tunes, but when you distill his output down to the evergreens plus some, you have a bandleader with a very unique sound and very unique ideas. I loved that perfectionism that always oozed from his music and with Glenn Miller I also became aware of the many spectacular band members Miller so effectively either hid or showcased in his line-ups.
The version I chose here is an “enhanced” one from the 1942 film, “Orchestra Wives”, starring Ann Rutherford and George Montgomery, a film which was the second and last film to feature The Glenn Miller Orchestra. It features the superb Tex Beneke, American saxophonist, singer and (later) bandleader himself, who is backed up by the Modernaires, and it showcases a unique and famous dance number by the Nicholas Brothers, both of whom apparently do not subscribe to Newton’s law of universal gravitation. On a side note, “Orchestra Wives” is far from the bland Hollywood dance band film that you might be accustomed to; it chronicles the split of an orchestra which is ripe with tension and virtually disintegrates when a couple breaks up because of the many jealousies that abound. Interesting little film that you should check out.
Next to Tommy Dorsey, the third band leader and cornerstone of my early collection, Glenn Miller provided the soundtrack to many of my younger years, until Rock & Roll hit my old mono tape recorder a little later.
“Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley & The Comets, Ted Steel Show, WOR-TV, NY, 1955.
Rock & Roll entered my life in the oddest of form(at)s: A red cassette tape that was actually by some band that had re-recorded some of the great Rock & Roll hits. It was given to me as a present when we were on holidays in the mountains of Switzerland and I remember playing that tape up and down, for hours on end. At some point, a year or two later, the tape disintegrated and I didn’t replace it with the original versions of those hits until a few years ago (other music got in the way), but whenever I hear Bill Haley & The Comets, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard today, the fondest of memories come flooding back, of carefree holidays in the Swiss Alps, high above the rest of Europe.
Of all the great rock and rollers out there, I’ve always been partial to Bill Haley, perhaps the “cleanest” one of them all. At a time at which Rock & Roll was aggravating the younger generation’s conservative parents, to me Bill Haley seemed to be the one that could have been deemed “acceptable” by many of those strictly opposed to this new form of “jungle music”. There’s another video up on youtube, from the 1956 film “Rock Around the Clock”, and in it, while visiting a dance at which the Comets are performing “See You Later Alligator”, another stellar track, two representatives of the older generation (and, indeed also the representatives of the younger one) hit one cliché after another one out of the ballpark. Have a look at it. It’s great fun!
It wasn’t until this millennium that I re-bought some of this music and one CD I’d like to heartily recommend is “Bill Haley and His Comets: From the Original Master Tapes” (MCA 1985, MCAD-5539) which is one of the very few Steve Hoffman remasters I own (I think). It has spectacular sound (!) and is usually still available at very reasonable prices (I paid 6 dollars for it a few years back) from your online-dealer of choice. Search around for it … it’s really worth every cent and, again, comes highly recommended.
“Down in the Bottom” by The Siegel-Schwall Band, Self-Titled, Vanguard Records, NY, 1966.
I’ve written about the Siegel-Schwall band before on this site and it is utterly depressing how expensive (because out-of-print) their back catalog has become and how damn little of their material is available online … or anywhere, for that matter.
My first encounter with Siegel-Schwall’s music was also my first encounter with our resident flower-power dope head. A guy with extremely long hair, unwashed clothes and a permanent herbal smell about him. In our street, he stuck out like a sore thumb, but somehow he took to me (I was about 10 years younger than him and had absolutely no connection to him and his friends whatsoever) and often approached me in his slow zombie-like shamble, usually later in the evening outside, after he had gotten up, telling me about this or that LP I should check out. Until today it baffles me that he somehow singled me out of a huge number of (to him probably) irritating young kids hanging around our middle- and in spots slightly upper-class suburban neighbourhood, but he did and no matter what I though of him (I can’t even remember his name today), I’m hugely indebted to him for planting some important seeds, musically. The Siegel-Schwall Band, the early Santana material, Chicken Shack, the early Fleetwood Mac, Chicago Blues of all shades and colors; the list is endless. He would give me a stack of LPs, shamble off into the sunset and would, weeks or sometimes even months later ask me if he had given me this or that LP. I could have kept them all, but I never did.
Siegel-Schwall’s white suburban blues, penned by Corky Siegel and Jim Schwall or covered by them, awkward as it may have been at times, got me completely hooked. Yes, there’s lots more respected blues out there, but I treasure those LPs as much as I treasure any cornerstone recording session in my collection. In my little world, these guys were and are as important as the best jazz, rock and pop recordings I own. Yes, they were that good.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my favorite tunes online anywhere, for example “Take Out Some Insurance” off their 1974 R.I.P. album or “Hey, Billie Jean” in its studio or live version with, yet again, an absolutely smoking blues harmonica. So, I resorted to a non-video track off their self-titled debut album.
