(The machine keeps rolling, even if some of the darlings of the rock world want you to believe otherwise. Never too fond of the Loogans at the top of the rock and roll food chain, we here at rockandrolljunkie.com understand and respect the hard work some of those iconic acts have put together. So, once a week, we’ll bring you curated assortment of the top stories from all them rock sites that want to feed you the filth that greases the wheels of rock. Call it our tabloid section if you will – FATS)
Rush have spent more than 40 years charging restlessly ahead, but going out on the road for an anniversary tour is bound to put a fellow in a reflective mood — and Geddy Lee had plenty to look back on during his recent conversation with Fender.
The subject of the talk was “What Makes Rush So Unique?,” and while that’s a pretty big question, Lee and his interviewer zeroed in on a few key ingredients that have helped the band remain creatively vital for four decades and counting. For Lee, the most important one might be the friendships between the members of the trio.
“You spend 40 years with the same people and all of our heart and our sweat and our personalities goes into the music that we make. It’s also a friendship — a collaborative kind of club that we are doing this and this is our thing, together,” he explained. “It’s connected to the personalities, it’s connected to the human beings. It’s not something anyone can step into and it will be a thing.”
And although Rush endured a key lineup change early on, when drummer John Rutsey departed, Lee makes it clear that the band’s come too far to bring a new member into the club. “It is the thing that is dependent on the three people who are in the band,” he continued. “Were one to leave or not want to play anymore, you couldn’t just replace that person with some other person; it’s going to change the chemistry. It’s going to change the dynamics, and as such, it would be a different band.”
Whatever happens with the band after they wrap up what’s being billed as their last big-scale tour, Lee sees that chemistry staying potent: “Rush, as I see it, is as an identifiable living thing dependent and interdependent and connected to the three goofs that are in that band, and that’s how it will remain.”
As far as a lot of listeners are concerned, the Beatles established the template for a substantial portion of the rock bands that followed in their wake. But a new study suggests that they were nowhere near as revolutionary as the hip-hop acts that upended the charts decades later.
The Guardian reports on the research, which was conducted by a group of London academics and attempted to provide a comprehensive overview of musical trends and patterns on the U.S. pop charts between 1960 and 2010. The group’s methods pinpointed three years when major changes occurred: 1964, 1983 and 1991.
“For the first time we can measure musical properties in recordings on a large scale,” explained the study’s lead author, Matthias Mauch. “We can actually go beyond what music experts tell us, or what we know ourselves about them, by looking directly into the songs, measuring their makeup and understanding how they have changed.”
The point, as Mauch sees it, is that the data flies in the face of a widespread belief that popular music has grown more homogeneous — or, as he puts it, “worse and worse” — over the past couple of decades. “We didn’t really find anything like that,” he continued. “There is not an overall trend for the composition, the musical ingredients of the charts, to become less diverse.”
In fact, Mauch and his co-authors argue that the advent of hip-hop has had a greater impact on pop than anything in the rock era. Where acts like the Beatles — or the New Wave acts whose embrace of electronic instruments helped change the landscape in 1983 — added their own imprint to sounds and trends that were already there, hip-hop “saved the charts” by reinventing the formula.
Not everyone agrees. The Guardian‘s report quotes Mike Brocken, a senior lecturer at Liverpool Hope University who also happens to be “director of the world’s first Beatles masters degree,” as arguing, “Popular music cannot be ‘measured’ in this way – what about reception, the political economy, subcultures? So my first instincts are to question any study that uses the dreaded data analysis.”
Pointing out that “semiotic approaches yield far more than chord shapes and time signatures,” Brocken agrees that the British Invasion didn’t reinvent the wheel — but says that really isn’t the point. “Most decent popular music researchers would probably agree that the Beatles were not so much innovators as musical magpies – and that’s not a criticism,” he noted. “They, like all of us, listened to all sorts of stuff and were duly inspired.”
Slash appeared on CBS This Morning today to announce the new music video for his song “Beneath the Savage Sun.” The tune and video, which he created with his band Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, was written and shot to help raise awareness for endangered elephants.
While on the morning show, Slash was asked the inevitable question of whether there would ever be a reunion of Guns N’ Roses‘ classic lineup. After being pressed by the show’s hosts, Slash ended up saying, “Never say never.”
