Posts Tagged ‘Deep Purple’

Machine Head
Deep Purple
1972

The biggest sin of “Sins of the ’70s Week” was the sin of omission. I forgot Deep Purple! Yeah, yeah, yeah, the freaks said/man those cats could really swing (“Space Truckin’ ”). Some of these songs do have a sort of big-band swing to them, but most of them are having a bad night in Suck City. Jon Lord’s organ sometimes sounds like a harpsichord. So does Richie Blackmore’s guitar. And yet this band has a good claim on the invention of heavy metal.

I loved this album and spent many hours tormenting my parents with it. These days I smile as each song begins but after a couple of minutes I want them to end. I have no patience with the berserk Bee-Gees falsettos, the alleged lyrics, and the solos, which are always Blackmore first, then Lord, unless they decide to mix it up and have Lord go first, then Blackmore. (Improv jazz bands that always give you the tenor sax solo followed by the trumpet solo followed by the piano solo, or the piano solo followed by the tenor sax solo followed by the trumpet solo, make me feel like Ricardo Montalban as Kahn. I grow fatigued.)

Of course you can’t discuss Deep Purple without tripping over “Smoke on the Water.” Duh-duh-DUH, duh-duh-DUH-DUH, duh-duh-DUH, DUH-DUH. It’s slow, it’s turgid, it takes forever to end. It’s like building blocks for beginning guitarists. You can’t get to “Stairway to Heaven” without first mastering “Smoke on the Water.”

“Smoke on the Water” is also a rarity among rock songs in that it reports on an incident that happened to the entire band. You don’t get a lot of journalism in this genre. If you’re paying attention to Deep Purple’s lyrics you’re in trouble, but while forcing myself to pay attention this evening I was surprised by the stripped-down Hemingway ending:

We ended up at the Grand Hotel.
It was empty cold and bare.
But with the Rolling truck Stones thing just outside,
making our music there.
With a few red lights, a few old beds,
we made a place to sweat.
No matter what we get out of this,
I know, I know we’ll never forget
smoke on the water
and fire in the sky.

In the 1940s, legendary editor Maxwell Perkins said that there will always be a new class of sophomores who will discover Thomas Wolfe and be entranced by him. There will always be a new class of middle-schoolers who will discover “Smoke on the Water” and be entranced by the damn thing. This year at our chess club, one of my middle-school girls told her BFF, “I just heard the most awesome song.” I asked her what it was and she handed me an earbud and pressed Play. Duh-duh-DUH, duh-duh-DUH-DUH, duh-duh-DUH, DUH-DUH.

Longest instrumental lead in a song that actually has words
Here’s something else about Deep Purple. In this contest I just dreamed up, they smash their puny human opponents with “Lazy.” “Lazy” begins with a jazzy riff that doesn’t open the door for the singer until 4:22, daringly late for a song that ends at 7:22.

First runner-up: Boston, “Foreplay/Long Time,” Boston (1976)
Boston owes a lot to Deep Purple’s influence (check out “Never Before” on Machine Head). “Foreplay/Long Time” is almost exactly the same length as “Lazy” (7:47), but Boston only strings us along until 2:45, when the singer enters and declares that he has to keep moving along so he can keep chasing that dream. Tough luck, honey, I can’t stay and commit to a healthy relationship.

Second runner-up: The B-52s, “Planet Claire,” The B-52s (1979)
And we’re still in the ’70s. Fred Schneider doesn’t start singing until the band has run through all of their outer-space sounds at the 2:30 mark. The song ends two minutes later. (The Foo Fighters do a cover of “Planet Claire” that clearly show this song’s debt to the Peter Gunn theme.)

Worth mentioning: Love and Rockets, “Body and Soul,” Hot Trip to Heaven (1994)
The actual singing begins at 2:20, but throughout the song a woman sighs suggestively every four seconds. “Body and Soul” runs a mesmerizing 14:14 and, as the reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine notes at Allmusic.com, “they [Love and Rockets] sound like they’re trying to figure out what the hell is going on.”

Note: As you can see from the comments on this post, the first and second finishers are actually Mike Oldfield for “Tubular Bells” and Pink Floyd for “Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Parts 1-5).”

 

Women dislike Pink Floyd. Certainly all the women I’ve married dislike Pink Floyd. I’ve only married one, but she’s not backing down on this subject. Or any subject.

