Showing posts with label Music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Music. Show all posts

Friday, January 9, 2009

iS tHIs sOnG lIKe hAppEnINg oR sOMeTHIN'?


Hey yawl. Like wazzup dude? Like waz are yawl up to dood? I been listenin' a lot lately. Like listening to MP3 and my iPod stuffs like that. But lately it got me thinkin' you know, this chix Avril, is she happening or what?

I dunno man. But they say she's a punk rocker. Well, I like, like tawdally man, I like have a bit of problem with that. I mean, if she's a punk how could she be a rawker man. My dad told me that's not possible dood. And then like, if she's a rocker how could she be a punk ey? I mean, like punk rocker. Isn't that like so mixed up like Obama or somethin'? I dunno man. Yawl tell me. But she's one hot gal man. I must say. Like, yo man, she's hawt or what?

This song you know, I'm with you thingy. Wadayawl think about it ey? I think it's oh so crap dood. I mean, that song like make no sense man. No sense. Like toawdally dood. So not happening man.

Like first she says:

"I'm standing on a bridge,
I'm waiting in the dark,
I thought that you'd be here by now

Fine dood. That's okay by me. I mean, she waz like, waiting on a bridge. But why on a bridge? Nemind man. She waited on a bridge. Then she says:

"There's nothing but the rain,
No footsteps on the ground,
I'm listening but there's no sound

Is she like deaf or somethin' dood? No sound? It must have been a really small drizzle dood. Must be. Or like there would be sound otherwise, no? And then how would there be footsteps on the ground when she was waiting on the bridge dood? I have problem man. This is like so out of my area man.

"Isn't anyone tryin to find me?
Won't somebody come take me home?"

Like why would anyone try to find her dood? I mean she's hot and all that. I know. But when she's standing on a bridge, in the rain, why would someone try to find her rite? Unless her mom or somethin' has lodged a missing person report or somethin' I would have thought. This one escape me man. Like so tawdally escape me.

"It's a damn cold night,
Tryin to figure out this life.
Won't you take me by the hand, take me somewhere new?
I don't know who you are, but I...
I'm with you.
I'm with you."

This is too deep dood. Tawdally man. This shit is so deep it makes Obama seems shallow man. Really. I mean. Like she was trying to figure out her life or somethin', on a bridge you know, and there was this rain you know. Then she figures, oh yeah, she figures why don't you take my hand man, take me somewhere new man. Coz ya know you might be the answer to all this questions she has about her life you know. And a new place might just be her life ya know. Yeah man. Dood, that shit is so deep man.

But then man, she said she doesn't know who it is man. That is so confusing dood. Coz then she said she's with him already. I mean, she was there rite. Thinking about life and all. Then she was asking someone to take her hand and all. I mean she doesn't know him or her but she is with him or her already dood.

Tell yawl what. I think she like, smoking some heavy stuffs dood. Like tawdally heavy stuffs.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Bonzo and the Raging Moon (Part 1)

The date was September 24th, 1980. The place was The Old Hyde. He was picked up by the band's assistant, Rex King, that morning and was to be brought to the band's rehearsal at Bay Studios. It was a part of the band's preparation for an upcoming tour of the United States, the first US tour since 1977.

At that time, he had just overcome a heroin problem. He was taking a drug to treat his anxiety and depression. While on the way to the studios, he asked King to stop for breakfast. Legend has it that he downed 4 quadruple vodkas (which is of course equivalent to 16 vodkas!) and ate a ham roll. Taking a bite at the roll, he said to King, "Breakfast!"

When he arrived at the studios, he was obviously drunk. The band's singer remembered that he was "tired and disconsolate". He continued drinking throughout the rehearsal and the band later called off the rehearsal. He would tell the singer, "I don't want to do this. You play the drums and I'll sing."

After calling off the rehearsal, the band convened at the lead guitarist's house in Windsor. He drank some more double vodkas before he finally passed out at around midnight. The band members moved him to a spare room. The next day, in the afternoon, the bassist together with the band's tour manager, Benji LeFevre, went to wake him up. He never did. They found him dead. Apparently he had rolled over in his sleep, vomited into his lungs and choked to his death.

John Henry "Bonzo" Bonham. The drummer of Led Zeppelin. He was born on May 31st 1948. Found dead on September 25th 1980. He was 32.

*** *** ***

Apparently, when Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, who were then in the Yardbirds, flirted with the idea of forming a group with John Entwistle and himself as the drummer, he jokingly remarked, "it will probably go over like a lead zeppelin!" He was non other than Keith Moon, the drummer for the Who, a group consisting of Entwistle, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey.

Keith John Moon was born on August 23rd, 1946. As a teenager, Moon was into surfing music, such as those which were popularised by the Beach Boys. He joined a surfing music band called the Beachcombers and became part of a club circuit to which, coincidentally, the Who also belonged. Moon's drumming style was unorthodox, to put it mildly. He was loud! He later realised that he was kind of out of sync in a band which emphasised tight-knit harmony. The fact that he could not sing well served only to exacerbate the situation. The band would ban him from singing although sometime, in the heat of the moment, he would instinctively joined the chorus to disastrous result. While performing "Behind Blue Eyes", which requires precise harmony, Moon would be sent offstage just in case he forget that he wasn't supposed to sing!

At the time he joined, the Who was known as the Detours. The band consisted of Townshend, Entwistle, Daltrey and Dougie Sandom as the drummer. The Detours later became the Who, the High Numbers and later, the Who again. Upon hearing that the Detours was having problems with Sandom and had later sacked him, Moon "laid plans to insinuate myself (himself) into the band", to borrow his own words. He went to the Oldfield, a pub where the Detours was playing, had several drinks and summoned up enough courage to go on the stage to tell Daltrey and gang that he could do better than the sessions drummer who was standing in for the night. The band told him to go ahead and play and he then played drums in one song, "The Road Runner".

In an interview with the Rolling Stones in 1972, Moon vividly recalled what happened. "I'd had several drinks to get me courage up, and when I got onstage I went arrrrrggGHHHHHHH on the drums, broke the base drum pedal and two skins and got off. I figured that was it, I was scared to death." While sitting at the bar later, Townshend came to ask him whether he was free the next Monday as there was to be a gig. He said he was and the rest, as they say, would be carved in stone and hung in Rock 'n' roll's historical archives. "And that was it. Nobody ever said, "You're in." They just said, "What're you doing Monday?", said Moon.

*** *** ***

Suddenly, there was no Zeppelin. Robert Plant said later, "the band didn't exist, the minute Bonzo died." The band was in a stupor. No statement. No news. No plan. The music and history were left unfinished. "It was so . . . final," Plant said. "I never even thought about the future of the band or music."

Finally on December the 4th, Atlantic Records issued a one-sentence press release: "we wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend and the deep respect we have for his family, together with the sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were." It was simply signed, "Led Zeppelin." The world lost a truly great band that day. A band which had managed to infuse super stardom with real talents and British white rock and the North American deep blues culture and music. A band which had managed to marry Plant's rasping voice with Page's emotive riffs backed by the towering musicianship of John Paul Jones and of course, the power, energy and anger of John Bonham on the drums.

