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book reports – THE THEATER WILL ROCK, Elizabeth L. Wollman

THE THEATER WILL ROCK: A HISTORY OF THE ROCK MUSICAL FROM HAIR TO HEDWIG (2006)

There does seem to be a common understanding that before the musical Hair there was nothing like Hair and that most of what followed Hair were flop imitations – Dude, Via Galactica, Rainbow. Though Hair became a classic, theatrical producers stopped throwing their money away on rock scores by about 1975. What Elizabeth Wollman’s through history brings forward is that Hair’s influence in musical theatre can be seen in decades of cultural tug-of-war between keeping rock music’s aesthetics authentic and produce musicals that have mass audience appeal. Hair’s long beautiful hair grew into Grease, and Les Mis, and Mama Mia but through the use of softer forms of rock music. We don’t really recognize how things of changed since Rogers and Hammerstein. Unlike any work I’ve read on the topic of musical theatre, or even in rock journalism for that matter, Wollman finally provides language for describing the variety of very different kinds of musical theatre that are too often lazily categorized as “rock musicals.” For once Hair is rock musical, Jesus Christ Superstar is rock opera and Dreamgirls and Smokey Joe’s Cafe are other things too, well categorized here. I have a couple of quibbles. First, I think Wollman doesn’t emphasize that much of the failure in those fabulous post-Hair rock flops lies in being rushed to Broadway with big money backers and no existing source material. Most of the truly great shows in musical theatre are drawn from novels, plays or history. At least Hair had the huge benefit of a long and sometimes painful gestation period before finally coming uptown. The big rock flops of the early 1970’s were being made-up on the spot. Ironically two of the successful rock musicals from the same period, Your Own Thing and Two Gentleman of Verona were adapted from that rebellious beatnik Shakespeare. Next, Wollman makes frequent reference to off-off Broadway shows like House of Leather and The Legend of Johnny Pot which barely ever opened, meanwhile her research overlooks shows like Promenade (259 performances) and Salvation (239 performances). Finally, between her socio-historical chapters the author includes some short academic meditations on audience attitudes, marketing experiments, and musical aesthetics. These interlude essay are well written they do seem like step children, sections from a different book. If you are seeking musical aesthetics and composition for musical theater, you won’t find much here on the specific shows or songs. However this is excellent work on cultural commodification and the economics of Broadway over the last forty years.

Goldmine Magazine’s Who should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame That Isn’t? Paul Anka and Bobby Vee

Rock Hall of Fame should induct Paul Anka and Bobby Vee | Goldmine Magazine.

Two Teen Idols for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Paul Anka

Paul Anka was one of Rock & Roll’s first teen idols

(No. 41 in a continuing series on artists who should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but are not)

By Phill Marder

This week, two artists – Paul Anka and Bobby Vee – who became teen idols at the age of 15 in spite of their talent.

The suggestion that Anka should be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is certain to draw scoffs from many. But those who were there when Rock & Roll started and those who have studied the facts and not revisionist fiction are aware that Anka was a major player in the early success of Rock.

Just 15 when his first hit record, “Diana,” was working its way to the No. 1 position, the Canadian was riding the tour busses with a lot of other Rock troopers traveling from town to town. He also toured the United Kingdom at age 16, thanks to “Diana” hitting No. 1 there also, becoming one of the biggest selling 45s ever. The terrific flip-side ballad “Don’t Gamble With Love” didn’t hurt sales, either, and helped establish Anka as one of the biggest and youngest teen idols.

At 16, Anka toured Australia with Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis as his second major hit, the power ballad “You Are My Destiny,” was heading for No. 7 in the US and No. 6 in the UK. Ironically, Anka’s follow-up to “Diana,” “I Love You Baby” backed with “Tell Me That You Love Me” bombed in the States, but both sides were hits in the UK, “I Love You Baby” soaring to No. 3.

The double-sided hit “Crazy Love” and “Let The Bells Keep Ringing” connected in the States in 1958 as Anka toured with the Everly Brothers, Sam Cooke and others. On all these tours, these youngsters were not wearing tuxedos and singing at supper clubs, you can be sure.

