Revisiting Highway 61

Ironically, I think I was working in news radio when “Highway 61 Revisited – Revisited” was released in 2005, but I don’t remember reading or hearing anything about it. What a deal. (In case you missed it, the original “Highway 61 Revisited” was released by Bob Dylan in 1965 and contained “Like a Rolling Stone” along with several other great tracks.)

Recently, I found a really interesting cover of the title track by Dave Alvin on the various artists Revisited-Revisited release. Try saying that 10 times quickly…maybe even in an Elmer Fudd voice if you like.

Alvin’s take on this Dylan tune is pretty unique. It’s basically a spoken word thing with a trippy musical accompaniment, but I have to say I like it — it’s poetic. I don’t usually pay much attention to “official videos”, but this one is a sort of black and white open road montage. It works for me.

Dylan’s original release is pretty off the wall as well.

Lyrically, this is a good example of why people like Dylan’s writing. You’ve got references to the bible, the welfare department, bleachers in the sun. Again, it’s not only poetic as a whole, but how do you describe the music…funny, raucous, bluesy, funky, unique? I would agree with all of those. The comedic siren whistle is a nice touch.

There are at least 40 other cover versions of this song so I….reserve the right to revisit the already Revisited? Elmer Fudd, out.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Advertisement

The Power of Electric Helter Skelter

When I was a teenager in the 1980s, I watched a documentary called “The Compleat Beatles” on USA Network. The network ran the film, I recorded it onto a VHS tape, and I watched it ….repeatedly. I guess that was the beginning of my own personal B. I. P. (Beatles Immersion Phase.) It was the best music I’d ever heard and the most fun I’d ever encountered. It was like a whole new world. During said phase, I bought all kinds of Beatles stuff, but, more importantly, I listened to as much of their music as I could find. One Christmas, I got both Sgt. Pepper and The White Album on vinyl. That was a good year.

While listening to The White Album, the song that really blew me away was “Helter Skelter.” It opened with a hard driving, frantic sounding electric guitar followed by Paul McCartney’s equally powerful vocal.

If I had to pick one word to describe what grabbed me about this song, it was the overall “feel.” It was FAST, driving, raucous.

I’ve read many stories about how musicians get inspired by this or that….The Doors’ Robby Krieger saw Chuck Berry in concert and he went out and bought a red guitar as a result. Motorhead’s Lemmy said when he heard rock and roll everything went from black and white to technicolor. For me, when I heard the song “Helter Skelter”, I knew I had to get an electric guitar — no two ways about it.

I’m sure “Helter Skelter” has inspired many musicians because it’s been covered a fair amount…I found over 80 versions of it. In college I got into a memorable argument with two guys about the Motley Crue vs. Beatles version. My argument was, “Who wrote it?” Besides, The Beatles version has much better vocals, better production, and simply outrocks the Crue. Speaking of the original Beatles version, there are a lot of interesting elements to the song: the backing vocals, the descending guitar riffs, about a million overdubs, and of course Ringo shouting, “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!”

There’s been plenty written about the inspiration of the song…an amusement park ride/slide and McCartney reading a comment from Pete Townshend about The Who recording some really loud and racuous tune. If he wanted to one up Townshend, I think there’s no question he did. I, for one, am forever grateful.

Till next time keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

The Original Metrosexual

There I was…searching YouTube for the song “Oh Lonesome Me” — a buddy of mine likes The Kentucky Headhunters’ version of it. (The original was written and recorded by Don Gibson and produced by Guitar God Chet Atkins.) One of the versions that popped up during my search was by a group called The Beau Brummels. I can’t say I’m especially crazy about it.

Nevertheless, this led me to check out Wikipedia re: the origin of the band’s name. Beau Brummell was an English dude who lived during the early 1800s. He wasn’t “O.G.” (Original Gangster), but he was apparently “O.M.” — the Original Metrosexual. He sounds like he was a bit like Paris Hilton…he was famous for being famous. Apparently, he was quite particular about his appearance and set the bar for all of the other gentlemen of his day. I don’t know if “metrosexual” is a term in England, but I guess Beau Brummell was also the “O.D.” — the Original Dandy.

