Classic Rock

All posts tagged Classic Rock

Bowie

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Just days ago, music lovers and critics alike rejoiced with the release of David Bowie’s highly anticipated new album, Blackstar. But few knew this would be his last great masterpiece.

On Friday, Jan. 8, Bowie turned 69 and simultaneously released an exceedingly ambitious and artistic record, adding to an already colorful catalog. With Blackstar, Bowie channels the surrealistic minimalism if his late 70s works such as Heroes and Low, while giving it a modern darkness. The advanced singles “Blackstar” and “Lazarus” saw Bowie taking on a strange new persona, equally intriguing and mysterious.

Days later on Jan. 10, the news of his death following a lengthy battle with cancer, sent shockwaves across the world. Millions of fans young and old have voiced their love for the recently fallen star. Through his art and dozens of personas, Bowie was larger than life, showcased by his mysterious last days and romantic death.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-JqH1M4Ya8

Bowie’s career has undergone its umpteenth renaissance in recent years, beginning with his surprise comeback for 2013’s The Next Day. It was a quieter album, indicating a older yet hungry artist still managing to channel what made him great. Although the album had no smash radio hits, it struck a nerve with a new generation of indie rockers, while long-time die-hards were equally pleased.

With The Next Day, Bowie has proved his unique ability to remain contemporary despite hailing from the golden era of Classic Rock Radio. Since his swearing off touring over a decade ago, the Thin White Duke has rarely made any live appearances. However, his hefty discography and wide spanning influence (Iggy Pop, The Psychedelic Furs, Nine Inch Nails, Placebo and Arcade Fire to name just a very few) have kept him both relevant and respected in nearly all circles. And it comes as no surprise with a career as staggering and intricate such as that of David Bowie’s.

1967-69

The musical journey of David Bowie is one of humble beginnings. His early singles and self-titled album were a collection of mere typical 60’s folk rock and baroque pop, much in the vein of Bob Dylan and early Beatles. Cutesy love tunes made up most of his early repertoire, although writhe with his signature charm. But by 1969, change was in the air. Mankind turned toward the sky as the first human took his first steps on the surface of the Moon. Inspiration struck, and a “Space Oddity” was born. Bowie’s first smash hit single saw the beginnings of many personas, alter egos and overall realities he would come to perfect.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYYRH4apXDo

1970-72

By early 1970, the Psychedelic and Art Rock that was dominating the musical landscape was shifting and splintering. Glam Rock had risen as a more pop-friendly yet equally-sophisticated counterpart. With the rise of artists such as T. Rex and Roxy Music, androgyny was all the rage. In the center of this was David Bowie, who had now traded in with folk-y acoustic guitars for thunderous hard rocking electrics, ready to dominate a new era of Rock and Roll. His albums The Man Who Sold the World and Hunky Dory perfectly encompassed his strange new direction. The success of early 70’s radio hits “Life on Mars?” and “The Man Who Sold the World” set the stage for what would change the history of Rock and Roll and popular culture from thereon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7Bd3iJSFyE

1972-74

With the release of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Bowie not only perfected Glam Rock, but the art of the concept album and alter ego as well. The success and continuing influence of that record stands head-to-head with that of any by the Beatles, Rolling Stones or Pink Floyd. The Ziggy Stardust persona was larger than life and otherworldly, yet terrifyingly human and vulnerable; one trait Bowie seemed to carry with him throughout his life. He followed Ziggy up with the equally dynamic Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs, taking his high-concept art to uncharted territory in popular music, all before ditching it completely reinventing himself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaqMwE5NKaM

1975-76

The sounds of Philadelphia Soul Music influenced Bowie so heavily, that by 1975 he had traded in his signature make up for a soulful crooner. Young Americans saw the massive success of “Fame,” a songwriting collaboration with John Lennon, and his first major U.S. hit. He even landed a gig on the up-and-coming national television sensation Soul Train to perform the aforementioned track.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD3etldXtTU

1977-79

The late 70s saw a darker time, both musically and personally for David Bowie. Punk Rock had risen and killed off nearly all of his early 70s contemporaries. Although his music would come to inspire many early punk and New Wave outfits (New York Dolls, Ramones, The Damned, Blondie), it didn’t look as though Bowie had the momentum to keep up with the angst-filled movement. As he retreated to Berlin to kick some substance abuse issues, he teamed up with Roxy Music mastermind Brian Eno for a trilogy of what would become his most complex and dark work. Beginning in ’77 with Low, his new Art Rock sound wasn’t ready to tear up Top 40 radio, but certainly indicated a huge artistic evolution. Artists such as The Talking Heads and Sonic Youth would go on to hail it as extremely influential. Later that year, Heroes, spawning the hit single of the same title, would boast a massive hit featuring the virtuosic guitar talents of none other than Robert Fripp of King Crimson. 1979’s Lodger would conclude this era of experimentation and artistic expansion.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tgcc5V9Hu3g

