Blog | Music: Mixed Media Online
Show Biz Kids
60s and 70s survivors outshine current chart-toppers at two Long Island shows
Steely Dan rolled into the Paramount in Huntington on September 13th as part of the group’s Jamalot Ever After tour. For several years now the group has been avoiding the summer concert season and touring in the fall. Recent years have seen the group do multi-night runs at the Beacon Theatre, often playing entire albums from its 70s golden era in one night.
At the Paramount, with 14 musicians on stage, the group played a familiar selection of songs, including a healthy serving of its defining Aja album. Particular favorites included “Hey Nineteen,” “Show Biz Kids,” “Bodhisattva,” and the night’s grand finale, “Kid Charlemagne.” The lone cover was the Joe Tex chestnut “I Want to (Do Everything for You).”
While early r&b and particularly soul music had an obvious major influence on the group’s biggest hits, there is a structure in the way that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker approach the composing and arranging of their music that is similar to that of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Of course, Strayhorn wasn’t really a performer and wasn’t part of Ellington’s orchestra, but the Ellington/Strayhorn model does seem to be the base structure from which their music springs.
The two-hour show featured impeccable musicianship, and slight variations from the original studio tracks freshened up the music for the stage. With the high level of musicianship and featuring songs as good as any in rock history, Steely Dan’s music, more than 30 years after the group’s heyday, still out-shines nearly anything on the charts today. Steely Dan was not just an album band; it scored many hit singles as well. There isn’t one song on the charts today that could rival the Dan’s mightiest hits.
For all their focus on the music, both Fagan and particularly Becker had fun telling stories, including their heartfelt fondness for their Long Island connections, in a dry, deadpan manner that was hilarious and often had the crowd convulsive with laughter.
The British Invade Again
The following night at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury was the 2014 British Invasion Tour, featuring Mike Pender’s Searchers, Chad & Jeremy, Billy J. Kramer and Denny Laine. Terry Sylvester, formerly of the Hollies, opened the show, replacing headliner Gerry & the Pacemakers, due to Gerry Marsden’s being hospitalized in Spain. Pender’s jangly Rickenbacker 12-string and his still-strong voice brought alive such Searchers British Invasion gold as “Needles and Pins,” “Love Potion #9,” “Sweet for My Sweet” and “Sugar and Spice.” It would be great to see another full Searchers reunion, given how successful the group was even beyond its 60s heyday. Next up was Chad & Jeremy. The pair played some of their biggest hits, told stories and maintained the magic chemistry that made them one of the biggest duos of the British Invasion. Long Island resident Billy J. Kramer stole the show. Playing with the house band for the evening, which included former Billy Joel drummer and current drummer in Kramer’s band, Liberty Devito’s perfect back-beat, Kramer brought his regular guitarist out and mixed his biggest hits, new songs and more to rapturous applause. Kramer’s new album I Won the Fight, features strong material he wrote and spotlights a new-found toughness and depth to his vocals that if possible sounds even better than back in the 60s. Kramer closed with a cover of the Walker Brothers’ “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Any More” that was stunning. Denny Laine closed the show and brought the house down with the hit he sang with the Moody Blues, “Go Now.” All the artists came on in the end and performed a spirited “Band On The Run.” The entire evening was augmented by wonderful visual video images of the various artists’ 60s singles and album sleeves and photos, something rarely seen at a concert like this and very welcome.
British Invasion, Beatles and John Lennon fans will want to be at The Dix Hills Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, October 26th at 2:00 P.M., featuring Mostly Moptop, as part of The #9 Lennon Birthday Special. The band will be joined by percussionist Donald Larsen and nine additional guest artists: Susan Devita; Judith Zweiman; Gear Head Freaks; Joe Gioglio; EV Sweet; Andrew Lubman; Marci Geller; Ben Phillip and former Strawbs member and Long Island-resident John Ford. The Dix Hills Performing Arts Center is located at Five Towns College, 305 North Service Road in Dix Hills.
British Invasion on the Island
Gerry Marsden on the enduring appeal of his music
On Sunday, Sept., 14 at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury at 8pm, the British Invasion Tour 2014 will feature Gerry & the Pacemakers, Chad & Jeremy, Billy J. Kramer, Mike Pender’s Searchers and Denny Laine. Gerry & the Pacemakers, who scored three number one singles during the British Invasion and like the Beatles were managed by Brian Epstein and produced by George Martin was the first band to follow in the Beatles’ footsteps in conquering America and then the world in the mid 60s. The groups scored three other hits that reached the Top 10, including “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” and the iconic “Ferry Cross the Mersey,” which became emblematic of the allure and romance of the birth-place of The Beatles and the Liverpool music scene.
