Musings On Music History: George Gets Going, Jon’s Folks Jump For Joy, and Eight Tracks Eat It

02.25: George Harrison, “the quiet Beatle,” let it be known, on this day in 1943, with his first breaths, that he was here and he was ready to rock. As lead guitar for, inarguably, the biggest and one of the best rock bands of all time, Harrison is responsible for some of the greatest licks ever to be put on record. Though his work with the Beatles was generally overshadowed by the melodies and rhythms of John and Paul’s songwriting and instrumentation, George still managed to come out of the band with some genuinely amazing songs for his resume, including “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” Something,” and “Taxman.” After the breakup of the greatest band of all time, Harrison released a number of solo albums and became the first member of the post-Beatles to hit the top of the charts, with the Phil Spector-produced All Things Must Pass, which included “My Sweet Lord,” a truly beautiful song. Harrison also organized what has been called the very first charity rock festival when he put together The Concert For Bangladesh, which went on to influence events such as Live Aid and Farm Aid. In the ’80s, George joined a little supergroup known as The Traveling Wilburys. The band consisted of Harrison, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty. Holy moly! Can you say, “Awesome!”? We could then and we can now. We woulda loved to have been a fly on the wall in Dylan’s garage when they recorded that first song (yeah, they actually recorded in a garage). Harrison died from throat cancer in November of 2001. Today, we celebrate his birth and his life. We can’t wait to go home and put on The Beatles Revolver, open a beer, sit on the porch, and let the music wash over us. We miss ya, George. Happy birthday.

02.26: A day of mourning, we were all cursed today in 1954, as the birth of an abomination heralded the coming of dark days, when Michael Bolton clawed his way into this world, ready to assault our collective ears with the schmaltz he passes off as music, ready to take something as beautiful as “(Sitting On) The Dock Of The Bay” and turn it into an unlistenable pile. (We hate to link to that video, but you have to hear it for yourself. It’s awful, especially when compared to Otis’ version, which is simply incredible.) Seriously, why would someone do that?! It makes us cry and curl up, fetal-like, in a corner, racked with sickening convulsions. It makes us angry that so many people don’t know, because of the undeserved popularity of Bolton’s version, that the amazing Otis Redding wrote and recorded the song way back in 1967. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, if Otis were alive, he’d totally kick Bolton’s butt. We envision him doing it today, on Bolton’s b-day, singing the birthday song as he did it, and then topping off the butt kicking with the awesome whistle part from “Dock Of The Bay.” It would be glorious and is the only thing that can bring a smile to our face on this sad, depressing day. [more]

03.01: Out of the ashes of the ’60s came many great rock bands. Many people identify themselves, their world views, their temperaments and predispositions by aligning themselves with either The Rolling Stones or The Beatles. “Beatles or Stones?”, we’ve been asked on many an occasion, sitting at a bar, contemplating life through goggles of beer. We refuse to answer that question. Instead we ask, “What about The Who?” This stumps a lot of people, them of short attention spans, them who think that ’60s rock lived and died by the output of Mick and Keith and John and Paul. Hooey, we say. Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Keith Moon, and John Entwistle put out music just as vibrant, remarkable, and timeless as those other guys. From The Who Sellout to Tommy (both brilliant albums), The Who knew how to rock a recording studio just as well as they knew how to rock a stage. These guys had it. And up front, Daltrey strutted around every stage like he owned it, like it was his to do with as he pleased, like he was about the beat the crap out of it (which he and the guys did on many occasions). Why do we bring this up? Today is Roger’s birthday, as he joined us on this day in 1944. So, in honor of Roger’s b-day, next time someone asks you to choose sides between The Stones or The Beatles, just say, “The Who.”

03.02: We remember being in 8th grade, on a school ski-trip, jamming out to Slippery When Wet on our Walkman (look it up, whippersnappers), singing along to “Wanted Dead Or Alive,” knowing full well that there could never be a band as great as Bon Jovi. Alright, we know we just dated ourselves with that little blast from the past, but it doesn’t negate the fact that that album still rocks and that the man from whom the band gets its very name is an icon in the music world or that said band, twenty-five years removed from that ski trip, are still one of the biggest groups in the world. In 2008 and 2010, they were the biggest touring band on the planet. Believe it! That says a lot not only for the staying power of Jon Bon Jovi, Rickie Sambora, David Bryan, and Ticco Torres, but also for the music they’ve produced over the years, and the 120 million albums they’ve sold in their 30-year career. They survived the destruction of the ’80s hair metal scene in the early ’90s, at the capable hands of its own excess and grunge, because, even though they had flowing girly hair and they could’ve been lumped into the hair category, they consistently put out good music regardless of the reigning genre on the charts. Why, oh why, do we pontificate upon the Jovi, you ask? Because on this day in 1962, in the Jersey town of Perth Amboy, Jon Bon Jovi began his journey in the world, which eventually took him to the top of the charts, across this great planet, and for one weekend, at least, into our fuzzy Walkman headphones as we travelled on a cramped bus headed for some wintery slopes. Thanks for the memories, Jon, and happy birthday.

03.02: R.I.P. Eight Track. Introduced on this day in 1983 and stemming from a joint-venture between Sony, Philips, and Polygram, the first compact disc player was offered up for sale in the United States, paving the way for the demise (and eventual return) of vinyl, cassettes, the rise of digital media, MP3s, and file sharing, and, as we’ve seen in the last few years, the demise of itself (what a vicious circle, indeed). Well, it might be a stretch to lump all of that into the launch of the CD player in the U.S., but we’ll make that stretch any day because without the CD player and the digitalification of data, none of that, including this sentence, would probably be as widespread as it is today. Thank you, oh lords of the digital world for giving us the CD player and its requisite CDs, allowing us to eventually, 30 years later, transmit these nearly useless factoids into a world that couldn’t care less. It makes us smile. Here’s some more factoids for ya: the first CD to be released was Billy Joel’s 52nd Street (which had actually been released over four years earlier on vinyl, 8-Track, and cassette); the first CD to sell a million copies was Brothers In Arms by Dire “Money For Nothing” Straits; and the first artist to have his entire repertoire reproduced on CD was The White Duke, himself, David Bowie, who’s 15 studio and 4 greatest hits albums (up to that time) made their way into the digital world in 1985. That David is so ahead of the time. What a guy. All hail the digital age!