Thursday, August 21, 2008
First, a couple of things I never knew about Rod Stewart:
1. I never knew he was Scottish. I thought he was a full-blooded Englishman. But while he was born in North London, he was reared by a Scottish father and an English mother, making him something of a half-breed, his concerts seem to cater to his Scottish half, indicative of the bagpipers who came out before he took the stage and the Celtic Football Club head on his drummer's kick.
2. I had no idea that Rod Stewart had such a huge lesbian following. Walking in alongside a veritable army of mullet-headed, fanny-pack rockin', Dress Barn-jeans-hiked-up-to-their-tits-wearing ladies who served as quite a contrast to the oversexed middle-aged MILFs who made up about 85% of the crowd that night.
In any regard, I knew going into this concert that I'd have an ice cube's chance in hell that he would do any Faces or Jeff Beck Group material, so there were no surprises there. But at least he didn't dish out that Great American Songbook stuff, choosing to do a lean 1:45 of his best-known hits. So we got "Tonight's The Night". We got "Hot Legs". We got "Forever Young". We got "This Old Heart of Mine". We got his version of Tom Waits' "Downtown Train". We got "You Wear It Well" and "Maggie May". We got "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy", which, depending on if you are a fan of Rod's disco era, was actually pretty fuckin' kick-ass live. We got "The First Cut Is The Deepest". He even threw in a couple of noteworthy covers, including The Drifters' "On Broadway" (which didn't even come close to Neil Young's version off Freedom), CCR's "Have You Ever Seen The Rain" and a thoughtful rendition of Cat Stevens' "Father and Son", flanked by a slideshow of old photos of Stewart and his dad along with Stewart's three sons.
It was also interesting to see the amount of women Rod has in his band. He had a chick on the lap steel guitar, a girl on violin and mandolin who Michele thought was one of the Corrs and three lovely back-up singers.
I'm glad to say that I had the chance to see Rod Stewart live, although I swore to myself I'd only go see him if he reunited with Jeff Beck and did strictly stuff off Beck-Ola and Truth, which will never happen, apparently.
And in an effort to detox myself from the whole scene beyond the music, which saw what had to have been the strangest array of people I ever saw at a concert in my entire life (if you ever wanted to know where lunch ladies and teacher aides go to let loose, they wait for Rod to hit the road!), I am providing you with a classic Faces performance I copped off You Tube of them doing "Stay With Me". Enjoy. -Ed.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Legendary record man Jerry Wexler, who helped shape the sound of R&B, guided the careers of titans such as Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and Led Zeppelin, and helped launch Atlantic Records into a powerhouse, has died at his home in Florida, according to Rolling Stone. He was 91.
Wexler began his career in the late 1940s as a journalist, writing for Billboard magazine. He invented the phrase "Rhythm and Blues" for the publication for use on what was then known as their "Race Music" chart. In 1953, Wexler joined Ahmet Ertegun as co-head of Atlantic Records, a post he would hold until 1975. The two were instrumental in bringing the R&B music they loved to a wider audience, further incorporating it into the burgeoning sounds of rock'n'roll.
As both a record mogul and producer, Wexler was a tireless promoter of his wares, and in constant pursuit of exciting new sounds in modern music. Of his many successes with Atlantic, a mid-1960s distribution deal with legendary soul imprint Stax was one of his greatest. The arrangement brought Otis Redding, Booker T. and the MGs, and countless others into the fold, introducing the world to the gloriously loose Muscle Shoals sound that characterized the Stax catalog.
In 1966, Wexler signed a young singer by the name of Aretha Franklin, encouraging her to sing in a more natural, less measured style. Her subsequent work with Atlantic-- in particular, the recordings she completed in Muscle Shoals-- remain some of the finest albums of any era.
The late 60s brought a string of British rockers seeking to bump elbows with the soul musicians they'd been ripping off, and Led Zeppelin, Cream, and the like linked up with Atlantic, thanks to Wexler. In 1968, Wexler brought British chanteuse Dusty Springfield to Tennessee to record the legendary Dusty in Memphis, which Wexler himself produced. Also in 1968, Wexler and Ertegun agreed to sell Atlantic to Warner Seven Arts (later Warner Brothers), a deal that lost Atlantic a sizeable amount of money. He told Rolling Stone, "What a mistake. Worst thing we ever did."
Ertegun left Atlantic in 1975, eventually picking up some A&R work for Warner Brothers that netted the label new-wave pioneers like the B-52s and Gang of Four. He struck out on his own later in the decade, producing records for Bob Dylan, the Staple Singers, Linda Ronstadt, George Michael, and many others. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, becoming one of the very first non-performers to achieve the honor. It's not difficult to see why.
Wexler retired to Florida in the late 90s, where he largely cut himself off from the business elements of the music industry. He is survived by two children, and his wife, writer Jean Arnold.