Monthly Archives: November 2012

New Music: “Blue Sky Days” (EP Review) – Jamie Bendell

 

Jamie Bendell’s Blue Sky Days is reminiscent of singer-songwriters from the late 1960’s and 1970’s with a few contemporary updates.  Acoustic guitars and organs are at the forefront while Bendell’s melodic and soothing voice carry the songs.  It’s unpretentious its in approach and Bendell knows how to craft a song to let the listener in.  Elements of Fleetwood Mac and the Band appear throughout the EP, suggesting that Bendell grew up listening to those classic records.  “Blue Sky Days” recalls the “Landslide” with just Bendell’s voice and her acoustic guitar. The affect is both haunting and soothing.

If she’s inspired by older artists and just starting her own career decades later, it’s certainly a question that Bendell addresses in “Too Young”.   “Not too old, not too young,” She declares.  But later knows that her age has made her wiser and she’s “too old to follow the rules.”

On “Late Night”, Bendell reaches for an old-school country arrangement that conjures up the ghosts of America past.  The organ is once again at the forefront and the mood builds up slowly enough for a tasteful guitar solo to break through without taking away from the overall mood.

Jamie Bendell’s Blue Sky Days is worth checking out if you’re interesting in a new and emerging talent.  Definitely recommended.

When Did Christmas Music Start to Suck?

 

Out of sheer curiosity, earlier today I took a quick listen to Rod Stewart’s new holiday album, Merry Christmas Baby. I shouldn’t have bothered, because it sounded pretty much exactly like I thought it would be: over-produced pseudo-jazz.  There’s pianos and strings abound to recreate the feeling of sitting by a fire.  Good ol’ Rod even gives his best Louis Armstrong impression during “Have Yourself A Merry Christmas”.

I’m no Rod hater – dude was great in Faces and “Do You Think I’m Sexy” has its own kitschy appeal –  but Merry Christmas Baby is a great example of “The Christmas-Album-Suck”.  Almost every single Christmas album since the early 1990s has been layered in slick production with arrangements as big as the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center.

Every year around this time, we’re bombarded with Holiday-themed albums from major artists.  Neo-crooners like Michael Buble, Harry Connick, Jr. and Josh Groban have certainly attempted to capture the singing styles of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby over the years. They seem so intent on paying homage to the days of old, but the music itself doesn’t suggest this. It’s as like if John Coltrane had played with Kenny G: they both technically play same genre (I’m saying this very loosely), but only one pushed boundaries and changed musical history.

There a few exceptions to this trend.  A Very She & Him Christmas is charming and delightful in its retro feel and Zooey Deschanel’s soulful singing.  Then there’s Bob Dylan’s bizarrely traditional Christmas in the Heart and Cee-Lo’s Magic Moment. Yet, both of those albums still manage to get pulled into the Christmas-Album-Suck albeit in different ways.  Dylan’s venture into Christmas land (mostly) sounds it came from the 1920s. When was the last time you heard anyone sing the Latin verse of “O Come All Ye Faithful” outside of a Christmas Eve Mass?  (Of course, I’m not entirely convinced that this album wasn’t some sort of weird joke by Dylan and meant to be listened to ironically.)  As for Cee-Lo, he attempts to conjure up the Ghosts of Christmas Soul, but once again the production makes the album feel a lifeless like the Christmas trees tossed on the curb-side around New Year’s.

I blame the downfall of Christmas music on Mariah Carey and her horrid “All I Want for Christmas”.  Some may suggest that it’s the quintessential Christmas song and it’s certainly the most popular Holiday song of the past 20 years.  Sure, we all know Mariah can sing but the song itself is so over-the-top and so sugary-sweet like that nasty candied fruit, it makes me want to vomit.  All I want for Christmas is to escape this song whenever I go to a retail store.

It wasn’t always this way, though. In the mid-1950s as Tin Pan Ally faded out of fashion and crooners like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby lost some of their steam, the next generation of musicians were coming of age and prominence capturing the attention of the youth of America. And with a new-form of popular music came a new sound to traditional and popular Christmas songs.

