Wednesday, August 25, 2010

#46 All hail the king of Rock and Roll. Elvis is in the building!

In the history of all music, few have been able to impact the world to the extant of Elvis Aaron Presley. In this new millennium many are quick to say that Elvis sucked, or that they can't see the draw from any of his music but even the most die hard Elvis haters will usually have a soft spot for at least a few of his songs. Over his 23 year career, Elvis recorded all over the musical map and not always to the thrill of his fans. I am going to stick mostly to the Elvis that I love, the early Elvis.

Say what you will about Elvis but you should know that the majority of modern music is descended from him. Elvis was one of the rock gods sitting high on mount Olympus before the Beatles had landed on our planet. Elvis was, along with Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis, changing the face of music forever. Sure, many people would say he was one of the greatest thieves of black music of all time but he regardless of whether he was the originator of the music or not, he was the one who went on to inspire millions and to push the genre forward into the light. After all, Bob Marley didn't single handedly create Reggae music but he is the one 90% of us think of immediately if someone mentions it.

I love the first three years of Elvis' music. It held such gems as 'Heartbreak Hotel', 'Hound Dog', 'Don't be Cruel' and 'Jailhouse Rock'. Ok first of all, you should know that Elvis didn't actually write any of these songs, but you have to look at the context. For many young people in the mid fifties, if they had bought records with Otis Blackwell on the cover (the actual writer of many of Elvis' early material) they would have been beaten by their 'black fearing' white parents. Elvis was more then just a thief of someone else's music though. He performed with a fire and swagger that no one had seen before and he gradually became the symbol of youth rebellion and rock and roll world wide. Sadly his elevation to being a symbol would lead to his isolation and eventual downfall but this was not until much later.

There is just something about Elvis. His persona and style ooze from every note of his voice, and every picture. He was the King of Rock and Roll and none have ever really captured the essence of the genre in quite the same way. Here is a quick bio for anyone that is curious, courtesy of wikipedia.

Elvis Aaron Presleya (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King".
Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, Presley moved to Memphis, Tennessee, with his family at the age of 13. He began his career there in 1954 when Sun Records owner Sam Phillips, eager to bring the sound of African American music to a wider audience, saw in Presley the means to realize his ambition. Accompanied by guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, Presley was one of the originators of rockabilly, an uptempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country and rhythm and blues. RCA Victor acquired his contract in a deal arranged by Colonel Tom Parker, who would manage the singer for over two decades.
Presley's first RCA single, "Heartbreak Hotel", released in January 1956, was a number one hit. He became the leading figure of the newly popular sound of rock and roll with a series of network television appearances and chart-topping records. His energized interpretations of songs, many from African American sources, and his uninhibited performance style made him enormously popular—and controversial. In November 1956, he made his film debut in Love Me Tender.

Here are some of my faves from the Early Elvis period.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

#45 Sublime

In my life, I have heard of only a rare few groups that produce a truly original sound for me. The Beatles are definitely at the top of that chart, as are the Clash and the Grateful Dead. In the mid-nineties, I was in my mid teens and in the middle of high school. This state of mind was very discouraging for me and I began to drift away from reality a little bit and seriously increased my intake of marijuana and rock music. After picking up some random CD's at a garage sale, I came across a few bootleg copies of early Sublime music. From those raw tracks I had found, I instantly gained a huge appreciation for their work. I had not heard anything like them since the Clash. How a couple of young white dudes can so superbly jam out the reggae and hip hop vibes while creating that epic mixture of ska and punk that no one has done to a truly wonderful level since the break up of the Clash. To my horror, I lost those early bootleg Cd's, but I remember within weeks of finding them I was out in the store and purchasing the '40 ounces to Freedom' album. Today, more then fifteen years later, I still haven't heard a new band make me feel as excited to throw their album on as Sublime made me (with the possible exception of Monsters of Folk). Sadly, within a year of being introduced to them, Brad Nowell died of a Heroin overdose four days before my birthday (suffice it to say I was really bummed that B-Day).

Sublime was actually formed in the late 80's. Bassist Eric Wilson and Drummer Bud Gaugh were childhood friends, having grown up in the same Long Beach neighborhood. Eric's father Billy Wilson taught Gaugh how to read music and play the drums. Gaugh and Wilson together with future Sublime manager Michael Happoldt formed a three-piece punk band called The Juice Bros during their high school years. About this time, Bradley Nowell, who had recently dropped out of University of California, Santa Cruz, joined the band on Lead Guitar and Lead Vocals.
Sublime played its first gig on the Fourth of July, 1988 in a small club, reportedly starting the "Peninsula Riot" in Harbor Peninsula which led to seven arrests. For the next several years, the group focused primarily on playing at parties and clubs throughout Southern California. They recorded a few songs and put forth a number of short demos beside the well known "Jah Won't Pay the Bills", containing several songs which would later appear on their major releases.

There really is no other band like Sublime and they are always worth checking out even if you have heard them tons of times before.