“Dandy” isn’t a term I can ever say I’ve really heard used in my neck of the woods, but you get the idea — a pretty boy. What cracks me up about this whole thing is Wikipedia mentions a few different eras including Later Dandysim — that sounds like an essay question. (Essay Question Number One: Define and give the historical significance of Later Dandysim.) Geez.

The Wikipedia entry has some interesting pop culture references to Beau Brummell including a mention in the lyrics to Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me”, film/TV, and a razor advertisement. Apparently, Brummell loved to gamble, and ended up fleeing to France and going into debtor’s prison.

There’s a statue of Beau Brummell at 53 Jermyn Street in London if you’d like to take a selfie with his likeness. Maybe San Francisco, the home of The Beau Brummels, should follow suit. We can only hope no one gives Paris Hilton the same recognition.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

p.s. Did the band think spelling it with one “L” was snappier?

Honky Tonk: Hyde & Seek

If I had to pick one of my favorite songs by The Rolling Stones, it would be a tough choice, but one of the leading contenders is “Honky Tonk Women.” Why, you may ask? Well, the song itself has an outstanding GROOVE or feel to it. Warning: I’m going to get musically nerdy about it.

First of all, I would point out that Open G Tuning is used on Keef’s guitar as it is on many of their songs. (Instead of using standard low to high string E,A,D,G,B,E….it’s tuned to D, G, D, G, B, D. Actually, Keith usually removes the low E string if you really want to know.)

Before watching this clip, see if you can find all of these things in the video:

  1. Bullfighter pants
  2. Palm trees
  3. Hell’s Angels denim jacket
  4. Mick Taylor
  5. Yellow bandana dude freaking out
  6. A twelve sting guitar headstock
  7. Vox amplifier
  8. Bigsby tremolo
  9. Someone yawning?
  10. A guy wearing a paper hat

I’m sure there are plenty of other live versions of this song out there, but when I go to practice it, this 1969 Hyde Park performance is my go to version. I think the tempo of the song is a little slower than the studio version.

I’m pretty sure I first saw this clip in a documentary. According to Wikipedia, The Stones in the Park was a free music festival held on July 5, 1969. This was Mick Taylor’s first gig with the Stones following the recent death of The Rolling Stones’ Founder Brian Jones. Another clip I’ve seen of this concert shows Mick Jagger reading a poem in tribute to Jones with white butterflies released as well. A musician friend of mine says he only likes the Brian Jones Era Stones, which I found hard to believe, but opinions vary. This song is a big point for the post-Jones era in my humble opinion.

Getting back to the actual song, it’s basically made up of four chords: G, C, D, and A. It can be played in standard tuning, but I don’t think it has quite the same feel as playing it in Open G. I think it has a very bluesy, raw feel to it, and works well with harmonica and slide guitar, too. I won’t get into the origin of the song, but reserve the right to revisit it.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

BW LZ

When the idea of “colorizing” old black and white movies came out, I hated it. To date, I can’t say my opinion has really changed much about it. I know there are some WW II programs on Netflix which offer the same kind of thing. I really don’t see the need for it. Call me old fashioned, but I have no problem with black and white. This leads me to Led Zeppelin’s first TV appearance in 1969.

I have always gotten a kick out of watching this performance — Is it because Robert Plant looks extremely young in it or because of the romance of black and white footage? Either way, I think “How Many More Times” is an underrated track from the Led Zeppelin “I” album.

It’s hard for me to pick my favorite elements of this song, but I’ll try. Whether listening to the album version or this live one, John Bonham’s drumming always catches my ear. (This is a good one to search YouTube for drum covers.) I love the Wah effect Jimmy Page uses on the intro as well. I’ve never been an enormous fan of the whole violin bow thing, but I think it produces some unique sounds.

