Musings On Music History: Eddie, Lemmy, & A Cheeseburger In Paradise

12.23: Yes, he’s still alive, to this very day. Eddie Vedder joined us on this day, the eve of Christmas Eve, in 1964, not quite ready to lead the charge from Seattle that would impale the music world with the grunge. Grunge. Grunge. Say it again. Grunge. If you weren’t there or weren’t paying attention at the time or were too old or too young to care, grunge came like a tornado, destroying the ’80s L.A. hair metal scene (Poison, L.A. Guns, Ratt, etc.) seemingly in a single pass, showing the L.A. poseurs for the rock wannabes they really were, their music for the insipidness it belched out on a regular basis. Vedder’s band, Pearl Jam, tore out of Seattle, along with Nirvana, Soundgarden, Temple Of The Dog, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, and Alice In Chains, in 1991, taking the music world to task, ruling rock radio for a few short years, showing the world what’s up. Actually, all the Seattle bands really wanted to do was make music, to channel their creative energies into something meaningful to themselves and a few other people. That the entire country (kinda) got what they were doing attests not only to their prescience, but to the universality, at the time, of what they were doing. Namely, melding metal with punk with alternative rock, writing lyrics based on their lives, their hard lives, their disenfranchised Generation-X attitude, and, generally, just being genuine. This isn’t to say that all Seattle music espoused this thinking or that every “grunge” band adhered to anything even remotely like this categorization, but the label stuck to many bands that didn’t make it past the times and is still heavily associated with Seattle. The term “grunge” disappeared almost as fast as it emerged. Pearl Jam, though, is still alive, to this very day, lead by a fearless and insanely, extremely talented musician who goes by the name Vedder. Eddie Vedder. Happy Birthday, Eddie. [more]

12.24: Lemmy! Lemmy! Lemmy! That’s what should’ve accompanied Ian Fraser Kilmister’s birth on this day, the eve of Christmas 1945, in Burslem, England. Instead, it was probably just his own baby screams, his mother’s giving birth screams, and his father’s indifference (he left when Lemmy was three months old) that accompanied the birth of Lemmy that fine day. One of the ugliest mugs in metal, Kilmister founded one of the hardest rockin’ bands this side of Mars, the one, the only Motörhead! Motör-friggin-head! Yeah, they’ve been around for over 30 years, and they still rock your head until it can’t be rocked no more. They’ve put out over twenty albums, circled Earth, on tour, many times over, and kiboshed the notion that they are the progenitors of speed metal. Actually, Lemmy doesn’t say that speed metal bands weren’t influenced by Motörhead’s aggressive take on heavy metal, but he does say that he feels more of an affinity for rock pioneers (Chuck Berry, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix) and punk rock (The Ramones, The Damned) than he does for those in the thrash metal realm who claim him as their influence. Lemmy just wants to rock, he doesn’t give two bits about labels and who he’s influenced, and for that we wanna give him a big kiss on his big old ugly face. Rock on, Brother Lemmy, rock on.

12.25: Not yet eatin’ his cheeseburger in paradise or searchin’ for his lost shaker of salt, Jimmy Buffet, nee’ James William Buffet, screamed “Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday To Me” at his folks on this day in 1946, in Pascagoula, Mississippi. His margarita sippin’ ways and changes in attitude would come soon enough, however, as he made his way around the country, busking and living the life of the itinerant musician. He eventually ended up in Key West, falling in love (how could you not?) with the extremely laid-back island vibe. There, Buffet crafted his distinct style, his mélange of light rock, folk, country, and Caribbean musics. 1977 saw his work come to fruition and his tunes invade the ears of everyone, whether they liked it or not, with the release of his eighth album, Changes In Latitude, Changes In Attitude, with its catchy title track and the drunkenly popular (or is that popular with drunks?) “Margaritaville.” Come on, everyone sing along, “Wasting away again in Magaritaville…” You know you know the lyrics, whether by choice or by airwave osmosis. You can’t escape it. Buffet continues to be one of the biggest concert draws, year in and year out. He’s expanded into restaurants and writing novels, movie producing and maker of libations, casino man and all-around laid-back guy. The man’s all over the place, but that’s alright. He’s earned his spot in this world (not that one has to) and enjoys life. How could he not? Come on, everyone now, sing along, “….Searching for my lost shaker of salt….”