Twelve years earlier, in 1968, Jimmy Page was in the Yardbirds with Jeff Beck on guitars. Beck's temper tantrums caused all the band members to leave the group in the middle of that year. Page assumed the band's name and he set out to find new members. His search for a singer brought him to Terry Reid, a former singer of the group Jaywalkers, which had then disbanded. Reid declined Page's invitation and suggested that Page check out Robert Plant instead.

Plant was from the English Midlands and was a singer who dabbled in American country-blues. While Keith Moon had a deep interest in surfing, Plant had a thing for Lord of the Rings, which explained his band's name, Hobbstweedle. Listening to Plant's rendition of Jefferson's Airplane's "Somebody To Love", Page immediately knew that his search had come to an end.

Meanwhile, John Paul Jones, a well known arranger for the likes of Donovan and the Rolling Stones, to name but a few, called up Page and asked to join even though that would mean he had to leave his lucrative cheques as an established and accomplished sessionist.

Bonham was then already known as the loudest drummer in Great Britain with a propensity to break drum heads. He was so loud so much so that he was often asked to leave studios and clubs. He was once asked to leave a studio in Birmingham for being too loud for the owner's liking and 10 years later, he sent a card to the owner which said "thanks for the career advice" accompanied by a Led Zep gold record! Throughout his early career, he once joined a band called Crawling King Snakes whose singer was non other than Robert Plant. The band broke up without an album. Later Plant formed Band of Joy and Bonham joined in as the drummer.

It was Plant who told Page to try out Bonham for the new Yardbirds. History was in the making. Page; Plant; Jones and Bonham came together for the first time in a room below a record store in London. They played "Train Kept-a Rollin", a song popularised by Johnny Burnette and given a new lease of life by the Yardbirds. "As soon as I heard John Bonham play," Jones told the drummer's biographer, Chris Welch, "I knew this was going to be great—somebody who knows what he's doing and swings like a bastard. We locked together as a team immediately." Plant has said that was the moment that he found the potential of what he could do with his voice, and also that it was the moment that defined the band: "Even though we were all steeped in blues and R&B, we found in that first hour and a half that we had our own identity."

With that the New Yardbirds was formed. Legend has it that Page later changed the name to Led Zeppelin in reference to the remark made by Moon earlier. Peter Grant, the band's manager, apparently took out the letter "a" from the word "lead" because he was worried that the Americans might pronounce it as "leed". And Led Zeppelin was born.

Rock 'n' roll was never going to be the same again. Ever!

*** *** ***

The Detours was changing its name to the Who at that time. The eighteen year old Moon brought a whole new dimension to the Who with a completely different drive from the rhythm section. Moon complimented Entwistle's bass drives and that gave a new sense of musicality to the Who's music. Pete Townshend later said, "From the time we found Keith it was a complete turning point. He was so assertive and confident. Before then we had just been foolin' about."

That was the start to a roller coaster world they called rock 'n' roll. Moon bashed up the skins so hard that the whole rock experience was going to take a rolling like never before. Initially, the Who was playing a lot of rock and blues, drawing inspiration from the likes of BB King, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. Moon said they would take up songs cover and they would "Who'd" them. "Summertime Blues" was one of the song which was being "Who'd".

He has an interesting story about Daltrey's stuttering "effect" in "My Generation" though. According to him, Townshend - he was the primary composer for the band - came to the studio with the song and gave it to Daltrey one day. Daltrey, who was not familiar with the lyrics stuttered and Kit Lambert, who was producing for them then, decided to leave the stuttering to see what happen. "When we realised what'd happened, it knocked us all sideways. And it happened simply because Roger couldn't read the words," said Moon.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Moon actually revolutionised the drums. He was the first to treat the drums as an equal to the guitars in a rock band. In fact, during the early days in the Who, Daltrey recalled that Moon had wanted to be placed in front during shows. Before Moon, drums were just a part of the rhythm section of any rock band but Moon changed that image and brought the drums to the front of the rock culture. In doing so, he inspired other drummers, among whom, was Bonham.

Daltrey says the energy in "I Can See For Miles" - in which Moon's accelerating drum rolls and cymbal smashes seemed to compete with, but perfectly complemented, guitarist Pete Townshend's power chords - " is just unbelievable... He sounds like a steam locomotive at full pelt. His speed is incredible." Moon combined a variety of styles and made very much his own thing out of the drums."

"Keith was the first to treat the drums as though they were a lead instrument..." Tony Fletcher, author of Moon: The Life and Death of a Rock Legend, says. "He really made the drums an instrument that spoke very much in the same way that a lead guitar does."

Off stage though, Moon was just as explosive.

*** *** ***

After a brief visit to Copenhagen and Stockholm, the band was ensconced in the Olympics Studio for their first album. In November 1968, Grant visited New York and procured a contract with Atlantic Record. Atlantic made a modest announcement about the company having signed "the hot, new English group Led Zeppelin" and that it was "one of the most substantial deals Atlantic had ever made". It was indeed a substantial deal as Grant had procured a USD200000 advance for a band which was then unknown and whose album nobody had ever even heard of. A tour of the US was then in the offing.

Led Zep opened in Denver, Colorado on 26th December 1968 as the third act after Vanilla Fudge and Spirit and was promptly welcome in the usual US manner, namely, as a doormat! The promoter even deducted the cost of the backstage grub from the band's pay. Page had to operate the PA system himself and Bonham even had no mike for his set (which did not really matter as he was loud enough even without them). In Detroit, a newspaper ad announced the band's appearance as "Led Zeptlin"! It looked like Grant's worry over the word "lead" being mispronounced by the Americans was justified after all.

But that was not to last. Page recalled, "you could feel something was happening - first this row, then that row. It was like a tornado, and it went rolling across the country." By the end of 1969, Led Zep had toured through the country 4 times, each time to a bigger, sold out audiences. In Britain, they quickly followed Cream into the Royal Albert Hall, filling it in June 1969 and again, in January 1970. In that year too,the eponymous album, Led Zeppelin and followed by Led Zeppelin II, were released. Rock 'n' roll was changing its face and sound. The basic premise of hard rock was being redefined and the fundamentals of heavy metal were being laid.

*** *** ***

It was with Daltrey that Moon had his first clash, among many clashes, in the Who. Daltrey described the relationship among the band members in the early days of the band as a clash of egos. To him, Moon especially, did everything in excess. "He was the most generous, the most mean, he was the funniest... he could be the most unfunny, everything — the most loving, the most hateful... Everything about him was extreme," Daltrey says.

When asked by a reporter in 1965 about the flare-ups in the band, Moon innocently blurted out, "Yes, It's Roger, he hates me!" The reporter asked why and Keith replied, "Because I told him he can't sing. . . I don't like half our records and Roger is the reason."

Daltrey even knocked Moon out one day in the dressing room after a terrible performance. Apparently, Daltrey flushed out all of Moon's pills - Moon was taking pills for his alcoholism problems then - and Moon had wanted to beat him up for that. Moon was actually kicked out of the band for a while. He was brought back when Daltrey promised to be more peaceful with him.