I can’t recall ever meeting a woman who publicly stated that she liked Pink Floyd. I wonder if there’s an unattached woman anywhere in the world with Pink Floyd in her music library, and I don’t mean something left behind by some long-gone guy. In college I remember a mistreated girlfriend burning holes with her cigarette in her ex-boyfriend’s copy of Meddle. It all seemed very sophisticated, plus it taught me to hide my LPs.

Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon may be the most gender-imbalanced record in music history. When Floyd released their masterwork in 1973, it immediately went to the top of the Billboard Hot 200 albums. Plenty of albums surface in the Hot 200, but Dark Side of the Moon was still bobbing around there 15 years later. Dark Side of the Moon is the third best-selling album of all time, trailing Justin Bieber’s My World but outpacing Honus Wagner’s entire Ring cycle. If women aren’t buying this thing, every man on the planet must be.

This leads me to ponder what makes music palatable to women. Here are my hypotheses:

What Women Like in Music
1) Something you can dance to, or might dance to if you could find the right partner.
2) A doomed romance.
3) The possible start of an exciting long-term relationship.
4) Living your own life and setting your own rules.
5) Attractive performers.
6) Four minutes and you’re done.

Here’s how Pink Floyd matches up with What Women Like in Music:

1) Pink Floyd is every bit as danceable as Led Zeppelin.
2) Everyone who has ever appeared in a Pink Floyd song was doomed.
3) Floyd’s idea of a long-term relationship: “There’s someone in my head/but it’s not me.”
4) Empowered women are scary.
5) Even when they were young, Dave, Roger, Nick, and Rick were nobody’s idea of a boy band.
6) They managed to hold “Echoes” to just under 24 minutes.

Given that Dark Side of the Moon is my favorite album of all time, ever, period, it’s a wonder I’ve been able to form and sustain relationships. Fortunately, God gave us headphones before She gave us Floyd.

Pink Floyd fun fact: “San Tropez” is a hybrid of “When I’m Sixty-Four” and “Lovely Rita.”

I love Dark Side of the Moon so much that I only play it a couple of times a year. I always want it to be a treat. This same principle explains why I waited 20 years to go back to Apocalypse Now.

Wise men say that you’re never too annoyed for Floyd. Notice that it’s only men who say that. The truth is that once you leave the safety of Dark Side of the Moon you can get very annoyed with Floyd. Pink Floyd can be as bloated as Yes, but without the hysteria. They can be as pompous as Queen, but without the camp. They can be as meaningless as Black Sabbath, but without the medieval camouflage. They can touch your heart with “Comfortably Numb,” “Wish You Were Here,” and “Fearless,” and then try to trap you in “Echoes,” which starts well but after 7 or 8 minutes veers straight into Spinal Tap’s “Jazz Odyssey.”

It’s about time someone said this: 75% of the Pink Floyd catalog is Deep Purple with a PhD.

Shine on you crazy diamond
Thus we can define Pink Floyd Syndrome as a two-part phenomenon:

  • Men are from Pink Floyd, women are from Pink.
  • If you’re a man, you either love everything Floyd or you only love Dark Side of the Moon. Either way, you’ve learned how to hide your record collection.

In a future post we’ll entertain the proposition that Nebraska is Bruce Springsteen’s best album. Until then, keep your headphones on and your partner happy.

There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact, it’s all dark. 

The birthday of our nation is a good time to complain about complainers. I am referring here to “dues songs,” in which musicians who have been made wealthy by their music describe how difficult it is to be successful. And apparently success is very difficult indeed.

The ’70s were an unmatched decade for whiners, best typified by Deep Purple’s immortal doorstop, “Smoke on the Water.” This is of course the heart-rending ballad of a band that can’t record their music at a studio in Switzerland, not because the government of Switzerland wants to spray them for bugs but because the studio burned down. So the band makes other arrangements to record their music in Switzerland. Rough.

ABBA’s “Super Trouper” is not quite as dumb; ABBA, unlike Deep Purple, didn’t believe you had to have the guitar solo and then the organ solo except when you had the organ solo and then the guitar solo. But the story, about the love of one special person saving the singer from the horrors of performing before adoring crowds, makes me think they’re not such troupers.

Alas, even an artist as awesome as Joni Mitchell complained (though ruefully, and with wit) about the success that allowed her to enjoy carefree vacations abroad in “Free Man in Paris.” “Free Man in Paris,” by the way, is superior to the entire Deep Purple catalog, not counting “Hush.”

Moving to other decades, The Byrds and Bad Company warned us of the perils of reaching for the top in “So You Want to Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star” and “Shooting Star,” respectively. Of course both bands were thoroughly enjoying those perils at the time.