Elvis gave a rockabilly spin on Christmas classics with Elvis’ Christmas Album. For what its worth, Elvis’ version of “Blue Christmas” is probably the definitive version of that song. Ray Charles put his trademark piano and vocals on The Spirit of Christmas.  “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was portrayed as a  “funky reindeer” while the usually awful “Little Drummer Boy” was given a soulful treatment complete with horns.  And let’s not forget Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run” which proved that Christmas music could rock and also swing.  (Check out Keith Richard’s version of the song – it’s also pretty good.) And to prove that this new sound was taking over the airwaves and culture, Berry asked Santa for an electric guitar. Other songs released during that era included perennial favorites such as Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas”, The Drifters’s version of “White Christmas” and Bobby Helm’s “Jingle Bell Rock”.

But it wasn’t until 1963 that rock and roll had its first Christmas masterpiece.  The Phil Spector produced A Christmas Gift For You showed Spector’s “Wall of Sound” in full-force. (This is how you do layered production, in case you were wondering.)  Traditional songs were given a vamped-up treatment and the album was bursting with imagination and creativity.  Hal Blaine’s drums pushed “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Winter Wonderland” to new sonic heights. With the Crystals, the Ronettes and Darlene Love at the helm, Christmas music never sounded so exciting or sexy.  (The only downside to the album is Spector’s creepy speech over a string-laden version of “Silent Night”.)

As the 60’s ended and the 70’s dawned, both the Jackson 5 and James Brown gave holiday cheer some much-needed funk. The Jackson 5’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” might be Michael Jackson’s vocal performance as kid (I’d say his entire career, but that’s just me).  Brown’s “Go Power at Christmas Time” shows the master of funk in full-flight.  He pushes his band, and demands the listener to “get down”.  The mid-song spoken section also might be the only case of a holiday song containing the word “bullshit”.  (Brown like John Lennon also used Christmas as a time for social awareness with his song “Christmas in the Ghetto”.)

Somewhere along the line, artists (or the labels) lost their faith in Christmas Music as forward-thinking music that lined-up with the artists’ credibility and creativity.  Instead, over the past few decades what we’ve gotten is the Christmas-Album-Suck that is void of any sort of imagination and is just seen as a cash-grab for the music industry.  They may sound comforting, but they lack the spark that fueled so many of the great holiday songs.

Song of the Week: “People Get Ready” – The Impressions

The first time I ever heard “People Get Ready” was from a U2 bootleg from the band’s Elevation Tour.  U2 are not normally a band known to deviate from their set-list, so I was surprised by the band’s impromptu version of the song.  With just the Edge’s acoustic guitar behind him, Bono sang the song’s gospel-inspired lyrics with such conviction I found it hard to believe it wasn’t his own song.  It seemed to fit into Bono’s idea of a concert as some sort of musical salvation – a place where God enters the room on the best of nights.

Though they managed a pretty good cover of the song, U2 are not a soul band. But Bono’s concept of the audience and the band as a church comes dates back even further than soul.  African American Spirituals are the very essence of this idea. It’s a tradition that has carried on through the Blues, Gospel and to some extent rock and roll.

“People Get Ready” may be the best example of attempting to bring old-world gospel into a pop-song.  Even without the Biblical imagery, the music itself sounds tailor made for a heavenly experience with its laid-back quality and Curtis Mayfield’s tasteful but inspired guitar playing.  Then there’s the group’s harmonies, which rank among the best ever recorded.

But it’s the lyrics that have managed to connect with people, and one of the reasons why the song is popular for artists to cover. You can make the argument that the song may be related to the Civil Rights movement, and there’s a certain truth to that outlook.  But it’s not as direct as a song like Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” or Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind”.  Mayfield’s train takes all passengers if they just thank the lord.  Equality will come to all in the after-life, the song suggests if you just believe. Unlike some other songs that use the train a metaphor for the after-world (Jimi Hendrix’ “Hear My Train A-Coming” for instance), this one is peaceful for those who want to get on board (and you don’t need a ticket!).

Dozens of artists have recorded and played the song over the years and Bruce Springsteen recently incorporated the song’s lyrics in his own “Land of Hope and Dreams” from this year’s Wrecking Ball.   Still, none of them have ever bettered the Impressions’ version and it remains one of the best and most inspiring songs ever recorded.

 

New Music: “Altered States” (EP Review) – Minnesota

Minnesota’s Altered States EP is a mix of 80s style synths and hip-hop beats. “To The Floor” begins with a simple beat, a robotic voice repeating “drop it to the floor” before moving into a swirl of synths. Next up is “Yoga Pants” which opens up the sound a bit with sparse beats a hypnotic and melodic synth line that pulls the listener along.   The beats on “Tokyo” are little more complex but still retain similar vibes of the first two songs.