By this time, Moon had a new love. He loved bashing up and breaking his drum sets. Finally Townshend would join him in destroying their respective instruments on stage. In America, during the Smothers Brothers show, he bribed a back stage hand to allow him to load explosives into his bass drum. At the conclusion of "My Generation" he blew up his kit and pieces flew everywhere. Moon got a piece of a cymbal embedded into his leg and Townshend temporarily lost his hearing. The guest on the show, Betty Davis, fainted into Mickey Rooney's arms.

Moon's and the band's appetite for destruction became stuffs of legends. Together they would wreak total havocs in every hotel they checked in which resulted in the band incurring loads of claims from the hotels. "It was fucking expensive. We were smashing up probably ten times if not more than we were earning. We've been going successfully for ten years, but we've only made money the last three. It took us five years to pay off three years, our most destructive period," Moon told Rolling Stones in 1972.

Trying to explain the band's knack for destroying hotel rooms, Moon said, "I get bored, you see. There was a time in Saskatoon, in Canada. It was another 'Oliday Inn, and I was bored. Now, when I get bored, I rebel. I said, "FUCK IT, FUCK THE LOT OF YA!" And I took out me 'atchet and chopped the 'otel room to bits. The television. The chairs. The dresser. The cupboard doors. The bed. The lot of it. Ah-ha-ha-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHA! It happens all the time."

The most famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) of Moon's antic was of course the car-in-the-pool legend. Tony Fletcher said in the book that Moon had never driven a Rolls Royce into a swimming pool in his biography. Daltrey disagreed and said had it not happened, he must have been living in someone else's life. Both of them were only half correct.

It wasn't a Rolls Royce. And no, Moon wasn't driving.

They were in Holiday Inns, in Flint, Michigan when the record company booked a nice big hall to celebrate Moon's birthday. Moon was presented with a 5 tier cake. Soon the party generated into one big booze fest and everybody was dead stoned. They were all dancing with their pants off! Moon of course had to excel at this stage. He threw the whole cake onto the carpet and a slanging match ensued. When the hotel manager walked in, he noticed everybody was dancing without their pants and the carpet had all been stained with the cake and its icing. He called the sheriff. Moon was in his underpants when he saw the sheriff and he made a dash. He got into a brand new Lincoln Continental parked somewhere near and released the handbrake. As the car was on a slope, it just rolled down, smashed the swimming pool fencing and went down straight into the pool with Moon in it. He managed to escape.

He than ran into the hall again, streaming in water and still in his underpants! Moon recalled, "The first person I see is the sheriff, and he's got 'is 'and on 'is gun. Sod this! And I ran, I started to leg it out the door, and I slipped on a piece of marzipan and fell flat on me face and knocked out me tooth. Ah-ha-ha HA-HA-HAHAHA!" He later spent time at the dentist with the sheriff and also in jail the next day. The whole band was packed off in an airplane the next day and while boarding the plane, the sheriff apparently said, "Son, don't ever dock in Flint, Michigan, again," to which Moon said, "Dear boy, I wouldn't dream of it."

Moon's sense of humour - which was at times rather warped - was also well known. After forgetting an interview which was due to take place at 3pm one day, Moon phoned in to say sorry that the hospital had delayed him (when in fact he was at a pub!). He told the managers that a bus had actually run him over on Oxford Street. "I was just crossing Oxford Street and a Number Eight from Shepherd's Bush 'it me right up the arse and sent me spinning across Oxford Circus,", he told the managers.

He then asked his driver to bring plaster and bandages which he wrapped around his legs. An arm strap and a walking stick then completed the whole charade. He then made the managers and some assistants carry him down four flights of stairs down to the road. While being carried across the road, a truck almost hit all of them leading Moon to curse the driver, "you 'eartless bastard, can't you see this man's injured! 'Ave you no 'eart, 'ave you no soul, you bastard! Trying to run over a cripple!"

Telling the finale to the story with his usual humorous manners, Moon said, "We went on to the interview and in the middle, after about four brandies, I just ripped off all the plaster and jumped up on the seat and started dancing. Ah-HAHAHAHAH-ha-haHAHA! HAHA!"

In the mid-60s, Moon met Kim Kerigan (when she was only 16) and married her. They were blessed with a daughter, named Mandy. On this Moon recalled that Kim was a 16 year old girl who used to hang out at the club where he and the band used to play at, in Bournemouth. According to him, "Sometime later when I went down to see her, I was on a train and Rod Stewart was on the train. This was about ten years ago. We got chatting, and we went to the bar car. It was Rod "The Mod" Stewart in those glorious days, and he'd just been working with Long John Baldry. He was playing a lot of small discotheques and pubs, doing the sort of work we were doing. I said to Rod, "Where are you going?" He said, "Bournemouth." "So'm I," I said, "I'm going down there to see my chick." he said, "So'm I." So I showed Rod a picture of Kim and he said, "Yeah . . . that's 'er." HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

*** *** ***

"It was a series of dynamic crescendos, one right after the other ," Plant describing Led Zep's first American tour in 1968 and '69. "There was no room for letdown," added Plant. That just about encapsulated Led Zep's approach towards their music and was reflective of their aspirations to be the biggest rock band of the time. Led Zeppelin, the 1st album, was recorded in 30 hours - claimed Page - and Led Zeppelin 11 was recorded during off days in between shows in nearly a dozen different studios in the summer of '69. Considering the gems which could be found in both of the albums - the thunderous "Good Times Bad Times'; the ultimate journeyman-who-can't-be-at-one-place-and-with-one-gal-for-too-long- ballad "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You"; the psychedelic "Dazed and Confused" in the 1st album alone - this must have been a band with superhuman powers and some talents!

Meanwhile, Bonham came into the forefront of rock drumming with his mastery of the grooves, sense of timing, rhythm and of course the sheer loudness of it all. The signature grooves in "Whole Lotta Love" and the sheer speed in the hard hitting "Immigrant Song" from the second album marked Bonham's entry into super stardom. He was not afraid to experiment either as he was the first known drummer to have included in his kit the congas, timpani, and drum synthesizers. He was also fast gaining a reputation for ecstatic drum solos with so much power, speed and variation.

Meanwhile, Plant was learning fast to exploit Page's masterful guitar riffs and chord movements with his voice. "I am not a guitarist as far as a technician goes - I just pick up and play it. Technique doesn't come into it. I deal in emotions'" explained Page. Such raw emotions shine in his crazed slashing outbursts in "Whole Lotta Love"; "Heartbreaker" and in one of the most emotive and heart wrenching rock and blues riffs ever to be recorded, in "Since I've Been Loving You" on Led Zeppelin 111. Plant was also adapting to Page's wailing and weeping on his guitars by exploring and adopting various vocal landscapes. "I had a long way to go with my voice then. But at the same time, the enthusiasm and spark of working with Jimmy's (Page's) guitar shows quite well," said Plant while explaining the obvious chemistry between the two. Amidst all these super virtuosos and abundance of masterful display of talents was the towering skills of the "Quiet One", John Paul Jones. Not unlike Richard Wright - the keyboardist of Pink Floyd - in character, disposition and musicianship, Jones was the backbone of the band, providing the solidity of craftsmanship, his quiet and almost intellectual demeanor providing the band a sense of stability. He was the element which had glued the band together. He provided sanity in a band which, in terms of hard rock 'n" roll life, was far from sane.

