Monday, November 21, 2016

Ain't No Sense In All Your Crying - Michael Hutchence

But you tore a hole in space
Like a dark star, falls from grace
You burn across the sky
And I would find you wings to fly
And I would catch you
I would catch your fall

1997 was a rough year for celebrity ... Jeff Buckley, Princess Diana, and our shining star, Michael Hutchence. Almost twenty years on, we still awe at his wonder and talent. We're sad by his early and public demise. His daughter, Tigerlilly, has grown into a philanthropic young woman that he would be so proud of. The band, while still popular in memory, is struggling to have life after Hutch. He was more than the glue that kept the band together. He amplified the members of the band, bringing out their best with his charisma and charm. 

Much is being done to remember Michael properly, aside from tabloids and docu-dramas. His fans want to learn about the man and musician. His family wants people to remember the man they loved. It is safe to say that Michael is still miss so very dearly and that his legend grows as the years pass.

November still 22nd hangs in my heart so heavy - the day Michael's smile faded into obscurity and his legend tarnished with the actions of his final years. But still, we grieve, we mourn, and we celebrate the caramel rock god of our adolescence.

It's been 19 years since INXS lost their magnetic north. That INXS exists now only in our memories. And what glorious memories they are.

Fancy dinner parties, ballerinas on the Charles Bridge, red desert sunsets, beautiful blondes, brunettes, Mad Max underworlds, and motorcycles in Hong Kong painted the video world of INXS. Live Baby Live gave us the Michael we all know. He enthralled the 74,000 fans in attendance at Wembley, making us sway back and forth like high school lovers when we heard the first notes of Never Tear Us Apart and The Stairs. He was a musician, actor, son, brother, friend, and father. What he gave to us and to his fellow band mates are incredible memories, cemented forever in some of the best times of our lives. 

Again I must thank my flatmates in Sydney for taking that very hot trek to see Michael's memorial. Who knew how many cemeteries there were in suburban Sydney. It was a nod to my past and the musical memories he gave me. I had to thank the man I crushed on for years. It was hard to think how quickly his bright star could quickly be diminished. And thank you Bono for the moment under the Brooklyn Bridge, hugging on November 22, 2004 in memory of your friend. In our hearts, he lives on as the charismatic lead singer. In our memories, he is the sad ending of a paparazzi nightmare. In our ears, his voice will be forever golden.  

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Tears Fall Down My Face

Michael Hutchence Memorial - Sydney 2000
19 years ago, on November 22nd, the music world lost an enigmatic soul. Michael Kelland Hutchence was more than an 80s pop icon. To his fans, he was a free spirited artist who helped to change the music and video world. He was a musician, actor, father, husband, brother, and son. And yes, he had his demons, but don't we all?
Michael will forever be remembered as the sexy bad boy with cinnamon curls and caramelized skin. INXS wasn't a stranger to the Australian pop scene in the early 80's. It really was not until Kick in 1987 that they broke through and became known internationally. But like with any band, it was Michael, the lead singer who got all of the attention. Even today, mention Kirk Pengilly or Andrew Farriss and people will just look at you quizzically. 
From Kylie to Helena to Paula, Michael's exploits were tabloid fodder and paparazzi dollars. Once the star began to fall, everyone wanted to know his next move. His death, shocking and heartbreaking, became even more tragic when Paula Yates also died soon after, leaving their daughter without parents. It is also his death that most will remember. For me, it doesn't matter how he died. He's gone. End of story.
While I love their earlier albums just as much as Kick, X, or Welcome to Wherever You Are, the X tour and subsequent Live Baby Live at Wembley Stadium in 1991 is when Michael was at the very top of his career. My God, they filled Wembley!  This show and tour was a testament to not just INXS, but to Michael's ability to entertain an entire stadium full of fans. 
His loss was not just felt in the world of his fans but in his music family. The band tried to go on, but the night I saw them in Sydney in 2000 was just not the same. The night I met Bono under the Brooklyn Bridge, which just happened to be November 22nd, we hugged over the memory of Michael. 

But you tore a hole in space
Like a dark star, falls from grace
You burn across the sky
And I would find you wings to fly
And I would catch you
I would catch your fall
 Michael Hutchence and Bono - Fly Away

We Have To Dream It All Up Again ... Achtung Baby

The end of something for U2 ... we have to go away and just dream it all up again.