But it’s “Float” that really gets things going with the appearance of Zion I.  Zion’s raps give Minnesota’s beats some added weight and help move the song along.  Zion’s melodic and laid-back groove creates the perfect soundtrack for a late-night party.  The last song on the EP, “Indian Summer” takes things down a bit.  It’s the most atmospheric track on the EP – a perfect contrast to “Float”.   It’s the song for the end of the party – that Minnesota has been playing for through the rest of the EP.

 

Exclusive Interview with DJ Wick-It the Instigator

 

Wick-It the Instigator’s got a reputation for doing some thoughtfully fresh and mindblowingly original remixes that take him from beyond a standard dub step or mash-up artist to a DJ/producer with skills that have turned heads and caught ears all over the Southeast. In a live setting, he sends people off with his mix of humor, ingenious pop culture samples and beats that can’t be touched. While his roots are firmly planted in hip hop, there is no shortage of heavy electronic bass music at a Wick-it show.

Your beats and sound have a heavy dirty southern style.  Were you influenced by the sounds coming out of Atlanta in the 90s?  

I’m influenced by all hip hop.  When I was a little kid, it was all just “rap” to me. And I loved it all.  I didn’t pay attention to what was east coast, west coast, southern, etc…  There weren’t separate categories in my mind.  I didn’t really become knowledgeable about hip hop culture until I was a teenager, and at that point the music itself was already embedded into my soul. As far as the dirty south hip hop goes, I’ve definitely been influenced by all of it, but  UGK is what I consider the quintessential  “dirty south”.

What is your main set-up for recording?

I’ve been using Ableton for a few years, and I love it.  Sometimes I use my Oxygen 8 midi controller, but I’ve become pretty fluent in rocking out on my good ol’ computer keyboard.  Before Ableton, I used Acid Pro for several years, which has a big influence on how I use Ableton.

Tell me a little bit about your playing live, and how your sounds changes.  Is it different than what you’re achieving in the studio?   

I’ve always put a lot of work into my live sets.  I like to keep things moving along, and I also like to be hands on as much as I can.  Nowadays, I’m playing mostly all original material at my shows, which is 100% different than when I started out.  I started DJing before I made my own music, so at first I was trying to be as creative as possible with other people’s music.  Now I’m trying to be as creative as possible with my own music.   So there is definitely a direct connection  now between what I’m doing in the studio, and what I’m doing live. I’m usually producing music strictly for the live setting. I believe in the philosophy that a fan should be more impressed with your live show, than they are with your albums.  If someone “likes” my music before they see my show, I’m gonna do everything I can to make them “love” my music when they come see me live.

You’ve been doing this for a while, how has the scene grown since you first started?

My personal journey in the DJ scene has been a pretty unique one.  Mainly because I spent my first 5 or 6 years  DJing only hip hop music.  Electronic music had absolutely nothing to do with my life for those first several years.  I didn’t produce electronic, I didn’t play at raves, my fans didn’t have on glow in the dark roller skates, etc…. When I first heard Dubstep music in 2009, it was aRusko track, and I didn’t even realize that what I was hearing was considered “electronica”.  I just thought it was super hip hop, or something.  I even began spinning Dubstep unaware that I was dabbling in a whole other world of DJing.  It really hit me the first time I showed up to one of my gigs, and realized right before I went on, that I was at a “rave”.  It was definitely a moment of “oooooohhhhh, I get it now”.   Unbeknownst to me, me and my “super hip hop” had stumbled into uncharted territory.

Why do you think that EDM connects with kids today?  The lap-top has seemed to replace the acoustic guitar as something that young kids pick up.

There has definitely been a big paradigm shift from DJ, to DJ/producer.   The superstars nowadays are getting famous off of their own creations, rather than manual DJ skills, so in turn the fans appreciate them more like how fans appreciate a band, or any other artist with original material.   The electronic scene used to be more about the event itself, rather than the DJ.   Back in the day, you’d go to some huge rave with a thousand people, and you might not even see the DJ.  He was chillin’ off to the side somewhere in a booth.  Nowadays DJs are rockstars.   They are center stage, with massive lights and production. I for one, I’m totally cool with that.  Nothing wrong with going to see an amazingly produced visual show, where the DJ is presenting you with his amazingly produced music. Onwards and upwards.