The album which would elevate Led Zep to rawkenroll God-like status soon came.

LedZeppelinFourSymbols be continued...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

World Changing Albums That Didn't Get Cut (Another Fantasy Bites The Dust)

The only album cover I ever designed in my short life.
Album would have been awesome if we did the demo properly.

(Weeps quietly in a corner somewhere)

I'm sure there's still opportunity for groupie following, rock superstardom for over 30's.

(Weeps harder in a more quiet corner somewhere else).

(Cue Queen's bass line from Another One Bites the Dust)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

and then there were two...


Richard Wright, Pink Floyd's keyboardist, passed away Monday the 16th as reported here. 

May God bless your soul Rick. May you meet the Crazy Diamond up there. And may both of you Shine On.

*my tribute to the Crazy Diamond is here.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Really Heavy Metal

No. This is not an outpouring in praise of the world's best and foremost adult illustrated science fiction/fantasy magazine to which I am a subscriber. If you are adventurous in your graphic novel forays, then this is the place to be. Cutting edge. I concede that not everything in there is good, and I will not go on save to say that each issue is a treasure chest with many true gems worth more than the gold, silver and copper it lay beside. But let us not forget some of the greats that honed and displayed their craft in that magazine such as Frank Frazetta, Moebius, Enki Bilal, Richard Corben Pepe Moreno, and H.R. Giger would do covers for it. Muahs. But no. This is about music.

I'm not terribly educated about music. Far from the academic Art is (If this is your first time here, I humbly beg of you to check out Art's awesomevoyages of rock and roll music history and scintillating analysis here: American Pie Revisited and Shine On You Crazy Diamond) but I know what I like even if I am not always able to explain to you why I like it. And it took me a long time to get to this stage of my life with regard to listening to music: to try finding something worth while in a song no matter what the song, to enjoy it for what it is, to not be overly concerned about what people may think of my musical tastefulness and finally to keep broadening my listening experience and expanding my musical appreciation vocabulary from the only 2 that I am capable of at the moment: 'Wah, damn good man!' and 'Eyer, damn shit man!'

I have to say that the music that I have listened to since acquiring that attitude has broadened a great deal so much so that I am now enjoying music I never imagined I would like about oh 3 years ago such as Indonesian bands (4 out of the 6 slots in my car are Indobands right now which is amazing for someone whose Malay is so craporama) and Latin American bands (although I have been quite into Cuban music for some time now right before the Buena Vista Social Club became huge! and caught them with Omara Portuendo when they hit KL some years back and threw an immensely satisfying show for all of those fortunate enough to attend).

But this liberal, reasonable and worldly attitude comes to a crashing halt where it concerns what I know it as: Really Heavy Metal (RHM). You know the one where you hear chugging guitars riffing out a wall of sound with the chap on lead guitar having a good plank spanking session there by himself, the drummer smashing away a steady pounding relentless beat and there's a 'singer' who screams, roars or could be belching the National Budget for this year for all I know and who tries to induce whiplash by whipping their head back and forth or doing the seizure thing with their head. And most of them will have huge heads of hair. Not stuff like Metallica, Led Zep, and the like. Those bands bother with the lyrics and melody.

I wanted to like it. I tried to like it. I really did. A family friend of mine once said to me, if somebody cooks something for me and tells me it is nice or good, in good faith of course, I will eat it no matter how disgusting it looks. That pretty much sums up my attitude towards music (and yeah food as well!). So I tried. But I just couldn't get it. I mean in terms of precision and tightness, there was no doubt about it. They could come to a grinding halt even at full chug but there was no subtlety. There is not much in the way of texture either. Lyrics were merely a sorry excuse for screaming something. One of my good friends is into it. He told me it was about the feeling. Perhaps. I guess. Hmm. Hee. Haw. I didn't get any feeling except, I need to listen to some good music fast!

I used to be a bit chuffed about it. Silly. I know. It was the whole 'if other people can, why can't I get it?' sort of thing. But I've come to terms with it. I'm not too bothered about the fact that it's harder to get into heavy metal as opposed to say someone like Britney Spears (she's got great producers) or Mariah Carey (she's got talent for the pop song and massive tits, so she must be ... oh sorry and a great voice, so she's got the goods) or even Take That (you gotta like 'Pray' at least). And I'm not bothered that you may catch me lip synching and doing those backstreet moves too or that I can't play as far as those really heavy metal bastards. And you know what? I've reached a certain measure of confidence in my tastes and appreciation of music that I am now able to say with utmost confidence that I abhor really heavy metal and if it is to be classified as music then it should be thrown into the category of burping and farting, because it sounds little better than that.

Thursday, May 29, 2008



8.3.1980. I had finished my MCE and was waiting for my result. Sudirman came to town.

He was my idol of sorts. I remember trying to sing like him, dance like him, dress like him and be like him. When he got back from a tour in Japan, he transformed himself from being just another Malay singer to a Malaysian superstar. I remember his curly hair, baggy pants, linen vest worn over linen shirts complete with a long scarf over his neck.

As a kid, I was overwhelmed by Sudir. And so, on 8.3.1980, he had a concert somewhere near my town. I borrowed my friend's bike and rode it to the concert even though I had no licence!

He was a real superstar. He had none of the attitude which would turn you off. Friendly. Chatty. Earnest. Watching him live, I could almost felt his honest desire to entertain the folks. Singing, to him was not merely a profession. It was a mission. A mission to entertain the audience. Communication came as second nature to him. He made you laugh effortlessly, the young and old. He would make you shed a tear or two when he sang a sad song. He would coax an old man to dance with one of his dancers on stage. He would sing English, Malay, Tamil and Chinese songs to make his show as multi-racial as possible. I think he was the first Malaysian artist to command a truly multi racial audience in his concerts. He was just, a superstar of no equal.

During a break, I sneaked backstage. I was stopped by a guard but fortunately, Sudir saw me trying to gain entry and he signaled the guard to let me in. And there I was. Alone backstage with Sudir. He was smaller than I thought. A lot smaller than the singer I saw on stage. He smiled and extended his hand. I shook it. And I told him my name.

He asked me how old I was and I told him I was 17 and I had just finished my MCE. He smiled. "How was the exam", he asked. "Erm...okay", I said. He looked into my eyes and asked, "what do you intend to do after MCE?" I hesitated. "What would you want to be?", he followed up his earlier question. " I don't know, I just want to pass my exam..." I answered nervously. "Probably I want to be like you...a lawyer and a singer", I continued. He smiled. "You will be okay", he said. "I know you will...", he said as if my future was foretold.

I had to have a memoir from that meeting. It meant so much to me. Here, in front of me, is my idol. A person who encapsulates success to me. A law student and a great entertainer. If only digital cameras were already around those days.

I put my hand inside my pocket. Pulled out a one ringgit note. "No, please don't give money to me", he said with a smile. I looked at him and I said "no, I just want you to autograph it for me". He smiled. "How very original", he said. He took a marker, wrote my name on the note, with a message "Hormat dari" and signed "Sudir" on the note. I later added the date with a ball point pen.

