Posts Tagged ‘Foo Fighters’

Now Maurice White, founder of Earth, Wind & Fire, is dead. How can we mourn so many pop legends in so short a time?!

Maurice White is one of only three drummers I can think of who founded a band that actually counts for something:

Maurice White, Earth, Wind & Fire
Mick Fleetwood, Fleetwood Mac*
Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters

* I mostly don’t like Fleetwood Mac, but I can’t pretend they don’t exist.

In the second half of the 1970s, Bruce Springsteen and Fleetwood Mac got the press, but EWF sold the records. I was going to include a list here of my five favorite EWF songs but I stopped when I hit 15. They were that infectious.

Maurice White and his band could play rock, jazz, funk, R&B, and (their downfall) disco. White started out as a session musician. Today in his memory I listened to one of his early gigs, the jazz disc Soul in the Night (1966). White might not have been a great drummer, but he was plenty good enough to play beside two all-star sax players, Sonny Stitt and Bunky Green.

(Bunky Green – now that’s a name. The man was destined to play the saxophone for Chess Records or third base for the Cubs.)

Soul in the Night is not the easiest record to listen to, but the artistry and competence it represents is reassuring in a world that offers us Donald Trump and the armed takeover of a bird sanctuary.

Rest easy, Maurice White.

Shining star come in to view
Shine its watchful light on you

Postscript: If you listen to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Magic Mind” on All ’N All from 1977 you’ll hear Talking Heads’ future.



Machine Head
Deep Purple

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, “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).”

Note from the far future (7 July 2019): I forgot The Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” I am a double dumb-ass. There’s no singing in the first 4 minutes (almost tying “Lazy”). The radio edit is 6:59 and the album version cracks the 12-minute mark!


“I’m Too Sexy”
Right Said Fred

“I’m Too Sexy” was the last 45 rpm I ever bought. I don’t mean bought on eBay or at a yard sale, I mean the last 45 I ever bought that had just been released. This was at the Queen Anne Tower Records in Seattle. I returned a couple of weeks later and just like that, the 45s section had disappeared. Eventually even Tower Records disappeared.

(I know they have 7” vinyl records today, but they play at 33-1/3 and they’re called “sevens.” Disqualified.)

“I’m Too Sexy” was a global hit for the shaved-head body-building brothers Richard and Fred Fairbrass, who also performed in the video. The video is a showcase of ’90s hairstyles and timeless male insecurities. A song about male models featuring two shaved-head body-building guys with their shirts off? What if the record-buying public thought the Fairbrasses were gay? No one would buy the record because then they would be gay! The record company had to figure out how to keep people from panicking. Their simple solution was to surround the two shaved-head body-building guys with women photographers dressed in bikinis (just like real photographers), because everyone knows that authentic male homosexuals would never appear in a video with women in bikinis. This is a bedrock principle of Western democracy.

While this logic may appear faulty, or even Republican, it obviously worked, because this thing sold like crazy. And while I can do without the video (the choreography is so inept, it’s adorable) (almost), I can’t do without this song. “I’m Too Sexy” is danceable, fun, too simple to forget, and there’s even a brief guitar homage to Jimi Hendrix just past the 1-minute mark. (Either it’s a homage or they couldn’t think up something on their own.)

“I’m Too Sexy” is a coed favorite at any dance, unlike ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” or Bananarama’s “Venus,” both of which have been coopted by women, or Men Without Ideas’ “Safety Dance,” which speaks only to nerds. “I’m too sexy for [fill in the blank]” is a useful catchphrase, particularly at the office. The readers of Rolling Stone voted “I’m Too Sexy” onto the list of the 10 Worst Songs of the ’90s (it finished 9th); this just adds to the song’s luster.

In the U.S. we think of Right Said Fred as a one-hit wonder. I was surprised to learn that they’d had other hits in their native England and on the Continent. It’s unfair to judge an artist in any discipline on one work – except in pop, where your judgment is most often right. Thanks to the miracle of downloadable music, I listened to all of Up, RSF’s debut album. “Don’t Talk Just Kiss” has a good title, but I have shirts that are sexier. I’m too sexy for the rest of these tracks, and I’ve already said so in My Little Turn on the Catwalk: The Journal of Right Said Fred Studies.

I don’t care what gender the Fairbrass brothers want to mate with. Thank you for writing that song before Tower pulled all of its singles. Whatever you boys are doing today, I’m confident that you’re still too sexy, whether you’re in Milan, New York, or Japan.

Random ’90s Pick of the Day: Foo Fighters, Foo Fighters (1995)
Dave Grohl was Nirvana’s drummer. Not only is he a great drummer, he also wrote all the songs and played all the instruments on the Foo Fighters’ debut. The Foo Fighters make big arena rock and don’t take themselves too seriously.

Random ’90s Pan of the Day: Foo Fighters, Foo Fighters (1995)
Sounds like all the other arena rock of the ’90s.

Tomorrow on ’90s Week: What I know about women won’t even fill a blog post!