Tell me a bit The Brothers of Chico Dusty.  It’s interesting that you picked up on those two and put them together.  Because the Black Keys are rock, but have a hip-hop influence and Big Boi has a bit of a rock/soul vibe going on.  

Basically how that came into fruition is I made one single mashup of the two.  “Black Bug” was amashup of “Tighten Up” by the Black Keys, and “Shutterbug” by Big Boi.  There wasn’t any exact science or reasoning behind the pairing, I just tried it, and it happened to work.  I had no intention of making a full mashup album of those two artists, but Big Boi somehow discovered the song, and he started blasting it out on all of his social media sites.  It was one of the most exciting days of my life.  It was actually his manager’s idea for me to make the whole album, and his camp sent me all of the studio acapellas from Big Boi’s record.  We weren’t sure how the Black Keys would react to this existing, but they actually got behind it as well, and they posted it up on their social media sites as well.  It was certainly one of the most magical times in my life.

Check out Wick-It’s single “Feel Lit” here.

Song of the Week: “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” – Bob Dylan

With Bringing It All Back Home, Bob Dylan singlehandedly changed the face of popular music. With the addition of electric instruments and a new lyrical language, Dylan was rewriting musical history as fast as he could churn out songs.  Each song was so forward thinking that the album’s impact has not diminished over time.  American History was at a turning point, and in terms of popular culture, Dylan was leading the charge.

On the album’s wildest track, “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” Dylan goes even further: he takes on past American History.  Dylan takes the listener on a surrealistic and hilarious trip through America, with each situation getting more and more ridiculous.  It begins with the sail of the Mayflower and ends with the arrival of Columbus’ ships.  But this is no history lesson.  The shipmates on the Mayflower aren’t Pilgrims but rather a bunch of misfits and its captain is the fabled Captain Ahab from Moby Dick (titled here as Captain Arab.)  And as for Columbus, Dylan asks him why he doesn’t drive a truck and then offers him a simple “good luck”.

By bookending the song with these two pillars of American History, Dylan deconstructs our own view of history in his own bizarre image. Dylan may have sang “it’s easy to see that no much is really sacred” elsewhere on the album, and here he proves it.  In between, Dylan also pokes fun at other events.  He takes on the purchase of the island of Manhattan  (“Captain Arab he started, writing up some deeds, he said, “Let’s set up a fort, and start buying the place with beads”), the whaling for industry (“this cop comes down the street crazy as a loon, he throw us all in jail, for carryin’ harpoons”), Captain Kidd as a wanted pirate in New York City (They asked me my name, and I said, “Captain Kidd”, they believed me but, they wanted to know, what exactly that I did).  Could Dylan be referencing France’s aid during the Revolutionary War and then subsequent War of 1812, when he meets a French girl who invites him up to her house, only to eventually throw him out?

Current events are also met with cynicism and hilarity as well.  Naturally, protesters are skewered when he jumps in a protest line and asks if he’s not late.  The British Invasion also gets similar treatment when a random Englishmen says, “Fab!” to him.

For all the sly (and not-so sly) references littering the song, it stands as Dylan’s most humorous outing. The song even begins with a false start where Dylan and producer Tom Wilson are heard laughing for a good 30 seconds, before starting again. Some of the other weird things things that happen to him include getting knocked over by a bowling ball, narrowly escaping an exploding kitchen and taking a parking ticket off of his ship.

“Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” is one of Dylan’s forgotten gems.  I’ve never seen it mentioned among his greatest songs, and Dylan himself hasn’t played the song since the late 1980s.  But it totally fits in the spirit of Dylan circa 1965 – irreverent, funny and intelligent.

New Music: “Murder 1” & “Happy Endings” – Wazu

Fans of industrial pop/rock should check out New York’s Wazu.  Originally from Australia, the male/female duo of Wazu present a dark and chilly vibe on their most recent release Robobo.  “Murder 1” is driven by thick, crunchy beats and distant cold vocals.  The verses are atmosphere leaving pretty of room for the mood to set in.  The choruses meanwhile, come down like a heavy hammer ready to crush anything in its path.  “Happy Endings” on the other hand, is the exact opposite.  It’s a fast-paced number with a bite.  On”Happy Endings” the band’s lyrical attack match the sound.  “Happy endings don’t have room for you,” they sing coldly in unison.

Check out “Happy Endings” here.

