Alvin Lee was the front man for the band Ten Years After, best known for this song that still gets regular airplay:
I’m glad to say they were a little before my time. Even so, my brother had a reel-to-reel tape of one of their albums that I used to play, and I seem to remember him going to see them in the early to mid 70’s.
By the time I came along, the teenage argument was who was the fastest guitar player. Younger names would be tossed out, and then some oldster in their 20’s would say: Alvin Lee. It may have helped that he was known as the “fastest guitar in the west” or the “fastest guitar alive”.
Most of the obituaries and retrospectives have emphasized the Ten Years After performance on the Woodstock album and video. Personally, I thought it had good bits once it got going after 2-3 minutes. But on the whole I found it self-indulgent.
That’s not a description I throw around much. But, on the whole, I think my tolerance for Ten Years After is on the low side because they were one of the most self-indulgent performers of that era.
I had a question about a Buddy Holly song, so off I went to Wikipedia.
It’s in the nature of surfing that you read stuff you weren’t looking for, and I read this:
In 1949, still retaining his soprano, he recorded a bluesy solo rendering of Hank Snow's "My Two Timin' Woman" on a wire recorder borrowed by a friend who worked in a music shop.
Then I wanted to know what a wire recorder was. It turns out that the technology holding back tape recording wasn’t recording but developing the tape itself. But, in the late 40’s and early 50’s, recording on metal wire was the way to go.
But this is what caught my eye:
Though fictional, the Allied officers of Hogan's Heroes used a wire recorder to record a meeting in Kommandant Klink's office on a device that was disguised as a sewing box made of wooden thread spools.
I can remember watching that episode in repeats almost 40 years ago. And the thing is I can remember being struck by the weirdness of them recording on wire: to a kid in the 1970’s, tape was all there had ever been.
In another lifetime, I played musical instruments. I was pretty good with technique, good at improvising, and after playing guitar for a few years, my understanding of theory grew into a harmonic sense that was quite a bit sharper than my peers.
But, enough about me …
So I’m listening to NPR for some reason about 2 months ago, and they have an interview with Dick Hyman on. He’s not that big a name to most people, but he is to me, so I’m listening in.
And he said something so cool, that had never dawned on me:
In jazz, there’s a saying that either you’re playing the blues or you’re playing ‘I Got Rhythm.’ Next to the blues, it’s just about the most common jazz form.
Now. I knew a lot of standards, but I never played “I Got Rhythm”. So I start humming it to myself … ta da dum da, dum da dum da … and I can visualize what he’s saying about the harmony. And I start thinking it through, and it’s like one turnaround following another, all the way through to the bridge.
And now, because it’s 2013, even though I haven’t really played guitar in 25 years, I can go to Wikipedia where it tells me that the harmony for “I Got Rhythm” is so popular that the chord changes are known as “rhythm changes”. It all looks so familiar, and I could rattle off a dozen tunes with similar changes … including a bunch of rock songs.
Weird. This is all navel-gazing … but it means a lot to me.
Interesting throughout, with a good mix of the long-term history of the music industry, and how it continues to be successful. Fairly clear-headed too, without too much crap about how it’s art, and a lot about how the point is to generate revenue.
* This appeared in print in the February 11-17 issue under the title “Streaming Big”, listed as “The Music Man” in the table of contents.
Within that I searched for the word “mother”, which yielded a YouTube link to the singer: 劉鳳屏.
And when you get there, you find a song from about 40 years ago from Hong Kong. Posted in 2008, with 11 comments, 7 of them from this week, and one from the person who gave the title on YouTube. In those comments are the strings given above: apparently someone misspelled something. Perhaps the artist’s name: she seems to have also gone by Pancy Lau and Lau Fung Ping.
We got the “Truckin’ Up to Buffalo” DVD from Netflix. My wife and I were at this concert (we were still dating) so it has special meaning to us.
So, I’ve generally been playing more Dead the past few weeks, and looking up shows on the internet. And I came across an interesting commentary on this show. It pretty much sums up the deadhead experience of thirty years ago.
One of the greatest shows ever. Really. …
… Been at the Grateful Dead concert two nights ago at the Red Rocks Amphitheater outside of Boulder, Colorado along with Mark, Peter Lemonjello, me, and 10,000 other crazed bozos.
But only a few of those had decided to take the long drive down to Texas -- 900 miles -- to see just one Dead show near Austin … The Grateful Dead play a completely different rock show every night, and a lot of folks look for clues … to help them pick which shows will be the hot ones.
I went to Texas because Mark had called this one. … the tickets were impregnated with little specks of silver sparkle, probably to make them harder to counterfeit, but Mark saw it as an omen.
"Look, over the years we've gone through hundreds of different theories on how to pick the hot shows,” Mark said. “Saturdays. Favorite concert halls. Cities where they played a hot show last year. Outdoor shows. We're never right. I'm averaging only one out of every 15 shows that I pick being the amazing performance that makes my jaw drop; that makes me scratch my head for weeks afterwards saying, 'What was that!' [emphasis added]
Read the whole thing.
I wasn’t at the show, but I got a tape of it way back in ‘82, and I found that commentary after listening to the “Scarlet > Fire” from that show. You can watch the whole thing here:
The video is very dark, but the sound is excellent.
Trivia: my very small business school (25 faculty*) in Mormon-as-it-gets Cedar City has, not one, but two faculty members who were deadheads. Both turned out to be conservatives. Go figure.
* Just a quick plug – we are the smallest business school that’s accredited at the top level (AACSB).
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