Say what you will about The Grateful Dead, they never complained about the Deadheads.

A dues song done right
Bob Seger writes about the rigors of the road in “Turn the Page”:

Later in the evening
As you lie awake in bed
With the echoes from the amplifiers
Ringin’ in your head
You smoke the day’s last cigarette,
Rememberin’ what she said

“Turn the Page” is a journalistic, matter-of-fact account of Seger’s life that gains power from the slow accumulation of details, not from lamenting the illogical. When Seger released this song in 1972 he was unknown, unheralded, and unwealthy. Listening to this song you can’t help but root for him.

A dues variation
Peter Yorn is a singer/songwriter with a knack for reflection and a love for Bruce Springsteen. His “Rock Crowd” is a whole new look at life on the road:

I sit backstage
Oh I never know what to play
My mind gets cloudy
Can’t think of what I wanted to say
But when I see you
And we’re moving through the night
I feel like I can make it through another night

[chorus]
Rock crowd throw your arms around me
I feel glad when you all surround me
It’s you, it’s you who grounds me
When you’re done put me back where you found me

This song is beautiful and haunting. I wish it had a video. I wish I had a rock crowd!

Thousand Foot Krutch also addresses their fans in “Throw Up Your Rawkfist.” I love saying “Throw Up Your Rawkfist,” particularly at my birthday parties and when I’m teaching chess. But Thousand Foot Krutch is a Christian rap/head-banger outfit that makes me want to spray them for bugs, and their less-than-impressive lyrics don’t set my heart afire: “Throw up your rockfist/if you’re feelin’ it when I drop this.” Don’t drop it in here, I just vacuumed.

More news from Steveworld
I entered one of my short stories in a competition at Glimmer Train and finished in the Top 25. There were 1,000 entries so I’m feeling double plus good about this. Of course, if I had finished in the Top 3 and had gotten published in the zine, my next story would be about how awful it is to be published and rich and to find every train station surging with girls.

I have a new post in The Nervous Breakdown. This time around I use the occasion of my birthday (July 3) to share everything I’ve ever learned. You only have to scroll down twice! Thanks as always to Special D. I’ve learned a lot around here.

Happy Independence Day! Soon I shall be drinking the Bloody Marys of Liberty. (Robert Farley)

When I started this blog, my goals were to learn a new technology, make tons of money, and meet lots of chicks. (Two of these goals were somewhat theoretical.)

Six months later, I have conquered search engine optimization. I have mastered categories, widgets, themes, and menus. I have memorized my password. And this week I finally figured out a) that there’s such a thing as a tag cloud, and b) how to create one. But as soon as my tag cloud took flight and I saw all of the bands within it, I realized that I listen to fewer than half of them.

I created Run-DMSteve to make fun of people. Have I taken this philosophy too far?

Then the phone rang. It was Accused of Lurking, who said yes you have. Why don’t you write about music you enjoy? That will confuse my fans, I said. Your fans will all fit in my car, Accused of Lurking replied. If someone has a question they can raise their hand. And then he sneered.

Actually, he didn’t say that or sneer, he’s far too well-mannered, but he made his point. I can’t go on trampling dreams and ruining lives. Society calls out for some positive reinforcement and today I am answering that call.

Rejoice, and throw up your rawkfist
Here in Portland, Oregon, we have bands that bring a restless intelligence to their music. The Dandy Warhols. Pink Martini. The Decemberists. Now I’d like to introduce a band that won’t let intelligence anywhere near their music. Lock up your beer coolers, because here comes Red Fang!

Where did they get that name, you ask? I don’t believe it’s a reference to Jack London’s novel White Fang, as I don’t believe the members of Red Fang know how to read. Phyllis Diller’s husband’s name was Fang but I doubt that’s it, either.

All that matters is the music, dude, and right now I adore Red Fang’s “Prehistoric Dog,” which rocks like a piledriver at your dance recital. It reminds me of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. In fact, “Prehistoric Dog” is a close genetic match to Deep Purple’s “Pictures of Home,” except that Deep Purple had an organ and better hair. And in both songs, the singers strive to warn us about animals:

“Pictures of Home”:
My body is shaking
Anticipating
The call of the black-footed crow

“Prehistoric Dog”:
Dogs that howl from outer space
Come to Earth to lay to waste
With fang and claw to shred your face
They will erase the human race
Time to kiss your ass goodbye

“Prehistoric Dog” also bears a strong sonic resemblance to Blondie’s “Call Me,” but there’s no thematic connection between the two. The Red Fang boys aren’t going to roll around in designer sheets unless those sheets are made of bacon.