2010 is the year in which I intend to buy each and every Siegel-Schwall release which I have tried to avoid for years because they’re so damn expensive. I have LP rips of every LP, but I want the CDs, so … lots of other music will probably have to take a backseat this year until I’ve got all the Siegel-Schwall available. It’s really the last gaping hole in my collection that I absolutely intend to fill.
“Scarborough Fair/Canticle” by Simon & Garfunkel, Live with Andy Williams, April 28, 1968.
[Note: The one with better sound can’t be embedded here, so I’ve chosen this one.]
Amongst the first 10 LPs I ever owned, Simon & Garfunkel still have an honorary place today. I don’t know how many times I re-bought their entire output, but they were a major influence in my youth. I actually wanted to learn how to play guitar because of them, and I did take a few lessons, but somehow the instrument and I didn’t jell (actually, I think I was too lazy to practice, but don’t tell anyone).
My first Simon & Garfunkel LP was actually the soundtrack to “The Graduate”, which had a load of hits on it, supplemented by one or two other studio LPs. Because I had to spread the little pocket money I had thin to get what I wanted, I collected the rest of their material on cassette tapes, but till today I still remember each and every note and word to their songs.
The video I chose here is one I often link to around the Net, simply because it is such a beautiful version of a classic tune. If you watch and listen closely, it seems so easy … but, of course, isn’t. It’s one of my favorite YouTube videos and if you aren’t moved by this performance, there must certainly be something wrong with you and you should get your wiring checked.
Another small gem, “Anji“, played by Paul Simon with his brother Ed Simon, is something you should check out as well. It’s quite a bit more fleshed-out than the original off, for example, the “Sounds of Silence” album, but worth your time.
“Down the Dustpipe” by Status Quo, “Doing Their Thing”, Live TV, 1970.
I’ve also written about Status Quo on this site before, but they just have to be part of this trip down memory lane as well. For years, Status Quo was the band I listened to. I ran out and bought every LP the day it came out (until “Rocking All Over the World”, which I hated) and still listen to them regularly today.
Amongst my first LPs, given to me for my confirmation, was a compilation of their earlier stuff that formed a bridge between their flower-power and their later boogie phase. “Down the Dustpipe”, “Gerundula”, “Spinning Wheel Blues”, “Umleitung”, and “Railroad”, to name a few of the tracks off “Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon” (1970) and “Dog of Two Head” (1971) , got me hooked and made me a fan for life.
‘Nuff said. The rest you’ll find in my old “Status Quo” post.
“Social Disease” by Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, 1973.
For some reason, I didn’t really take notice of Elton John until some years after this seminal double-LP was released. In fact, it was at my first-ever party that I came into contact with him, and that happened after we had left Germany and moved to Copenhagen, Denmark. There was this girl there, Kate S., who had invited me to a small party at her house and this LP, amongst some others, was played up and down the entire evening.
Since that day, “Goodbye to Yellow Brick Road” has been an absolute favorite of mine. It’s a release chock full of hits, wonderfully-crafted tunes and great lyrics (Bernie Taupin and Elton John remain one of the best songwriting teams in pop history). In my little musical world, this one comes close to be being one of the perfect pop releases of the last century, and despite all the world-wide hits included in this release, I am partial to the last track on side 4, “Social Disease”. I can’t really pinpoint it, but that’s always been (the 70s) Elton John for me, in a nutshell. It’s a hilarious tune, perfectly executed. And it’s got a banjo.
I was smug enough way back when to make this my theme song, my motto of sorts, and still today I have to smile when I hear it. I had a great time that year, in 9th grade, and finally managed to break free of the shackles that were, in my case, Germany. “Good riddance” was my feeling then and until today I still haven’t quite gotten used to being back here.
“Killer Queen” by Queen,
Rare promo video, 1974.
To keep things in chronological order, I have to leave my personal timeline here for a second. It was actually years before we moved to Denmark that this song hit me like a sledge hammer. At a time at which a lot of what I heard on the radio seemed bland and devoid of originality, Queen popped up out of nowhere and served this backhand. I still clearly remember the exact location and time of day when I first heard this tune. It was a complete breath of fresh air, with an absolutely unique sound and raw power. Yes, Queen went every which way in their career and I still somewhat prefer the material up until “News of the World”, with some of my favorite Queen tracks such as “Sleeping on the Sidewalk”, “Fight from the Inside”, “Get Down, Make Love”, “All Dead, All Dead”, and, last but not least, “We Will Rock You”, but “Killer Queen” put them on my map and kept them there long after Freddie Mercury died.
I saw them live whenever I had the chance and I count myself lucky that I was able to do so. Spectacular shows that got bigger and bigger, but no matter how elaborate the stage, the show and the circumstances, the feeling was always an intimate one, like they were playing in your living room just for you.