That moment lasted a lifetime to me. 28 years later, I still have that note. As crisp as new.

Sudir, thank you for all the memories. Thank you for all the good times. You are missed.

May God bless your soul. I am sure you are smiling at me now. And if you hadn't known, I am okay.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Shine On, You Crazy Diamond

Johnny died one night, died in his bed
Bottle of whiskey sleeping tablets by his head
Johnny's life passed him by like a warm summer's day
If you listen to the wind you can hear him play
Don't you know, don't you know

Dont ya know
Dont ya know that you are a shooting star

Shooting Star: Bad Company

Rock and roll’s folklores are filled with tales of fame, fortune, excesses of life and the attendant self indulgent, which ultimately would culminate in self-destruction to those unlucky few, the “shooting stars”. “Johnny” was, and indeed, is a common name. Nobody knows exactly who “Johnny” was in the above song. But Jimmy Hendrix was born Johnny Allan Hendrix, and he did die in his sleep after taking alcohol with sleeping pills called Vesperax (or was it Asperax? – I am not too sure) causing him to choke on his own vomit. The period within which the song was written by Paul Rodgers also coincides with the death of Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Paul Kossoff (Paul Rodger’s guitarist in the group “Free”), Jim Morrison (The Doors) and John Bonham (Led Zeppelin). The song could thus be about rock and roll’s “shooting stars” generally. Those stars which would shine so bright, lit the night with such illuminating colours and lights, which would later dive into self destruction accompanied by a blazing trail of fire leaving behind a world awestruck by their genius and musical passion. Yes. Rock and roll’s folklores are filled with their tales.

Non however, would be sadder, more dramatic and more tragic than that of the “Crazy Diamond”.

“Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now there's a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
You were caught on the cross fire of childhood and stardom,
blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter, come on you stranger,
you legend, you martyr, and shine!

You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Well you wore out your welcome with random precision,
rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions, come on you painter,
you piper, you prisoner, and shine!”

Shine On You Crazy Diamond(part 1): Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd was a little band with an identity crisis – having changed its name 5 times in one year – when Syd Barett joined them in 1965. Barett himself was born Roger Keith Barett and had adopted the name “Syd” after a local Cambridge drummer, Sid Barett. It was therefore only natural that the Cambridge University art student would change the name of the band he joined, “The Tea Set”, to “The Pink Floyd Sound”, by marrying the first name of two obscure bluesmen , Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. The band would later ditch the long version of their name for the now famous “Pink Floyd”. (And thank God for the name changes as I could not imagine an album as great as “The Wall” or “Dark Side Of The Moon” being released by a band called “The Tea Set”! – for that matter alone, I am indebted to Syd Barett!).

Nothing was amiss during his childhood as his pathologist (some say his father was a zoologist) father, Arthur Max Barett and his mother, Winifred, encouraged the young Roger to be active in music. He took up instruments such as a banjo, later played bass and ultimately settled for a guitar while delving into old blues and jazz. At the age of 14, he opted for the name “Syd” and from then on, rock and roll history book was to be written with a chapter named after Syd Barett with a cross reference to Pink Floyd.

Pink Floyd was a little band but by no means it was a struggling one. It was already playing numerous gigs or live performances with a cultish followings of its brand of psychedelic rock and the then underground progressive rock. Incorporated in its set would be psychedelic light shows and a long improvised version of songs such as “Interstellar Overdrive” which apparently would go on for half an hour in an LSD-fuelled jams. Pink Floyd’s place in the swinging London era was then well carved. The only thing that was wanting was an album.

The arrival of Syd Barett as lead guitarist, partnering his old pal, Roger Waters, the bassist, together with Nick Mason on drums and keyboardist Rick Wright ensured that a place in rock and roll super stardom would be reserved for Pink Floyd. Coinciding with his arrival, Pink Floyd would a little later engage a reliable management team consisting of Andrew King and Peter Jenner, who in turn befriended Joe Boyd, an American who was building a name in the British music scene for himself. Boyd produced a recording for Pink Floyd in January 1967 during which session Syd Barett’s “Arnold Layne” was recorded as a demo single. This single was later released and peaked at number 20 on the chart. Consider the lyrical simplicity and spontaneity of Barett’s lyric:

“Arnold Layne had a strange hobby
Collecting clothes
Moonshine washing line
They suit him fine

On the wall hung a tall mirror
Distorted view, see through baby blue
He dug it
Oh, Arnold Layne
It's not the same, takes two to know
Two to know, two to know, two to know
Why can't you see?

Arnold Layne, Arnold Layne, Arnold Layne, Arnold Layne

Now he's caught - a nasty sort of person.
They gave him time
Doors bang - chain gang - he hates it

Oh, Arnold Layne
It's not the same, takes two to know
two to know, two to know, two to know,
Why can't you see?

Arnold Layne, Arnold Layne, Arnold Layne, Arnold Layne
Don't do it again”

Arnold Layne: Syd Barett/Pink Floyd

Apparently, Arnold Layne was about a guy who used to steal underwear from Waters’ mom’s clotheslines. BBC would, upon its release, ban the song for its cross-dressing and transvestism themes. Be that as it may, Barett’s psychedelic work caught the attention of the fickle British music fans who was then accustomed to The Beattles, The Yardbirds et al. Pink Floyd’s music was driven by Barett’s improvised and free style guitar techniques coupled with a tight, and yet to a certain extent, indulgent, rhythm section anchored by Mason’s drumming and Water’s mastery of the bass. Rick Wright, on the other hand, would give an extra dimension to the band’s work on the keyboard.

Barett was an instant hit. He was technically gifted and added to that, he was an experimentalist. He loved exploring the sonic capabilities and possibilities of his guitar. One of his trademark was of course his mirror covered Telecaster Esquire, wired to a distortion and echo box, played by Barett by sliding his Zippo lighter on the fret board creating a rather mysterious and chilling out-of-this-world sound. He was, not unlike Jimmy Hendrix, a showman, ever ready to take centre stage in term of stage performances or creative inputs that one wonders what would have happened between him and the mega-egoistical Roger Waters had he not left, or rather been dumped from Pink Floyd. History would later show that Waters single-handedly destroy the balance of the band by demanding control of creative inputs and directions culminating in an acrimonious break-up.

Barett followed up the success of Arnold Layne with another single, “See Emily Play” which peaked at number 6 on the chart. Barret initially claimed that Emily was a girl he saw when he was hallucinating after a drug binge but he later admitted that he made up that story as a publicity stunt. Be that as it may, he might as well have written the song for himself, considering the theme of the song:

“Emily tries but misunderstands, ah ooh
She often inclined to borrow somebody's dreams till tomorrow
There is no other day
Let's try it another way
You'll lose your mind and play
Free games for may
See Emily play

Soon after dark Emily cries, ah ooh
Gazing through trees in sorrow hardly a sound till tomorrow

There is no other day
Let's try it another way
You'll lose your mind and play
Free games for may
See Emily play

Put on a gown that touches the ground, ah ooh
Float on a river forever and ever, Emily
There is no other day
Let's try it another way
You'll lose your mind and play
Free games for may
See Emily play”

See Emily Play : Syd Barett

It was reflective, to a certain extent. God knows whether Barett was feeling the pressure of rock stardom at the time the song was written. But the theme of a girl, who tried so hard to understand the world while being isolated, depressed and sad was, in retrospect, resonant of a lonely and hard life, despite fame and fortune. Put on a gown that touches the ground/float on a river forever and ever…how hopeless can one be?