“It’s been one of those things that’s been talked about by everybody but us for over the last 18, 19 years,” stated Slash. So, does he ever talk with Guns N’ Roses singer Axl Rose? The guitarist revealed on the show, “Well, we haven’t really talked in a long time, but a lot of the tension that you were talking about has dissipated. We don’t have all those issues anymore. It’s not a lot of controversy. It’s something that is more perpetuated by the media, more than anything.”
When asked if he personally would ever want a reunion, Slash commented, “I got to be careful what I say there, I mean, if everybody wanted to do it and do it for the right reasons, I think the fans would love it. I think it might be fun at some point to try and do that.”
However, when pressed on what those “right reasons” might be, he shied away from responding. “I mean, that’s a hard one,” he continued. “That just starts to get into a whole complex thing … it’s really between the guys in the band.” Finally, when asked if he thought a reunion was likely he said, “Never say never.”
Slash and his group Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators are currently touring behind their latest studio album World on Fire. They are right in the middle of their month long U.S. headlining tour and play New York City tonight (May 7).
For the third song of his set last night at Madison Square Garden, Eric Clapton invited out the first guest of the night: John Mayer, who Clapton has called a “master” guitar player. They launched into 1989’s swaggering, gospel-steeped “Pretending.” Midway through, Mayer played a melodic, fat-toned, piercing solo. Clapton shook his head, grinning, looking ready for a challenge. For his lead, Clapton stepped on his wah-wah pedal for the only time of the night, letting out a threatening flurry on his Stratocaster. There was no doubt who the master was.
That was the case throughout Clapton’s 70th Birthday Celebration (the actual big day was March 30th), which featured friends like Jimmie Vaughan, Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall Jr. sitting in. It may be an off-year for Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival (it takes place every three years), but this show felt like being at the fest. Clapton, grey-haired in a vest and glasses, looked professorial, a teacher watching over his musical students with pride. To add to the master-class vibe, gigantic video screens behind Clapton focused more on his fingers than his face, proving he had lost none of his technical facility.
Clapton’s show has its faults — why add backup singers on “Hoochie Coochie Man”; Why acoustic “Layla?” — but the moments Clapton let loose, like “I Shot the Sheriff,” when he let silence hang for a moment and then produced a virtuosic, searing jolt of sounds – made those gripes feel minor. During the latter moment, Mayer, sitting in the bowl next to Katy Perry, practically jumped out of his seat, held his hands high and clapped, looking around as if to make sure others were appreciating it, too. Mayer and Perry continued to boogie in their seats during “Crossroads” and “I Shot the Sheriff.”
While some aging acts expand their bands over time, adding players to do the heavy lifting, Clapton has stripped his down. These days, he has no backup guitarist, giving him far more room to stretch out. Beginning with the 12-bar “Somebody’s Knocking,” his tone throughout the night was clean and spare, his playing an exercise in restraint and expertly-chosen flourishes and dynamic shifts. He picked up the acoustic to belt country blues “Drifting Blues” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” filling each song full of masterful fingerpicking.
But Clapton was happy to share the spotlight. After the acoustic set, he plugged in and invited friend Jimmie Vaughan out for “Before You Accuse Me” trading licks while laughing over a Texas Roadhouse shuffle. He let keyboardist Paul Carrack sing “You Are So Beautiful” and gave Carrack and fellow keyboardist Chris Stainton ample room to stretch out on “Little Queen of Spades.”
Bramhall and Derek Trucks joined for 1970’s “Let It Rain,” Bramhall playing a tasteful, melodic solo, while Trucks unleashed a trademark demonic attack. And for the encore, Clapton invited all the guests out for for a cover of Joe Cocker’s “High Time We Went,” with Carrack on vocals. Everyone looked eager to impress their friend, pulling out their signature tricks, Vaughan showcasing tremelo-drenched spookiness while Trucks watched over him, grinning before letting out his own slide guitar fury, Mayer playing a solo that nodded to Vaughan’s brother Stevie Ray.
Nobody was enjoying it more than Clapton, who late in the night, addressed the crowd: “Thank you very much for helping me celebrate this wonderful gift with these wonderful friends.”