1980-82

By 1980, Bowie returned to Top 40 with Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps). Propelled by the smash hits “Fashion” and “Ashes To Ashes,” Bowie adopted the sounds of New Wave and Post-Punk; genres that in many ways were pioneered by his previous works. He seemed to fit right at home, connecting with new and older generations of Rock fans.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMThz7eQ6K0

1983-93

Bowie tried his hand at pop music for 1983’s Let’s Dance to an astounding outcome. The now former Glam rocker had recruited Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers and a young Stevie Ray Vaughn for this magnum opus, yielding favorable results and scoring some of the biggest hits of his entire career with singles like “Let’s Dance” and “Modern Love.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4d7Wp9kKjA

Bowie would continue this sound throughout most of the 80s to mixed results from fans and critics. However, his role as Jareth, the Goblin King, in the children-targeted film The Labyrinth, had yet again propelled him to an iconic status, after becoming a cult favorite among 80’s children and beyond.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViftZTfRSt8

1995-98

By the mid 90s, Alternative Rock was the dominant musical force both in Top 40 and underground circles. And at the forefront of mid-90s alt-rock where Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor. Before Cobain’s passing, his iconic cover of “The Man Who Sold the World” as one of his last live performances sparked a renewed interest in Bowie. Reznor, also at the top of his success, wasn’t shy about Bowie’s influence either. By 1995, Bowie had released the industrial-tinged Outside, and hit the road with Nine Inch Nails. Bowie and Reznor went on to collaborate on the soundtrack for the 1996 film, Lost Highway, and on Bowie’s 1997 album, Earthling. Through their collaborations, Bowie yet again found relevance among a new generation of audiences.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPVrFIP0CMs

1999-2004

Always staying three steps ahead, Bowie made history in 1999 with his album Hours…, marking the first album to ever be released exclusively through the internet. His following albums, 2002’s Heathen and 2003’s Reality were both moderate successes, bridging the gap between contemporary fans of Radiohead and Death Cab for Cutie and his classic rock audience. Following a massively successful world tour in 2004, Bowie announced his retirement from touring and focused on small projects. It seemed as though Bowie had all but retired completely with little new music released in later years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8NBpfkpyZw

2013-16

Much to the delight of fans young and old, Bowie announced his return with the critically-acclaimed album, The Next Day, in early 2013. Its highly anticipated follow-up, Blackstar, served as a bittersweet swan song for a man of so many notable accomplishments. Groundbreaking both sonically and visually, Blackstar will undoubtedly live on as a final gasp of inspiration, of what any artist, young or old, hot or not, can accomplish.

https://youtu.be/kszLwBaC4Sw

The Rolling Stones. Photo courtesy of billboard.com.

The Rolling Stones. Photo courtesy of billboard.com.

By Brandon Judeh (Music Reporter)

The lights went down and the massive video screens showed 50 years worth of music and photos.

Fireworks went off and nearly 60,000 fans went insane.

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones.

It was ironic as 71-year-old lead singer Mick Jagger strutted onto the stage and sang “And I howled at my ma in the driving rain,” during the opener “Jumping Jack Flash” just as the day long rain had subsided.

The crowd was in full-blown hysteria by the time the sets second song “It’s Only Rock “n” Roll (But I Like It)” kicked in, as Keith Richards’ sleazy guitar sound filled Heinz Field.

Though feedback, due to the excess of amplifiers, drowned out the greatness of songs like “All Down the Line” and “Tumbling Dice,” the rest of the show sounded flawless for a band that’s half a century old.

2012’s “Doom and Gloom” faired well stacked up against “Bitch” and “Moonlight Mile” and proved the boys from London can still write a hit song.

“Paint it Black” won the fan vote, over songs such as “Shattered” (much to the crowds delight).

Perhaps the biggest fan reaction came when the Gramps with Amps kicked into “Honky Tonk Woman” as nearly the entire stadium was on its feet belting out “It’s the honky tonk woman, gimmie, gimmie, gimme the honky tonk blues.”

Speaking of blues, guitarist Ronnie Wood and company played an exceptionally bluesy version of “Midnight Rambler,” which was easily the highlight of the night.

It also displayed the often-underrated chemistry between Richards, Wood and drummer Charlie Watts (as well as the backing musicians).

They all managed to cohesively trail off into their own jams just enough to make the performance a unique one. Then brought it back around to complete the classic track.

Before Richards took over lead singing duties on “Before They Make Me Run” and “Happy,” Jagger introduced the entire band.

Wood, ever the attention whore, stretched out his ovation by walking around the catwalk and egging the crowd on for more cheers.