Exclusive Interview with Dan and Brett from Ten Kens

 

Two years after their acclaimed sophomore album, Ten Kens return with their most powerful and poignant record to date. The aptly titled ‘Namesake’ moves the band away from their signature genre-bending dither, into a darkened psychedelic voyage of self-discovery.

Based in Toronto, Ten Kens is the brainchild of songwriting duo Brett Paulin and Dan Workman. Discovered by Fat Cat Records in 2006, Ten Kens became one of the first Canadian acts ever signed to the famed UK label. In 2012, after two celebrated releases on both Fat Cat and Last Gang Records, and several successful tours in-between, Ten Kens carry on their mission as the ever-evolving, genre-altering, sound and vision no-scene music collective.

Why did Namesake take a year to make?

Dan: We were being pretty meticulous and we had a lot of time our hands.  And we wanted to make this as perfect as we could.  We had a deadline for the last record, and it just stifles creativity a little bit.  We made this on our terms. Because we had the time, we used it.  It didn’t have to be a year, but we wanted it to be a year.  It’s just the way it had to be and we could tweak things, as they needed tweaking.  We’ll probably do that for the next one as well.  Not intentionally take a year, but take as much as time as need, so that we’re happy with it.

Brett:  It’s changed a lot from the original forms of what’s on record. I spent a lot of time listening to things over and over, and you could take things out.

That sort of fits the music a little bit.  It takes a little bit and builds into a crescendo and takes it times rather than thrashing it out.

Dan: For sure.  That’s changed from the way we used to write songs before.  We just wanted things more mature and progressive.  The more time you spend with a song and let it soak in and breathe, the more things you find wrong with it.  You don’t want to over think it, but you want to make sure its right.  That’s one thing I think we fixed for this record.  The songs have a start and they have a finish.  Unlike before, you play for three minutes and then you stop.

You can definitely sense that in the songs, especially “Death in the Family” which has thing Pink Floyd vibe going on in the beginning.

Dan: Oh, there’s a Floyd influence on that one all the way.  We’re not gonna deny it.  (Laughs.)  We’re not doing a cover song; we’re just taking influences we like and putting our own spin on it.

What different techniques did you use in the studio to create the overall sound for Namesake?

Brett:  The last record that we made, we recorded in a small space.  We had a small drum room, and everything was done in the same space.  We mixed on the same board we recorded it on.  We used the same gear we used the entire time.  And this time we had access to better studios, so the drums were recorded in a really big live room and the guitars were done in a smaller place.  We had really great amps and really great microphones.  We had a lot access to a lot more stuff than we did before.

Dan:  For the vocals on the record before, they were done in like a day and a half.  Whereas this time, it was more of a do it til you get it right thing and it took the pressure off.  There were at least two different mikes at all times.  I’m really happy with the way the vocals came out.  Brett’s the technical gear guy and he’s like “ok if we get this mikes, we’re set.”  And soon as you hear it you’re like, “oh yeah.”

You guys are known for your live performances.  Is it hard to recreate the sounds off the record live?

Dan: It’s not always just layers and instrumentation, but also the vibe.  Obviously, things are going to get stripped down. For instance if you got 14 layers of guitar on the record, you’re not going to be able to have 14 guitars at a show, unless you have 14 guitar players (laughs.)  It’s finding that perfect balance, making sure you have the right balance of instruments and vibe, so people don’t feel like they’re getting ripped off.  It just took a lot of time and effort.  I do vocals, but for the other guys it was a lot of changing guitars and pedals to recreate the sound live.  I think it’s a pretty successful way to recreate the record.

Brett:  Oh, I went through a lot of pedals.  We finished the record, and then we had to figure out how to play it, and get the same sound.  (Laughs.)

Dan: There are a lot of bands that record with their two pedals, their microphones and go on stage and just do it.  But we wanted a record that was half-studio half organic.  But then you gotta figure all that shit out afterwards, because we’re not using the same gear live that we use to record.

I read that you guys recorded Namesake without any outside influences.  I was kind of intrigued by that, and what exactly it meant.

We basically that means, those that want to come out and hang out – they’re not invited.  The sessions were late at night epic sessions, with outside interface.

So basically like the Beatles’ sessions until Yoko showed up.