In my mind, Page looks pretty cool with that Telecaster. (By the way there’s a video about it on the Fender website for the true guitar nerds.) I really enjoy the interplay between Robert Plant’s jazzy-bluesy vocals and Page’s guitar, too. You hear a foreshadowing of the middle vocals of “Whole Lotta Love”, and there’s also a snippet of “The Hunter” by Albert King (one of the first songs I deemed blog-worthy).

Maybe I just like the black and white because it keeps with theme of their first album cover.

Viva, Zeppelin! Viva, Black & White!

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Farmer John’s Daughter?

No, this isn’t a country song or even a country-rock song. This is a GARAGE rock song. The first time I heard “Farmer John” was on the 1990 album “Ragged Glory” by Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Ironically, this song is not a Neil Young composition, but it is probably my favorite on the album. I don’t ever remember seeing the video for this one on MTV, but, apparently, one exists.

“Farmer John” was actually written by Don Harris and Dewey Terry and released in the late 50s with little to no avail. A few years later, a band called The Premiers (or is it The Premieres…check out the bass drum) gave it a new life and even got the chance to play it on American Bandstand!

I guess the song does “have a good beat and is easy to dance to.” In any event, the lyric about “Champagne eyes” always stuck with me. I’m biased towards the Neil Young version and recommend Ragged Glory if you’re into distorted garage rock. As hard as Neil’s version rocks, it has a kind of a unique, lumbering feel to it.

The reach of this song is an interesting thing. It was recorded by lots of 60s garage rock bands. I like the version by a Michigan band called Tidal Waves. (I guess they were named after all of the surfing they did on Lake Superior? ) Their version is rated “R” for Rowdy — as it should be. Other artists to record this song include Los Lobos and Roomful of Blues. There’s even a version by The White Stripes out there, too.

To cap it off, a Swedish rock band called Hep Stars also had a hit with it in their country. Apparently, some future members of ABBA were involved — I’m not kidding.

Till next time keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Season of the Witch

If memory serves me correctly, I was at a jam in Lawrence, KS the first time I can consciously remember hearing this 1966 song by Donovan. It is a great jam song — it’s not too fast, it’s not too complicated, and you can play the A minor pentatonic scale over it.

I like the lyrics…it’s kind of a funky, 60s vibe to it. Great for altering/improvising your own lyrics as well. I like to refer to the tune as “Season of the Wee-otch.” While researching the many different covers of this one, I found a great one by Richard Thompson.

You can hear Thompson’s unique vocal stamp on this one and, around the 4 minute mark, his unique guitar stamp as well. I counted at least fifty different versions of this song. I thought it was interesting to hear a version by Lou Rawls as well.

In recent years, a less-jammy yet still groovy version was released by Lana Del Ray.

If you have a favorite band, chances are, they’ve played this if not recorded as well. Just a few other musicians who have recorded it include Joan Jett, Vanilla Fudge, Stephen Stills/Al Kooper, Dr. John and The Blues Brothers. Somewhere along the way I read that Led Zeppelin used to play this a lot during their pre-show soundchecks.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Paperback Writer

When I think of this Beatles’ classic from 1966, the harmony is the first thing to pop into my mind. However, there are other interesting elements including a bit of “Frère Jacques” towards the end.. I found a vocal-less version on YouTube and enjoyed listening to the instrumental track as a rocker in and of itself. (No one can mistake this for Karaoke!)

This track moves quickly so it’s easy to miss all of the elements. I’ve always liked the guitar riff in this song as well.

Then there’s the bass of Paul McCartney. There’s a really cool bass lick around 1:50.

It wouldn’t be complete without the, you know, full-on complete version.