It’s all seamlessly done and hopelessly addictive, and the video is the funniest thing since the Lord of the Rings blooper reel. I love the magic beer cans and so will you! I’d install some here at the Bureau if they didn’t clash with Special D’s ideas on design.

Before I give you the link, here’s a guide to the video for my more squeamish readers:

0:54     Guy buried in empty beer cans.
2:04     He’s buried again.
2:33     Moderate gross-out.
3:30     Guitar solo.
4:02     Cartoon violence starts here.
5:10     Cute little doggy!

Overall, there’s far less belching than you’d expect and a whole lot of coercive measures applied to the derrière. Female music fans who prefer the Three Tenors to the Three Stooges might want to sit this one out, but IMHO the director deserves a street named after him and the band deserves a beer. Turn it up!

Addendum to my Simple Minds musings
My post on ’80s icon “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” is incomplete! I just discovered the lounge jazz version, by The Stella Starlight Trio. I haven’t a clue who these people are, but their relentless, Perry Como-style attack must be heard to be believed. And here’s some good news for those of you who never liked “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” in the first place: Stella has lopped a whole minute off Simple Minds’ best time.

And now it’s off to the garage, where I have a stack of flattened beer cans to weld together. Red Fang might need some positive reinforcement for their next adventure.

“Owner of a Lonely Heart”
Yes
1983
Yes has been around so long, they had to postpone their first gig until Sir Francis Drake could defeat the Spanish Armada. In the 1970s, Yes and a collection of art-school escapees including King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Traffic, Pink Floyd, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer created their own playpen of popular music: progressive rock. Prog-rock songs have two underlying characteristics:

1) Too many notes.
2) Boredom.

Yes enjoyed tremendous commercial success with their overinflated songs, and long after the rest of these pompous mammoths had been stuffed and mounted, Yes was still blundering about, bugging the hell out of me. Because Special D says I should stop being a grump, I’ve decided to say something nice about Yes. In fact, my research has revealed so many nice things to say about Yes that I’ve tabulated them for your convenience.

Table 1. Have You Heard the Good News About Yes?
The song “Owner of a Lonely Heart” is superior to all of its contemporaries:

  • Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”
  • Quarterflash’s “Harden My Heart”
  • Hart to Hart starring Robert Wagner and Stephanie Powers
  • Most crud by Heart

If the sacred mission of prog rock is to clear the dance floor of all human life, why did Yes record a dance song? Not only does this heresy remain unexplained, “Owner of a Lonely Heart” became Yes’ only #1 hit! In 1983 this seemed about as likely as the Dukes of Hazzard hosting Masterpiece Theatre. I understand now that the years in which Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, and the band’s 1,000 other members spent honing their craft, blowing everything out of proportion and infusing their albums with a heady dose of tedium, was all in the service of this one moment.

Where eagles dare
The song starts with the guitar clearing its throat like a brontosaurus heading for its mud hole. I like it already. Over the next two minutes, the spectacle of a band this inept attempting to create a dance-club hit by straining Thomas Dolby through Deep Purple can’t help but win you over. They even snap their fingers. This stretch of music isn’t really danceable; it’s slow and lumbering. But Yes fans can dance to it, for they are slow and lumbering.

And then, with the music swelling and the falsettos becoming ever more false, we’ve safely reached the end. Right? The song has acquitted itself with honor and can now retire. Right? You know I’m going to say Wrong! We have instead arrived at the bridge. The band doesn’t transition into the bridge so much as trip over it. This is Steve Howe’s cue, or maybe this is what wakes Steve Howe up. With a mighty heave of his fingers, he uncorks a guitar solo that kicks like a line of retired Rockettes. Don’t you always laugh at this point and flail about the room with your air guitar? Of course you do.

Having shot its wad with these bold ideas, Yes contentedly rolls over for the last 60 seconds. The song slowly deflates, leaving you with the memory of a good time and the thought that within 24 hours they’ll be ready to do it again.

What other band could’ve done this?
Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” was a very different song for The Boss, though he sort of repeated that glossy, ’80s-feathered-hair sound a couple years later with “Tunnel of Love.” The Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man,” a bright, poppy tune, was just a tiny bit out of place on an album that included “Monkey Gone to Heaven” and the rest of their suicidal oeuvre. The Grateful Dead took a stab at disco with “Shakedown Street”; if only disco had stabbed back. But I can’t think of any band that reached so far beyond itself as Yes did with “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”

Now that’s progressive.