1991 was at the precipice of a whole new world order. East and West Berlin were now free of Communism and the Wall. Perestroika and glasnost replaced repression in the dissoving Soviet Union. Our media was beginning to become global and instantaneous. And U2 decided to put aside their homage to the music they grew up  to and the music style that everyone associated with them. 

U2's massive tours associated with both The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum brought the band to the edge of some life changing decisions. Possibly as well, the altering of the world that was occurring on a daily basis. The band members were entering their thirties, they were celebrities, but they were still four friends in a band from Dublin. 

 The four fresh-faced lads re-invented not only themselves but their sound. Where Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum were filled with politics, nods to Dylan and Presley, Achtung Baby gave us questions about religion and fidelity, philosophy, and an alter-ego name Machphisto. While the skeleton of The Edge's guitar could still be heard, grungy electronic pop music infiltrated the studio, super models became their friends, and we were left trying to figure out whether or not this was a phase. The band referred to the album's musical departure as the sound of four men chopping down The Joshua Tree. * Mueller, Andrew. "U2 – The Joshua Tree Re-Mastered (R1987)". Uncut. Retrieved 15 August 2015.

U2 rushed to get the last flight into East Germany, that is, while East German still existed. Now that U2 could walk back and forth from the East to the West, they realized that the send of West Berlin as illuminated was not an illusion. The lights were literally brighter. The streetlamps of the East were dull, dirty yellow. The streetlights of the West were golden and white, and of a higher wattage. The West had better generators, Bono was especially struck by the glow of ultraviolet lights in the windows of the Eastern buildings so crowded together that little sunlight got through. Bono had associated the purple glow of UV lighting with nightclubs and raves, but to East Germans it represented an attempt to grow flowers in the shadows.* U2 At the End of the World - Bill Flanagan. The band noted the U2 line at a particular station that allowed them to move between the old and the new: Zoologischer or Zoo Station. 
Through disagreements, arguments, and working harder than they had because they were creating something so new, songs were beginning to take shape. Between the Berlin and the Dublin sessions of 1991 the band worked tirelessly, through potential breakups both in the band and with spouses. Their world was being pulled in a thousand directions and on top of that they had to create that promise of going away and dreaming all up again. 

Lyrically, the album is a gift of art and religion, a study in carnal existential crisis, and a statement on the world both blossoming and decompressing on itself. 

Zoo Station
We all remember the gentle opening of Where the Streets Have No Name. There is a lot going on in the first 10 seconds. The song is being electronically strung along until Edge's guitar and Adam's bass string us into the first strained chords 
I'm ready. I'm ready for the laughing gas. 
It's the band giving us their opening statement. It's alright. There is a lot going on and there is a lot going on with us. 

Ever Better Than The Real Thing
You'll see a lot of play on capitalism with this decade of U2 and it started right here. A demo of this was recorded at the same time Desire was, pointing to the fact that the band was really ready to move on for quite some time. 
There is also one repeating theme that begins with this song ... forgive me ... give me one last chance. Sounds like the band was having a crisis of love and forgiveness.

Called one of the greatest songs of all time by many music critics, this song miraculously kept the band together. This song has been interpreted so many ways and any one of them doesn't lessen the impact of the song. 
It's about love, the world, the band, it's about an AIDS patient on their death bed talking to his father...doesn't matter. The message is clear. 
One love we get to share it and leaves you baby if you don't care for it. 

Until The End Of The World
While this song is without a doubt about the relationship between Judas and Jesus, there is still the underlying theme of sex and adultery if you look between those prison bars. The bands in depth religious knowledge lends itself to the beauty of this song. 
In the garden I was playing the tart. I kissed your lips and broke your heart. 

Who's Gonna Ridge Your Wild Horses
Written by Bono for The Edge, most claim it was the most painful song to record since there were so many nuances of music technology on it and it was constantly re-mixed.

So Cruel
Hope, love, hate, surrender, compromise, contempt, and sadness. This song is love. This song is about a love gone horribly wrong. Unfortunately it was The Edge's love story. Haunting but so damn true. 
  She wears my love like a see through dress. Her lips say one things. Her movements something else. 