Later in the year Holly asked Anka, still just 17, to write him a song. The result was “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” which became Holly’s last hit. Anka said, “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” has a tragic irony about it now, but at least it will help look after Buddy Holly’s family. I’m giving my composer’s royalty to his widow (Maria Elena Santiago) – it’s the least I can do.”

After combining with George Hamilton IV and Johnny Nash for “The Teen Commandments,” Anka gave his first indication of his future direction with two ballads, “(All Of A Sudden) My Heart Sings,” from 1945 and “I Miss You So” from 1940, his first Las Vegas appearance and a starring movie role in Girls Town. But, he was not finished rocking…not just yet.

From the movie came one of his biggest smashes, the driving ballad “Lonely Boy,” which sat four weeks at No. 1. Then came another early Rock classic, “Put Your Head On My Shoulder,” which sat three weeks at No. 2, blocked by Bobby Darin’s “Mack The Knife.” The No. 4 “It’s Time To Cry,” another strong ballad, followed. All three were major hits across Europe and even reached the upper echelon of the US Rhythm & Blues charts.

“Puppy Love,” supposedly written about Annette Funicello, reached No. 2 in early 1960 and “My Home Town” got to No. 8 later that year. But it proved a long wait for his next top 10 entry. However, he continued having hits and became the youngest star at New York’s Copacabana, wrote the theme song for “The Tonight Show,” wrote the English lyrics to the French standard “My Way,” and penned “She’s A Lady,” a mammoth hit for Tom Jones.

While producing “Oh Happy Day” for the Edwin Hawkins Singers, Anka and his protégé, Odia Coates, recorded the controversial “(You’re) Having My Baby,” which, in spite of female ire from many quarters, sat at No. 1 for three weeks. To placate the upset feminists, Anka later sang “our baby” when performing the song live. Coates and Anka followed with three more hits and he added a solo top 10 entry, “Times Of Our Life,” to close out 1975. But, by this time, his Rock & Roll past was well behind him.

Still, in 1990, it was Anka inducting Darin into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, though Darin, from the outset of his career, had made no secret of his ambition to develop into the next Frank Sinatra. Anka didn’t start out with that in mind. He was just a real young kid with tremendous talent. He paid his dues as a teenage Rock & Roll idol and deserves recognition for the contributions he made.

Bobby Vee

I don’t ever remember seeing Vee in a tuxedo, at least not in concert. Of course, I never was invited to any of his family functions, either.

Yes, his records were not the heaviest, but he did cut many great sides, beginning with his 1959 chart debut, “Suzie Baby” after starting his career in the worst way possible, filling in for Holly after the plane crash that claimed Holly’s life. In the liner notes to his 1963 album, “I Remember Buddy Holly,” Vee wrote, “The local radio station broadcast a plea for local talent to entertain at the scheduled dance. About a week before this, I had just organized a vocal and instrumental group of five guys. Our style was modeled after Buddy’s approach and we had been rehearsing with Buddy’s hits in mind. When we heard the radio plea for talent, we went in and volunteered. We hadn’t even named the group up to that time, so we gave ourselves a name on the spot, calling ourselves ‘The Shadows’.”

Eventually, Vee recorded an LP with The Crickets.

“I have never forgotten Buddy Holly and his influence on my singing style and my career,” Vee noted.

Vee turned out to be much more than a Holly clone. He became a major star, posting six top 10 records in a long and fruitful career.

The first breakthrough came with his 1960 remake of the Clovers’ 1956 hit, “Devil Or Angel,” which Vee carried to No. 6. He followed with another No. 6, the bubblegum classic “Rubber Ball.” The follow-up, “Stayin’ In,” which describes Vee sitting in detention for punching his friend in the nose, didn’t do much to dispel Vee’s sugary reputation, but the flip, “More Than I Can Say,” later remade by Leo Sayer, was a gem, reaching No. 4 in the United Kingdom, and the follow, the solid rocker “How Many Tears,” also hit the UK top 10.