“Saturday Night Fever Medley” by Various Artists, “Saturday Night Fever”, 1977.
There’s no way around this one, not a chance. In 1977 we were away on an England school trip and I brought three albums back, all of which are in this section here.
You know how it is: Long bus rides from place to place, a large group of hormone-infested school kids, … and a tape recorder. I think we played this album up and down, a million times, and although – of course – everyone just hated disco music, somehow everyone was listening to this and secretly enjoying it. It was the beginning of the disco age for me, in which I didn’t much participate, but this film put disco music on the map for me. Yes, there are better examples (and yes, I own the Rhino disco boxed set with some real gems on it), but this double-LP became a huge part of our lives way back when, if we wanted to or not. “Saturday Night Fever” was everywhere, it was huge and it permeated every nook and cranny of almost everyone’s life. We even skipped school upon our return from England to go and see the film … and got into a load of trouble because of it. There was no escaping it … and it had staying power. I don’t think there was a single party for months, if not years, at which somebody didn’t pull out this – often worn to shreds – double-LP and threw it on the record player. Some people groaned “Not again, pleeeaaase”, but in the end, everyone was on the dance floor hoppin’ and boppin’ along. People were secretly practicing dance moves from the film, some even went as far as buying themselves white suits, some tried to counter every appearance of the recording by following it up with Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin and whatever else came in handy, but, in the end, to no avail. That thing just wouldn’t die.
“Do You Feel Like We Do” by Peter Frampton, Live, Midnight Special, 1975.
The second (double-) LP I brought home from that trip was this live classic by Peter Frampton. I have always been amazed at how split the general populace is on this one, but for 35 years it’s been one I regularly listen to. It was a massive hit with us at school and it’s the one album I know so well that I’m quite certain that none of the many CD reissues came even close to the sound that LP had way back when. I’ve gotten into fights over this recording time and again and have given up trying to extol its virtues. My favorite bit, amongst the many favorite bits, is Bob Mayo’s brief keyboard solo on “Do You Feel Like We Do”, a part which I heard so many times that I think I should one day try to play it. 🙂 I love this double-LP! Seminal music to me. This version here is of course a different one than the one on the live album, but it holds up quite well.
Afterthought: Whenever I talk about this album, that ghastly 1978 “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” disaster with the Bee Gees, Frampton and Aerosmith pops into my head. What the hell was that all about? It certainly did kill Frampton’s career. Gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. Yikes, what a corker.
“Cuff Link” by Paul McCartney, London Town, 1978.
The third – and last – album I brought home was Paul McCartney’s “London Town”, which until today has remained my favorite McCartney recording, only matched by “Wings Over America”, another must-have in my book. There isn’t a song I don’t like on that album and me being me, my favorite one is the one I linked to here, the one most people probably skip. I love that funky vibe and have had this song on constant replay time and again. A perfect little diddy. “I’m Carrying”, “London Town”, “With a Little Luck”, “I’ve Had Enough”; each and every song on this album has been played several thousand times in this house. This is one album out of ten that I would take to that proverbial desert island.
“Exciter” by Judas Priest, Live, Japan, 1978.
In 1oth grade I disappeared into heavy metal, to be more precise, “The New Wave of British Heavy Metal”, and I didn’t reappear until I heard Joe Jackson and The Police a year or two down the road, who brought me out of that nebulous phase that consisted of denim jackets, band patches and endless strings of live concerts (and lots of good Danish beer). If I had to choose one single band that formed the center of that strange universe, it would have to be Judas Priest, closely followed by Saxon, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, The Scorpions, Deep Purple, Rainbow, Ian Gillan, Led Zeppelin, Aersomith, Van Halen, etc., etc., etc. One gave birth to the next, the horizon broadened, the album covers accumulated up on my wall, and my hair got longer. It was a phase that I don’t believe was much appreciated by my parents, who put up with it nevertheless, and the noise permeating the house grew substantially. I still have these phases today when, suddenly, I just have to whip out this or that tune to get a quick fix, but when I look back upon that period in time, I don’t understand how I got to be so single-minded about it all. For quite a while, there simply wasn’t any other music for me. Full stop.
“Emerald” by Thin Lizzy, Live, 1978.
Thin Lizzy, a band that I saw live every year when they came to town, sometimes several times, was the second biggest thing at the time. Despite his drug addiction and self-destructive life style, I still thought Phil Lynott was the coolest guy on the block, and to this day I think that Brian Downey (next to Les Binks, former drummer of Judas Priest) was one of the best drummers that the hard rock and heavy metal scene had ever brought forth, John Bonham not withstanding. Downey had this constant swing beat going on with explosive and thundering breaks that knocked me off my feet every time I saw him. Style, ability and a coolness factor of 110%. I had taken up drumming by then and Downey became the number one magnet for me.