The Fly
The Fly was introduced before album and have a glimpse into the wild around ahead for the band and fans.  It was in this video that we met The Fly, cross between Bono and his devil character, MacPhisto. The Fly is Bono's alter-ego, saying all those things we don't expect him to ever say.

It's no secret that a conscience can sometimes be a pest
It's no secret ambition bites the nails of success
Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief
All kill their inspiration and sing about their grief

Mysterious Ways
A funky departure from the album's sound. It's an homage to women. This is also the third time a reference to oral sex is mentioned in this album (Until the End of the World and Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses). It's

Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World
Oh these songs that seem so simple but U2 throws in some amazing quotes. It's a song about stumbling home know that moment when you do feel like you can throw your arms around the world. Or when you're drunk with love that you feel the same. The world was changing and who didn't feel like that? 
And a woman needs a man
Like a fish needs a bicycle
When you're tryin' to throw your arms around the world

Ultra Violet (Light My Way)
Music trivia, Larry drops one drumstick during this song but damn it, he keeps going. 
A reference to those lights that once signified party and glamour to Bono, were a means to survive and find happiness in East Berlin. 
But more importantly, this crisis of love theme exists again in this song. Love, god, and women. There is an undercurrent of reference to the Book of Job and a line borrowed from Raymond Carver. 
There is a silence that comes to a house
Where no-one can sleep
I guess it's the price of love, I know it's not cheap

Oh, come on, baby, baby, baby, light my way
Oh, come on, baby, baby, baby, light my way

Ultra Violet...Ultra Violet...Ultra Violet...Ultra Violet...
Baby, baby, light my way

I remember when we could sleep on stones
Now we lie together in whispers and moans
When I was all messed up and I heard opera in my head
Your love was a light bulb hanging over my bed

This song is about not giving up. This could be directed at Bono himself. He uses the oft used from Latin saying don't let the bastards grind you down. He also quotes writer Delmore Schwartz in the line in dreams begin responsibilities. Basically, Bono is telling himself that he needs to stop listening to the critics but he also has to get his head out of the clouds.  

Love Is Blindness
Sorry to anyone that I have disappointed when I explain this song to them. It could be a song about love of person. But, it is love of hate and nationalism. This is a love song of a
car bomber.  The opening church organ ties this to religion. And only Bono can get away with this.
In a parked car
In a crowded street
You see your love
Made complete
Thread is ripping
The knot is slipping
Love is blindness
Love is clockworks
And cold steel
Fingers too numb to feel
Squeeze the handle
Blow out the candle
Love is blindness
Written seven years before the peace agreement was signed, violence in Northern Ireland and around the world was still in turmoil. 

The band successfully went away and dreamed it all up again. Now four men in their thirties, the world still their stage, there was no shortage of topics to sing about. Their seventh album was beyond successful and gave us many songs that are still on heavy rotation. It was fitting that U2 re-invented themselves as the world was as well. The subsequent Zoo TV tour, threw the media and information overload in our faces. They prank called the president, paraded around belly dancers, Bono's alter ego ran amuck, Trabants hand from the stage, it was grandiose on every single level. 

Bill Flanagan - U2 At the End of the World
Niall Stokes -  Into the Heart - the Story Behind Every U2 Song

This Film Should Be Played Loud ... 40 Years of The Last Waltz

What is Shangri-La?
It's a club house where we get together and play. Make records.
Kind of better. It's like an office, I guess.It used to be a bordello.
A bordello?
You can tell by the wallpaper.

On November 25, 1976, The Band played what was to be their last show. What they did not know was that, with the help of a handful of very special musical friends and the under the direction of Martin Scorsese, this concert film would become of the greatest concert films every produced. It captured The Band at their summit and put some of our musical greats in a time capsule of musical decadence. While there are musical politics surrounding the making of the film, all should be assured that the music fan only sees what greatness came from that night.

Where else are you going to find Dr. John, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond, Neil Young, Allen Toussaint, Muddy Waters, Ringo Starr, and Van Morrison performing on one stage. It was an odd era of music as the grandiose behavior and decadence was beginning to wane on many. Bill Graham, concert promoter legend, spearheaded the concert at his venue, Winterland on Thanksgiving Day. Concert goers would enjoy a full dinner before the show.