Vee’s records sparkled with pristine production that helped carry “Take Good Care Of My Baby” to No. 1 in 1961 and “The Night Has A Thousand Eyes” to No. 3 in 1963. Meanwhile, “Run To Him,” a wall of sound ballad, reached No. 2 backed by a solid rocker, “Walkin’ With My Angel,” and two more ballads, “Please Don’t Ask About Barbara” and “Sharing You” each peaked at No. 15.

As noted previously, Vee was just as popular in England, notching 10 hit singles, including six that reached the Top 10. Five Vee EPs made the UK top 20 between 1961 and 1963, “Just For Fun” by Vee & the Crickets going all the way to No. 1. His albums also sold well there, “Bobby Vee Meets The Crickets” reaching No. 2 in 1962, while seven others climbed into the top 20. For proof of his staying power, “The Very Best Of Bobby Vee” peaked at No. 18 just three years ago, 47 years after his UK debut. But the British Invasion appeared to end Vee’s hit-making run after “Charms” in 1963, though he surprised everyone with a monster smash in 1967, “Come Back When You Grow Up” climbing to No. 3 in the US The follow, “Beautiful People,” also cracked the US top 40, just edging the original version by its composer Kenny O’Dell.

For the most part, Vee’s chart presence ended as the ’70s entered, but he has remained active on the concert circuit. His backing band, which once included a young Bob Dylan, now features two sons, Jeff and Tom.

Vee’s portfolio should get a second look by those involved in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Though some of his recordings were sugary, his quality never was less than excellent and earlier this year, he was most deservedly inducted into The Rockabilly Hall of Fame. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame should follow suit.



Read more: Rock Hall of Fame should induct Paul Anka and Bobby Vee | Goldmine Magazine http://www.goldminemag.com/blogs/two-teen-idols-for-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame#ixzz1SKxRopdb

Atemporal Pop Music In The Current Non-Era: How Ipod Jack-FM’d The Top 40

New Pop Music Sounds Like Its Predecessors – NYTimes.com.

July 15, 2011

The New York Times

The Songs of Now Sound a Lot Like Then

ONCE pop music was something by which you could tell the decade, or even the year. But listening to the radio nowadays is disorienting, if you’re searching for a sound that screams, “It’s 2011!”

Take the biggest hit of the year, Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” The song is basically 1960s rhythm-and-blues tightened up with modern production. Everything about “Rolling” — its melody and lyrics, Adele’s delivery and timbre, the role played by the backing vocalists — gestures back to a lost golden age of soul singers like Etta James and Dusty Springfield. Then there’s Cee-Lo Green’s “Forget You,” a hit from last year that’s still on the radio, and which moves a decade nearer the present through being steeped in the ’70s soul of acts like the Staple Singers.

Elsewhere on Top 40 radio you’ll hear a lot of brash, pounding songs that sound like ’90s club music. Recent smashes by performers like Black-Eyed Peas, LMFAO, Kesha, Pitbull, Taio Cruz, Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears recall the “hip house” sound of hitmakers like Technotronic and C&C Music Factory, or mid-’90s trance anthems by Paul Van Dyk and B T. It may require a mental exercise to bring out the true weirdness of this development: Imagine how peculiar it would have been if in the early ’90s the charts were suddenly flooded with music that sounded exactly like ’70s disco.

Figures like Lady Gaga and groups including the Black Eyed Peas reach even further back and throw ’80s flavors into the ’90s Eurohouse mix: the resemblance between Madonna’s “Express Yourself” and Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” was widely noted on its release this year. “Just Can’t Get Enough” by the Black Eyed Peas references Styx’s “Mr. Roboto,” while their song “The Time” borrows its chorus from Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’s “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life.”

Much of this déjà entendu dancepop is exciting in its crass, energy-drink-blast kind of way. So why does the aural overfamiliarity matter? Well, up until the 2000s pop decades always had epoch-defining sounds. Two or three (sometimes more) genres would emerge to achieve dominance or, at the very least, prominence in the mainstream. Musical styles usually build on the past to some degree, but these genres always took their sources in striking and fresh directions, and they often wrapped the music up in subcultural garb, with a distinct fashion element, new rituals and dance moves, and so forth.