You can also find the “isolated vocals” version out there as well. I would have to pick 1966 as my personal favorite year of “Beatledom.” They wrapped up their last tour and were starting to focus their efforts on studio work. This single was released a few months before the “Revolver” album, which is my personal favorite. It’s almost like this effort hinted at what was still to come. The flip side of this single (“Rain”) is an overlooked track which has some of the same elements as “Paperback Writer”: great harmony, and great rhythm section. A bit of backwards guitar on it as well. “Revolver” features more of the same.

Since The Beatles broke up in 1970, I think we should refer to 1966 as “the Year 4 Pre-Beatles Breakup.” Or should it be the Year 4 Pre-B.B. — the year 4 Pre-B.B.U? 1974, on the other hand, would be “the Year 4 Post Beatles Breakup. or the Year 4 Post B.B.U.” I think it may catch on, but I could be wrong.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Arpeggios and Animals

I was fooling around with the guitar riff to John Lee Hooker’s classic tune “Boom Boom”, which led me to the version by The Animals. Their take on it is a bit more pop, but Mickie Most produced their self-titled debut album so I should thank my lucky stars it didn’t come out sounding like “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.” Yikes! It got me to thinking about The Animals as a band. Like a lot of people, “House of the Rising Sun” is the song that turned me onto them. I think the appeal of that song in particular is the vocals of Eric Burdon, the spooky minor key thing, and the simple-but-memorable arpeggio guitar part played by Hilton Valentine.

I enjoyed reading Hilton’s bio on his website ( http://www.hiltonvalentine.com/bio.html), especially the part about him learning from a book called “Teach Yourself A Thousand Chords”. I had one called “How to Play Guitar” by Roger Evans among others. It’s actually a great reference on the guitar in general. (Ironically, “House of the Rising Sun” was in there.)

If you look at the track listing on The Animals’ first album it’s probably typical of a lot of stuff being played around the same time by the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Pretty Things, and other British bands. It includes covers of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Fats Domino.

The Animals had a unique sound. It was bluesy, maybe even “gritty,” but also featured the keyboards of Alan Price. Of course you can’t talk about The Animals without mentioning bass player Chas Chandler — he went onto manage Jimi Hendrix. John Steel rounded out the band on drums.

“House of the Rising Sun” had a big impact on me. I can remember trying to figure out ALL of the lyrics. I finally found a guitar method book which cleared them up for me, but pre-internet it wasn’t easy. It’s funny to think about the influence of guitar books now, but it got Hilton Valentine and many others like him playing.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

“My Dinner with Jimi”

I stumbled across this Rhino Films effort in the public library a few years ago and was fortunate enough to find it again on some free streaming channel recently. If you are a fan of Sixties Rock, it is a must see! The story was written by Howard Kaylan of Turtles fame and takes viewers on a point of view ride through a swingin’ scene. It’s a fun film. It starts on the Sunset Strip where The Doors are opening for The Turtles. Before they leave America, though, Kaylan deals with his draft card and rubs elbows with other musicians like Frank Zappa, Mama Cass, and more.

The film centers around The Turtles’ trip to London, England. (I’ve never really explored that band, but they had some hits like “Happy Together.” I mean you have to give them some credit — especially when you think about who else was in the charts. ) When they finally get to London Town they start by hanging out with Graham Nash and Donovan, then bump into none other than The Beatles in a local hot spot. This was the day before the release of the epic Sgt. Pepper album.

As the evening progresses, the band mingles with a couple of The Moody Blues and Kaylan meets Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones. Jones introduces him to Jimi Hendrix and, as the title implies, they have dinner and wrap about playing music, enlightenment, and beautiful women. What’s interesting to me about this film is it sucks you in and puts you right in the middle of all that groovy-ness. Not only that, but the conversations just feel real to me. A couple of familiar actors appear in this film including George Wendt and John Corbett. An actor named Royale Watkins plays Jimi Hendrix and I think he does a good of capturing Hendrix’s speech patterns. I’ve seen a lot of films about different bands and documentaries about Sixties rock, but this is the only film I can recall about that is anecdotal. Basically, it’s not the same ole news footage and clips of Monterey Pop.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!