Though Richards introduction was received with a roar of applause and chants of “Keith” the sometimes under appreciated Watts received the biggest reception.

Maybe the shyest Stone, Watts was treated to a nearly three minute ovation, before quietly returning behind the kit.

Kicking off their performance of “Gimme Shelter” the band played to a dimly lit stage as the lyrics to the 1969 hit still resonate to this day.

It’s worth noting that long time backing vocalist, Lisa Fischer, did an admirable job singing the legendary Merry Clayton’s vocals.

As the muggy night wore on, Jagger came out in a bright red, feathery outfit as flames erupted and the opening drums to “Sympathy for the Devil” filled the air.

When the Stones returned to the stage for their encore they were joined by the Penn State Concert Choir for a stunning rendition of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

But sometimes you get what you need, as fans were treated to the ageless “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” as the closer.

One thing is certain, all of the Rolling Stones fans, both old and new, left Heinz Field satisfied.

 

Lou Reed

Lou Reed

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Visionary, trailblazer, cool, godfather, original, genius, brooding, artistic, inspirational. Those are just some of the terms that come to mind when referencing the godfather of art rock, Lou Reed.

Reed’s 46-year career spanned several eras, trends and movements. Somehow, the iconic rocker always managed to be cited as a leader or influence. And up until his passing last month, Reed was still going strong, still challenging his audience and still making an intellectual and trend-setting statement.

Reed’s career begin in the mid-60’s as frontman of The Velvet Underground. While most bands of the time were drenched in psychedelia and trying to play louder than their predecessors, Reed and his bandmates were taking an intellect in rock and roll to a whole new level, birthing the sub-genre of art rock.

The Velvet Underground were, at the time, rock’s best-kept secret. With themes of sex, drugs and violence, it certainly wasn’t very in step with much of the “hippie” movement. They were arguably the first cult band, with a devoted underground audience despite a serious lack of national radio play or television exposure. In a pre-Internet world, they were among the first acts to connect others like-minded, one a smaller yet wide-ranged scale, selling only 30,000 copies of their debut album. As Brian Eno was once famously said, “…everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”

Their association with Andy Warhol and their artsy approach gained the band even more popularity throughout three studio albums in the late 60’s and lasted long after the group disbanded in 1970.

Reed’s career was far from over after The Velvet Underground. He took the world by surprise in 1972, releasing two of rock’s greatest masterpieces, his self-titled solo debut and the David Bowie and Mick Ronson co-produced Transformer. Transformer was arguably the first glimpse of Gothic rock, featuring Reed on the cover donning black clothing and eyeliner. The album’s smash hit, “Take a Walk on the Wild Side,” was a dark and ironic tune, paying homage to all the misfits and freaks that surrounded The Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol in the late 60’s.

The following year, Reed took steps into progressive rock, releasing the concept album, Berlin. Darker than Transformer, Berlin told the story of two junkies in love in the city of Berlin. Songs of severe drug addiction, prostitution and suicide further expanded Reed’s fascination with the darker side of the human experience.

By 1975, Reed released another critical work, Metal Music Machine. Although the album was considered a commercial failure and sold poorly compared to Transformer and Berlin, it’s influence spread wider than originally imaged. The album consisted heavily of electronic noise and feedback; a stark contrast to his well-produced earlier solo works. However, the album’s noisiness went on to heavily inspire early NYC punk/alternative acts like the Talking Heads, as well as entire sub-genres such as noise rock and proto-industrial.

Reed’s experimentation, both sonically and lyrically, continued over the next 30 years. With the occasional commercial successes and the equally occasional commercial flops, Reed always managed to remain relevant through out the ages. Punks admired his ambition and lack of interest to play nice with the music industry. Acts as diverse as Iggy Pop, The Flaming Lips, The Smiths, Sonic Youth and Jane’s Addiction all cite Reed, as well as The Velvet Underground, as critical influences on their music.

His final musical stand came as a very unlikely collaboration when he teamed up with metal icons Metallica in 2009. He first performed with them at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s 25th Anniversary Concert, and later announced he would be recording an entire album with them. The result was 2011’s Lulu. The album, based on a late-1800’s German play, went straight to number one on the Billboard charts. However, the album was quickly deemed a critical and commercial flop. Both parties stood behind the project, as Reed again managed to challenge his audience, whether they liked it or not.

Reed’s unrelenting search for thought-provoking and challenging artistic statements were ultimately the reason for his long-lasting relevance and his wide-spread influence. Reed never tamed himself and never necessarily gave his fans the music they were expecting to hear next. It’s because of his ambition and fearlessness that he remains a true icon, visionary, and the King of Cool. Even after his death, as long as rock and roll is still kicking, his life and influence will continue to be celebrated.