The ’70s generated heavy metal, punk, disco, reggae and more. The ’80s spawned hip-hop, synthpop and Goth. The ’90s had grunge and the techno/rave/electronic explosion. But the decade and a bit that followed the turn of the millennium has produced — well, what exactly? Hip-hop and R&B have built incrementally, at times imperceptibly, on where they were at during the ’90s. Emo is a tuneful and melodramatic merger of pop-punk and Goth. True, if you venture into the musical left field, you will find various underground genres that can claim at least relative freshness: grime and dubstep in Britain, the post-indie sounds of Animal Collective and similar bands in America. But their effects on mainstream pop music has been minimal.

Those who don’t have much personal investment in the idea that popular music should always be pushing forward probably won’t be especially troubled by the current pop scene’s muddled mix of stasis and regression. But those whose expectations have been shaped by growing up during more fast-moving and ever-changing pop decades — which is basically all of them to date except for the 2000s — are likely to be perplexed and disheartened by these developments. In particular the innovation-obsessed ’60s and the cyber-optimistic ’90s instilled an ideal of pop music as herald of the future, a vanguard sector of the culture that was a little bit ahead of the rest of society.

The fading of newness and nowness from pop music is mystifying. But in the last couple of years a concept has emerged that at least identifies the syndrome, even if it doesn’t completely explain it. Coined by the co-founders of cyberpunk fiction William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, “atemporality” is a term for the disconcerting absence of contemporaneity from so much current pop culture. This curious quality can be detected not just in pop music but in everything from fashion to graphic design to vintage chic.

A prime example of atemporality is the fad for photography apps like Hipstamatic and Instagram, which digitally simulate the period atmosphere of pictures taken in the ’70s or ’80s, using the cameras and film stock of the time. Instant-nostalgia snapshots are part of a culture-wide fascination with outmoded technology and “dead media” (Mr. Sterling’s term) that encompasses everything from the cults for manual typewriters and cassettes to the steampunk movement’s fetish for Victoriana to the recent movie “Super 8.”

Mr. Sterling sees the time-out-of-joint nature of today’s pop as a side effect of digiculture. One of the curiosities of the futuristic-seeming information technology that we now enjoy is that it has dramatically increased the presence of the past in our lives. From YouTube to iTunes, from file-sharing blogs to Netflix, the sheer volume and range of back catalogue music, film, TV and so forth that is available for consumption is astounding.

We can access all this stuff with incredible speed and convenience, share it and store it with minimal effort. But a potential downside of this sudden “affluence” is a flood of influences that can overwhelm the imagination of young musicians, who are absorbing five decades of pop history in a frenetic jumble. Their attention is also being competed for by music from outside the Anglophone rock and pop traditions, everything from West African guitarpop to Soviet New Wave music to Ethiopian electronic funk from the 1980s.

The musical omnivorousness that the Internet has encouraged and enabled is one reason atemporality is even more pronounced when you listen to alternative radio stations, which specialize in music by bands that consciously aim to have broad taste and to develop unusual portfolios of influences. Listen to KCRW (89.9 FM), the NPR-affiliated station in Los Angeles whose programming often wanders between genres and decades, leaving listeners to wonder if a particular track was recorded in 2011 or in 1981, or in 1971.

A few weeks ago the station played a gorgeously dreamy tune whose rippling, dewy-with-reverb keyboard part and yearningly melodic bass line seemed uncannily redolent of late ’70s Fleetwood Mac. Was this actually a lost Mac song circa 1977’s “Rumours”? Or was it an offering from one of the growing number of contemporary indie bands influenced by ’70s soft rock? The song turned out to be “Roscoe” by Midlake, a group of 21st-century soft-rockers from Denton, Tex. But it was a remixed version made by the British outfit Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve with clear intent to bring out further the Fleetwood Mac-iness of the song. And then, to show they were in on it, the programmers at KCRW followed “Roscoe” by playing “Rhiannon.”

That 1976 Fleetwood Mac hit is the kind of staple tune you’d normally hear on a classic rock station rather than KCRW, whose sensibility is like a slightly more adult version of the online hip music magazine Pitchfork. And this shows how atemporality has not just jumbled up the decades, it’s eroded the barriers between genres. The iPod shuffle is the era’s defining music technology. One result on the radio dial is the rise of formats like Jack FM that seemingly mimic a middle-aged man’s iPod in shuffle mode: a restless drifting that nevertheless stays within defined taste limits.