The single Apple and Oranges followed soon after, also with a degree of success. Pink Floyd was by then a force to be reckoned with. It was perhaps inevitable that a full debut album was to be released, with Barett as a creative pillar behind it. The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn was recorded between January-July 1967 at Abbey Road with Barett penning 9 of the songs and co-writing another 2 out of the 11 songs in it. It was an instant hit with the album hitting number 6 on the UK chart although a much limited success was achieved in the US. Nevertheless, Pink Floyd was by now developing a large following and was deeply entrenched in the psychedelic and progressive rock world. And the pressure was just building up for Barett.

In fact Barett was already displaying a certain degree of, what was then thought as, eccentricity while The Piper was being recorded. Barett was then known to be heavily on dope, acid , Mandax (or Mandies, as known to junkies those days, a hypnotic tranquillisers) and of course psychedelic drugs such as LSDs coupled with alcohol. There were in fact allegations that he was being “fed” with drugs although David Gilmour, who would later replace him in Pink Floyd, said that Barett would not need any encouraging if drugs were available to him. Sue Kingsford, Barett’s one time one-night stand once said, “We were all feeding it (drugs) to each other. It was a crazy time”.

David Gilmour would later recount how he had met Barett while “Emily” was being recorded. Syd didn't seem to recognise me and he just stared back,' he says. 'He was a different person from the one I'd last seen in October.' Was he on drugs, though? 'I'd done plenty of acid and dope - often with Syd - and that was different from how he had become.'

Whatever it was that Barett was taking, or suffering, the effects were soon beginning to manifest itself on and off stage. Barett would increasingly hate to perform “Emily” and “Arnold” as he did not want to be stuck with the standard 3 minute something “pop” song. During live performances, he would, in a middle of a set or song, suddenly detune his guitar until the strings were flapping and he then hit a note and held that note all night with the echo-machine at full steam! He would, some other time, just stand on stage with his hands by his side, the guitar hanging from his neck, staring blankly at nothing while his band mates played on. Perhaps he was exploring his artistic boundaries. The crowd loved his antics. Or perhaps he was sick. Plain sick.

After the release of “The Piper” in August 1967, Pink Floyd was on a mini US tour in November. And things could not get any worse. The band was not really prepared for the US tour in the sense that it was expecting things to be the same with England. They found out that they had to play at big venues supporting bands such as Holding Company (led by non other than Janis Joplin). They found out that Americans were not really into feedbacks or English psychedelia. Barett would still hit just one note per night or just standing without doing anything at all. When he played, it would be a different tune altogether.

Back in the studio, Barett would turn up one day with a nice new composition titled “Have You Got It, Yet?” for the band to practise. According to Waters, the band thought the composition was quite nice and they set to practise it only for Barett to change the arrangement in the middle of the practice. While practising the newly altered version, Barett would again arbitrarily change the arrangement again and he would the same repeatedly while asking the band “have you got it, yet?” It was only then the band realised that Barett was being cute and stopped practising the song!

It was in the US that the famous Brylcream incident happened. Apparently, Barett had had his hair permed at Vidal Sassoon. And badly too. He hated it. He thought that the “punk” style he had been experimenting with suited him better. And so, he poured a whole tin of Brylcream onto his head in the dressing room. He then crushed a handful of Mandrax and put it onto his hair. David Gilmour however suggested that Barett would not have wasted any “Mandies” but apparently the Mandax addition was confirmed by a lighting man. He then rushed onto the stage and under the heat of all the lightings, the Brylcream melted and ran down his face, making him look like a “gutted candle”! Looking at him as if he was decomposing on stage, with the crowd screaming, apparently enjoying his antics, some of the band and crew apparently abandoned the place for drinks. Later, arriving from San Francisco at Las Vegas, Barett would forget to bring his guitars, fall into a swimming pool and left his wet clothes behind.

Coming back to England, the band was supposed to play with the likes of Hendrix for 3 weeks. Barett could not perform and he had to be stopped from running away on a train. The band struggled along with a borrowed guitarist from another band. It was at this time that Messrs Waters, Mason and Wright hatched a plan. They were to ask Gilmour, a long time pal of Waters and Barett, all form Cambridge, to stand in for Barett. Gilmour was known to be an excellent guitarist and being broke and was driving a van for a living, he accepted a try out. On stage, Gilmour would play and Barett would just walked around or pretended to play. There was no input whatsoever from Barett. On the way to their gig one night, they decided not to pick Barett up. And Gilmour had, on that night, effectively replaced Barett. Barett’s days, as a co-founder of Pink Floyd, and the creative pillars behind the band, were effectively, though not officially, ended that night.

Gilmour thereafter replaced Barett as lead guitarist of Pink Floyd. Barett was obviously hurt by this turn of event. He would turn out at the band’s gigs and sat in front while staring at Gilmour. The band later recorded a second album titled A Saucerful of Secrets in 1968 which included Barett’s Jugband Blues. During the recording, Barett would sometime wait outside the studio to be invited to play. He however was resigned to the fact that he was no longer wanted. In Jugband Blues, he wrote, "It's awfully considerate of you to think of me here/And I'm most obliged to you for making it clear/that I'm not here", as the song opens.

In March 1968, it was officially announced that Barett was no longer a member of Pink Floyd.

By autumn of 1968, homeless and probably broke too, Barett would sometime go back to his mother’s house in Cambridge. When in London, he would crash at his friends’ flat, sometimes with disastrous result. After leaving, or was left out of Pink Floyd, Barett recorded 2 solo albums, “The Madcap Laughs” and “Barett”. He did perform live once with David Gilomour, among others, accompanying him on the bass. It was in 1970 at Olympia Exhibition Hall where they played 4 songs. Due to poor mixing, the vocals were inaudible and at the end of the 4th song, Barett politely put down his guitar and walked off stage.

He later formed a band called “Stars” but it was short-lived. He went back to Win’s house in Cambridge in 1981 and his mother managed to persuade some of her wealthy friends to take Barett as a gardener. He did become a gardener but during a thunderstorm, he threw down his tools and quit. He came back to London briefly before going back (walking all the way to Cambridge!) to Win’s house in 1982 where he led a reclusive life and was almost not seen again, ever again, by the public. His sister, Rosemary, became his only contact with the outside world. That year too, he reverted to his original name “Roger” and would refuse to “talk about Syd”.

The heart wrenching drama of Syd Barett however unfolded in 1975, when Pink Floyd was recording the album “Wish You Were Here” which contains among others, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (part 1 and 2). Shine On you Crazy Diamond was a tribute to Syd Barett by the band, which had never managed to banish its memory of Barett’s contributions and influences to the band. While recording the song, a plump bald man walked into the studio and sat down. Nobody knew who he was. He had shaven all his hair off, including his eyebrows and he would jump up and down of the sofa while brushing his teeth all the time. When the band members found that the guy was actually Barett, Waters shed some tears. It was as if by design, that Barett would appear in that state while the band was recording “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, a tribute to him. Years later, in 1986, when Pink Floyd released a movie version of the album “The Wall”, there would be a scene where Pink, the lead character in that movie (played by Bob Geldof) was shown completely shaven, including his eyebrows. That scene was inspired by Syd Barett’s visit to the studio in 1975.