Dan: (Laughs).  Absolutely.  It is self-produced and self-engineered.  We have a specific sound we want, and we’re not gonna have anybody else come in. That’s not to say there aren’t great producers or engineers that turn average records into amazing records, but if you have a sound you want, you gotta create it yourself.   Even with rough demos, you have to be careful not to let people it, because they’re gonna tell what’s wrong.  It’s not pride, but we know how want it sound and when we get, we’ll know it.

Brett:  It was better to do this way, actually.

Dan: There’s a mutual respect.  If something sounds like shit, I’ll take Brett’s word for it.

Album of the Week: “There’s a Riot Goin’ On” – Sly and the Family Stone

 

On the surface, “Thank You for Talkin’ to Me, Africa” is essentially a re-write of “Thank You (Falentinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”.  But where that song sounds like a proto-funk party anthem,  “Thank You for Talkin’ to Me, Africa” is a slow-burn.  The groove is slower and darker.  Both songs contain the same lyrics, but the paranoia seeps in.  What was once a rave-up with a goofy title becomes something much more sinister. “Lookin’ at the devil, grinning at his gun,” Sly sings slowly over the dark and distorted bass.  A little bit later, he sounds defeated when he sings, “Thank you for the party.  I could never stay.”

There’s little doubt that the party he’s referring to is the late 60’s idealism. In the late 1960’s Sly and the Family Stone were one of the most groundbreaking acts around – politically and musically. Their previous album, Stand! was a call to arms for anybody and everybody. The album’s breakthrough single “Everyday People” was a soulful ode to end prejudices of al kind.   The very fact that the band was a multi-racial and multi-sex act was a statement by itself.

But There’s a Riot Goin’ On contains very little of that idealism.  Sly’s cynicism seeps through every single song and every funky rhythm the band takes on.  Like “Thank You For Talkin’ to Me, Africa” most of the songs on the album are slowed down forcing the listener to engage in the music and the mood it emotes.  But still, this being Sly he doesn’t alienate his audience.  Much of the album is a trip through his stoned and weary mind, but it’s not a psychological expose like John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band.  The proto-funk of the album keeps it from being depressing, even as it crawls again.

Though the two albums are musically different, I’ve always thought of There’s a Riot Goin’ On as the funky brother of the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers.  Both albums are fueled by their creators’ reaction to the end of the 60’s and of course, their drug-use. There’s a murky under-tone to both albums that was ground-breaking in each of their respective genres. Sticky Fingers found the Stones embracing their bad-boy and hedonistic image more than before, and set the path for most hard-rock bands afterwards.  There’s a Riot Goin’ On paved the way for funk and many of its songs were used as samples in early hip-hop.

However history looks at There’s a Riot Goin’ On, ultimately none of it would really matter if Sly wasn’t able to deliver songs.  “Luv n’ Haight” contains some of the group’s best vocal melodies along with Sly’s trademark wails.  “Spaced Out Cowboy” is one of the album’s lighter moments and despite being an instrumental it contains some great harmonica playing and some weird yodeling by Sly.  As always with a Sly and the Family Stone album, the rhythm section remains one of the best in rock.  It’s not easy to sound both loose and tight at the same time, but somehow the group manages to do it throughout There’s a Riot Goin’ On.

There’s a Riot Goin’ On might not have many of the group’s best known songs, but it contains some of their best and most engaging music.

Song of the Week: “Maybellene” – Chuck Berry

 

“That’s All Right” is generally considered to be the first rock and roll song.  And there’s certainly an argument to be made for that. But rock and roll got its attitude about a year later with Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene”.

In under three minutes, Berry sets the standard for many classic rock and roll singles: sex, cars, a jealous narrator, a hot girl, and an element of danger.  It’s here that rock and roll was presented as a young man’s past-time. Berry’s narrator doesn’t try to woo his girl with flowers or say he loves her.  Instead, he goes on a high-speed car chase to take her back.

And that’s just the lyrics. Berry’s sound on “Maybellene” was new and exciting to many radio listeners. Almost any guitar-based song has its origins in this song.  The guitar is in the fore-front and is central to the song’s urgency and youthful energy.  Berry’s chugging rhythm feels exudes sex.  When Berry goes for the solo, you practically smell the burningtires and smoke from the chase.

Without Berry and “Maybellene” rock and roll would be entirely different.  Who knows where it would have ended up? Keith Richards has spent the better part of 50 years chasing the riff of “Maybellene” while half of Bruce Springsteen’s songs have their origin here.