If you want the full experience, you must watch the film and listen to the recordings. Some of the show's highlights were not included in the final cut. But Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, and Robbie Robertson gave us 11 songs that are a snapshot of an era. The additional songs by the artists are simply the gratuitous adornments to an already glittery affair.

Eric Clapton, Paul Butterfield, and Bobby Charles
From Levon Helm's passionate performance of The Night they Drove Ole Dixie Down to the classic concert closer, The Weight, each song is its own timeless masterpiece. By this point, The Band had been touring for over fifteen years and the excesses began to break everyone down. But to their credit, they ended at their best. While there were subsequent attempts - this was the quintessential The Band.

A great example of the talent of The Band that was on stage at Winterland on November 25, 1976, can be seen and heard in what is the show's opening song. The band is strong, energetic, and seems like they could go on for a few hours. This was actually their last song of the night - over five hours from when they
first started playing.

Because of technology and social media, we will never, ever have moments like these again. You bought paper tickets, probably did lines of coke off your dinner plate, and then sang for over five hours to some of the greatest musicians to play their craft. There was no simulcast or YouTube of it. Besides Scorsese's vision, this is all we have of this moment in time. Music fans had some dinner and watched an amazing show, not realizing they were a part of something so very special that would still be performed and remembered so vividly forty years later.

Levon Helm and Ringo Star

Monday, November 14, 2016

I Just Want To Be A Guy With A Guitar - Jeff Buckley

I have no advice for anybody; except to, you know, be awake enough to see where you are at any given time, and how that is beautiful, and has poetry inside. Even places you hate ~Jeff Buckley

Jeff would have turned 50 this week and once again we celebrated his life and legacy at Arlene's Grocery. Musician Robert Urban once again brought together stellar performers who all share the same love and passion about Jeff and his talent. With all of the recent passing of legendary performers this year, many of Jeff's influences became an impromptu double celebration of  life and the love of music.

Edwin J. Blas started off the evening with All Flowers in Time as everyone began to trickle in.  Canadian musician f√ľnyboht aka Michael A. Myszkowski gave us stirring versions of Grace's  Eternal Life and Sketches' Sky is a Landfill.

Opened Once, The Way Young Lovers Do came from Spain via Angelo Magni.


A return Tribute performer, Elijah Black performed Jeff's covers from Runaway Train, a stunning Nothing Compares 2 U,  and Border Song. 

The ladies followed with Francesca MacAaron singing Lilac Wine and Lover You Should Have Come Over. More songs from Sketches with Danielle Grabianouwski singing Morning Theft. Tracy Stark began with a Joni Mitchell classic Peoples' Parties and then gave us a chance to sing along with the song that introduced us to Jeff: Hallelujah. 

The man behind the evening, Robert Urban always treats us to covers that Jeff performed at Arlene's or Sin-e. With Bob Dylan's recent Nobel Prize, his  Just like a Woman was a perfect choice for the night, played and sung so perfectly. 

From France, we saw a band you must check out:  This is Chronicles. They were very thankful to be performing not just for an artist they were inspired by, but because one year ago, they all lost friends at the Bataclan in Paris. Before the audience could regain their breath from that statement, they went into a heavy yet soothing  Dream Brother and What Would You Say. They followed with an original, Let Me Disappear.

Tribute veterans Mike Linkens and The Jenny's were again phenomenal. Their delivery of  I Want Someone Badly and Nightmares by the Sea are classic Buckley with heavy chords and the harsh and soft voice yin yang that Jeff perfected. Their performance is always a highlight of the night.

And for his second year, Gary Lucas, Jeff's collaborator and Gods and Monsters founder told personal stories of writing and playing with Jeff. He was joined by the soulful Felice Rosser. Together Mojo Pin and Grace came to life in the venue that Jeff once played. 

 Each year, it amazes me to hear how many people are new to Jeff Buckley. Amazes me how few listened to anything other than Grace. Selfishly, I get jealous when those people do discover him. His voice, angelic and haunting, the rip tide and the gentle ebb, you want all to yourself. He sings to you and no one else. But, selflessly, the world needs a little more Jeff Buckley. 

 Leave your office
Run past your funeral
Leave your home, car
Leave your pulpit
Join us in the streets where we
Join us in the streets where we
Don't belong, don't belong
You and the stars
Throwing light