Barett continued to receive some royalties for his works with Pink Floyd which Dave Gilmour would ensure get to him. He later was diagnosed with ulcers and type 2 diabetes. He was in and out of hospitals for his ulcers. When Win died in 1991, he destroyed and burnt all his diaries and art books. He painted, collected coins and cooked. He died of pancreatic cancer and complications of diabetes on July 7th 2006 leaving an estate of 1.2 million pound will-ed to his 2 brothers and 2 sisters.

As it turned out, he suffered from schizophrenia. All the drugs and alcohol had just exacerbated his conditions leading to his apparent psychotic behaviour on and off the stage.

Roger Keith “Syd” Barett. The Crazy Diamond. Shine on. For your days passed you by like a warm summer’s day. And if we listen to the wind, we would still hear you play.

May God bless your soul. And may you rest in peace.

Note: The 1st photo is of a young Barett. Wonder whether the black Telecaster is the famous guitar which would later be covered with mirrors. The 2nd picture is the house in which Barett lived till his death in 2006. It was taken after his death. It was later sold for 120000 pound to a French couple who apparently did not have a clue of who Barett was and the significance of the house.

The Guardian
The Syd Barett Appreciation Society
and all the footnotes in the various articles published in the above sites.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

American Pie Revisited

I heard he sang a good song,
I heard he had a style
And so I came to see him,
To listen for a while
And there he was this young boy,
A stranger to my eyes

Those are part of the lyrics from Killing Me Softly, popularised by Roberta Flack. It was written by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel. Originally, it was recorded by Lori Lieberman but it was the Roberta Flack version which had thrust this beautiful song into pop folklore, sweeping the world by winning 3 grammys including the coveted “Song Of The Year” award. I like the song. The soulful Roberta Flack version is always touching and emotive, to say the least. And the recent Fugees’ version (featuring va va voom Larryn Hill), despite it’s hip hop proximity and influences, is also one to be savoured.

Not many people know but this song was inspired by a poem written by Lieberman titled “Killing Me Softly With His Blues”. Lieberman wrote that poem after watching a then unknown singer performing. This particular singer later became a famous folk rock singer who wrote one of the best, and the most enigmatic folk rock song of all time. Who was he? Who was this singer whom Lieberman saw and who was:-

“Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words

Killing me softly with his song

Killing me softly with his song

Telling my whole life with his words

Killing me softly with his song”

That singer was the then unknown Don McLean. The singer/composer who would later penned hits such as the beautiful, and yet disturbing and haunting “Vincent”, a tribute to non other than Vincent Van Gogh. Just consider this:

“And when no hope was left inside
On that starry, starry night

You took your life as lovers often do -

But I could've told you, Vincent:

This world was never meant

For one as beautiful as you.”

McLean’s lyrics are always filled with emotive imageries and metaphors, and hauntingly beautiful multi layered colours. Along this line, American Pie was composed, recorded and released in 1971. The song bucked the then prevailing trend in that it was more than 8 minute long. Many among the production people were pessimistic about the song when McLean wanted to record it. But of course, the rest, as they say, is history. The song became some kind of an anthem among folk rock fans across the globe. It is, for example, listed in the Song Of The Century education project at number 5 song of the 20th century. But what actually interested many fans about the song is its lyrics and their meaning.

I must say that in terms of enigmatic lyrics, American Pie must rank up there together with Procol Harum’s haunting “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” and Robert Plant’s gibberish laden “Stairway To Heaven”. Plant’s “Stairway To Heaven” is a heavyweight in itself, being a 6-minute something epic rock with arrangement so complicated that it had even been compared with a Beethoven’s piece. Jimmy Page’s riffs in that song is among the best riffs in any rock songs ever. In my opinion, that riffs are almost similar in stature as that of David Gilmore’s riffs in “Comfortably Numb” (voted by Rolling Stones Magazine as the best rock riffs ever). The only thing which would have made Stairway To Heaven even better, to me, is a 2 minute co da with an inter play between Page’s acoustic guitar and his monster Les Paul! I wish!

In contrast, Procol Harum’s number was shorter in length. It remains to date as one of the most frequently covered song in history although Annie Lennox’s cover would, in my opinion, rank as the best. The lyrics were enigmatic, to say the least. Plant’s lyrics in Stairway To Heaven were seemingly gibberish. In fact, it is a known fact that Plant himself did not like the song, refusing to perform it live. Once, he famously, or rather infamously, referred to the song as “that little wedding song”! Blasphemy!

I digressed, yes. It’s hard not to when I am talking about something which I absolutely love. Okay, back to American Pie. Lyrically, American Pie became the “greatest mystery in rock and roll history”. Such was the enigma and mystery of the lyrics that the song spawned hundreds of interpretations while Don McLean maintained a dignified silence about its meaning save for admitting that the song did refer to Buddy Holly and that the album American Pie was dedicated to him. On August 3, 1993, a letter was published where McLean among others said:

"As you can imagine, over the years I've been asked many times to discuss and explain my song "American Pie" [June25]. I have never discussed the lyrics, but have admitted to the Holly reference in the opening stanzas. I dedicated the album American Pie to Buddy Holly as well in order to connect the entire statement to Holly in hopes of brining about an interest in him, which subsequently did occur... Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence."

And so, it is well established that American Pie did refer to Buddy Holly. “American Pie” to me refers to the America of the old days, where people would live in happiness and peace, days where greed and power were not too important, days of innocence where people would be listening to their favorite music and danced in the gym, days where Richie Valen and Buddy Holly ruled. The song is a study in rock and roll music development in America intertwined with a social study of the American psyche of the late 50s running through the 60s, paying attention to how things changed after a certain date, the turning point being “the day the music died”, namely, the day Buddy Holly died in an air crash in 1959 together with Richie Valen (as portrayed in the movie La Bamba) and the Big Bopper.

"But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died
So bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my chevy to the levee
But the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye
Singing this will be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die."

To McLean, the day Buddy Holly died marked a shift of some sorts in the history of rock and roll in particular and in the socio-political scene of America generally. America of old was portrayed in various imageries and metaphors which are filled with innocence and nonchalant attitude.

Well, I know that you're in love with him
'Cause I saw you dancin' in the gym

You both kicked off your shoes

Man, I dig those rhythm and blues

I was a lonely teenage broncin' buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck

All these would change, quite irretrievably on the day the music died.