“Sunday Papers” by Joe Jackson, Live, 1979.
It wasn’t until Petrus S., who calls himself Kurshid today, brought a Joe Jackson LP along to a friend’s party that I woke up. “Sunday Papers” was one single track that whacked me about the head and brought me back into reality, gradually. To this day I have no idea what it was about that song that had such an effect on me, but an immediate effect it had. I can’t really nail the exact point in time when it happened because I’m quite sure, like always, there was a time-delay involved, the record not reaching my ear until months after it had been released, but with all the punk music infusing the scene and all the “we-don’t-give-a-damn” attitude, Joe Jackson stood out as an intelligent guy with an attitude (and a new spin on things). Yes, I had checked out the Sex Pistols and, especially, the Stiff Littler Fingers from Ireland whom I thought far superior, but I was a musician at heart and always thought that there was too much wanking going on there. Too much attitude, too little musicality (which, I guess, was also the intent). Joe Jackson changed all of that. Attitude, yes, but also brains and skill. Although I haven’t subscribed to everything he released, Jackson remained a fixture on my musical horizon way into the middle and late 80s.
“Walking on the Moon” by The Police, Live, Veronica’s Countdown, Holland, 1979.
The Police reinforced that change with a full run of releases until the very last one that I gobbled up as soon as they were put to market. It was actually that same party I mentioned before that brought them into the spotlight together with Joe Jackson. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the stars rearranged themselves that night (at Angus’ place; yes, the Angus that later played “Robert the Bruce” in Braveheart). It was that reggae and ska vibe I got off Jackson and The Police, that raw energy packed into coherent musical patterns.
I remember the last Police live concert I saw in Coepnhagen, Denmark. That was one odd experience. It was the Synchronicity tour and I loved that album, but I felt oddly detached when I saw them up their on that weird stage, the drummer seemingly sitting on top of some huge pile of rags, the sound so ear-shatteringly loud that it almost made my ears bleed. The whole thing was only bearable from the sidelines and the vibe just wasn’t good. It was probably the worst concert I’ve ever attended, and that’s saying a lot, coming from the guy who suffered through one hour of “Mercyful Fate” who were warming up for an even worse Uriah Heep (the Abominog tour). Who the hell ever came up with that pairing? That was the absolute pits and even the good Danish Tuborg couldn’t make it better. Thankfully, the tickets had been for free (and, in retrospect, were still too expensive for what was served up).
“Woodoo” by Sneakers, TV, Denmark, 1982.
[Note: After publication, I noticed that embedding of this video is disabled by request. Can’t they let you know that beforehand in a more obvious manner? I didn’t notice that miniature message below the link at all. I left it in here anyway. Just click on it and hop over to youtube to see it.]
Well, here it is, the one single video I’m sure you haven’t seen yet. As I was living in Denmark, I couldn’t help being influenced by what was being recorded there and slowly but surely, I was pulled in by the local music scene. I discovered that there were loads of fabulous musicians in Copenhagen. It all started one night, when I accidentally ended up outside a concert venue across from my old school (the event is mentioned in another post on this site) and I peeked through the cracks in the wooden wall and saw her, Sanne Salomonsen, and heard them, the Sneakers. This band single-handedly gave birth to the largest collection of Danish pop music outside of Denmark, mine, and until the end 90s I updated it again and again until I had most of the music I had previously owned (or still own) on LP. Yes, there are exactly three CDs missing that are impossible to find (or haven’t been released) and that’s it. I’ve got it all.
But that Danish side of my musical life will be picked up again at a later point. You’ll just have to wait and see.
For now, have a look at the awful 80s outfits, the colors and the audience. I wonder how we all survived the 80s in light of that, but the Sneakers were a great band with crack studio pros that could outplay just about anyone at the time. They crafted a ton of top-ten hits, they were all over the place and dominated the Danish music scene for many years (and, in a way, still do today with at least two of them in the spotlight time again with their various solo or group efforts). What drew me in at the time was the musicianship and skill. These guys were young and they were already better players than most. I think they were a good example of a new generation entering the scene that had a rock-solid musical upbringing and tons of skill. They ushered in a new age for many of those who believed that being able to play one single chord was simply not enough anymore. It is for a reason that the Sneakers were often compared to Toto, that seminal LA studio band, and that they had staying power. There wasn’t anyone on the scene who could outplay or “out-compose” them. Not a chance.
There’s so much I haven’t covered here, and as I went along, another thousand tunes popped into my head and made me want to include even more video, but I’ve decided to keep it to this list. What you have here then, from 1962 until the beginning of the 80s, is my musical development, spotty as it may be, condensed down to a few tracks. I do want to flesh each phase out a bit in the future, either via another video post like this one or a longer somewhat autobiographical piece, but for now, I think it’s enough to give you an idea where I come from.
Not that you didn’t have that already if you read along here regularly.