Gerry Marsden remains the youthful face and voice of the group. He turns 72 this month and from his home in England discussed the enduring appeal of his music and his fellow Liverpudlians
Long Island Pulse: Gerry & the Pacemakers came up almost at the exact time as the Beatles.
What was your earliest memory of any of the Beatles? Did you know them around Liverpool as school-age children?
Gerry Marsden: I first met the Beatles when we were teenagers with our skiffle groups, We played a lot of the same shows and John (Lennon) went on to be one of my closest friends, even though on stage We were great rivals.
LIP: Did any of the members of the group ever play with the Beatles?
GM: We were on the same bill one night at one of the shows so just for a laugh we all played on stage together and we called ourselves “The Beatmakers,” which is obviously a mix of both groups names.
LIP: Your group had many parallels to the Beatles. Could you give some insights into your experiences in these areas and how they were the same or different than the Beatles?
GM: We both played at the Cavern Club but in the lunchtime session at the Cavern was originally a Jazz club. Paul McCartney and I went down to the Cavern to see if we could play there. Once the owner realized how busy it was at lunchtimes with people queuing down the road to get in, then he decided to forget about the Jazz and we then got to play in the evenings. Also, we took turns most of the time playing Hamburg at two different clubs and the Cavern. But quite a few times we would both be in Hamburg at the same time. That’s when John and I would hang around together. We were also signed and managed by Brian Epstein. Brian came down to the Cavern to see what the Beatles and the Pacemakers were about. Paul and I used to go to get Rock ‘n’ Roll records from America from Brian’s shop. He asked us why we wanted them and we told him we played in groups at the Cavern. He came to the Cavern and saw how the audience were reacting and asked the Beatles if he could manage them. He then approached me saying he could get the Beatles work and a recording contract so could he manage us too. Of course I said yes. We were also produced by George Martin and recorded at Abbey Road (then EMI studios). George was a talented man but he had mainly worked with orchestras. That was great in the long term though because of his use of stings on our recordings. He made sure he got the best out of both groups no matter how long it took.
LIP: What was happening in Liverpool when the Beatles finally broke in America?
How did Liverpool musical artists and fans feel about the Beatles breaking through?
GM: Of course everyone was excited and happy for them, because it gave hope to all the other bands working around Liverpool. Up to 500 bands were in Liverpool at the time both known but a lot more unknown hoping for their big break.
LIP: Talk about your early hits, starting with “How Do You Do It,” which the
Beatles turned down.
GM: “How Do You Do It” was the first of my three consecutive number One hits, It was written by Mitch Murray but it was offered to another singer called Adam Faith before being offered to the Beatles. John turned it down saying they wanted to sing their own songs. He said to Brian and George Martin “Give it to Gerry he’ll do it.” The rest was history as they say.
LIP: Your group turned down recording “Hello Little Girl,” which was written by the Beatles. Why did you turn it down and what did you think of the Fourmost version?
GM: I turned down “Hello Little Girl” which John wrote because I wanted to do more of a ballad type song. I wasn’t sure if that would have been the right song for us, but it gave the Fourmost a chance so good came out of it.
LIP: How did the group come to record “Ferry Cross the Mersey” and what was the recording process like?
GM: “Ferry Cross the Mersey” came about because it was the title track of the film we made. I wrote all the songs for the film but the title song was the hardest one to come up with because it had to be Ferry “Cross” and not Ferry “Across,” which would have been easier to write. It took me months to come up with it but when I did I wrote it in about 15minutes and when I went down to record it in the studio I did it in one take.
LIP: Talk about the writing and recording of “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying.”
GM: I wrote the song while I was in Germany. I’d split up with my girlfriend Pauline (who is now my wife) so I wondered how I could get her back, so I wrote the song and sent it to her on a tape. She listened to it and of course wanted me back (laughs).
Eno & Sylvian
Few musical artists are as influential and multi-faceted as Brian Eno. Founding member of Roxy Music, godfather of Ambient music, and avant-garde collaborator with the likes of Robert Fripp, John Cale, David Byrne and many others, Eno has been best known for decades as the uber-producer of such artists as Talking Heads, David Bowie, U2 and Coldplay. Many books have been written about his Roxy Music and solo works, along with his autobiographical writings. “Visual Music” is the first book by Eno to properly place his work in a multi-media context, perhaps the best way to truly understand the magnitude of his singular genius in how he straddles a myriad of artistic disciplines and popular and avant-garde art. The book reflects to a great degree his multi-media visual installations and the working artistic process behind the finished creations. Summing up 40 years of an artist’s attempt to forge a new way of looking and listening, this book holds an abundance of richly conceived art and a deep, thoughtful and at times whimsical insight into the fertile mind of a great artist. The parts of the book that detail what Eno calls his Oblique Strategies alone make this book worth the price of admission.