But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died

Thereafter he traced the emergence of Bob Dylan, a fact which was juxtaposed against the decline in popularity of Elvis Presley (I think):

“Oh, and while the King was looking down
The jester stole his thorny crown

It also contained some vague reference to the cover of Dylan’s album titled “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” where Dylan posed in a red windbreaker ala James Dean. It would be remembered that James Dean wore a red windbreaker in “Rebel Without A cause”, a defining moment in American film industry: -

When the jester sang for the King and Queen
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean

And a voice that came from you and me

I could go on and on about the various facets of the lyrics and what they could possibly mean. Among the more interesting events alluded in the lyrics are the rise of Rolling Stones; the political inclination of the Beatles; the murder of Tate by Charles Manson; the famous Woodstock concert; and the infamy of the Rolling Stones’ concert at Altamont where a young man was beaten and killed by a member of the Hell’s Angel who was engaged as security crew. These are but some of the events related in the song. Events which formed a lasting impression on America and the world in general.

Whatever it is, I never failed to be saddened by the last few verses of the song, which to me, is still relevant to the whole world and indeed to Malaysia and our society in the present days. As the electric instruments and percussions stop and McLean is left strumming his acoustic guitar, the tempo slows down and he sings, in a melancholic voice:

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news

But she just smiled and turned away

I went down to the sacred store

Where I'd heard the music years before

But the man there said the music woudn't play

And in the streets the children screamed

The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken

The church bells all were broken

And the three men I admire most

The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost

They caught the last train for the coast

The day the music died

The girl who sang the blues was of course Janis Joplin, a singer full of verve and emotions, with a voice which would make even the hardest of hearts weep, a singer who was saved from the streets a hippie and turned into a blues star but later was found dead with foams in her mouth courtesy of a handful or bottleful of LSDs.

When asked for some happy news, she would just smile and turn away and the man at the music store said the music just wouldn’t play. The children screamed, the lovers cried and the poets dreamed. And the father, son and the holy ghost, they took the last train for the coast.

These lyrics never fail to make me sad as I ponder and fear for my children’s life in future Malaysia. The music has long died in Malaysia. And if I had asked the girl who sang the blues, I am sure she would just smile and turn away. It is sad, but true. Just read our newspapers nowadays. Just listen to our politicians. The mullahs. Just look at Malaysia today. American Pie is worth more than we ever realize.

May God have mercy on us.


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Music Downloads

If you listen to Mix or Hitz (for the record annoyz the pizz outz of me a bit more), and should those stations ever be named by truth, they should be named, you would may have heard this anti-piracy warning that they play quite often. It goes something along the lines of if people kept downloading music then there will be no more music in the world because nobody would pay the artist. They get some girl to say this but you doubt her sincerity because you think she's probably downloading as well and got paid well to say this crap. To emphasize their point they play the sound of a quiet night intruded only by the sound of crickets chirping occasionally. 'There would be no more music in the world,' she says sadly, or something like that.

Whilst I get their message - downloading is a form of piracy and it is illegal - I thought their presentation sucked. Really. Just because everybody is downloading doesn't mean that there will be no more music simply because artist will refuse to compose or play their music if they are not paid. The first thought that occured to me when I heard that was - who said the only kind of music is the corporate commercial rock that these companies sponsor? Just because it wasn't burned on a CD doesn't mean it is not legitimate, valid and wholesome music. Just because a record company didn't issue an album on it doesn't mean that it is not 'music'.

Music can be found in the most complex of symphonies right down to just our fingers and the table drumming away. And humanity needs music as much as music needs humanity to arise and inspire. And let's get one thing right - downloading just means that record companies don't get to pay their stable of artists. It doesn't necessarily mean that artists don't get paid. The cunning part about the 'infomercial' is how the record companies are not mentioned at all. They focus on the issue of payment of the artist instead of talking about their cut, as if the entire revenue went to the artists.

Downloading is now a fact of internet life as is digitized music as is the fact that digitized music is easily downloadable and alot of people like doing it. Instead of harping about the evils of downloading music which is really a lost cause in an environment where enforcement is like some mystical gryphon that only awakes when something is being done in the full glare of the media, these record companies should have gone the iTunes way and come up with a sustainable model that is sensitive to the consumer ($0.99 per song). What the record companies have failed to understand with this campaign is that digital rights protection mechanisms or whatever it is they install will be ultimately futile because at some point somebody is going to crack the code. That is the nature of internet security - always evolving and changing. And all that money spent on it will have been a waste and consumers have to pay for it. They have to understand that the time for selling music the way they did before the era of the internet is now long gone (by internet time). They have to work with the downloading revenue and make the best of it, otherwise they would be out of business, not the musician because it is the latter that can produce the music not the former.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Bovine Song

Come let's go down
To the shopping mall
To watch cattle grazing

They are all here
Babe, mid-age and old
But still nothing's sold

See how they drift
From store to store
With glazed eyes

Cows, Cows, Cows
Goddamned Cows
People are like cows
They want to be herd
They'll go where they're led
As long as they are fed
Nothing can be done for them
Because they just don't give a damn

Come let's go up
To the Parliament
To watch cows shitting

Hey, if you're lucky
You might get to watch
Some eating, some swallowing

Yeah, it's real funny
How they waste our money
Buying cow dung

Cows, Cows, Cows
Goddamned Cows
People are like cows
They liked to be milked
The harder you squeeze
The deeper they believe
Nothing can be done for them
Because they just don't give a damn

Where can we go?
They are everywhere
Where'd the conscious go?

Hell, let's have fun
Call your friends up
Let's tip 'em over

Try to resist
The alluring pull
Of the majority fool

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Better Than This

We’re waiting for the next plane
We’re soaked through from the hellfire rain
So here we are baggage packed on the terminal bench
And she’s crying and I’m sighing and we’re dying inside

No one cares for our absence
No one shares our reluctant reluctance
So there we are eyes wide shut on a wing and a prayer
And I run so she runs but it’s not to the sun

‘Where will we go?’ she says to me
‘Will we be the same?’ tearfully
I say, ‘Baby, I don’t know
But it’ll be better than this
Much more forgiving than this
So much sweeter, better than this.’

She’s clutching her small crucifix
I’m grasping some half forgotten verses
So here we go in the air no turning back
And she’s sad and I’m sad but we need it that bad

‘Where will we live?’ she asks of me
‘What shall we tell those who ask?’
I say, ‘Sweetheart, I don’t know
But it’ll be better than this
Tell them more honest than this
So much sweeter, better than this.’

Monday, March 19, 2007


This song, by the Cranberries, is one of my favourite time machines. The plucked guitar notes chime ethereally as it hovers above the slow steady swirl of violins beneath it gently beckoning Dolores' dreamy hum before the drum signals its intent to take over. That opening always shivers me straight back to my spartan room in Bristol circa 1994 one cold and late winter night, alone and aching for someone to love in return. The future and all the naiviety of daydreams stretched out before me like the inky starless night - forbidding though the relentless drums that drove the song encouraged if not demanded challenge. All you need is persistence, diligence and a good solid drummer it demanded while I sat wrapped in my single duvet crammed as close as possible to the only source of heating in the room - the solid white metal heater, which ironically though not amusingly sat just below only source of cold in the room - the window. That song was on repeat so often and for so long that it weaved itself into a cocoon around me, seeping everything in that room, in those cold lonely nights, the occasional muted shriek of the wind outside, the cold sharp air in the room, the milk carton hung outside the window into the songs music, notes, rhythm and feel. All these things a picture could let me see but it cannot set in me, and linger like this song does with me.