12.25: Usually, Christmas is good times for us. This day in 2006, however, began on a sad note, as we received word that James Brown, The Godfather of Soul, Soul Brother #1, The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, died from congestive heart failure and complications from pneumonia. What an astoundingly monumental talent, this man. Forget about any troubles he had in life, legal and otherwise, because James Brown transcended them. James Brown truly deserved the nicknames we’ve bandied about, earning them on the road through the ’50s and ’60s, not letting anyone tell him no. James Brown embodied R&B and soul, and he led the funk revolution that exploded in the ’70s. We’re not talking about disco here, people. We are talking about honest-to-goodness F-U-N-K. We’re talking P-Funk funk and Sly and the Family Stone funk. The good stuff. Yes, disco evolved from funk, as well, but we’ll save that for another lesson. Suffice it to say, that no one on this great planet ever came close or will ever come close to the showmanship of James Joseph Brown, Jr. Yes, there’ve been many great frontmen over the years (Freddie Mercury, Mick Jagger, Tiny Tim), but no one, we repeat, NO ONE, comes close to the presence of James Brown. Mixing his prodigious talent with social activism during the civil rights movement of the ’60s proved his voice could be used for more than absolutely tearing a concert hall down. Many African-Americans felt a stronger kinship to Brown than to their locally- and nationally-elected politicians, listening more to what he had to say than them, weighing Brown’s words much more heavily than a mayor’s or a senator’s. This was a good thing, as Brown put his money where his mouth was, helping those in the inner cities whenever he got a chance. Yes, we know we’re kind of babbling at this point, but we could go on and on about Mr. Brown. We’re still saddened to this day at his passing, but extremely thankful for his time here. R.I.P., James. We miss you, sir.

12.26: On this day in 1963, Napster’s arch nemesis and Metallica’s beat maker, Lars Ulrich, was born. As one of the founding members of the biggest thrash metal band of all time and, perhaps, the biggest metal band of all time, Lars’ career of the past 30 years is quite different from his intended career: tennis player. Believe it. Lars “Drummer For The Biggest Metal Band In The World” Ulrich wanted to be a tennis player. Now, to put this in context, Lars’ dad Torben was a professional tennis player in Europe, so the thought of Lars yearning to reach the top of the tennis world isn’t entirely out of the realm of reality, but we’re kind of glad that he instead gravitated toward the world of metal instead, eventually hooking up with one Mr. James Hetfield, via a classified ad in a musician magazine, and the rest, as they so often say, is rockin’ awesome history.

12.29: Don’t go chasing waterfalls, y’all. Immortal words spoken by an immortal singer from an immortal band. Now, if we can just remember their name….Hmmm, still don’t have it….Oh, yeah. We just googled it. Tony Toni Tone. No, wait a minute, that’s not right. Okay, we’re done messing around. It’s TLC. That group’s most vocal and trouble-prone member, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, never backed down from a disturbance she couldn’t cause, which brings us to this day in 1994. Left Eye pled guilty to arson charges in a fire that destroyed her boyfriend’s (Atlanta Falcon’s receiver, Andre Rison) shoes and mansion. You see, they’d had a contentious relationship, fraught with not-so-good times, and Left Eye had had enough. She set fire to his favorite shoes, but the fire got out of hand pretty quickly, burning the massive house down to the ground (we still remember the helicopter-cam images from tv), turning it into a toasted, gnarled shell of nothing, along with all of Rison’s shoes and belongings. Yeah, that’ll teach him! We know we make fun, but we really dig TLC. Their Atlanta-based southern-tinged rhythm and blues holds a special guilty-pleasure place in our rockin’ hearts.