On the musical front, Eno is at one of the most overtly accessible phases of his recording career with the release of Someday World (Warp), a collaboration with Karl Hyde of Underworld. The album will immediately thrill fans of Eno’s work with John Cale and other non-Ambient solo works, as it reflects the most straightforward, vocal-based music Eno has recorded in years. The electro-pop features all the quirky keyboard and tape effects that one expects from Eno. Another Eno-Hyde release will appear shortly.
David Sylvian has had a career that in many respects shadows the career of Brian Eno. Like Eno, Sylvian is British, left a major British band (Japan), retreated from pop stardom and has collaborated with avant-garde artists such as Jon Hassell, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Robert Fripp and others. “On the Periphery: David Sylvian – A Biography The Solo Years,” by Christopher E. Young, ambitiously and effectively takes on the unenviable task of chronicling the dense and diffuse, 30-plus-year solo career of one of the most challenging cult artists in music. Young’s book is more than just a linear biography, it seeks to explore, unravel and summarize a wide range of musical projects, many with strong visual, poetic and spiritual elements. Unlike many cheesy rock star biographies focused on sex, drugs, alcohol, rehab, rumors, breakups, personal love and family dirt, Young’s book successfully explores an artist of many creative shades.
How Does it Feel…to be 73-Years-Old?
Sunday Street Acoustic Series Brings it all Back Home
Rolling Stones – As Guitars Go By and Blue Note Jazz
Rolling Stones – As Guitars Go By
Andy Babiuk is a member of the group the Chesterfield Kings and the owner of a guitar shop. His writings on music and his knowledge of musical instruments have made him a living legend. His Beatles Gear book, published in 2001, told the story of the Fab Four through their instruments. Employing exhaustive research, Babiuk and his co-author Greg Prevost interviewed 400 individuals that helped them elucidate the history, technology and pure musicality of how those instruments shaped the group and rock history. For years, Babiuk fans have heard that he was working on an even more challenging project. That project is now a reality: Rolling Stones Gear (Backbeat). Babiuk and Prevost dig even deeper here than they did in their Beatles book. They also had the daunting task of covering a group who is still actively recording and touring, unlike the Beatles, who broke up in 1970. This book is more than twice the number of pages and required a wider scope of knowledge given that it covers the seven core members of the group, as opposed to four with the Beatles. Babiuk was able to draw heavily from ex-Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman, who is the de-facto, unofficial archivist of the group. I can’t imagine a better book on the group. This beautiful, hardcover, coffee-table book is all about the music and completely ignores the gossip, cultural baggage and myth-making that have at times detracted from the sheer musical importance of the greatest rock and roll band in the world. It is also important to point out that, as with the Beatles book, the reader does not have to be a musician or a gear-head to totally enjoy the book.
Blue Note Jazz
Blue Note Records is marking its 75th anniversary with a reissue program that will delight fans of classic American jazz and especially vinyl purists. Spearheaded by the label’s president, musician/producer Don Was, the series launched its first batch of reissues in March of this year with five defining albums from the likes of John Coltrane and Art Blakey. Five albums will be released every month until October of 2015. Blue Note is perhaps jazz music’s most celebrated label. While classic jazz has been recorded through the years by other independent and major labels such as Verve, Atlantic and many others, Blue Note released many of the cornerstone recordings of the genre. Equally important is where the albums were recorded: many at Rudy Van Gelder’s famed New Jersey studio. Also significant are the photography and artwork of the original albums, most of which were done by photographer Francis Wolf, with the covers designed by Reid Miles. The second batch has just been released and includes two live albums: At The Golden Circle, Stockholm Volume One from the Ornette Coleman Trio and A Night at the Village Vanguard from Sonny Rollins. Also included are two classic jazz albums that have been enormously popular for years, Our Man in Paris from Dexter Gordon, and Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage. Perhaps one of the greatest one-off jazz session albums of all time rounds out the second batch: Somethin’ Else, featuring Cannonball Adderly, Miles Davis, Hank Jones, Sam Jones and Art Blakey. The next batch will feature the classic Song for My Father from Horace Silver, and the reissue of Idle Moments from Grant Green, a nod to one of the great jazz guitarists.
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