The iPod shuffle and similar digital platforms for music listening have a contradictory result: on the one hand it serves to erode the historical divisions between kinds of music by its decontextualizing effect, on the other hand it enables fans to avoid entirely music they don’t like. So the programming on Jack FM (whose slogan is “Playing what we want”) slips back and forth between ’70s and ’80s, Old Wave and New Wave, with occasional excursions into the late ’60s (Hendrix, Creedence) or the ’90s (Sublime, Smashing Pumpkins). It’s a world where hip-hop and techno-rave never happened, but also where ZZ Top and the Clash are no longer on opposing sides.

Does the atemporality of so much modern pop music mean that when in the future we listen back to early-21st-century pop, we won’t be able to identify a sound that characterizes the period? Fans often identify periods of pop by their production hallmark. So they’ll talk (usually to complain) about ’80s drum sounds. If there’s a modern equivalent, it’s the superhumanly perfect vocals featured in so much current pop and rock thanks to Auto-Tune, the pitch-correction processor made by Antares Audio Technologies.

The slickness of Auto-Tuned singing seems to have a similar aesthetic quality to the design of smartphones and MP3-players and other hand-held gadgets, or to the C.G.I. effects in modern Hollywood blockbusters and the glossy hyper-real imagery in video games. Auto-Tune vocals even seem a bit sci-fi. Which is why in one Black Eyed Peas song Will.i.am sings, in heavily processed tones, about how he’s got “that future flow/that digital spit” (not a reference to saliva, but to rapping). Take away the Auto-Tune sheen, though, and there’s little about Black Eyed Peas records to indicate they weren’t made in the ’90s. The same applies to other recent dance pop smashes by the likes of Taio Cruz, Kesha and Lady Gaga.

Pop music in the 2000s may not have made any huge strides on a formal level (the way songs are written, grooves constructed and so forth), but on this cosmetic level of the digital gloss that’s been applied to the vocals you could say that it does sound of its time. (Which is also why the rasp of Adele and Cee-Lo Green is a deliberate throwback to the era of vocal grit and grain, a bid for “timelessness.”)

For better or worse Auto-Tune is the date stamp of today’s pop: it will date badly, and then it will go through all the stages of starting to see charmingly quaint, cute, cool. Who knows, at some point in the near future it might well become a revivable sound, embraced first by early adopter hipsters who will hunt down “vintage” Auto-Tune plug-ins in the same way that they currently collect antique synthesizers and old-fashioned valve amplifiers.

Re-rumoring "Paul Is Dead" Rumors

Dead, Not Dead?  A blog post from Robert Fontenot.

link: Paul is Dead — Frequently Asked Questions about the Paul McCartney death hoax.

More Fun Halloween Hits: Classic Teen Death Ditties

In the early 60’s there was a fad in Top-40 music for story songs in which teenage characters die.  A car crash with a weird moral ending was almost a guaranteed hit.  Blogger Robert Fontenot lists some of these songs at the link:

link:  Teen Tragedy – The Fifties and Sixties.

Here are a couple of videos with performances from this list.

Halloween Hit Songs

A link to blogger Robert Fontenot’s list of the Top 10 Halloween hits.

link:  The Top 10 Halloween Oldies.

Also, Youtube vids for 3 of the songs:

Same 4 Chords, 36 Songs -Many Pop Songs Use the Same Chord Progression

This was done by an Australian comedy group called Axis of Awesome.

link:   YouTube – 4 Chords , 36 Songs (Unbelievable!!!!) 36 songs can be sung on 4 chords! listen!!

It’s I V vi IV.  One chord, five chord, and four chord all major, minor six chord in the middle  leads into the four chord, four chord leads back to the one.   Get it?  All the songs follow the same progression although not always in the same key.

Stax/Volt Music – What is Stax/Volt? – Oldies Music Songs and Artists

Stax/Volt Music – What is Stax/Volt? – Oldies Music Songs and Artists.